Friday, April 5, 2019



Or so says Professor Martin Lang in a post on Facebook that my Friend Edgar Jerins put up a while back, and I think Edgar's post to the contrary makes an excellent. 

Edgar wrote: This [following article represents] ...the idiotic thinking that is being preached across the land. Makes me sick.

"Life drawing was developed as a pedagogical tool to train Western artists to make figurative painting and sculpture. The reason that it still exists in some art schools is mostly down to tradition. While life drawing may be useful for some types of artist, it is not applicable to all. I am not saying that its teaching necessarily prohibits the development of good, exciting and relevant artists. My argument is that it is not necessary and does more to hinder the development of such artists than it does to encourage them. To teach it is to enforce a hierarchy: representation over abstraction, traditional forms of art over more avant-garde kinds. It is also to deny art’s radical potential: must art activists first learn such conservative lessons? Embedded within this hierarchical and authoritarian position lies a reactionary and conservative politics. Nostalgia and fascism have always walked hand in hand. Think of Mussolini harking back to the Roman Empire, or Hitler’s love of classical art and architecture. Today we might think of Trump’s slogan “make America great again” and Brexit talk of “taking back control”. We urgently need free thinking artists able to critique contemporary nostalgia, populism and even outright racism and sexism. For that we need a pedagogical approach that is progressive, inclusive, and libertarian. This will allow for more progressive forms of art to develop and emerge – including non-Western kinds. For these reasons, I am against the teaching of life drawing."

Art Professor Martin Lang. University of Lincoln 2017

"Life drawing was developed as a pedagogical tool to train Western artists to make figurative painting and sculpture."

Right out of the gate Martin Lang shows us how deeply limited his knowledge of art history is. Has he not seen Goya’s and Rembrandt’s etchings, the line drawings of Ingres, Van Gogh’s hundreds of ink landscapes (some of his strongest work in my opinion), Leonardo’s endless books of sketches and anatomical studies, the studies and fresco cartoons of hundreds of excellent draftsmen and women, the graphic works of Kathe Kollwitz and countless other artists for whom drawing was an art in and of itself? And if he doesn’t know this work, what business does he have teaching art?

"It [teaching drawing] is also to deny art’s radical potential: must art activists first learn such conservative lessons? Embedded within this hierarchical and authoritarian position lies a reactionary and conservative politics." 

Neo-Modernism needs to continue seeing itself as radical, even though it is today's tired status quo whose "radical" efforts have led it into endless and mind-numbing repetition of exhibits that lack any individualism whatsoever. To continue to see representationalism as "conservative" is perhaps the biggest crock of horseshit being shoveled into the minds of today's art students. To begin with the assertion (and its, it-goes-without-saying-type assumption) firstly that figure drawing is conservative, and secondly that anyone who wants to do it is conservative-minded, is entirely antithetical to modernists like De Kooning who placed drawing skill at a premium; then to assert, as this jackass does, that drawing is embedded in authoritarian thinking and a thing of the past (Lang says "traditional forms" but what he means is so vague that he leads one to assume that he simply means all forms of art that include drawing and happened pre-Picasso, that is, art of the Past), and then to draw the conclusion from those already weak arguments, that all value placed in practices of the past is mere sentimentalism, is so logically flawed that it's hard to imagine any discipline that considers itself academic tolerating it. THEN to assert that all things sentimental are tantamount to fascism & to Trump-style populism is beyond the beyond. But his entire haughty postulate is typical of neo-modernism's lack of logic and its bulldog attitude toward art in general, and is a perfect example of its arrogance - which is its stock in trade - not to mention an exhibition of its smug position in dominating art-academia and the museum establishment: no real revolutionary could get away with such feeble-minded deductions.

That this kind of weak-minded rhetoric has gained any traction with today’s young students so pisses me off. Below is a photo of Hilary Hahn, a major star of the contemporary music world. She is Mozart brilliant and when she was 17, already a graduate of Curtis (she was accepted into Curtis at age 10), she released her first album. She won a major award for one of her own contemporary compositions and funds a project in which she commissions dozens of other young contemporary composers to write more. She is the definition of a modernist.

She plays Bach every day. She says, “Bach is, for me, the touchstone that keeps my playing honest.” By Martin Lang's yardstick, that makes her a hopelessly conservative, sentimental fascist and not the modernist - one of the foremost musical modernists writing today - that she is.

Do you believe for an instant any musician would be a musician at all, if they were not a master of their traditional craft? If, as would be the exact equivalent of an artist deciding that drawing is irrelevant, a musician decided that knowledge of his/her instrument and of music theory in general, decided that the core of an education in music, were suddenly specious? That practicing and learning to play with skill were mere conservative, sentimental, fascistic trends that should be abandoned? If a musician ceased to make sounds altogether?

The argument and general belief of Martin Lang, dufus extraordinaire, and the rest of the neo-modernist establishment is why I believe art needs a new definition that grounds it in visual expression with drawing (think of it as visual perception and response to nature, for those who have a hard time with the actual word “drawing”) as its cornerstone, or Core. Craft is not art, but there is no visual art without craft. Teaching its opposite and the seriously weak logic and type of thinking that led Martin Lang to his conclusions is teaching poor habits of thought as well and encouraging the worst kind of philosophical deduction-making, a kind of logic that necessarily denies further exploration (talk about conservative!), and to my mind is flat-out dangerous.

Musician & Composer Extraordinaire Hilary Hahn

Written by Doug Ferrin

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