Sunday, September 25, 2016

Nordic Void

                        


                              
                          We remember the past arranged as a linear progression that stamps on events a number that is followed by subsequent number as if by unbreakable,fundamental necessity. The arrow of time points in one direction.That is true for Time but not necessarily for cultural phenomena. They group,cluster,meander: nothing looks inevitable or clearly resulting from their supposed causes.Visual expression of emergence, growth and decline of cultural movements,trends,manieres,fashions and fads are not well represented by arrow of time. Rather quite the opposite: a confusing tangle of threads would be much closer to remind how nothing there has a clear cause-effect simplicity.

 Ugliness,like beauty is graduated.Swedish IKEA delivers to the world these plastic chairs for people who kick them at the moment of hanging themselves.The model is called [in Swedish] "good riddance,Sweden".




                         When Renaissance turned into Baroque the difference in style was instantly recognizable, striking and asking the viewers to taste and savor very different range of emotions expressed in the new style. But- what the promoters of Nordic Void want us to do is much different.
Imagine,please a painting that contains one object. Not even one object and some background:just one object : a yellow solid color. Now imagine a musical composition of one tone and a poem consisting of one word,or even less- one root of a word. Those are offerings of Nordic Void. A quick glance at the entire history of western art shows no place where any of those offerings could have been regarded as art objects. It seems almost like one of Rabelaisian listings to assert that drops of rain,wood splinters,worm castings,pocket lint,ear wax,brackish ditches,used tissues,foot prints,potato peelings,discarded band-aids,recordings of silences,diary of observed clouds,named rain-puddles and boiled car-keys are not art objects either. Similarly the one color “paintings” are not object of art but mistakes induced by art incubators on three streets in NYC. They rule the art-market and the museum acquisitions and manufacture “greatness” of extremely talent-less seasonal names. It is ,like war, a racket.

 If I were a lonely cube rather than a homo sapiens  how much would I want to join this geometric gas chamber.


                                 Careful anthropologists in some distant future will uncover in tar-pits of greasy layers of Styrofoam cups and New York Times intriguing deposits of artifacts soon to be known as Nordic Void Culture.
According to National Geographic article the find contains paintings,pieces of furniture and serigraphs. All of the recovered artifacts exhibit distinct stylistic tendency which allows the scientists to separate them chronologically from the past and subsequent art of their culture with great certainty.
Art historians close to the project remarked that while all the previous epochs of western art had rich,often complex content of meanings this new find presented them with unaccountable puzzle. The artifacts have no meaningful content whatsoever! 

 Now,this inspiring  presentation is the new exhibition of Latin American artist at the Samuel Guggenheim Museum.If any irresponsible optimist would think that some sovereign cultures avoided the cretinism of Guggenheim and Friends than sadly and tragically that optimist is wrong. It spread as broadly as syphilis, avian flu and zika.O Guggenheim,O Guggenheim Wie treu sind deine Blätter!!!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Removal of Our Culture

                                                                         VLADIMIR:
                                                         We're in no danger of ever thinking any more.
                                                                         ESTRAGON:
                                                         Then what are we complaining about?
                                                                                   
                                                         [S.Beckett Waiting for Godot Act 2]





I see two large wheels trampling meanings underneath. One is flattening,emptying art in art and another is embossing “art” everywhere else. What an apocalyptic sight.
There was a gradual removal of art from paintings,sculptures or music. Seems that the calamitous process started right about the time that German Neue Sachtlichkeit,Novecento movement in Italy died and Magical Realism {Germany and USA] has been kept at remote margins. It happened roughly between 1940s and 1950s. The art exhibited,promoted and made central resolutely was removing any traces what up till then was understood as art. It was not replaced by different art: it was replaced by provocations without art

.

