(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Cubism

“I began to paint chiefly still lifes, because in nature there is a tactile, I would almost say a manual space… that was the earliest Cubist painting – the quest for space.”*…

Georges Braque, 1908-09, Fruit Dish, oil on canvas, Moderna Museet, Stockholm

Between 1907 and 1914, Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso painted side-by-side– often literally, in the same studio– as they created the form we now know as Cubism, the most influential art movement of the 20th century.

Picasso has become the avatar of the Modern turn in the first half of 20th century. Braque… not so much…

Why is this show by Georges Braque such a quiet, hole-in-corner sort of affair? I find myself wondering as I wander around The Poetry of Things, a new exhibition at Bernard Jacobson Gallery of 14 magnificent still life paintings (and a single collage) by the man who is best known as the co-creator, with Picasso, of Cubism.

They span 30 years of his steady output, from the middle 1920s to the middle 1950s, enabling us to root out at least a partially satisfactory answer to a question that seems to be on so many lips: Whatever happened to Braque after Cubism had had its moment in the sun?…

There is no one else in the gallery during my visit barring the director, who is leaning too deeply into his reading matter even, it seems, to notice that another human being is currently sharing this basement gallery space with him.

Is it not a little odd that the first significant show by Braque in London for decades should be so lightly attended at 1:30 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon, in such a well-placed West End Gallery as this one, at the top of Duke Street St James, London’s oldest dealing street?

The fact is that Braque’s afterlife has been rather neglected. Henri Laurens inherited the estate, but has enough really been done to keep him in the public eye? And if not, why not? The fact is that his reputation has not been nurtured, massaged, and noised abroad — not when compared, for example, with the afterlife of Picasso. Was Picasso lucky? He had luck and skillful management, you could say. He was certainly a tremendous self-publicist in a way that Braque was not. Think of the Catalogues Raisonnés that he created with Christian Zervos, for example, and how early all that started. The first volume was published in 1932. Picasso knew what it was to be looked at. He also had the advantage of being perpetually, eye-catchingly restless. What transformations he underwent! And the Picasso story has been so effectively told and retold under the careful custodianship of the Picasso Foundation…

Braque looks and feels like a quietist by comparison, a swimmer against the currents. He did not have that lubricious Catalan stare. He did not rise up in indignation against any eye-catching war. He merely got on with it, year after year, making still life paintings of such restraint and subtlety, and much else too. None of the paintings on these walls shouts at us. They speak of self-containment, of a quietly impassioned, ongoing dedication to the task at hand. If anything, they seem to live and breathe, and even be in defiance of any easy notion of modernity…

Georges Braque, La saucière (1942), oil on canvas

The Neglected Afterlife of the Great Georges Braque,” by Michael Glover, in @hyperallergic.

* Georges Braque

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As we reflect on reputations, we might recall that it was on this date in 2007 that Picasso’s Portrait of Suzanne Bloch was stolen from the São Paulo Museum of Art (along with Portinari‘s O lavrador de café). One of the final paintings of Picasso’s Blue Period (valued in 2007 at roughly $50 million), it was recovered and returned undamaged to the museum the following January.

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“All familiar things can open into strange worlds”*…

Jasper Johns, Three Flags, 1958; Whitney Museum of Art

A thoughtful consideration of a modern master…

In​  the summer of 1953, after a stint in the army, Jasper Johns, aged 23, moved back to New York City. There, a few months later, he met Robert Rauschenberg. Their artistic and romantic partnership would last until 1961; the company they kept included John Cage and Merce Cunningham. In this heady atmosphere, Johns chose, in autumn 1954, to destroy all his prior work, and to begin the paintings that made his name when they were shown four years later: flags, targets and numbers crafted in encaustic (pigment mixed in hot wax) with collage (often mere newspaper) on canvas…

Johns made an exceptional entrance in early 1958: his first show at the new Leo Castelli Gallery nearly sold out, with three paintings immediately purchased by MoMA, and one piece appearing on the cover of ARTnews. Then 27, he had sized up the New York art world precisely, dominated as it then was by the formalist model of ‘modernist painting’ used by Clement Greenberg to champion Abstract Expressionism, and deftly deflected its discourse towards what Leo Steinberg would term ‘other criteria’.

