Art is usually thought of as an arena separate from politics; but it's not, really.
It occurred to me the other day that people's attitudes toward modern art divide pretty cleanly along political lines. I've never heard anybody say they like modern art who isn't a liberal, and I've never heard anyone trash it who isn't by nature conservative.
It makes sense, in a way. Liberals like to put their own spin on things, to "interpret" them, so to speak. Conservatives prefer to see things as they are in reality, or, as they say in the art world, representationally.
I suppose the flip side of this is that liberals would say that conservatives have no imagination.
My guess is that most modern artists themselves have liberal sensibilities. However, when I looked up Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Andy Warhol, I could find no references to their politics, other than a statement about how Warhol was determinedly apolitical.
The only modern artist I found whose political leanings were known was Mark Rothko, who lived from 1903 to 1970. He was a leftist. Here is one of his paintings:
(Most of his paintings were quite similar; they all seemed to involve horizontal lines separating different colors.)
Do you know anyone who isn't a liberal who would consider this great art?
I don't. I'm sure there are exceptions, but I don't know any.
There's a lesson here, somewhere. It all seems to boil down to your view of the world: whether you prefer reality or fantasy, your willingness to suspend your disbelief, how much tolerance for nonsense you have, and how badly you want to show that you're part of the "sophisticated" in crowd.
(The word "pretentious" does, after all, derive from "pretend.")
I'm going to take it a step further and say that modern art has a certain predictive value. Ask a 14-year-old, who has not yet formed his political opinions, what he thinks of the above painting. If he says he likes it, chances are he will eventually turn out to be a liberal. If he holds up his hands with an expression of slightly disgusted bafflement and asks, "Why is that considered great art?" he is a conservative-in-the-making.
If you don't believe me, think of all the people you know who have expressed an opinion on modern art. I bet they divide pretty cleanly along political lines.