Modern Art and Tradition
“Make it new!”, was the rallying cry of the early 20th century, and novelty and the advant guard become the main measure of success in the art world. Since the late 19th century, with the ascent of the machine and the new urban experience, the western world was changing into something new and unknown, and art was expected to express this change and progress. Since Darwin, Freud, Marx and Nietzsche at the fin de siecle, the official position of the academics and intellectuals was athiesm, and art expressed this bleak view, and the so called absurdity of existence. The long march of modernity, with its deification of reason and science, from the Renaissance to the modern world, left some artists in favor of the changes, and others in marked opposition to it, particularly as this “progress” led to the horrors of World War I. Soon the art of the past was seen as not relevant anymore in this new world of machines, industrialization and large cities.
With the destruction of World War II and the horrors of Auschwitz, this atheistim and bleak existentialism was felt even deeper, and the art of the rest of the century expressed a meaninglessness and despair unparalleled in human history. The march of progress continued though, as new electronic inovations happened at breakneck speed, including the TV and computer, and the art of the past seemed hopelessly inadequate to deal with the new changes and attitudes of the modern world. In fact, it seemed that anything that hadn’t been on the TV was considered irrelevant and superfluous. By the end of the century post modernism declared all cultural productions to be deconstruct-able to meaninglessness, but I doubt this was truly the successor of modernism, since it still retains its predecessors complete atheism and nihilism.
Now as the new 21st century is dawning before us I feel a new art is necessary, one that reintegrates the traditions of art present since the beginnings of humanity, and helps heal the spiritual malaise that plagued most people in the past century. The proud traditions of faith, beauty and hope found in art prior to the 20th century can serve as signposts to lead us back from the brink of destruction to a reconciliation with nature and the transcendent, and a healthier, more balanced attitude towards existence on this planet. An art that moves beyond the atheism and despair of the 20th century, and expresses a renewed spiritual grounding, may be truly fitting to call the successor of modernism.
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