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Hopper's Drug Store - prelude

Post #1001 • May 9, 2007, 9:40 AM • 1 Comment

Yours truly, in response to Ed Winkleman's analysis of Jed Perl's Laissez-Faire Aesthetics:

Ed, this is a thoughtful reading of Perl's essay, which in turn is an excellent complaint. His distinction between popular culture and high art is one for the ages.

The Democracy of Access angle may be a bit of a stretch, but there's something to it. The current market, in all its cash-surfeited glory, operates by legitimizing middlebrow taste. Appeals for better taste are extremely difficult to make positively, because good art is not defined by standards and the ability to detect it, which we call taste, operates intuitively. Negatively, however, he at least has a shot. He makes a case that the alleged virtue of access in its various forms runs contrary to the private experience of high art. He shows that Currin's and Yuskavage's works fail in ways that point to serious miscalibrations in the way that the contemporary market assigns value, and the result is a flattening of all artistic experience.

I don't think that Perl was arguing that we should block out popular culture, as you put it, but to recognize it as such, to recognize high art as such, and understand that these are not the same experience. Your assertion that Currin and Yuskavage are reflecting modern myths, if you'll allow me to paraphrase it that way, may be apt. But artists like Käthe Kollwitz, Balthus, Bruno Schulz, Frans Masereel, Philip Guston, Stuart Davis, and many others have demonstrated that you can draw from contemporary sources and current events without producing cynical baloney like Currin and Yuskavage do.

I think Currin and Yuskavage's work represents profound misunderstandings about what makes popular culture so wonderful in the first place. Yesterday I was looking at Hopper's painting of the drugstore advertising Ex-Lax on the awning. There's a way to work with the modern story that results in sublimity, and he proves it.

Stand by for images.




May 9, 2007, 10:36 AM

Right on, Franklin. The cubists, and even more Stuart Davis, used popular imagery in complex formations. These days, one doesn't need to make work as dumb as TV to make things that are influenced by it.

I alos like the use of the word baloney - I'll never be able to look at Currin or Yuskavage's treatment of flesh the same way again...



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