The portraying of the mundane and banal, the glorification of the ordinary and a reinforcing of cultural narcissism, the mantle of manifest destiny and the core values of American exceptionalism. Illustrations that endlessly repeated variations of boredom with a hint of the dark underside of inertia. Rockwell is the epitome of a larger phenomenon. The phenomenon of American innocence. The necessary illusion that engages the individual in a complex engagement with the self that avoids the difficult task through the use of disavowal. That, denying what one secretly likes. It’s a kind of lie that dallies with false convictions of personal purity where ethics are malleable and to be shaped without completely short circuiting them.
Like using Shirley Temple as a proxy for charity- the lack therof- by the American wealthy in the Great Depression. A bottomless myth of American innocence that can be killed off only to spring up again like pesky weeds. It involves kitsch, sentimentality, the maudlin, that is about innocence, but its central locus is about the ways we manufacture innocence, the innocence industry, and our complicity in this artificial construction in which innocence is essentially conscious decision not to know something. A lie. A good lie, but a falsehood overflowing with the pretense of ignorance.
…the one thing that rockwell DID seem to bring to the table was a cynicism that ran so deep that he commercialized the style into a racket – and got rich doing it. that may sound harsh, but it’s the way i see him. his heavy-handed mythic style of nostalgic sentimentalism is so smarmy that it even tugs at MY heartstrings – and THAT’S hard to do. he was really good at playing his audience in the most insidiously direct fashion. the worst part is that norman rockwell was a great hustler/salesman. he took a common and uninspired ‘craft’ and turned it into a hype-driven commercial machine that gave his name a brand cachet. you wanted ‘norman rockwell’ just because he was ‘norman rockwell’. the fact that his pictures were pretty and cute an tugged a tear from your eye and a smile from your lips is pure gravy. he MADE you want to have one. it made him a superstar….
…but norman rockwell didn’t limit his efforts to just saturday evening post cover illustrations. he sold his originals for top dollar even during his lifetime – as if he was a real ‘fine art’ gallery artist, even though he played no real role AT ALL in the 20th century dialog of fine art. he faked it. he also continued to take on big-money clientele and do advertising work for them throughout his entire life. even as late as this ad (1964) he was selling his services to chemical companies, the nuclear industry, insurance companies and anybody who would give him enough cash. in return he’d give “the people” what they wanted (aka, what the client wanted to sell the rubes.) i even found norman rockwell illustrations on the covers of fetish magazines like “gun digest.” Read More:/2012/02/getting-tearful-shmaltzy-fantasy-images/ a
… The young Rockwell knew years of partying and adulterous promiscuity, and he as well as his second wife Mary battled clinical depression. Rockwell’s life included much that could not have found a place in the seemingly innocent world of his work. But in most ways he was, indeed, “Normal.” Nevertheless, the art allows a space for the perverse that the life does not, and Rockwell projected a good deal more onto canvas than a desire for a perfect world. And yet even this perversity is normal—that’s precisely the point. Rockwell’s imagination worked like that of most people, though with greater visual intensity. The perversity of his paintings is the perversity of everyday life, omnipresent though disavowed. … What makes the work noteworthy is its ability to stage disavowal in such a way that it analyzes us. De te fabula narratur—“Of you (viewer, reader) the tale is told!”…Sometimes Rockwell strikes me as someone in the grip of forces he does not recognize or understand, and sometimes he seems a canny and brilliant analyst of those same forces.( Halpern) Read More:http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/314405.html
Donald Kuspit:Many years ago Meyer Schapiro argued that there was a radical difference between art’s spiritual value and its commercial value. He warned against the nihilistic effect of collapsing their difference. I will argue that today, in the public mind, and perhaps in the unconscious of many artists, there is no difference. The commercial value of art has usurped its spiritual value, indeed, seems to determine it. Art’s esthetic, cognitive, emotional and moral value — its value for the dialectical varieties of critical consciousness — has been subsumed by the value of money….
…Art has never been independent of money, but now it has become a dependency of money. Consciousness of money is all-pervasive. It informs art — virtually everything in capitalist society — the way Absolute Spirit once did, as Hegel thought. Money has always invested in art, as though admiring, even worshipping, what it respected as its superior — the true treasure of civilization — but today money’s hyper-investment in art, implicitly an attempt to overwhelm it, to force it to surrender its supposedly higher values, strongly suggests that money regards itself as superior to art….
…Art’s willingness, even eagerness to be absorbed by money — to estheticize money, as it were — suggests that art, like every other enterprise, from the cultural to the technological (and culture has become an extension and even mode of technological practice in many quarters) is a way of making and worshipping money — a way of affirming capitalism.Read More:http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/kuspit/kuspit3-6-07.asp a