In a studied phrase Johns spoke of his position as one of ‘shunning statement’. This suggests an aversion to polemics, political as well as artistic, that goes beyond temperament, a fatigue with the heated ideologies of the period (the Korean conflict, the McCarthy hearings, the Cold War). And Johns did muffle his subjects along with his gestures; his large White Flag (1955) is literally whited out. Might this intimate a ‘painting degree zero’ in line with the ‘writing degree zero’ posed by Roland Barthes against Sartrean commitment at around this time? ‘I can’t imagine my work being used to accomplish anything socially,’ Johns said. This is less negation than neutrality à la Barthes, for whom ‘the neutral’ was a way to baffle conceptual binaries, to undo ideological oppositions, to mess with ‘the paradigm’…

On the occasion of the Whitney’s (@whitneymuseum) show (through February 13) “Jasper Johns: Mind/Mirror,” Hal Foster‘s “Which red is the real red?,” from @LRB.

* Jasper Johns

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As we look closely, we might spare a thought for Francis Picabia (Francis-Marie Martinez de Picabia); he died on this date in 1953.  A French avant-garde painter, poet and typographist, Picabia experimented with Impressionism and Pointillism before becoming a Cubist. He then became one of the early major figures of the Dada movement in the United States and in France, and was later briefly associated with Surrealism.

See his work at the record of a major retrospective hung at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2017 on their web site.

Francis Picabia, 1919, inside Danse de Saint-Guy

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“What strip mining is to nature, the art market has become to culture”*…

Nyan Cat meme, sold for $590,000 as an NFT (non-fungible token)

Before Christmas, the only uncertain-times-era art world innovations I could think of were online art fairs and anonymous Instagram callout accounts. Now more innovation has arrived, and it’s come from outside, from the spheres of online culture and cryptocurrency speculation. Crypto has its origins in a mistrust of authority in various forms, from government-backed fiat, to the banking system, to the financial industry. Now it’s also challenging art world elites…

Cryptocurrency’s exploding again. NFTs (non-fungible tokens) in particular. The Nyan Cat meme goes for $590,000. The “ape in a fedora” CryptoPunk goes for $1.54 million. An animated gif of Trump’s bloated, naked corpse by someone called “Beeple” goes for $6.6 million, setting a new record for any Millennial artist, dead or alive. Christie’s launches a two-week sale of one of his works. It closes tomorrow and has already broken the record again. Current bid: $9,750,000…

The old gatekeepers have been losing their power for a while now. In his New York Times profile of KAWS (Brian Donnelly), who’s just opened a major retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum, Michael H. Miller writes, “One art reporter told me … that certain directors at Gagosian, the largest and most profitable gallery in the world, would automatically move anyone known to own a KAWS down on their waiting list to buy something.” Nevertheless KAWS is unstoppable. He has his career-defining homecoming museum show, his Peter Schjeldahl writeup, his many pages of coverage, his giant sculptures looming over Manhattan’s Park Avenue and Brooklyn’s Greenpoint waterfront, and, a couple years back, in 2019, he shocked the art establishment when his painting The Kaws Album (2005), a remake of The Simpsons’ remake of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band cover, sold at Sotheby’s Hong Kong for $14.8 million. Images and sculptures are accruing value in new ways: KAWS came up making street art and toy collectibles, and Beeple (Mike Winkelmann) made his name through Instagram and concert visuals. They symbolise the return of populism to the arts. I recently wrote for the Spectator about the trend of bad figurative painting that occupies the bardo between content and art: paintings that are easy to enjoy, and also to post. With NFTs, we’ve made another leap from art that’s easy to post, to art that simply is the post.

