Imperial Clothing by Donald Frazell – Part 3

This is Part 3 of 3 of Imperial Clothing by Donald Frazell. See Part 1 of Imperial Clothing here or Part 2 here.

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 C├ęzanne 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.

The End
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.

By Donald Frazell
Read Part 1 of Imperial ClothingRead Part 2 of Imperial Clothing

About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. I printed out your blog entries so I can have a jolly good read. I already can see a couple of things I agree with, disagree with and want to comment on.

    I’ll be baaaaaaaaaaack :)

  2. Yeah, there’s a few more words in them than my usual posts Corrine.

  3. dfimagery/donald frazell says:

    Always welcome CONSTRUCTIVE criticism, as I am usually met with stone faced silence among the artiste world, and shouts of amen for those outside of it. It is a little over the top, but I could have made it even longer, had to cut it short, as I have tons of validating proofs.

    but the coming economic turmoil I predicted is here, I wrote this at the New Year in response to another ignorant Newsweek article. Hasnt been the same there since your boy Robert Hughes retired, didnt always agree with why, but nearly always did with what WAS good, and important. Art schools have turned out lemmings who tout the business line ever since. It has become a business, and art is antibusiness. As Cezanne said, it is a priesthood. Act responsibily.

    And that time is here, and now I see a beginning, this article was about the end. I have been writing artforum talkback, as it is as decadent as they get. My wife as a designer is far more creative and artistic than it, as she has a purpose behind each piece, they have none, except self glorifcation. Decadence materialized.

    Times are changed, it is here, NOW. And art is needed, we must get back to who we are. Not what we want. What we NEED. Now is the biggest change in world culture since the end of WWII and perhaps the industrial/scientific revolution. We must find sense and order in the chaos that grows daily, our well ordered, but false, world is ending. It may not be Mad Max, but will be different in every area than it was. There must be a sense of urgency, and each to look without, not within. Our personal feelings are irrelevant, our passions for life and man everything.

    Now is the time.

  4. Gosh, the thing is I don’t know where to start. I may have to read it a couple of more times and then respond to each section accordingly.

  5. Yeah, he doesn’t take any prisoners.

    Robert Hughes probably didnt make it past modernism which may be why you like much of what he thinks is good Donald. It’s a time in art where most of my art heroes are.

    I think art is still doing its job and reflecting the times we live in though. In a world saturated with advertising, where the dollar and celebrity are worshipped it should be expected that artists will paint money, court celebrity, and pay Chinese factory workers to build/create their ideas.

    I think artists are meant to be observers, sponges to the world they live in, mirrors to society.. rather than guides to a better way of being. If artists start selling dreams or depicting a world that is all caring, cuddly, and all embracing of people, they are not showing the times we live in.

    If artists have made any difference to the way society operates it has been through showing the reality of now. Political art or propaganda art that shows a distorted version of reality has never had much of a shelf life.

    So if art is self absorbed its just reflecting a self absorbed society.. which we are. Society needs to change, not artists.

    I’m probably starting to ramble now.. :-P

  6. I agree with your point that those in fine arts have largely lost touch with rest of the American society outside of their small circles. There’s a huge disconnect between those who work in cubicles, fix machines, build things, etc., and those in the world of fine arts. As one of my friends pointed out recently, fine arts artists and art critics are regarded as elitist and is regarded with suspicion and dislike. No one wants to feel stupid.

    That brings me to what Corrine said; has society ever really appreciated art? I do not think most people see outside the elements of a brand name, colors, subject, and basic emotional like/dislike of an image in general. Learning to think beyond the basics needs to be taught in schools, and I believe that’s the solution to the problem of the fine arts’ disconnect from society. The arts community needs to help people learn to appreciate art from a young age, so that they can appreciate thoughts outside of their myopic views on life. Actually, if the government can spend focus on raising the overall education level in this country, whether it’s in math, science, history, I think we’ll see a better understanding of arts in general. Did you know that 28.7% of this country’s population 25 and over is college educated (per 2007 US Census)? When the consumer behavior changes, the machine that is the fine arts industry will change. I hope for a future where fine arts can be discussed in public forums without stigmas or detached curiosity.

    I also want to touch up on some other points you made:

    “All great explosions in art have come about not because of individuals, but changes in society, knowledge of who we are, and our place in the Universe…It was not about individualism, not self-expression, which is for children, and those who wished to market them.”

    Yes, fine arts can be highly individualized, but in aggregate, it’s still a faithful representation of the universal human emotions and experiences. You don’t think the invidualization and isolation in arts these days is an indication of where we’re going as a society? We need to change the society first, then the art will fix itself, as Art News Blog has commented.

    Also, I find that the trite art pieces to be those that doesn’t touch upon something personal–making a general statement about the evils of society doesn’t necessarily a great art make. Self-expression and humanity aren’t mutually exclusive.

