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THE HUNGRY ARTIST:

As side from being a professional visual artist, I have aspired to…um…write a novel. I say this with hesitation because it is a second hat I’m putting on at this stage of my life. However, I have written many articles about art [and other subjects] but writing a NOVEL is a different beast.

Now I did want to share a very brief and sketchy idea of The Hungry Artist’s theme and plot---and please tell me, is there any others on OL who are writing a novel?

Theme: a band of dissenting and talented artists, of various disciplines, fight for a career in an egalitarian art community where the mediocrity of postmodernism is enshrined.

Plot: The focus of the plot revolves around the story’s main protagonist, a young, idealistic painter: a representational classic painter’s fledging career is helped by a mysterious art historian--who praises abstract modern art in a popular art journal and damns classical realism. Learning that she writes under pseudonym, the painter attempts to contact the art historian writer or otherwise track down her identity—to no avail. She continues to bolster his career and yet the writer never acclaims the painter openly. But is responsible for each commission the painter secures.

***

Let me say it now: Yes, there's no doubt that Ayn Rand has influenced my writing, and of all her fiction works, The Fountainhead is my favorite. I’m inspired by Ayn Rand is pretty much the same way she was inspired by the works of Hugo…among others. Primarily, however, I’m inspired by my own experiences: I am a visual artist and I am deeply entrenched, for better or worse, in the whole world. After 20 years of covert observations, I decided that this story has to be told.

Yes, like The Fountainhead, there are independent minded people---but unlike The Fountainhead, they wish to RETURN to tradition. That grand tradition is: intelligible, skilled, representational art. There’s no doubt that the public at large is dubious of postmodernism in art, but they have nevertheless been duped by it. They accept all of its subjectivist premises. As one character reports:

“…And then there is that segment of the public, those who are constantly exposed to this work [postmodernism] and to the arguments on its behalf, they have failed to accept it. Others merely express confusion and frustration, and still others reject it outright. You still think they haven’t fallen for the racket? Well, you can take it from me that they have been suckered punched in the brain. What other age as ever said, ‘well, I don’t know if its art, but I know what I like.’”

THIS line alone---‘well, I don’t know if its art, but I know what I like.’---is the key to understanding how far the postmodernist have succeeded. I don’t believe there is another work that will dramatize and trash (as I intend to do) postmodern art. But in doing so, it will be a fun and exciting work. AND it will be a funny novel.

My target market is not necessarily an Objectivist audience. (Of course, they are free to read the book; their money is good too). The Hungry Artist protagonists are not standard-issued Objectivist heroes. In my book, they are more flawed and troubled---and, yes, yes, I know that I’m going to be accused of presenting “feet of clay” Naturalist characters. [but that I don’t agree with all of Rand’s points about characterization is another discussion].

Please, offer any feed-back. Thanks.

**

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The comments from this initial post were lost as they fell between July 17-27, 2006.

I remember mentioning that I liked this pre-outline.

Victor saved a couple of posts and they are given below. The exact date is not known, except that it was between July 17-27, 2006.

Rich Engle wrote:

Victor-

Guns forward. I like it.

Only thing I can think of is maybe this-

Be careful with the "return to tradition" thing. This is very delicate stuff. You know- "ah, the good old days (before pennicillin)."

And, that premodernity, modernity, and postmodernity all have, as Ken Wilber says, "both their dignities and their disasters."

A complete rejection of all things post modern is no more sensible or real than overly-fondly looking back on the old days of tradition. And remember- too much loyalty to tradition has fucked up the works more than once in the course of human history. I don't believe that's really where you're coming from anyway, Victor- I think you are talking about people not putting in time to learn their craft, not putting in the sweat equity it takes to get good at doing something. Not learning about those that came before you, and maybe not even studying contemporaries.

This whole demarcation thing of premodern/modern/postmodern is pretty much a floating target anyway. You know- you can't say that one day there was The Enlightenment, the skys opened up with sunbeams, and little pink unicorns started running in the fields...

I go on and on about this but truly, if you haven't- take a look at Ken Wilber's The Marriage of Sense and Spirit (I pick that because it is a pretty quick one to get through). Also, there is a good enhanced picture of his "AQAL" (All Quadrants/All Levels) model here:

http://www.formlessmountain.com/KW-WTC/footnotes/aqal.html

I really hope someday we can stop the bleeding between modernists and postmodernists, at least so much as possible.