Soon after the very act of placing something inside of the charmed space of “art gallery”,”art museum” was and is now offered as art. In any past of our culture nobody would argue that a naked woman standing in art gallery is art. Why? Were they bound by their cultural horizon and could not open their minds to see naked woman as “installation”? Or,as I believe, all those previous generations of art lovers were united by one common understanding of meaning of the word “art”? There is nothing “limiting” in insisting that only “art” is art just as only clouds are clouds. Someone could argue that art is much more nebulous than clouds and that smoke is not nebulous enough to be a cloud,while some crafts may be art. Smoke of certain density graduates to a cloud and craft sometimes shows the layer of “pure intentionality” associated with art. True,but then such smoke is fully a cloud and such craft is simply a piece of art. There is no ambiguity there. The „ambiguity” is a mental tic,an automatic habitual reaction as cheap as seeing „paradoxes” everywhere.



As art is replaced by all manner of junk and presented as art -another phenomenon is spreading in all directions. What in the past has been a well respected,even admired craft of cooking became art of cooking.Rose gardening is now art of rose-gardening.There is,sorry to say art of love-making and „art of manliness”,not far from „art of living”.Not a skill of successful living, not simply „living”,but a phoney ,elevated „art” made of rhythmic breathing,taking sustenance and removal of waste.Could it be that now just about any activity is in danger of being wrapped in pink tissue and handed back to us with accompanying brochure as „Art of...fill in the blank”?
Perhaps these two phenomena are not just contemporaneous but indeed obscenely intertwined. When anything that is not art can be exhibited,collected,valued as if it was art,than the deflation of meaning would allow for anything outside of art to claim that,now worthless faux-elevation. 

 


Clarity demands that we distinguish art from craft and skills and keep them within their appointed meanings..When one is looking at a earthenware pot presented as „art” its lack of serious craftsmanship is overlooked and it would seem rude,even irrelevant to observe that as a piece of craft is embarrassing.As „art” is,of course, „great”. There is three reasons for this corruption.One: a well made pot would cost at most some tens of dollars.The same pot as „object'art” has a price in hundreds or more.Second reason is status. Many potters are not interested in very demanding craft of its discipline.As „artists” they are elevated into a status of inspired visionaries whose spirits are too ascending to bother with craftsmanship.There is also a third reason why nearly anything is unaccountably „art”.It is in the air,it is in the water -it is on all sides: bombast,over-sizing,over-praising,adding elevator shoes to everything.Crass salesmanship infects entire social exchange.If only what we just called „great” would ever deserve to be almost good.




Thursday, August 27, 2015

A Brief History of Smearing







                 For over hundred years now young painters look at Modern Art and its  various styles,approaches and techniques and being young they get tempted almost each week in different direction  To be as tight and illusionistic as Ingres or as grotesque as Otto Dix, to be painting so magically that everything would seem to appear as if behind a mirror... That would impress anyone.
But, another demon would beckon toward particularly naughty direction, where thrill of doing something that everybody knows should not, not ever be done is tempting. Something as rebellious and defiling that even thought of it would be frightening to the civilized part of the mind. But- the part that secretly shines shoes with lacy curtains and pours ink to the aquarium wants to do it. The consequences might be very unpleasant and at the same time presenting a new you, not that flaccid ne'er-do-well but a formidable risk-taker, artistic buccaneer,almost a salto-mortale motorcyclist!
A  crowd of uncoordinated, devoid of  manual dexterity, impatient art-lurkers promote hopeful wish  that figurative art is either dead or should be dead. They sense that somehow there ought to be another way into artistic success than talent and tedium of learning.
Figurative art is not promising any "fun"[there is immense ,long lasting Joy in painting, but indeed ,no fun]. Let's declare representational art dead  and by necessity of moving forward let us try yet untried. What possibly could be more antithetic to painting as much as  smearing?



The original first smearer,as it often is with claims of originality it may be disputed but in all events among the very first brave smearers  remarkable work of Jewish émigré from Russia ,Chaim Soutin should be recognized. Everywhere in contemporary art of that time paintings still retained disciplined, tight form in drawing  and young Soutin broke that confining restrain. Not being able to draw , like not being able to play piano is something most people share.


