Modernism and ArtSpeak

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Modernism and ArtSpeak

December 28, 2007

The following letter was in response to a request for comment from Joseph Nechvatal regarding an article full of modernist "artspeak" titled Our Digital Noology: Catherine Perret in conversation with Joseph Nechvatal by Catherine Perret. Here is Fred Ross' response:

In fairness you need to know what you would be getting into, so let me say the following comment and If you are still interested, let me know and I’ll try to respond more thoroughly. I also have not read more than a portion of the article, which I tell you in case you believe I have not understood your position.

Modern and Post-Moderns art have drifted so far a field from humanity, and the rich potential inherent in the vocabulary of traditional classical painting, that the apologists of these contemporary art forms have had to mine and develop an increasing pile of word combinations with which to describe the most simplistic and infantile ideas and “concepts” that one finds in nature that can be understood by the earliest stages of human and perhaps subhuman cognition. The pursuit of extreme trivia… vacuous, banal and inane…and above all boring to the point of tears, the “Artspeak” that abounds in endless variety is far more a positive commentary on the infinitely rich ability of language….English in particular…..rather than any kind of accolade for the artforms that are thereby trumpeted. They basically find endless ways of saying the same primitive things which are praised precisely because they are exposing to endless analysis the building blocks upon which all form exists….layers below anything that might remotely be called “Sophisticated”.

If the academic traditional classical humanist is intrigued by the rich textures of human interaction, the Modern and Post Modernist is fixated on one dimensional line which everywhere must be used to build an initial silhouette that might eventually take the shape of a human earlobe, or one nostril of someone’s nose.

While the Classical artist struggles with the alignment of multi figure subjects and successfully bringing his viewers to suspend disbelief so that some human interaction can be played out on a two dimensional surface, the Post-Modernist wants to investigate ad nauseum the fact that artist for centuries have to use a medium which requires a nearly endless series of brush strokes, and so will reduce his “work of art” to nothing more than a series of nearly identical strokes telling his audience that the real subject is seeing how they are not really each exactly the same.

I could continue with and endless stream of examples, but the critics and promoters of such post modern work, repeatedly describe the most unsophisticated and simplistic things….things that would be boring to a chimpanzee….as brilliant breakthroughs in 21st century man’s ability to understand himself and the way he thinks.

But the truth is that if you can for a moment break free from the endless stream of prestige suggestion by figures who were called authorities in your past, you will see the sheer idiocy that one is left with once you strip away all of the parameters of great picture making.

There was a rushed quality to how I presented the above, but my work load leaves me little time to do what I like best…which is debunking articles like the one you sent me a link to.

If you are not infuriated with my depiction, or at least not to the point where any further contact will devolve to little more than name calling, I will be intrigued to hear what you have to say next.


Fred Ross
Art Renewal Center