Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Arrière-Garde?

A new generation gap is emerging in the art world. In an interview with Charlie Rose on February 9, 2008, Julian Schnabel states:

"Most older artists are going to give you advice, and you can't listen to them because what they don't understand is that the basis of your work is to destroy the standards that they set out in the first place."

The current generation of young painters seems to be taking this to heart in an unexpected way, by questioning the painting standards of elder artists like Julian Schnabel himself, starting with these:

  • Preference for concept over execution
  • Crude execution passed off as expressiveness
  • Self-referentiality as a primary source of inspiration
  • Incoherence presented as intellectual sophistication

An even more fundamental rejection of Schnabel's artistic generation would be to re-think its destructive notion of the avant-garde itself. Artists are choosing to advance the development of painting constructively, by "standing on the shoulders of giants". This approach attempts to build on the accumulated knowledge of the past rather than obliterating it.

This is exactly what today's young figurative realists members of "The Upset" and "Classical Realist" movements are doing. Hopefully Schnabel will pass the baton to this emerging generation and stick to filmmaking where his talents seem to be better suited.

In this "arrière-garde" action of standing on the shoulders of giants, let's not discriminate too much: in this recent painting I'm hoping to stand on the shoulders of a troublesome Modernist as well as my 17th century heroes:

"Green Palimpsest", 2009. Oil on board by Thomas Shelford.