Sunday, 17 April 2016


My character looking pensive while in front of the many pieces of art work that litter Sanctuary Towers

Despite it being a massive distraction from the main quest of finding your baby son, Fallout 4's latest addition of settlement building is a great opportunity to exercise your creative muscles in an already pretty immersive RPG. In one of the recent updates, the paintings options were expanded to included some abstract art options, of which I was immediately excited over, as I was not ecstatic about the saccharine kitten pictures and uninspired landscapes.

Considering Fallout's atompunk/retrofuturistic style, including these abstract expressionist and colour field paintings seems perfectly in keeping with the setting, as these styles where hugely popular in America's post-war period. Including the likes of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Robert Motherwell, these painters had huge successes with their shows and many paintings were brought up by leading galleries and collectors, and have gone on to become emblematic of the period.

  “Abstract Force: Homage to Franz Kline” (1951–52) Audrey Flack

However, the public didn't quite share the same enthusiasm for this type of art work as the critics and collectors, with many newspapers echoing the public's hostile view of the paintings, with “a basic belief that modern art was somehow fraudulent” (source). So how did the abstract art of the 1950's become such a big deal? Could it be that it was a ploy by the CIA to show how culturally advanced America was compared to the Soviet Union?

Twenty years ago, documents were revealed that the CIA used certain Abstract Expressionist exhibitions as propaganda to further America's cause during the Cold War.

"It was recognised that Abstract Expression- ism was the kind of art that made Socialist Realism look even more stylised and more rigid and confined than it was. And that relationship was exploited in some of the exhibitions. In a way our understanding was helped because Moscow in those days was very vicious in its denunciation of any kind of non-conformity to its own very rigid patterns. And so one could quite adequately and accurately reason that anything they criticised that much and that heavy- handedly was worth support one way or another." Modern art was a CIA 'weapon', The Independent, 21/10/95

Unfortunately, backlash from the public towards government spending on these exhibitions, as well as Joseph McCarthy's anti-communist stance jarring with his distrust of the avant-garde (as well as many of the artists being ex-communists), meant that the government funding of such art was short lived.

In the world of Fallout, America is at war with communist China before it destroys itself with nuclear war. The world is littered with posters proclaiming how great the US is and to fear the enemy. The inclusion of Abstract Expressionism in the Boston wasteland is just another way for the government and Vault-Tec to manipulate the public. Maybe.

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