Modernism and Hockney

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Modernism and Hockney

From David Simcox

Published before 2005


Dear Mr. Chairman,

First, I would like to expound upon the remarkable beauty that is displayed on the Art Renewal Center's webpage. Since the earliest whisps of my near forgotten past I have had a brush in my hand - and I appriciate a well placed brushstroke from the depth of my soul. ARC's image gallery has brought me hours of entertainment, inspiration, and awe. Nowhere have I found such an eloquent sellection of technically astounding compositions draped in passion, intelligence, and fantasy. My visits to this page have been wondrous, until now. Though I have been involved within the art community for many years and have actively taken part on panel discusions and art reviews, I have never really read any articles displayed on the ARC webpage (with the exception of a few studies). I must confess - I was absolutely appalled.

Strictly speaking I am an artist who is capable of realistic rendering without studies, undercoats, or mechanical aid. I prefer to mix on canvas, paint without drawing, and use colour and value instead of line. Technical merrit aside, I consider my works to be Modern, Post-Modern if you wish to bludgeon an historical handle upon my brow. I enjoy blurring the line between Traditionalism and Modernism and do so within my own compositions. I love art, I love the shift it has taken throughout history and the joy and pain that it has displayed, it is humanity. To discard a entire movement of art borders on aesthetic genocide.

It is one thing to be reactionary, it has fueled art for centuries. It is another thing for an intelligent group of individuals, within modern culture, to ignore the presence of our self actualized view of history and seek to erradicate the relevance of an entire movement. Now of course this was the approach of the original Modernists, but they were revolutionaries, they were intellectual explorers, passionate missionaries, and aesthetic pirates. The Modernists were a small stone thrown towards a tidal wave of traditionalism molding their views into an extremeism just like any other small special interest group(no one could have the power to erradicate Traditionalism and never will). Unfortunately that is what ARC is, a special interest group. The problem with special interest groups is that when they gain power they gain influence (traditionalism has never lost power, it has simply lost the lime-light). And when they gain influence they start making change based on a narrow minded approach that leaves very little room for interpretation, alternative view, and need.

Now as I click through the virtual halls of the ARC's image gallery I can't help feel like I'm tip-toeing through the halls of a Nazi controlled museum - because that is where the best artifacts are. I felt betrayed that a group that has collected such amazing works of art could be so close minded. And don't triffle me with the obvious rebuttal of "they did it first" like some whining child, I'm well aware of the hard stance that most Moderist instructors take. Overall I feel most are simply trying to help an individual explore the depths of human perception and experience not bind their hands with dogma. They have all been students of the past and worshiped Traditionalism like all other artists, even though as time passes ideas change - unlike beliefs. Beliefs can be very beautiful and helpful but when applied to reason crumble and falter. I feel that ARC's mission statement is a progeny of belief in a field where intellect reigns in order to maintain an open minded approach to the diversity of human experience.

The dominance of "high art" is not a matter of talent, theory, or relevance it is a result of an elite consumerist culture that must cater to itself in order to still feel like it is a part of humanity. Modernism will be replaced with Realism in time as Realism will be replaced by Modernism. Artists will have no control over this change as long as the prices of art stay inflated and the proliferation of artistic culture remains in wealthy homes, galleries, and businesses. For an intelligent individual in today's society to dictate such abjection toward what is ultimately a choice of appreciation is ignorant.

The flames that burst from your choice of diction in the rebuttal of Hockney ignited my mind in an inferno of outrage. Hockney might not be the most likeable of the "artiste elite" his words are filled with arrogance and his posture is poised of a "might of right". But. I would fight tooth and nail to keep his art considered relevant. Your choice of attacking his attitude and artistic aptitude instead of his obvious evidence belies your words, and connotes you were driven by spite instead of knowledge. That he suggests that perhaps (and he does not make an absolute stand) art has been forwarded by mechanics was met by your "nuh-uh, look what we can do" or "they evolved with out it cause humans do it all of the time" was childish ('course so is my use of offensive paraphrase - sorry). I'm not going to get into the multiple details, because if you have read the book you know them - and choose to ignore them. The rebuttal came across more as a defamation than as an intellectual commentary, and if you took the time to study Hockney's early studies of form you would know that he is a remarkable draftsman. His lack of research does colour his conclusions and his tendancy to be vague diminishes his stance, but please, for the love of God respect the man's opinion, his obvious points of possibility, and his passion.

I will continue to visit ARC's site, simply becuase of the wonderful artwork within. Consequently though, I have stopped recommending the site to my contemporaries, students, and friends. The articles seem to be overly flavoured with spite rather than fact, which is tremendously unfortunate considering ARC's obvious love of beauty and art.

David Simcox