Blog: Is Art Dead Today?

Christine Alfery

Posted on September 18 2021

Blog: Is Art Dead Today?

Featured image: Downy

Today the words and the idea behind, "art and artist" are changing. This is not new to our times. Art history is full of shifts and changes in how art is understood and created. Art history’s changes are documented in art movements such as classical, the renaissance, impressionism, art deco, abstract expressionism, expressionism and modern art, to list only a few. 

Art historians document the changes in media, subject matter and technique. Since I decided to be an artist, which was at the end of abstract expressionism and movement into the modern, what attracted me about the idea of art was the values and concepts linked to art and how those concepts were illusive and very difficult to define. Art appeared during this time to resist control and a system of rules. If a work broke the rules, then it seemed that it automatically would be classified as good art. The shocking and new became major terms defining art. Making art was all about breaking the rules and thinking differently.

Thinking this way is what defined the 60’s and art, along with cultural, social and moral values were challenged. Texts wrote about these challenges and visual artists created work that historically documented the times. Artists like DuChamp and Rauschenberg, and Jasper Johns created works that questioned mass production and modernism. A main feature of modernism was the debate between public and private, individualism and collective thinking. Examples of collective thinking included, electric ovens, mix masters, hair dryers, toasters. Everyone seemed to want to modernize their way of living and thinking. This collective thinking had an interesting twist. While individuals thought that they were personally improving their lives by getting the best and newest improved whatever, what actually happened was that the individuals no longer became unique and independent. Rather they now had to keep up with the Jones or others folks on their block.

The new and improved, while helping the individual, made the individual like everyone else. It was easy to follow the herd. Slowly, gradually the individual and the concepts and values that made an individual, independent unique and one-of-a-kind disappeared It was hard to differentiate one person from another. This is still going on today, and it is going on in the visual arts.

The concepts of artist and art are dying because the concepts and ideas of the individual are getting buried underneath the collective of what’s new and popular and what colors are trendy and what matches. Concepts that define the individual have gotten lost in the pursuit of equality in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Equality, which is another word that has been turned upside down, no longer is the individual in charge of their life, their liberties and the pursuit of happiness, but the collective determining what is equal.

If I apply this type of thinking to art, no longer is the artist in charge of the work that they create but the collective is in charge of their work. And what DuChamp and Rauschenbery and Johns were protesting against is exactly what happened to the concept of art. The idea of uniqueness, and one-of-a-kindness are slowly slowly disappearing when it comes to discussing what art is. The work that I would call wall decor, is being mass produced and still being accepted as being "art." It seems no longer does the concept of “art” represent uniqueness and originality.

Art as it was known is dying, and it is a huge loss for our culture and society.

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