However, not being able to play the piano and giving piano recitals would be new and untried. By this analogy not being able to draw, to reflect on canvas some disciplined ,representational forms and yet obtaining great fame as prominent painter is a feat no Pianist-Who-Can-Not-Play-The- Piano has achieved. Feats like that are astounding .In other fields golden nimbus of fame and universal admiration  is given to the very few highest achievers. We see no Polar Explorers who never went to polar regions and we do not see renown swimmers who do not know how to swim. Yet,in the difficult art of painting it has been possible to manufacture by the skillful uses of Dark Magic great fame and a lasting place in the pantheon of greatest artists for someone who could not neither draw nor paint.

Then,another triumph of promotion became visible and this time no longer in Paris but over the famed skyline of New York City.His name was Franz Kline.



It is hard to imagine how something so obviously ugly and chutzpiatic could ever find itself on public display, let alone national museums.And yet:
 ", Kline's work is distinct in itself and has been revered since the 1950s"
"says wikipedia. Reverence,no less......



 "Kline's paintings are deceptively subtle. While generally his paintings have a spontaneous, and dramatic impact, Kline often closely referred to his compositional drawings. Kline carefully rendered many of his most complex pictures from extensive studies."-
 one can see how much meticulous preparatory "studies" conducted by the Master with aid of  interns and aspirants it must have taken before the first brushstroke appeared on canvas. Franz Kline was also known for avoiding giving meaning to his paintings, In a catalog of Kline's works, art historian Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev writes that "his art both suggests and denies significance and meaning" and what a meaning it may suggest! On top of that, just to be inscrutable-he would deny any meaning or even significance -what an appropriately naughty artiste-maudit teasing coyly  the adoring historians into writing about the smears as if their meaning was as dense as a collapsed red dwarf.


When it comes to the greatest,most delightfully haphazard,deliciously emetic art of smearing the golden palm should be handed to Hans Hofmann,the very Pope of Smearing.


Through a painting, we can see the whole world" said Hans Hofmann.I am not certain he meant his painting












And one more for our edification: Frank Auerbach.
" His work is not concerned with finding a visual equivalent to an emotional or spiritual state that characterised the expressionist movement, rather it deals with the attempt to resolve the experience of being in the world in paint."-so,his paintings are some kind of psychological trial of vague angst experienced by "being in the world".The result of this unusual situation,of being "in the world" and precisely in Camden  part of London  calls for "resolving" through the means of gobbing ,pooling and scraping a greasy dump of accumulated paint.


".......results in an astonishing desire{it really must be "astonishing"] to produce an image the artist considers 'right'. This leads Auerbach to paint an image and then scrape it off the canvas at the end of each day, repeating this process time and again, not primarily to create a layering of images but because of a sense of dissatisfaction with the image leading him to try to paint it again" No  kidding,who would react differently but scrape the thing and perhaps look for the work he could succesfuly do.
"This also indicates that the thick paint in Auerbach's work, which led to some of Auerbach's paintings in the 1950s being considered difficult  to hang, partly due to their weight and according to some newspapers the paint fell off"-that quote shows how not all of it is glamour and riches : paint falls off,people are jeering...



There is a very general set of pre-existing rules of how to do something if we want a particular result. Taking part in figure skating competitions requires without exceptions very fluent skill of skating. One cannot get a job as UN translator without knowing well foreign language.
Actions taken in the process of painting are organizing paint into intense,emotional illusion of three-dimensional image, thus hiding means by which it was achieved. The degree of illusionism varies with styles and unique touch of the artist but the fundamental illusion of paint appearing as objects of the world depicted ; that fundamental  rule obtains. Clearly, subversive forces embedded in XX century culture started the perversity of definitions on all fronts and art is just one of its victims. What has always been a joke has become a rule and what humanity everywhere  and always understood to be in a certain way has been hung upside down and ridiculed .
Because I wanted to conclude this post without fury,I am including one of Meredith Frampton's paintings.Can you imagine him at an art-opening with those new giants?










