Some thoughts on Henri and Art today

Two links to check out:
1. Alex Pentland on Creativity and Synthesis in Wired Magazine:

2. Jake Seliger on Bogosity in Art

I have really been enjoying Robert Henri’s The Art Spirit. It’s amazing how relevant it is today, and perhaps more so now than ever. The honesty with which he advocates approaching art is resonant and refreshing. I have read a few articles recently about the demise or Art being brought on by so much coverage of the art market, big sales, and big thefts. I have wondered what “movement” we are in the midst of. I think none. It even has a name: “Meta-Modernism.” It claims to sit about Modernism and Post Modernism. It has a manifesto. It seems well defined in a vague manifesto way. In fact I am not really sure it’s what’s going on. What I see is a time of application of thought and application and synthesis of styles, not innovation of thought. The article in Wired gets at it nicely. Synthesis, seeing connections. These are great. Maybe that’s what innovation is. Or maybe it’s innovation by application. That’s different. Or is today about Deleuze and Guattari’s multiplicity? Maybe a little, in an applied sense of course. The Wired article makes some great points about how creative people share ideas and and keep gathering and refining. It’s different from the myth of the lone genius. It makes sense to me. My point about application is that there don’t seem to be pure ideas, only ideas to be applied, these days to commerce and getting advertising money. I had a very interesting conversation with a colleague about this recently, and here I go synthesizing his insights with mine.

In art I wonder what the big questions are today. After Duchamp’s Fountain pretty much anything like Jeff Koons’ balloon dog or any other provocation seems like an imitation asking the same question. It’s like having one smart kid in class ask a question, then two minutes later the someone else asks the same question slightly differently. Then someone walks in the room and asks it again. Then someone wakes up in class and asks it again. At some point it just isn’t worth paying attention any more when we can’t tell if the question is honestly asked or if it’s done in jest, and if done in jest is it even worth jesting about? I don’t know. I am not really up on things and maybe there’s something I am not getting. But when I see “wall art” advertised in catalogues and on HGTV, and it looks like an Yves Klein monochrome(which when I saw in person I found to be incredible), or a knock-off Mondrian, I wonder what’s going on. Then again, plenty of hotel rooms have softly impressionist renderings that are also wall art, just different. Are they better? In some way art, or at least painting, will always be decor. Does that mean we’ve come to accept the innovations and provocations of the past? I guess so if Corbu’s buildings became templates for the bland office buildings of today. The provocative becomes the standard (only after it gets robbed of its special quality, it’s initial place in context and when it entered the conversation).

Jake Seliger, another blogger I like, had a good post about the “bogosity” of Art today. It’s a pretty well stated piece, linked above, so I encourage you to check it out.

This is why Henri is so important, why the individual artist’s honest pursuit is so important, why the Urban Sketchers movement is so important, and why real conversation about art–not provocation and reaction, but genuine wondering about the world and about ourselves and our place in it–is so meaningful, and why I enjoy following other artists’ blogs so much. It’s a question that doesn’t get old. Having said that, I also hear the voice from Monty Python yelling, “Get on with it!” Having rambled a bit tonight, it’s time that I do.

Thanks for reading.