I like art that is transgressive. Unfortunately, such art may no longer be possible today, since all boundaries have been transgressed! Beyond these transgressed borders lies … nothing. Nothing at all. Like Hamlet's Undiscovered Country, like death itself, it may be that the next country of art is not so much undiscovered as undiscoverable, because, like the afterlife, it fails to exist.
An artist like Bouguereau represents the apotheosis of a long line of artistic degeneration: Mighty Rembrandt turns in his grave. Finally, the artist, this Bouguereau, brings to perfect fruition mindless idealization, empty prettiness, the triumph of surface over substance, of superficiality over depth. But then -- BAM! -- as though wielding Thor's hammer, the Impressionists come along and shatter art into millions of pixels of color, instigating a revolution in color and pictorial conception. A hundred fifty years later, we still have Impressionist painters, but their works are a dime a dozen, and no one cares or should care. Been there, done that.
Then Van Gogh comes along and answers the petit bourgeois Bouguereau and his cloying confederates by painting The Potato Eaters. Even his brother hated it! It is ugly. And so Van Gogh introduces ugliness into the art canon, a strand of creation that Picasso will pick up and refine decades later. See his Weeping Woman, for instance. And so much else!
But Van Gogh then meets the Impressionists and abjures his own creations, contemptuously deeming them "brown-gravy" works, in the same way that in poetry, Van Gogh's contemporary, Rimbaud, abandons his own art and dismisses his work as "dishwater."
Van Gogh does not abandon art, however, but learning from the Impressionists he transcends them and produces his own magisterial works of color expressiveness that no one had ever seen or even imagined before. After Van Gogh dies, one of his idiot relatives proposes destroying all of the artist's works, so misunderstood were they. Fortunately this doesn't happen. Van Gogh's efforts spawn the Fauves, the Wild Beasts. Then Picasso comes along and (descending from Cézanne) does to form, what the Impressionists and Van Gogh did to color. We get Cubism, and then we get, for the first time in Kandinsky, non-representational art. Art is off to the races. The 20th century represents the great triumph of artistic transgression, the rebuttal to the banalities of Bouguereau and so many other hacks. We get German expressionism, abstract expressionism, minimalism, maximalism, pop art, postmodern art, on and on … and now we are run into the ditch.
In transgressing no borders, artists like Bouguereau negatively inspired the artists of the future to transgress all borders. However, having transgressed all borders, the artists of the last century and a half have left no borders to transgress! So pictorial art, like literature, is dead; to be sure great works are always turned out, but none of them will have the impact of the works of the past. As Henry Miller remarked about poetry in Time of the Assassins, his famous study of Rimbaud, What is the voice of poetry, above the roar of the atomic bomb?
The only future I can see for transgressive art is the merging of Man with Technology; i.e., metaphorically merging Rimbaud with the atom bomb.