It Ain’t A Revolution Anymore
I’ve always been interesting in the ‘newest thing’, in revolutionary innovations or changes. I think one should be, at least to some extent.
In art, including writing, these innovations open up new opportunities for artistic expression. Sometimes these changes lead to new and important work. In literature, the invention of the novel and the familiar essay are just but two examples. In the visual arts, many of the new art movements at the turn of the century that we now call '‘modern art" greatly enriched the visual arts.
But some of the innovations led to nothing of significance, beyond their own historical significance. Surrealism in the visual arts led to some of the most important works of the 20th Century (which are now embedded in popular culture), but as a literary movement it was a dead end. No one reads the ‘novel’ Les Champs Magnétiques (The Magnetic Fields) by Andre Breton and fellow surrealist writer Philippe Soupault, although Breton is often considered the founder of the Surrealism movement.
In the visual arts many people still feel that abstract expressionism is a dead end, although some of its practitioners are highly rated by some art critics. It certainly leaves many people unexcited, and is a far cry from surrealism in having universal appeal and interest to both serious art connoisseurs and the broader public.
‘Modern art’ is now an historical label. Art “post-modern” is, at least for now, called “contemporary”. Personally, I am far more inclined to visit a Museum Of Modern Art than a Museum of Contemporary Art. I know I’ll find something of interest in the former but very little in the latter. I feel much ‘contemporary art’ is just flogging a dead horse, and—frankly—boring. It just isn’t avant-garde any more. The best ideas from ‘modern art’ have been expanded on and elaborated, but the others should just be respectfully buried in a place on honour. And artists should concentrate on consolidating and elaborating what was of value in the real revolutions of the past.
I feel much of this also applies to literature, which is where I’m going next with these blog rants.