Sunday, November 28, 2021

Not in the Eye!!!

             Some popular sayings are so calcified that at first they seem like monuments. In fact they often are petrified idiocies. Here is two I just came across again.

            “Art is in the eye of the beholder” and even more astounding : “Art is what you think is art”. What the first saying claims is that the artistic experience is created by the clever viewer, not by the artist. When you look at a painting ,say by Giorgione it is you, not him who succeeded in giving an intense aesthetic experience. In that same vein of unwarranted hubris listening to a symphony it is you, that musical genius who created the immortal beauty in your ear, not the composer., who surely tried to cobble some notes together but only when it entered your ear it coalesced into art. Another belief expressed by that saying is of extreme subjectivity of the reactions to a work of art. One may be enchanted while someone else might find himself repelled by the same art. That is also a colossal nonsense. When ten eaters lift up ten spoons to their mouths and nine of them experience chocolatey sweetness and one exclaims that he sensed a taste of spoiled cabbage, he must be wrong, having some gustatory and olfactory disorder. People's reactions to beauty do not vary all that much. How many viewers would be leaving Athens's Archeological Museum with overall sense of dissatisfaction or even disappointment?
               The second saying is of a newer origin and arose with American boosterism, lefty feminism and the idea that we all are equally gifted. Boosterism, because we love to shout to a kid who fumbled a ball "Good try, Johnny". Lefty feminism because the New World they build should pretend that there is no failures, no stratification of abilities, no radical scale of actual, true endowments among people. In such a clown-world anything you say is art- must be art.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Aesthetics of Clarity/Allure of Obscurity

Aesthetics of Clarity

Let us recall any of those musical compositions that barely introduce their theme, only to plunge into a thicket of variations,teasing the ear with few bars of the theme and running immediately into the labyrintine escapes,digressive traps of over-talkative cadenzas. We are led astray and when finally the theme reasserts itself the listener is manipulated to experience the relief and gratifying sense of finding lost gold watch or expensive dentures.
First example is of clarity in prose,where progression of story goes as if each step said "sequitur,sequitur...."
Plutarch in Dryden's translation
“.......It was a matter of general wonder, when people saw him joining Socrates in his meals and his exercises, living with him in the same tent, whilst he was reserved and rough to all others who made their addresses to him, and acted, indeed, with great insolence to some of them. As in particular to Anytus, the son of Anthemion, one who was very fond of him, and invited him to an entertainment which he had prepared for some strangers. Alcibiades refused the invitation; but, having drunk to excess at his own house with some of his companions, went thither with them to play some frolic; and, standing at the door of the room where the guests were enjoying themselves, and seeing the tables covered with gold and silver cups, he commanded his servants to take away the one-half of them, and carry them to his own house; and then, disdaining so much as to enter into the room himself, as soon as he had done this, went away. The company was indignant, and exclaimed at his rude and insulting conduct; Anytus, however, said, on the contrary, he had shown great consideration and tenderness in taking only a part when he might have taken all......”
And choice sample of crystalline clarity as if cut diamond in poetry:

A Broken Appointment

You did not come,
And marching Time drew on, and wore me numb.
Yet less for loss of your dear presence there
Than that I thus found lacking in your make
That high compassion which can overbear
Reluctance for pure lovingkindness' sake
Grieved I, when, as the hope-hour stroked its sum,
You did not come.

You love not me,
And love alone can lend you loyalty;
-I know and knew it. But, unto the store
Of human deeds divine in all but name,
Was it not worth a little hour or more
To add yet this: Once you, a woman, came
To soothe a time-torn man; even though it be
You love not me.

Thomas Hardy 

Allure of obscurity

Just to make the stylistic division emphatic let's see example from a text at the opposite end of clarity:
"Speaking more generally,the theoretical hallucination of desire,with its defuse libidinal psychology,serves as a backdrop to that simulacrum of seduction which one now finds everywhere.Having replaced the world of surveillance,it characterize the vulnerability of both individuals and masses to soft injunctions. Distilled in homeopathic doses throughout all personal and social relation,the seductive shadow of this discourse hovers today over the desert of social relations,and of power itself."
from "Seduction" by Jean Baudrillard.Before any serious expedition in search for sense-making should be undertaken here , it would be right to accept that in this lunar use of concepts,connections,intellectual impressionism the term "theoretical hallucination" is explaining a lot.

