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Snow in Boston

Post #968 • March 8, 2007, 4:00 PM • 20 Comments

Arnold Arboretum, February 26, 2007

Arnold Arboretum, February 26, 2007

Sorry it's been a little quiet around here. I'll make it up to you with a Saturday post on the Assanian show at the Asia Society.




March 8, 2007, 6:43 PM

Since it's a little slow around "there," I'm going to throw out a question that's unrelated to snow in Boston, I hope Franklin wont mind.

This is prompted by an album I've been listening to where the main theme is what dark times we live in, and how the singer doesn't want to live in America no more. This seems to be a theme in a lot of music these days.

When I hear this I wonder what the point is of singing that. If you think America and the world is so terrible then why not do something about it other than whine about it. Of course who am I to criticize, I'm really not doing much either. And to be honest, I really wonder sometimes what kind of impact I could have. I'm only one man.

But really do I want to invest my time in some album where (as one of the Gallagher brothers of the group Oasis would say) the lead singer is "singing the news?" Unless it's really profound, it's only whining disguised as something profound, and it's not making my day any better.

So, I began to think about some of the great paintings which protested some great injustice or explored the dark side of humanity. For example Picasso's GUERNICA. I know many of you feel this piece is overrated. It's supposed to be Picasso's great statement on how horrible humanity is. But really what did it do except stroke the ego of Picasso and give everyone else a reason to tell him how great he is?

I know there have been examples of movies, books ("The Jungle" is a great example), and even music that has had an impact socially.

So I guess my question is a 2 parter...

1) Did Guernica have any profound impact on society? Did it bring about a beneficial social movement.

2) Is there ever been a painting that has had an impact like what I'm describing? One that did more than make the artist rich and/or get him laid?

I guess all this stuff goes hand in hand. For some work of art to have an impact, it has to speak about something terrible that is happening at that moment.

Maybe it's just a matter of that as humans we love a good car crash. We love to explore our own depravity. We love to look at a painting like this (, and realize how F-ed up our society and our lives can truly be and then go home and put our heads back in the sand and forget about it all until something catastrophically terrible happens, that shakes us for a while, until we go back to watching American Idol and having our heads back in the sand.

Note, I'm not as bitter and angry as I sound, I'm really curious.



March 8, 2007, 7:23 PM

Sounds probably strange to you, but I still think, Art changes man from inside. There are not many killers between the artists and art lovers I assume (Ok, don't start with Caravaggio or Adolf now...).



March 8, 2007, 7:39 PM

You don't sound bitter and angry, the answer to both questions is probably no, this is not what art is for anyway, and musicians who feel sorry for themselves because America is so bad need a trip back to the Middle Ages, or maybe 1943 Europe, Or Iraq, or China or half the countries in Africa or many other pleasant spots. Then they can pay for their whining with jail time or worse. Good grief!



March 8, 2007, 8:10 PM

The whining guys just do their job. They make money with it ;)



March 8, 2007, 8:14 PM

Hmm, paintings and plumbing have caused a stir when they were first exhibited

What about Manet's The Execution of Maximilian, caused a stir at the time.

I don't think that painting has the potential to affect change in modern society, it has been usurped by richer media. I don't know enough history to state anything definite about the potential in the past.

What is the value of a painting other than getting you laid?

I disagree about the music, popular music can give a voice to shared feelings, you get into it or you don’t.



March 8, 2007, 8:28 PM

Its The Arcade Fire, right? That line about America keeps jumping out at me too.



March 8, 2007, 8:49 PM

There was a long artcile on Arcade Fire in the NY Times this week. I really liked their approach to music and the business.



March 8, 2007, 10:31 PM

I've finally come to believe that the only thing we can do to better the world is be positive people. The human system has grown far too big and complex to be affected positively by any mediated experience, painting included.
If we can manage to go about our lives treating eachother with as much respect, forgiveness and lightheartedness as we can muster, we are doing all we can to make the world a better place. If making complaint rock or a series of etchings detailing the Disaters of War feeds the part of you that will make you a happier human being, go for it. I might not pay attenetion, but go for it anyway.



March 8, 2007, 10:42 PM

Yassas, Seamus. You know, I go way back with the Aegean Center. Cheers!



March 8, 2007, 11:31 PM

Whatever experience a painting elicits, it is in the mind of the viewer, it's a one on one situation.



March 8, 2007, 11:48 PM

Franklin, thank you for your virtual visual gift.

BMD72, Picasshole appropriated the "Golden Ratio" forGuernica.



March 9, 2007, 12:55 AM

Painting takes a bit George; a good drawing can whip up some head though...



March 9, 2007, 3:34 AM

I disagree with Opie. I don't think that he knows more what "art is for" than any of us. There are some who say Manet's Olympia started Modernism. Others say Courbet's Stonebreakers. Either way, Modernism grew from the idea of changing the world, or at the very least: changing the way the world was observed. It has succeeded (sp) (maybe).

Opie's suggestion that people take a trip back to the Middle Ages for a taste of real horror is the classic conservative argument. What he doesn't realize, of course, is that if we never had complainers (in the Middle Ages, the Industrial Revolution, and today), positive change could never have been possible... which is why complaint and dissent in music and art is always vital (even if, sometimes, it's a fashionable pose).

Good question.

Also, Opie, I still think you're hot.



March 9, 2007, 3:54 AM

Opie is not "Hot" by choice.



March 9, 2007, 7:49 AM

Craig, I think I do know what art is for more than most people,. I've been working on it.

Changing the way the world is observed by artists is not changing the world, not very much, at least.

Whether my argument is a "classic conservative argument" (? just seemed like a simple comparison to me) is beside the point. That bad conditions caused people to improve things just reinforces my point, which is that things have improved. A lot.

And, finally, of course we should complain and dissent. This is most of what I do here, bitching at the art world. We always want things to be better. But leaving this country because it is so bad is ineffective and kinda dumb, because there are so few better choices. These people need to get involved with political action if they want change. Whining is fun, but it doesn't change much.

I guess "hot" is a compliment, so thanks. I'm not sure I am much more than tepid at this point.



March 9, 2007, 8:52 AM

AF is from Montreal, so I take that line to mean, "I'm tired of America taking over the world." Which goes back 25 years to The Clash's "I'm so bored with the USA" and I'm sure back even farther.

As for going somewhere to appreciate the US, I'd be happy to just turn back the clock to 1999.

It can be startling how much of a disconnect there is between art and life - I had friends who listened to Fugazi but worked for defense contractors and voted Republican.

As for Guernica, I'll mention again that when Colin Powell went to the UN to speak about Iraq's "WMD", they made sure to take down the tapestry of Guernica in the room. That's an acknowledgement of some sort of power.



March 9, 2007, 10:36 AM


Marc Country

March 9, 2007, 10:43 AM

But leaving this country because it is so bad is ineffective and kinda dumb, because there are so few better choices.

Well, there's always Canada, for one...



March 9, 2007, 12:05 PM

I heard that thing about Powell, but I never really understood what it was all about.

Canada is too damn cold Marc. I've been living in Miami for 17 years and I got older and my blood got thinner so I think I will stay here. But I have to say I have always enjoyed every minute I have spent on my many trips to Canada.


moon in scorpio

March 17, 2007, 6:23 AM

Today, I realized that everything that I have done may somewhat be related to envy. This is just a hunch of sorts. However, my jealousy may be attributed to personal feelings of superiority due to my parents and the status that they think that they hold in the world at large. I am better than most - and am totally better than Catholics for sure ! But I need to have everyone agree with me on all issues in order to justify my existance.



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