Chinese Communist Propaganda Poster, Cultural Revolution Era (1966-1969), Caption reads: “Never forget that the Chinese Communist Party Emancipated Us! All Happiness Comes from Chairman Mao!”
In Woody Allen’s 1972 movie Play it again Sam the following scene takes place in an art museum:
WOODY ALLEN: That’s quite a lovely Jackson Pollock, isn’t it?
GIRL IN MUSEUM: Yes it is.
WOODY ALLEN: What does it say to you?
GIRL IN MUSEUM: It restates the negativeness of the universe, the hideous lonely emptiness of existence, nothingness, the predicament of man forced to live in a barren, godless eternity, like a tiny flame flickering in an immense void, with nothing but waste, horror, and degradation, forming a useless bleak straightjacket in a black absurd cosmos.
WOODY ALLEN: What are you doing Saturday night?
GIRL IN MUSEUM: Committing suicide.
WOODY ALLEN: What about Friday night?
Here’s the original scene on a YouTube video:
In my last post, I suggested that there’s order in Pollock’s chaos and that’s something that first impressed me about his art. The above dialogue, besides being hilariously funny, suggests that Pollock’s work is an expression of a kind of dark, nihilistic existentialism. It’s negative and depressing. It shows the meaninglessness in the universe.
This idea brings several questions to my mind. Is abstract art an expression of a cynical, anti-Christian worldview? If so, can you appreciate art without buying into the underlying worldview? Do you have to approve of an artist in order to approve of her art? Does art have to be aesthetically pleasing? If it’s not pretty can it still be art?
The Apostle Paul said, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Phil. 4:8). Take a look at communist art sometimes, especially propaganda art like the poster above. When compared with the realities of the totalitarian state that approved it, it’s hardly honest. Given the evil and suffering in the world—all of the chaos—one thing I think it’s safe to say about abstract art, which reflects that chaos, is that it’s honest.
Are you ready to have an honest dialogue about things of ultimate importance, about matters of faith? If so, what are you doing Saturday night?