Language has various sub-languages: scientific,technical,poetical and above all the ordinary colloquial language within that totality. Colloquial speech is so dedicated to conveying meaning that it burns itself upon completion of relaying the message. Poetical language refuses such self-emmolation . It is made to outlast release of message and indeed reaffirms its endurance. The better the poetry the more indestructible is its language. Poet faces the opposition of tasks-to communicate and to save his language from instant self-emmolation.To use a whole arsenal of poetical devices,reaching into wild associations,surprising analogies,convulsive grammatical structures-all that carry a serious risk of losing the reader who senses that the author is not interested in communicating.
Looking closely at poetical text one senses that apart from what is well understood a certain darker shadow of obscurity remains.It seems to want obstinately to remain inscrutable lest the poetical charm would disappear.In poetry the balance of clarity and obscurity is tipped toward the Clarity scale,but Obscurity is never empty.
Beyond the known and well-traveled land mass of language,far away,beyond Aleutian Islands of communicating , there is „more”. There are wild associations,obscurities that would burn holes in our brains,uses of words so bizarre,so untamed and violent to logic that those who reached there came back damaged,clinging to the land of Clarity ever more.
As an example of alluring obscurity is „City that does not sleep” by Federico Garcia Lorca in R.Bly translation:

In the sky there is nobody asleep.  Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is asleep.
The creatures of the moon sniff and prowl about their cabins.
The living iguanas will come and bite the men who do not dream,
and the man who rushes out with his spirit broken will meet on the 
            street corner
the unbelievable alligator quiet beneath the tender protest of the
Nobody is asleep on earth.  Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is asleep.
In a graveyard far off there is a corpse
who has moaned for three years
because of a dry countryside on his knee;
and that boy they buried this morning cried so much
it was necessary to call out the dogs to keep him quiet.
Life is not a dream.  Careful!  Careful!  Careful!
We fall down the stairs in order to eat the moist earth
or we climb to the knife edge of the snow with the voices of the dead
But forgetfulness does not exist, dreams do not exist;
flesh exists.  Kisses tie our mouths
in a thicket of new veins,
and whoever his pain pains will feel that pain forever
and whoever is afraid of death will carry it on his shoulders.
One day 
the horses will live in the saloons
and the enraged ants
will throw themselves on the yellow skies that take refuge in the
            eyes of cows.
Another day
we will watch the preserved butterflies rise from the dead
and still walking through a country of gray sponges and silent boats
we will watch our ring flash and roses spring from our tongue.
Careful!  Be careful!  Be careful!
The men who still have marks of the claw and the thunderstorm,
and that boy who cries because he has never heard of the invention 
            of the bridge,
or that dead man who possesses now only his head and a shoe,
we must carry them to the wall where the iguanas and the snakes
            are waiting,
where the bear’s teeth are waiting,
where the mummified hand of the boy is waiting,
and the hair of the camel stands on end with a violent blue shudder.
Nobody is sleeping in the sky.  Nobody, nobody.
Nobody is sleeping.
If someone does close his eyes,
a whip, boys, a whip!
Let there be a landscape of open eyes
and bitter wounds on fire.
No one is sleeping in this world.  No one, no one.
I have said it before.
No one is sleeping.
But if someone grows too much moss on his temples during the
open the stage trapdoors so he can see in the moonlight
the lying goblets, and the poison, and the skull of the theaters.

Why would clarity be appealing to an artist? Are clearly,plainly ,un-obstructedly shown forms preferable ? The answer is not as simple as "yes" because the clarity of presentation has to have tension.It cannot simply peel itself of all outer wrappings,skins and shades.Instead the artist wants to use dynamic result of agon for the coming to light.
Surely,someone might say-no,there is no need for tension and great light may awash the content of an artwork evenly abolishing any sense of darkness anywhere.True,but most successful paintings are build by dynamic tensions between opposites.Cool colors contrast warm colors.Big volumes are placed with small ones.Verticalities are interwoven with horizontals. Billowy oblongs demand some jagged angularities.Complexities need plain,un-interrupted saharas.The same intuited need governs careful distribution of light and darkness.
One of the most primordial antinomies is Darkness and Light,and Darkness is older,perhaps truly at the irremovable"it"of existence.Light always happens as breaking the darkness.Picture it as gloom and impenetrable magma at the first orchestral part of Brahms's Violin Concerto and suddenly a sharp ribbon of violin bursts like light ascending ever higher and brighter.First Light of the

What is darkness?Is it really just an absence of light,or is there something more substantial there?Imagine a more substantial darkness,more corpusculatory dark like falling into a mine-shaft of
blackberries ,like black ink so strong that even the daylight cannot wash away.
However,,after reflection,maybe that we need to distinguish between darkness and black color.In my experience darkness is not quite „black” in color.It has more complex color.One name comes to mind: murk.Not black.
When we read of black object that it „absorbs” all the rays of light what happens to those millions of photons?Are they trapped inside of black surface? Are they somehow annihilated,turned to something else? Turned perhaps to rust of light?Does nobody care what happens to all those „absorbed” light rays ? Perhaps it is time to look for them;first observe the place where photons hit the surface and then have some clever combs to recover them in flurries of cascading liberation of photons.
In visual arts the aesthetic taste for un-clarity could manifests itself as confusing complexity,and at times by obscuring much or even most of the presentation.Background is dark and dissolving details.Out of the gloom a part comes to light .In dramatized chiaroscuro the lighted part glows as if with its own,inner light.