Victor Pross wrote:

Hi Rich,

Thanks for your root of support on my novel.

I went to art school years ago. But I had to teach myself to draw and paint. While at school, instead of learning to improve my drawing, I was compelled to concentrate on abstract—an aesthetic that holds no interest for me. In painting class there was no training as to method, for fear of hampering creative impulses. This is not uncommon. The art world takes tens of thousands of dollars from students and teaches them less than zero about methods, techniques, discipline and training needed by any artist who wishes to apprehend the vision of their creativity in objective terms. For some time there has been a monopolistic control over the official institutions of artistic information, such as schools, museums, foundations, and the media by modernists who have shut out competing points of view. When an opening occurs on the faculty in a college art department, or an opening for a curator or director of board member is available in most of the thousands of museums in the world, they are always filled by modern and Postmodern ideologues—clones of the clowns who run these austere institutions.

Now I don’t want to be disagreeable as a habit, but being an artist and student of art history, I must take issue with some of your feed-back. [Don’t worry. I will be gentle and respectful].

Now, you wrote: “complete rejection of all things post modern is no more sensible or real than overly-fondly looking back on the old days of tradition” and that “the whole demarcation of pre-modern/modern/postmodern is pretty much a floating target anyway” and to all this I emphatically disagree.

I do reject and lump together all things modern and postmodern. Keep in mind: modernism and postmodernism is not really about period of time—it is about an ideology in art in a period of time. I’m speaking of “modernism” or “postmodernism” as a very broad general category that encompasses a number of different fashions and sects that have developed over the past one-hundred years. I don’t consider the differences between the various movements to be relevant to their opposition to objective art. Whether a given movement—modern or postmodern—opposes objective art on the grounds that “tradition” is bad, or that clarity and skill is bad, or that the old masters were white, or that flat canvases were bad, or whatever, the “sides” are still the same: objective art on one side and an endless parade of arguments against objective art on the other. This is exactly what we have seen over the course of the modernist era and it became worse with the coming of postmodernism. For example, we have moved from random smearing on paint to random drippings of paint to blank canvases to silent piano selections to fecal matter as a medium…you name it. Modernism and postmodernism is not advancement in art and neither is it offering a competing theory in esthetics—it is the complete antithesis of art.

When I say that the protagonists of my book wish to “return to tradition” I was very clear in my mind as to what I mean by that. Of course, it is elaborated in the book if not my post. However, let me briefly be clear as to what exactly I praise and what I condemn. There is a very definite cultural war in the art world that serves as a background to The Hungry Artist: skill and talent versus non-talent and fraud. As Ayn Rand said, lets me define my terms:

Traditionalism (in the sense I’m using the term here) is not the preference for things because they are old or because they follow traditions. I don’t care if whether a work of art is new or old. What matters to me is the ultimate “expressive effectiveness” of an art work however it was done. What do I mean by expressive effectiveness”? In its original and broadest sense the term “art” dates back to antiquity and it refers to the concept of “skill” and “technique.” In this sense, it has been applied to a wide range of human activities from the “art of warfare” and the “art of medicine” or even the “liberal arts.” In all cases, it connotes an aptitude acquired by careful study and diligence as applied to a particular undertaking. This idea of “skill” is essential to the concept of art and is implicit in all the proper uses of the term. Now it is the term “art” that the Postmodernists attempt to appropriate, riding on the benefits the word bestows--while simultaneously undermining it. Postmodernism is all about undermining skill and objective standards in actual works of art. It is not revolutionary or progressive in terms of branching out from the so-called “barriers of tradition” It is simply cutting the philosophical branch from under your feet.

[Note: I encourage other OL members, who are interested in art and plot structure, don’t hesitate to post with the notorious Victor Pross. I look forward any members, but I am especially pleased to converse with Michael, Rich, Jenna, Kat, Barbara, Roger, Jody and more.]

Unfortunately, that's it. If others remember their comments, please add them or rewrite them.

Michael

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Here are some more recovered posts from the black hole (July 17-27, 2006). I am nnot sure about the dates.

