Once upon a time the academic tradition had a strangle-hold on the 'art world'. Rules were applied to every type of artistic expression (Though one could debate that works of the time were more like regurgitation of old rules rather than a form of self-expression. How can you express yourself when rules apply?).If one were to break these rules he would be considered unskilled, untalented, or the Devil himself.
Eventually there was a clash between those who followed the academic tradition and those who broke free from the mold in order to create modern works of art. In the end we find ourselves in a world that is mostly tolerant of all forms of art.
The early experimental artists had an uphill battle against a highly structured ideology of how art was supposed to be applied. These free spirits risked being beaten in the street, locked away for charges of insanity, or ostracized from their communities.
In a sense, these New Masters made the way for all of us who create today. However, there are still artists devoted to the academic tradition (Nothing wrong with that.) and it would seem that some of them are just as narrow-minded as their forefathers (Big problem with that.).
In my opinion, the best example of this can be found on the Art Renewal Center (ARC) website. You can observe the site here: http://www.artrenewal.org/
According to the fundamentalist academic traditionalists of this site one is not an artist unless he or she creates art with the discipline of the academic tradition. Everyone else is some form of parasite that has plagued 'their' art for several decades and should be stamped out.
One controversial feature on the site is the 'ARC Philosophy', a scathing manifesto of artistic hate written by Fred Ross, Chairman of the Art Renewal Center. The text reads like the paranoid ranting of a madman (Or am I just brainwashed?).
On Modern art as freedom of expression:
"Freedom of expression? Ironically, this so-called "freedom" as embodied in Modernism, rather than a form of "expression" in truth became a form of "suppression" and "oppression." Modernism as we know it, ultimately became the most oppressive and restrictive system of thought in all of art history." - Fred Ross
On art education:
"Our children, going supposedly to the finest universities in the world, being taught by professors with Bachelors or Arts, Masters of Arts, Masters of Fine Arts, Masters of Art Education ... even Doctoral degrees, our children instead have been subjected to methodical brain-washing and taught to deny the evidence of their own senses." - Fred Ross
On what modern artists discovered:
"Ladies and gentleman, they proved ... amazing, incredible, and fantastic as it may seem, they proved that the canvas was flat ... flat and very thin ... skinny ... indeed, not even shallow, lacking any depth or meaning whatsoever." -Fred Ross
On the Old Masters:
"And, as far as holding our works up to the old masters, that's what we want to have happen. If we are to accomplish things of true merit and excellence, we must germinate and nurture great masters in the next millennium, too."-Fred Ross
On what a work of art is:
"Just because something causes you to have a feeling of aesthetic beauty does not make it a work of art." -Fred Ross
On abstract art:
"The usual description of a modern "abstract" painting is that it is "a painting about paint itself". Its subject matter is paint, or the formal principles of painting. The first claim is nonsensical: saying a painting is about paint is like saying a poem is about the alphabet. A poem uses the alphabet to represent words, which can in turn be used to convey knowledge or express ideas. The second claim is just as banal. A painting that is "about" its formal principles is, again, like a poem that is about rhyme, about onomatopoeia, or about iambic pentameter. In other words, it is art as a jigsaw puzzle of the lowest order."-Fred Ross
On abstract artists:
"The people who are splashing paint on a canvas in pretty patterns, or brushing it on in aesthetically pleasing color combinations, are not doing anything abstract. They are merely depositing little tangible blobs of paint that do not stand in for anything at all."- Fred Ross
On why modern art is accepted today:
"Let me state in the strongest possible terms that the art history textbooks since the middle of this century are filled with nothing but distortions, half truths and out and out lies in their description of this era. They have failed in their responsibility as historians to report the truth of what occurred as objectively as possible. These texts amount to no less than propaganda brochures for modern art."-Fred Ross
ARC claims that over 200,000 people have viewed the text and they hope that professors and students will read it and be inspired to return to the academic tradition.
Had enough? I have. However, I would suggest that you all read the 'ARC philosophy' just to get an idea of how things once were for non-traditional artists as far as pure hate for their work is concerned.
The negative remarks that Mr. Ross spews upon his website is a dull reflection of the hostility academic traditionalist and their supporters once had for new art of any kind. Most of them became angry over the slightest changes throughout art history.
Never forget that the academic traditionalists were once the majority. However, society changed and with it art changed. In my view the public changed this. The art you see today is the art of the people. What you can do with your brush is no longer dictated by religion or a select few who are in power. It is no longer the art of governments and the wealthy (though they may be the only ones who can afford some of it. ;p )
How can Mr. Ross say that modern artist and their supporters are oppressing academic traditionalists? Do you see people who try to paint like Rembrandt locked up in an insane asylum? (Though it would make a great story.). Do you see them beaten out of town for creating their vision of art? He is naive for even trying to compare it!
How can he say that modern art is nothing more than propaganda? When it is a fact that artists of the past created propaganda for royalty and the church. They were puppets. (I will even go as far as to say that many of the Old Masters were puppets). In a sense, what they were allowed to paint was controlled by who was in charge at the time or who paid the highest fee. Does that sound like artistic expression to you?
Think about it. The religions and leaders that have control in the United States and Europe today may try to censor our work, but they have not been able to do away with it all together. Even Hitler failed at this! Why? Because of the people.
People today have more power than the people who lived when Mr. Ross's heroes were still alive. Thus, the art that is held in high regard today is the art of the people. It is the voice of the people. The public decides what is good art. Perhaps Mr. Ross would not come off so paranoid if he would simply accept this fact.
The state of art today has nothing to do with what the Old Masters might have thought. I appreciate their work, but aside from that they have no rule over what I do as an artist today. (I do sketch from live models, but that is for my own study.) I prefer to call them Old Artists, because that is what they are. They are gone, we are here. True, art today captures the same emotions that the Old Artists embraced, but that is dictated by the human condition. Nothing more. (Artist today convey it in ways that are more pure to the human condition in the sense that their creations do not have to follow a guideline.)
It seems to me that art reflects the society in which the art was created. Art may have been more structured/strict with rules in the past, but so were the governments and way of life of those times. Today, many of us live in governments that are, for the most part, free (compared to the rulers of the past). Thus, our art reflects that? True?
It is all about sociology and the plight of the people. We have seen what happens when a modern governments tries to enforce strict rule over their people. For example, modern artists in Germany were ordered to no longer create 'degenerate art' during Hitler's rise to power. Many switched to a more traditional style of work while creating modern works in secret. Those who continued to create modern art were kicked out of the country, imprisoned, or executed. What does this tell us? More often than not, if the people are oppressed, art is oppressed.
I'll hold my tongue as to where Mr. Ross should move in order to be surrounded by the type of art that he holds dear. There are a few 'good' choices. However, there are more rules to follow as to how art can be created depending on how strict the government is. (Some governments do not allow artists to depict the human form at all.) I wonder if Mr. Ross would accept that?
I would not want to live in a society that embraces the academic tradition over all other forms of art. I know what the implications of that are. In my opinion, Mr. Ross and his supporters are not victims. They are fools.
Take care, Stay true