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Culture & Religion

Pop Art: What Hasn’t Been Done?

The story of the U.S. Patent Office official who resigned his post in the 19th century because he believed there was nothing left to invent makes a point about human creativity. Of course there was plenty left to invent, and still is, but is art a similarly boundless enterprise? Are there limits to what can be expressed? Have we reached them?

I’ve documented the supposed vulgarity that resulted in the National Endowment for the Arts losing nearly half its budget, but, much to the Congress’ chagrin, American writers and artists kept pushing the limits. But have they been pushed over the edge? I’m not saying undisguised sexual art is immoral, but, in a world of art and literature without limits, could old limits be rediscovered as aesthetically pleasing? Or am I some repressed Puritan censor behind this thin veil?

Yale University Press has refused to republish the 2005 Danish political cartoons, which caused violent rioting in the Muslim world, in a new scholarly work about…wait for it…the effects of the cartoons in the media! Granted, the publisher doesn’t seem to be making the choice on aesthetic grounds. “Counterterrorism officials” said reprinting the cartoons could pose a “security threat”.

But some earnest art does seem to be going soft. Zach Hyman, whose photography exhibition is currently open for public viewing, is getting his nude models into trouble by shooting them in public. Maybe it’s no surprise that what constitutes a criminal offense in America is literally a good day at the beach in Spain. Hyman, feeling inspired by the nudes in the Met, says he wanted to take some photos of similar subject matter…in the Met, and why not?

A book blogger at the Guardian ponders what kind of literature will naturally follow writers who “call a cock a cock”. Sex in literature has come a long way since Lady Chatterley’s Lover, just read Chuck Palahniuk’s Guts. But then again, that’s a bedtime story compared to the Marquis de Sade.

Predictions about “what’s next” aim at the infinitely impulsive public mood when art should be evaluated in more meditative ways. Despite Lionel’s rip on intuitive decision making, I’d say it’s a better way to tune into the zeitgeist than prediction based on quantifiable data.


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