Saturday, July 25, 2015

Graduated Fergusonification

                 

                
  To be clear: art museums are not places tasked primarily to educate but to hold public display of select masterpieces. Education should happen before and after one goes to visit a museum. Nobody is listening to a symphony while someone is "explaining" or even eating with running commentary. Do one or the other, not both at the same time. Looking at paintings requires immersion in the same kind of silence and concentrated attentiveness in which language of painting is silently eloquent. Too much is made of the '"explanations" of artworks and not enough emphasis put on contemplation. My contemporaries not only see on the screen the action but they want to be told that "Tyrone passed the ball to Leroy". Then they have to be told what the Prez in his speech actually said and what they see while staring distractedly at art.
I guess that most people  are devout democrats at heart that rejoice seeing all-inclusiveness in every public activity.To my eye it seems particularly "american" to see that degree of inclusiveness. It is as if some mythic Mother held on her public lap everybody and their children,even toddlers and demented nonagenarians,spastic wheel-chair riders and uncontrollable pranksters,overly energetic four-years- olds running and hooting along the loggias of the museums.Nobody and never should feel the stinging bite of exclusion.Come all! Come and bring along not only children but your beloved pets to be posed for some selfies with art in the background as a campy joke. .Anything but increasing chances at concentration and silence.

                               


What a total misunderstanding of the purpose of the museum. It is not a „fun place”, not a romper room or hall of distorting mirrors. Bringing smart-phones  to take yet more snap-shots of your marvelous Self is almost as disqualifying as blindness[or more-because  willful donkification is worse]


Malignant notion that it is good to bring in more and more wrong people is going to turn them into high culture lovers is not supported by any facts. It is the “midnight-basketball for ghetto thugs” way of thinking. Leave smart-phone crowd alone: they are evolving in a different direction and Occidental Heritage of Culture has only one use, they found: funny background .

 At a nearby library most seats in the Reading Room are taken but the occupants are taking extended naps, use restroom to body-wash, have speedy sex and over time I have never noticed that they started perusing the aisles for reading material.The painters exhibiting their masterpieces at the National Gallery have not addressed their works to those selfie-ninnies.The curators,the management furnished them with wrong audience , hostile to Culture. What a dismaying betrayal.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Crocheting Spirit

                                  

                                  When one is just beginning as an artist it seems too confining to be classified as belonging to some already well in place group. And yet, very rarely any artist would be so unique that a separate cubicle in art taxonomy would have to be made-just for one. Even if the effort at uniqueness made someone to create sculptures using only toothpicks, or  rejecting all materials and just sitting naked at Museum-it will be gathered into [and this is just a provisional name] “daft offerings “group.
                                   Within the broad groupings of contemporary art there is a considerable section of figurative [more-or-less] art and in it many sub-groups. One that always gives me pause and a head-scratch of bewilderment is what they call “spiritual art”. The first, momentary reaction would surely be positive to anything called “spiritual”. The trouble comes next, when you realize that the understanding of the “spiritual”, especially when connected with art is very blurry and the more examples of it you see the less clear it seems.

Spiritual artist Sri Chimnoy

                                   As I examine my own inner life I need to state that I don’t have a “spiritual” life. I experience thoughts and sensations and feelings but none are of “spiritual” nature. The concept of spirituality takes such a prominent place in any proclamations of values, of spheres of our concern and yet-I don’t experience anything that should be called spiritual. When I think what “spiritual” is the answer that comes is that it is a pursuit of imaginary being and elaborating that inner illusion. When that pursuit is crystallized by rituals it is religion.


