Charles Krathhammar – One Person’s Response to Modern Art

July 15, 2014

I have always defended modern art even though I do not understand it, saying, “Just because I do not have the ‘code’ to unlock it, some very smart people surely do.”  Charles Krathhammer is a very smart man who wrote a most provocative contrarian article  in his new book “Things That Matter” (2013).

I am introducing a portion of his article because I see it here as a corollary to fiction writing. He says, “The role of the artist has changed radically in the last century and a half.  It was once the function of the artist to represent beauty and transcendence and possibly introduce it of the beholder. With the advent of photography and film, the perfect media for both representation and narration, art has fought its dread of obsolescence by seeking some other role.

“Today the function of the artist is to be an emissary to the aberrant: to live at the cultural and social extreme, to go over into the decadent and even criminal, to scout forbidden emotional and psychic territory – and bring back artifacts of that ‘edge’ experience to a bourgeoisie too cozy an cowardly to make the trip itself.

“At the beginning of the transformation there was an expectation that the artist would bring skill and a sense of craft to his work. Artists of the early modern period still felt a need to render their recreation of shock with style and technique. Having reached a time, however, when technique itself is considered revisionist, anti-creative and, of course, bourgeois, all we are left with is the raw shock (ex. Elephant dung and floating bits of female pornography  on a portrait of the Virgin Mary. (on display at the Brooklyn Museum of  Art Oct. 1999)

(P. 85, Charles Krathhammer’s book Things That Matter. 2013)

Yes, indeed, I do see a corollary.