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Archive for October, 2011

For the second time in a year a student has shown appreciation for my teaching by making a donation to the Evanston Art Center in my honor.  Thank you, thank you!

I wanted an image for this post, of course, and found this one from about a month ago, taken at Gillson Beach, Wilmette, in late afternoon.  I decided to turn it into a left-right exercise.  Which one has a more optimistic feeling?  The bird walking to the left or the bird walking to the right?

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Picasso was born October 25, 1881, in Malaga, Spain.  He spent his teen-age years in Barcelona, a hot bed of anarchy in the 1890’s.  His friends were anarchist writers and artists, ten and twenty years older than he:  Santiago Rusinol (1861-1931), Ramon Casas (1866-1932), and Isidro Nonell (1873-1911).  They discussed the writings of Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin and Nietzsche.  They were anti-church and anti-government, outraged by the impoverishment of Spanish peasants who poured into the cities.  They believed that an artist has to transform himself, to overcome his past and create himself anew.

Picasso is often presented as anti-intellectual and a-political, an image he himself encouraged. But, in fact, he wrote poetry.  He wrote a play in which Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir read the leads.  His dealer H.D. Kahnweiler said, Picasso was completely unpolitical, but Picasso joined the Communist Party in 1944. The newspaper clippings he collaged into his late cubist work all deal with the horror of war.   Picasso is a complex character.  Well, I just thought I’d mention this on his birthday

“Yo Picasso,”  1901.  Oil on canvas, ~ 73 cm x 65 cm.   (I, Picasso)

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First I liked it, then I thought, nyah-nyah, and now, two days later, I can’t get it out of my head.  Sure sign it’s a good play.

It’s a rant punctuated by long silences, with a bloody, gutsy, painful recollection in the middle of it.  Rothko’s assistant is doing the talking while he mops up the red paint on the floor.  If you’ve ever felt frustrated because nobody has a definition of art, go see this play, pay attention and when the boy mops up the red stuff, don’t think for a minute this scene is about making the stage floor neat and safe.  That scene is the core of this play.  If you get it, you’re not likely to feel the need for a definition of art again.

“Red”  is a one-and-a-half hour play without intermission in which Mark Rothko (1903-1970) is portrayed at work and arguing with his new assistant, a young artist, who is excoriated by Rothko because he hasn’t read Nietzsche. “What do they teach you in art school!”  Indeed.

Since the proscenium forms the fourth wall of the studio which presumably would be covered by paintings-in-progress,   it happens more than once that Rothko and the assistant stand facing that “wall” with Rothko asking “what do you see?”   Of course, he’s asking us.  The silences in this play are important.  Rothko tells the assistant, 10% of the work is spent actually painting, the rest is thinking, looking, meditating.  The audience was not fidgety.  The silences really were silent.  There was much to absorb.

The last day to see “Red” by John Logan at the Goodman Theater will be a week from now, Sunday, October 30.   http://www.goodmantheatre.org/

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Life Drawing, Pencil

Only seven or eight people show up for this life drawing group.  Working from the figure is not for the faint-hearted.  Let’s just say it, it’s hard work.  I came back today after taking the summer off and faced considerable discouragement.  In three hours I produced one drawing I want to look at.  It’s a beginning. Good to be back.

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The current exhibit at the Evanston Art Center is titled “dimensional lines: art + dress.”   Beware, this is not a runway show.  The sub title is “art-fashion-decay.”  Decay, again. This is not an easy, pretty or even pleasant show.  It’s on the difficult side.  When you come, allow time to reflect.  The exhibit is up through November 6.

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In “The Blot and the Diagram,” Kenneth Clarke talked about Leonardo’s intellectual range.  His formidable brain loved to analyze systems (diagrams); but he was also fascinated by chaotic forms (blots).  In his notebooks Leonardo tells us that he often would stop to look at a wall that was water stained, cracked or peeling.   He writes, contemplating such chaotic forms stimulates the imagination.

I think of Leonardo as one of us,  he shared our sensibility, with his insatiable curiosity and courage, his scientific approach; his playfulness; his openness to possibilities; his skepticism; his use of inconsistencies; his caricatures; and for the purpose of this post, his embrace of accidentals.  In this sense, Kenneth Clark says, he anticipated modern art.  About 120 years ago, when paint started dripping on a canvas, it was sometimes allowed to do so.  By the 1940’s dripping paint had come to represent an aesthetic in itself, with Jackson Polack it’s most famous representative.  An aesthetic of chance occurrence was edging out the old aesthetic of control.

If you’ve ever seen Urban Decay Photography, you know that it speaks to the modern sensibility.  At first, it may be shocking (never was to me, though) but then it sinks in and reaches you at a very deep  level of your  life experience. Where the old sensibility measured time teleologically, this new sensibility embraces time– how shall we say—mystically, as an element of constant surprise and potential.  And isn’t that where we live, from one moment of consciousness to the next and to get to the next moment, we have to let the previous moment die.

Decay.  Urban Decay.

What other kind of decay is there?  Well, obviously, rural decay.  But that’s too fast and predictable, since in a season or two the new crop grows out of the compost of the old.  But Urban Decay is slow and it’s not predictable, because it’s about ideas.  What we see crumbling is not just that wall, that arch, that mural, that tracery, that tile floor, etc, but the ideas, values and hierarchies these things once defended.

 

My shot of the CTA tracks at Wabash and Madison (above) has some of that reflection in it.  It has that reference to crumbling urban structures and the reminder that these structures are inventions, as man-made and ephemeral as the ideas and hopes from which they sprang.  But that shot illustrates one other element we find in Urban Decay Photography:  severe composition.  In this case, it’s three horizontal stripes, progressing from narrow at to top, to wider in the middle, to widest at the bottom, creating a progression.

This emphasis on form is what distinguishes Urban Decay Photos.  It is well worth your while to study this genre. Here’s a link, for a start:

http://www.pics-site.com/2010/07/11/urban-decay-photography/

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