                                   This is not a definition generally available because usually accepted definition of spirituality is “personal transformation”. I cannot quite grasp it. Why one would need a transformation and are such changes possible?  Who or what requires of all of us “personal transformation”? Of course if you sell a product it must be claimed that everybody needs it, most especially if it assures your good standing with Imaginary Entity always so keen on obeisance.
Another definition that I fashioned is that spirituality is seeking contact with invisible but sentient beings. Rain Dances and letters to Santa would fit that definition well. Turning the prayer wheel or using rosary is seeking to influence the invisible being with piety. In that, writing two books “Conversations with God” should qualify right on top of successful search for any contact with invisible but sentient being. What a triumph: at last! Except that it is of course just so much smooth verbiage-garbage. Nobody who talks with God would be returning to scribbling third-rate books any more than people who intend to pay their rent by publishing a book on how to become a millionaire in 60 days.
                                      However, the air of tacit complicity on the part of both the author and the readers is assumed already in the title [no more credible than “How I was eaten and digested by crocodile”] and if you reached for it you agreed to have your leg pleasurably pulled. Now extend that tacit complicity to the congregations of four churches on my short street   and then beyond to all “spiritual” people on the globe. Nobody is suddenly jumping to the microphone and wailing  in pain over the radical, unbroken absence of the object of their supplications, adoration. As if mind-numbing litanies and polite genuflections could suffice while real contact with the invisible sentient being was irrelevant or even unwelcome.
                                      On all sides we  are surrounded by such thick walls of religious edifices, decorum and custom reaching to us from the layered past and enduring  right into the future to populate, to move all the heavy furniture of their mythologies, so that the future will not be open and yet unwritten, but already musty with past. Malchus will be again and again looking for his bloody ear in the dirt of Gethsemane. God Gamesh will keep his elephant’s trunk because nobody will say-“elephant’s trunk? Are you serious?” Billions of people will believe in god with elephant’s trunk and billion others will believe in Resurrection. With such surplus capacity for believing “spiritual art” has huge audience.
                                      For proper reception of “spiritual art” one has to assume the suspension of skepticism and take it like the book of conversations with God. One has to dim the lights and “play along”.


                                      Spirituality and spiritual art are coating the mouth of the abyss of the Ultimate Unknown with breath-fresheners, offending the Greatest Mystery with domestication routines and blaspheming with soothing bromides. What is particularly galling is lack of visions, repetitiveness, crippling symmetries. The colors are so shrill one wants to run from such “spirituality”. When I look at these examples of spiritual art I see that their authors are crocheting doilies for subatomic particles.

                                                                                  Alex Gray



Thursday, September 11, 2014

Threnody

                           


                             Reading about retirement of the director of Boston Museum of Art[Grumpy Art Historian]sent me to thinking around the subject of changes made to nearly all American museums. In the last 30 or so years museums have  changed  as if the very concept of those institutions demanded improvements, adjustments to fit  the eye-popping changes outside of the museums. To see the nature of these changes one has to visit say, Detroit Institute of Art and contemplate their collection.



         Rachel Ruysch, floral still life in Detroit Institute of Art


           The people who built Detroit and their museum succeeded in creating very prosperous metropolis of American industriousness, proud yearning for high culture and the museum was among the resources of it.
 Saturated, satiated with the sense of ascending spirituality, displays of almost unearthly workmanship  and vertiginous heights of refinement  shown there one stands at the steps and takes in the radical contrast of the world outside.


 Dystopian necropolis of burned, gutted expanses of savage 
destruction is not the cemetery of our civilization but stands as the 
vanguard of new era so well depicted by the African-American 
artist from Detroit,pictured below. A new country is bit by bit 
unveiling itself. Its name  will be Kakopolis.You would be perhaps 
surprised knowing that Haiti is setting its colonies inside of 
America : Detroit,Gary,Newark,Memphis,Baltimore,Saginaw,East 
Saint Louis,New Orleans and fifty more urban disasters are 
festering like necrotic lesions across the country. There is no way 
to accept them as some more of the “vibrant diversity” that 
contributes to the richness of American mosaic. To any common-
sense people it would be inescapably clear that we have a clash of 
two extremely different civilizations. Because there was no will to 
see it as conflict,as culture war ,nothing was done to save ,to defend our world against the march of savagery.

