Metamimesis: The abstraction of abstraction i.e. Picasso abstracting Cezanne who abstracted nature and what is nature an abstraction of? God? Pure energy? Every artwork contains its yin - the work itself and its yang - the consciousness of the viewer. In the pre-World War One era in Paris, all viewers carried a firm knowledge of the history of western painting from their visits to the Louvre as well as visits to annual Beaux Arts exhibitions - the official, state-sponsored salons. This was a very astute audience whose forward thinking members could see that the work of Cezanne Matisse, Picasso, and Braque was extending a great tradition, that these artists were pioneers, breaking the bonds of a stagnant realm of ideas about painting. If an artist knows that his/her audience is informed, educated, trained and curious for the new, he can explore more boldly without being completely divorced from fellow humans. The esthetic, intellectual fertility of the Paris citizen inspired adventure in their avante-garde artists. The game was on. When a community of artists can depend on an educated adventurous audience, their ideas can flourish. In a hermetic pressure cooker like New York City, where the level of education and the taste for esthetic adventure spikes far above the provincial norm and you add feisty, ambitious, erudite and voluble art critics, the dance between yin(artist and his work)and yang (audience ) becomes extreme, thus events like Jackson Pollock, de Kooning, Kline, Newman, Rothko can occur followed by a fevered yin/yang tango with Warhol, Lichtenstein and Stella. Then the stakes get even higher and inaccessible to the flyovers: Judd, Andre, and Flavin. Thomas Kinkaide works just as hard as Chuck Close every day at his easel but he gets no respect from the cognoscenti. Kinkaide is playing to an unschooled yang. To people who have not studied art. Kinkaide must stock each painting with its own yang - its own apologists, its own total story. His audience brings so little to his party that he must help them and they respond to his efforts by purchasing his work in monumental quantities. In the art establishment there is an assumption of yang level that makes Kinkaide uncool and Warhol or now, Richard Prince, king. You must at least know the Greenberg/ Rosenberg stable of artists as well as Duchamp to “get” Andy Warhol. You must be trained in contemporary art and theory. People whose parents spent the money to ensure their children’s training do not want to waste that intellectual capital by diffusing the heft of their yang on the likes of Thomas Kinkaide. How does one explain John Currin? Or the narrative, anecdotal hyperglycemic work that fills the walls of the Mary Boone Gallery or L.A. Louver? How does one explain David Hockney’s pastoral mimesis? It’s the New Feudalism -every ship on its own bottom - the group- grope conceptual / ironic yang-fest of the 50s through 90s is over. We are now in a moment when even our most prominent new York galleries, the inner circle of the avante-garde art world, valorizes obsessive miners of a nineteenth century tradition rather than explorers. As evidence of the New Feudalism, our streets are filled with thirty-something men in their big, noisy trucks. Every one a feudal lord with no interest or faith in government on any level. There is no community either in new York City or Redwood City or anywhere in-between. The vampire squid (corporatocracy / financial industry) has had its way with us. Our blood is gone. Art is getting dumber.
Dang the yang - full steam ahead!