Saturday, November 20, 2010

Social Realism in 21st Century Art: Part II

The following is a continuation in what I hope will be many entries about my desire that a strong social consciousness return to the Arts rather than the watered down version that some call Social Realism in contemporary art (that which depicts ordinary people in their diurnal activities). The Mexican Social Realists of the early to mid Twentieth Century actively criticized war, and anything that wasn’t in their view a human version of a democratic society with a social conscience. Also, please note that Soviet style Socialist Realism should not in any way be confused with Social Realism as an Art movement!

One more qualifier. If you are the kind of person who - stumbling upon this journal, and seeing Siqueiros' painting "New Democracy" - is revolted by her breasts, wishes to protest, just close your eyes, and please move on.


Let me start this entry by saying that, “I’m really tired of our U. S. American aversion to Twenty-first Century European style socialism as it actually exists in practice.” Does it really mean bigger government? In fact, I am concerned about our illogical fear of big government, when in reality we have handed our United States government over to the interests of the very rich gigantic international corporations. We have been duped into thinking that these very rich Brobdingnagian not so capitalists represent the benign “Mom and Pop” Capitalism of the Nineteenth and first half of the Twentieth Century. Instead, they are in the process of destroying it.

So, what is this European style SOCIALISM that everyone thinks is such a BAD word? In theory socialism advocates for public ownership and management of production. In capitalism the public gets to purchase pieces of corporations, but has no means of direct management of production. And, now that UNIONISM is also a BAD WORD, the worker has little if anything to say about his/her part in production. In socialism, production is based directly on economic demand based on an exacting measure of labor time of all components. Thus, income / consumption is based on actual individual merit and / or contribution of work. In practice European style SOCIALISM is much less dogmatic, and involves government intervention in the free market where necessary to distribute public services like medical care more equitably among the populace. All of this has nothing to do with the bogey of COMUNISM. The key thing to remember here is that socialism advocates for the individual to receive reward based on his/her own effort/merit. Instead, modern capitalism defines the individual person as if he/she were a cog in the corporate machine, and the corporate machine has become the individual of worth (see the Supreme Court Decision of January 21, 2010).*3 That decision created the avalanche toward the Republican Party in the November 2010 elections through manipulation of gullible public opinion by the extremely rich corporate world. Thus, we no longer live in a Democracy. Rather, we live in an oligarchy, a country controlled by the interests of the extremely rich, and the large corporations.

All of this anti corporate tirade started me to wondering if there is any evidence of a backlash among people who actually think, that is people who use their intelligence - which does not necessarily imply “INTELLECTUAL” [another bad word in our cultural lexicon] but that they use their God given intelligence - thinkers of all kinds, as well as visual artists, writers, composers to oppose this Brobdingnagian corporate control that has nothing to do with actual capitalism. So, I’m back to my original question on October 27th, 2010. Does the early to mid Twentieth Century art movement, Social Realism, relate in any way to contemporary concerns in American Art? I ask that question because we need champions for humanity in this crazy world of capitalism destroying RICH MONSTER CORPORATIONS.

Having dwelt on socialism to the exclusion of all else, it should be noted here, that the Mexican Social Realists of the 1920’s through 40’s often placed democracy at the center of their visual discourse. Siqueiros' artworks express an expansive vision of a world without ethnicity, class or nationality, a world that will not tolerate totalitarianism and/or WAR, in which Democracy has broken all chains that tie humanity down. It must also be a qualified statement that socialism (ideas prizing the worth of the individual in material production in capitalist societies) is often present in Social Realist works of art from the past.

Now I must begin my search for Twenty-first Century Social Realism in Art. Does it exist? That is the subject for a future entry.

I could use some help. Does anyone have examples of contemporary composers, writers, visual artists who are creating ARTWORKS in opposition to the 21st Century CORPORATE OLIGARCHY? Are there Twenty-first century artworks that look toward a world lacking prejudice, ethnicity, class or nationality?


* Siqueiros is not objectifying women, but praising woman as democracy breaking the chains of totalitarianism.

*2 Siqueiros “New Democracy” at Palacio Bellas Artes, Mexico City. From SAH Study Tour Blog by Amanda Delorey, August 18, 2010. Viewed 11:15 P.M., EST, Friday, November 19, 2010.

•3 Liptak, Adam, Justices, 5-4, Reject Corporate Spending Limit, in the New York Times, January 21, 2010 ( Viewed 11:00 P.M., EDT, Friday, November 19, 2010.

1 comment:

KittKatt said...

Thanks! I also value social realism in art, and look forward to seeing more of it in the future.