Runaway Rant: Why I never Wrote a Manifesto

Look what the tide washed in, by me.

This is an easy one. Generally, a manifesto is a declaration of what art should be and that everyone, or anyone relevant, should somehow follow. It is by nature prescriptive. It is also constitutionally against my nature. I rather believe that art should be idiosyncratic, and each individual should have his/her own approach, style, content, methods, and unique realization. In fact, I don’t want other people to do what I’m doing, and my justifications for doing what I do are very particular and peculiar to only me and my circumstances.

If I did write a manifesto for everyone, well, I have about zero interest or arguments in support of hard-edge, linear abstraction. But I do like Mondrian. Why would I want to prevent people from making a kind of art just because it’s not my cup of tea? There’s no room for Mondrian in my manifesto, but there is in my world, and that’s the way I wanna’ keep it. And without Mondrian there never would have been the Partridge Family Bus.

Others don’t see it this way, and in order for their art to have legitimacy it must be a MOVEMENT that others either get on-board, or are left behind, or are otherwise irrelevant (see the Stuckist Manifesto, for example). Why do I need anyone else to do what I do in order for it to be legitimate? Who wants to dictate to other individuals what they can or can’t do, should or shouldn’t, in terms of their own unique self-expression and visual exploration?

Nevertheless, the MOVEMENT and MANIFESTO paradigm is, er, paramount. As an undergrad one of my painting teachers dismissed my art because it wasn’t abstract, and she felt that figurative art was hopelessly antiquated. By now the pendulum has swung the other way, but to insist on one or the other for everyone strikes me as anti-individual. In grad school abstract painting was certainly forbidden, and one must make conceptual art, and it must be politically progressive to be relevant.

This paradigm supposes that art moves in great waves, and one approach completely displaces and delegitimatizes another in a grand evolution of art. Artists hold these convictions dearly, especially if the style they embrace is considered in vogue, and to automatically displace millions of other artist’s art in a great mushroom cloud of automatic superiority.

Such individuals would read this and convince themselves that I am just bitter because I am among the lost and inferior artists who couldn’t keep up, or some such inanity.

As always, I suggest just applying the same art theory or argument to music and listening to it fall apart. Oh, everyone in the 70’s should have been making jazz, or rock, or soul, or R&B, or experimental classical. We shouldn’t have had all those styles at the same time? Ridiculous.

My favorite artists are individuals who, while they may be lumped into a movement, are really just doing their own independent thing. Sure, Van Gogh is a “Post Impressionist”, but that term just means he came after Impressionism, and he’s also considered by many to be the father of Expressionism. Sure, he’s influenced by Impressionism, other contemporaries, and Dutch art, but, his style is uniquely his own.

Willows at Sunset, by VVG.

Francis Bacon was largely rejected in America (certainly in my art education through an MFA) largely because he didn’t fit into the convenient narrative of Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, Pop-Art, etc. He’s a unique figure with his own style and content. And this is a problem when we want to be prescriptive about what artists must make.

It’s safe to say that all my favorite artists are idiosyncratic and don’t easily fit into a movement, except perhaps Monet, though he’s the leading proponent of the movement he’s associated with.

Lying Figure 1966, by Francis Bacon.

Art critics, and those critical of Francis Bacon in particular have not understood that he is a direct heir to Van Gogh, which his multiple tributes should have made abundantly obvious. And it’s not just to Vincent’s using paint to suggest rather than illustrate form, but also in his idiosyncratic, individual expression.

Study for Portrait of Van Gogh III, by Francis Bacon.

Consider the uber popular Friday Kahlo. Oh, is she a Mexican Muralist? And there are those who think she’s popular just because of sensationalism, but don’t really take her seriously except out of obligation to political narratives.

Movements and manifestos are for followers and people who believe everyone must clamor aboard a single dominant ideology. It’s about, oddly enough, conformity.

I’m at the other end of the spectrum, and rather favor artists seeking their own unique form of expression, and it need not have anything to do with what is currently fashionable or taken seriously.

If I were to write a manifesto, it would only apply to myself. Can you imagine Giger writing a manifesto? Everyone must paint their sexualized, alien, subconscious, dark fantasies or vision, and it should be flat and executed with an airbrush. The subject matter should always be the future, the palette must be monochromatic, etc.

Note that people who believe in manifestos, movements, and a domino effect evolution of art will dismiss Giger as completely irrelevant, and in relation to someone like Piero Manzoni (who canned his shit) or Lawrence Wiener (who prints dictionary definitions as art). Those guys are seen as “important” in the grand evolution of art (a.k.a. inbreeding), whereas Giger is hopelessly irrelevant. But I think it’s safe to say that in a hundred years people will still be looking at Giger, but not Manzoni or Weiner.

Lawrence Weiner’s “LEARN TO READ ART”.

~Ends

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