surreal values: spiritually adrift in the value traps

In spite of recounting at length her zealotry for “trash” and “kitsch,” which she famously claimed to prefer over serious minded films, Seligman never calls Kael to task for disingenuously backing away from her clarion call of the 1960s. “When we championed trash culture,” he quotes her as saying decades later, “we had no idea it would become the only culture.” Seligman doesn’t challenge her myopia. What, for example, did she imagine would be the logical outcome?…. Read More:

But where did it all begin? Apparently Oskar Kokoschka once claimed, in giving form to his frustrations with the modern world, that ” what we need are barbarians.” Coming from Freudian Vienna, it was the beginning declarations of something abstract, ugly and destructive seen as a kind of cleansing force, a purifying violence that embodied the cult of the ugly. Anti-art, a faux-revolutionary that could be integrated into modern marketing and manipulation as a symbol of expressing personality and individualism. The consumerist cycle if invidious comparison.

---Dali had a genuine interest in the mind and the occult. His interest in the enigma of the mind brought him into contact with Sigmund Freud. The meetings occurred in 1938, when Freud was ailing in his London residence. Dali would draw numerous portraits of the father of psychiatry. Late, he would design the dream sequence in Alfred Hitchcock's “Spellbound”, which heavily delves into psychoanalysis. But he was more like Jung than Freud, open to an archetypal reality. He created a bespoke tarot card deck; authors like Roger Michel Erasmy have no qualms in describing him as a visionary. --Read More:

There was always a struggle, an antagonism between two Surrealist trends, one embodied by Dali and other through the art of Picasso. How real the chasm was and the variability of the distinctions is a moot point to some. A narcissism of small differences. But certain truisms are unassailable .  Dali  deconstructed  traditional classical imagery and re-worked  it through an incorporation with  symbolic imagery of the subconscious. By contrast, Picasso deconstructed the Old Master imagery and left a variety of debris among the ruins, fragments and shards, that has divided critics to this day.

Dali knew that with the rejection of reason as espoused by the modernists- a denigrating where war was termed a failure of reason and not the result of unreason. Clever- surrealists would not be able to evolve into an understanding of the subconscious since this would finish up in a depreciation of the power of intellect to understand truth. To Dali it was all a farce….Picasso once said that every good work of art is a kind of joke. Diego Rivera, the revolutionary Mexican muralist, agreed. Every piece of worthwhile art, properly understood, is not only like a joke, it is shocking. It must connect its elements in a new way; the world comes to be seen in a new way. A punch line of a joke may get a laugh, or perhaps only a smile. A first view of a great work of art may make one smile, more likely not. But it will be shocking, often without the viewer knowing quite why. “So art may not be a joke,” Rivera said, “but it is always like one.” (

So, at an institutional level, we had the establishment of modernism as essentially the only art, which led to a bias against any art that resembled classicism from the interests of established art circles. Evidently, the exception of pop art and photographic realism, which emphasize the glories of North American production and assembly line, or in the case of ready mades and pop art etc., art based on the business model of the Federal Reserve printing money or virtual goods of an i-pod. The nightmare of Theodor Adorno’s culture industries.


The huge sum of money conferred on a Picasso painting and a Giacometti sculpture accords them great significance — not because they’re major works of modern art, but because they’re very good investments. Why? Is it because their works are unique, making them prized possessions, or because they were avant-garde innovators, not to say geniuses? The answer has less to do with the artists’ achievement and more to do with the fact that people are buying the brand name and getting the work along with it….

---This is the threat which Dali saw clearly and the reason why he went against Picasso and the modernist anti-art at the same time that he grew into an understanding of his own surrealist early work. Through his work Dali was able to see the dark side of man's subconscious and the "nuclear mysticism," which should characterize our time. The union of modern science and mysticism is the only way to rescue the world from the threat posed by modern science in the hands of our own demonic nature, which was producing atomic bombs, bacteriological warfare and ecological disaster.---Read More: image:

The oligarchic bourgeoisie looked back at the work of Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne and Paul Gauguin, who had become the fathers of the modernist revolution, and saw that their society had already produced its own art. The only problem was that those artists had already lost all the science gained over 300 hundred years since the Renaissance. The bourgeoisie did not need the artist as a professional painter since they could use photography for their historical chronicle, portraits and advertisement. However, they saw that art could be good business if it was produced fast. Also, since artists had, since the French Revolution, been committed to the poor, the titans of industry decided to make sure the art they supported had no meaning. Read More:

p>Breton said the key to our behavior was in the subconscious mind as interpreted from Freud. Meanwhile, in New York, Edgar Bernays was weaving his way through the same materials with the intention of coercing public opinion into buying goods and services; becoming addicted to consumption which meant, obscurely, affirming your unconscious in the market place.

