- Paperback: 104 pages
- Publisher: Kagge; illustrated edition edition (August 15, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 8248901238
- ISBN-13: 978-8248901235
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.5 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.2 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,411,838 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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On Kitsch Paperback – August 15, 2001
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About the Author
Odd Nerdrum was born in Norway in 1944, where he still lives and works. Among the U.S. institutions that have held solo exhibitions of his work are the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; the Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art; the New Orleans Museum of Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and many others. His work is in major public collections worldwide, and he shows at the Forum Gallery, New York.
Top customer reviews
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It seems to me that Nerdrum is trying too hard to convince us of things that we could accept with less aggrandizement. That is, he wants us to enter into the sensuality of material, to love craftsmanship and technical proficiency, to break with over-intellectualization and to allow eternity to be seen in the temporal. I agree with much Nerdrum has to say about modern art and art education. I believe he is a master painter and I believe he has a valid point of view that needs to be read by art students the world over (if only to counteract some of the bunk that we are taught). I don't, however, agree with him entirely. Many of his notions involve lacking logical bases and copious semantic juggling. I don't believe (as he vehemently states) his work is agnostic or amoral; quite the contrary. I think it begs the question of causal-morality and God-consciousness.
But you can mull these things over in your own mind after reading this book. It's great, and a God-send to those of us who know and love Nerdrum's work and want to delve deeper. "On Kitsch" provides the ideological background for everything the man has done, and gives keen insights that are certainly not accepted on art school campi around the world.
Read it, then look at Nerdrum's paintings again.
This is what Nerdrum is saying, more or less. And in this book, he is saying WHY this is so.
BTW, Delacroix too said as much, referring to what matters in Art as 'greatness of resonance', or 'wonderment' - qualities that elicit admiration and marvel.
Let us be clear: Nerdrum is NOT out to defend 'kitsch' in the ordinary sense of the word, meaning 'garbage', 'worthless thing pretending to be something significant'.
On the contrary: Nerdrum takes up the word in a gesture of cheekiness ONLY to throw dung at those who hold fast to the idea of 'Art-as-Theory-as-Art', and would rather die than give up being pretentious. It is due to such pretentious, ideologically driven people (with small talent usually) and their infected academic cousins that so many people now equate 'kitsch' automatically with all 'figurative' art. Nothing could be further from the truth. 'Figurative/abstract' has nothing to do with a painting's modernity or antiquity. Some of the best 'installation art' already took place in Egypt under the Pharaohs 3,500 years ago.
This wonderful book will be lost on those who most need to read and learn from it. But this book will live on, if only among the cognoscenti, as an important document that stands at the head of the curve in the to-come revaluation of so-called "modern" art. Modernity, or the human condition that has been altered to merit that name, is by no means over, not by a long shot, and it should not be understood as a mere 'style'. 'Modernity' as a period in the particular unfolding/articulation of human consciousness, can be argued - as Whitehead does - to have begun with Egypt, and this period may yet last thousands of years more.
The quality of Nerdrum's intelligence, talent, and biting wit, is something that shows up from time to time in history, in times of great intellectual turpitude and perversion. The most famous version of this intelligence went by the name of Diogenes... the Dog philosopher, teacher to Alexander the Great. This book is a reminder that the very word 'Art', in being so closely related to 'artifice' and 'artifact', cannot be understood apart from 'skill', which in turn implies intelligence and the time to MASTER some SKILL in order to forge it into knowledge. But this will mean nothing to thousands of micro-talented persons who hate the word 'master' as much as they love seeing themselves as "artists", who rush to New York to become "important": they do not realize how conformist they are in collectively trying to "subvert" whatever it is they are so obsessed with subverting. Nietzsche called this sort of will-to-devalue 'bad conscience' in referring to the priestly caste. Now, it applies just as well to all those who run/serve the Art World today as a 'religion'.
Slavoj Zizek has said as much about this: the "Nazism" of the so-called Liberal agenda in submission to the commandment: "Question authority!" Why not question this commandment as well?
Being full simultaneously of infantile rage against 'mastery' (equating it with 'dead white males', etc), and enthusiasm for "the different", small people calling themselves artists/thinker/poets/activists fail to realize that they have NO "skill" any kind to really subvert anything of consequence.... that they have no MASTERY of any consequential skill until it is too late for them to acquire them -- such as accounting, dentistry, auto repair, shoemaking, etc. Poor fools.
Contemporary Art World: Frivolous? Shallow? If it were merely that! Given how "scandalized" it was when the "radical" French philosopher Baudrillard dismissed the whole cabal as frivolous, shallow, narcissistic bulldung, one must also conclude that is for the most part run by incredibly stupid people as well. It's not possible to read Baudrillard so badly, when Baudrillard was NEVER obscure on this point.
If the contemporary art world (MOMA, Soho, The Tate, etc) exists to monopolize and "carry on" the "tradition" of catering to the effete capriciousness and callous narcissism of the castrated aristocracy, Nerdrum carries the OTHER tradition of nobility, that of laughter: of the Rabelasian kind, a rumbling gaffaw, as opposed to the hideous cackle favored by those satisfied with trite "clever" statements about trivial things that can be "spinned" for even more clever "theory".
In this book, Nerdrum laughs at all the lemmings scrambling over one another to be the first to jump off the cliff, arguing about "theory".
No doubt, 20th century art has accomplished something truly unusual: apotheosis of "garbage".
Again, the easily excitable/ignorant/infantile/"radical" people will fail to see the significance of the fact that the act of apotheosis itself is not important. The real issue in Art - as in Alchemy - is always "Transubstantiation". And this takes something more than just loudly "questioning authority".
Feces in cans? A decaying cow head in a glass box? If you think that's art -- help yourself: it's all yours.
I am an optimist, so I am willing to bet that what has been hailed as "great art" in our time will befuddle generations to come once humanity is past this NECESSARY period of confusion -- for the same reason that we now look back and marvel at the naivety of faith in technology that belies those weird advertising of household appliances from the 50's. And it's not funny. Look at the serious damage to the environment we've caused due to that mentality. The byzantine "art world" today is no less toxic - for the mind. (See my review of Spalding's Eclipse of Art.)
I am waiting for avant garde artists to eat more 'avant garde food', like sauteed glass shards, and bullets marinated in battery acid, for example.
Then, I will praise their work. Every last crappy one, starting with Tracey Emin's trash.
And my promise goes for 'avant-garde' "stararchitects" too who think tilting every wall, column, and window; or sloping the roof so to cause ice sheets to fall over the entrance (like guillotine blades) will offer YOU and ME - the dull, unimaginative bourgeois sheep ! - a rare opportunity to contemplate the "meaning of life" for once. My response? "Yeah right. F off."
It will be invaluable to anyone sincerely interested in intellectually challenging the current post-modernist status quo when it comes to the "state of the Arts" today. The essays revolve around the controversial persona of the Norwegian painter Odd Nerdrum and for the bigger portion are written by the artist himself as a kind of treatise or "theoretical manifesto"(...he would laugh at the pomposity of this term) where the meaning of "kitch" (from German - "bad taste") finds a surprisingly sympathetic alternate evaluation and an interesting point for discourse emerges.
Who is the judge and what has been judged in Modern Art? According to whose criteria? What happens when "the Modernes" become the decisive majority and dominance of "acceptable modern taste" is established? Is Art for Art's sake or is it Art for Art theory's sake?
... Some similar questions to ponder here..
Besides, for anyone who is new to or has not had the opportunity to witness Nerdrum's art, this book might be a valuable insight into the spirit that's behind this modern master's paint brush.
O.K... I admit, I am biased.