Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Pet Tricks at MOMA

Some of us, most of us are such  eager and willing short-order-cooks of significance  and meaning we can hardly stop. We, or some of us have misplaced necessary skepticism that makes the grown-ups grown-ups. Here is a melancholic example of that innocent rush toward seeing meaning and significance in places where plainly there is none. Mark Matlock ,apparently a Christian minister writes about his “profound experience”:
“Last year my family had a rather profound experience at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.  Performance artist Marina Abramovic began each morning sitting across a table, staring at any patron of the museum who wanted to sit in the chair across from her. The piece was called “The Artist Is Present”. She repeated this activity everyday MOMA was open for three months.
 To the casual observer it looked quite unusual. Who is this woman? All she is doing is sitting there, all day, staring. Is this art or a practical joke?
 But as people began gathering around, watching, themselves engaged, it was apparent to the thoughtful person that something special was happening. The Artist Was Present.”
 So- any thoughtful person would realize it was special; sitting motionless and numb was “special”, or sitting at MOMA  made it so? Would any pointless demonstration, like kneeling all day or strumming stringless guitar each day for three month would also be found by thoughtful person to be special? Probably, I fear.
In next paragraph our good minister is savoring the simplicity of “the artist” gift, namely her presence. She is not represented by any art-work or action, just the numb sitting, strong bladder retention and remarkable talent for enduring blankness.
“ But out in MOMA’s atrium, Marina Abramovic WAS present. She had no paintings, no objects to show, nothing to say, nothing to give, except for her presence. And she was present all day. She never took a break to go to the bathroom or to eat lunch. She just sat, willing to be present with anyone who wished to sit across from her, and they could stay as long as they liked.”
We all know our cultural heritage and stand in awe in front of its greatness. How does the three months of motionless sitting going to be a contribution to that heritage? And yet, the minister and no doubt his family,all thoughtful people came away with “profound experience”.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Oneiric Commitment

Anything you would paint will be an interpretation, even if you try to avoid it and adhere as closely as possible to reality of the image-the interpretation will be tendentious favoring one’s interest in the aesthetic solutions, in design, in relations of parts to each other in an artful ways that result in appealing sight, or favoring interest in the very reality, individuation of the subject painted. Of course both tendencies will be followed in some degree of proportional commitment to formal matters on one hand and reality of subject on the other.
To regain sovereignty of painting away from photographic image painters largely rejected close observation, study of the painted subjects in favor of “purely painterly” considerations. They are creating paintings, not depicting something outside of painting-they would explain.
At a momentary glance it might seem right; why should they be slavishly mimicking reality when a good photograph can do the job in a second, right? Wrong, about as wrong as saying “no” to the world. In successful   painting the world is depicted by enamored eye, showing us the legend, the passionate interpretation of reality, far from any mechanical optics of the camera.
So- the first and most important is painter’s commitment to the infinite miracles of the world. Second commitment is called “oneiric commitment”, a commitment to a vision. Once a vision visited your mind it is hardly endowed with all the necessary elements and parts and qualities that should be included to make the image compelling, fleshed –out in firm embodiment. Visions are ghostly apparitions and painter’s skills are going to turn a fleeting vision into a lasting image of powerful, irrefutable persistence.
But then much more can be done and the oneiric commitment can be deeper, endowing the image with ever greater depth of observations, descriptive qualities,penetrating knowledge of reality and suggestive power of endowing imaginary elements with irrefutable force of  reality. At that elevation of painter’s task the world-building is conducted inside of a painting, rather than directly aiming at bringing an image to aesthetically satisfying conclusion.[There is one of cardinal divisions between the Northern spirit of multiplicity and Italian love of unity, as Heinrich Woellflin pointed out.] Few painters across centuries have set their task along such overwhelming commitment. Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Brueghel certainly understood painting in this way.