The old ways of valuing an object at auction (backdoor dealings, price fixing, and clandestine, corrupt practices) are coming up against the new ways (wild speculative mania and hyperstition) and falling short, for now. Beeple and KAWS, who have dominated the year’s artistic discourse, are outsiders that made it to the top. But it’s a very boring sort of outsider art, made by nerds for other nerds…

So much of today’s culture is a poor-quality remake of something better and more compelling. KAWS bootlegs pop-cultural staples like Mickey Mouse, the Simpsons, Peanuts, and SpongeBob in his own depressive comic style, while Beeple takes Mickey, again, Pokémon and Shrek, plus politicians like Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and Kim Jong-un, and composites them into dystopian CGI montages. There are two paths for the golden-age American cartoon star: to be withdrawn, like the lascivious skunk Pepé le Pew, or, worse, to be reimagined as bad art, as childish and nostalgic art for those that don’t like ideas, or beauty…

There’s just too much of everything. There are too many different Oreos. 65 flavours in 8 years is too many. Too many Hot Chicken Wing Oreos, Waffle & Syrup Oreos, Jelly Donut Oreos, Supreme Oreos. There’s too much content that appears different but is the same. Too many identities are available to us. Too many manias. Too many hysterias. Examine nearly any aspect of society and you can see it’s gone too far. The reason so many flavours of Oreos are invented, according to the cookie’s brand director, is that this overabundance of choice reminds us of and drives us back to the original. It reminds us of how much we like the old Oreo, the Platonic ideal of the Oreos of childhood, the Proustian Oreo with the glass of cold milk. When there’s too much of everything however, at some point the original is lost, the memory is lost, and all that remains are faded, flat, hollowed-out derivatives…

The most popular series of NFT collectibles are algorithmically generated. And what they reveal, compared to the rest of culture, is a broader and more prevalent trend of art and entertainment that has the uncanny feeling of having been made by algorithm, even though it wasn’t. A painter and performance artist once told me, in the brutalist basement of the old Met Breuer, that Future had destroyed the future. Trap music has taken over the world, and it all sounds more or less the same now. It might be amazing, but it sounds the same. It’s supposed to sound the same. That’s the idea, what makes it so powerful. A talented producer can make a song in ten minutes on a live stream. A talented producer can make a song in less time than it takes to listen to. It’s never been quicker to write a song than now. Songs keep getting shorter and shorter. Records keep getting shorter and shorter. It’s a numbers game. I can write these columns pretty quickly now. This is an age of great speed and competition. We’re all looking for more popularity, new ways to find an edge; and yet, all this competition only seems to lead to blandness and mediocrity, rather than breakthroughs. Nor does it lead to collapse; even accelerationism doesn’t work. We want too much content, too fast, and it just leads to this endless algorithmic churning, this paint-by-numbers effect. You see it in art. In Netflix documentaries. Spotify playlists. Op-ed pages. The news. The latest manufactured outrage. Well-reviewed first-person novels about nothing. All so dreadfully banal and repetitive. This is what results when everything is forged in economies of dollars, of ether, of attention. Most culture now has the feeling of having been made by algorithm; and the reason for this, is that humans have begun to act like algorithms…

What non-fungible (which is to say, unique) tokens show us, is the absolute fungibility of culture today: its hazy, interchangeable meaninglessness. How it all belongs on a blockchain. How it all belongs on an infinite self-generating playlist ouroboros. It all belongs on a streaming service that slowly steals the hours and the heartbeats from inside you. When you look at the Discover Page Hotties, you look back into your own soul through a clouded mirror. “Online,” a mysterious anonymous cipher writes to you, “so much is dependent on an algorithmic matrix of mined data that the user’s identity is distilled so accurately that you can’t breach the identity that’s fed back to you via the screen. So no chance encounters, just a recurrent overlap of what you already are.” If life was once about chasing after a dream, it’s now about running away from the comfortable, hypnagogic lifestyles prescribed to you by the culture we create together, reflexively and imitatively. You’re living inside other people’s dreams; and these are not good dreams. So much of modern life is algorithmically scripted so as to exclude surprise or chance, and you must try to break free of this script every day. Rejecting all this post-death culture is a good place to begin…

The art world, disrupted by crypto: Dean Kissick (@deankissick) on why that’s a sad thing: “The Downward Spiral: Popular Things.”