…The name is the high-priced, desirable, one-of-a-kind commodity, not the work, which has a certain incidental relationship to it. This has to do with the celebrity culture: artists have been absorbed into its spectacle. Their creativity has been appropriated by it, making every celebrity seem like a great artist in the making, and every artist a celebrity in the making, aspiring to make spectacular art. ( Kuspit)

---The cult of celebrities among artists has replaced that of heroes. As long ago as 1961, the historian Daniel Boorstin observed, “The hero was distinguished by his achievement; the celebrity by his image or trademark.” Picasso and Giacometti are avant-garde heroes to art historians; to the market they are big names, amplified by money as well as the media. It is this that gives their art surplus value well beyond its aesthetic value. --- Read More: image:

Dali was not the only artist in the Surrealist movement to paint Veristic Surrealism, as the contemporary American curator Michael S. Bell calls the type of Surrealism that faithfully represents the images of the subconscious. However, he was the only one who fought against the assault on artistry that the modernist movement represented. For that he was not forgiven by the Academy of Modernism and its throne in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.Read More:


As in much else, Picasso anticipated and then largely participated in the celebrity culture that threatened to overtake serious art criticism about him. Sometimes insightful and penetrating, Picasso’s critics watched him closely, often pinning on him their hopes for the direction they felt art ought to go, or turned on him, as did both extreme left- and right-wing writers whose postures and poses he upset or disappointed. Read More:

---Paul Gauguin spent part of his early years in Lima, Peru, which helped to orient him back to nature when in 1891 he fled French civilization for the exploited French protectorate of Tahiti. This was the first time that a European artist tried to find away from the decadent European civilization the pure springs of art inspiration. The eye, as the new organ of thought, did not report to him that the civilization that was exploiting Tahiti was the same that consumed its goods in Paris and therefore he could not predict that his story and paintings were going to be consumed by the business interest of the art world he helped to create. From that time on, that world would not care any more about living artists doing good work but a about crazy sad stories to be sold to the public. ---Read More: image:

…Greenberg’s chief rival, Harold Rosenberg, who became art critic for The New Yorker, even compared Picasso to Mark Tobey who, unlike Picasso, “sought points of resistance to [history] in. . . mysticism.” Perhaps indirectly attacking Greenberg in Rosenberg’s 1975 review of Douglas Cooper’s book, The Cubist Epoch, he called the “formalist view of Cubism as the mother of all 20th-century styles. . . a simplification that has been accepted largely because of its usefulness in the audience-building process of modern art.” Comparing Joan Mitchell to Picasso, he recalled how “the magic of Picasso lay in his ability to stretch over into separated styles—“blue” and “pink,” Cubist, Classical, Surrealist periods—without self-fragmentation.”

---but the spiritual revolution of art that Kandinsky started—and I think, as I've said, he is much more of a revolutionary than Picasso ever thought of being—seems to have failed. It is doubtful that modern art ever made anyone spiritual—changed his or her lifestyle and attitude to a spiritual lifestyle and attitude—however much one may continue to believe, as Kandinsky did, "that art is one of the mightiest elements of the spiritual life, and as such is a major weapon against the modern sense of insecurity," that is, a source of spiritual security.---Read More:

Lawrence Alloway, Max Kozloff and Donald Kuspit, three New York art critics of the 1970s and 1980s, conclude our quick tour of Picasso criticism. Alloway is generally considered to have invented pop art, moving from London (where it began) to New York just in time for it to crest in the US. He brought a salutary sobriety to Picasso criticism that blended the English legacy of Fry and Bell with more trenchant social analysis. Weighing in on Guernica in 1984, Alloway held that “The success of Picasso’s Guernica, 1937, is often mistaken as the model for an art both politically and stylistically informed. In fact, it is the accidental outcome of the coincidence of Picasso’s sexual and Spanish iconography with a momentous occasion.”…

---He had seen clearly that after the Second War World a Mystical Age had began to devour all the "isms" and that man was going to be forced to face the challenge to achieve his humanization. He saw his mission as that of molding the images of Atomic Mysticism in the supreme beauty of classicism. His work after the war initiated the Visionary Surrealist trend. After the Second War World, in his paintings Dali found the way towards the Archetypal wholeness that can help bring us to unity, but in his personal life he confused those universal symbols with the dogma of Catholicism. His desire for constructive endeavor as oppose to destructive one, Dali confused with Franco's regime. DNA discoveries made him interpret them as hinting to biological heredity and therefore backing government by a monarchic regime. These erroneous conclusions totally betrayed his early tendency towards democracy and as a communist sympathizer. With the strength of Dali's money security driven personality now gone, his work is free to speak for itself. ---Read More:

…Although he has written extensively about Picasso over the years, Donald Kuspit’s views on Picasso are closest to Greenberg’s, but for different, psychological reasons. With a background in philosophy, art history, and psychoanalysis, Kuspit’s takes on Picasso are deep and varied. Writing in the Art in America special issue, he found the MoMA exhibition a “paradoxical revelation.” Unlike Greenberg, he sees “Cubism [as] . . . one big hoax of expressivity in the face of that failing sense of values masked by the ideology of art for art’s sake.”

Sensing that the paintings are all on the same emotional note, Kuspit asks rhetorically “What is the same emotional note? . . . It is the note of depression. . . All of Picasso’s manic intensity only disguises an abiding depression in the face of life.”…Read More: …The rejection of science and reason was really a rejection made by egotism in order to keep the status quo of separation and ignorance. However, modern artists did not have enough powers of analysis to see this. For unity to succeed in the world, all personalities and groups of personalities have to unite with the universal. On the other hand, if this goal is not achieved, the path towards unity will be the path of destruction, because in that case, destruction will become man’s urgency as represented in the canvases of the modernists. Read More:

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