Love, Beauty, and Truth: John Maynard Keynes

Seems a little strange and out of context to develop a blog post on Southern California Art with thoughts from the brilliant British economist John Maynard Keynes but, for the first half of the 20th century, the sharpest mind regarding “the Group Dynamics” within a growing global economy was that of Keynes.  Keynes understood the power of the Collective Experience and wrote about it in terms of Love, Beauty, and Truth.  “In the long run we are all dead…The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent…The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones…The appropriate subjects of passionate contemplation and communion were a beloved person, beauty and truth, and one’s prime objects in life were love, the creation and enjoyment of aesthetic experience and the pursuit of knowledge.”  How do you think Keynes perception of the Collective Experience relates to the visual arts developing in Southern California during the post World War II era under the curatorial leadership of Walter Hopps and the artwork of Edward Kienholz?

Photograph of John Maynard Keynes

Photograph of Walter Hopps

Edward Kienholz, The Wait, 1964-65

 

 

Author: roberttracyphd

Academic professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. I teach theory courses in Art and Architecture History. In addition, I also curate exhibitions on campus as well as in other venues nationally and internationally.

13 thoughts on “Love, Beauty, and Truth: John Maynard Keynes”

  1. The one Idea I want to center my response around is Keynes’s statement, “The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.” This is very relatable to the development of SoCal art because the artist of that area wanted to create a new identity in the world of art. I can imagine that it was difficult for them not because it was hard to come up with new ideas, but because everything done before that was successful is hard to dismiss from the subconscious mind. Personally, as a graphic designer this is true for me as well. Edward Kienholz is an example of this because he also struggled to gain grounds in the artistic world in the United States, and was more appreciated in Europe.

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  2. For Keynes perception, the difficulty of thinking something new is still there even in today’s society. Base off of Nahla words I feel that today society its hard to come up with an idea that has not been tried already. Especially with the internet out there. We have just been reinviting the wheel in art, design, and plays. For Keynes, it was trying to gain the proper exposer in the United States.

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  3. Ed Kienholz’s work in a way dealt with the “collective experience” by creating tableaus of other peoples’ experiences, and showing it to everyone though a magnified lens. He portrayed subject-matter that was about real-life experiences, even though they were often horrific (such as Five Car Stud), in a nitty-gritty kind of way. He is able to make an experience that maybe only an oppressed minority experiences, into a universal experience by restaging it. His other works such as Backseat Dodge dealt with more “universal” themes of sex and politics. All his works were about the realities of the world.

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  4. It is interesting how ideas from unrelated subjects can be connected in such a profound way. Without the collective experience, there would not be the culture that there is today in Los Angeles. Post World War II artists had similar experiences and visions, and through that they created bodies of work connected by similar themes, objectives, and aesthetics. Walter Hopps and Edward Kienholz created and facilitated the group of SoCal artists, and by doing this they created a sort of group representation of Los Angeles culture. Keynes ideas were very applicable to the LA artists – they were struggling to escape old ideas and they were creating a new aesthetic experience.

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  5. I think it is very easy to draw connections between Keynes perception on the Collective Experience and post WWII art movement in Southern California. SoCal artists were coming up with new artistic ideas for composition, material, performance, activism, and much more. The hard part was getting the public to accept the new and the bizarre. This work was not like what was being taught in schools or showcased in museums. They were taking risks and pushing the boundaries, often crossing the line. For example, Edward Kienholz had a very hard time getting people to come see his work and accept it. His work was provocative, offensive, and messy and made the viewer uncomfortable and question their own values. These artist were tired of seeing the same art all the time and believed that they did not have to conform to New York standards to be successful. They took a chance and struggled at first but it paid off in the end for the artists and the public.

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  6. Similarities and connections can be found in almost anything if you look hard enough, however; the connection between Keynes and the post WWII art movement is evident. Both parties wanted to convey new ideas and struggled to escape old ones. This is a recurring theme throughout history, however this conflict of portraying new ideas is what sparks innovation. The post WWII artists strayed from the norm to create their own unique movement, and if they adhered to the old ideas all of the work they had accomplished over their lifetime would not exist.

