A Contemporary Artist in the Metamodernist Age
Anthony Lister is at the leading edge of an art continuum which has spanned across different cultures and time periods.
Even today, in this Metamodernist period, great art contains within it all of its antecedents. This is also true for all great music, literature, and film. It incorporates all of the artistic achievements that preceded it in time or logical order.Greek art embodied the aesthetic accomplishments of the Egyptians; Roman art embodied both Greek and Egyptian; and Baroque contained all of them.
Great Art in Context
Picasso is considered a genius because his work incorporated widely varied styles from cultures that came before him. But he combined them in new and interesting ways that had never been seen before. Some critics called it stealing. But that was a simple-minded critical perspective in an age when only classical realism was highly valued. In some of his works, he arranges African motifs in Baroque-style compositions that were originally used in religious paintings or depictions of Greek mythology.
Picasso also borrowed symbols and color schemes from the first human paintings made 20,000 years ago in the caves of Lascaux. In the early 20th century, he recombined and reinterpreted aesthetic symbolism and conventions that took thousands of years to evolve. He was brilliant because his art was intentional and evolutionary in nature, as it was part of a logical order.
As I noted before, there is an art continuum that begins with the Lascaux cave paintings all the way to Picasso and then to the American abstract expressionists. It all came to a screeching halt after Andy Warhol appeared on the scene in the 1960s. The continuum line went off track and it led to a train wreck that we’re still trying to recover from today.
Warhol was a marketing genius, but not an artistic one. The art critic Robert Hughes correctly pointed out that “Andy Warhol was an emotionally thin artist bleached by celebrity.” I agree. Pop Art shifted the role of the artist from someone skilled in creating works of aesthetic value to being a fame-seeker. The artist now seeks fame, money and attention.
Since Pop Art’s arrival, “artists” scoff at figurative art and traditional skills like drawing. Warhol was the wellspring of today’s formulaic celebrity culture. Talent is not important, just celebrity for its own sake. Warhol’s influence permeates music, film, TV and especially the fine arts, where we see a lack of talent and quality.
Picasso stood high on the shoulders of towering contributors of the past. Anthony Lister is the newest one to do so.
Reshaping Modern Visual Art
Lister’s work has jump started contemporary art. He incorporates influences from Jean Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Franz Kline. He even mocks Andy Warhol’s fame-seeking ways by advertising his name, “Lister,” at bus stop shelters.
(Pictured on left, Warhol Skull; on right, Lister Skull paired with a Chanel ad. Now that’s branding!)
Recently I saw some interesting work on Lister’s Instagram account including an assemblage of masks. He borrows heavily from Picasso’s motifs in works like “Standing Nude” and “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” which were originally influenced by African tribal masks. Lister brilliantly morphs Picasso’s stylizations back into their original 3-D form. Only they are no longer African masks. They’re Lister masks.
(Pictured below, Picasso’s “Standing Nude 1907” and Lister’s tribal masks.)
Another work is painted on a wall outdoors. It looks like an abstract Mona Lisa painted as an homage to Leonardo da Vinci. The figure is upside down and is reminiscent of a Franz Klein black and white abstract painting. It has a yellow frame around it with “drip lines” a la Jackson Pollock. Furthermore, the “Mona Lister” tips its hat to another contemporary painter, Banksy, when it popped up on a street wall.
(Pictured below, Franz Kline’s “Painting1952,” Jackson Pollock’s “Yellow Gray Black,” and Lister’s “Mona Lister.”)
Anthony Lister is one of the few contemporary artists who understands his role in the development of modern aesthetic values. His art is deliberate, measured and follows a logical order. Like Keith Haring and Jean Michel Basquiat in the 1980s, Lister appears mindful of the history of art that came before him, and is imbuing the energy and spirit of the very best styles into his truly modern work. Thankfully, he carries the torch forward in the realm of the fine arts.
(Below, Lister working on an outdoor mural. The paint floats across the urban canvas like musical notes evoking the human form in water reminiscent of David Hockney’s “Swimmer Underwater, 1978.” )