Artists seem always to be battling with the past, furiously. At the Kunstsammlung in Chemnitz, a group of German expressionists who called themselves Die Brucke, “The Bridge”, are battling with the future. “The Bridge” was not intented to be a change in artistic style (although it was to some extent a break from the expressionist work of, say, Munch) but a bridge from the present to a better future. If we can guess from their paintings what the better future would be like, it was therefore controlled, unsophisticated, and somewhat crude. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, the founder of the The Bridge, paints people as childlike and ugly. The other three expressionists paint in a similar style. In general I think they used too many colors. But what if this is exactly what the artists wanted. Indeed, they would have most likely said these ugly things about their own present age.
“People today are childlike.”
“They are ugly.”
“There are too many colors in modern life!”
With this in mind it makes sense that their paintings were intended to depict, not the future, but their present age. Now this thesis is beginning to sound more interesting! If what your goal is, as an artists guild, is to make the viewer revolt at your art, then you can succeed in that quite easily. But to have your viewer understand that this is exactly what you want him to do, exactly what you expect of him, then perhaps the reactions will be a bit different. After all, contrary to Plato, the artist is only reflecting modern society the way things appear to him. So when you gaze at his art, you ought not say what an awful bunch artists Kirchner, Erich Heckel, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, and Fritz Bleyl are. You ought instead to say what an awful age you live in. And not much has changed since Die Brucke painted people in wildly expressionist senses. People today are childlike. They are ugly. If things really are the way our contemporaries paint things, then it appears all our metanarrative art projects have failed. Today art is a series of reflections on failed past art experiments.