                            Jean de la Hey and François-Emile Barraud give us examples of great clarity.


And for examples of  obscurity or "un-clearness " Cornelius Bega
                                                       and Jan Gerritsz van Bronckhorst

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Baroque is an Irregular Pearl


                There are two kinds of pearls: regular and irregular.Every regular pearl is perfectly spherical and they may differ in size and in luster and "orient "-but each is identical in shape. Now,irregular pearls are almost beyond number in their variety.One distinct group among them gave a name to a very significant style in art: baroque pearls.

baroque pearls from South Sea

Baroque like Renaissance is ahistorical,extending its distinct stylistic tendency across many cultural epochs.They both reflect an important opposition in viewing the world and art.
Egyptian sculpture has been always restrained,balanced in symmetry and therefore expressing what five and a half millennia later was called “renaissance”spirit. Archaic Greek sculpture expresses the same stylistic preference,while Hellenistic epoch is pure “baroque”.
Renaissance art is Apollonian while Baroque is Dionysian. The Sun,the Light of Apollonian approach is illuminating visible world in such a measured,unveiling way that the visibility offers everything for examination,acquaintance,apprehension. Because objects are presented with such clarity,the light itself is not felt as intense presence : forms instead are.

San Giorgio Maggiore by Andrea Palladio

             If Baroque can be understood as expression of “Dionysian” view of life,than it would have to be avoiding in its description chaos,often mentioned in characterizing Dionysian spirit. There is simply never chaos in Baroque art. There is strife,agitation,drama and great imbalance without chaos. Somehow chaos apparently exists outside artistic formal arrangements.
             Renaissance is proposing a view that is a completed task and presents a state of completion. The state of things as they found their fitting places and can show them with finality,clarity and just balance.
Chiostro by Andrea Palladio

              If Renaissance is made of lighted forms,the Baroque believes that the correct view is one of all-encompassing Darkness,out of which ,here and there some protruding promontories emerge , found by searching lights. As much as Renaissance seems mostly static and languorous,the Baroque is striving,reaching or conflicted,overtaken by some dramatic struggle. Even something as sitting would be shown as escaping the chair's confines,rejecting the chair invitation to placidity,being pulled away by some invisible force.
              Baroque art describes the world by chiaroscuro while Renaissance by shaping forms. Artists of Renaissance were pursuing Idealism in everything: ideal forms,ideal proportions,noble line and golden balance. Baroque,at least in painting found a new,fascinating and vast world,unknown to art up till 1590th-realism.
              In Renaissance painting objects are shown fully and appear separate. Baroque presents forcefully the experience of unity in which many parts participate,rarely or never shown on their own. Flux,change,struggle and conflicting forces tear at the whole universe. Banks of clouds are engaged in some meteorological agony,the landscape suffers calamitous convulsions while waters overflow,cascade .Everything has a dramatic role in Baroque Opera Mundi .

Column of Baldacchimo at St.Peter by Bernini

                 Just like Renaissance cannot be build out of Gothic elements- the Baroque arouse out of its own parts,without Renaissance. Continuing and adding more passion to ever thinner elements of Gothic Flamboyant would never lead toward Renaissance. That means there was no gradual replacement of forms of old style and taking in new ones. There was some evolution,or at least intensifications within the period of each style but not graduated transitions from one style to the next.
                A church is a machine loaded with people's yearning and put into motion,a kind of swirl intending to produce communal experience of the Divine.
A church is a devotional carousel for festive rides around circular pillar of Yearning for the Divine that are attempting to move God into appearing for the supplicants.

Baldacchimo by Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Even though God is so intensely,so completely everywhere people reject this most fundamental fact about Being and wish for something else: building a focal lens for the concentrated divine presence in form of a stone circle,a temple ,a church,a launch pad for lift off to meet the Divine.
            Renaissance church is laid out as reflection of perfection and therefore its plan has centrality ,circle and square governing it. There is an overwhelming sense of fulfillment and static completion.
Baroque reflects embodiment of a very different feeling. Instead of a square and centrality it builds on longitudinal plan and where in Renaissance would be perfect circle Baroque would use an ellipse and an oblong. Baroque expresses an intense agitation,gathering of forces,reaching out.
Baroque state of the spirit is filled with passions transgressing all moderation. Relation with the Divine is so endowed with extreme emotions,so much intensity animates the faithful that nothing can stay unrelated outside of its ardent plea for salvation.
The division between renaissance approach and baroque is present throughout time and every creation belongs to either style.

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

                                                         We're in no danger of ever thinking any more.
                                                         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