So here it is.
We are an enormously fortunate generation; we live at the era of across-the-board exhausted old and still emerging new. We live at the moment in ART history that only happens once in 70 – 80 years.
We are grateful to those who carried the torch of our ART before us in the darkest hour, to the generation of Richard Schmid, my Dad Leonid Steele, Burt Silverman, and others.
We are grateful to those, who should have been here with us today, but whom I consider fallen as soldiers on the battlefield of our ART. I am talking first and foremost about my friend and inspiration Frederick Heart, whom I invite everybody to remember… as he is certainly with us today.
We are an enormously fortunate generation who have an ability to establish ourselves independently. We witness this generation to enter Art - life prime collectively creating a Serious Realist Art.
We are the first great and genuine movement of the 21st century. Genuine Movement by no means is a “certain look” or gimmick; genuine movement is a codex of certain principles and judgments based on shared Ideas and World view that drives a multi-faceted and diverse face of today’s Serious Realism.
Now, as the reality of our movement is closing in – we have a new set of responsibilities and obligations as artists. First and foremost I deeply believe it is to come up with works that reflect this new-found position, second and just as important is to self-reflect, self-examine, self-define and to convey it to the public. Cut away from public, ART suffocates as interacting with a viewer is just as much part of making it as paints or clay.
Logic is incontrovertible, logic is beyond interpretation. Where we start is as important as where we want to end.
It is time to think about ourselves – who we are and what is it, that makes us who we are, what is it, that connects us while clearly separates from other valid expressions of our time.
It is also crucial to define our audience and the message we are to convey to them. I believe our audience is not just “art shoppers,” but the society and the public at large.
We have to deliver to the public a compelling ART and the compelling message about it, which reflects this new reality.
I. So the first great Issue is who are we and what is our ART?
In my absolutely firm belief based on a culture I am from, ART is not a product, but an Idea, ART is not a product – it is a Cause. It means that Intangibles of this objects that we create generate more value than objects themselves.
That is why ART is not a retail product, but eventually a financial instrument, based on these Intangibles. Modernism is not a product, but an Idea and you cannot fight Idea with a Product.
It is this shared Idea of ART that gives a cohesion to an enormously diverse group of some of today’s greatest talents, that chose consciously a specific language and set of tools based on this Idea as a vehicles of their expression.
We are enormously diverse within itself group, yet there’s something despite all the variety of approaches that exists as a common thread and that clearly distinguishes it from other diverse forms in today’s ART.
That distinction I believe shall be established with all clarity as this exact distinction is an Idea worth spending your life pursuing and fighting for and which defines the Intangibles that ultimately create the cultural value of our movement.
This overriding, across the board distinction I believe is the Spirit of the work being the Spirit and the World View of a Classical Humanistic Ideal and representing anything less within our format would be throwing a baby alone with the water. I believe our most common thread is the innate quality of work that derives only from the deeply embedded, revering experience of studying life and working live.
This overriding Idea that fuels systems most of us deploy is the persecuted by a Modernist and post-modernist establishment concept of Humanistic Beauty, which is no, not in the eyes of a beholder any more – relativism is just as dead as shock or deconstruction in the era of suicide bombings. What we do I believe is based on the concept of Beauty, which is understood as innately residing within unalienable qualities of a beheld.
To that extent what are the boundaries of our movement?
In my view the buck stops at photorealism, because where the Photorealism starts, Realism ends. Photorealism is a perfectly valid and widely accepted by the establishment part of post-modernist canon and we only can be that happy about any and all of its distinguished practitioners. But this is not what we do.
Photorealism is a recreation of techno-experience, reflecting last century’s fascination with technological revolution and mass consumption. In the 21st century we live with the consequences of this fascination in extinguishing our resources and seeing the humanity beginning to rebel against the rule of corporate monopoly induced consumerism.
The relationship of Photo and Serious Realism is somewhat reminds me the relationship of Solzhenitsyn and Soviet Interior Minister/Chief of Police/ a wonderfully educated man who tried quite courageously to plead Solzhenitsin’s case to Politburo obviously to no avail. Despite all personal affinity Soviet police state system and Solzhenitsyn turned out to be incompatibles.
