Why Modern Art "Sucks"

Why Modern Art "Sucks"

Hint: It's not necessarily the art's fault.
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Let’s do a little experiment.

Below this paragraph is a work of modern art. Now, without doing any research and without knowing anything else about the work, do a formal analysis this painting. (For those of you who are in the know, pretend that you don’t know anything about the context of modern art.)

Robert Rauschenberg’s White Painting (1951)

There’s not really a whole lot to say, is there? These are, for all intents and purposes, three blank canvases hung on the wall and that seems to be about it.

Now, let’s take a look at some critical commentary on Rauschenberg’s work. According to John Milton Cage Jr., "the work is made up of “hypersensitive screens” which react to environmental changes in the room so as to “lead to the possibility of pure experience." The work is a rejection of substance, instead embracing a quasi-postmodern reflexivity. Or, at least, so the art community claims.

Nope, it still just looks like blank canvas.

We have a problem here or, rather, the art community has a problem. Here’s a work of art which has, when explained, rich meaning, but it makes itself impossible for formalistic analysis. There is, quite literally, nothing here to analyze. You can’t talk about the line-work, coloring, or even about a nonrepresentational reflection of the artist (a la Jackson Pollock). There is simply nothing there.

Barnett Newman’s Onement VI (1953).

Without formalistic analysis, art must be understood via contextual means. In other words, we have to look at art as it falls within the tradition of art as a whole. “How does this work contribute to the progression of art?” Consider Duchamp’s Fountain, created in 1917.

Yes, before you ask, it is just a urinal.

See, Duchamp was clever. At this point in time, art was still seen as something that had to take a great deal of skill and had to be aesthetically pleasing. With this sculpture Duchamp turned the art world on its head and everyone knew about it. That last part is important, because it’s at the heart of what makes contemporary “modern art” so frustrating.

In any other medium, context is not required to analyze and appreciate a work. Rather, context offers the opportunity for deeper and more critical analysis. So why should visual art be treated differently from its other artistic counterparts?

Damien Hirst’s The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991).

My concern isn’t that these works have meaning. In fact, my concern is quite the opposite. My concern is that by pulling on tradition that is outside of public discourse, the modern art community is turning art meaningless. When an intelligent person walks into a museum and says, “I don’t get it,” it represents the failure of discourse between the art community and the outside world.

Visual art is, fundamentally, a communicative medium. Although it is less direct than its literary and cinematic counterparts, visual art retains every bit as much power (and, depending on you ask, quite a bit more) to convey complex emotions, ideas, and concepts. Therefore, when even knowledgeable viewers are unable to find meaning from the content alone or are unable to pull from the incredibly niche knowledge required to appreciate a work, public discourse (and, consequently, modern art) has failed.

Ai Weiwei’s Han Jar Overpainted with Coca-Cola Logo (1995).

Now, that’s not to say that all modern artists are disengaged from public discourse. On a strictly personal level, some of the artists who I find to be the most impressive are wrapped up in public involvement. The Chinese artist and political activist Ai Weiwei is largely reliant upon his mass-media image for his success and, as a result, very little doubt and confusion surrounds his works. Others, like Barbara Krueger, pull less from art culture “in-jokes” and more from popular culture.

But these artists don’t change the overwhelming trend that is members of the art community being out of touch with the rest of the world. The failure of modern art is not one of aesthetic, but of conversation. If people cannot understand art, then the problem is one of engaging the public.

I’m not saying that the art aficionados out there can’t appreciate the occasional urinal or ultra-reflexive blank canvas. I’m just suggesting that perhaps it's time to quit impressing the critics with impressive intertextual allusions and time to start catching the public up on the last century of art and art theory.

Cover Image Credit: Jackson Pollock

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I know I don't say it enough, so let me start off by saying thank you.

You'll never understand how incredibly blessed I am to have you in my life. You'll also never understand how special you are to me and how much I love you.

I can't thank you enough for countless days and nights at your house venting, and never being too busy when I need you. Thank you for the shopping days and always helping me find the best deals on the cutest clothes. For all the appointments I didn't want to go to by myself. Thank you for making two prom days and a graduation party days I could never forget. Thank you for being overprotective when it comes to the men in my life.

Most importantly, thank you for being my support system throughout the numerous highs and lows my life has brought me. Thank you for being honest even when it isn't what I want to hear. Thank you for always keeping my feet on the ground and keeping me sane when I feel like freaking out. Thank you for always supporting whatever dream I choose to chase that day. Thank you for being a second mom. Thank you for bringing me into your family and treating me like one of your own, for making me feel special because you do not have an obligation to spend time with me.

You've been my hero and role model from the time you came into my life. You don't know how to say no when family comes to you for help. You're understanding, kind, fun, full of life and you have the biggest heart. However, you're honest and strong and sometimes a little intimidating. No matter what will always have a special place in my heart.

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15 Thing Only Early 2000's Kids Will Understand

"Get connected for free, with education connection"

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This is it early 2000's babies, a compilation finally made for you. This list is loaded with things that will make you swoon with nostalgia.

1. Not being accepted by the late 90's kids.

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Contrary to what one may think, late 90's and early 00's kids had the same childhood, but whenever a 00's kid says they remember something on an "only 90's kids will understand" post they are ridiculed.

2. Fortune tellers.

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Every day in elementary school you would whip one of these bad boys out of your desk, and proceed to tell all of your classmates what lifestyle they were going to live and who they were going to marry.

3.Bunnicula

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You could never read this book past 8 o'clock at night out of fear that your beloved pet rabbit would come after you.

4. Silly bands.

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You vividly remember begging your parents to buy you $10 worth of cheap rubber bands that vaguely resembles the shape of an everyday object.

5. Parachutes.

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The joy and excitement that washed over you whenever you saw the gym teacher pull out the huge rainbow parachute. The adrenaline that pumped through your veins whenever your gym teacher tells you the pull the chute under you and sit to make a huge "fort".

6. Putty Erasers

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You always bought one whenever there was a school store.

7. iPod shuffle.

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The smallest, least technological iPpd apple has made, made you the coolest kid at the bus stop.

8. "Education Connection"

You knew EVERY wood to the "Education Connection" commercials. Every. Single.Word.

9. " The Naked Brothers Band"

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The "Naked Brothers Band" had a short run on Nickelodeon and wrote some absolute bangers including, "Crazy Car' and "I Don't Wanna Go To School"

10. Dance Dance Revolution

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This one video game caused so many sibling, friend, and parent rivalries. This is also where you learned all of your super sick dance moves.

11. Tamagotchi

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Going to school with fear of your Tamagotchi dying while you were away was your biggest worry.

12. Gym Scooters

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You, or somebody you know most likely broke or jammed their finger on one of these bad boys, but it was worth it.

13. Scholastic book fairs

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Begging your parents for money to buy a new book, and then actually spending it on pens, pencils, erasers, and posters.

14.Go-Gurt

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15. Slap Bracelets

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Your school probably banned these for being "too dangerous".

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