                                                                     Robert Campin 

                                                                    Andre d'Ypres

                                                                       Jan van Eyck

                                                                Hieronymus Bosch

                                                           Pieter Brueghel

                                                                  Pieter Brueghel

                                                            Jan Gossaert called Mabuse

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fifty/fifty Racket

Long before the relativism obscured the obvious there were art guilds guarding against any shoddy practice and lowering of very high standards. As the results artists of the guilds left us some of the best made art objects ever created. Their colors are the most brilliant, glowing like jewels after 500 years. The quality of their drawings is nonpareil. Their compositions are always intricate and very tight .Then, their passion for rich, narrative realism keeps the mind of the viewer curious, intrigued. Wherever eye gazes it takes in the painter’s message: the world is marvelous, magnificent and how glorious it is to see it. Nothing in a painting like that is neglected, left unfinished, half-baked. To paint with such extreme dedication, reaching toward absolute perfection through art required big internal changes in characters of those artists. Normal amounts of patience, concentration, dedication would not do at all. One had to build a new person on top of the one that would gladly settle for “pretty darn good”.
Now, let us quickly move 500 years still inside of the same civilization, the same culture of the same race of people.
  Once I joined a small gathering of artists at the house of a woman who told about her method of painting. She would buy a dozen of pre-stretched canvases and dip one in water. Then she would lay it flat and squeeze a squirt of acrylic paint down, then another color and again. On the wet surface the splats would bleed toward each other and after few minutes the entire surface was covered. Nice frame was added and painting would be sold at a local gallery. The gallery would take its “customary” 50 % and the artist would pocket her share, minus the cost of framing and the negligible cost of materials. It is not much, but considering the amount of time spent, assessing the amount of effort put into making the piece it would seem like a satisfactory transaction all around. The framer stays busy; the gallery made another quick profit and the artist had some income. No wonder than that the artist felt rather satisfied about the arrangement.
And yet, something is wrong there. The “paintings” she is selling are crap, the gallery is touting it as “very charming” and happy to make quick buck on stupidity of the public.
Now comes  relativism and in its fog it is supposedly hard to be sure what is crap and what is , perhaps not certainly so. After all very similar “paintings” are in the major museums everywhere and no doubt acquired for some hefty prices. The museums are not going to admit they are buying and exhibiting garbage. Their effete curators can nearly swoon with emotion in front of any of those garbage-works.
It would have to be checked in the history but my provisional understanding of the matter is that the usurious, outrageous arrangement of the fifty/fifty split of profits came about between art-dealers and modern artist sometime in the first decades of last century. Right at the time when hasty smearing became such a “rage” and the bad art needed unscrupulous sellers to convince the collectors to invest in it. Such works needed a lot of additional phoney commentary, creation of taste for “the newest” and right press to explain how shoddy is actually “great”. For that effort 50/50 split seemed the very least the authors of the art market for modern art felt entitled to and gotten.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Drawing like a thoughtful prayer

At the beginning let us state some obvious truths and keep them in mind as if holding a light as we traverse a
confusing refuse dump at night. When someone decided to draw a tree in front of him he would see that this
complex object consist of parts: roots, trunk and a branching limbs forming a crown of foliage. It is [not
“seems” but is] right to reflect that in the drawing. As the drawing progresses more observable elements are
 drawn. The form of each limb grows out of the trunk in such way that there is a thickening at its base and
that should be noted in the picture. Drawing which ignores it betrays disregard of what was clearly in view.
What would be a reason for this disregard? Inattentiveness for one and unwillingness to accept that in
drawing a tree morphologic truth of facts given in view are absolutely obliging. Once we peer down the
 darkness of that refusal nothing commendable sits there. The truth of what the eyes observed is almost
instantly disregarded for one of available “styles” replacing further observations with arbitrary, lame     oversimplifications, cheap decorative stylizations.

                                                                      Piet Mondrian

This is most significant point: when artist makes the decision to turn away from reality and reaches for stylistic
 devices. Somehow the miraculous, infinitely complex mystery of reality was judged here to be insufficient,
spent and lacking newness. That point has to be pounded and pounded again because it is like a pivotal shaft
on which the whole circus-tent of modern art is hinged. After the whole history of observing reality and
depicting it with passionate enamoration a small horde of amateurish barbarians defeated our arts and pitched
 their tawdry tent of modern gimmicks.”Anything but Reality” is the essential guiding slogan of modern art. It
invites everybody who does not know how to draw, has no patience to learn it and is ready to start smearing
and gluing and “collaging” and “having fun”. But the quality of the “fun” is low, no more than child’s satisfaction
at chess where it is agreed he always wins. No matter how silly the elements of the art-piece how are we to
judge it to be trash or masterwork of genius?
Below is a small sample of drawings and engravings showing trees seen with loving eyes, with dedication to
 the truth that traces the unfathomable wisdom which governs their triumphal being.

