Excerpt On Nonconformity from Shape of Content by Ben Shahn

“Nonconformity is the basic pre-condition of art, as it is the pre-condition of good thinking and therefore of growth and greatness in a people…conformity is derived from the wholly venal business of catering to a popular market” (The Shape of Content, Ben Shahn). This piece of writing speaks of how the general public is in love with works of art, yet at the same time loathes the artists that created them, merely for being a little different than the norm. If art was about “cookie-cutter” design, then according to the eading, we should all be living in a place similar to Soviet Russia. Yes, it is extremely important to lift up and honor the Working Man, but it is wrong to tear apart art movements due to government, religion, sex, race, creed and so on. Art is something which comes from the soul and nonconformity helps to rip these few individualists away from the so-called commoners. Nonconformists explain reality in a way in which is hardly ever described properly. Truthfully.

Why over so many years in history were nonconformists persecuted? Did the witch burning public run out of actual threats like invasion from a foreign country or the economy, or health care? Still the artist (nonconformist) pushes forward and creates despite the enterprise of trials and tribunals. A favored line was about a modern day politician that tried to have a design on a boat sail made illegal, yet it turned out to be a legal design created and copyrighted for the Los Angeles Yacht Club.

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New York University
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