Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Why Doesn't the Right Make Art?

Maybe it had something to do with Katrina (which seems to have sparked the beginning of the end for the milleninum-rule plans of the extreme conservative elements in the US), but somewhere along the path to their "thumpin" in November, the American right wing's (previously presumed) inevitable rise up through the power structure of the one field that has resisted it (the arts) came to a screeching halt, or so it seems now. Predictions that in 2006 we'd see the rise of Republican artists (a prediction that I endorsed, mind you) seem to have been either premature or a longer time in coming that anticipated. (UPDATE: or just plain wrong, obviously.)

In a
thoughtful post about why the right doesn't make art (which centers on theater, but considers arts across the board), Tom Loughlin offered the following food for thought:

It is time for artists to admit openly that most artwork has a strong left-wing bias (but not to apologize for that), and begin to re-frame the argument by opening our theatres, studios and workshops up to art - any art - created from the right wing; and further, to actively encourage it. I feel, as an artist/educator, that if there is no art coming from a right-wing perspective, I should be going out there and teaching conservatives how to create art. My generic response to any comments which attack art funding is similar: go out and create your own art which is worthy of funding, and seek the funds yourself. They are out there for your use as well as mine. If you don’t know how to create art, then I am willing to teach you how. Let me teach you how to play the oboe/act/dance/paint/sculpt/photograph. Then you, too, can go out and create art which expresses your beliefs and views. And if you want to discuss the merits of art funding, then let’s discuss it on the same terms and with the same question - do the arts serve a public good in society as a whole? If you create art for your community, is that not a public good, and is that not worthy of funding? That should be how the question is framed and debated, in my opinion.
I'm not a huge fan of federal arts funding in general. I feel what funds are available should focus mostly on institutions outside the major metropolitan areas and be spent to bring work made in the arts centers to those locations (in other words, the money should go toward education primarily). But I do agree that right-wing art is as entitled to any federal funds as left-wing art and would encourage Republican artists (when they finally arise) to apply for the funding available.

But back to the central question here: why are there so few Republican artists? Is it because the art educational institutions are so unwelcoming for them? That seems a lame excuse for a calling in which bucking the system has a long tradition. Or is it that what (at least in part) makes someone want to be an artist is the same quality that makes someone want to be progressive?

Or maybe I'm looking at it backwards. Maybe the question is whether what makes the status quo (or even social regressivity) attractive to someone is incompatible with pushing forward within a given discipline of art. What it requires of the individual to break the rules, so to speak, is antithetical to their values system.

Of course, there's no requirement that an artist break any of the rules, but given that some semblance of "progress" or "the new" seems tied at the hip to recognition for artists (and I can't see that changing any time soon), perhaps there are hundreds of thousands of Republican artists, but they're simply not getting the museum/biennial/gallery exhibitions that would put them on our radar.

Which brings us back to the the question of art history ending, and if it has, wouldn't nonprogressive artists stand out just as much in this post-art era as progressive ones? And if so, where are all the Republican artists? Is it all a Vast Left Wing Conspiracy to keep them out of sight?


Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Blockbusters movies and Justin Timberlake.


1/02/2007 10:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Is it all a Vast Left Wing Conspiracy to keep them out of sight?"

Yes, and beauty too.


1/02/2007 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

Conservatism is a spectator sport. Once you start trying to make change in the world the inevitable result is an increase in empathy because you can no longer take the superior position of always being correct. I suspect the exceptions are people with narcissistic personality disorder. That malady allows one to re-shape one's impression of the world to fit the needs of the moment. These two groups, the ignorant spectators and the ego-maniacs, interact to form a tight bond not all that different from the dysfunctional families of addicts. That is called co-dependence. Think of Rush Limbaugh and his audience. Think of fundamentalism in general.

Spectators are not artists. The people with NPD in the arts can appear to be liberal. They would change their stripes if they had to, in the blink of an eye.