    “The American art school had always been used both as a training academy to produce work acceptable to the current ideas of the wealthy, and as a finishing school for young ladies preparing for marriage into society. The two have now been blended, as grants are given by trust funds and charitable organizations run for and by the rich. They are playgrounds for their children, and others who have bought into the castrating ideology of ‘Meism’.”

    I also think it’s rather short-sighted to dismiss all the schooled artists out there. Part of the purpose for going to art school is to learn and practice the most efficient techniques developed until today in the evolution of arts. Not all art schools out there produce cookie-cutter graduates with same childish views on the world.

    Overall, I appreciate your intentions, but your approach of communicating disillusionment to the art world may not be the best weapon of choice.

  7. donald frazell/dfimagery says:

    I appreciate your comments. This is a topics that needs far more, from far more sources than just me and the world I have expeienced. However, the arts ARE supposed to reflect society, and we are rotten, adn the piper has come to take his toll. And the art world missed it completely because it had been hijacked and IS a part of the problem. Fine art and creative art are NOT the same thing, as I wrote below.
    NO great artist has EVER graduated from an art school as those who can do, adn leave once they see they are learning from thhose who cant, the teachers. Professionals, with their own concern, not lifes. ALL great art skips the particulars, Picasso did not show Nazi bombers in Guernica, he showed the horror of war, or more precisely, made you FEEL it. Art is not literary, if you can write about it and describe it completely, it is not art, it is ilustation. Art is its own language, each artist must grow adn ripen his own form of comunication, BUT, and this is where we have failed, you gotta have something to say. And I see NOTHING. Emptiness, no heart, no soul, scared children who wont deal with mortality, with the concept of god, who paint like life wil go on forever, a buncha peter pans who simply refuse to grow up. Or at the first tragedy, get all emotional and pathetic, doing over sensitive nonsense. We ALL have hurts and catastrophies, its part of life, we are ALL gonna die. Its not what you have, or how long you live, but how you live your life. And that most certainly has not been in art for decades. Its all fluff, wallpaper for parties, conversation pieces for the emotionally stunted.
    Artists, I have found, are most certainly NOT intelligent. I have found extraordinarily intelligent people who never went to a day of college. Intelligence is procesing information, and having the means to go find it and make sense of it. Art must take ALL it can get, and make sense of the supposed chaos. The world is NOT chaotic, we simply ask the wrong questions, and refuse to see the truth.
    Art has failed miserably. Yes, it has mirrored the rich, not the world. It is ONLY fine art now, that to pleasure the wealthy. And tell tehm they are wonderful and all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. Dr pangloss words, yet now candide has finished his voyage, and learned, we must tend to our own garden.
    It is time to paint our gardens.

  8. donald frazell says:

    Damn, dont see my last long post, hope it shows, but you know I am never at a loss for words.

    The problem is that Art has been reflecting its markets desires, not the worlds reality.
    We have been reflecting a face made of plastic surgery and botox, instead of what is really there. The Portrait of Dorain Grey.

  9. donald frazell/ says:

    Actually, this brings me back to Lucian Freud. His works showed the ills across class lines, yet people are mistaking it for something else, jsut as Caravaggio did, and that fellow Austrian artist, after Klimt, though he showed the decadence in a beautiful way.
    Freud has shown us as we are. You can accept that and be lost, or see the challenge ahead of us, and be revitalized, be potent. Be part of the world, not set apart. No true artist is apart, but lives his time. We may be observers, but are NOT reporters. Did Hemingway stay separate? No he threw himself into the conflicts of his time, as did Picasso when he took over the Prado during the civil war.

    art must again become potent, it needs viagra. Its sexuality is that of a pervert, a voyeur, like a Balthus, rather than aggressive like Matisse, or sensual like a Bonnard, both incredible artists of life, even if Bonnard was a nerd, and Matise a bourgousie. At least in appearances, as they commented to try to Appear to be an artist is total betrayal to art, be yourself, and work. For we are first and foremeost workers, NOT management. We MAKE things. We need to be masculine, and feminine, rather than the effeminate neutered state we have become.

    So lets get out there and make babies, our works are our children we raise and then send off into the world to be independent. No longer ours. i have raised kids, my own adn adopted, nothing is more creative than that. And exhausting. And like art, filled with failures and succeses, and everything in between. On to making more. And let them be vital adn hard working, so someday we can sit back adn be grandpas, not lonely single hermits. Surrounded by our inborn delusions.

  10. “Freud has shown us as we are”

    Isn’t that what current artists are doing, showing the ugly side of who we are as a culture, as a society?

