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January 22, 2007

Blogging Note

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

While the title of this post is "Blogging Note" the subject is more of a bleg. (For those of you lucky enough not to have encountered that word yet, "bleg" is cutesy blog-speak for begging for information via a blog.)

From time to time such as here I mention a Modernist-centered art-history narrative that originated at the Museum of Modern Art. It was pretty close to what I was taught in art history classes back in the late 50s, and I still find it hard to shake the concepts fed to me when I was 19 or so.

The course, once it departed the Middle Ages, became a who-invented-this-first narrative akin to Biblical "begats" with the begatting ending once art emerged from the sludge of academism and realism to reach the shining heights of Pure Abstraction.

Now to confess sloth and ignorance.

Because I find Post-Modern art generally not very interesting (there are exceptions), I don't bother to study it nearly as much as I do other art. My impression is that the historical "thrust" posited in the MoMA narrative shattered into a collection of mini-movements fueled by painters and sculptors desperately trying to be innovative. Although I did buy a book that attempted to list the noteworthy movements from the 19th century to the 21st, I'm still semi-clueless regarding the "narrative" angle.

What I would like is for some of you to pass along references to any historical narratives that cover the period since 1960 or thereabouts. Especially welcome would be a narrative that proposes "thrust" rather than the apparent chaos of the mini-movements.

And apologies if you mentioned such narratives in comments to previous posts -- please pass along the info again.

Why? Because, after months of fruitless head-scratching, a possibly viable concept of a non-Modernist narrative just popped into my head. Something blindingly simple. So simple that it might be simple-minded. In any case, I'm ready to do some work on this to see if I can come up with anything worth posting.



posted by Donald at January 22, 2007


Although I agree with you that post-modernism is pretty much a dead hand, we part company on the worth of modernism. When Manet & Co. came along in the mid 19th century, the weight of academic proprieties was suffocating to any spontaneity. Finish had to be just so. Gesture had to be just so. Much subject matter was out of bounds. But far more important, the artist's natural desire to explore the possibilities of line, color and the properties of paint itself, had to be suppressed to fit the production of decorous, respectable painting. Sure, modernists got carried away with the hard fought possibilities that had been secured for them by the impressionists and post-impressionists. But the first two generations let light and air into what had become a stale dark room.

Posted by: ricpic on January 23, 2007 4:53 PM

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