Thursday, July 10, 2008

Fred Ross: Noah of the Art ARC.

www.artrenewal.org

I stumbled on a speech by Fred Ross recently. Fred Ross, the Chairman of the Art Renewal Center, has long preached his concerns about the "merciless and relentless assault" that "the art of painting" has endured for the last one hundred years at the hand of Modernism. In doing so he has insulted thousands of artists and art lovers in the process-- which is probably why his website (www.artrenewal.org) does not seem to allow visitors to post replies to his rants. Last I checked they did have a forum, but for an issue as hot as the one they project the debate seemed rather one-sided-- mostly ARC staff stating that they can't debate unless the argument is "intelligent".

In Fred's world the opinion of others does not matter because in his opinion you are not an artist unless you cast Modernist theories aside at which point it appears that you must be approved by his organization in order to be considered an 'artist'. In his opinion, 2,500 years of painting history has been corrupted in the last 100 years by art historians and critics who embraced Modernism. In other words, if you are not painting in a manner that Fred enjoys you are "brain-washed".

The typical rant by Fred Ross involves attacking the idea of 'freedom of expression' which he feels has corrupted the art world since World War I and he has gone on to say that the modern idea of "expression" is actually a form of "oppression" or "suppression" that has created the most "restrictive system of thought in all of art history"-- I guess it does not matter that religious fervor and the ruling powers of the past restricted art for... lets say... 2,500 years!

Fred Ross reminds me of a twisted Noah figure who feels that we must be saved from the flood of 'bad' art that, in his view, dominates our culture. It seems that Fred thinks that salvation can only be found by accepting the views of ARC. Sorry Fred, I choose to brave the storm. I rather enjoy it.

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Fred Ross is not in touch with reality. I often laugh because they have claimed since 2004 that they have had over 5 million visitors to the site each year but only have an Alexa ranking of 82,912 at this time. He is either a liar or just ignorant about how traffic ranking works. They have almost been around for a decade now. If they had the traffic they claim they would have a better traffic rank. I think the only people who support ARC are the rich collectors who like that kind of art and the artist who pay gobs of money to attend their approved schools.

Lacey said...

I am happy that the ARC exists, and I am very happy for what they are doing for realism. I don't think they have any obligation to let anyone post opposing opinions on their website. Obviously we all have the power to put our opinions on our own websites.

Now, I don't agree with everything the ARC or Fred Ross says... for example that photography is not art. Also, they do tend to be a bit tight-assed when it comes to the kind of realism they go for.

However, it is absolutely true that the reign of Modernist theory has made it more difficult to find solid, traditional training in the universities and art schools, if you desire to create this kind of work. I wish I would have known about these ateliers when I was searching for a college. Also, please note that fro what I've observed, tuition at these ateliers ranges from $1,000 to $3,000/semester... much more affordable than modernist art institutes (for example, Kansas City Art Institute at over $13,00/semester) and hardly 'gobs of money.'

Also, many art collectors buy what someone else tells them is good valuable and new, and it is true that realism has been put down for decades as unoriginal, outdated, obsolete by artists and arts professionals. I'm glad that there's finally another voice in the mix promoting realism... and I don't mean just the ARC when I say 'another voice,' but also the galleries that focus on realism, and the many artists of my generation who have taken an interest in the tradition of realist painting, drawing and sculpting and who seek to learn what the masters knew and to pass the knowledge on.

I really don't think we need to compare the new realists to the religious regimes of the past (or to Nazis, as many like to do) just because Fred Ross and/or a few others are very strict and have their minds narrowly focused. There are too many artists on all sides to have to worry about all but classical realism becoming extinct. However, we should realize that the last century has not been as 'inclusive' in art as we'd like to believe, and I am so happy that the pendulum is swinging. I hope it lands somewhere in the middle, where we are free to create as we please, but where these basic drawing and painting skills are valued and widely known and understood.

Balhatain said...

Hi Lacey,

Don't get me wrong, I think what they are doing for traditional realist painting is great in that they have some great resources for learning about those works. I also like that they support drawing skills. However, I don't agree with how they go about it nor do I respect the way that some of their staff members debate.

