Modernism and Hockney

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Modernism and Hockney

From Fred Ross

Published before 2005


Dear David,

We receive so very many wonderful supportive letters. Originally when the ARC website went on line, I expected to see many modernist educators, journalists or museum officials screaming at us from the roof tops. It was with grateful surprise when, over the past 3 years, it became clear that 99% of the letters we received, that weren't just looking just for information, were in fact positive, supportive and helpful. The 1% of negative letters usually are from people who are so offensive and abusive, that it would be pointless to respond. So your letter is a rarity, and while I'm swamped with over 100 email every day, I do want to respond, as you seem, sincere if not particularly fair or accurate.

First of all, there is nothing I have ever said or believe, which would support the notion of making it illegal to make or exhibit modern art. Far more important than any art is our system or rights and protections which insures our freedom to pursue art among many other things, as we, each and every individual, sees fit.

Because I don't like DeKooning, Rothko, Pollock or Warholl, doesn't mean I would outlaw them, or even create sanctions against those museum that wish to show them or those schools which choose to teach students how to be like them. If I succeed my point of view will be espoused by people who will then choose not to subject themselves to those institutions.

If anything, the exact opposite has been closer to the truth. Realism in nearly every manifestation by living artists (with a few notable exceptions) during the past 60 years has been banished from museums, the art departments of colleges and universities, and journalistic notice. The NEA which has given tens of thousands of dollars to groups like the kitchen Dancers, who perform naked and publicly insert objects in every one of their orifices, ... while not a nickel has ever gone to help a single school which trains students how to draw and paint in the methods of the masters.

In fact, if you speak to the students attending courses in art in nearly any college in America or the western world, you'll find that they are blackballed, shunned, and banned in every way possible by the authorities in power if they try to do realism.

I don't know how much you have read on our site, but the ARC Philosophy has perhaps become one of the most (if not the most) read essays in hundreds of schools and art schools, ateliers, and by students and educators who are rapidly working to re-evaluate their methods and thinking.

10,000+ people every month are reading it along with the watershed events at the Met and Salmagundi Club in 2001 and 2002:
Two years ago we listed 16 ateliers which met our standards of training. Mind you we did not call for the extinction of modernist schools, but we did want to make sure talented young people who felt as we did would no longer be dismissed and misdirected by their teachers and advisors. In 24 months those schools have exploded in enrollments by over 400% with waiting lists nearly as long again of those who want "in". I wish that I could have been so advised when I was showing a perfectly sculpted pair of hands that I made at 16 years old in 1961, to a "teacher" in high school who snickered at my accomplishment and discouraged me every way he could. I have now heard hundreds of similar stories over the past 40 years.

While your letter is far more civilized than others we have received, there is still present the willingness to dismiss arguments that you can't refute by trying to dismiss the arguer with ad hominem name calling like "Nazi controlled museum" and accusing me of "aesthetic genocide." When in reality, it is the modernists who came far closer to such actions than anything ever done by academics in the late 19th century (who willingly permitted Impressionism in the Salons since 1873) or any living realist artists or art lovers today. Jackson Pollock's works appear in museums everywhere and sell for millions of dollars, and an artist like Steve Gjertsen (image under my letter) had to work as a handyman for years.

Living Masters™ Gallery:
  • http://www.artrenewal.org/pages/livingartists.php By the way, you talk of the evil of discarding an entire movement.

    Did the Allies commit genocide by discarding and clearing the planet of the Nazis?

    But I have not proposed clearing the planet of Modernism, only telling the truth of what it is that is being so celebrated. If I'm wrong, my words will be soundly defeated in the arena of thought and public discourse, and if I am right, and modernism goes the way of hundreds of false movements and false prophets in the past, I will be no more guilty of cultural genocide than Columbus and Galileo were when people stopped believing that the sun went around the earth or that the earth was flat.

    In fact most of modernism seemed to thrive initially on the claim that Cézanne and Matisse and Manet proved that the canvas was flat ... anything that any 3 year old knows when looking at paintings. And then they spent their lives proving it again and again, and are celebrated as great heroes who told the truth???

    While those mean academics were lying to us trying to make us think that the space on the canvas was 3 dimensional, and trying to create a believable scene that heaven help us, dared to try to tell us stories. How awful! Even though they were the same kinds of stories told by Dickens, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Thackery and the Bronte sisters, somehow they became evil villainous lies ... so we're lead to believe ... in the hands of Bouguereau, Millais, Waterhouse, Gérôme, Burne-Jones and Alma-Tadema.

    But they are no more lies than the great books by those writers were lying.

    Consider this, what if a modernist "writer" said that all books are really only squiggles of black ink on white pieces of paper, so an honest book would tell us the truth by only placing black squiggles on paper that formed no words.

    That analogy is an exact analogy ... not reaching even one little bit.

    And if someone sold you a book like that you would be outraged ... how could anyone be foolish enough to think that ... would you then be vulnerable to claims that you were trying to perform aesthetic genocide against an entire movement of writers if you tried to expose him? Just because you stood up and spoke the truth? And what if your son or daughter signed up to be a writing major in college for $36,000 per year and was shown how to draw meaningless squiggles on note paper, and the "teachers" of those courses refused to permit a single English teacher to be hired who tried to teach how to write English?

    Well that sir is what has happened to the fine arts of painting and drawing and to the art departments of nearly every university in the country.

    I could go on and on, but I just don't have the time. I hope I've made at least some headway with you, but if not, I will probably use this in another article.

    To deal with the rest of what you said would take too many pages. I ask that you reconsider the extreme conclusions you jumped to, and perhaps read the talks that were so well received in New York, the birth place of the Manhattan School.

    Thank you for taking the time to write and share your views.

    Fred Ross,
    Chairman,
    Art Renewal Center
    http://www.artrenewal.org/