Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Robert Hughes on Cultural Decay Then and Now

Robert Hughes was a favorite writer of my mother's. She loved his mind, the series on PBS - The Shock of the New. I found his "Nothing if Not Critical - Selected Essays on Art and Artists," published in 1990 on her bookshelves. The introduction resonated with my sense of decay (cultural, societal, personal). Hughes regarding art:

"In the eighties the scale of cultural feeding became gross, and its aliment coarse; bulimia, that neurotic cycle of gorge and puke, the driven consumption and regurgitation of images and reputations, became our main cultural metaphor...The inflation of the [art] market, the victory of promotion over connoisseurship, the manufacture of art-related glamour, the poverty of art training, the embattled state of museums - these will not vanish...slumps do happen, and we are in one now." pages 6-7

Seventeen years later we're still slumping. Then this a page later:

"New York's loss of vitality as an art center runs parallel to events in the larger culter of politics, economics and mass media. It is part of a general aging of the United States: its stagnation, its willing surrender to ephemeral media images and unargued persuasion. It is connected, not causally but by analogy, to the extraordinary decay of American public life. But it has also been caused by a loss of talent to painting and sculpture, itself connected to a general decline in educational standards." page 8

Unargued persuasion - as the with Petraeus and Crocker continue about Iraq on this anniversary, civic life seems only to have decayed further. Stagnation - nothing is getting done still.

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