Hi, Victor-

I think we actually intersect in a number of areas. What troubles me is not so much where you are coming from, which as a musician, I understand. It's the broad labeling or assignation of movements. I think there are artists (by artists I do not confine myself to visual art) who get pigeonholed as pomo, for instance, but maybe aren't so much so. Defining postmodernism in general is tricky business, because it really is, in some respects, no more than a rough marker. You know...what exact moment did postmodernism begin? I realize that in visual art for sure postmodern has a more hardened meaning, and I also realize that there's a pretty good load of dreck, meaning stuff that was created by those who did not believe that developing craft, facility, was necessary in order to express. And worse yet, no study of what came before them.

But there's always this sidedness thing. For instance, I happen to be primarily an electric guitarist, and specialize very much in the rock style. That's what I like, that's mostly what I do. Mind you, I have an extensive musical background, way beyond what many rock guys have (although that is changing more and more these days). The thing is, for years rock guitarists were put down as not being "legitimate," just based on the fact that what they do might not be jazz or classical, say. Instant disqualification. That's happened to me many times, and it has come from conservatory-trained folks (ones who can't do a thing without a sheet of music in front of them, I might add). You're just not serious because you are working a different side of the fence.

Within the rock guitar world, there have always been the primal guys. Consider the whole punk movement. A lot of that stuff sucked, but a lot of it was very significant- it lit fires under the asses of traditional rock guys, it outed how mired and "orthodox" classic type arena rock was getting. You'd have some big theater arena rock headliner, with the fog, the big hair, the pretentious, heavy songs, and there comes the Sex Pistols as an opener and blows them to pieces on pure energy- makes them look quite silly.

More and more I just look at art case-by-case, not by movement.

Speaking of, what do you think of visionary art? Example:

http://www.visionaryrevue.com/index.html

Clearly the craftsmanship is there... and clearly it is not objective, right?

Hi Rich,

Music:

It is rather remarkable. You sound a lot like one of my characters, Marlon Roy. That is, you probably have similar and yet very different backgrounds and experiences, but a lot of the spirit is there.

Marlon Roy is a Julliard trained rock musician who made it a point to study music with fanatical devotion. Marlon is an innovative musician who that would rival a classically trained musician, and yet he can play with all the energy to be found in punk. Of course, he can blow any punk artist out of the water in terms of sheer musicianship and knowledge. When asked by a puzzled rock reporter what his genre is, Marlon answers: “Melody is my genre.”

You see, so advanced and innovative is Marlon Roy’s music that he defies classification, making him a difficult artist to market. But Marlon empathizes time and again that it is “melody” that is essential to music, not labels. Marlon’s struggle in the music world is that his creations lack “singles” and is not “club or radio friendly.” By default, therefore, Marlon Roy becomes a patron saint of a counterculture. Mainstream culture, being devoted primarily to dreck and bubblegum, didn’t know what to make of him and the postmodernist subculture, being devoted to anti-melody and harmony---rejects him because of his skill as an artist. If Frank Zappa and Fiona Apple had a child, it could very well have been Marlon Roy. He truly is a brilliant musician without a pigeonhole home. But the point remains: Marlon Roy is a musician.

Rich, you speak of the “primal guys” in the guitar world and of punk’s “pure energy” notwithstanding that much of it “sucked,” as you say. I think you’re speaking of music’s emotive power in all of these cases. As to that, I’m entirely sympathetic to your point of view. My character, Marlon, emphasizes the emotional content of music as being very significant and essential. With this, I am reminded of Rand’s claim that music is experienced “as if it had the power to reach man’s emotions directly.”

What is unfortunate about a lot of today’s popular music is the “orthodox arena rock” types is the lack of emotive quality, and where these musicians regress to formula and gimmickry, they ultimately fail to capture their audience, however well they may play their instruments. And while some of the punk music may have “pure energy” i.e., emotive qualities---it is always a minus, in my books, when musicians play poorly.

You know, what music conveys are certain attributes of emotional states, rather than specific emotions themselves, and all this is accomplished through tone, tempo, rhythm, melody and timbre. It is no wonder music plays a very important role in people’s lives. It truly is amazing.

