Art, the Offender?

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Does art find harmonies that soothe?  Do the harmonies suggest an underlying and reassuring order?  All is well?

Does art destroy smug tranquility?  Does the destruction open up new ways of seeing, hearing, living?  Or does it merely wipe away preconceptions without building a scaffold for new structures?

I read that James Joyce came across a few intelligible passages as he edited Finnegan’s Wake.  A reader might just be able to connect some dots.  Joyce immediately reworked the offending phrases until they seamlessly blended in with the seething babble of the rest of the book.

Picasso broke forms, twisted shapes, rendered the world in ways that surprised him.  Yet he missed having a set of rules by which he could judge the value of his work.  He realized that Cubism had undermined tradition, and that he couldn’t retrace his steps to regain the comfort of working in an enclosed system.

I used to use color as a weapon.  Reds and greens clashed and tore at each other.  Hot colors shouted at dull.  I wanted to wake everyone up to make them feel what I felt.  Now I know that they already did, that my emotions weren’t unique.  And now I like a little harmony as my days grow harder to manage and the world seems alien to me.

I sometimes visited the Museum of Modern Art in New York when I lived in Pennsylvania.  The lower floors started with James Ensor, and as I progressed upward I saw a progression of movements.  Fauvism jumped to Cubism skipped to Dadaism and Surrealism.  The tangled energy of Ab-Ex ran down and became supplanted by Pop Art and increasingly arid Minimalism.  The eighties section focused mostly on installation art.  Eccentricity seemed to be the only recognizable goal.  I fled around a corner into a quiet room with dimmer lights, sat on a bench and sighed.  A Monet water lily painting hung before me, and I felt like a thirsty traveler sipping cool water at an oasis.

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4 thoughts on “Art, the Offender?

  1. For me some paintings have a soothing affect on me the Monet water lily paintings are a good example. Vincent vanGogh’s paintings are not soothing. They are exciting, dynamic, colorful, and filled with motion. In a way they are not paintings of things or places they are emotional expressions in the form of paint to things, places, and people. When I look at a Rothko I see simplicity and feel only an emotion. They bypass mind and go to feelings. Certain music I listen to does the same thing no mind just emotion. Radiant Awakening by Ranha is rythmn an chant in a classical India setting simple and lovely. Whatever the emotional intent of the artist whatever the emotional response to art by people it all and always will be humanly. Art is organic to the species it is in our DNA it is even not unthinkable to say art is our DNA.


  2. I find the comment interesting re: using colors as a weapon but now preferring harmony. I find that with age, I like things that may disrupt each other–but far more subtly . . . with you on that one.


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