                                                                       Lucas van Leyden

                                                                    Albrecht Durer

                                                                          Henry Wallis

                                                                    Frederick Leighton

                                                                     Rex Vicat Cole

And a hundred years after Cole drew the tree above we have this most astonishing portrait of live Oak ,called
"Angel Oak" by North Carolina artist Jean LeCluyse.

                                                                          Jean LeCluyse [click the image for an enlargement]

Monday, September 12, 2011

American Realism in XX century -Second Part

Second half of the XX century in American art saw almost universal triumph of modern art, which very quickly has become the obligatory academism for all students and practitioners. Every art institution, every grant, award and every benison of recognition went from there on to modern artists. To be an artist and not employ some kind of modern gimmicks was in all instances deadly as carrier-building move. It was, and still is a self-erasure from the map of significant contributions to national culture.
In that unforgiving monism of what art has to be there were some obstinate exceptions. Edward Hopper painted America, particularly urban America like no one before him. Sure, there were “ash-can” painters depicting urban scenes but they hardly were distinct from their European counter-parts. What Hopper showed in his paintings was utterly, uniquely American. Even his technique, while roughly “post-impressionistic” is very much his own: avoiding easy stylistic deformations, exaggerated slopping of thick impastos or cubist-like tendencies. There are two, I believe, sources of artistic delight his marvelous art brings: uniquely American scenes and “hopperesque mood” which is a peculiar brand of melancholy.

Another and no less gigantic artist was Andrew Wyeth. His visions of rural America are unlike those endless landscapes of bucolic serenity of American luminists or impressionists .His eye is seeing farmed land and rural life with extreme attentiveness and solemnity that imparts to each scene almost a religious gravity, elevating the quotidian to almost a holy rite. One has to compare his work to other realists to see how very selective, judicious are the choices of elements shown. Andrew Wyeth’ art was the most opposite creation to modern art. He took strictly nothing from the pile of available methods of the moderns. He painted as if the omnipresent primitivisation of the contemporary art was in no way obliging. Significantly, he also was building his world without any obvious references to the past. Wyeth was truly sui generis. It is a precious gift his genius left us to cherish.

There are three excellent figurative painters worth including who worked in the second part of XX century in America: Ivan  Albright, Paul Cadmus and George Tooker.

                                                                            Ivan Albricht

                                                                         Paul Cadmus

                                                              George Tooker

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

American Realism in XX century Part One

Since art historians are people of ideas, delighting in finding conceptual, seemingly beautiful abstract constructs they irresistibly are attracted to the kind of art that begs for exegesis.
 The temptation is just too strong and who would blame them for yielding into the impressive acrobatics of flexible ideas. Modern art is perfect in this one instant- it screams for explanation. And art historians, with vigor worthy of a better cause jumped at the chance to knit and weave the most astonishing web of absurd theories, explanations, and commentaries encasing each puny piece of modern art in protective cocoon against common sense reactions. Outcome of this tendency is powerfully reflected in books on XX century art and in museums across the country. Modern art is therefore presented as the shimmering efflorescence, the precious bloom of artistic effort of that century, all due to the tendentious, cross-eyed hatred of both beauty and reality.
Yet, another art history should be written of that period, where dilettantish smears and splatters would be wholly omitted, while artists of true and lasting merit would take their rightful recognition. It will take a good while, not because the obvious fraud is not obvious, but because the powers behind the sham of modern art are very, very strong.
In the first decades of the XX century American painting faced a dramatic fork in the road of artistic choices. Painters could have joined realism or follow the newly exported European modern art. American realism had roughly two thematic realms of inspiration; urban and “regional”, meaning rural.
All of the painters of American realism, while rejecting cubism and abstraction had taken some elements of European modern art. Some have intensified their color and light along the French examples of impressionism, others “loosened” their brushstrokes which no longer were hidden, but flaunted them as some misguided virtuosity of post-impressionism, also from France. With those influences they turn toward American scene and brought us large harvest of fresh, not painted before images of local life.
Painters whose artistic origins were rooted in XIX century realism were creating splendid works often for another quarter of a century. John Singer Sargent painted a magnificent mural commemorating solders of the First World War.
                                                          John Singer Sargent "Gas"