There are big holes in that argument, I realize. It is as near to an explanation as I can come.

1/02/2007 11:28:00 AM  
Anonymous david said...

Republicans have a great appreciation for portraiture. Especially (ironically) of Ben Franklin, and I assume, also for whichever president is on the thousand-dollar bill (is there such a thing?) as well.

1/02/2007 12:24:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

What ever is chosen to fill the Crystal Bridges galleries should qualify as conservative/Republican art. I'm waiting to see if any living artists make the cut.

1/02/2007 01:47:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Crystal Bridges

Wasn't she a character in Boogie Nights?

1/02/2007 02:04:00 PM  
Anonymous ml said...

I guess it depends upon your definition of art.

There is a lot of traditional aka conservative art being produced - traditional landscapes, portraits, etc. It is art, just not the art most of us focus on - the innovative kind. And conservative work has a sizeable market, just not the collectors who buy our kind of art.

All of the arts exist in these multiple levels.

1/02/2007 02:06:00 PM  
Anonymous jec said...

Mark said: I'm waiting to see if any living artists make the cut.

Steve Mumford?


1/02/2007 02:53:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Steve Mumford? Did they purchase his work? I'll give him credit for making beautiful drawing under hazardous conditions. I've enjoyed his series, part of a rich tradition of war reporting.

1/02/2007 03:16:00 PM  
Blogger Marc Snyder said...

Wouldn't that "Painter of Light", Thomas Kinkade, qualify as a right-wing artist? I think he would fall in the they're simply not getting the museum/biennial/gallery exhibitions that would put them on our radar category. Understandably so, in my opinion, but y'know, a lot of happy cottage-buying customers would disagree with me.

1/02/2007 04:49:00 PM  
Anonymous elfte Stunde said...

how do we know that there are no Republican artists? john currin comes to mind as one. it seems like kind of a safe assumption, but i would like to see some real data on the topic-- has j. dalton done anything on this? there is obviously a lot of "political" art being shown, but i think any political act in an artwork tends to be read as left-wing, regardless of the actual message.

1/02/2007 05:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You could probably put Vincent Gallo as a Republican artist.
Though he's not your average Republican by any means.
See his ebay auction/performance art... uh... extracurricular activity.


Lamgelina Oly

1/02/2007 05:21:00 PM  
Blogger carla said...

what sort of art would a Republican make? I think they'd stick with conceptual work, like naming an environmentally damaging bill the "clean air act".

1/02/2007 05:27:00 PM  
Blogger carla said...

what sort of art would a Republican make? I think they'd stick with conceptual work, like naming an environmentally damaging bill the "clean air act".

1/02/2007 05:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


See example above for Conservative art/fashion/egotism.
(can't figure out how to make a hyperlink here-- sorry for the lame cut and paste attempt)

1/02/2007 05:27:00 PM  
Blogger carla said...

Not sure how they'll handle the post-irony movement.

1/02/2007 05:35:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

The right, lead by our fearless but inept leader, has polarized the left-right climate. I don’t think this is just a phenomena attached to the art world. Attitudes in academia are generally left of center, more liberal but not necessarily radical left. I just finished reading Lisa Randall’s book, "Warped Passages, Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universes Hidden Dimensions" and while it’s about physics, she has sprinkled a number of ‘left’ leaning commentary through out the text. (It’s a good book, highly recommended) I read a few science blogs and they all seem to have a left of center slant.

If art criticism has a leftist slant, I would assume it comes from philosophical thinking which has its early roots in Marx. This line of inquiry seems like it has run into a brick wall. If I had to find a point of argument for the ‘right’, but not the polarized ‘far right’, I would suggest it is capitalism. I would suggest that the art market has already made this adjustment, that we now are seeing raw, unadulterated, capitalistic, exploitation of art as a product.

