Constants in Art

Society is continually changing, and with it culture, art. New views of established conventions, based on new data and different means of communication, make what had been established as the norm contemplate other irreverent realities with these principles.

Although these changes are consubstantial with the life of humanity, we can see that the generations, who have achieved recognition with the mastery of some artistic forms, hardly assume this changing reality. It is very difficult for a poet trained in the sixties to understand the new schemes of young people, because he has not lived them as his own in his gaze, in his formative experience. This is how the famous intergenerational abyss is produced. On the other hand, the young man is convinced that the interpretation of art begins with him, and this also limits him. They produce watertight compartments that are difficult to communicate with each other, because the same people who are now sixty years old, when they were thirty, drank from that collective source that implies a certain generation and rejected previous generations.

But if we carefully analyze the works of many artists who are currently building their language, we see that they start from conclusions formed through the study of the past. Even with the recovery of their techniques and concepts. For example, in conceptual art and installation, the proposals developed in the sixties and seventies are being revised. In painting, there is also an emphasis on the creation of the image using realistic, photographic techniques. In any case, the incomprehension between generations is given because their different preferences are based on a look towards certain authors and not on the analysis of art history. One lives in the present without thinking that what we admire has deep roots that have developed through successive authors and eras. This is the case of the influence of Miguel Hernández, of his knowledge of Spanish mystical poetry, on many poets who will surely not read San Juan de la Cruz.

It is evident that encyclopaedic knowledge is not necessary, but the very reflection on language implies this curiosity, and to understand the reason for the different artistic movements. In the 1970s in the United States, most art students knew Warhol’s work in depth, but were unaware of Rubens or Rembrandt’s work. It seemed as if American art had been born with Pop art, and this was the only model to observe and analyze. However, authors such as Warhol, Rauschenberg, studied Leonardo and all the art prior to them that could give them greater perspectives, to include in their work, and reach a height in understanding the different movements of modernity.

The greater the social freedom, the greater the capacity for criticism, analysis, and changes in structures are more important. Thus in the XX, XXI, in the life of a generation different artistic conceptions happen and are simultaneous. We can no longer remain in an epoch, without the capacity to understand the next step that is inevitably going to be taken. Because art is always an activity that advances in an unpredictable way.

Above all in western culture, a tendency, a style, is followed by others, often opposed, depending on many sociological, political, economic, cultural, etc. factors. In reality, the object, the artistic action, is a reflection of all these conditioning factors. The influences between the past and the present are multiple, there is a continuous flow of knowledge, where the artist can find his reference of support at any time, as long as he understands it and integrates it within his own knowledge. In Madrid, Wagner’s opera Tristan e Isolda is being represented with a video by Bill Viola as the basic and main set design. Romantic music can be mixed with the more modern concept of creation of the scenic space, with digital techniques, of an American video-artist, on the other hand, admirer of the painting of the Italian quattrocento. Confluence of three very complex moments in the history of art. An example of this gaze demanded by contemporaneity. Art is the reflection of the society that does it and only with this great amplitude, with a philosophical approach that gathers many expectations, a cultural proposal can reach our minds. Although multidisciplinary, the great diversity of realities, which constitutes contemporary art, poses a certain difficulty when it comes to being understood by the majority.

The project of the main centre of contemporary art, always taken as a national reference, the Reina Sofía, is being questioned by different voices from the arts sector. The work of a centre of this magnitude, in showing the artistic reality of today and the influences that have given rise to it today, is really difficult. And if, on the one hand, the exhibition of the Phelps collection has been applauded by most critics, historians and artists in the country. On the other hand, the development of the approaches that govern the analysis of other aspects of this contemporary reality is not so convincing. It is not surprising that, when the exhibition and didactics focus on such a specific field as geometry or minimalism, expressionism, conceptually assumed with a selection of the best works, arrives at such brilliant results.

Like bringing Dalí, it is a sure success. The location of the bases for establishing a debate on the conditions of art is more complex, a debate that has not occurred in our country. The dimension of the documentary in art, sociology, the conceptual, new realisms, diverse investigations, important in our contemporary history, but that traditionally have not been considered artistic genres, and have passed quite unnoticed in our country. Work in which the Queen’s team tries to revalue some authors and give them the preponderance, which it believes necessary, to understand what has happened. Here we come into conflict, because there are those who recognize this validity and those who do not see the relationship, or consider that it is developing in a confusing way. But what is a museum, what should it show, to whom should it address itself? Perhaps we should ask ourselves if we are being given the possibility of entering into this debate, artists, critics, society in general, with the relevant information.

If, on the one hand, art education requires the recognition of these universal movements, on the other hand, it must contemplate the reality that art has always put the viewer on a tightrope, forcing him to question everything and look at this knowledge in a different way. The critique that art itself makes of art puts the viewer on the edge of the abyss, mainly out of ignorance. And the apparent contradictions of art are only in the eyes of this uninformed spectator. Art is not comfortable, it is a researcher, like the human being. Art cannot be done by just anyone with a certain ability, nor can it be shown in a single direction, but through a complex, vitalist, analytical, knowledgeable mind, as in all research in any other field.