Now, what are we to make of the “musician” who dispenses with all of these qualities? Music, like all art, must be intelligible. It must conform to the laws of human cognition. We have seen the phenomena of postmodernist “noise-music” descend upon the culture. When Rand spoke of “unpitched sounds such as those of street traffic or of machine gears or coughs and sneezes” she was speaking of the avant-garde. It is safe to say that Rand was not a rock fan, and that her preference for other forms of music is a private matter and one of personal opinion. However, this is not to say that there are no objective standards in music. Like painting, the art of music have been debased by the avant-garde. It rejects the purportedly “arbitrary conventions” of the past in a subjectivist temper-tantrum by “flouting the requirements of human perception and cognition” that Rand correctly emphases are central to all art. These reputedly advanced artists have produced work that is utterly inscrutable. Have you ever heard of John Cage? This is what is to be rejected---not as “bad music”---but as ANTI-MUSIC.

In the Hungry Artist, I have one character who bemoans the postmodernist penchant for flouting the standards of human cognition and objectivity: “If it moves—it can be called dance. If it has colors---it can be called painting. If it makes noise---it can be called music. If it is shapeless, it called be sculpture. Who’s to say what art is? Anything can be art.” In other words, art historians, philosophers and critics have made art nothing more than a subjective indulgence where we have writers, such as Roberta Smith, who proceeds from the following dictum: “If an artist says it’s art, it’s art.”

There is a need for a valid theory and definition of art, and to this end Ayn Rand has made an incredible breakthrough.

***

I could say much more about postmodernism as to its “philosophy” and history, but I think this post is long enough, and I can come back to it. But in regards to Jonathan’s posting of his favorite “postmodernist” paintings, I would say that the merit of those paintings is that they are representational paintings—and that they indeed exhibit composition, light, contour, imagination—all the merits of objective, representational painting demands, versus the random monkey smears of Abstract Expressionism. I’m really at a lost to understand how there could have been a misunderstanding here. I would like to hear from you again, Jonathan.

Rich, I have fine-tuned my theme to The Hungry Artist. Consider it:

The Hungry Artist’s theme: a band of dissenting and talented artists, of various disciplines---music, painting and writing--fight for a career in the egalitarian art community, where mediocrity and fraud of postmodernism is enshrined. These true unorthodox artists are rejected as being “representatives of the old-guard” and therefore dismissed as “old-fashioned” and irrelevant in an art world that prizes everything, no matter how bizarre and unintelligible, except for skill and talent.

As these talented and rejected artists fight the overwhelming odds, propelled by a hunger for excellence and sustained by ability, we learn that they are the true rebels who advance the world of art which is being systematically destroyed by the Avant-Garde.

Victor,

In light of what you've recently written in the articles section ("Humor, Satire and Caricature in visual Art: It’s a serious matter"), I think the caricature artist in your novel could be the most interesting character, in that the classical painters and their fans in the story, if they were anything like those in reality, would look down their noses at him for not being a "real" artist, and most of them would claim that his attempt to elevate his work to the status of fine art is the type of thing that is responsible for the modern degradation of art. And, ironically, the story's postmodernist painters (including those who paint in much more refined and traditional styles than the caricaturist) and their fans would be the ones recognizing the legitimacy of the caricaturist's work despite the fact that he looks down his nose at them, their art, and the ideological views which led them to recognize the legitimacy of his work.

Interesting conflict, no?

Interesting conflict, yes! Jonathan, either you have a knack for plot development and dramatic conflict---or else I’m terribly predictable. I’m way ahead of you as this is precisely the dilemma my caricaturist hero faces in his career. Given that he is an outsider to both camps, he’s an unwitting and reluctant under dog.

Artistically and professionally, he does aspire to gain a standing as a humorous fine artist painter—this being a particularly radical and outlandish idea in some circles. This is like having Lenny Bruce performing at a PTA meeting.

That's right, the caricaturist is not content to merely be a political lampooning hack for, say, a syndicated newspaper where he would simply be rendering doodles that would become irrelevant the next day. “Art is not a loaf of bread with an expiry date.” He is attracted to the idea of capturing a more universal theme in his work, however irreverent and ribald. [Mind you, both the character and plot is more complex than what I'm indicating here].

