Monday, September 28, 2009

Blog Assignment No. 3: "Tulsa" from "The Secret Life of Objects" at Miday Contemporary Art

"Tulsa" is a body of photographs on silver gelatin print taken by Larry Clark. The forty-four total photo graphs are all black and white, 11''X14'', and, despite their variation in between vertical and horizontal orientation, form, an overall rectangle on the wall.
According to the International Center Of Photography's information on a Larry Clark Exhibition, on, which can be found here on their website, the photographs were "taken in three protracted series between 1963 and 1971." (par. 1)
Looking at all of photographs, I felt a little overwhlemed, mainly due to subject matter, but also because it seemed hard to pick out the formal elements of the principles or art and design. But after continued veiwing, I began to pick out an overall sense of unity amoung them. All were black and white, had the same amount of contrast, and the same size. This is all about light, contrast, and value. Although orientation varied, it did not take away from this unity (which one might call unity within variety). There was also untiy and repitition amoung subject matter.
While I gazed at this monumental collection of work on the white wall of the Midway Contemporary Art gallery, I was dragged into the house in Tulsa, Oklahoma and stood in the midst of Clark's world of sex, violence, and drug use that occurred there. The snap shots of all this bore down on me and leave me strangely interested instead of anxious or disgusted, as some might have been. It almost makes a person feel guilty for being so enthralled with these raw images. I found myself curious as I stares at a middle-aged man, smoking a cigarette and lightly holding a baby wrapped in a blanket, or a young man sitting shirtless on a bed, holding a gun, looking away from the camera with the facial experssion of a young hollywood rebel, or the myraid of naked women shooting up herion while enagaging in sexual acts. I couldn't help but wonder what day to day life was like in this house: who owned it?; how many people legitamately lived there?; did anyone have a job?; why are there babies in the house? These questions pressed my mind as I kept gazing, my eyes shooting between images, pausing briefly at the ones that caught my attention. As I continued on thinking about these images, I began to ponder what does all this has to say. Could Clark be telling us that we all have the potential to reach this dark side of humanity be baraiding us with these photographs? Is it a warning? Is he saying that it's harder to achieve a successful life than to throw away everything and spend your days in a drug induced blur? But even that life can be a hard one. One must worry about getting their next high; when money is low, getting that next high becomes a desparate enough goal that you may engage in violence and demeaning sexual acts. Maybe Clark is just stating the facts. Maybe he's just saying that this is going on and this is the way that it is, interpertations are open.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Blog Assignment No.2, "Mining the MIA"

What I was primarily interesting in finding at the Minneapolis Institute of Art were examples of figurative work over the years. We were to take photographs of a few pieces and, with them juxtaposed differently then they were in the Institute itself, analyze the "conversation" between them that arouse. Although I'm terribly interested in the pieces themselves, I found myself more curious about the great differences they held. I was pretty sure an interesting conversation about art movements could arise from them as well.
Let's start with this familiar face:

This is "Frank" by Chuck Close (1969) done in Acrylic paint, something not often seen in figurative work. Close uses a grid system to create his paintings from a photograph and uses an air brush to apply the paint to the canvas. He uses a razor blade to cut into the paint to get fine lines to describe hairs, or wrinkles, or whatever. Close was considered to be a Photorealist. (Goddamn, right!) This was a small movement that took place in the 60s and 70s as a reaction to Pop art, so it's safe to say that Photorealism was a postmodernist thing. However, one could make the argument that Photorealism could be considered a little on the modernist side because, although it has heavy emphasis on subject matter, is all about the paint.

Next we have a piece by Egon Schiele:

This is "Portrait of Paris von Gutersloh", 1918, done in oil. This subject of this piece seems crazed sitting there with his claw like hands awkwardly in the air. The tone of the ambiguous background really matches that of the subject's emotional state. Let me provide you with a detail of this piece that really allows you to better see the brush work:

Although any images of this piece does not do it a bit of justice, from what we have here, you can see the messy brush strokes and mingling drab colors and how they lends themselves to the erratic state the subject is in. This interpretation does gray the line between modernism and postmodernism, with equal emphasis on the subject matter, but based on the date of this piece and the paint work, I'm sure we can lean towards modernism.

This next piece was done several years later by Milton Avery, in 1940:

As a realist painter, when I look at this, I really don't know what to think. Realistically, this piece is highly lacking. but what do we have? This is "Seated Nude" done in oil in a modernist era. If we were to look at this as a contour line study, we have very elegant lines, despite them being grossly hyperbolic. Other than that, everything is very flat (no rhyme intended). Although the value of the figure suggests depth it is, again, very flat. The only that suggests the figure is really even seated are the dips in her thigh, but other than that value has not been used for any sense of grounding. It's much like a field painting. The paint has been applied to look very uniform so it is hard to see brush strokes, but despite that, we can still draw a line towards modernist paint experimentation. No pun intended.

And finally (finally) we have "Head of a Young Woman" by Pierre Auguste Renior:

This piece was done in the late 1800s in oil. Although done in the late 1800s, we can still see that this was before modernism; that's right, this was Impressionism. We can really see, however, the influence work like this had on modernism. We can link the Impressionists love of brush work to that of the modernists. Here, I'll show you:

Although, you can see a distinct difference in paint application between the two movements. In this piece, the paint was treated more like soft pastel than oil. We see hard edges, but like soft pastel, the individual strokes are blurred together. But despite the visual distortion up close, standing back, the images comes together as incredibly realistic, something we've seen before in Jenny Saville's work.