Frankly, except in overtly political works, political position does not seem to be an issue which would make "artists stand out." I went to the Met this afternoon to see the exhibition, "Cézanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avant-Garde" which ends Friday (1/7) While I was there I walked downstairs to see Sean Scully’s paintings. I guess I would say they struck me as being to the ‘right of center.’ I won’t say they were bad but the way they were lined up on the walls made me feel that I was in WalMart. The colors are pretty but I couldn’t take the "line a bunch of them up on the middle shelf" feeling and left.

1/02/2007 06:31:00 PM  
Anonymous jec said...

Mark said: Steve Mumford? Did they purchase his work?

Not that I know of, but I could see his work being something they might be interested in. I imagine Republicans could see this work as "Republican" art.

1/02/2007 06:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's categorically absurd to say that right-wingers don't make art. (I think the whol left-right political dichotomy is invented, simplistic, and not very useful, but let's set that aside.) Of course the right makes art. In the performing arts, Charlton Heston comes to mind. Also Ronald Reagan and John Wayne. Does Mel Gibson qualify as right-wing or just deranged? Either way, you've got to respect a guy who can make a film entirely in Mayan and have it be number one at the American box office. And has anyone seen D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation lately?

As far as writers go, man, there's a slew of right-wingers. Some of them are even good. P.J. O'Rourke is one of my favorites -- even when I don't agree with him, I'm always entertained.

When speaking of purely visual artists, well, I don't know enough about their politics, mostly. I don't need to. I doubt Gauguin was much of a leftist, but that's just my offhand opinion.

1/02/2007 07:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Republicans make art and own art - it's just not that artworld kind of art. There is that whole other world of landscapes and portraits, sold in commercial galleries not of the Chelsea ilk.

If you go into their homes, of course you find something on the walls. Maybe they collect Wyeth. Heck some of them can probably collect Hopper 'cause look who has the bucks.

Not that I know any.

1/02/2007 09:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm on a statewide arts funding email list that covers both local and national funding issues and as far as I know the Republican Congress during the Bush administration has increased not decreased arts funding through the NEA. Anybody know why?

1/02/2007 09:38:00 PM  
Blogger Lisa Hunter said...

It's unfair to suggest that Republican collectors like shlocky art. After all, Ron Lauder just bought some pretty nice paintings for the museum-goers of New York. The Rockefellers have long been patrons of avant-garde art. And lots of [fiscal, if not social] conservatives collect new art and give money to keep contemporary art museums afloat.

Somehow, though, they share a political party with people who want to censor museum exhibits and eliminate the NEA.

1/02/2007 10:41:00 PM  
Anonymous elfte Stunde said...

hey oly, i dont get the inclusion of vincent gallo as republican artist? did you see 'the brown bunny?' all of the republican artists are in hollywood. if anyone is bucking the system its vincent gallo.

1/02/2007 10:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Conservative politics, conservative aesthetics, and opposition to federal arts funding do not all correlate, and confusion over things like this stop me from identifying as liberal.

The leaders that put an end to individual grants at the NEA were part of a movement of small-government conservatives who would have pulled funding on a ton of over government programs if they could. The Republicans currently in power are big-government conservatives that tend to do the opposite.

Something I see over and over again in these art/politics discussions is the assumption that progressive politics indicate progressive aesthetics, and conservative aesthetics indicate conservative politics. This is largely the product of liberals flattering their own sophistication, but it's widely held as true among what we call (I think wrongly) the progressive art world. Loughlin's aspiring right-wing artiste is in for a rude shock when he goes to seek funding.

So where are the Republican artists? The few I've known are making their work and shutting up about their politics, because they realize what a liability they are. The one with the conservative aesthetic as well (he makes beautiful abstract paintings, really damn fine ones) already knows that he has enough working against his career.

1/02/2007 11:10:00 PM  
Blogger Cooky Blaha said...