Returning back inside of the museum one has to notice that horrors of urban blight have its ugly twin among the contemporary collection. What was meant to be a repository of the highest achievements of our contemporary art turned into elevated promotion of visual retardation, moronic displays of barbarity. Somehow and sadly there is an unwelcome balance of two betrayals: one outside, of urban savagery and another inside of the museum, of the Stupid Art.

                                 Gilda Snowden ,"Monument"-What a perfect match with Detroit.

Friday, May 10, 2013

the Stupid Art


The effeminate father of liberalism, John Stuart Mill divided the world of convictions into two groups: one of the adherents to his imaginary descriptions of the ways in which human interactions should be and the other group consistent of people who disagree with him. He called them the Stupid Party.
Insolent it was and very quickly became the peremptory tone of all liberal pronouncements. Now, I think it is right to take example from their catastrophic success and call modern art – Stupid Art. The art we call “modern” has not been modern for a  hundred years ! No longer “modern”, ambulating about with aid of a walker and shakily waiving its colostomy bag. What is “modern” about it ?
There is nothing by which one can tell that a piece of art in front of the viewer is truly “modern” , except for one instantaneous recognition, unifying all of “modern art” – it is strikingly stupid. What is presented to view is purposefully made in some hinterland of retardation and now is coyly asking for our kindness we give to retards.
What follows here is a brief checklist for recognition of Stupid Art addressed to visitors of art museums and galleries,art centers ,open studios and even public art. With the Stupid Art Checklist anyone will be able to identify it with 100 % accuracy, which surely is something vanishingly rare in times where “all is relative” and “it is just your opinion”.

First on the List should be immediate realization that the hasty author of the art-piece did not feel that learning how to draw from observation of reality could be  at all necessary first step in the direction of visual art. One that guarantee nothing, or nothing more than knowledge of grammar would guarantee to the poet. 




 This is a painting by the great American artist Milton Avery,who made his absolute inability to draw into a hallmark of his maniere.

Whether it was “haste” or rather general assumption that all you need is to pick up a crayon or a paintbrush and start smearing something across. The pleasurable effect is exactly like the half-forgotten delight of making blobs of gerber-food around the dining table. Plop here and plop over there! What innocent fun! Everything we do is so severely judged and here, in a small but perfect Romper-Room of Art anything is “wonderful”.
From such broadest approval of any outcome as “wonderful” comes the ugly, the misshapen, the primitive form signaling its belonging to the Stupid Art.

Another artistic triumph by Milton Avery-what could anyone want to add? It's simply perfect.


Second on the List of recognizing artwork as Stupid Art is eye-opening mind-exploding  radical absence of any content that could be traced to human mental activity.It is not easy  for a normal person to find enough blankness, simpering simulation of cretinism to be successful at it but some have shown laudable aptitude. 

Don't avert your eyes,look at it. The dish-water background cleverly contrasts with rectangles of primary paints. IKEA meets swill-water,you may think-but that is not what the artist ,Hans Hofmann intended.The title is "Memoria in Eterna",no less!


In my own 55 years of contacts with Stupid Art no one has created anything as idiotic as Hans Hofmann.
Remember-if the art-piece you are regarding is making you exclaim “What in tarnation is this????”than  you  are seeing something from the vast collection of Stupid Art.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Beating Foam of Cosmic Dandruff at MOMA


                         To reject the whole world as unworthy of painting is a dizzying,immense act. Suddenly everything that we ever saw,experienced and admired is pushed over a cosmic ledge. A painter,someone gifted with particular acuity of seeing,of fanatical dedication to praise visible world rejecting the whole universe of the Visible? It would have to be a most unusual humanoid, so detached from love of the world,hostile to its eternal beauty and so disinterested in finding in painting a way to communicate with public our common experiences of living in the midst of the Marvel of the World-it surely would have to be someone thoroughly detached from humanity.

