So what’s the future of art? It’s hard to imagine anything new on the horizon. I guess we could have robots that make art.

Well the future is now at Rose Art in Boston as it hosts a show this month by New York artist Roxy Paine featuring machines that paint pictures. Let’s face it, with the plethora of art and artist’s in the second half of the twentieth century, the only novel thing would be for groups of artists to start producing similar work. The art movements of a hundred years ago are so…alien. (To stick to our future theme) Nothing exists today like Cubism. The thought of so many people working in such a regimented style and following a set of arbitrary rules is unthinkable in the Postmodern era. Everyone just goes about doing his own thing.

There’s so much art being produced today and no standards by which to judge its quality. In Birmingham recently there was an art show by blind children. Imagine a future with recitals by the deaf or dances by quadriplegics. The future might be a time when anyone, despite talent or ability, is eligible to be a concert pianist or ballerina. There are 180 Graduate programs in America cranking out artists by the truckload. This is in addition to almost 13,000 undergraduate degree earned in art each year. Are they all qualified to be professionals? The only job opportunity for these alumnae is to turn right back around and vie for a teaching position in one of the art schools. It’s well known that these schools aren’t teaching job skills. You can’t teach art today because the students are almost certainly to be producing a kind of art thoroughly different than their professors. Good art is supposed to have some sort of philosophical lesson. Like the art of ancient Greece and the Renaissance, it should introduce us to heavy cosmic concepts. Unfortunately our society is too busy forgetting the lessons of the past and returning to religiosity and superstition to produce great ideas. I’m sure a few of the millions of works of art produced in the US each year deal with new philosophical concepts like Qualia and the philosophies of science, but most are rehashing left-wing politics from the 60’s. But beyond this art can actually serve a function.

The function of art is communication. Illustrations in magazines, on posters and on CD covers tell stories just like the words beside them. Often art is purely decorative, communicating beauty. Alexandra Kruglyak’s paintings, currently on display at NorDys are certainly beautiful. The show "new masterpieces" is predominantly still-lives with fruit and flowers masterfully painted by this Ukrainian born local artist. Kruglyak ended up in Alabama after stumbling upon the address of her current husband in a garbage can. This spawned a series of correspondences that resulted in marriage. Be sure to go by NorDys to see what a formal training, mostly unavailable in the US, can produce.

Across the pond in Basel Switzerland a show touted as the best in the world is just wrapping up. Art 33 Basel might be a sign of things to come. Held in a convention center as opposed to a Museum, Art 33 Basel is more a trade show than an art exhibit. This sort of thing is getting more and more common. On entering the show the first thing you see is California artist Skip Arnold laying naked facedown in a pile of sand. This sort of thing is also getting more and more common. The fun part is that the patrons are invited to walk right over him. The fact that this sort of thing is starting to get tired and old-fashioned says a lot about today’s Artworld. One of Carol Bove’s contributions to the show is a stack of books. The books that are stacked are Kahlil Gibran’s "The Prophet" and the work is entitled "Tower of the Prophet." This is also a pretty tired and old-fashioned idea. Stacks of books presented as art is as old as piles of rocks in galleries. Thanks to the London School the figure has come back strong in recent years, but in a crazy cartoony way. Now we can see lots of giant dolls and statues of monsters. Possibly the most interesting figurative work in Art 33 Basel was "L’Hospice" by Gilles Barbier. This sculpture consists of life-size superheroes. But not just regular superheroes…old superheroes. You got Superman using a walker and a decrepit Catwoman collapsed in an easychair. There’s even an exhausted old Mr. Fantastic with his elastic arms and legs all sore and his hair thin and balding.

So is this the future of art? Not really, it’s just more Pop art. And remember Pop wasn’t even considered original, the French called it Neo-Dada. The way I see it, everyone’s going to keep doing his own thing unless something dramatic happens. Eventually something dramatic always happens. Most people understand Abstract art these days and many are becoming more comfortable with Conceptual art. Since Conceptual art can consist of literally anything there’s no way to have a new movement while it remains the dominant style. Art movements have to have some unity, even if that unity is the complete diversity we have now. The only way art can move forward is for a group of artists to start working in the same style. It would have to be a style with some dynamic new political or philosophic worldview behind it. The most impressive art being produced today are the large figurative paintings by artists like Bo Bartlett , Steven Assael and Terry Rodgers. But once again this is hard too do and only a handful of the millions of artists today can produce this quality of work and fewer are willing to try. Hopefully the future of art will be realized in this direction. Profound narrative paintings, masterly executed, have always been what constituted great art. As more people come to understand conceptual art they will realize a lot of it’s just goofy and pretentious. I can’t see a sincere and powerful tradition arising from the Artworld as it exists today. The public will have to become more discriminating or accept that everything is art and thus the term itself is meaningless. If we realize that we’re all Conceptual artists and when we make breakfast we’re actually creating art we’ll start demanding that our Cornflakes belong in the Museum too. Once the system becomes transparent maybe the cream will rise to the top.