I've read responses on ARC that basically poke fun at anyone who has a different opinion than the one they support. That is why I was turned off by ARC when I first discovered them. It is OK to have a different opinion, but simply stating that someone else is 100% wrong does not make for a good debate.

I firmly believe that all art has value. True, there is 'good' art and 'bad' art, but I don't think good or bad can be defined by style or methods alone nor do I think it is acceptable to say that someone is not a painter unless they paint in a traditional manner.

When I first discovered ARC I actually scheduled an interview with Brian Yoder who is one of ARC's founders and a strong advocate for traditional painting. He accepted and I sent him a draft of potential questions. Yoder kept pushing the interview off due to his schedule until eventually he stopped responding. That was kind of a let down because I really wanted to discuss his views. I offered him the chance to enter a healthy debate and he backed out.

As for how religion and the ruling powers of the past dictated the direction of art... I think it is acceptable to discuss that. It is important to discuss that. If ARC is going to make low blows about the last 100 years I think it is perfectly acceptable to mention the fact that for hundreds of years artists were forced to walk a fine line based on those powers and influences regardless if they agreed with them or not.

There are hundreds of examples througout art history that reveal how art was restricted due to religion and the ruling class. Most of us today don't have to worry about being beheaded if we offend religion or our government by the art that we choose to create.

Modern art was not exactly embraced in the first place. It was an uphill battle. Ross and Yoder make it seem as if everyone accepted Modernism from the start. They would like people to think that traditionalists and those who supported them were victims of some great rebellion. That is simply not true.

Lacey said...

I completely understand being turned off by specific statements/specific people in the ARC. I still say, don't throw the baby out with the bathwater... you know? I, myself, try not to let individuals ruffle my feathers too much. However, in response to your last 2 sentences... it kind of is true. Just as you can find many examples of how art was restricted throughout history, I can also find examples of how it has been restricted in the last 100 years. Perhaps realists have not been beheaded, but they've certainly been slighted and it's been difficult to hold a career as a traditional realist in the fine arts up until recently, as we've been seen as 'just illustrators.'

Also, I didn't mean that we shouldn't talk about religion/government influences in art history. I meant that it is not an appropriate comparison to Fred Ross and the ARC. Religion and the rich had control of art because they *were* the government, they *were* in charge, they had the power. Same with Nazi Germany and what they did with post-impressionist works. The ARC, their members, rich people, etc., are not our government and they do not have the power to suppress all other forms of art, or to go to such extremes as to murder those who create art they don't like. At least not without going to jail.

Balhatain said...

Hi Lacey,

My comment about beheading and how religion and the ruling powers of the past controlled art was more about how, historically, art was restricted long before Modernism. Thus, I don't think that Fred's view that the last 100 years have been the "most restrictive" is valid.

This is the problem I have with ARC. Their debates remind me of political debates because they often use selective history when making a point and fail to listen to anything else. I think if they just pointed out the value of traditional works their message would be better off. Instead they often come off as hostile toward anyone who does not agree with them.

I just think they could be more positive in how they express their views. As it stands, they are telling millions of artists that their art is not art. They are telling hundreds of curators that the work they display is not art. They are telling some of the most influential art collectors that they are "morons" or "idiots". They are even telling some realists that their art is not exactly art. That could hurt realists and traditional art in general in the end depending on the influence that ARC has and the number of people that they offend.

One possible danger is that people will associate every realist with having the views of ARC. Based on my research online it would seem that as far as debate is concerned they have hurt the position of realism more than they have helped it.

They have offered some great resources, but those resources are clouded by their extreme views. So in a sense, they are the best and worst friend of realist painters and sculptors.

And as far as debate is concerned... they do have an obligation to permit opposing opinions when they openly state that they support debate on the issue.

Anonymous said...

I know the site and the man through the internet. In a way I respect his efforts, but his means are not right. I personally love many of the Old Masters, and in my work I try to achieve some sort of compromise between the modern and the old. I do not however agree with the arguments and methodology of the ARC. As your article revealed, their methods are disturbing, fanatic, and cheap. Mr. Ross abuses the work of great artists in his ways, in order to demolish the achievements of modern times. When he talks about decadence, he makes no mention of decadence in realism, which did exist in the mannerist and rococo periods for instance. Furthermore, he undermines his own arguments, by exhibiting works on his site from the first modern artists, such as Klimt. Those geniuses in their work have long ago come to the modern realizations that Mr. Ross never have. It was especially funny to see a quasi-abstract impressionistic work win their first annual contest (2004 Salon Comp.). In general, he attempts to manipulate his narrow-mindedness onto people by holding them in a state of trance through the display of highly realistic works.

