VANDALISM

(section from VANDAL VEGAS: BEAUTY AND BOB GUCCIONE )

by James Mann LVAM Curator

 

The present writer used a notion like Perrell's above, put more succinctly, in a broadside manifesto published and distributed in 1995 at a protest demonstration outside the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. The demonstration was organized by self-styled radical-realist painters resentful at their systematic exclusion from the Whitney Biennial exhibitions. The phrasing in that manifesto: "The new art's typical method of employing the wide range of cultural references, by which it grapples with the whole surrounding culture, is to distort or effectively deface its sources as it bends them innovatively to its own expressive needs." That broadside was titled Founding and First Manifesto of Vandalism (after the Futurist manifesto of 1909), in which the logic of this ironic name for the new movement in world art was given in detail. The term Vandalism was originally inspired by the use of the phrase "cultural vandalism" in an essay by the late Morse Peckham, on the role of the artist in occidental culture, called "Romanticism and Behavior" (1974). But the first order of business in this name game is to dispose of the term Post-Modernism, for the present purpose, which is easy to do. Over 90% of the uses of "Post-Modernism" refer to art that falls under the late-dismantlement esthetic, and the new art movement being discussed here completely transcends that period esthetic. So Post-Modernism is finished: obsolete both as a term and as a movement in the fine arts. Whatever the merits of the 1995 broadside manifesto's argument, it proposes, for what is apparently the first time (aside from Achille Bonito Oliva's transavanguardia), to fix a name, definition, description, and coherent explanation for the new, international movement in art to which Bob Guccione's new painting and drawing belong. Guccione himself has expressed puzzlement at the apparent absence of a coherent movement, or of a generally accepted explanation thereof. The present brief essay is meant in part to overcome the general puzzlement on that question. Vandalism would be in good company as a name of derogatory meaning eventually accepted as the name of a movement, or of an entire period of art history. Examples: Gothic (barbaric), Baroque (misshapen pearl), Fauve (wild beast), Impressionism, Cubism (coined by the Fauve, Matisse). The art critic Barbara Rose has proposed Art after Post-Modernism as the title of the present author's work-in-progress on the movement. But out of an instinct for play, in which the name Vandalism itself is offered, let us suppose another name were put forward, one geographically correct for the present exhibition and its critical enterprise, one less plainly earnest and more forthright in its sense of humor.