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December 15, 2004



Great post! Wow! Take the rest of the day off!


Heh. Indeed. There's a PoliSci Masters thesis waiting to be written about the Marxist (or maybe more precisely, Leninist) streak running through modern Movement Conservatism. If you've got the stomach for it, there's lots of discussion at The Corner denouncing counter-revolutionary art, and exactly how much the Adam Sandler character in Spanglish reminds one of Dear Leader.


I'm with Stalin in not liking Shostakovich much--but not for any of the same reasons. I don't pretend to know what "pure" music is or what the right way to compose it might be. I just know what I like, and Shostakovich isn't it.

And while I thoroughly agree with not-me-Michael that "most art from most centuries is not 'beautiful,' 'calm' or 'pleasant.' Whether it's Christ being crucified gruesomely in the 11th century, or a factory workers being exploited in the 19th, a lot of it ain't pretty," I must also admit that most modern art after the Impressionists leaves me cold. I'm a regular (and a member) at the Art Institute of Chicago, but normally I walk right by the modern galleries to spend time with my favorites: the Impressionists, the Oriental collections, the few Greco-Roman items they have, and anything from the medieval period until the end of the 19th century. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to visit a lot more of that kind of art when taking a break from my archival research in France next month. I've got myself a three-day Paris museum pass and I'm going to put it to good use! :-)


'He might as well have said, "this is stuff that you can enjoy not looking too closely at, stuff that doesn't challenge you, doesn't make you think. Don't you just hate it when art makes you think?"'

Sounds like "conservative art" is a pretty good description to me. You know that most conservatives have a problem with thinking.


Stalinists might also enjoy http://www.artrenewal.org/

When I saw this site for the first time, I thought it was a satire site. More's the pity for us all that it isn't.


Excellent post; the flame of cultural criticism still flickers.

But take a look at "The Most Wanted Paintings on the Web," the notorious and hilarious project by Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid. They hired a market research firm to establish national preferences (and dislikes) in art, and then made paintings representing each. As usual the Dutch seem to be the most radical of us all. Ironically enough, Komar and Melamid were disciplined by the Soviet artistic establishment before they came to the US.


And if you're looking for reactionary art (both politically and stylistically), you can't beat Thomas Kinkade, "The Painter of Light (TM)." He's a born-again Christian, a published novelist, and the only artist listed on the New York Stock Exchange.



I understand his wife's sculptor collection will soon be on display; the world's largest collection of Precious Moments figurines.


Funny stuff. By the way, didja know that Hitler was a vegetarian?


You can almost see Larry beam with pride. I'm sure his wife's work adorns countless business clas hotel rooms.

Chuck Nolan

Lar, I hate to break it to ya, buddy, but what you're looking at and what your wife is spending your money on isn't art. It's wallpaper.

You could have gotten it at the local Home Depot for a fraction of what she paid.


Michael, if you like impressionists you are already on the wrong side of Mr. Kudlow. A great deal of Impressionist art was considered revolutionary--not to mention shocking and disgusting-- in its day.


I don't have any problem with the works at artrenewal.org, just the philosophy behind the site itself. This dichotomy in art is false and scary. Can one not appreciate realism and surrealism, or any other supposed polar opposites, at the same time?

Frank Zappa said (paraphrasing) that a composition is defined, and only defined, as something which "begins when an artist says go and ends when an artist stays stop." You can "know what you like", but to turn an artist's choices into a political statement based simply on their aesthetic is indecent.


At the Chinese National Opera House, after the sounds of machine guns:

"What the hell was that!?"

"That was the prelude to the opera Mr. Duke"

"The prelude is automatic weapons fire!?"

"As it is so often in life."

Scott from Baltimore


Turns out a person who paints like my girlfriend does is married to a conservative economist who conflates conservative art, which I like somewhat, with right-wing politics, which I generally don't like or consider to be conservative. Does this guy think huge deficits are conservative?

It is possible to be on the liberal side of things politically and the conservative side of things artistically. It's important both to be creative, and to be able to control where you put the paint.

Bosch and Shostakovich were classically trained and mastered their craft before going on to do things no one had done before with it.

It is a mistake to confuse creativity with incompetence, just as it is to confuse traditionalism with competence.

Let's be clear that some realistic art is challenging and interesting, and not all non-representational art is groundbreaking.

Please check out Will Wilson's art at the John Pence Gallery.



What I always wonder about people like Mr. Kudlow is what the think of non-western art. Are, say, the masks and paintings of Pacific Northwest Coastal peoples stirring examples of conservative, traditional art, or are they disgusting examples of modern art?

bob mcmanus

I have spent about an hour a day for maybe the last year at the Art Renewal Center. Mostly downloading, but also reading, studying, and thinking. A very great resource for which I am grateful. I do agree with the active artists and patrons at the site that there are political implications in most art, and especially political/philosophical implications in the modernism of Klee and Pollock.

I mostly come down on the side of modernism, and have most of the work of Dali and Francis Bacon (among many others) on my hard drive. But there was a radical change in the twentieth century, at least as compared to the 19th, and probably a radical agenda that is reflected in our art. Understanding it may help us fight conservatism.

A recent article described Roger Fry's 1910 first exhibition of Gauguin, Van Gogh, and Cezanne. John Singer Sargent said it was worthless. 50 years later you could buy a Sargent oil, that mere illustrator, for $500. Now Sargent sells for 10 million.


I don't know a goddamned thing about art, even though the love of my life is an artist.

Great post, Michael.

Steve Kite

Student Exercises.

I see these, as well done or better, every year when I cover the first-year students' exhibition in the painting curriculum at the local community college.

One has to admire Mrs. Kudlow's connections, or cojones, in getting an independent gallery exhibition with national reviews after her first year of work.

Second year is when they teach people to take that technical expertise and say something meaningful with it... but I suspect that's not in her future.


I have a feeling that much of what's been quoted by Stalin is similar to the denunciations of Jewish, leftist, aka "degenerate" art that the Nazis deplored. A wonderful documentary (available on video!) is "Degenerate Art" (1993) about the 1937 "Entartete Kunst" exhibition that the Nazis mounted in order to allow the people to identify this corrupting influence. The documentarians include some of Hitler's own paintings, as well as paintings by artists he favored, to get a sense of the kind of pastoral, nationalistic imagery he preferred. I'd wager it could be called "conservative art."


"What I always wonder about people like Mr. Kudlow is what the think of non-western art. Are, say, the masks and paintings of Pacific Northwest Coastal peoples stirring examples of conservative, traditional art, or are they disgusting examples of modern art?"

neither. its regarded as anthropology rather than art.

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