The Cult of Oblivion: CIA, Abstract Expressionists, and Kant

da Vinci, study of hands

Evolution and the Undermining of Art

From the cave paintings of the Horses Heads to figurative art today, visual art is about perception and subject. We artists, and our ancient ancestors, look at the world around us, focus on important aspects of it, digest it, then, in acts of passion express our view of humanity. Visual art is inextricably linked to human evolution; its best examples further our potential as human beings. Visual art refines our perceptions, explores our emotional potentials, and expands our minds. But for the last century art has been under attack.

In the mid-20th century these three forces––Kant’s philosophy, abstract expressionists, and the CIA––congealed ostensibly to champion freedom and originality, instead accomplished an undermining of art and consequently humanity. The connections and machinations are so complicated and obtuse it is hard to take them seriously, but it does make a difference in understanding them, at least in the sense of whether or not our culture evolves.

Progress is Not Automatic

There are a few things that are embedded in our DNA, like sex and consciousness, but art is one of the most powerful. It has been said that the human species doesn’t have instincts—that we have to make choices, make mistakes, and figure out future directions. We can implode, exploit wars, exterminate populations, and commit suicide. There are no guarantees that philosophers, experts, government institutions, and artists have it right. And we are only a few nuclear explosions away from eradication. It is a sobering obligation that we must choose and possibly be tragically wrong and sometimes be wonderfully right. 

da Vinci, study of hands

Da Vinci, Study of Hands c. 1474, in silverpoint on prepared paper heightened with white (chalk?).

Visual Science and Heart

This sketch by da Vinci represents everything great about humanity and art: skill, discovery, knowledge, light and shadow, science, empathy, humanism, beauty, and effortlessness. An interesting thing is that this work uplifts us and can inspire our farthest reaching aspirations whether for science or heart or both. Da Vinci’s near-contemporary, Vasari, wrote about him: 

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Want to Know What Your Future Is? Examine the Art You Like and the Art of Your Time

Newberry, Denouement, 1987, oil on linen, 54x78"

That is where you are heading. Very few people take advantage of the fact that their future is literally right in front of them. The future awaiting you is to be seen in the art you engage with. Will I have beauty in my life? Am I doomed to depression? Will justice prevail? Will I be happy? Will I be cut up by a chainsaw? Will I throw myself over a cliff or find exaltation in living in the present?

The nature of art is evolutionary–at its best it extends and elevates your knowledge, emotions, and senses. But just because it is our nature to live doesn’t mean we can’t reject life and commit suicide. Art at its worst––I’m talking about postmodernism now––shits on humanity, benevolence, authenticity, and love and leave us with nothing, or worse than nothing. This works both privately, in the deepest recesses of our souls, and publicly, in popular and institutionalized art of our time. In both cases you don’t have to be a victim.

Past all the noise, art as a beacon gives you a choice for your personal future: be a cynic embracing snark, apathy, and ineptness; or be the good person that embraces innovation, authenticity, and human potential. Duchamp, The Fountain (facsimile), the “original” from 1917 was submitted but not shown (probably trashed) by the Society of Independent Artists’ salon in New York. Newberry, Denouement, 1987, oil on linen, 54×78″. A masterpiece of integrating perception, color theory, heart, and our potential for meaningful human connections.

Take the Test

Block out some time to examine art you love and what is popular on social media sites and in contemporary art museums. Lots of people pick art that supports how they feel, you might feel angry or depressed so you could connect with rage art or emptiness. But the test is not how you feel. Rather, it is about how would you like to feel in the near and distant future. Do you really want to be angry your whole life? Die from loneliness? Or do you want to find your inner bliss? The art you surround yourself with pulls you into its path and acts as your future’s beacon. “Is that where I want to go?” In the same way you can see where your culture is heading. Just take a look at a social media site. Some of the things I see are a lot of horror-based art struggling to release hope in a dim distant light. The wisdom of Reinhold Niebuhr comes to mind: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” We can’t directly change the art of our time but we can do anything we bloody well want to with our own collection.

Since childhood, I have consistently chosen the path of artistic evolution. As an artist, I have sought and found an alternative to postmodernism, and I continue to test the limits of the sublime as I paint. Going against the grain has been at times a difficult choice, but the inner peace and joy of choosing to grow, learn, and mature is my reward. It is a magnificent place to be. Please join me in choosing evolution.

Michael Newberry, Idyllwild, 11/25/2019

Ep. 8 Tanya Ragir’s Hard Wisdom Newberry Aesthetic Evolution 11/18/2019

Ep. 8 Tanya Ragir Hard Wisdom Review Newberry Aesthetic Evolution

There is a magnificent show in the heart of Los Angeles on La Cienega through December 26th that will be one of the most humanist, empathetic, and beautiful exhibitions you will have experienced within the last decade. Tanya Ragir fearlessly dives into our hopes and dreams, regrets, loss, love, and even chaos. Her pieces are the answers to questions about how to handle pain, how to cope, and how to find meaning. My written review of the show here.