@elfte Stunde... oly was not joking;in many magazine articles, Gallo has proclaimed himself a Republican, though obviously I dont think the party would embrace him anytime soon

1/03/2007 12:16:00 AM  
Anonymous elfte Stunde said...

thats amazing. thanks for the info cooky, that really eff's with my perspective.

1/03/2007 01:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Republicans are probably the reasons we constantly get the Monet and Cezanne exhibits in our big museums. Forget what these artists were, that's totally romanticized.

When I'm invited in some place where someone can talk to me about Monet or Cezanne or Bach or Mozart for a whole evening, like they never look or listen at anything else, I'm usually very worried (and embarassed). I'm sure you've all been in the situation.

As far as Chelsea is concerned, I don't know but, the outlook of the market artworld seems quite rightwing to me. That's why I evitate the vernissages: the people scare me. I don't like the way they dress and the boring things they drink. I don't like he hypocrisy and the behind-back talks. I don't like the who's-who's-the-best-tonight-and-who-I'll-be-talking-to.

Frankly sometimes I guess either artists embrace these attitudes or they don't have a clue about the type of world and ethics they've been supporting with their creations. Talk about one large ouroboros there: left-wingism in the arts.

I mean, who's left that's really "left". I don't see the point of this discussion.
It's all digested by the market,
and that market is merely eugenistics and big spender strategy.

A museum with guards: that to me is the ultimate aesthetic expression of rightwing and that's simply everywhere.


Cedric Caspesyan

PS: Vincent Gallo is a jerk. Period.

1/03/2007 05:10:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

as I know the Republican Congress during the Bush administration has increased not decreased arts funding through the NEA. Anybody know why?

Laura Bush is given credit for the increase, but I believe it has corresponded with more oversight with regards to who receives the dough.

So where are the Republican artists? The few I've known are making their work and shutting up about their politics, because they realize what a liability they are.

That bothers me though. I don't want anyone to shut up about their politics...at least not anyone I'm turning to for insight (which is how I classify artists).

1/03/2007 08:06:00 AM  
Blogger benvolta said...

I know two artists friends that consider themselves republican ...that are doing well .. and that tend to be silent about politics to the art public.

Leaning to the left and being open can be difficult when discussions about art turn to politics... that then turn to a friend explaining in length why Bush is such a great president.

I have not figured out how to not let that bother me... sustaining a friendship is more important... but there is a certain point when I do not want to listen anymore and just enjoy them for who they are in other areas of life.. or through their work.

I guess my point it that it is great to say that we want to be open and we do not want others to shut up about their politics... but without friendship the struggle to understand each other can feel distancing, frustrating, and needlessly exhausting.

This is not to say that it is not worth it to keep trying.

1/03/2007 09:17:00 AM  
Anonymous bnon said...

I think citing tidy landscapes, norman rockwell and duck decoys is all very well in this discussion, but I thinke Ed's question really wonders why there are so few right wingers doing avant-garde work. But I think there are a (very) few good examples.

Before citing some examples, I'd just like to observe that part of the confusion is terminology. Republican is not a synonym for conservatism or even for right wing. No true conservative could create avant-garde art because true conservatives value tradition above all, thus the duck decoys, etc. Another semantic problem in this discussion is "Republican." Plenty of art consumers are fiscal Republicans (who may vote according to how it helps their pocketbooks) but be right in the swing of things, culture-wise.

So what about some avant-garde right wing art? The Futurists, whose grandiose and rather beautiful death-worship might appeal to the present administration. (... a roaring motor car which seems to run on machine-gun fire, is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.) Mel Gibson's jarring millennialsim fits in here, too. These radical right wingers show that they can be avant-garde.

I said there could be no conservative cutting edge art, but I just realized there's a big exception: satirical and comedic works. Satire and comedy are basically critical even conservative stances, which often take issue with the bold, the daring, the ridiculous--anyone who might put their beliefs on the line--liberals included. I'm not sure, but John Currin might fit in here. I'm a dope because I can't think of other examples...

