Sunday, January 29, 2006

the arrogance of the Modern in Architectural Ornament

"Since the 1920s, modern designers have claimed that their work represents the "spirit of our times." The general public, on the other hand, who could recognize "our times" as well as anyone, has put up with modern design rather then embrace it. the reason for the difference in attitude between design professionals and the public are complicated and interwoven, but one face is quote clear: by rejecting the warmth and familiarity of traditional ornament, modernists ensured the alienation of the public whose tastes they were allegedly improving"


"Today all is well,we are told, for modernism's stranglehold on style is broken, and ornament has been recalled from exile. This is half-true. It is impossible to be completely at ease when breaking a century old taboo, and the self-conscious awkwardness of much of todays ornament attests to the still-intimidating power of modernism. Furthermore, the principles-that shield of moralistic ideology that modernists used so effectively-remain largely in place, a part of every designer's subliminal baggage, shielding them from the annoying task of being concerned with the taste of others."


"the new concept of genius put forth in the Critique of Judgement (Kant) had a profound effect on the status of the fine artist...for the first time in the history of western art, genius was declared to be the quintessential characteristic of the artist... Kant did not believe that genius was refinable through hard work or accessible to reason. (By contrast, Vasari said Verrocchio had become a great artist by improving his lesser talents through diligence and hard work.) To Kant, genius was a force of nature, beyond even the artist's own comprehension..."Originality (and hence unconventionality) was according to Kant, the most important characteristic of genius"

-Architectural Ornament: Banishment and Return

That last part seems to be why people always assume drawing skill is something you have or you don't, you can't possibly learn it. (Thanks goodness no-one thinks that about reading and writing!)

Isn't it interesting, all this basically comes down to loving your neighbor and being humble. Self-worship and thus arragance seem to be at the heart of all modernist b.s. whether in science, philosophy, art or whatever.


Blogger Chestertonian Rambler said...

Of course this seems to be missing one important thing: commercialism.

While "artists" seek originality, entertainers (i.e. Hollywood, advertisers, etc.) seek to please "audiences." The result (when taken too far) is a lowest-common-denominator entertainment where sex lite and comfortable predictability replace workmanship and creativity?

This is not a defense of Modernism -- because Modernism, I think, has gone far beyond trying to make something the artist finds beautiful. Instead, the artist tries insanely to make something "fashionable" or "artistic." But it is a defense of "originality" (of a type), creativity, and artistic vision.

C. S. Lewis, for instance, wrote very good fiction that it's very hard to label as "elitist." But he described his writing process as either writing for himself, or writing for a single person -- never for an audience. He also wrote in a far more "adorned" style than most modernists.

Girls Gone Wild is a show entirely untouched with any element of arrogance or artistic vision. It is a show that tries only to please others--it is hard to imagine its producers feeling they've created a masterpiece. Yet just because it doesn't represent a dominating and arrogant view of the world doesn't mean it has any value whatsoever. At least Modernists were able to make something that pleased themselves, and expressed in a warped and ugly manner the Image of God. Popular entertainers these days far too often merely manipulate audiences for financial profit.

1/30/2006 6:42 AM  
Blogger noneuclidean said...

It is true that commercialism does play some sort of a role in all art, but certain mediums are considered "high art" and those are less guided by the masses than be the intellectual elites. Architecture I think is a good example of this. The "general public" is generally put off by modern architecture, but the people who are paying for the work are influenced by the thought and the semblance of "high art."

I agree with your conclusion, in fact I think that all our problems as artists can be solved through loving God and loving our neighbor. When you think about it that way, you can't just say, "I'm going to make something that will please the people." You have to say, "I'm going to make something that will speak to and edify the people."

Thanks for writing all these posts on architecture. It was an art form that I had never really bothered to engage. I'm going to write up my thoughts on the architecture of UCLA sometime today.

1/30/2006 7:04 AM  

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