View Single Post
Old 08-29-2006, 03:36 AM
Cantab's Avatar
Cantab Cantab is offline
Registered User
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Cambridge, England
Posts: 440
Re: Abstract Art vs Realism

I personally think that part of the problem for realism in the 20th century was a crisis in confidence, and this fatally undermined it at the forefront of art history. The 20th century saw the development of a new scientific elite, who rewrote the nature of ‘reality’ (yep, it’s not what you see out there at all, folks!). Einstein rewrote time/space; the development of biology and pyschology rewrote how we relate to the world and see it. Eventually modernism, and then postmodernism, pointed out that there is no reality to depict (or if there is, you probably invented it, and are in any case only asserting your own narrative over others, and your own world view over others). Well, that left traditional realism precisely, well, nowhere. The result: just as photography undermined one aspect of realism's domain in the nineteenth century, the artist’s claim to representation was lost. Scientific formulae replaced art for the representation of reality. The result of this: representational art became a backwater (no offence). It’s legitimacy was fatally undermined for all artists who took the relation of their art to ‘things as they are’ seriously. Of course, statuary continues, and strict realism in various forms is still a joy to behold. It just doesn’t make sense in the modern world. As with medieval and Renaissance art, the world view that underpins our age dictates the art. Realism is the past because the confidence in appearances that formed it has gone. All gone. And I’m not sure what to feel about it either, or HOW to feel about it, since I may be just another person asserting my own narrative. Jacob Bronowski wrote, in the 1970s, discussing the implications of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle for thought and knowledge, that there is only one thing you can now be sure of, and that is this: if you think you are right, you are certainly wrong. This is where we are, then - assured realistic surfaces? They are just wrong!

Modern abstraction perhaps starts with Cubism, That was Picasso/Braque's attempt to deal with the crisis in point of view (a very 20th century dilemma) and an attempt to apply a (pseudo) scientific approach to representation. After this, and the African experiments in cross-cultural experimentation, the limitations and weaknesses in European representational art were foregrounded, with the result that even those who continued to commit to figurative work (Picasso;Hockney, etc) could never do it unselfconsciously ever again. It's worth remembering that Picasso abandoned realism - that's were he started. His world view became 'modern', and he sensed before most others, that this meant realism must go.

Last edited by Cantab : 08-29-2006 at 04:25 AM.
Reply With Quote