I ran across the following remark while surfing the Web the other day: “I scandalized a dinner party twenty something years ago by offering the opinion that since the invention of photography, all art has been more or less consciously fraudulent. I still think I was right.” Coming as it does in the wake of the release of Amir Bar-Lev’s My Kid Could Paint That, I expect that this flat repudiation of all things modern will fall on more than a few receptive ears.
I commented on this attitude four years ago:
The world is full of rejectionists of various kinds–not so many as when I was younger, but still quite a few. I have a number of older musician friends who claim to hate all kinds of post-Sinatra pop music, for example, and I also get occasional letters from readers who want to know how I could possibly admire the music of Benjamin Britten or the paintings of Giorgio Morandi, or take a movie like Ghost World seriously. What nearly all these latter correspondents seem to have in common is that they really, truly don’t like any modern art, a position which puzzles me. Now, I freely admit to having problems with large tracts of the modern movement, and I long ago brought in guilty verdicts on atonal music and minimalist art, but at no time in my life has it ever occurred to me to dismiss all modernism as a snare and a delusion.
Are these anti-modernists poseurs? Some probably are, but I can’t imagine that many of them are merely playing at the old-fogy game. A greater number, I suspect, are rejecting something about which they know nothing, or at least not nearly enough to have an informed opinion.
I suspect that the man who made the aforementioned remark fits into the latter category. For his benefit, and that of anyone else who shares his view, I pose the following question: do you think the following works of art are “more or less consciously fraudulent”?
• Charles Demuth, Eggplant (painted in 1922-23)
• John Marin, Mt. Chocurua–White Mountains (painted in 1926)
• Milton Avery, Trees (painted in 1936)
• Lyonel Feininger, Waterfront (painted in 1942)
• Arnold Friedman, Landscape (painted in 1945-46)
• Edward Hopper, Cape Cod Morning (painted in 1950)
• Fairfield Porter, Wheat (painted in 1960)
• Richard Diebenkorn, Cityscape I (painted in 1963)
• Helen Frankenthaler, For E.M. (painted in 1981)
• Neil Welliver, Blueberry Burn Morey’s Hill (painted in 1997)
• Alex Katz, Birches (painted in 2002)
• William Bailey, Turning (painted in 2003)
Unlike the creator of this quiz, I have no tricks up my sleeve. Each of these paintings is by a respected American artist, nine of whom are represented in the Teachout Museum. I’m just curious: does anybody out there honestly believe that all of these painters are frauds?