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Dark Thoughts and Secret Hopes


Eric Rhoads Editor/Publisher of the Plein Air Magazine made a splendid editorial on the value of current modern art that is very much on the mark and should be required reading for all artists.  There is a fundamental group of building blocks that all artists should have no matter what art they produce.


Eric Rhoads editorial is reprinted by permission of Plein Air Magazine.

www.PleinAirMagazine.com and is © Plein Air Magazine February 2005.


Dark Thoughts and Secret Hopes


Strolling through an art show recently, I saw hanging on a wall a cardboard box covered with oil drips and tire tracks.  Surprised that show organizers hadn’t provided better trashcans for their patrons, I stepped toward it, water bottle in hand.  Then in that frozen moment after the basketball is released but hasn’t yet hit the backboard, I noticed a price tag hanging from the box: $650,000.  No, this wasn’t a trompe l’oeil painted like a cardboard box – it was literally a ratty piece of cardboard.


My bottle bounced and rattled in the bottom of the box and finally came to rest.  Embarrassed, I looked around to see if anyone was watching.  That’s when it hit me: I was surrounded by self-important displays of stuffed horses, piles of feathers, excrement-covered toilets – and strutting fools pretending to be aflutter over their meaning.  Nobody was willing to admit the emperor had no clothes.


My water bottle hadn’t really landed in a cardboard box – it had landed in a con game.  But who was conning whom?  Were the galleries conning the public into believing this was art? Or was the public conning the galleries into believing hey understood?


Least I leave you with the impression that I’m a narrow-minded cretin unable to plumb the depths of abstract symbolism, allow me to frame the reasons for my repulsion.


The great artists of the past were disciplined and rigorous in their commitment to master the wordless languages of shape and color.  Students showing an aptitude for the arts were groomed in an academic system of intense study and long apprenticeship.  But following the impressionist movement came an earth-shattering break from Cardinal Mazarin’s Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and the time-tested training system began to disintegrate as “modern” artists began to emerge.  Earlier moderns like Picasso and Dali endured academic training prior to painting their modern works, but those who would follow were not so trained.  Within a single generation, the art world was laid victim to poseurs – would-be Picassos and Dalis – unwilling to undergo the rigors of formal training, insisting on the right to “express themselves” with paint splatters.


Nevertheless, I believe the world is about to witness a resurgence of true art as schools focus once again on the critical basics, and collectors once again purchase fine representational works.  The pendulum is swinging away from the absurd, back to beauty – and I, for one, am grateful.  This magazine is merely an expression of my appreciation of the artists willing to endure the rigors of fine art as a demanding mistress.  Bravo!  I applaud them with hot fervor, knowing full well the depth of their commitment and devotion.  I thank them for paying the price to become artists.


For now, I smile a cool dark smile, knowing that somewhere a devotee of the naked emperor is staring, $650,000 lighter, into the bottom of a cardboard box, amazed at the artist’s insight, in awe of the depth of meaning, twittering and flittering like a baby bird – over an empty plastic water bottle.


B. Eric Rhoads, Chairman/Publisher

© Plein Air Magazine February 2005


Reprinted by permission of Plein Air Magazine.







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