Remember When Chicago Aldermen and Police Seized a Portrait?
It’s not the so-called Confederate statues that are the problem.
The problem is the hold that Marxist art theory and criticism has on the U.S. art world.
The destruction of our heritage is all part of a Soviet-style purge of the arts, brought to you by Marxist Democrats and the Left.
The destruction is part of a movement to redefine the role of public art.
Where did this start?
Some say it started in our universities and made its way to the streets of our big cities.
More specifically, like Obama politics, the social unrest over public art started in Chicago.
Few remember when the great, first act in U.S. Marxist art criticism took place. It was 1988.
The headline in the New York Times read, “Chicago Aldermen and Police Seize Portrait That Blacks Deem Offensive.”
Into the Art Institute they stomped, those Democrat alderman, and pulled the painting off the wall.
They were offended.
There was no discussion of what makes a work of art great, or why some say the purpose of art is to offend and to challenge the viewer.
If the painting offends someone, especially a Democrat, it must be removed.
What if you are offended by a work of art that shows a Christian crucifix suspended in a jar of urine?
“Serrano, who has faced censorship and violent threats for nearly three decades, argues that we must protect all speech—whether we agree with it or not.”
That defense of his “Piss Christ,” does not work in Chicago or among the Black Lives Matter crowd, today.
As soon as they finish with the slaveholders they will start in on the Christians.
Back in Chicago, Carl Rohl-Smith’s masterpiece is still in a Chicago warehouse. It was removed from public display because it offended some, even though it is one of the best examples of 19th century sculpture in the city.
At the Chicago dedication of the monument in 1893, Pullman wrote a letter to be read. In it Pullman states he desired to erect "an enduring monument, which should serve not only to perpetuate and honor the memory of the brave men and women and innocent children—the pioneer settlers who suffered here—but should also stimulate a desire among us…to know more of the struggles and sacrifices of those who laid the foundation of the greatness of this city.”
You would expect that artists who believe in freedom of expression would defend statues like this ands the one in Charlottesville.
They don’t because Marxist art theory has taken over their minds.
What is important, now, is not art for art sake, but art for the sake of so-called social justice. Defending freedom of speech in the arts is not politically correct.
Aimee Tomasek, chair of Valparaiso University's art department, said, “You can argue that any sculpture is art in some way, but it's a loose argument. I don't know that these statues are worthy of preservation as art objects so much as historical objects — made to preserve a lost cause, a lost war. They weren't made with great artistic intent, but with political intent. And intent matters in this case.”
No artist seems willing to challenge Tomasek’s statement, a statement made with obvious political intent. One thing the Marxists aren’t, is accepting of loose arguments. It’s all roped and tied, all black and white for her, the proletariate against the bourgeoisie.
She should be reminded that when we make all art political, our art criticism becomes political, too, a politics that turns the world on its head.
Many Marxist art critics reverse the critical process. Like the criticism coming out of Indiana, these critics start with Marxist theory and then work backwards to the art object.
The results would look very different if they started with the art object and worked forward to a critical theory.
Has anyone come forward and defended the statue in Charlottesville’s Lee Park (now called Emancipation Park) as a work of art that has to be judged, not from a political or Marxist point of view, but simply as a work of art?
You’d expect some artists to do so, but many are afraid. Like the Soviet art world of old, the present art world is so dominated by Marxists under the banner of multiculturalism or feminism, that artists risks their career by going against the tide.
Other artists are so committed to the politics of progressivism that they cannot see how someday their own art may be destroyed by a changed politics.
As to the Marxist art critics in New Orleans, remember that New York sculptor Alexander Doyle was hired to sculpt the statue, which was first installed in 1884. Born in Ohio, Doyle went to Italy to study sculpture in Bergamo, Rome, and Florence. While in Italy, Doyle’s talent was so recognized that he was made an honorary member of the Royal Raphael Academy of Urbino.
We don’t know if any of Doyle’s relatives owned slaves of any kind. But no matter. In the eyes of Marxist critics, he should have identified with the proletariat and had enough good sense and moral virtue, especially retroactive moral virtue, to have declined the Lee commission.
Like Carl Rohl-Smith’s Chicago statue, the Lee statute in Charlottesville started out as a memorial and gift to the city. In 1917, “McIntire gave the site to the City of Charlottesville in order ‘to erect thereon a statue of General Robert E. Lee and to present said property to the City as a memorial to his parents…'"
“Henry Shrady was commissioned to execute the sculpture in 1917.” For those who don’t remember, Henry Merwin Shrady was an American sculptor, best known for the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial on the west front of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Writing in the American Review of Reviews for 1922, Albert Shaw says of Shrady’s work, “Mr. Shrady’s modeling of horses in action has hardly been equaled by any other sculptor.”
Would Aimee Tomasek reply to this loose evaluation of Shrady’s work by saying, “O.K., but it not the horse we object to, but the man riding the horse?”
This suggest a compromise. Mutilate the art by leaving the horse and taking the man. But that will not work for Marxist critics. They are driven by a new purity.
In their quest for political purity, when will BLM ask for Shrady’s statue of Grant in Washington, D.C. to be removed?
Should we not preserve Shrady's public works, no matter what politics surrounds them?
It has been said that Henry Merwin Shrady also created some of the finest bronze wildlife and Indian sculptures of the American West.
“Too bad,” the Marxist art critics say. “Melt down those bronze buffalos.”
How many slaves did Shrady’s relatives own? And if he did own any slaves, so what, he was white so by definition he was a racist.
It has been asked how can their be art after Freud and Marx? The attacks on public art in Chicago, New Orleans and Charlottesville show us that the future of public art and memorials is dead.
Marxist art critics are going to make sure we have a city that is gray, modern and filled with gigantic puppies by Jeff Koons.
Memory by its very nature has become offensive.
In the meantime, don’t forget that the Coliseum in Rome was built by Jewish slaves captured when Jerusalem fell in 70 AD.
Does it offend your Marxist eyes to gaze upon those arches?
The ghost of Alaric rides with the Democrats.