(Roughly) Daily

“Beauty belongs to the sphere of the simple, the ordinary, whilst ugliness is something extraordinary”*…

 

Oskar Kokoschka – “Prometheus Triptych” (left hand panel)

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What’s the ugliest
Part of your body?
What’s the ugliest
Part of your body?
Some say your nose
Some say your toes
(I think it’s your mind)
But I think it’s YOUR MIND

Frank Zappa

… Art holds up a mirror to shifting attitudes. Initial tags of ‘ugly’ sometimes get forgotten as once-derided subjects become valued. Impressionism of the 19th century – now featured in blockbuster exhibits – was initially compared to mushy food and rotting flesh. When Henri Matisse’s works showed in the US at the Armory Show of 1913, critics lambasted his art as ‘ugly’, while art students in Chicago burned an effigy of his Blue Nude in front of the Art Institute. The same institution mounted a major retrospective of his work a century later. Jazz and rock’n’roll were once considered ‘ugly’ music, threatening to corrupt entire generations.

In the face of ‘ugly’ slurs, some artists embraced the word. The painter Paul Gauguin called ugliness ‘the touchstone of our modern art’. The poet and translator Ezra Pound encouraged a ‘cult of ugliness’. The composer Charles H H Parry praised ugliness in music, without which ‘there would not be any progress in either social or artistic things’. The critic Clement Greenberg lauded Jackson Pollock’s abstract expressionism as ‘not afraid to look ugly – all profoundly original art looks ugly at first’…

From Gretchen Henderson‘s essay “The history of ugliness shows that there is no such thing.”  And for artist Oskar Kokoschka’s thoughts, see “On Making Ugly Art.”

* “Beauty belongs to the sphere of the simple, the ordinary, whilst ugliness is something extraordinary, and there is no question but that every ardent imagination prefers in lubricity, the extraordinary to the commonplace”
― Marquis de Sade

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As we gaze into our mirrors, we might recall that it was on this date in 1852 that “Uncle Sam” first appeared as a cartoon figure in the New York Lantern weekly newspaper.  Thomas Nast, the famed Harpers cartoonist who created the political party mascots and Santa Claus, is widely– but incorrectly– credited with creating the Uncle Sam archetype.  While Nast certainly helped create the modern impression of the character, and popularize it, he was just 12 years old when the original cartoon appeared.  It was the creation of Frank Bellew.

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Written by LW

March 13, 2016 at 1:01 am

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