                                                                             *

                          In the new London Review of Books there is an article about huge exhibition at Museum of Modern Art in NYC tracing the history of abstract art. To explain how those early abstract-artists came to reject representational art the author quotes Walter Pater:”All art constantly aspires to the condition of music”.Behind that quote there is a conviction that all art somehow would want to be music or approximate music since music is the most “abstract” of artistic disciplines. It suggests that artists generally felt burdened,shackled by the low-flying expectations of depicting the world,rather than taking wings over the vastness of non-representational possibilities-like music! What horizons,what exhilaration ,what a new universe for the pioneers of new art! But wait- let us return and examine that seemingly brilliant quote of W. Pater: does all art really aspires toward anything outside of its own possibilities?Does “Gargantua and Pantagruel” wants to be a kind of music? Does the Grunewald's Crucifixion aspires to be like music? Is perhaps such sense of insufficiency and wish for musical means of expression in Nike of Samothrake? 






Certainly not. The aspirations within every discipline of art is to work its own magic to its utmost.
Every piece of art presents a very exacting arrangement of parts that harmonize and contrast with each other and that formal stratum of artwork is the structural framework to carry the content. The idea that resolving the decorative,formal play of elements within artwork is the true and only sovereign territory of art created abstract art. Unburdened from content and therefore from meaning abstractionists made paintings that were intended to be like painted music.The trouble is that it is not an appealing sensation. The viewer's eye is lead from one geometric form to the next in staccato rhythm as if police horn couldn't be turned off. The rottweilers of primary colors attack your eyes with force but the encounter is too loud,too barbaric to constitute an aesthetic experience. If abstract art should be considered an addition of decorative arts ,like,maiolika tiles {Miro} or wallpapers {Jackson Pollock} than it would find its proper place. Linoleum flooring by Mondrian in a diner from the “50s would look just right.
But of course those people had grand claims of replacing Western tradition in arts with their arbitrary geometries and loud blankness rather than to produce wallpapers. How something so mediocre become so vastly successful is a question with many answers,or perhaps all of them are parts of a complicated answer.
In the larger topography of changes abstract art belongs with statism,multiculturalism,mythology of equality,elevation of primitivism,belief in inexorable cultural progress. In a word:Cultural Marxism :mama and papa of Political Correctness tried so successfully in the Soviet Block and later in the West and especially in America. There is only one form of art that is suitable both for families dragging children through museums as well as to decorate corporate headquarters: abstract art. Nobody would complain about controversial content of abstract art. It has none. If only literature could exhibit the same docile restrain and it nearly did as long as the gateways to publishing were guarded by cultural marxists.
Western Tradition in art has always been figurative and continues in that way.Abstract art does not belong inside of that tradition: it is an intruder that imposed itself in our museums,at art schools ,exhibitions of art. The take-over has not happened by some mysterious osmotic process-there were busy little men removing our art and replacing it with nearly empty canvases and metal junk. Where deservedly and proudly we should have great art of Andrew Wyeth public would encounter some immense smear by Franz Klein. Element by element of our culture has been replaced with audacious trash.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

How to love Lucas Van Leyden








Whoever expressed interest in engraving inevitably would admire divine works of Albrecht Dürer. His ability to draw and  originality of his images are without equal. Whatever achievements were accomplished in the course of 500 years of copper engraving had to take place in Dürer’s great shadow.
To my mind, the greatest engraver after Dürer was Lucas van Leyden.






One of the ways to marvel at Van Leyden’s small engravings is to examine the amount of information that lovingly is given within the tight confines of a little rectangle. When a viewer scans the artwork it is as if he arrived at an island and it could be as complicated, packed with fascinations and discoveries as Santorini or as sparse as Dry Tortuga, where you can count number of separate objects very quickly. Van Leyden wanted to understand the small window of his artwork as a porthole to a very complex view that approximates reality.




