Tuesday, October 13, 2015

"The Art Renewal Center'', Fred Ross and the Figurative Arts' Dead End

I am bored with contemporary realism, bored, bored, bored.  I love painting the figure, color and beauty but unless there is a way to do it in a fresh and relevant fashion it is totally pointless. Photography does a better job.  Is this despair on my part? Maybe, because unless we question why we continue to do our work, it becomes an exercise in banality.

I just went over to see the prizes of the latest excercise in the Bouguereau worship fest- the Annual Art Renewal Salon winners. Always a cause of mirth on my part or horror.

Here is a link to the first prize "winner".

It looks like a set piece for a mausoleum.

I cannot reproduce any of these precious "gems" here because they are under copyright as if any one in their right mind would waste their life making a pastiche like Martinez's in the 21st century of Ingres' already over the top painting of Napoleon. The Art Renewal Center has set back any real innovation  in the realism redux movement as it is one of the few platforms for contemporary figurative artists extant. It celebrates the ossified, the overwrought and excessive minutiae of a dead art form already awash in treacle and faux history. I don't see much criticism of him in the realism circles- there should be- but it is I am sure, out of fear of offending Chairman Fred Ross (aka Chairman Mao)- I hope this does, if only to cut the shackles his money buys.  The only accepted art on that site is that which passes through his myopic, retrograde and calcified eye. I can see why the New York Art critics ignore it.

I did find Kamille Korey's figure quite lovely. Full disclosure- about 10 years ago I was a finalist or a semi-finalist (whatever) and haven't entered since or before.

In http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/06/dance-in-dark-times/392051/
an excellent article that explores the dilemma of a Soviet ballet choreographer in a conservative age  -this is an especially cogent paragraph.

"To create modern art in a classical mode is to face forward and backward at once, yoked to the past while inching toward the future. Only a fool or a genius would attempt it."

The direction artists like Koons, Currin and Kara Walker is a dead end, I do not find setting sun and cynical work appealing- especially when it is farmed out as in Mr. Koons "oeuvre".. Ms Walker  has been repeating herself for 30 years. She has been beating us over the head with the Massa'a whip for at least 30 years- nothing new here folks - move on.

I have been looking at the post Impressionist age, the Nabis, Picasso's early work especially the Saltimbanques. I love the joyous unselfconscious fun of anime- I have mined it shamelessly. 

More claptrap from Chairman Ross:

Also the tooth enamel dissolving Falun Gong art contest he hosted:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoEExYcfB4U

I don't know what my next tack ( great leap forward) will be but I am sure you won't see me as one of Fred Ross's Living Masters!

Another of his (Edward Hopper's) teachers, artist Robert Henri, taught life class. Henri encouraged his students to use their art to "make a stir in the world". He also advised his students, "It isn't the subject that counts but what you feel about it" and "Forget about art and paint pictures of what interests you in life."[13]


Harry said...

Looking over all those ARC contest entries is a fascinating exercise in examining my own tastes and prejudices. It’s amazing how few of them I like; just something which isn’t too twee or pretty, doesn’t look like a photograph and is of contemporary subject matter would be a good start — or even subject matter from the past 100 years.

The Still Life longlist had the most things that I liked, so it's obviously something about the way people are presented which is bothering me most.

Although having said that, why don't the portraits appeal to me more? That seems like the ideal genre for doing paintings which are in the classical style but still connected to the present. Maybe they just aren't classical *enough*? Perhaps they need more formal composition, more chiaroscuro, more painterly attention to textures and surfaces. I dunno. Maybe it's just that this painting lark is quite difficult.

Sharon Knettell said...

Thanks for your considered reply. I have done portraiture- briefly. I call them botox portraits for obvious reasons. This is an article I wrote on it. http://www.culturalweekly.com/why-contemporary-portraiture-shouldnt-show-its-face/

Modern portaiture is essentially a paint by numbers operation too tethered to the photograph. There was an article in the Guardian a few years ago at how pointless it is. Most people think an oil painting laboriously painted and copied from an approved photograph is real 'art". It is just more expensive.

Before the camera there was a tremendous diffence in styles.Think Titian, Rubens, Botticelli. Go on the Strokes of Genius website to see what a grisly affair this is. Since the advent of the camera, even well trained artists like Bouguereau and Gerome responded to it's influence and made pictures more photographic in nature. The whole French Salon was influenced by it and everything became dark brown and heavy with a single point of light.

I noticed first hand the destructive power of the camera on drawing and painting. My first husband ( Bulgarian) was a gifted artist ith a poerful slavic style. One day I said, use my camera lucida to outline a figurative photograph. I as an illustrator so I had a good one.

What a horror, all the power and uniqueness went out of his ork- all the charming idiosyncracies left his work. I never let him use it again. The photo as an anomaly for him- he mostly worked from life.

ian warburton said...

Classical Modernist painting presupposes highly developed skills of looking and a familiarity with other art and with certain notions about the history of art. Photography like pop art, reassures viewers that art isn't hard and seems to be more about subjects than about art and if photography is about in a sense non intervention, then where does that leave the image and the making of that image which is removed further still?

Sharon Knettell said...

Very well put. I was talking to a painter friend of mine yesterday. She paints abstracted landscapes from life. She worked full time at an art supply store even though she had a BFA from RISD. Most mornings she would get up in all kinds of weather, and I mean all kinds of weather to take her canvasses out to a local park.
Young painters think she is a Luddite. They asked, why bother.when you can take a picture.

I would LOVE to quote this in Painting Perceptions if I may. I am always looking for trouble Ian!

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paolo uccello said...

YOU ARE VERY BRAVE IN EXPRESSING THESE PERSONAL OPINIONS, WHICH I SHARE BY COMPLETE. I also believe that Mr. Ross and his ARC Foundation, in fact, are servants of a great LIE; These are called realistic painters themselves, but they always paint with photography and with the help of technology and computer programs like Photoshop or Corel Paint ...
The painters of the nineteenth century had a much more complete and honest teaching. The painters Mr Ross most admire were very expert but very poor as authentic creative artists. The painter Bouguereau was only a predecessor of the current painters of the photographic realism. In these schools that Mr. Ross promotes, they do not teach real pictorial realism, which is based on the direct study of nature. Authentically realistic painting does not copy photographs; only takes notes of nature. When this painting uses photographs it never literally copies it. The use of photographs is never a priority; it is not an essential thing; it is only occasional.
Mr. Ross has created a big business with this false realism.
A cordial greeting from Spain (Europe)

Sharon Knettell said...

@paolo uccello
Well you made my day! I entered that competition once about 8 years ago or more, I was a finalist. My piece was done from life and I was astonished to see how many were copied from photographs. I never entered again as I felt that I would have to become no more than a photocopier. He Museum MEAM in your country is now a part of this circle and they too have a contest. The winner weird as it was was copied from a photograph,as were most of the winners.
All the big competitions are heavy or dominated by by these and usually these are the big prize winners. These are the "approved artists" who get the gallery representation. That is the way it is.I am on Instagram.