I had occasion recently to watch the 1986 film Gothic. It’s a Ken Russell film and if you have ever seen a Ken Russell film, you know already that it is going to be over-the-top to say the very least. The film purportedly tells the story of the night that Mary Shelley conceived her classic novel Frankenstein. Through most of the film, the actors roam around a house and its immediate environs behaving wildly and with increasing levels of insanity.
I’ve always liked the paintings and really all the art of Spaniard Joan Miró. You could call the art Surrealist and Miró was undoubtedly part of the Surrealist movement and spent much time with the French Surrealists and that’s an undeniable part of art history. Still those kinds of categorizations only get you so far. Myself, I like to think of Miró as an earthist. This is not such a facile term and I apologize for it.
What does that still, small voice “sound like”? Obviously we should be listening for it—always, unceasingly—but what are we listening for? What is it like to hear it? I’d like to offer a suggestion: that it’s like seeing a difficult work of art for the first time.
Both Morgan Meis and Annie Dillard are trying, through the force of literary style, to peel through the layers of complacency with which we wrap, hide, and protect ourselves from the naked truth of our existence as created beings. For Dillard, the style is directed primarily at created things in nature. For Meis, the style is directed at created things mostly in museums: at paintings, to be exact.
With the publication of The Fate of the Animals, your “Three Paintings Trilogy” is beginning to take shape. So the question arises: what could possibly link paintings as different as Rubens’s Baroque The Drunken Silenus (covered in the first volume) and Franz Marc’s modernist The Fate of the Animals? Is it all subjective—or are there truly things in common here?
In the year 1990 the German artist Martin Kippenberger made a sculpture, of sorts, that he called Zuerst die Füße, or Feet First. Actually he made five versions of the sculpture, each with slight variations. I’ll concentrate on the green one, since that’s the version I first encountered. I say ‘the green one’ because in different versions of the sculpture, Kippenberger made the frog in different colors: green, blue, silver, purple and brown.
On closer inspection, no piece of green or blue was exactly like another. Many other colors came into play as well. In fact, the closer we looked at each piece—and looking closely at pieces is what puzzling is all about—, the more variegated each piece’s color-play was. The more we looked, the more each piece looked like a painting of its own, an Impressionist painting in miniature.
Part of what is so fascinating about Vivian Suter is that she doesn’t seem to care about her canvases all that much and so you can pack a smallish palace with hundreds of them, hanging all over the place, lying in piles, whatever, some of them covered in dirt and other detritus and a couple of them marked with what seems to be the footprints of dogs, pawprints I guess.
Recently, in the midst of my groping to understand what I was learning from art critic Michael Fried and philosopher Stanley Cavell about “absorption,” I stumbled upon a poem by C. K. Williams that has thrown light on the question for me. The poem is entitled “Self-Portrait with Rembrandt Self-Portrait.”
“What might Mary as a contemporary of ours in the 21st Century look like? It is that question that the artworks in this exhibition are intended to answer. The objective? To prompt a different way of thinking about, perceiving, and seeing Mary,…and reflecting on what she might mean to us in our society today so that we might connect to her in a more intimate way.” (Curator’s Statement)
Friday, November 12, 2021, was celebrated as Vermeer Day by Google. The reason for this celebration verges into the territory of the arbitrary, since the explanation for the special day of Vermeer-celebrating was that on November 12, 1995, exactly twenty-six years ago, there was a huge exhibit at The National Gallery in Washington D.C. where twenty-one of the thirty-five attested works of Vermeer were exhibited together.
Morgan Meis, one of Close Reading’s bloggers, has written a book that forces me to ask, as few books have done in a long while, not only who I am but how I am to be. A book that puts me on the spot about what it means that I’m a mortal being, destined for death.
There’s a bit of backstory here. The warty pig in question is a depiction on the inside of a cave in Indonesia. The painting was discovered last year. It was painted, the carbon daters say, about 45,000 years ago. Warty pig is, for now at least, the oldest work of representational art, by far, that exists anywhere in the world.
In 1969 Lee Lozano began what she called her General Strike Piece. She started withdrawing from the artworld completely, documenting the process as she did. She kept notes as she visited various galleries and museums for the last time. She stopped exhibiting her own work. She stopped making new work.
I don’t know if you can call it a religious painting. Probably you can’t. That’s to say, there is no explicit religious intent in the painting as far as I’m aware, and certainly no one looking at the painting is going to suddenly pick out Moses or anything. It is a painting of a few blobs of black and green and a few other colors that sort of zingle through the canvas here and there.