Art on the Rebound

Essay by R.Cronk

The tenets of Modernism are no longer relevant. As Western society assimilated the influences of mass media, philosophic nihilism, cultural plurality and the pervasive commercialization of culture, the symbols and icons of long-standing cultural traditions lost their ability to affect a response. The art marketís passing parade of stylistic innovation grew monotonous and reflected the desperation of a consumer society lacking the spiritual gratification of meaningful cultural experiences.

Analytic philosophies and public recognition of minority rights disenfranchised Occidental philosophies and the Western historical view. The assumptions of the patriarchy are no longer credible. Monolithic history toppled as the continuity and singularity of direction offered by patriarchal hierarchies fragmented. Paradoxes that lay hidden in their belief systems were exposed by the same reasoned search for truth that at an earlier time had established those beliefs. The art world faces a metaphysical crisis. Ideals and values once thought to be universal have been exposed as biased opinions of an oppressive ideology. Art can no longer be seen as containing essential meaning or absolute value.

The post-modern despiritualization of Western culture will prove to be the dialectic preface of a major anti-establishment movement in the arts. The longer the dominant ideology denies the inevitable truth that man is more than reason, the greater will be the rebound of transcendent aesthetics. At the other end of current reductive trends in art awaits a revitalized-garde, freed from the ascetic chains of over-intellectualization. We are in a period just prior to a cultural revolution that will produce experiences rivaling that of religious iconography in the Middle Ages.

It is past time for a breach of the self-perpetuating nihilism of post-modern aesthetics, and time for an aesthetic based on the value of the encounter -- not in the retrogressive manner of Neo-Conservativism, not based on the outmoded principles of Modernism, but centered on an existential aesthetic of self-actualization and cultural integration through art.

The art encounter provides the symbolic experience of an actualization process that unites society with common ideals and values. Its heightened ontological awareness implies a psychological identification with the art object that integrates the developing personality into active cultural mythology. While what is art is determined by the historical dialogue, the impetus for creating and appreciating art presupposes the particulars of the definition. Creative expression and aesthetic revelation are inherent attributes of the human condition. In the aftermath of Modernism, a new aesthetic will arise to fulfill the needs of a disenfranchised population for the symbols and ontological truths of cultural mythology.

Copyright © R. Cronk 1996 - All Rights Reserved

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