Oh the Humanity!

To say I don’t pay much attention to modern ‘art’ is a gross understatement. In truth, I try to block modern ‘art’ from my system. Yet, in a strange reversal of fortunes, I found myself visiting not one but three modern art exhibitions in past few weeks. I had hoped to blog that my prejudice is washed away. In fact, the opposite just happened: my disdain is further cemented.


Above left the picture of a gallery marked ‘installation in progress’ in the MoMA. Judging from the quality of the other art on display in the MoMA (above right, a display of cardboard boxes), I will say the distinction is blurred between what is modern and what is left sloppily unfinished.

I was in the MoMA, the great citadel of modern art in New York, but I found less than a fifth of its collection interesting. I like impressionism, admire the efforts behind pointillism and accept cubism. However, as I descend into the lower levels of the MoMa, the level of art portrayed also diminished. I was confronted with monochrome or even blank canvases which looked eerily like an awful cutout from a Piet Mondrain. I was confronted with the canvases on which paint is dribbled (sometimes thanks to Jack the Dribbler himself) which would be a museum worthy piece only if it had been done by an orangutan.

When I was not making judgmental comments on the creativity (or lack thereof) of the modern artists, I was being assailed by modernist sculpture or performance art–folded or torn pieces of paper, bundles upon bundles of cardboard boxes, and one man’s sadistic efforts to cage himself. This Kafkaesque performance art (Hungerkunstler, anyone?), albeit not pointless, is nothing but a shameless, narcissistic and even a pathetic ploy of a failed artist.

Among the modern artists, Andy Warhol is someone whom I can at least accept (although with serious doubts about the man’s mental stability). That is why I went to de Young Museum in San Francisco yesterday to look at Andy Warhol exhibition. Although I can tolerate atrocious product placement in his work (Campbell’s soup cans, Coca-Cola, Brillo soaps), some work–especially those done in his Silver Factory, a den whose ‘creativity’ lies in it being covered by aluminium foil–totally baffles me. The work seems the handiwork of a bunch of fraternity pledges having the time of their life.

The worst, however, is John Cage’s Four Minute Thirty-Three Second recording–which is less modern art than not-even-elaborate con-trick. Yet, Warhol, Cage and others left behind a legacy–a legacy now cherished only by their successor modern artists whom, I believe, now includes a bunch of 5-year olds (or those with mental agility of a 5-year old) who probably spent as much time with their brushes as I with my toothbrush.

Yet, this morning, I saw the news that Vatican has been trying to bless modern art. This following Pope John Paul’s blessing of breakdancing a few years back, I wouldn’t say I am surprised. I am just disappointed in the humanity. I may just be a disgruntled snob but I believe a disgruntled or confused mob makes up a silent majority. I have a gut feeling that we, the silent majority, usually walk through these modern art gallery scorning privately, or laughing cynically or mocking shrilly at incongruent, incomprehensible, abhorrent modern art. Well, at least, I know I do.


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