Koon’s balloon dog at BCAM opening in Los Angeles, 2008.

Koon’s balloon dog at BCAM opening in Los Angeles, 2008.

RETROSPECT

Beauty is Not Truth; Now I Know All That

We talk about this art and that art, and then we either start seeing influences or start making them up. A popular one is the Asian influence on the Impressionists, who we like to consider our greatest artists but we really mean most popular. However, comparing these two ways of painting, the main difference is the Japanese absence of ego as compared to the European and later American obsession with their egos. We could say that Americans finally obliterated the ego with abstract art and bully for them, except that with conceptual art the ego returns like an angry spoilt child, mocking everything we need and want, obliterating the only goddess we should worship, which is nature.


Historically, the only subjects of art were religious, out of which each civilization developed its own sense of beauty, but now science is the religion we depend on for our salvation, money is our God, and advertising is our art. This is expensive, so it must be artistic genius. There are some improvements, like the rape of Arab women will never be famously remembered in a painting as The Rape of the Sabine Women was, but Titian’s whore will still turn up in various forms and costumes.


Western art was never about progress. We are still expressing ourselves but now there are disturbing danger signs, so my reactions should be examined. If art mirrors our emotional reaction to life before we understand it, that puts the artist in the position of a seer or medicine man. Van Gogh was ignored and Japan’s prints, which he was influenced by, were used as wrapping paper. The message of these prints was LESS EGO. Only time allowed them to be heard and now it is too late.


Don’t you wonder why the figure in these Japanese prints often has his back to you because he is looking at a bird in the sky, or a tree by the water? But American subjects face outwards, usually blocking out almost everything else? We believe we are the subjects to be worshiped, but now things have changed. Now thanks to conceptual art, art mocks us, confuses us, and dares to tell us we are phenomenally stupid.


I blame myself for my misinterpretation of the artists today. Their art is ugly and emotionless, but is prophetic of the ugliness to come. I just did not want to hear it. The tangled frustration in Pollock’s scribbles, the beautifully tortured distortions of Bacon, the idolatry of the commercial Brillo Box, the cold linear death of Agnes Martin’s white paintings, or Koon’s ridiculing monstrous child’s balloon toy. How many signals do we need? Our president is a buffoon using his office for profit. The news is a bunch of happy plastic faces that couldn’t care less about the truth. And war is no longer heroic. It is endless.


I was looking backwards and didn’t know it.