Saturday, November 1, 2014

What is Modern Art?

11 x 14 
oil & cold wax

The function of the artist is to express reality as felt. 

It is because reality has a historical character that we feel
the need for new art. The past has bequeathed us great works
of art: if they were wholly satisfying, we should not need new ones. 

This is the origin of our desire for new art. In our case, for modern art...
Robert Motherwell, The Modern Painter's World. 1944 
From The Writings of Robert Motherwell.

Reading these words made me wonder, what is modern art? Is it modern because it reflects the time in which it's created? By definition, then, current work of any period could be labeled as "modern". 

However, Motherwell explains " ...the popular association with the phrase "modern art" like that of medieval art, is stronger than its historical denotation. The popular association with medieval art is religiousness. The popular association with modern art is its remoteness from the symbols and values of the majority of [people] men." 

In historical context, this essay was written when Motherwell was 29 years old and WW11 was nearing its end.  You have to wonder, if the chaos of the times drove the "modern artists" to break the rules of realism; to search for meaning in the abstract. Reality made no sense.

Two World Wars less than a generation apart; how could that not influence the artists, writers and poets of the time?

How are the events surrounding us today finding their way into our art?

Sensational news overload; world wide social connections through Facebook and other  networks; the ever increasing dependence on the internet, which is an ever growing  web of connections, at one end a blessing and at the other, terrifying when it gets 'hacked" or shut down.

How will today's modern art be interpreted by the generation of arts, critics and historian of tomorrow? And what label will they put on today's work?

It could already be happening and I'm not aware. Modern art may be a passe term.

One thing that will never be passe, is the dissatisfaction that drives artists to look for new ways of expression. 

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