One other conservative strain in the art world is pure abstractionism, Brice Marden, Sean Scully, maybe. Abstractionist friends I've had have been very conservative. High Modernism is still popular and highly saleable, and somehow, though I think it's pretty freaking conservative, it's also not exactly un-avant-garde...sort of? This kind of abstraction occupies a weird nether-space like sleek modernist furniture that seems perrenially sort of hip while being stolidly blue chip.

So I think that while the art world is overwhelmingly leftish, there are at least a few significant strains of rightist forward-thinking art. I agree with Ed, that it would be good to see more of it. I don't really like always being agreed with. It makes it hard to know if I believe what I believe because I believe it or because everyone else does and it's cozy to do so.

I thought Tim's ideas about right and left wing temperaments was interesting, and something I've always wondered about. Rightists are selfish and worship the individual? Leftists are empathetic and care about the social? Is all politics just feeling? That's weird--it's just like art?

PS Sorry! This is way too long and too late a post, so if you've gotten this far--thanks!

1/03/2007 10:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When the National Endowment of the Arts was first created, it was not a partisan issue. In fact, a conservative senator from a conservative state was the turnkey to the whole thing (See Biddle's book on the founding of the NEA). At that time, both parties believed that our culture was a national priority - not just for immediate gains in the global culture war, etc. but for posterity: when we remember the great civilizations of the past, what do we remember? Can we name of generals of the Aztecs? The battles of the Egyptians? The leaders of Greece? Most people think of the architecture, sculptures, plays, paintings,etc - their arts, their culture.
America's partisan split over the arts was largely fueled by a few pieces of highly divisive art. The incoming Republicans used that art as a symbol of a bloated, godless liberal government and as a wedge issue for political gain. One of the above writers was correct to say that many conservatives proudly own art - just look at the most recent Soetheby's auction! The perception that there are no, or few, Republicans artists is largely successful political strategy. The NEA/government arts funding has been cast as a liberal issue because it helped the Republican party. To preserve political integrity, Republicans still appear to be against government arts funding. If I'm wrong, we should ask: if they truly were against it, not just appearing to be against it for political gain, why hasn't NEA budget been drastically cut/eliminated in the recent Republican run of all government branches? Laura Bush? Wow.
The arts are not inhernetly liberal or conservative by nature. It's just politics that makes them seem that way.

1/03/2007 10:56:00 AM  
Anonymous joy said...

Sorry to cut in to this so late.... So, surely there are many right-wing artists, yes? (John Currin was mentioned here; also Steve Mumford, who has been quite open -- bravely so -- about his unpopular position on the Iraq war...) There is a difference between expressing your ideological/political position through your work, and having a position. Also, what about actions speaking louder than words? (or images?) What about all those supposedly liberal artworld people who cast their support for Peter Hort a few Republican primaries ago? remember? Peter, son of The Horts, ran as a stealth Republican against Jerold Nadler (and lost, hallelujah, despite the vast support of those artists who, um, would have his parents collect them...?) The question perhaps should be re-phrased: why does "politically overt art" tend to be made by left-leaning artists in our culture, and not by right-leaning ones? The irony being that the left-leaners are lobbing their expressions of political activism -- those who bother/dare to -- into an incredibly risk-averse and politically conservative market system. Certainly there ain't nothing in the least bit "left" about the art world or the collectors who run it, or the laissez-fair end-game capitalism run-amok that it comprises? ... Perhaps there is a huge amount of right-wing art around, we just haven't looked for it in the right places: its delivery mechanisms are television and news media (as opposed to galleries and museums) and the "art" is referred to as "news" and "documentary"... the "artists" are the rightwingers, neo-cons etc. who have seemlessly exploited our credulousness through the highly sophisticated art of managed deception.


1/03/2007 12:44:00 PM  
Blogger Jon said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1/03/2007 02:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

The incoming Republicans used that art as a symbol of a bloated, godless liberal government and as a wedge issue for political gain.

