Meaning & Purpose Chapter 12

Chapter 12 of my research book about the morality and politics of our time as seen through the subjects of representational art is now available.

Can Artists Create Myths?

The painters who have banded together as “Metamodern Classicists” tell us at their eponymous website that they aim to create “an entirely novel mythic system.” Many work with technical skills comparable to the atelier movement. Their concerns expressed verbally are ambitious–indeed, they call on allies as “makers of gods yet unborn.” While I applaud the intent, their claims raise two questions. First, there is the question of creating myths. Myth achieves its power through recognition, through referentiality, through repetition.

 

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Meaning & Purpose Chapter 11

Chapter 11 of my research book about the morality and politics of our time as seen through the subjects of representational art is now available.

According to philosopher William Barrett, “Art is the collective dream of a period.” How can an artist or a group of artists do more than reflect their times?

Myth and Meaning

I had intended at this point to show an image satirical of the power of the state, a moral and political issue if ever there was one, by the artist known as Banksy, but in a delicious twist of irony I learned that “the use of this image involves quite a few potential legal issues.” I have grave concerns about the so-called permissions culture, and the idea that an image of a picture painted on the side of someone else’s property, which is technically vandalism, cannot be legally or ethically presented in an academic setting, which strikes me as both ridiculous and unseemly.

 

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Meaning & Purpose Chapter 10

Chapter 10 of my research book about the morality and politics of our time as seen through the subjects of representational art is now available.

How can an artist respond to the expression of political power?

Myth, Power and Politics

Not surprisingly, there is a school of thought in the study of mythology that regards myths as a form of broad understanding, telling stories connected to power, political structures, political and economic interests. This description sounds remarkably similar to the post-modern take on the world.

 

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Meaning & Purpose Chapter 9

Chapter 9 of my research book about the morality and politics of our time as seen through the subjects of representational art is now available.

What makes a fairy tale resonate?

Nursery Rhymes and Fairy Tales

I move deeper into social reality to works based on nursery rhymes and fairy tales. Frederick Turner reminds us that fairy tales serve a particular function in tradition. They teach “that your own moral decisions and choices are determining factors in making you who you are.” Paula Rego uses nursery rhymes in narratives to make sense of her childhood in Portugal, a world with dark secrets, compromise and betrayal. “With unforgettable imagery and ambiguous titles, she subverts the family, the so-called traditional role of women, opera, Fascist governments and any institution that the rest of us might confuse with authority,” we learn from the complete edition of her works in print.

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Meaning & Purpose Chapter 8

Chapter 8 of my research book about the morality and politics of our time as seen through the subjects of representational art is now available.

Who else has been missing from our view?

Redressing Historic Wrongs

Postmodernists tell us that “The logics of domination structure the world.”1 Kerry James Marshall makes art that addresses the domination that was exerted by enslaving Africans to build the New World. Voyager depicts the actual event of the Middle Passage across the Atlantic to the Americas. Plunge also shows the Atlantic Ocean, but the “Private” sign on the gate leaves us uncertain about how the descendants of the enslaved have fared in succeeding years. Who is included? Who is excluded? are questions that acknowledge that social isolation, or segregation, becomes a two way street.

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Meaning & Purpose Chapter 7

Chapter 7 of my research book about the morality and politics of our time as seen through the subjects of representational art is now available.

What kind of culture expresses itself this way?

Social Awareness

Massively claustrophobic, Dana Schutz’s massive Fight in an Elevator bridges this category and the very large next one, in which we see painters working with traditional forms and social awareness. It is highly likely that you can name at least one of the celebrity fights in an elevator to which she refers. This work refers to impacts of technology today, not just the relentless coverage of scandal but the loss of a presumption of privacy. A girl just cannot count on slugging somebody in private any more.

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Meaning & Purpose Chapter 6

Chapter 6 of my research book about the morality and politics of our time as seen through the subjects of representational art is now available.

What might it mean when artists break up surface reality?

Fragments and Instability

The postmodernists speak of deconstructing surface reality, arguing that representations no longer represent anything–that they are a self-generating realm of images, an endless surface with no underlying reality. I am more than likely twisting their terminology to describe the work of painters such as Jenny Saville, Ann Gale, Alex Kanevsky and France Jodoin.

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Meaning & Purpose Chapter 5

Chapter 5 of my research book about the morality and politics of our time as seen through the subjects of representational art is now available.

Can we see what they do?

Powers of Observation

Painters who rely on observation take deeper looks at their subjects, more typically still life, interior and landscape. Josephine Halvorson seems to examine the surface of her subjects at a microscopic level; Catherine Murphy, Susan Jane Walp, and Gillian Pederson Kraag represent intensely personal approaches to painting perceptually.

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Meaning & Purpose Chapter 4

Chapter 4 of my research book about the morality and politics of our time as seen through the subjects of representational art is now available.

What makes representational art matter? Technique or content?

What We Are Painting

I have examined the content of 21st -century representational art to ask what the choice of subjects tells us about what artists think is important. I am disregarding questions of technique or style to look at the possibility of creating meaning in our fractured age. While the increasing popularity of fantasy and imagined worlds as subjects for representational art suggests they offer meaning to many, I have never saved any such image for future consideration, so these subjects are not discussed.

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Meaning & Purpose Chapter 3

Chapter 3 of my research book about the morality and politics of our time as seen through the subjects of representational art is now available.

Have modern ideas rendered representational art obsolete?

What Happened to the Traditional Subjects

Scientific rationalism is one of the reasons cited for the demise of traditional beliefs. Joseph Wright of Derby captured many gripping scenes of scientific exploration in the 18th century, such as An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump, 1768, shown today at National Gallery, London.

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