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  7. Keynes’ statement was ahead of his time. Having died in 1946, he did not live to see the effect of the Ferus Gang, but his words are definitely something that the Ferus Gang believed in. I think the line, “one’s prime objects in life were love, the creation and enjoyment of aesthetic experience and the pursuit of knowledge,” relate most to the Ferus Gang because they were in Southern California doing whatever they wanted with their art. Their work was beyond people’s comprehension and challenged what people considered to be art, but to the Ferus Gang it was always just for the love of creation.

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  8. Economist Keynes had a practical world view, he compartmentalized his emotions and views in order manage any conflicts and to make clear orderly decisions. He believed that life defied logic. Hopps had a similar approach in his support and goals for his colleagues and their art – I think this played into the success of the making a name for LA artists. Keynes also believed in the moral responsibility of society towards its members, something he considered when drafting his economic theories. Kienholz’s work was highly critical of aspects of modern life. He utilized his expertise, notoriety, and interests in his work as did Keynes.

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  9. Well, the first statement, “In the long run we are all dead,” can relate to all living things as we all eventually become dead from what we have seen. Art trends tend to have a lifespan as when modern art was born and the avant garde faded away, but was not forgotten. “The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent,” could pertain to how the public wanted artists to stick to one way of doing things when they wanted to look at new options. Going against the grain could possibly not go well and leave an artist in financial troubles while going with the grain may have looked safer. “The appropriate subjects of passionate contemplation and communion were a beloved person, beauty and truth,” sounds like when people would visit the Ferus Gallery and socialize with each other. They may go out on a date with a “beloved person,” talk about the “beauty” of artwork that they were seeing, and talk about the “truth” of what the artwork was trying to convey. “One’s prime objects in life were love, the creation and enjoyment of aesthetic experience and the pursuit of knowledge,” fits well with what the Ferus Group was trying to achieve. They were always creating and it’s easy to see the “enjoyment of aesthetic experience,” when I think about the “Finish Fetish” artists. Finally, “the pursuit of knowledge,” is something that was well known among L.A. artists and really all humankind. It’s what we live for and continue working at with every day of our lives.

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  10. As he stated “The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones” It is a challenge for artists to develop their own unique flair and style when they are constantly being badgered and held back by styles of the old. I completely agree with his statement and understand that in order to look forward one must disregard the past. This breathes new life into one’s own work and creates a window in a new possible style which can attract and influence a new number of artist.

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  11. I think that the relation between subjects were extremely close to one another. Walter Hopps and the artwork of Edward Kienholz definitely worked with the same feelings of Love, Truth and Beauty. Even though Beauty may have been an enquired taste at times. John Maynard Keynes wrote “The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones,” I can see Hopps and Kienholz feeling this way at times, mostly when it came time to present their work and immediately being ridiculed for it. I can see them also feeling this way when creating their own works for art. Viewing art that they consistently seen everywhere and having a dyer need inside to change something, make their mark upon it. I would have to say that the Southern Los Angeles art scene at the time of Hopps and Kienholz, viewed the creative collective the same way Keynes did, whether they knew it or not.

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  12. I think the relation was close to each other. I think the hard part is truly like he said in that it isn’t so much as making something new but trying to get away from what is already perceived. There are only so many ways someone can create the same thing without it being the same. People try so hard to reinvent the wheel and it just doesn’t always turn out successful. The hardest part is that there’s already an example to go off of and an established notion. Trying to break that perception in people is the hardest thing to do.

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  13. I can see similarities on Keynes perception of the Collective Experience and the SoCal post World War II era under the curatorial leadership of Walter Hopps and the artwork of Edward Kienholz. I can see a push for something new and different. Something not yet seen. People, specially artists can not be afraid of the “new” , change is important. I agree with Keynes’s statement, “The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.” I believe that as professional, one of my most important job as designer is to resolve design issues and the most effective way of doing that is to “think out of the box”, abandoning and escaping olde ideas even if we have to break the rules once in a while.

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