So what do we have? We have here, four pieces placed side by side in an imaginary gallery that show definite change in art movement. All these pieces, placed in chronological order of completion, are approximately 30 years apart. Although they can be categorized into different art theories that dictate what they're all about, one thing is still a constant: Painting is still all about paint. We see an example from Impressionism, that focuses on subject, but the paint still has its emphasis. We have two very different works from the Modernist era may clash with the modernist idea of "just paint" but they still show interesting brush work. Then we have a photorealist piece, coming from a movement that isn't supposed to like the idea of Modernism, but despite the overwhelming emphasis on subject matter, uses paint in a total and completely different manner.
For me, anyway, this brings up a philosophical question: Why do we have to put ourselves into labels? Is it for understanding? Self-validation? Who knows... Looking at the pieces, especially the first three (those are easier because they're all more accessible for my generation), I see differences within a movement. Schiele and Avery are dabbling in subject matter within a movement all about paint, and Close--well, he just kind of came out of no where. But the question that this brings up is now, is: where artists caught in a movement trying to escape it? Or where they all thinking similarily. I think only time can help me answer this one. I, myself, am probably caught in a new art movement right now and totally unaware of it. The only thing I think I could do would be to evaluate the remnants of postmodernism, my work, and the work of new active artists around me. But I think I can be certain of one thing in the years, and movements, to come: Painting will always be about the paint.

All photographs taken by William Lindau at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, 2009.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Blog Assignment No.1, Part 2

I forgot to mention: Here's the citation for the image of "Hyphen" in my last post, "Blog Assignment No.1."

Jenny Saville
Oil on canvas
9x12 feet

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I've been assigned to blather on a bit about a piece, and I have chosen this one: "Hyphen," by Jenny Saville. She is by far my favorite artist and "Hyphen" is pretty high up on my list of "Paintings that I think are pretty neat."
I wanted to talk about this piece for my first assignment because, as stated above, of my admiration of Saville and her work. Not to mention that, I'm sure if I ever saw this piece in real life I would probably immediately cream my pants in admiration. I own a book with a lot of her work in it, and I can barely contain myself while looking at the close up photos that really allows you to see the brush strokes.
I know what you're thinking, and the answer is "no."
That's just plain weird.
I don't think that I'm going to go into much of an analyzation because this assignment doesn't really call for that, and that's a good thing because Saville's work, especially the early stuff like this one, has a lot to do with Feminist Theory. Before you get angry: I'm not trying to bash Feminism, I'm just saying that it is fortunate that I don't have to analyze it because I am a guy. And being a guy, my capability to properly analyze Feminist Theory is about as good as a roofer's shot at being a proctologist.
Anyway, aside from Feminist Theory, which dominates most of Saville's early work, she works a lot with paint itself. Her later work provides better examples of this, works like "Passage," and "Torso 2," but they seem to loose their realistic quality, which I am most interested in. But I feel that this "realistic quality" is something that Saville grew less interested in as her interest in paint itself grew. "Hyphen" is however, a prime example of her ability to combine abstract brush work and realism.
Saville thinks of paint as flesh and uses it accordingly. Looking at "Hyphen" you can see the seemingly frantic, bold brush strokes and how they, despite their untidiness, inform the shape of the faces allowing you to really see their form. All of this really shows our own patches of flesh poured over our bodies. The brush strokes themselves could also speak to the imperfection of our flesh and bodies, which is another theme that can be identified in Saville's work.
The color choices found in the analogous scheme of this piece also present the illusion of flesh, especially in the possible use of burnt sienna and blue mixed with white to present, although subtle, the value of skin. This drab color, juxtaposed, with the warmer vibrant colors is just like the wide ranges of colors that can be found in everyone's flesh.
As previously stated, "Hyphen" is just one of my favorite examples of Saville's work, and although this was not very in depth, I would like to invite anyone who's interested to check out more of her work because it is all really neat. Her work has evolved quite a bit since the early 90s when Charles Saatchi bought her senior show, in its entirety, and set her career on its way. I am quite interested to see where she goes next.

Blog Introduction

I'll say it out right: I never thought it would come to this, and by "this," I mean blogging.
I feel like a hypocrite, to tell you the truth. I've rejected blogging for quite some time due to various reasons. One of the big reasons is because the internet is full of self-righteous idiots throwing their opinions around in blogs without out so much as a cited source anywhere.
Now I really feel like a hypocrite.
I often hear people talk about things they have read on blogs; crazy things like, "Obama is trying to shut down the internet," or, "to prevent pregnancy, stand on your head and drink a 12 ounce glass of cold water," or-- well, I'm sure you get the idea. After hearing people talk about these things, I am a.) nearly certain that they've confused the blog with 4chan, but primarily b.) amazed and saddened that they have taken what they have read for fact.
I suppose this all sumounts to my dissapointment in the ignorance of people. And believe me, I'm not trying to say that I'm better than anyone. I'm just as ignorant as everyone else, I'm just more sneaky about it. But I'm sure there are bloggers out there who do what the hell they're talking about.
Anyway, since I have to start this blog for one of my classes, I'll say this:
To any readers: I plan on only addressing things I know as fact (except for a few jokes), and if you're unsure about the validity of anything I say, you can either assume that it is gospel truth or complete bullshit.