William Paxton is another painter whose realism has roots in XIX century and painted well into mid-twentieth century. There is very alluring serenity in his interiors filled with coloristic delight no less admirable than in paintings of great Jan Vermeer.
                                                               William McGregor Paxton 

One of the most influential painters of the first quarter of the century was Robert Henri. His pronouncements concerning painting sound appealing, because he calls for learning to “see” and for expressing “life”. 
                                                                Robert Henri "Cumulus"

At a sober distance one has to ask if hasty, excessively sketchy lathering of sloshy paint is really effective way of bringing “life” into a painting. It certainly gives permanent sense of something provisional, done in inexplicably great haste, rushing to sign it before paint has been turned into the flesh of objects it is depicting. Being a charismatic figure he instilled in a long row of very talented painters the method of agitated, provisional, smeary manic brushing, as if they were whipping ,flogging their canvases with thick goo. If his credo was “seeing” than surely no one can see outside of their canvases all those deposits of raw paint. In humility, appropriate to the devotional task of painting the world, all silly gimmicks should be put aside and painting has to be understood to be an image appearing behind a surface of a mirror.
Here are some choice examples of the works of his circle.
                                                      George Luks "Paddy Flanagan"

                                                        John Sloan Drying Hair"

                                                          George Bellows "The Circus"

                                                                        Everett Shinn
.                                                                     Reginal Marsh

Instead of leaving some provincial surroundings and moving to New York to paint city life or join modernism and propel the wheels of recognition, one could defiantly stay put and  make art of that world.
It became known as “regionalism” and they painted Mid-West..Two convictions these Midwesterners had in common: they chose to paint land and life of their own origins and they rejected modernism, not because they were traditionalists but because they viewed modern art as empty formalism.
 The best, by far representative of the regionalism was Grant Wood of Iowa.
His portraits are much more successful than landscapes. There is far too much toy-like look of buildings and trees, the fields have neatness only hairdresser can achieve, like backgrounds of animated movies. Excessive stylization was somehow in the air of the epoch and art of regionalists would have been much better had it resisted the temptation.

                                                                    Grant Wood

John Steuart Curry was a regionalist from Kansas.
                                                              John Steuart Curry

Thomas Hart Benton from Missouri was very prolific artist with an instantly recognizable style. The Mexican muralists and Benton shared the taste for highly stylized forms but artistically he was never as good as Diego Rivera. His compositions are usually chaotically atectonic ,his figures lack the degree of observation and study of actual human figure to make them compelling rather than contorted .Still, with those shortcomings his huge body of work shows great inventiveness of subject matter and admirable ability of poeticizing ordinary life.

                                                             Thomas Hart Benton

End of Part One.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Modern Art is not our culture

This is portrait of Cecila Gallerani, known as “Lady with Ermine” by Leonardo da Vinci.

Is anything else needed than what is in view for the full enjoyment of this painting? Certainly not: everything that the viewer would need to fully inhale the beauty, the sublime refinement is provided by the painter who organized the content in such way that it would force each viewer in each viewing to respond with aesthetic delight.[ Neither Botticelli nor Ghirlandaio could succeed in their portraits to bring  this much presence of the sitter.]  Our innate sense of beauty and the offering of the painting were matched by the painter at such heights of experience we are left with awe.
Indelible experience of gazing at   “Lady with Ermine” [at the Czartoryski Museum in Kraków,Poland] requires no guiding help from an eloquent art critic or erudite art historian. All that is required is naked, direct contemplation.
Leonardo delivered the portrait to Lodovico Sforza in 1490.Let us move now five centuries ahead and see what was praised in Western Art then. Surprisingly, even shockingly when one consider the past five hundred years as time of hard work by very talented artists we arrive at the state of the arts where products presented in the halo of greatness look like this:

Franz Kline

Oh,no! This just must be some grim joke, a monstrous prank to scare us. Sorry, Leonardo- we have let the troglodyte barbarians take over our culture and replace it with their values.
To install excremental work like Kline’s in the temple of the arts could not happen on its own merits because there are none there. It was only possible by orchestrated network of opinion-makers, claque-manufacturers, foam-beaters of acclaim.
The natural, innocent reaction to a work by Kline, Hoffmann, Rauschenberg or Rothko is an instant recognition of total absence of art there, complete lack of aesthetic merit. To promote something so hideous as great art called for New-York size of “chutzpa”, and it worked beyond boldest con-dreams. All those smeary refuse is shown under the protective canopy of modern art “theory” which turns, miraculously, refuse into great art. That is why a cleaning crew, uninitiated into the modern art theory were putting “art-objects” into trash-bins thinking innocently that it was trash.
In essence modern art theory demands that painting has to reject depicting the world and become radically sovereign by concerning itself with forms and colors that do not resemble anything of the world outside of painting. Anything hinting at connection to the real world should be viewed as “anecdotal” and foreign to modern art. This way modern art ushered in formless blobs, chaotic smears, drips and dots, thick deposits of paint when showing how passionate they can be and stripes, squares, circles and angularities when hard edges of their disciplined, analytical approach was to be flaunted. Never thru ought the long history of Occidental art painting sunk so low. What is proudly exhibited in national collections, written about, lauded, awarded, taught at art schools, staring at us as public art, honored as the face of “our” culture is not ours at all. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Public Art

Public art is commissioned by bureaucrats and paid by public funds. The purpose of its existence is to express some edifying general idea or belief which the public is expected to recognize as their own.
Of course no one is actually asking the public what it would want to be honored, commemorated or expressed in public places. Such decisions are left to Zeus-like administrators and sweet little committees of mostly women imposing their good sense of what would be “appropriate”.
The pool of these edifying ideas is actually very small because there is always some group of loud people ready to be offended by variety of ideas and to avoid in advance controversies there is ever smaller repository of public sentiments that can safely be expressed by permanent public art. As a result artists can exercise unfettered freedom of expressing political correctness and be handsomely rewarded for the good sense of pleasing the mind-controllers.
 Political correctness came to us straight from USSR, the system that covered tightly its land mass with alleys of Lenin statues from the Western Ukraine to the Kuril Islands, touching the toes of outstretched Japan. So much public love,” Amor sacro” provided many decades of busy work for artists of the Soviet Union.

Here in America political correctness has been attenuated, adopted to suit  country proud of its mythos of freedom. What worked best is what is simplest: avoid any controversial subjects. Thus public art embraced abstraction and what a happy union it proved to be. The fit is so clever and safe as if someone invented “nameless soup” so devoid of any identifiable distinct taste that no complainer could ever reject it by pointing to a floating bit and say “I hate leeks”. There is nothing there but boiled water and cosmic dandruff- so, eat it!

The title, rather surprisingly is “Olympia” as if this effort was tied to ancient Greek sculpture. Other possible titles are: “Swastika’s Vacation” and “Air Duct and I are Separated”. The quote from The New York Times explains:”... Formal and abstract metal sculpture dominates. “Olympia” (2008), by Maria A. Hall, is a large, dynamic abstract stainless steel sculpture installed in an open grassy area. Like all abstract sculpture, it is concerned with relationships of form, line and space.” If I were the the author of it I would be concerned too. Just look at this language: miraculously the stupefying primitivism is called “dynamic form” and mechanical, machine –made form is presented as concern for line and space?!!! No wonder they feel validated and legitimized presenting these pieces of obscene junk as art. Olympic Gods, please forgive her if you can.
Across the country there is tenfold as many or more of these idiotic pieces mascarading as sculpture as statues of Lenin were in USSR. The statues of Lenin were not high art: they were political kitsch and a very purposeful reminder who is in charge, like watch towers in their Mind-Gulag. 
What is seriously wrong with “modern sculptures” in public places  is that the source, the origin of their birth is not human heart or inspired mind .

