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What the devil are artists too. I wouldn't go where I'm one and ask me artist nowadays are just too lazy to learn out of. Your comments. Well such observations have led us to try to reduce the confusion surrounding contemporary art as we ask a question of art each week at this time a question about contemporary art will be discussed by a scholar. It was a skeptic producer of the series Walt Richter. Do introduce the panelists Lawrence Alloway has been intimately connected with the art world for over 20 years. And it was one by birth Mr Ottaway became connected with the National Gallery in London and one thousand forty eight. Since then he has lectured and written on arcs has held office in a number of important art organizations and has become recognized as a leading our critic. And 1962 Lawrence Alloway
became curator of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City at the time of the recording of these programs Mr. alleyway was artist in residence at Southern Illinois University. As a devil it was Lawrence Ottaway who first coined the term pop art. The Erhard Magnus professor of fine arts came to his interest in art through what might seem to be the back door. As a professor of English Dr. Magnus became fascinated with the relationships between 17th century literature and art and soon his interest in art matched that of English. Prior to his appointment as professor of fine arts at Southern Illinois University Dr. Magnus was director of academic affairs at the Philadelphia College of Art. And this is our first program in the series. Topic is going to be what is modern art. The term is a big one and an ambiguous one. And maybe before going straight to an answer to the question
let me bring out something about the term which interests me. If there's a modern odds obviously that isn't an engine. If as a modern sensibility that this assumes that there was that this is different from the kind of sensibility which existed and I think this is one of the things one needs to bet bear in mind about using the town because it does assume a kind of. Then division of history as being the modern group of them being whichever particular part of the positive one is has set up to offer beyond a cutoff date and one of the curious things about it is that I think almost everybody has had has defined modern sensibility as has been for modern art since at least the 15th century. Oh when I when I think of modern art I think I think of the facial
distortions the profiles of all the eyes of one side of the head the watch draped over a twig the general distortion a little of both abstract and older. Representation a lot of this is this modern art or is this already something of the past. Maybe one could answer yes to both the birth dates of your question because your distorted human figures I think seem to assert it because there are no limit watches or thoughts around myself. Somehow Dolly's So you would think that 20 years in the Senate is maybe maybe modern. Odd isn't necessarily I don't think Mike not really is the art which comes right up to date. Maybe we can now use the term modern art to refer to a fixed period sometime in the early twentieth century. Jerry we're going to have to get back I think to the whole question of the modern
sensibility and when it begins to manifest itself. We must think first of all of tradition and in part. Formulated in classical times extended by imitation fostered by the cademy is extending well into the 19th century Roman romanticism as a kind of aberration of this great tradition. And about underlying them both is a belief that art should be concerned with imitation of the figure of the natural world which could still be explored by the sensibility and then that something happens and the interior world becomes more important. Man's experience with himself which needed an entirely new set of visual signs. These had to be
composed in a different way so as to reflect a state of feeling or an awareness of all this new knowledge which had always been considered modern. All these abstractions which no longer had any direct symbolic equivalent in the visible world. Well this begins to happen perhaps with the impressionists who didn't intended this way this wasn't part of their program. It simply happened. They were actually naturalists very much in this tradition who simply wanted to look very hard at nature to discover what it was actually like. And they discovered for instance that they were painting light instead of the of the objects they were painting reflections. And this had a rather unsettling effect on the object world that they were supposedly examining so hard. Well when you say that the same kind of confusion that our
viewing of Modern Art has existed with every change as I recall Rembrandt was hauled over the coals for doing something different. Today we consider him a classic classical artist. The Impressionists were long and receiving their proper due. Today we look at the Old and the rest of them and find beauty in it and wonder what all the fuss was about. Do you think this will happen in terms of Modern Art. Lars don't you think it's happening already. It's certainly happening to the artists of what I think we're beginning to agreed to call the modern period meaning the recent past somehow modern seems to me in the recent past the way we're all using advantage table today and I certainly think of all the artists of the recent past home we still talk about like Picasso Coldplay for example. A certainly has certainly undergone the kind of acceptance the just because I think it
happened to the hood. Well if you places say as the 18th century. For a 19th century landscape thanks to a work say by Paul Clay you begin wondering where the both of the both of these things fit any one definition or are they both art. They seem to be so vastly different. It has Was there a sudden change from the one style of painting of what the world kind of painting to another kind of painting or it does seem that the rate of change accelerated. I think probably around the time the Impressionist The Impressionist had their first group exhibition and the early 1870s and impressionism and the first one first isms in a way you know and since then that being like a constant sequence of changing movements changing groups changing schools I think we could probably use the term modern art to refer to from the 1870s
on the 19th that is it would cover then impressionism and almost immediately there was a post-impressionist reaction of younger painters. Which had and once back on the impressionist painters themselves there was an expression of them which made an even greater break perhaps of the art of a party even an impressionism that was Cubism and so on through theory elitism and through various bands of the powerhouse of home Paul Clay was gone. I think probably there is a kind of fun thing continuity there's a kind of his whole unit of some of the some handiness in that mine here 1870 is 1930 is a kind of breakdown and one of the reasons for the sources suggesting that is the course of modern art from the 1940s on to Gaza during the 1940s in America and Europe.