Giorgio Vaselli

ARC is the Enemy said...

It might be harsh to compare Fred Ross and the Art Renewal Center to the Nazi party but you can't deny that their views on art are very close to the view Hitler had about the subject. You might think that is a non issue but clearly it is and it should be something that is discuss. Suggesting that people with that opinion can't come up with a better charge against them is just childish. It is a clear statement to make and it is one that deserves answers. Why does Ross and ARC feel that only Western examples of paintings and sculptor can be considered art? Why do they feel that those works define the direction that art should go when most of the work has roots in oppressive religions and governments? I've read comments from some of the ARC competition winners and I know that not all of them agree with Ross or ARC. Ross would like to think that every winner and every traditional painter and sculptor is somehow anti contemporary or anti modern art. That is an image that makes all of us look bad when people find that site. And art with traditional roots can be found in mainstream galleries. It is the same with all forms of art though. If you are not as good as those exhibiting or if you don't have the right connections you won't be exhibiting in those spaces. I create traditional works and my interest is in traditional works but I would be bored if that was the only type of work to view in galleries and Ross has suggested that the government should control what is funded and seen and that ARC should have a position in those choices. It does not take long to find out how hateful Fred Ross and Brian Yoder are. Yoder won't post a response from a person who supports modern art unless he can make them look foolish. And Fred has been caught on the ARC site telling ARC moderators to boot anyone who puts up a good defense for modern art. He actually apologized for that. Don't take either of them serious but take there agenda very serious. They want to win the art war that they think is going on through politics. I actually read a comment by Ross that stated that 99% of the art today is not art. Do we want someone like that gaining political influence?

ARC is the Enemy said...

It might be harsh to compare Fred Ross and the Art Renewal Center to the Nazi party but you can't deny that their views on art are very close to the view Hitler had about the subject. You might think that is a non issue but clearly it is and it should be something that is discuss. Suggesting that people with that opinion can't come up with a better charge against them is just childish. It is a clear statement to make and it is one that deserves answers. Why does Ross and ARC feel that only Western examples of paintings and sculptor can be considered art? Why do they feel that those works define the direction that art should go when most of the work has roots in oppressive religions and governments? I've read comments from some of the ARC competition winners and I know that not all of them agree with Ross or ARC. Ross would like to think that every winner and every traditional painter and sculptor is somehow anti contemporary or anti modern art. That is an image that makes all of us look bad when people find that site. And art with traditional roots can be found in mainstream galleries. It is the same with all forms of art though. If you are not as good as those exhibiting or if you don't have the right connections you won't be exhibiting in those spaces. I create traditional works and my interest is in traditional works but I would be bored if that was the only type of work to view in galleries and Ross has suggested that the government should control what is funded and seen and that ARC should have a position in those choices. It does not take long to find out how hateful Fred Ross and Brian Yoder are. Yoder won't post a response from a person who supports modern art unless he can make them look foolish. And Fred has been caught on the ARC site telling ARC moderators to boot anyone who puts up a good defense for modern art. He actually apologized for that. Don't take either of them serious but take there agenda very serious. They want to win the art war that they think is going on through politics. I actually read a comment by Ross that stated that 99% of the art today is not art. Do we want someone like that gaining political influence?

Anonymous said...

What I think is entertaining is how upset people are that Fred Ross has his own opinion. If he thinks 90% of art today is not art at all, what does it matter to you? No one should have to apologize for their beliefs. It isn't as though he is making it official country policy - you may want to talk to Obama about his art czar, now you have something you can really compare to Hitler. Why should the government decide what good art is? That is closer to a dictatorship than an internet website’s safe haven for traditional artists.

Enquire said...

Fred Ross's art is "great" and I am looking for one spefic piece. Reclining Nude

Balhatain said...

Anon, Ross has every right to his opinion. However, I don't agree with anyone who desires to see certain types of art barred from being exhibited.

Anon said, “It isn't as though he is making it official country policy.”