Just as it is in contemporary painting , parallel to Metallic Junk there are some worthy exceptions of serious figurative sculptures in public places firmly tied to occidental tradition.One such splendid piece of great art is a statuary of several figures installed in front of Banco Central in San Juan,Costa Rica.The author is Fernando Calvo.

Right in the heart of administrative, financial and political power stand a group of peasants to remind those in power of the people they govern. It is not an assembly of angry protesters and there is no sense of demand expressed there. These figures portray ordinary, hard-working, honest people who are not coming to complain about their lot, but their presence is very potent. Standing in front of the statuary it is inescapable to understand the clarity of their message. It is a bond of trust by which the hard toil of national labor will be done providing that the ruling class will protect laborers from exploitation, excessive greed and usury, corruption and vile manipulations. It is as if they installed this silent but eloquent, permanent reminder that they are “present”, which is the title of the sculpture.
It seems that this sculpture better than most shows how important public art can be, conveying meaningfulness, reaching into our social ideals to embody them with clarity, dignity and gravity.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

"Guernica" or Suffering of a Horse Indoors

One of the biggest icons of modern art is Picasso’s “Guernica”. It was commissioned by the Republican{Communist] government of Spain to commemorate the 1600 people killed by German and Italian bombers  that struck Basque village .Two powerful forces working together made the mural famous: western communism and proponents of modern art. Because the bloody dictators like Hitler, Franco and Stalin hated modern art it provided the chaotic, barbaric and infantile rubbish with nimbus of persecuted victims of tyranny. Fascists’ condemnation of modern art awarded it the elevated place in the gilded chariot of the liberal virtues, right next to personal freedom, freedom of expression and tolerance. From the late 30’s modern art has been placed under the protected wings of American Eagle and the flank of the British Lion.
In the secular hagiography of the West “Guernica” very quickly was sanctified and chosen by our cultural trainers as one of the “Treasures of the World”[PBS] on par with Gioconda or Egyptian Pyramids. But, just like in studying  surveillance photos of the worshipping crowd sharp eye will spot one or two reluctant participants, I should be counted as “Guernica-doubter”.
Because the outrage of the people over the massacre of civilians needed a symbolic object, “Guernica” was chosen to travel around the world as large banner of resistance against fascism. Serious scrutiny of its actual artistic success or failure has been made near impossible or irrelevant the very way that the image of Madonna of Guadalupe is not assessed as art. In just a few years after the horrific massacre of Guernica the American and British air raids far surpassed the fascists in the advancement of technology of killing civilians. Bombing of Pforzheim killed 18, 000, bombing of Dresden killed 25,000 and in Hamburg bombing  killed 42,600 civilians. If compassion were ever numerically proportional than the massacre in the Basque Viscaya would be overshadowed by the atrocities of World War Two. These unfathomable losses were made smaller in turn by Stalin and Mao, the greatest Father of Death the history ever had.
If “Guernica” is to be viewed as the symbolic icon of tragedy of war than it is right to examine the symbolic content of it. For reasons that are not understandable Picasso chose to make wounded or dying horse the center-piece of this huge composition.

 Perhaps I am not enough of a horse lover to be greatly moved by its obvious suffering, but it should be generally agreed the choice of that hippic trauma should not be made central in a painting commemorating 16 hundred people massacred by explosive and incendiary bombs. Glancing around the mural we see many more elements no doubt carrying some symbolic significance but very puzzling to those who would be looking for understandable images of air-raid victims. There is an image of a bull’s head as if advertizing strong brand of Rojo wine. There is a light bulb unaccountably lit up with powerful presence that does not seem relevant to the huge catastrophic horror of the event

 On both extremities, left and right there are two figures of women with upturned cartoonish signs of suffering on their faces .Before they could escape, the author caught them with his cubist set of geometric torture tools and turned them into wretched cartoons .Look, because they are so prominent, at the hands and feet of those figures. Straight from a cartoon, distorted to be funny-looking as if made of finger-potatoes- inappropriate in the theme that should call for expressiveness of suffering Katte Kolwitz could show him.