And look who they had to work with - because the NEA, by the 90s, was a highly partisan outfit with a heavy investment in liberal identity politics, and they were giving out monies accordingly. Finally somebody asked the obvious question - why should the public pay money to have their mainstream values offended? It is a question I haven't heard a good answer to yet.

1/03/2007 03:27:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

why should the public pay money to have their mainstream values offended? It is a question I haven't heard a good answer to yet.

Hmmm...well, I think the answer, in part, lies in today's post. Political Correctness, and the role identity art played in making it such a force, has indeed made the world a better place. It might have been painful...particularly for conservative minded Americans, but I for one feel it was worth it.

1/03/2007 03:29:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

let's not forget the argument offered up at the time: the marine corps musical progams have a higher budget than the NEA. That represents a tiny slice of the governments supprt of the arts. Should we be able, as opponents of such waste, to specify what songs the bands can play? I think they should play "We are DEVO" at each soldier's funeral.

1/03/2007 04:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Ed, the question is whether the purpose of government art agencies is to remedy perceived social ills in the world. I would suggest that it isn't, or it shouldn't be. The broader movement of political correctness may have benefited you, but the NEA's track record of mistaking progressive politics for progressive aesthetics finally took it far from its original mission. Congress reacted accordingly. Lynne Munson:

"Obviously there is much to be said about how the level of seriousness displayed by NEA grantees plummeted over the years. But the most stunning contrast between the NEA's first and last visual arts fellowship recipients is the stylistic narrowness of the art the NEA sponsored in 1995 in comparison to 1967. Whereas the earlier grants went to artists working in a wide range of styles, the vast majority of 1995 grantees were working within the confines of postmodern academicism, making work which, like the art which has set off the art wars, takes baiting the public as its goal."

1/03/2007 05:21:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

OK, let me try to express my sense of this another way.

The public didn't have its values offended...it had its values challenged, which is what a nation should expect from its avant garde artists. So the question as I see it is whether a nation funding the arts should dictate that only those artists who flatter it immediately, because they reflect back what they think they are, should get money or that those who flatter it long term, because they reflect back what they really are, should get money.

I vote (pun intended) for the latter.

The argument that the mainstream shouldn't be challenged with its own money is a condescending argument to me. The public should get the very best art it can, regardless of whether that art immediately flatters it or not. A generation from now, I suspect, Mapplethorp will be celebrated for the great talent that he was, and mainstream America will be embarassed that he became a whipping post for psuedo values thinly veiling political ambitions.

As for Munson's assessment, I think what's considered "baiting the public" changes with age, so it's unlikely the 1967 art was as acceptable to the mainstream in that era as hindsight might suggest it was. In other words, pop in your time machine and ask the public in 1967 how mainstream they thought Motherwell (one of the original panelists) was. In fact, go to where I grew up and ask them today. I suspect you'll get plenty of folks insisting he was trying to pull the wool over their eyes.

And look at the grantees: Judd and Ruscha among them...world-famous today, but hardly uncontroversial in 1967 to the mainstream. I'd venture Judd is still controversial in middle America. Neither of these artists were reflecting the tastes of the mainstream in 1967.

1/03/2007 06:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

The public ... had its values challenged, which is what a nation should expect from its avant garde artists.

The NEA wasn't established to fund America's avant-garde artists, it was established to fund its best artists. At a certain point that idea of quality went out the window at the NEA, and the result was federally funded indoctrination about values, both aesthetic and social. I think that's an affront to liberty, and Munson demonstrates that it's an affront to diversity: in the late 60s the grants supported a wide range of aesthetic modes, and by the 90s it had produced a monoculture of both aesthetics and ideology. Are you still wondering where the Republican artists are?

