Mediocre artists, forever disappointed that they don’t match up, have a hard time acknowledging history’s great artists. Michelangelo, Monet, Vermeer, and Rembrandt are hard mentors. One way second-rate artists work around this is to change the rules of aesthetics. The most extreme case is postmodern aesthetics, which obliterates the importance of mastery of the medium, or using any medium at all, and believes shock concepts are the essence of art requiring no skill.
Built into art is what I call the evolutionary gene: it is a trigger to develop humanity’s mental, perceptual, and emotional potentials. A good example is Aeschylus’ drama The Oresteia, which inspired confidence in the radical vision of democracy. Another is Monet’s explorations of the colors of daylight, which was an important innovation in how we see.
Unfortunately many silly artists and their admirers, wanting fame and fortune yet lacking the skills to offer us evolutionary innovations, snarkily dismiss the very things that make great art great. They rid themselves of the pesky issues of form, light, and spatial depth, and if they are clever, they even get the art world to believe that emptiness, flatness, or junk are tools of true genius. Then call mastery old-fashioned.
Yet in spite of their efforts, human perception will not be denied, especially in the case of visual art. How we see matters to every one of us. Just think of how amazing it is that we can have millions of cars on the road driven by people who can reasonably judge distance, movement, objects, and negative spaces (the distances between objects). Isn’t it the height of pretentiousness when a visual artist throws away visual perception and expects the audience, who have mastered visual perception, to contemplate their mind-numbing, nonsensical works?!
The saddest part about this popular con is that pretenders are asking you not only to lie to yourself and not trust your perception, they are asking you to devolve. If you are careful and protect your evolutionary gene you can rebuff their attacks, save yourself from becoming a moron, and celebrate what it means to be a vibrant human.