Although respectful of traditional caricaturists and illustrators, he aspires to bring the art form to a higher echelon. But his chosen esthetic offends the delicate sensibilities of the snobbish austerity of this whole cadre. Without giving too much away, of course he is a pariah to the postmodernist’s camp.

What is an idealistic and passionate protagonist to do!?

Several other replies by Victor:

Barbara,

Given that you have read this little piece on humor and satire, I have a few observations and questions to ask you.

Ayn Rand novels offer a lot of different things: complex plot structures, romance, adventure, philosophical enlightenment and so forth. While I enjoy all of that, I also enjoy those aspects of her works that is often ignored or overlooked: she was a wonderful satirist.

In both Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, for example, she skewered the literary avant-garde and the establishments that support it. Her nimbly drawn caricatures of art world figures and of their theories and practices are a hoot and joy to behold. They, like their real life counterparts, reject objective standards and have an assiduously desolate sense of life. Of course, they always embrace collectivism. I can testify: arty left-wing types are so utterly predictable that it often seems as if only one molded personality had been handed out to each of them.

You see, going to art school is where I gained my current perspective. As a naïve twenty-year-old, I was attracted by the name of the school: The Advent-Garde Progressive Arts School…or something like this. I didn’t know what “advent-gurde” meant, but the catchword “progressive” was enough for me to hurriedly enroll.

The College was an expensive playpen inhabited by a gaggle of geeky fools and faux lunatic poseurs. It had all the other requisite types of students: pretentious beatniks, crude filmmakers, gay fashion designers, livid lesbians, vegan hippies, and a funky mix of neo-Beats and deadbeats-- The school was a variable compost of caricatures. Everywhere I turn, these stereotypes have been coming in steady droves ever since.

But looking at Ayn Rand’s literary rendered caricatures, we have the hilarious Balph Eubank, who declares that “plot is a primitive vulgarity in literature” and his little opus The Heart Is a Milkman is truly and wonderfully zany stuff. Another novelist named Gilbert Worthing has secured fame by writing books that nobody reads. And who can forget that other little gem called The Vulture is Molting. And, of course, the crème de la cream has to be Lois Cook: “toothbrush in the jaw toothbrush brush brush tooth jaw foam dome in the foam Roman…”

Hilarious stuff! Ayn Rand was an under-rated satirist.

But here are a few questions that I’m really curious to ask you: who are some of your favorite comedy writers—if any? And not just writers: do you have any favorite comedians or favorite television comedy shows or movies---new or older? What and who makes you laugh?

***********************************

Jonathan, you wrote: And, ironically, the story's postmodernist painters (including those who paint in much more refined and traditional styles than the caricaturist) and their fans would be the ones recognizing the legitimacy of the caricaturist's work despite the fact that he looks down his nose at them, their art, and the ideological views which led them to recognize the legitimacy of his work.

Question: although the events unfold less cheerfully in my novel, you suggest that the "ideological views" of postmodernist theorists would recognize the legitimacy of a caricature artist who employed realist techniques in his work? How and why? What are the ideological views of postmodernists…as you understand it? Could you elaborate on what you mean here?

And, a question: Why do you classify the paintings posted above as postmodernist? Why are they not more easily classified as traditional realism? Further, why did you omit the names of the artist’s who created these wonderfully imaginative creations? I would like to look them up myself?

Now you have me really curious and wanting to understand your position.

**********************

Thanks, Rich. To tell you the truth, I wince when I look at my older work. I see all the mistakes and when I contrast it to my current work, it seems like the difference between day and night. But that’s me. Alas, I’m a cursed perfectionist.

I have to seriously update a proper site. I have been negligent, but for a good reason: the present demand is such that I’m still fulfilling contracts that’ll carry me into spring of 2007. There are people who actually pay me to do this stuff, you know?

He aspires to gallery showings and acknowledgment in art journals as afforded to any artist who either paints nudes…or red dots.

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Here are the messages that I had posted on this thread, along with an additional one that I was about to post right before OL went down:

-----

Victor:

"I do reject and lump together all things modern and postmodern...that clarity and skill is bad...skill and talent versus non-talent and fraud...Postmodernism is all about undermining skill and objective standards in actual works of art..."

