In the movie Beverly Hills Cop, 1984, Alex Foley sarcastically expresses to his friend and recently released inmate, “Yes, I buy all my art there,” when referring to a local Los Angeles fine art gallery, highlighting the derisive distance that politics and commerce have created between his humanity and fine art. Regrettably, Axel Foley’s sarcasm still bears truth on the current state of art in American culture, museum and galleries.
Western art (….but what other kind of art is there again?) began as this regional, gender and race specific lore, claiming the ability to unveil the mysteries of god and man as a universal communicator. Art, named the Caves of Lascaux an archetype of human expression, crafted ideas of beauty, gender roles and shaped iconography, categorized intelligence and made associations to power. Art overlooking all those not in its likeness, spread religious fervor, and homogenized world cultures.
As a child of the public school system, like parents with the last born, school was a lenient and benign supervisor. School then, seemed to allow teacher inspired experimentation, like poetry readings, art classes, kickball, and instrument options. School is where the fine arts became inspiration and aspiration. Art and youth are introduced and their relationship (now, dependent on socioeconomic status and gentrification) is encouraged through the exploration of talents given by nature’s virtue. This is where that disconnect between art and her enthusiasts, the Alex Foley burnish, begins because of her impetuous foundation within American culture. Biased in birth and blinded by capitalism, the boarders have been pushed, categories have eroded and power corrupted; yet in stubbornness, art ignores. The muse has shriveled from grape to raisin and the relevance of these traditionally racists, often segregated, elitist institutions are going the way of the male gaze.
An awareness was struck, teaching HBCU students from an Art Through the Ages textbook, that the trysts of creative passions by acclaimed artists, was a performance that elevated this patriarchal white male figure to intellectual, and raped his muse, deepening the roots of white male patriarchy, and ensconces privilege. Speaking from high horses, or naked and gazing women draped in fabric placed on pedestals, could aspire to be fodder for museum collections, and housed by the super wealthy. The intellectual would revel in multiple simultaneous sexual relationships, sometimes with children, while spreading disease through ignorance and malice, which often proved to be how scientists, philosopher, carpenters and architects have moved through our world.
The foundation of American visual arts supports Ionic topped ideologies of beauty, value, race and identity, with slow to widen narrow corridors, even in the face of recorded discrepancy that are ever present within academia and our cultural institutions nationwide- think Fred Wilson’s Guarded View, 1991. These organizations that epitomize stylistic classics, and aim to capture idealized version of the self, predominantly display only the value placed thinking of the commissioning elite as quintessence of culture.
The internet will kill the museum, because of the democratic attempt to level ground and provide a canvas for all creatives.
It could be said that until we change how we talk about and provide access to the fine arts, (those who create and consume) we will continue to support the rich, adding value to discriminatory practices and a growth in the alienation of the “other.” This could be a relative conundrum, like how Bill Cosby does not take away from my desire to grow-up and be a mom like Claire Huxatable.
Leisure Lady (with Ocelots) 2001, became art imitating life when associating with Helly Namad, who in service to the punitive system, aimed to teach art to underprivileged youth. A system that bejewels only a selected few, who have more money to spend, and are provided the exposure, tools and time, art then become a reflective surface for their souls. And when there are more of them, than there are of us, what has art history taught us about the future methodologies used to curate culture? If only there was a Clement Greenberg here to wrap their knuckles with kitschy phrases.
Artists, and those who serve at her pleasure, are herald as geniuses, and often receive high honors for their lifelong efforts. The biased leaning of the art world that overlooks the republic, brings to the foreground the densely clichéd soul of American history. Is this what our cultural institutions house, the religiously sketched in journal, which is eventually thrown away because the space to keep it becomes too precious? Art as propaganda, bad. Yet art as democratic, no matter creed or color, reprehensible, inciting mischief, and the unveiling of untruths- because why else aren’t art programs in all schools nationwide?
Yet, art has bolstered it’s efforts, looking toward social justice and public engagement, though the gesture often feels much like that girl playing mind games on a reality TV show in an effort to gain favor and reward. We see you, yet many still cry.