The contemporary avant-garde scene is, as many would agree, terrible. When you are asked by your professor to explain how a splatter of paint is an important criticism to people not rebelling against Trump more, for example, you can be of either two camps: the ones who will make up bullshit just to graduate easily from art school or the ones who would likely drop out because you thought you’ll learn to paint and draw, like this person who wrote for H
This is because traditional art focuses on humanity, nature, and beauty. It focuses on the glorification of the subject and the attempt to rise above one’s limitation as an artist with each passing work. And contemporary art is the rebellion against tradition. So when beauty is the name of the game for traditional, the modern and post-modern is fine with being ugly, and hard to understand or can’t be understood at all. The non-traditional are, after all, a rebellion against tradition and is seen as the avant-garde. They go in the other direction.
Loss of Meaning
The absence of any discernible meaning behind the art is one of the reasons that people have lost connection with it. When a painter presents his work to the people, as a completely white background or an assortment of bizarre multi-coloured shapes and lines, people will be confused. How can they interpret art that doesn’t have meaning? “Well anything can be art, even those without meaning,” says the artist. And that’s true. Art without meaning can still be art. You don’t ask for some esoterical vision about a still-life painting of a pie and a few plates. So we let that slide. But one should not expect that any meaningless artwork will be revered as art. Beauty and style is needed and if your work lacks those it will be ignored.
Or the artist could argue that there is a meaning behind his art, and he then explains it to the questioning audience. But when an artist needs to explain what his artwork is, it means that the artist failed to deliver his message through his art. The artwork should be able to speak for itself. To be able to deliver a clear message using no words. The only language that artists need is the language of beauty. If you say things like “art is an experience” as the reason why you ‘re having a difficulty to deliver a message, then you should probably make another one that’s easier to understand.
The Trap of Discrimination
Now some people will complain that such a view is discrimination. There are two arguments against that. One is that discrimination is not evil. And the other is that discrimination is natural. You only just need to look at nature to find that the normal reaction to beauty is affection. Animals gravitate to the best possible mate, humans are more likely to choose to date the more beautiful people. The Old Masters knew this. This is why they strived to perfect their craft and experimented on the different styles that traditional painters study today. They worked with beauty so that the audience will look.
So you can’t help it. No one can. Discrimination of the ugly and the inability of people to find meaning in the grotesque is natural and people for whom artists paint for is not exempted from this rule. And because of this, you’ll continue hearing people like Jacob Collins complain about how bad the 20th century was for art. Like Collins, however, one should not spend his artistic career eternally complaining about how bad modern and post-modern art is. One should invest in learning and teaching people to appreciate the classics again instead.
1st Image: A still life by Jacob Collins, via Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.ph/pin/210261876329741805/)
2nd Image: Fire Island Sunset by Jacob Collins, via Wikipedia. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacob_Collins#/media/File:Fireislandsunset.jpg)