Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Next Big Thing

The powers-that-be who ran the music industry back in 1962 didn't realize it, but the revolution was coming.  By the early sixties, Rock and Roll was pretty much dead.  Elvis had lost his edge after going into the Army, and was making horrible movies.  Little Richard was a preacher, Chuck Berry off the charts.  Were you to turn on your radio, you would hear songs from folks like Acker Bilk, Bobby Vinton, and Connie Francis.  Not hard rockers to be sure.  Oh, sure-- there was some good music that year.  "Twist and Shout" by the Isley Brothers, Dion's "The Wanderer", and Booker T and the MG's "Green Onion" were big hits.  But so was "Moon River" by Henry Mancini.  Music was all over the place.  Then came a little old band from Liverpool named the Beatles in early 1964, and everything changed.

It wasn't just their "long" hair, or that they were from the exotic country of England, or that they made different sounding music.  Truth was, they did a lot of covers.  So it wasn't any one thing, but all those things combined.  They were a band!  They played their own instruments!  They swapped lead vocals!  They made great music!  Who else did that?  By 1965, a ton of Beatle-wannabee bands did.  The Beatles have influenced music to this very day because no one else has had the same impact.

Like the music industry in 1962, I think the current art industry is ripe for a revolution.  The old guard that dictates who gets hung in museums may still be stuck in the abstract art nightmare that was the twentieth century, but the meteor is heading their way.  Like the dinosaurs, they just don't know it.  Traditional painting-- classical realism, impressionism and representational styles are gaining more and more popularity and acceptance with both the average joe and high-end galleries.  The old (modern) views will fade away, letting the new (traditional) take over.

The problem is, who are our heroes?  Where are the great artists who will finally put the remaining nail in the coffin that holds Modern Art?  Nearest I can tell, they're all dead.  John Singer Sargent, Anders Zorn, Claude Monet, Winslow Homer, and William Bouguereau to name but a few, have long turned to dust.  Their art, though, has inspired and reinvigorated the current art scene to a huge degree.  But therin lies the trouble, don't you think?  It's one thing to emulate the great artists, quite another to imitate, and right now imitation is winning.  Is there someone out there painting right now who has the technical brilliance of those great masters, but is producing something so breath-takingly new and unique as to take their place and form a whole new school of art that one hundred years from now will be just as revered?  Can realism be taken to a level that has yet to be seen?  I think it can.

But it won't be me, that's for damn sure!  I don't know when that artist may appear, or what their paintings will look like, but I hope to be around when they emerge.  Too bad they won't have Ed Sullivan to introduce them.



Jennifer Wadsworth said...

Like many artists ... I don't know where my work will take me. I am drawn to representational painting, but also "modern." I have many pieces in my home by artists involved in "modern." I like them because I can put my own impression of them into reality. Do you ever consider that photography records ... and artistic (photography can do the same) images involve the viewer to the point of immersion?

n2w said...

Andrew Wyeth!! He's everything you described!

Susan Roux said...

Ed Sullivan! Always leaving us with a laugh.

I do hope you're right about representational painting. It seems awhile since we got the respect we deserve or better yet, desire... If I call myself a Beatle, do you think it would help?

Daniel said...

Imitation does indeed seem to be the current problem.

I think the revolution (counter-revolution?) is already well underway. A lot of people think it hasn't succeeded because they're looking for its validation from the sources of authority that are invested in the status quo, and those sources will never validate it because it'll kill their investment. Most other metrics tell a different story.

MCGuilmet said...

I'd like to see those metrics Daniel. I keep hearing and reading this unbridled optimism in many corners of the rep painting world. Yet, the contemporary art scene is vibrant as ever, and expanding rapidly. China and other markets are driving demand. In fact the growth of contemporary art in China itself is stupefying. This is not to say there won't be continued and growing demand for the product of todays fine craftspeople, but I think this "impending death" of the contemporary scene is grossly overoptimistic. The next Beatles might be named "The Duchamps". It doesn't really matter I don' think. Theres going to be room enough for t all. I think better energy and effort could be given to thinking about how to cultivate markets and value versus "conquering" or "exposing" a market which has imo served some value. The value was about a different aspect of art, but art nonetheless.