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« Miseducations | Main | Blogging, Movie Update »

August 16, 2002

Art and Religion


It does seem that the rise of "intellectually respectable" American Art eerily parallels the dominance of psychoanalysis (and, of course, the decline of organized religion) in American public life. As I have pompously opined in the past, I think Art only finds a meaningful social context in religion (or a reasonable facsimile, like J.L. David's worship of the Jacobin Revolution.)

It's a bummer that psycholanalysis was the best religion Depression- and Postwar-Artists and Arts Intellectuals could latch onto. I mean, would you rather have illustrated stories of nymphs and satyrs (or even Madonnas and babies), or be forced to inflate your early family history into "mythic" terms via slashing brushstrokes? No wonder you would gradually wander off into color field painting--twice the fun, and with your pretensions of mythic "selfhood" more or less intact.

If you noticed, however, Macho Mythic Self Art kind of conked out during the Vietnam War, and its religious function feebly yielded to Feminism. Honestly, walking around Soho and looking at galleries, or leafing through Art in America, does contemporary art look bursting with health to you? It feels more to me like an exhausted masturbatory fantasy.

I grant you, I'm just an old fart (and was one even when I was in art school) and there are all these ambitious careerist young artists and art intellectuals on the make. But doesn't it seem like they're too late to the party?



posted by Friedrich at August 16, 2002


I still like Escher.

Recently read an article about one of his paintings that had a blank spot in the middle; some new renaissance type (a theoretical mathematician with an art degree?) showed that the painting was based on math, could not have been completed with calculators available to Escher, and showed what the "completed" picture might have looked like (not actually completed, he got down to fractals and sub-atomic spaces...).

Posted by: John Anderson on August 16, 2002 3:40 PM

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