Now let’s step back and take the whole poster-like image in and examine the emotions it generates. What are they? Pity for the dead, sorrow for the innocent, fury at German cruelty? Not really…more like confusion, sense of dynamic chaos caused by having a dying and kicking horse inside. No wonder the women are screaming. The gathered elements are so drastically incoherent that the only thread that holds them firmly together is the forceful display of the Picasso Style. That vantage provides the proper key to the famed mural. Forget killed villagers; think Picasso Brand showcased here to serve his egotism, to serve promoters of modern art as defenders of freedom from tyranny and to the public never questioning pronouncements of cultural instructors.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Figurative taxonomy

   I have looked into the art of the Weimar Republic and read about the accepted division within the Neue Sachtlichkeit between art called “verism” and “magic realism”. If one would add “surrealism” to it and “realism” it would make nearly all branches of the taxonomy of figurative art of XX century.{I know of “pop-art” and “photo-realism” but ignore it because “pop-art” was cynical art market manipulation, not art and “photo-realism” is moronic copying of snap-shots, not art either]
Verism has its origin in distant past when Roman portrait sculpture departed from idealized realism of Greek sculpture and insisted on great degree of individualization. Another words-it was art of the truth. In the 20’s in Germany the truth-telling was not directed at form but at content. Artists of that trend painted grotesque scenes of social decay with gleeful sarcasm. What unites them is involvement, engagement with social, political aspects of contemporary world. Some used ambiguity of jeering and delight in depicting the excess, debauchery, turmoil. Dix and Schlichter are outstanding examples of that movement. Others, like Katte Kollwitz expressed pathos of human miseries without endemic grotesque of the former.

                                                                     Albert Birkle

                                                                            Karl Hubbuch

                                                                     Rudolf Schlichter

                                                                          Georg Grosz

                                                                          Otto Dix

                                                                 Gert Heinrich Wollheim

“Magic realism” in all instances speaks with personal voice and invites into paintings of private sphere, far from blood and semen of verism. It is often a mythology of the quotidian, everyday rituals elevated to an added significance by good painting craft. There is something elusive in their art, something like gladness and gentle peace overlaying the content of their paintings, as if message above all was of savoring the simple gifts laid at the feet of each day.
                                             Balthasar Kłossowski de Rola known as Bathus

                                                                      Franz Radziwill

                                                                       Gregorio Sciltian

                                                                      Antonio Donghi

                                                           Francois Emile Barraud

                                                                        Georg Schrimpf

                                                                     George Tooker

Works of surrealism are different from magic realism by purposeful nonsensical incongruity of content. Instead of poetical sense-making [Remedios Varo,Paul Delveau,Claude Verlinde] it confronts the viewer with the absurd [Dali,Magritte,Ernst,]. It would be wrong to think that surrealism enlarged the world of imagination because imaginary visions have their own sovereign logic and consistency, while surrealism depends on breaking away from any kind of sense-making. Surrealism is no less hostile to the entire tradition of our culture build on sense than abstract art. Both of these artistic movements reject the central idea of communicating some sentient content through a piece of art. Yet, paradoxically they claim a pride of place in every museum housing the very tradition they are shredding.

But these neat divisions are hardly accommodating figurative art employing imagination of the last 90 years that is not fitting into the above historical movements. There is something called “fantastical realism”, there is “metaphysical art”,” visionary art” and even “fantasy art”. One can come upon “metaphorical art” as attempt at classifying realistic works  containing some poetical element. In cases I can think of it would just as well be called “magic realism’
                                                              Friedel Dethleffs-Edelmann

.And, neglected most, made by critics almost as quaint as oil-lamps is straight realism, deploying nothing fantastical, paradoxical, and surprising: just attentively, tenderly observed reality. Considering how utterly miraculous Reality really is it should suffice for the most shocking, revelatory content of them all.