And are you really equating Judd's work with the kind of content with which Sen. Helms beat up the NEA? I think you're looking at two classes of objects, and that your folks back home could make a distinction between them without liking either. I'm not saying that the public should never have its tastes offended - I'm saying that I doubt seriously that it's the government's job, and if it chooses to support the arts, it ought to do so broadly, with quality in mind. In that, the fact that the NEA was subsequently stopped from giving individual grants was arguably a modest improvement.

1/03/2007 07:08:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

I think they should play "We are DEVO" at each soldier's funeral.

I can think of another Devo song (same album) that they should play at each Presidential appearance :)

1/03/2007 07:33:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Reminds me of the old days, debating politics...sigh...(this is fun!)

The NEA wasn't established to fund America's avant-garde artists, it was established to fund its best artists.

And if the bulk of the best artists in 1995 just so happened to be avant garde artists (which is what I suspect the panelists that year would have argued), what's the panel supposed to do, give grants to lesser artists to avoid offending the public?

At a certain point that idea of quality went out the window at the NEA, and the result was federally funded indoctrination about values, both aesthetic and social.

That's a highly subjective assessment. I'd put Maplethorpe's quality as an artist up against that of any of his contemporaries.

Munson demonstrates that it's an affront to diversity:

Again, subjective. I'll give Munson credit for trying so hard, but...here's the argument:

The 1995 NEA grantees’ work runs the gamut in terms of processes, materials, and subject matter. Yet only a handful of grants went to artists who are primarily concerned with formal aesthetic issues. By far most grantees make art to make a point about something else, most often politics. A few grantees produce work which gives equal weight to their critical message and to their aesthetic interests. But for most awardees the pursuit of social critique engulfs their entire process. I’ll describe the work of just two grantees here though I discuss over a dozen in the book.

We could deconstruct that for ages (all art is political, process has its own formal aesthetics, are we still insisting formal aesthetics are essential for Art to be relevant/good in 1997?, etc. etc.), but Munson loses me when she goes on to present, as part of the problem, the work of William Pope L.

Political...sure, but a brilliant artist!

I've got to run now, unfortunately...I'll try to pick this up later. Thanks for the thoughtful debate...

1/03/2007 07:51:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

kind of reminds me of the stem-cell 'debate' or the 'debate' around Darwin.

Reasonable people can disagree, heck, even un-reasonable people can disagree. In the mean time, please don't mention that the Grand Canyon's lower layers are 4 billion years old.

1/03/2007 10:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Ok, I'm really not in the same boat as you people.

Minimalists were attracted by the radicality of pure forms. By the inhumane outlook of aesthetics.

What's leftwing about that?

The fact that Judd also did his furniture?

Leftwing to me is mannerism. It's going against the grain of academia and purity.

Maybe Smithson was the leftwing form of minimalists.

I dunno. I so love politic discussions. Gives me the occasion to talk across my hat.

Cedric Caspesyan

1/03/2007 11:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

And if the bulk of the best artists in 1995 just so happened to be avant garde artists ... what's the panel supposed to do..?

You've heard of this thing called pluralism, right? Given that, do you think the above is more likely, or that that quality work was widely distriubted between several styles?

We could deconstruct that for ages...

That is the standard strategy, yes. But quality is real, for all its indefinability, and deconstructing it will not answer for you where the Republican artists are. Except, perhaps, by example.

1/04/2007 07:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Henry said...


Maybe the NEA is a reason Republicans aren't more widely represented in the arts, but this tension predates the NEA, like during as the government arts program of earlier this century (not to mention Diego Rivera's Rockefeller mural). Artists' visions didn't always comport with their funders'.

Art has gone hand-in-hand with revolution or at least experimentalism since at least the dawn of Modernism -- throw Leonardo's cadaveric explorations into the soup if you want -- and there's no putting the genie back in the bottle.

As a small-government guy, I'm reflecting on what government still needs to subsidize. Science is at the top of the list. Government can jumpstart certain trends by investing in big projects without regard to rates of return (long distance telephony, space travel, cancer research), and society at large can profit.

