Artist Norman Rockwell's thought crime seems to be that he wasn't a kneejerk liberal. And for that, he has earned an angry leftwing rant from Washington Post art critic Blake Gopnik who claimed that Rockwell lacked "courage" for not glorifying leftwing causes. Rockwell's "Four Freedoms" series? It disgusts Gopnik because it "doesn't invoke a communist printing his pamphlets or an atheist on a soapbox." So if Gopnik can't stand the popular Norman Rockwell, just what kind of art does he like? You can find out below the fold but a warning: please be sure you are not consuming liquids while viewing an example of Gopnik art or you risk spewing it over your computer monitor when you burst out laughing.
However, before we take a look at Gopnik's laughable taste in art, let us join him in mid-rant as he tells us how much he absolutely hates Norman Rockwell:
Norman Rockwell is often championed as the great painter of American virtues. Yet the one virtue most nearly absent from his work is courage. He doesn't challenge any of us, or himself, to think new thoughts or try new acts or look with fresh eyes. From the docile realism of his style to the received ideas of his subjects, Rockwell reliably keeps us right in the middle of our comfort zone.
And here is more of Gopnik leaving the sanity zone:
Rockwell's greatest sin as an artist is simple: His is an art of unending cliché. The reason we so easily "recognize ourselves" in his paintings is because they reflect the standard image we already know. His stories resonate so strongly because they are the stories we've told ourselves a thousand times.
...America isn't about Rockwell's one-note image of it -- or anyone else's. This country is about a game-changing guarantee that equal room will be made for Latino socialists, disgruntled lesbian spinsters, foul-mouthed Jewish comics and even, dare I say it, for metrosexual half-Canadian art critics with a fondness for offal, spinets and kilts.
Speaking of offal, here is an example of the kind of art Gopnik likes:
That's right. A smudgy piece of ugly printing is considered great art by Gopnik. Of course, to Gopnik art is all about politics even to the extent of the need for affirmative action art. Here he is analyzing art quotas of works that appeared in the Obama White House:
They seem to redress past imbalances in the nation's sense of its own art....But there are still only six works by women, vs. 41 by men. And there are no works at all by Latinos. (A work by the deceased Cuban American artist Félix González-Torres would have filled the gap perfectly, and added a nod to the country's gay culture. The Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum has one that could have been borrowed.)
Bottom line: it is politics, not really art that has Gopnik so upset at Norman Rockwell. And compared to what he considers good art, those velvet paintings that used to be sold at gas stations look like masterpieces.