He has discussed regulating the type of art that ends up in museums. In other words, he wants to see his opinion of art represented and nothing else. That is my issue with Mr. Ross. Just so you know, I had worked on an interview with Brian Yoder from ARC and he quickly backed out. That was almost two years ago.

Anon said, “you may want to talk to Obama about his art czar, now you have something you can really compare to Hitler.”

I’m against the idea of having a Secretary of Arts in the United States. It did not work in the 1920s and will not happen now. We don’t need politics to dictate what is shown-- there is enough politics involved in the art world as it is.


Anon said, “Why should the government decide what good art is? That is closer to a dictatorship than an internet website’s safe haven for traditional artists.”

You should learn more about Mr. Ross and some of the statements he has said concerning government and art. Some of the speeches he has made are off the charts.

As for me, I have a wide taste for art. I think there is more than enough room for every form, style, what have you. Certainly more should be done to feature art that has been placed on the backburner of mainstream appeal. That much I do agree with.

Anonymous said...

I have followed the career of Fred Ross for many years now, and he's not a liar and I only wish there were other people like him willing to donate hundreds of thousands of dollars and thousands of hours of his own time to promote traditional realism.
I can't believe how barefaced the hypocrisy of one of your posters here who seems to be saying "something should be done to shut Ross up if we want to protect freedom of Expression"
In perusing his site there is an article he wrote specifically to answer those who make such false accusations about his purpose:
Oppressors Accuse their Victims of Oppression: Modernist Tactic Exposed, by Fred Ross
http://www.artrenewal.org/articles/2004/Oppression/ross1.asp
Here is perhaps his most important idea:
"I would prefer there were no art, and no great paintings anywhere in the world, than that the freedoms and liberties that we hold so dear would be lost."
There are countless venues where one can read the ideas Ross opposes. To begrudge him his right to express his views is being against freedom of expression...not Ross.

Anonymous said...

Both my wives have been professional fine artists. I did their art history assignments when they were in college (and also turned them in to my own history professors. Got A's. Yeah, so what?)

I mostly agree with Fred Ross, although there are a few pieces of modern art that I like (Rauschenberg), but I would give you all of them for Frazetta, Jack Kirby, and Hal Foster.

It takes a fanatic like Fred Ross to spend the time and effort to preserve and promote the art that he does. He's a little unbalanced and uncomfortable to be around? Opinionated?

I don't have to buy into his whole trip to see the value of what he does. I don't know and don't want to know him personally, but I support what he does and have used ARC for as long as it's been around. It is a tremendous resource for those of us too poor to hop on a plane for the Lourve any time we want to see a Leonardo, or don't have the space for a thousand full color art books.

So what if Hitler loved good art. Genghis Khan would have loved it, too, and stolen it and taken it back to Mongolia, like Goering did. The quality of the art is important, not whether some monster liked it. I like it too, and I don't want to cremate Jews, Gypsies, and the handicapped. Oops, I mean the differently othered.

Modern political correctness is a phase, just like Mao's Cultural Revolution. Whatever you think of Ross, he wants to preserve the good. As long as we can keep ANY person from destroying what he disagrees with, as a society we are richer for the loons and nutcases.

But yeah, I don't want to have coffee with him.

Anonymous said...

Today, I viewed the ARC website for the first time. I was glad to see an argument for traditional painting methods and the concept of a solid foundation in drawing and techniques.
Simply put, as in music, I think one needs to learn the basics - read musical notes, measures, bars, understand the scales, etc., before playing, let alone composing.
However, as I read on, it became clear that the ARC conversation was narrow-minded.
Worst was when I looked at the work of the ARC 'approved' artists. I found work that, while some were technically well executed, the overall impression was that of sugary, light, over romanticized, wishy-washy and irrelevant pastiches. Most of the work lacked conviction, boldness and any sense of purpose - the very criteria that was argued in ARC's own mission statement, because, in my humble opinion, you cannot react to our current contemporary condition by making artistic statements in the same manner as a pre-impressionist romantic, or a 1930s academic. We simply don't have the same eyes.
- From a painter who had a strict academic training - 6 years of art school, taught for several years in college/university art departments and has had an international exhibiting career for over 40 years.
The site was a sad let down.