Saturday, June 30, 2007

Lost in the Guggenheim

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I went to the Guggenheim museum today and certainly would not recommend it to anyone I liked. There were some good exhibits. They had a room of early impressionists. These people created a revolution in the art word when they stopped painting the objective world as though they were taking a photograph of the “objective” world. Instead they sought to portray the subjective experience of vision. In real life a train may look like a train, but I may experience it as motion and light. Pointillists did this to wonderful affect; they recognized that our visual field is received as undifferentiated pixels of light.

The Guggenheim also featured many Kandinsky’s. He was the artist that took this artistic divorce from the objective world to another level. His work eventually retained no references to any natural objects from the objective world. Thus his work was not representational; but fully abstract. This lead to the modern works of art which feature blank canvases and random pieces of metal such as those displayed in many modern art museums and corporate lobbies.

After leaving the museum, we went to a Catholic cathedral dedicated to St. Ignatius Loyola. The structure and every piece in it were breath taking testimony to the glory of man’s ability. Taken as a whole; it was an awe inspiring work of art. To do modern art and have a decent conscience one must ignore such monumental and glorious pieces. A piece of black metal cannot compare favorably with any great work of art before the impressionists. From the Greeks to the French Royal Academy the works of Western art have sought to show the glory of man and have succeeded. Modern art does not so much contrast itself with older art as it exerts a profound amnesia in its creation.

Modern art’s amnesia is done so in the name of freedom. It tries to get at the essence of the individual experience. In doing so it must not reference traditions or objects which would impose themselves on the viewer. The problem is that one can never extract themselves from the culture from which they so unnaturally try to divorce themselves. The very goal of encapsulating an individual perspective free from the constraints of the outside institutions IS a Western project.

Liberation, unfortunately for modern art, does not come from being alone. In real life it leads to isolation and starvation; no man is an island because he cannot survive as one. Freedom comes from a collective effort. That is why the abstract art feels so alienating and says so little to viewers. We leave perplexed and uninspired. Furthermore, despite the emancipatory goals of modern artists, we leave less empowered than ever. There is nothing to strive for, nothing to achieve, and we feel alien and unable to understand another segment of our world. Culturist art would recognize the power of tradition, further our collective glorification, leave people feeling awed, uplifted and connected. Unfortunately, when you leave modern galleries like the Guggenheim, you just feel cheated.
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