A few of my favorite postmodernist paintings:

http://static.flickr.com/65/196857433_1700d79b51_o.jpg

http://static.flickr.com/71/196857435_f77340eb23_o.jpg

http://static.flickr.com/71/196857436_010c1ccf26_o.jpg

http://static.flickr.com/74/196857437_7232f8d7aa_o.jpg

http://static.flickr.com/75/196857439_bacaa071ac_o.jpg

http://static.flickr.com/67/196857441_bd1a8d139d_o.jpg

J

-----

Victor:

"But in regards to Jonathan’s posting of his favorite “postmodernist” paintings..."

Why the use of scare quotes, Victor? The paintings that I posted were created by very successful, prominent artists who come from postmodernist philosophical perspectives. They create art to explore and express postmodernist ideas, they're respected in the artworld, and have had significant influence over it for decades. Why would their art not be considered as representative of postmodernism?

Victor:

"Clearly, there is a need to define our terms here."

I agree. "Postmodern" does not equal "nonfigurative," "nonrepresentational," or "lack of skill."

J

-----

From Victor's outline:

"Then there is also a caricature artist who paints with the same depth as any classical painter—and who mocks a popular postmodernist writer and Installation “artist” as he mocks everything else that is worthy of being mocked. Hmmm?"

Victor,

In light of what you've recently written in the articles section ("Humor, Satire and Caricature in visual Art: It’s a serious matter"), I think the caricature artist in your novel could be the most interesting character, in that the classical painters and their fans in the story, if they were anything like those in reality, would look down their noses at him for not being a "real" artist, and most of them would claim that his attempt to elevate his work to the status of fine art is the type of thing that is responsible for the modern degradation of art. And, ironically, the story's postmodernist painters (including those who paint in much more refined and traditional styles than the caricaturist) and their fans would be the ones recognizing the legitimacy of the caricaturist's work despite the fact that he looks down his nose at them, their art, and the ideological views which led them to recognize the legitimacy of his work.

Interesting conflict, no?

J

-----

Victor:

"...an artist who employed realist techniques in his work! Why would they take him in? What are the ideological views of postmodernists…as you understand it? Could you elaborate on what you mean here?"

Postmodern artists' views vary widely, so it can be difficult to identify what they have in common. But, in general, most whom I've met or read about see postmodernism as opposing the constraints of modernism. They reject the idea of rejecting previous artistic styles and concepts simply because they have already been explored and expressed -- postmodernists often mock the aggression of the Avant Garde: the notion of creation being driven more by novelty than by authentic self-expression. (Btw, I suspect that to many postmodernists, the fact that certain romantic realists appropriate the style, characters or themes of Rand's novels and put their own twists on them would be seen as perfectly postmodern).

In my experience, it's rare to find a contemporary self-described postmodernist painter who doesn't deal in figuration and representation, and, like the caricaturist in your novel, they don't see parody, wit, skepticism and cynicism as lesser forms of expression.

Victor:

"Further, why did you omit the names of the artists who created these wonderfully imaginative works? I would like to look them up myself."

The artists are Gerhard Richter and Mark Tansey. In exploring their work and ideas, you'll find much to disagree with, but hopefully you'll also discover some of their brilliance.

I'm guessing that you'll especially identify with and enjoy Tansey's wicked sense of humor.

J

-----

Victor:

"Also: are you suggesting that The Hungry Artist is an appropriation of Rand's work?"

No. I was thinking more along the lines of some of Bryan Larsen's art, and I wasn't implying that his work is postmodernism in action, but that postmodernists I've known would not see its legitimacy or authenticity as diminished.

J

-----

New post:

Victor wrote,

Hmmm.

THIS:

(Btw, I suspect that to many postmodernists, the fact that certain romantic realists appropriate the style, characters or themes of Rand's novels and put their own twists on them would be seen as perfectly postmodern).

LEADS TO THIS:

No. I was thinking more along the lines of some of Bryan Larsen's art, and I wasn't implying that his work is postmodernism in action, but that postmodernists I've known would not see its legitimacy or authenticity as diminished.

Huh?

Apparently I was writing a bit too colloquially; by "perfectly postmodern," I simply meant that an artist's work would not be seen by postmodernists as diminished or illegitimate, much in the same way that Objectivists might use casual language in saying that a movie they've seen is "totally Objectivist" when what they actually mean is that it is consonant with Objectivist views even though it wasn't necessarily intended to be.