There's a general view orientation and the various assumptions of artists the clarity of the various movements. It was which it was all shook up and changed and I think that you know I'm definitely a Martin entered a different phase in the 1940s. Down down down I have here so and I think what happened since the end of World War 2 although that's a great great differences between the different generations of younger artists and that generation of Jackson Pollock's generations I think nevertheless there is a time there's more continuity between ourselves now back to the end of World War 2 than there has to be edgings and present it in a way I think what Mark did is it took art very largely on the basis of an aesthetic dominated by the classical paused and shit don't you think that you know since the Renaissance
classical ideals in one form or another have been tremendously influential in prestige both and of what modern art did because so and the other people although it's a little way away from as now they really explored all the alternatives to classical art and base their art on not being classical the choosing. Yes. Academic art or let's call it the Renaissance tradition now enshrined in or perpetuated in academies. It was so strong that even something as revolutionary as romanticism with its premium on the expression of personal feelings. Gives us a sense of being a new wine in old bottles. They hadn't found a visual equivalent yet that would adequately explain the nature of this revolution. So this comes later.
A new technique really had to develop a new relationship between one sense of reality and content. As this happens I think during the Impressionists period even though you can call them naturalists they begin with a very close observation of nature and then discover that they're not really looking at objects but they're looking at light as as the change in art a reflection of the artist's changing viewpoint as it were. Doesn't the artist paint the way he sees and feels. Does the artist of the modern artists see and feel differently than the traditional artist as a contemporary artist has as he added another kink somewhere that causes him to view his universe differently. But one one thing was a great problem I think for the early months among artists in the late 19th early 20th century. They gather there and have the heritage was almost all you know realistic God
figurative odd a lot of them wanted to be abstract. So they were struggling against that and that had I think a big influence on them. They were led to a kind of make a lot of struggle an art out of a certain kind of idea idealistic absolute being us. Now the artist who starts working today has got nothing but mud not around him he doesn't have to. Oh so you almost single handed one to fill up the time the whole weight of a classical tradition not of a diversity of traditions established by the various schools. So now you have to choose your how you're going to work. When you began but you don't get engaged and I'm mighty historical struggle and a lot of that at the beginning you know. Another force which I think is terribly important. And which is in Deming at the end of the 19th century among all kinds of s the it's intellectually there
boy he means is that traditional religions seem to have broken down and Art had somehow to take its place. Now this is reflected in that let's say a book like Kandinsky is on the spiritual and the heart. The spiritual is equated now with that which is literally out of this world. That which is a completely abstract. And yet which has an immediate impact. And so a great deal of experimentation with modern art not only by Kandinsky but of someone like Monk. Is that once we have abstracted from the everyday object the essential for it's a good deal to talk about and sensual form. You have arrived at a kind of truth a kind of an absolute.
