Eric Fischl, Bad Boy, 1981

Fischl is a Neo-Expressionist painter whose work has a raw, emotive power. He says that this painting comes from a series that is about “the messy, ambivalent emotions couples felt, the inherent racism, the sexual tensions, and the unhappiness roiling below the surface of prim suburban lives.” In the painting we see an adult woman spread-eagle on the bed, while a boy dips into her purse on the dresser behind him. The bananas in the bowl are suggestive. The painting makes us uncomfortable; this scene just shouldn’t be happening.
Fischl writes “My whole career I’ve been trying to make paintings that people can relate to, respond to emotionally — not stand in front of scratching their heads.” Contemporary art “failed” the public when it “stopped addressing the ordinary lives of people, the rites and passages of birth, puberty, marriage and death. And when it did try to explore those themes, its iconography was often so subtle, so convoluted or individual and eccentric, that no one besides the artist and maybe a few acolytes had any idea what they were looking at.” Yes! Yes! This is what I’ve been saying for years! Despite Modern Art’s noble effort to create art that achieves universality (all people, no matter their race, gender, etc can identify with) it ended up creating an art that was elitist and out of touch with most people. We humans need art. Furthermore, we need narrative art. We identify with stories and they help us make sense of our own lives.

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