J

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Hello Jonathan,

I’m happy to continue our conversation before we were so rudely interrupted by the internet hacker. And so without any preamble delay, let me dig right in where we last left off:

I want to start of by stating from the start: the work you posted as your “favorite postmodernist paintings” are not postmodernist. Strange, you go on to suggest that the works “would not be seen by postmodernists as diminished or illegitimate”. Question: Are they postmodern--or--are they merely being judged by postmodernists?

Regardless of how postmodernist thinkers would estimate the works you posted, it is a very different thing to classify those works AS BEING postmodernist, isn’t it? At first you call them your favorite postmodernist works, and now you say you were merely speaking colloquially. What's your stance here?

Either way, it’s not postmodernist.

What’s more, I question the manner in which you posted those paintings: You read my original post about The Hungry Artist and gathered, correctly, that I was belittling postmodernism and then you pluck a few representational works down on the screen--classifying them as “postmodernists”---as if that was suppose to be some irrefutable answer to my post. No argument, no explanation, and un-named artists—it was just “look at these incredible paintings--these are postmodernist!"

I suppose the desired effect was to leave philosophical egg dripping from my face? Summing up that visual post, I couldn’t help but laugh. By saying this, please don’t mistake this as inflecting any “Objectivist rage” on you. If you could see me right now, you would see that a little smile is forming around the edges of my mouth, and my tongue in planted firmly in my cheek, my friend.

Jonathan, having said that, I can’t understand why my intelligence was so underestimated by you, and that I wouldn’t call you on this. Posting those paintings didn't prove anything. If we are to have any mutually beneficial talk about art, we must get past all semantic quibbles. We must simply get to the fundamental and essential concerns: Art versus Anti-art. I am against non-objective art---not because it is “bad art”—but because it is anti-art. It is Anti-art with a capital ‘A’. This conflict is the essential thesis of my novel.

By any name you wish to give it, there are works of junk that infiltrate our culture--junk that is being presented as art, but are anything but art. I can imagine you know what I'm condemning, and it’s not those paintings you posted. So let’s move on to the next cyber room and examine the urinals and bundles of newspapers, and then maybe we’ll have something to argue about. Sir, I think you know the actual object of my scorn.

Now you wrote that “postmodern artist views vary widely, so it can be different to identify what they have in common. But, in general, most whom I’ve met or read about see postmodernism as opposing the constraints of modernism.”

Okay, let’s stop here and examine this: Ayn Rand never tackled postmodernism as such, but that she was aware of it is now clear. One news item published in The Objectivist speaks of two grave-diggers who dug a hole in the ground and then filled it in again—and this was presented as an “underground sculpture.” The “artist” was not even one of the grave-diggers, but a man by the name of Claes Oldenburg.

It is true that Rand referred to avant-garde work as “modern”---but Oldenburg’s “underground sculpture” would now be phrased as postmodernist by most scholars. And I did say by MOST scholars---and if you are as well read, and you convey the impression that you are, you would know this.

***

As to your contention that postmodernism artists and scholars having divergent views, I can agree with that. One scholar writes that it is “diffuse, fragmentary, multi-dimensional, and contestable” that it may not represent a “clear and coherent object of study.” But the art world has customarily used the term ‘postmodern’ to refer to work it classifies as "visual art" since the 1950s, when a conscious reaction set in against modernism’s cultural hegemony, particularly Abstract Expressionism.

You are right: postmodernism in the “visual arts” was a deliberate rejection of previous modernist practice and theory---mostly of Abstract Expressionism, as I said. Just as abstract art was theory-based---primarily the metaphysical question of the relationship between matter and spirit---so, too, is postmodernism theory-based, dealing namely with an esthetic focus: “everything is art if it is chosen by the artist to be art. You can say it is good art or bad art, but you can’t say it isn’t art.”

Whatever the differences between one pomo and an other, they deal with non-essential snits. This is what they have in common: total subjectivism.

You also wrote: “They [postmodernists] reject the idea of rejecting previous artistic styles and concepts simply because they have already been explored and expressed -- postmodernists often mock the aggression of the Avant Garde: the notion of creation being driven more by novelty than by authentic self-expression.”