Tanya Ragir’s Hard Wisdom

ragir-hard-wisdom-12

LAAA | Gallery 825 in West Hollywood
The exhibition will run from October 26 – December 26
My YouTube 3-min video here.

Have you ever spent a melancholy morning walking on a beach or in the woods? Aimlessly contemplating little things like like a leaf, a struggling flower, or a stone, perhaps picking it up to feel its texture? Perhaps thinking about the pieces of your life, some that have caused you heartache? Maybe contemplating an odd feeling that nature can’t give you any answers?

There is a magnificent show in the heart of Los Angeles on La Cienega through December 26th that will be one of the most humanist, empathetic, and beautiful exhibitions you will have experienced within the last decade. Tanya Ragir fearlessly dives into our hopes and dreams, regrets, loss, love, and even chaos. Her pieces are the answers to questions about how to handle pain, how to cope, and how to find meaning.

It is not a show to be entertained by or to be blown away by, it is not a social event nor does it give you prestigious points–it is a quiet pilgrimage for the health and well-being of your soul. Ragir has picked up pieces of broken concrete, wood, and leaves merging them with sections of the female figure molded in ceramic clay creating one-of-a-kind pieces.

It strikes me the difference between a solitary walk in nature and visiting this show is that the sculptures are a conduit of communication–they are another person relating to your fragility, showing you respect and honor for your hardships, and gratitude for your gifts of beauty and kindness.

Please carve out a block of time, take a sabbatical, and visit this show. Your spirit will thank you.

Michael Newberry
Idyllwild 11/17/2019

Los Angeles Art Association
at Gallery 825

825 N. La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90069
Phone: 310.652.8272

Email: gallery825@laaa.org
 

Gallery Hours
Tuesday-Saturday 10-5pm

The Surface Vs. 3D Paradox Solved

06-Newberry-Color-Vibration-Study-LightE

There was a crazy split in art history between the modernist perspective of being true to the surface of the canvas vs. the classical window looking at out the world. Paradoxically, both are true but they missed what connects them: light and color vibrations dance on our cornea’s surface.

The recent color charts below are a range of colors of different tones and hues. The project was to bring each color up to the surface, they feel about 1/8″ above the surface as if they are painted ceramic chips. I successfully tweaked them until the paint raised the vibration of the color. Then I began editing small 9×12″ paintings from a trip on Route 66. In each I brought the color vibrations up to the surface yet maintained the “window on to the world”. Notice the rocking horse’s cast green-yellow shadow, and how it rises to the surface yet still resonates as a shadow.

Armed with this new insight I have been applying it to my current life size humanist work, a nude at home in my studio sanctuary. Integrating this new process will be my evolutionary project for the coming years.

Workshop Series: Pastel, Let the Color of the Paper Work for You.

Newberry, Santa Monica Lamp, pastel

Colored and dark papers can save you precious time and give you amazing effects. When I paint/draw/teach plein air I try to nail the impression in under an hour, it is a race against the planet moving. As the sun slowly moves across the landscape you will see new cast shadows, new lights, after 3 hours they all cancel each other out leaving you with muck. So in keeping the time short using the dark paper can be a huge advantage.

The idea is the paper is your dark areas, sketch in the composition and leave the darkest part alone. From there you focus on bringing out the light, driving towards the light, with the last touches happening in the last few minutes before your hour is up! This approach works wonderfully and it feels magical while doing it.

One of the reasons why leaving the paper alone as darks works is because shadows are the absence of light. The darks don’t need details or labor, leaving them alone creates a atmosphere of mystery that is a perfect foil for all the lights you will be drawing. Save time, effort, and create magic by leaving lots of paper alone. Enjoy!

Below are my pastel landscapes all in under an hour. Take note of the dark areas are just paper.

Nude Reclining

Newberry, Nude Reclining, pastel on black paper, 20x30"

I drew this the other evening from a live model. It is play on Duchamp’s Nude Descending and I have thought of doing a painting with this overlapping concept, we will see. The concept is not new, it happens all the time with life drawers doing quick poses, or a continuous pose, when the model moves very slowly from one pose to another and artists draw it as quickly as possible with overlapping marks. It also happens with Renaissance drawings even with cave paintings, dues to running out of surface.

I just uploaded to my archive.

Five Pastel Still Lifes

Newberry, Double O, pastel, 18x24"

Today I uploaded these pastel still lifes to my archive. They are in my Idyllwild studio’s drawing drawers. There is difficult oxymoron in painting and pastel which is that color kills light and light kills color, but I think with these I achieved the perfect balance bringing out the best of both. At the moment they are available and upon sale they will be framed with museum Tru-Vue glass, the best, no glare all you see is the beauty of the pastel and paper.