And possibly a structure of values which might take the place of religion in other words you use as you implied very strongly that are written as handed to a great extent of both science and religion as as we make Morse make scientific discoveries these are reflected in the forms art takes that as religion decreases the need for a religious experience may be transferred to the art. Yes it very definitely was at the end of the 19th century. This doesn't necessarily mean that the same leaders fell today to that particular struggle I think is over. That's one of the differences between contemporary and lot of black and one doesn't have to make God a kind of religion you know. Now go back to the Impressionist you were mentioning I mean I have one thing to why I think there are some potent verse just in addition to the point that Jerry made and that is
the impressionist painters to sort of really brought into the open something which had been implicit in quite a lot of Alya 19th century paintings and that is that paintings are made of paint. They not only painted their reflected light and their subtle effects of atmosphere they also more than anyone has more than anybody changed the. Level of Finnish people expected a painting and they let them paintings finished but with a very high brush marks so that looking at the paintings you can never really quite forget that it's made of a sticky substance called Paint That is with a picture of how transparent solid hot you look at the landscape you have to see that it's just him right there. I think this assertion of the physical reality of paint and of the canvas it rests on I think this is something when it's have a lot of I think
influence on my house and I'm sure that this is something which will realize we're looking at Prince. Why did the why did the modern artist abandon realism. The did he really feel that everything that had been said through the use of religion that has that already everything had been said it could be said. You can yes I think I'd have to have hope. Benny I think if you read Kandinsky Kandinsky and Mondrian and now you have it all over the books the whole world want to know about abstract thought and they were the people who did the earliest abstract paintings and they were all you know this and the fact that realism was over it belongs to an underdeveloped country as underdeveloped a century as it wasn't adequate to write a 20th century experience. They were absent a categorical about that. Now maybe we can learn that we don't have to be so serious about it you know. But probably to get abstract painting going when they felt a need to do
so it was necessary to be so exclusive as it were then also felt that the job of representing the world. Or illustrating it had been taken over by photography. This was no longer something they had to carry on their backs. A modern portrait painter paints for example digitally from photographs or frequently from live subjects is that right. It happens very often. He might just as well. Yet I wonder I wonder do you both of you really consider this as a valid opinion on the part of the modern artist that representationalism was is old hat that that photography really can take the place of hating as we do it for the innocent rebel Absolutely not. I was dying I was just saying that this was depending on all of those artists 50 years ago or more. But I think it's no longer adequate to experience in the middle of the 20th
century absolutely high photography has. Become a medium of its own. It's no longer merely. An automatic record and it's very definitely an art form a fine art in the best sense of the word. So it's not really in competition. It doesn't it never was and I never was I think it also the fact that that representational art no longer presents a challenge to most artists. It isn't a problem that that interests them. All the problems have been solved over and over again it seems. I wanted for four or five hundred years. No I disagree it seems to me that it might the moment be almost approaching a behind where in abstract thought all the problems of the volatile whereas the problems turn up not to have been solved and there is that is the thing a realist painting. I think rhythm could be the
problematic an open area precisely because the abstract God has been so well covered and cleaned up by critics you know that the only thing I know to happen. Have to think about that for a while. Well it's well what do we look for when we when we look at a piece of art whether it be modern or classical. And do we look for the same things in modern art as we did in the classical or romantic or whatever period you wish to choose. Well. I think that the thing probably the single thing that most people would agree to looking for you know in modern OD is the evidence that current expression of an individual human being the work of God is the unique record of a human the human being that made that work so that it's a highly individual highly personal and an absolutely unique artifact related to him I think this is one of the
assumptions that underlay not an OTT but but doesn't modern art also tend to sort of sort out the sort people out who take a look at it and the with the traditional forms of art almost anybody can walk up to a picture and find something that he like I mean he that's of three years if you look at a real and someone else would realize that there was a relationship between the tree and the cloud and then the girl underneath it whatever it was and find something that they were and the traditional forms that were something for everybody. But in the modern form we began sorting out the people who are looking for literalism who are and demanded much more of them. Well there's another way to put that and that is to say that you see you can look at a traditional painting and be entertained by it enjoyed another little lies in your not understanding it. Whereas if you look at a modern painting the gulf between yourself and the painting as felt strongly so that you know that you are not understanding it
