April 11, 2012


Kinkade's garish pictures of bubbling brooks, flowering arbors, and quaint village life get at an important chunk of the American psyche that most museum art doesn't. He captures, with chilling accuracy, a strangely American combination of blinkered nostalgia, blind complacency, and a ferocious resistance to change. And then he packages and sells that vision within a no-holds-barred consumerist culture that you wouldn't think compatible with pictures of commerce-free townships twinkling by snowlight. There's not a single Pop artist-not even Warhol-who got at this truly popular side of our culture, and its contradictions, the way Kinkade did.

My praise isn't facetious or knowing. Kinkade channeled a certain American vision and found the perfect way to convey it. His saccharine style, which escapes any hint of irony or self-reflection, is perfectly matched to some unreflective and irony-free zones in our culture. Art doesn't always have to comment on the thing it shows. Sometimes just holding up a mirror can be more than enough. Sometimes a mirror is a better tool for seeing than a fancy lens.

I believe Kinkade is not the fantasist he seems. His art gives a realist's view of how many Americans think and emote. His peaceable farmsteads may never have existed, but the ideals they appeal to are very much with us.

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Posted by at April 11, 2012 6:38 AM

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