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  • Writer's pictureSam Lloyd

Socrates Smith's 'A History of Modern Art'

Updated: Aug 5, 2023

Modern art began with Picasso, and we know this because before Picasso, art was old fashioned. For example, before Pablo, people generally painted people's noses in the middle of their face, whereas he knew that actually they are anywhere else: on the side, underneath, on top, you name it. That made his art annoying and therefore, modern.

Picasso's work is also a warning of the dangers of mixing art and drugs. Most of his pictures feature tables with absinthe bottles, and to be honest, those tables would never stand up. I mean they're shockers, all sloping tops and three legs. So obviously, Pablo was a bit under when he drew them. It shows the influence of drug taking, which would only get worse as Modern Art became more lucrative, until by the sixties if you weren't on a permanent LSD trip, no-one's buying your art, baby.

Now apart from absinthe, Pablo P. also had a thing about bicycles, in particular their seats and handlebars, which he cleverly saw were actually leftovers from a bullfight. This is called Surrealism, which generally is defined by the influence of bicycle wheels. Take for example the work by Marcel Duchamp called . . . 'the bicycle wheel'. Duchamp was what successive Liberal governments have called a 'dole bludger'. He was the first one to realise that to be famous, you don't have to do anything at all. These days we call them 'influencers'.

The key benefit of Surrealism is that you didn't have to high on drugs to put noses in the wrong place. It was based on psychology, which everyone knows is a science. In fact, the scientific confirmation that noses are not centrally located ranks second only to Einstein’s theory of relativity as an influence on the development of Modern Art.

After Surrealism came Abstract Expressionism, which was so named because the original Expressionism was far too realistic. That's why I have not included it in this article. Expressionism is definitely not modern because you can work out what's going on. Abstract Expressionism was phenomenally successful because you can't, but also because the artists were all Americans. Americans are very good at picking good art because they have lots of money. And the CIA.

I nearly forgot Conceptualism. That's because it's all in the mind and mine has been giving me trouble lately. Conceptualism grew out of Duchamp, but whereas he realised you could just go to Bunnings to find an artwork, the Conceptualists foolishly decided you had to do some reading. In fact, if you're going to see some Conceptual Art, go early; otherwise, you'll run out of time reading the descriptions and not see the art - which is easy to miss because most of it looks like the stuff the cleaner couldn’t fit in the bin.

That's it! Next month: Michelangelo’s impact on chiropractics.

Prof. S Smith

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