but you can look at say what a painting by a painting of the Grace is very beautiful very wide of we are a collection of forms of the girls. You can look ahead and joined as a kind of high class pinata and not realize that the CG races have had a almost mystical significance in the Renaissance. And so it goes. You can you can look at 17th century Dutch landscape paintings to highly realistic without really noticing the sort of psychological subtlety with which the observer is kind of pulled into the painting and related to it so that the picture space becomes like your own space looking at the painting. So the point being you can look at past art and not know you're not getting the point. Whereas you we look at modern art and you know you're not getting the points of the head of this part. Well meet a modern artist first. Has he consciously tried to
exclude. There. Are not a knowledgeable person in the ignorant person. If we if we look at again the period we have agreed to call Modern Art in the recent past yes. If you think I'm an artist like Clinton I mean he did not believe in the estrangement of the artist from society. He taught he he wrote he collected the lectures that he gave his students he wrote books published. He also did his very best to make good to create a literature which would clue his in to what he was doing in his work he wanted maximum communication and it was the notion of increased an ever more intimate communication I think which has taught Clay was moved by as with some of the other early abstract artists. Nearly all of whom were books to try to make that point clear. What do you think we can try to pin down why modern art but was has been some controversy. I mean what is what is it about modern art that bothers people or the fact that they're not
unlikely or emotionally ready for that that they're too inhibited. What is it I can identify with the subject. It isn't a recognizable part of of life with which they can feel any kind of empathy. They can't I'd simply can't identify was something that isn't figurative or familiar. I was speaking of course of the public at large not the growing public of. Of those who appreciate modern art you agree with that. Well I think it's a changing audience I think. Joe you put it very well. One of the problems that the older audience has and I think that a younger audience which is better educated exposed to the productions of exhibitions all the time is going to approach is already approaching this kind of out of a different way. I mean what why is a lot of artists that I know are much more than being misunderstood is being understood and accepted
so fast that they then kind of get the feeling I got tired of carrying the educated people of the United States around on their back they feel the public is too close now. Well and I think the earlier modern artist tended to be alienated so much of society and strange the way you describe. Whereas maybe the artist now doesn't have quite that problem he's really got too much company now too little. Well let's come back once again to the initial question what is modern art. OK let's say that might have been we haven't really broken from I mean imagine way of a we've identified it as being of the 20s and 30s of being sort of a continuation of something that preceded it of demanding more of the viewer of canceling out the. Nonsense of the person. But kind of anywhere can we can we give it a one or two sentence definition modern art hears it.
Maybe one could say like the period of modern art is from the 1870s to the 1930s perhaps. That's antique classical inferred that it emphasises the individuality of the creator of The Creator becomes the standard by which the work is judged you need to when you look at the work to think of the artist not think of a preexisting norm of beauty but you think of the psychological individual existence of the artist and make that your point of reference instead of a neutral norm the beauty as in classical to have the right to reorganize nature as he feels it or sees it or can conceive of it. And to use any kind of experience with the derived from his senses or developed in his mind to create art then we've pretty well skirted all of the topics with which we plan to
deal with the following 12 program in the series. Be sure to join us next week when Wait take up the subject when does contemporary art begin and try to put contemporary art under the microscope as we have done today with modern art. Question are featuring our critic Lawrence Callaway
Magnus's and transcribed by the radio again next week. Another. Is the broadcasting service. This program was distributed by national educational radio. This is the national educational radio network.
A question of art
what is Modern Art?
Producing Organization
WSIU 8 (Television station : Carbondale, Ill.)
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Series Description
Series featuring discussion of controversial aspects of modern and contemporary art. Panelists: Lawrence Alloway, former curator of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City; Gerhart Magnus, Southern Illinois U.; Walter Richter, WSIU. Modern art.
Fine Arts
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Producing Organization: WSIU 8 (Television station : Carbondale, Ill.)
Producing Organization: Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-16-1 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:22
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