This country has always been about movement, all its best traits are in growth and action. Not in the attempt to capture movement, or express oneself through the action of painting, or the exhibitionism of performance. But in physical movement of purpose, dance, music, sports, the effort to build. This requires focus, planning, thought and balance. And knowledge of a task at hand. Skills attained through years of training and trial. Many American Museums best features are the buildings themselves, others fail miserably, such as the Japanese Pavilion at LACMA. Which ironically features an excellent collection of screens and scrolls, which the rest of the museums lack, having a broad array of mediocre examples of art and artists. Many of these new Towers of Babel, and Ivory Mausoleums to benefactor’s fame, are filled with decorative wallpaper, disposable pop, and self-exhibitionist decadence. Really, we have more than enough wall space, now how about promoting some relevant art to fill it.
Sports can be more truly dramatic and exhilarating than most art. Michael Jordan with the ball, five seconds left in playoff action, provides more relevance to mans nature and passion than the latest Biennial. Dance is wonderful in this country, from the streets, to clubs, to troops. To, yes, even BET at times. But Music is our true contribution to the world. No, not the insipid redundancies of a Philip Glass, or cute witticisms of the Talking Heads. While Europe and Japan love jazz, and regard it as the equal of European musics (Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Atonal.), the American Art World will nod its head briefly in its direction, then go back to its own limited concerns. Yet right here in this country Miles Davis has proven himself to be the musical equivalent of Matisse. Charlie Parker created the analytical cubism of music, be bop, while Coltrane explored synthetic cubism, creating the first truly international music, both technically, and incorporating music’s from around the globe. Together they created the quality and breadth of art of Picasso. Louis Armstrong provided the bridge between the old worlds concepts, and the new, as Cézanne did in painting. Monk gave us the poetry of Klee, the modernization of ancient regional sensibilities of Braque and Tamayo came in Gillespie’s Cubano Bop, Blue Note artists, and advanced bluesmen.
It is ironic how the American Art World puts everything outside itself in deprecating categories, especially Ethnic Art, yet what could be more ethnic than it? Hordes of young, white, metrosexual males and anorexic princesses live in self-proclaimed, and often City funded, Art Colonies. Thinking they are the heirs of Picassos floating laundry and Gauguins Marquesas, yet those artists, and traveling jazz musicians, never enjoyed forced air heating, indoor plumbing, and polished oak floors. Nor the young Bohemian’s parking places for their Toyota Prius and daddies BMW.
So what is the future of “high’ culture and art in America. There may be none, for now as in the time of the Academy, it belongs more on the Society page than Cultural. It has limited itself, both to its own inbred small circle, and from the world. There is no true discourse, no heated arguments over meaning, no passion, when everyday those privileged enough to have the time to create should justify their existence. For that is what art is, We, Relationships, Eternity, God. Purpose. These are the continuing concern of art. In a time of War, and coming economic turmoil, we must get back to who we are. And unite over common ground. Not behind a candidate, a religious article, or political doctrine. Those are the false gods of ignorance, hate and division.
Will a revolt come from within? The huge number of vanity galleries swamps the ability for talent to be seen, develop and attack. And lack the vitality, constructive self-criticism and passion to do battle. Will it make an end run around the system, and appeal directly to the masses? Possibly. But as in the innumerable numbers of cable stations, the fragmentation of focus keeps it off the powers that be. Tough times are coming. As with “new” art, there is no “new” economics, the numbers are horribly out of balance, and the time has come to pay the piper. Monies wasted on the arts, grants to the soft mediocre artists who need to toughen up, must end. All true artists will find a way. Get a job. Or find private commissions that are not tax write-offs for dad. And use the public’s money for real concerns. Education, healthcare, jobs, ecology, the physically and emotionally handicapped from War. A balanced budget. We must open our eyes, if Art is ever to be relevant and vital again. The best and brightest, the most passionate, should not all be diverted to more pressing needs. For Art is needed. To unify, not divide. Veritas, adapt our needs to Truth, not to our own desires. Art is now false and a mirage. It sucks up to individual vanity. Look around, the Emperor has no clothes. Imperial clothing.