The two assigned readings for this quarter both touched on the emergence of modern art, the first, by examining the lawsuit between James Whistler and Ruskin, who some cite as one of the most important events in the history of modern art, and the second, by describing the Middle eastern modern art movement, a movement that until recently, overlooked by much of the western world.
As a huge fan of Whistler’s work (while knowing very little about the famous lawsuit), I found the Guardian article to be incredibly interesting. Not only has he created what I find to be some of the most aesthetically interesting abstract pieces, the article says that he himself was the very first to “declare modernism's affinity for the abstract.” Having only seen his work and knowing little about him as a person, I was surprised by the author's descriptions of Whistler, as a “ endlessly flawed” yet “brilliant” character (2), as well as a sort of performer (1). I’m not sure if I would have thought to group Whistler’s work with that of Duchamp and Dali, but that is exactly the author does, citing him as the very first in a tradition of “low modernists.” (4) Prior to reading I had not know that the modernists movement was split along lines of “high” and “low” modernism, and I am now curious to learn more about the distinction. I must have seen Arrangement in Grey and Black No 1 (1871) (included in the above slideshow) a hundred times but I also never knew, or considered it as a “hilarious” and potentially mocking piece (2); as much a political statement as an aesthetically pleasing painting.I liked learning about Whistler's championing of modern art as something with “political value” (2), especially in conjunctions with any of my reading on Middle Eastern art, which often highlights the fact that lots of modern art in the Middle East reflects and comments on issues of politics.
I was confused slightly by the first paragraph that sets up the article. If, but the end of the paragraph, the author claims that, of the two, the Whistler Vs. Ruskin case is more pertinent to the art world than contributions of Edouard Manet, then why is the is Whistler’s lawsuit the one possible “origin of modern art” deemed less serious?(1) If it “launched modern art's ignoble second self” then why would it be anything less than serious?
The second article was also radical. It also talked about the emergence of the modern art movement from a non western perspective. It touches on the “thorny, uncomfortable” reality that much of the art world didn’t really recognize the modern art movement in the Middle East., or dismissed modern Middle Eastern art as simply “pastiche” copies of Picasso or Braque. (2) Much of the academia, it seems, could only see Middle Eastern art that was created throughout the 1900’s as attempts to reproduce western art, instead of recognizing the ME’s amazingly unique contributions to the modern art movement. The quote that sums it all: “We have remnants of the colonial way of looking, particularly when it comes to modernism.” (Shabout, 2). The article then dives into all of the Middle Eastern artists that art history has, until recently, seemed to ignore,: Saloua Raouda Choucair (b. 1916), who who “developed a style of fluid, richly colored painting, both figurative abstract, and totemic sculpture made of smooth, interlocking organic forms” (3), and Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian (b. 1924),” whose kaleidoscopic glass mosaics on shaped supports add a new chapter to the history of hard-edge painting”(4). I particularly admired the work of Kazimir Malevich.
Simply put, both articles, we see individual and groups forcing us to re-examine, and re-discover, the global modern art movement. People whose work was ridiculed, called fraudulent or fake by the art academia, but who continued to create anyway and by doing so, helped to shape the art world as we have it today.