Government organizations fund the "best scientists" in the sense that they perform science well, and are attempting to advance our knowledge of science and medicine in directions the government thinks are worthy. That's a loaded sentence -- perform well; advance knowledge; attempt; worthy directions -- but if we're discussing government funding, let's look at successful patterns and try to draw lessons or conclusions.

I think Mapplethorpe has been a pretty big financial success. The market decided to accept him with great force. Why not let the government give grants for experiments, and let the market decide what sticks? I think the best a person can say in a subjective endeavor like art-making is, when it comes to funding, let's try what hasn't yet been done.

But education is on the list too. This might be where subsidies for "conservative" art would (should, could) come from. If I'm not mistaken one of the big pushes for the NEA under Bush and Dana Gioia has been to put two Shakespeares in every pot. How this relates to the practice of living artists I don't know.

1/04/2007 11:07:00 AM  
Anonymous David said...

As a small-government guy, I'm reflecting on what government still needs to subsidize.

How about national health insurance?

There might even be some self-employed Republicans out there that can't get insurance at any price from the (Republican) insurance companies. What good are advances in science and medicine if they create treatments that no-one (including the people whose taxes funded them) can afford?

1/04/2007 11:42:00 AM  
Blogger Hungry Hyaena said...

I'm entering this conversation late; my comment will be more of a postscript, but I would like to add that some of the remarks above suggest we're playing a little fast and loose with the term "conservative."

Many comments suggest Republican artists are those invested in "traditional" mediums and subject matter, be it portraiture or landscapes - like the works on display at Crystal Bridges galleries, highlighted by Mark. Given the recent resurgence of such subjects in the Art World proper, I think it clear that traditional imagery appeals to all sorts of folks. It is "conservative" only in the sense that it ain't avant garde, but not necessarily in the political sense.

1/04/2007 01:40:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

"conservative" only in the sense that it ain't avant garde, but not necessarily in the political sense.

True HH, it's not the medium, it's what you do with it. I'm making an assumption that Crystal Bridges will have a conservative slant, who knows until the opening and a few years in.

One area of the recent conservative surge, the mega churches; where is the art? Paintings and sculpture have been replaced by TV performaces, some very entertaining, and groovy rock concerts for Jesus. Is this new "white trash money"? Lacking the sophistication of the Popes that supported Michelangelo?

I doubt most artists, as the general poulation are raving left or right, we're some of each and sway with the breeze, leaning more left at the moment in response to the current environment.

1/04/2007 02:08:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

One area of the recent conservative surge, the mega churches; where is the art?

Mark, I'm guessing you didn't see this post on Tyler's blog...

1/04/2007 02:17:00 PM  
Blogger Hungry Hyaena said...

That "Soldiers of Christ" article in Harper's - which Tyler's post refers to - was a real mind-blower. Until reading it, I wasn't aware of how much spectacle goes into the theatre of Christ these days. It has all the pomp and camp of Broadway.

I admit, though, that I get a kick out of Thomas Blackshear's fantastic imagery, if only because it reminds me of the cover paintings featured on the "Dragon's Lance" and "Forgotten Realms" novels I read so many of as a kid. Instead of dragons and dwarves, Blackshear gives us angels and honey cum.

1/04/2007 02:47:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

I did :) some bizarre shit too. The black angle looks a little Mapplethorpeish, extreme conformity breeds extreme behaviors. The Catholic Church has had it's own traditions, but they sponsored some amazing art and incredible bling, however much of it over the top and over done. Nothing like a simple church, especially one that has been conqured and reappropreated by several religions. Even the mega churches look like Wal-marts, is that a coincidence?

1/04/2007 02:58:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Even the mega churches look like Wal-marts, is that a coincidence?

In the image of heaven.

1/04/2007 04:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The logic don´t have enought creativity for the art"


1/10/2007 07:52:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home