  11. donald frazell says:

    No, Freud is rare, and an artist, and does his on purpose, the rest show the ugly side of ugly people, the art set, those with too much time and money on their hands. And make flattering things for them, that the rest of us are repulsed by.
    Art must have purpose, and join together. This garbage separates, and lies. Freuds has a kind of beauty becasue it does possess truth. Most of the rest of the “pretty” stuff is actually ugly, as it reflects the vanities, and self absorbtion of humanity, one of its least attractive attributes. A very small sliver of humanity at that.One cut off from its roots, and true vitality, and beauty.

  12. Doesn’t that really boil down to your personal taste?

  13. donald frazell says:

    No, comes down to what you are looking for in art, wahts important, the question of what art is. There is no debate as to that most contemporary art is wallpaper,s psychological drivel, materialist comforting, and whining self involvement. It doesn ask any real questions, none taht have absorbed man from the beginning, and still does, and will again as mands easy life has ended. We have been spoiled and gotten soft, how one deals with the major questions is personal taste, Not dealing with them at al is just irresponsibility. And not creative art at all, but something else, Problem is these children want to pretend they are all Cezannes, and van goghs, when they havent a clue as to what that means. It is like comparing top level basketball to ping pong at the YMCA.

  14. Donald Frazell says:

    Actually, that’s an excellent way to think about it. Olympic basketball encompasses every physical attribute of man performed at its highest level, within a team concept. Speed, endurance, eye-hand coordination, manual skills, footwork, jumping ability, fundamentally developed skills like boxing out, defensive stances, ball handling, group concepts to break an opponent on offense and defense, and so much more.
    Contemporary art is Championship Bowling. Again, a one trick pony. The can both be called sports(sortof) and at the Olympics(maybe) but the essence of human dynamism and skill involved, layered techniques and bodily functions used, are at the pinnacle in basketball. And severely limited in bowling, ping pong, billiards, shooting. Though at least shooting and archery go back to human essentials, needs for survival. All are awarded gold medals. But are they the same? The same passion and broad range of human skills?
    I am sure some sort of justification is given, some of these are in the Olympics, and have its fans, but then, so does curling. You be the judge. And as art no longer has the fan base it once did, but a very curtailed audience of family members and those with vested interests vs, the huge following in the major sports, by the millions who have played and appreciated the skills involved, I personally find the answer obvious. As do those outside the art world, who long for something interesting to stimulate their souls.

  15. well I am not totally disagreeing with you as I see a lot of work that is like cotton candy, however I have a part of me that squirms when others dictate what art “SHOULD” be.

    I have to wonder if we are not recognizing the questions posed in contemporary art because we are locked into the “shoulds” and reject the current work, just as many in the past were rejected.

  16. Donald Frazell says:

    Again, the wrong question. HOW you do it is completely upto the artist, the questions themselves are the ones strongest in current thought and learning of our universe. These have been avoided completely. Its like when Kurt Schwitters first used junk to create art, ti was obviously spiritual. The Joseph Cornell, but his are purely seml-involved neuroses, not about anythng but the artists fetishes. Then Raushcenber, coming more from Picassos sculptures using found objects, but his combined with painting, and while not purely spiritual, certainly involved it, and definitely questioned mans predictaments and place in our world.
    Now, its silliness, closer to pseudo intellectuals like Duchamp, as all is taken for granted, no earth, no blood, except ones own in selfish exhibitionism.
    Art comes down to asking relevant questions, not which questions, which change, and so art must also. But realizing, we are all building on what came before. We are born as empty vessels, with only a certain temperament and inherited dormant abilities, which are activated and developed according to lifes unfolding, and our character. We are who we hang with,what we do, and our word. Character. This comes with time, and interaction in the world. Things that can never be developed in schools. And why art is the one things that cannot be taught. Those who can do, first, and learn life, THEN do art. Those who cant teach, and so warp young minds.
    Art is simple, the focus of the work comes from the artists involvement with life. And releasing that life force in the viewer. A life force they must share to come across fully. And why those who do not have narrowed art to simplicity, things that are easily understood and manipulated.And so lacking in complex relationships, as they exist in life.
    Which is why current art is so off track, and because the schools condition the audience, and makers of it, so has become at best second rate. At worst, decadent, in the middle, just plain irrelevant to humanity.

  17. Donald Frazell says:

    Now, all these other forms of art, would be fine if the field had not become completely controlled by the pingpongers. If basketball were still played, they wouldnt look in shock and bewilderment and denial when a 6’7″ athlete with incredibly coordination came dribbling a ball towards, them, Instead, they turn around back to their games. And deny that exists. There should be room for all, but there is not anymore. Art has been denied. As has god. And so, our very existence. Decadence.

  18. Donald Frazell says:

    The denial of our role in defining man is the fear of responsibility, childishness. We do not create the definition, we discover it, its upto others to find meaning in the work. but to not explore at all, well, now THATS limiting by definition. Easy to just say anything is art, justifies the worst travesties to man, in all fields. There is no freedom without responsibility.

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