The name "modern art" - where did it come from? It must suffer the same fate as the adjective "new." At some point in its history, the term will no longer apply. It generally refers to contemporary art, but in this particular case, it refers to a sea change in art styles that occurred in the early 20th Century. The impressionists painted with a bold style that lacked literalism but was true to its subject. Post-impressionists imposed a psychological interpretation to events, while remaining faithful to the broad outlines of their subject. Some classify these two traditions as the earliest forms of modern art, but others point to cubism and abstract art as the true progenitors.
    Still, such nomenclature is bound to become a misnomer as time passes. The very earliest trends in modern art are already a hundred years old. At the same time, nothing in today's forms of abstraction tops the Dadaists, who in the late teens and early '20s applied an absurdist ideology to their art, which begs the question: have the arts lost their direction?
    If art relies on  the symbolic nature of cognition to excite the human  imagination, one can understand how the impressionists succeeded in their program. Instead of a literal rendering, they relied on the human imagination to fill in what was only suggested. Their works pointed to a larger reality that was within the realm of interpretation of the viewer. Much of modern and abstract art, on the other hand,  presents color combinations and geometric forms but fails to point to a greater realm to which these figures refer. As a result, such works dead-end the viewer in the same way as a totally literal rendering of a subject would.
    One can't help wonder about these matters as one visits the new Museum of Modern Art. A friend of mine  from Japan whom I had not seen in over a decade visited me recently, and we spent part of a day at the Museum  of Modern Art, founded in 1930. Modern art has never been my favorite, but I was favorably impressed with the museum's format and comfort level. It is spacious, and well attended, in spite of the prohibitive $20 entry fee. Besides several exhibition halls, it hosts a couple of adequate eateries, and a sculpture garden. I would say the atmosphere was pleasant. There seemed to be a lot going on, and, although my friend and I could not spend more than a few hours there, I did come away favorably impressed, except, of course, for the matter of the museum's chief sponsors. It appears that David Rockefeller, who seems to be influential in U.S. foreign policy matters, although he has never served in elected office, is one of the big movers and shakers of this unusual institution. Furthermore, New York City taxpayers forked over some $65 million of their hard-earned money to subsidize construction of the new building to house the museum, completed some months ago.
Other donors gave comparable gifts, but they had the satisfaction of having their names tacked onto a gallery, whereas no room is named after the City of New York or its taxpayers.
    These issues did not present themselves as topics of conversation for my friend and I. She would have had difficulty understanding them in short order, partly because of the language barrier, but also because she had not lived here for quite some time, and matters of import to residents had not much relevance to a visitor. But she was not insensitive to the current condition of world politics, and mentioned that the Japanese were not favorably disposed to the current chief executive of this country, an attitude that she noted was highly uncharacteristic of the Japanese.
    We could not stay more than a couple of hours at the museum, as we had to make a matinee of Spamalot, which was not the greatest choice for a play. Monte Python and the Holy Grail, the movie upon which the aforementioned play was based, did a much better job of conveying the humor of its creators, in my opinion. After seeing the play, I let my friend rest in her room at the Bowery White House hotel while I visited some friends at Alt.Coffee on Avenue A, and rejoined her some hours later for dinner. We passed the New Year's first moments at a Ukrainian eatery on 9th Street and 2nd Avenue.
    "2006" has a nice ring to it. If we can avoid being strafed or bombed by U.S. artillery, or blown to pieces by a suicidal religio-political malcontent, we have an excellent chance of enjoying a happy and prosperous New Year.1

Museum of Brooklyn Art and Culture: a project of PD Studios, March 1 opening

Public Policy

Is the U.S. Justice Department scapegoating Lynne Stewart for their own role in instigating 9-11?

Letter to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton

The New York Times watch

More bogus thought-crime charges leveled against Moslems in latest government case

Masri's name joins a long list of Islamic clerics convicted of thought crimes

Leadership Academy for New York City Public School Principals outed!

Jan 3 '06 NYT readers sound off against private donations to the public sector

Jan 11. '06 Bush Justice Department Implements Kidnapping of Korean National in Mexico

Jan 12 '06 NYT: Fishing expedition against Brooklyn Pol?; Iran and nuclear enrichment

Jan 12 '06 NYT: Islamic clerics fair game for prosecution and persecution

Jan 13 '06 NYT Tale of Two theories: Iraq wants to build a bomb, or the West wants control of its oil

Connecticut Art Scene

Three recent exhibitions

Feature Archives


Sat. May 30, 2004 New York, NY - IS GLOBAL WARMING REAL OR A HOAX?


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Museum of Brooklyn Art and Culture
The NEST Building, home of PD Studios and the Museum of Brooklyn Art and Culture in Bridgeport, Connecticut

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Copyright 2004-2006 by Peter Duveen