Contemporary Humanistic Realism, as a trained, human perception based method stands ready to reflect this new cultural transformation.
It is why the distinction between techno experience driven photorealism and human perception driven realism cannot be clearer or more vital.
II. As we talk about our future and future of what we do in every practical sense – it is impossible to ignore the issue of our position toward existing modernist and post-modernist Institutional Art Establishment and about their position toward us.
I know, some people who seen the worst say, well modernist rule was predicted to fall for so long that its never going to happen – well, it is exactly what very informed and intelligent people were saying about Soviet rule…a few short years before its inevitable collapse.
There is no more single righteous aesthetic system of the day in the modern world, the way it existed for millennia. There are a number of established, sometimes mutually exclusive, even completely opposite aesthetic systems coexisting in the cultural field of our time and functioning based on the set of their own complex rules and principles. Each of them has an undeniable historic and cultural validity regardless of anyone’s personal preference.
Based on this notion the existence of Institutions, exclusively dominated by a single aesthetic system is not only an “old model” that is outlived its usefulness, it is a criminal model that is an affront to a modern principles of diversity and equality.
What we collectively call “modernism” or “post-modernism” is one of the historically important aesthetic modes, yet modernist dictatorship and totalitarian control of institutions is unacceptable violation of modern principles of fairness under any circumstances.
Never and under any circumstances would I accept a second-class citizenship status at the back of the ART bus imposed upon us by the “official” art authority of our day.
I consider it an affront to any perception of modern values for bright young talents who would choose to learn in the accredited institutions based on a worldview that I happen to share to be denigrated to the status of “illustration” and most certainly not a “fine art”. This is the crime of “Institutional Prejudice” perpetrated by the totalitarian dictatorship of a single aesthetic mode authority.
• We are not a group that is making “good” art while wining and complaining about a group that is making “bad” art, we are unfairly marginalized by the authority group that fights for equal rights. We are against ANY group ever to be in a position to suppress another – therefore each group shall be judged only by its peers and according to its internal rules, principles and criteria – anything less is “Institutional Prejudice”.
• We fight for “De-privatization” of the ultimate public asset, our common language, we fight for de-privatization of term “Contemporary” as marketing description of a single, arbitrarily chosen by the authority group – any publically funded institution claiming representing “contemporary” art process shall adequately represent the diversity of an actually existing cultural contemporary reality
• We are not fighting to replace current totalitarian aesthetic establishment with totalitarian rule of our own – we are fighting to replace the outlived totalitarian institutional model all together, we are fighting for the aesthetic diversity and objectivity of the publically funded institutions for their own viability and longevity sake
ß Realists have no competence to judge modernist expression; Modernists have no competence to judge realist expression
• Serious Contemporary Realism shall be equally represented in all institutional venues claiming objectivity: Museums, Art Criticism, Accredited Educational Facilities, Academic Research – anything less is “Institutional Prejudice”
• We fight for an equal public access as an institutional establishment cannot discriminate against an existing and viable art movement
• We are standing firmly on the position of the Artistic Freedom of Expression that is being presently suppressed, stymied and inhibited by the institutional authority
• Until that happens - American Realism is a newest form of American non-conformism suppressed by Institutional Prejudice and Discrimination of a modern day “academy”
ß Serious Humanistically driven Realism of our day, based on the concept of inalienable rights of BEAUTY - is a true “Modernism” of our day heralding the new wider stage in ART history that could be called “Post-Post Modernism” or “Super-Post Modernism.” It is now the flag bearer of the very anti-establishment and anti-authoritarian Spirit upon which the MOMA was founded, but which it is now wholly betrayed. This movement now occupies the same position Modernism had 100 years ago, this movement is charting the course for the Art of the 21st century
Now this is the message worth carrying as credo in our work and for public to be excited about, this is the message Rick Heart would’ve been proud off.