See also “NFTs Weren’t Supposed to End Like This,” by Anil Dash, the co-creator of the NFT; further to which, this thread from Jonathan Zittrain.

And finally (as a cap on what’s turned out to be a trio of posts about scarcity, post-scarcity, and what matters in our economy; earlier here and here), “Red Bull, Elon Musk, and Matt Gaetz“… “post-scarcity is just another way of saying decadence.”

* Robert Hughes, writing presciently in 1989

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As we appraise art, we might spare a thought for an artist who, roughly a century ago, played an outsized role in revolutionizing the art world of his time, Pablo Picasso; he died on this date in 1973. Picasso is universally regarded as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century; he is known for co-founding the Cubist movement, for the invention of constructed sculpture, for the co-invention of collage, and for the wide variety of styles that he helped develop and explore.

Picasso in 1908

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

April 8, 2021 at 1:01 am

“I have a sweater obsession, I guess”*…

 

More at: “This guy makes sweaters of places and then takes pictures of himself wearing the sweaters at those places.”

* Drake

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As we perl one, knit two, we might send challenging birthday greetings to Francis Picabia; he was born (Francis-Marie Martinez de Picabia) on this date in 1879.  A French avant-garde painter, poet and typographist, Picabia experimented with Impressionism and Pointillism before becoming a Cubist. He then became one of the early major figures of the Dada movement in the United States and in France, and was later briefly associated with Surrealism.

See his work at the major retrospective now hung at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and on their web site.

Francis Picabia, 1919, inside Danse de Saint-Guy

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

January 22, 2017 at 1:01 am

“And what is the potential man, after all? Is he not the sum of all that is human?”*…

 

Early Netherlandish painter Hieronymus Bosch’s visionary triptych, The Garden of Earthly Delights, has stoked discussion since it was completed (sometime between 1490 and 1510); critics and scholars have confidently proclaimed it everything from a “didactic warning on the perils of life’s temptations” to an “erotic derangement that turns us all into voyeurs, a place filled with the intoxicating air of perfect liberty”… occasionally both.

Photographer Lori Pond was moved to incorporate Bosch’s vision into her own photographic work after she visited the Prado in Madrid, where his masterpiece has been on display since 1939.

After an emotional reaction to the painting and its mythologized mysteriousness, Pond decided to create a series of photos based on Bosch’s work — isolating details from Earthly Delights, as well as The Temptation of St. Anthony, and The Last Judgment.

The photos themselves look like they could be more minimalistic paintings by Bosch, but the arrangements you see were mostly achieved in-camera. Pond used materials gathered from swap meets, and enlisted the help of a motley team made up of a taxidermist, a prosthetics designer, her friends, and their closets…

More examples from Pond’s portfolio at Bosch Redux on her site; more back ground at “Arresting Photographs Remake Images From Hieronymus Bosch’s Grotesque Biblical Fantasies” and “Recreating Hieronymus Bosch.”

Then wander over explore the wonderful interactive documentary “Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Delights” (part of the transmedia tryptich: this interactive documentary, the documentary film “Hieronymus Bosch, touched by the devil,” and the Virtual Reality documentary “Hieronymus Bosch, the Eyes of the Owl,” coming this April).

And finally, check out the “newest” Bosch painting, recently (re-)discovered.

* Hieronymus Bosch

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As we follow in St. Augustine in praying that God grant us “chastity and continence, but not yet,”  we might send modern birthday greetings to Joseph Fernand Henri Léger; he was born on this date in 1881.  Best known as member of the Cubist movement (in which he was unique for his use of cylindrical shapes, earning him the label “tubist”), Léger was also sculptor and filmmaker.  Indeed, in his later life, he added book illustration, mural creation, stained-glass and mosaic work, and set and costume design to his repertoire.  In those later years, his gravitated to modern subject matter, which he treated in simple, bold, and accessible ways– for which he’s now considered an important forerunner of Pop Art.

Léger’s Nudes in the Forest (Nus dans la forêt), 1910

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 4, 2016 at 1:01 am

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