Realism is becoming popular once again in painting studios. This development is welcome but it’s also sobering. Looking at the growing number of realists demonstrates how much has been lost. Much of it is Impressionism-adjacent which is not a good path. And for many new realists, Sargent has an oversize influence, which is also a wrong path.
An artist creates a work of art by mimesis, which means imitating nature rather than copying it. Before the Progressive Era, people understood that the job of the artist, poet, and musician is to mimetically imitate nature. During mimesis, if the artist successfully combines emotion with order, the result is called beauty. Too much emotion or too much order diminishes the beauty of a work of art.
With the advent of the Progressive era and its Year Zero mentality, the Classical understanding is forgotten. Progressives question nature’s role in art and without nature mimesis is forgotten. Of course, we know that there is neither realism nor beauty without nature.
Living in the Progressive Year Zero relieves us from knowing details about the past. After all, we know the most important thing; everything in the past was designed to produce us–the crown of creation. It’s the perfect just-so story. Besides, we have the best porn and weapons ever, and humanity’s greatest creation: propaganda. With propaganda, we can make the truth false, and the false true–even rewrite the past. Truly amazing! Of course, I am only telling you things that you already know.
Year Zero frees artists from the oppressive burdens of talent and ability, both relics of the racist and patriarchal past. Artists are free to pursue celebrity by concentrating on themselves. This is natural enough but do you see the problem? What happens when every artist represents the end of evolution and is a genius–who gets the attention?
The contemporary art world’s answer is to award celebrity based on identity: race, sex, and health. Identity is a powerful filter but it still leaves the field hopelessly overcrowded.
The next-level filter is novelty. The art world thrives on novelty. In Year Zero, novelty turns out to be dead easy to produce: simply avoid producing anything shown during the last two seasons. You get bonus novelty points if your work upsets the non-museum-visiting public. It’s also a prized achievement to actually outrage this group.
The next level–the final boss–is junk obsession (genital obsession). While we’ve seen a lot of gender-related breakthroughs, junk obsession remains a rich field for novelty. I expect we’ll soon see public exhibitions of junk-obsessed activity with persons who in the Past were thought unfit to participate in such artistic activities. These artists are bound to gain widespread celebrity.
Compared to the exciting time in the Year Zero contemporary art world, the turn toward realism seems timid and unambitious. Hold fast my realists friends. Aristotle believes that beauty, truth, and the good are convertible; beauty leads to truth and to the good.