I don't see that. I see postmodern art having sprung from postmodern philosophy. One writer has this to say of postmodern philosophy: "Postmodern philosophy claims to be especially skeptical about simple binary oppositions that allegedly dominate Western metaphysics and humanism, such as the expectation that the philosopher may cleanly isolate knowledge from ignorance, social progress from reversion, dominance from submission, or presence from absence."

My experiences and readings have lead me to the conclusion that postmodernists would not denounce anything—most especially “avant-garde”. They would not denounce anything except actual instances of skilled art---objective art---and to do so on the grounds of it being “arcane.” It is, you see, “old world” while it is POST-modern---and the designation is meant to serve a differentiation, my friend. This is the driving idea that has brought about earth art, assemblage, installation art, porcelain urinals, so-called performance art and any other stupefyingly banal examples.

One writer offers this insight: "Postmodernism hypothesises that all knowledge is merely a discourse, that no knowledge is different from any other as they are all legitimised by the same processes. Ipso facto, religion is no more valid than science. Any categorisation of knowledge (for example 'Marxist theory' or, ironically 'postmodernism'-hence the term 'postmodern irony') and in fact the idea of originality, are falsities; all ideas are versions of other discourses and no idea is better than the other." [italics mine]

Jonathan, the “constraints” that the first postmodernist theorists [and artists] complained about is that art wasn’t subjectivist enough.

Edited by Victor Pross
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Victor:

"I want to start of by stating from the start: the works you posted as your 'favorite postmodernist paintings' are not postmodernist."

Yes they are. Read Richter and Tansey's articles and interviews on the subjects of their paintings, processes, the ideas behind their art, their philosophical, aesthetic and cultural influences, etc. Read what Arthur Danto, Robert Storr, Mark C. Taylor, H. W. Janson, Anthony F. Janson and Edward Lucie-Smith have written about Richter, Tansey and postmodern painting (as well as what they've written about many other postmodernist artists who use figuration and representation in their work).

Victor,

"Strange, you go on to suggest that the works 'would not be seen by postmodernists as diminished or illegitimate.' Question: Are they postmodern--or--are they merely being judged by postmodernists?

"Regardless of how postmodernist thinkers would estimate the works you posted, it is a very different thing to classify those works AS BEING postmodernist, isn’t it? At first you call them your favorite postmodernist works, and now you say you were merely speaking colloquially. What's your stance here?"

Apparently I've confused you with my minor, parenthetical comment about Objectivists appropriating Rand's art. When I wrote that some of ~Bryan Larsen's~ works “would not be seen by postmodernists as diminished or illegitimate," I was referring only to ~Bryan Larsen's~ art, not to art created by Richter and Tansey (that's not to say that postmodernists would see Richter and Tansey's work as diminished or illegitimate; I was simply not referring to them or their art in my comments about romantic realists who appropriate Rand's art). I was speaking colloquially when I used the term "perfectly postmodern" when referring to ~Bryan Larsen's~ art. I was ~not~ speaking colloquially when referring to Richter and Tansey's art as postmodernist. Richter and Tansey's art is postmodernist.

Victor:

"What’s more, I question the manner in which you posted those paintings: You read my original post about The Hungry Artist and gathered, correctly, that I was belittling postmodernism and then you pluck a few representational works down on the screen--classifying them as “postmodernists”---as if that was suppose to be some irrefutable answer to my post. No argument, no explanation, and un-named artists—it was just “look at these incredible paintings--these are postmodernist! I suppose the desired effect was to leave philosophical egg dripping from my face?"

My point was simply that all postmodernism and modernism can't be lumped together as you had claimed. Postmodernist art is not what you've assumed it to be.

J

Edited by Jonathan
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  • 2 weeks later...

Now, now, Jonathan

Perigo thinks you're wrong as well. See below:

Pomowanker = postmodern masturbator. Identifiable by, among other things, a self-indulgent propensity for Polish and weasel-words, for prefacing anything remotely resembling an opinion with "I'm not sure that" or "It could be argued that," for never stating an opinion outright but insinuating by sneering irony that it's not intellectually respectable or defensible actually to hold an opinion on anything, much less a positive opinion. Nihilism in academic drag.

:rolleyes:

Edited by Victor Pross
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