Home / Education / ARChives / Foundational Discussions


From Brian K. Yoder

Published before 2005

Elizabeth Perry wrote:
Your pejorative portrayal of abstract art says little for your intelligence. Your tastes and attitudes toward art can be summarized in one word -- "Philistine."

I can't say that your proclivity for spewing insults and lack of rational arguments says much for you either. Calling me a stupid naive philistine layman is hardly a convincing argument in favor of the proposition that I don't know what I am talking about. It seems more indicative of your lack of justification for your own beliefs.

EP: If you ever took the time (and by this I mean more than a nonchalant glance) to approach a piece of abstract art, interact with it, really think about it, and allow it's compositional mystery, underlying didacticism, or subtle narrative to penetrate that lotharian shell that circumscribes your naive, layman eye, then you might begin to appreciate the value of all forms of art for their own merits.

My opinions about that stuff are not founded in a lack of exposure. On the contrary, I was fed a constant diet of abstract expressionism, cubism, and postmodernism in school, I have visited many dozens of museums, and used to work in an office that was loaded to the gills with Rothkos, Hockneys, DeKoonings, and Gronks that I had to live with every day. Believe me, my poor opinion of modernism is not founded in lack of exposure to it.

EP: As of now you are ostensibly handicapped by a dependency on three-dimensional illusion (which is merely technical -- art is about ideas) and practico-functional value of a work of art. I often encounter this debilitating attitude towards modern and post-modern art and it saddens me.

I don't have a lack of ability to appreciate modernism, I have the objectivity and integrity to call nonsense what it is. No amount of spin can turn a big blue square or a random smear of paint into a work of art. A stream of insults won't accomplish that either.

As for your assertion that I am somehow "stuck in three dimensions", I don't think that the number of dimensions makes a work of art great art or not. If you look around my site you will see that I have a taste for Tamara de Lempicka, Alfons Mucha, Edward Burne-Jones, and Evelyn de Morgan whose works were not particularly three-dimensional, not that I consider it all that important a criteria. What I do indeed have a taste for us art that means something. Random shapes and vague designs puffed up with overheated intellectualized hokum are missing that important ingredient.

EP: Pieces by artists such as a Pollock, Rothko, or Picasso have the ability to open an audience up and breath into them a deconstructed and redefined air of life. I strongly advise you, for the sake of a broader understanding, to abandon this myopia that grounds you in an insular pseudo-reality.

Which is the "insular pseudo-reality", enjoying a painting by Bouguereau or pretending that there's some deep meaningful significance in staring at a blank canvas or tin cans of excrement? I maintain that the pretense associated with the attribution of deep and subtle meaning to random splatters of color or silly stunts is far more "insular" and detached from reality than a even a mediocre work of real art is.

EP: Do your homework. Look, research, and try to develop an understanding. The artists that you slander here were and are men and women of great knowledge.

So you say. If they were such great artists why couldn't they paint recognizable things that actually meant something? Why did they have to rely on all kinds of extraneous biographical and philosophical materials to explain what they couldn't make plain on the canvas? I'm sure that I (or a puppy) could make things that look like Pollock or DeKooning paintings, but none of us (Pollock, Rothko, Picasso, the puppy, or me) could create something like a Bouguereau, Mucha, or Leighton. You assert that they were people of great knowledge, but where is your proof? It's certainly not in their ability to paint and draw, or to manage their own lives effectively for that matter.

EP: They are not the superficial dilettantes that you are purporting to be yourself.

I don't claim to be a superficial dilettante. Where did I say I was?

EP: I pity your ignorance and sincerely hope that you grow in your understanding and perception of all art. I am an artist who works in both the figurative and abstract forms. I love and appreciate both for there merits. I have experienced the aesthetics of the human form and the enigmatic allure of two-dimensional marks. I am thoroughly educated in art history. I have researched modernist theory and practice ad nauseum and have studied painting, photography, graphic art, and sculpture from Jan van Eyck and the Master of Flemalle to Michelangelo and Pontormo to Baron Gros and Delacroix to Gaugin and Cézanne to Picasso and Newman to Pollock and Warhol to Hurst [sic] and Saville and I can attest to you that all of this art is very much alive.

I am reminded of the myth of the Emperor's New Clothes. The townsfolk were afraid that others would unleash a great deal of abuse them if they dared to point out that the Emperor was naked, but he was. Your attempts to use abuse, intimidation, and arguments from authority to convince me to doubt what is before my eyes are indicative of a lack of ability to make your case rationally, don't you think? I can point to plenty of professional artists, art historians, and others with impressive credentials who agree with me on these issues, so what's the point of such a comparison. People with impressive credentials can be wrong can't they? Having read a lot of books, spent a lot of time in school, being willing to hold forth with some bravado is not the same thing as being right, is it? For what it's worth (which is not much), I have read a lot of books on art, I have an extensive art library, have visited museums all over the world, was a founder an art education organization with a significant annual budget, and read quite a lot of modernist aesthetic theory and modern philosophy as well. Believe me, just because I don't believe a word of it doesn't mean I have not read it. Do you really think it's so compelling that only possible reason for disagreeing with it is ignorance?

If you have not done so you might want to check out my Frequently Asked Questions page.

That site also has a lot of articles by a lot of people aside from me who feel the same way about modern "art". Your premises that I have not studied art and that I am alone in my evaluations are quite mistaken. I have good reasons for believing as I do and I have written on them fairly extensively. I'm afraid all you have been able to mister is some insults and inaccurate accusations. Perhaps you could do better if you tried again.