Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchres of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticism. The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs? Embosomed for a season in nature, whose floods of life stream around and through us, and invite us by the powers they supply, to action proportioned to nature, why should we grope among the dry bones of the past, or put the living generation into masquerade out of its faded wardrobe? The sun shines to-day also. There is more wool and flax in the fields. There are new lands, new men, new thoughts. Let us demand our own works and laws and worship. Ralph Waldo Emerson Nature
Back to the Future
Emerson wrote this lament about America and Americans in the 1830s, and it seems, even at that early date in our history we had become nostalgic for an imagined arcadia. We Americans enjoy, engage and covet the blissful comforts of nostalgic revery – from the orderly certitude of manicured lawns and white picket fences all the way to the ironic discomforts of Andy Warhol’s two-toned wig. We are in love with our own mythologies, crave the retelling and representations of our origins. And in our Postmodern Age that kind of nostalgia runs rampant in our culture. We have come to accept and expect it’s presence in nearly everything we engage with, especially in painting. And the current end of gallery season summer extravaganzas offer hardly any surprises in this regard.
Right now you can walk into any number of studios of abstract painters in New York City and see contemporary “advanced painting” that looks and acts very much like this 1927 Painting by Miro: