Obligations of Membership At - The Art Students League of New York

SKUNK: Markand Thakar

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Despite the lack of substantial student participation, the last meeting at the Art Students League continues to be more interesting than watching the grass grow - but not nearly as interesting as it had been when the League was actually functioning as a truly democratic institution - as it is founded to be.

The Board and administration have refused - as listed in the League's Constitution - to hold a meeting in January (in the past, it had enabled the students and membership to know just who had been elected and selected to represent them on the Board of Control). As a consequence, all but a few members or students are aware of just who represents them on the Board. However, on the plus side, since that meeting was not held, the usual self-servingly manipulated minutes of a prior meeting were not required to be read. Therefore, the membership was spared all but one, long-winded, tedious, self-congratuously, uninterrupted blabbering by a member of the administration.

Nevertheless,, the membership was treated to self-serving, long-winded, tedious, uninterrupted, speechifying by a few of the members: one, the same life-long student, known for his bellowing voice spouting what sounds to some discerning members as nothing but inanities - and then by a monitor who read from a prepared speech - in which he complained of the trials and tribulations borne by him as a result of the arduous task of monitoring a class at the League. This was followed by a former monitor who stated that, although there was much to do as a monitor, he was proud to be so proficient that he could control the studio in the absence of the instructor.


When the presiding Board member was requested to have his elected and selected fellow Board members introduce themselves to the members present - this in a belated attempt to edify the League's membership as to the Whos who are supposed to be representing them (as befits a democratic organization) - he demurred. But a few of the Board present did introduce themselves to those members remaining after the official end of the meeting. But, it was assumed by many in attendance that some of the current Board members were so uninterested in the democratic process, that they absented themselves from the meeting.


Of course, happenstances and attitudes change with the times. Take for instance, the substitute for yesteryear's gray flannel suit that's being worn by today's white-color, middle-management. It is now black: the same slimming-color of tuxedos once worn by waiters and opera-goers - as well as that for suits attiring mourners, turn-the-collar-around clergy and nuns. Times have surely also changed in a way that some might believe is for the better: proper young ladies have taken to wear the very same "Hot Pants" that only a couple decades back were used to enhance the wares of hookers.


Times have changed, as well, in other ways. Today we have a mayor whose motto appears to be: "GREED IS GOOD" - an attitude that would take away the humorous aspect of a now-apt cartoon of yesteryear - in which a masked gunman tells a New Yorker: "Give me your money or I'll blow your brains out," to which the threatened man says: "Blow away! You can live without brains in New York, but not without money."

It should be noted that, when a senior member of the mayor's staff was questioned by a WNYC reporter, as to the stress on buy, buy, buy seen on the signs in Times Square - his official response was: "GREED IS GOOD".

Now, this wouldn't really matter, if that attitude didn't pervade the entire city, nation and world - and is willingly being adopted by the administration of the Art Students League of New York. Nevertheless, one might ask: "Since everyone's doing it, why should this be of any concern to League members?" Well, it's because: in order for the League's administrators to rationalize their taking home what some might consider outlandish salaries and perks (use of illusive miscellaneous expense accounts and corporate-level petty-cash payouts) - they stress the number of students attending classes at the League's school - rather than the number leaving after having acquired the skills and knowledge that gives them the potential for their becoming professional artists.

The result is that a once-truly- democratic, artist-run art school: organized to turn out knowledgeable, professionally-oriented artist-members - in order to pay the costs of an oversized, overpaid management, now has an administration that appears to willingly cater to what SKUNK considers the base canard that's been adopted by the Political Correct advocates that: Everyone's an artist and everything is art.

Although the objectives of those advocates of the Political Correct are often laudatory, by their promoting the notion that: Everyone's an artist and everything is art - they've joined those universities that earn exorbitant tuitions for liberally granting MFA degrees. Whether deliberately or not, that concept, that: everything's art and everyone's an artist results in their debasing the very concept that art-making-ability and its knowhow are requisite basics before MFAs have the ability to create fine art.

All of which: if it's true that everything's art and everyone's an artist - and that art-making-ability and its knowhow are not required, it brings into question the raison d'etre for the League's very existence. And this is why the adoption by the League's administration of the policies promulgated by a GREED-IS-GOOD along with a Politically-Correct, plutocratic society is being decried.



LOBBY-ART is the "art" that decorates the lobbies of the residential and commercial high-rise structures that have mushroomed throughout the big cities of the world - and especially, from our perspective, those in the county, city and state that bear the name: New York - otherwise known as Manhattan.

Ever since the great Mexican artist, now known primarily as the husband of Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera's run-in with Nelson Rockefeller, lobby art has become merely decorative - and says nothing. Ergo, it is much like the contemporary everyone's-an-artist creations considered by some as sculpture - that now litter so many of our public spaces. However, when LOBBY-ART is located in architecturally noteworthy buildings, the meaningless artwork, is, more often then not, produced by au courant artists: the name of a well-known artist having the ability to give the non-committal work on the wall or floor its sanctioning as real art.

The result of this is that, for the most part, contemporary artists are very limited as to what they can create and expect to be sold. Today's artists - so few with the skills that would enable them to create meaningful original work, are also hampered by the fact that what they do create, if they wish to sell it, can't offend anyone. So, we have non-figurative, non-objective, non-subjective contemporary art - which, of course, is just a calculated imitation of LOBBY-ART. But, it's what sells.

East Village Bar Scene, two women drinking.
1980's Bar Scene - East Village - Markand Thakar 1929.
(A copy of which, is on permanent display in a bar called Mona's - in East Village)

It may be, that it's just a case of there not being any real artists currently administering the League - or those who have empathy for those dedicated to the need to make art. It must be noted that real artists make art, much like nymphomaniacs who do what they do, whether they get paid for it - or not.
The lucky and/or talented sell their work, for at least a period of time, at a price that enables them to live fairly well - amongst them are those who make it big - but most do not. They sell their artwork at shopping malls or at the outer limits of city parks. Some continue making art while earning a modest living as a teacher. However, it's rare for a real artist to work as an administrator.

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