Metal resists free-hand pirouettes of cut lines. Engraver pushes hard against the surface and the resulting groove would normally not look at all like what he has intended. It would look like a plowman’s furrow with no relation to subtle convolutions describing the contour of some form. It would be a technical disaster without a good way to erase it. The plate would be ruined and it would have to be discarded. Seems that figure-skating on ice has similar intolerance for any mis-step, imbalance and a resulting fall.
The body has to tense, the hands at the ready –both to cut and at the same time to halt the cut.The attention has to focus entirely at the very point of the diamond-shaped tip of the graver. All extraneous concerns have to fade in mind. One sensation that will arise is a feeling expressing the emotion of the intended line. And- cut!



There is many refine offerings in a print of Van Leyden’s quality. Look at the breadth of his tonal scale he was able to achieve across faint grays and mid-tones all the way to deepest darks for which engravings are famous. There are certain contrasting blacks so assertive that the viewer can savor “the joy of black”.
Illusion of three-dimensionality is made in engravings by hatching and cross-hatching lines. That method has sometimes appearance of being too mechanical, especially when it is a result of an engraving workshop. Multiple liners cut rather mechanical-looking parallels. In Van Leyden’s art there is almost an infinite variety of lines, ways of hatchings, stippling,cross-hatchings to describe forms as a web of tiny, precise actions building scaffoldings or fabrics the forms are tightly wearing.


Unlike in painting an engraving has to rely entirely on beauty of its forms to win viewers heart. When the eyes examine Lucas’ print we are instantly aware of extreme purposefulness of every element brought to the image. Each form is presented as if hewing, chiseling and polishing made those forms into sculptural perfection. Nothing is tentative, nothing is intimating even a hint of provisionality of “more or less” there. Every action of the graver is aiming at certain absolutism, an overwhelming sense of necessity pervading even the smallest margin. Reading closely Shakespearean sonnet one gets the same sense of absolutism of each word.

 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hyperbolic language of a “hype”




There is a certain “style” of thinking about art that gives broad license to exaggerated statements, then building on them wholly unwarranted abstract constructs. Temptation too strong to be curbed of whipping abstract foam of ideas and making ever more delicious connections, finding nonexistent symmetries, crocheting abstract laceworks of supposed content .All such hyperbole is written with innocent,not-so-innocent intent to help the viewer,the reader to “understand” the magnificence and rarified intellectual framework of  the art-piece. In fact, I suspect it leaves the art-piece behind and runs its own theater of ideas with transparent wish to impress, to dazzle and get glory of its own.
To illustrate it one can hardly choose among the vastness of examples, some more comic than others. Here is a painting, greatly revered as a jewel of surpassing brilliance at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, entitled rather surprisingly “Garden in Sochi” by Archile Gorky. Surprising because the view does not really show a garden and the author never visited Sochi.







Once you glance at the painting you can just as easily accept any other title,say “Breakfast with Tabasco”. So, the viewer is to understand that the author does not really mean  “garden” or “town of Sochi” and yet the title is very specific! Edward Lucie-Smith elucidates: “these are not the only coded elements to be found in the painting. Its swelling forms are also breasts and buttocks, metaphors for the female body…” There are some crudely oblong shapes there but don’t expect to be rewarded by finding any breasts or good old buttocks there. Lucie-Smith found them and declared that they are “metaphors of feminine body”. I suspect he meant emblematic icons of feminine body since metaphors are something quite else. And now we enter a crazy-room of opposite intentions. The artist made a successful effort at producing haphazard squiggles avoiding perils of figurative art but the commentator still insists on seeing in them a tree, foliage, buttocks and ,lets not forget breasts, town of Sochi and a garden. He writes “The link between the tree and its leaves and the female body is the idea of natural fecundity”.Hocus-pocus,abracadabra and what strongly appeared to be idiotic scribbles gets elevated to significant  expression of “natural fecundity”, unassailable phenomenon and surely preferable to aridity.
If we accept that some clumsy squiggles could contain so much serious content than shouldn’t we also wonder if there is a time, a case when imbecilic squiggles are not imbued with rich meaning but resolutely, firmly remain mindless nonsense? Is the answer here that a knowing eye of an art writer can recognize the greatness and distinguish it from trash done by some uncoordinated moron? I wonder how?