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Archive for the ‘Therapy’ Category

George Stubbs (1724-1806) was sought after as a painter of horses, often shown with their proud owners.  His format is always horizontal, since a horse’s body is long.  To show it in its full glory you needed to portray it from the side, in its longest extension. In his paintings of horse and rider, the horse is more important than the rider, even if it’s the Marquess of Wocestershiresauce.

If the owner of the horse wanted to be shown as more important, however, the format had to be vertical.  Now the Marquess of Watever is shown in full verticality and his beloved horse…oh, wait, how can we get the horse in this picture?  Looks like we have to foreshorten the animal.  That means, the horse has to be shown either from the front or the back.  Well, we can’t have the horse’s hindquarters, the whatsit, poking out towards the viewer, so I guess it will have to be the head.

An example of a foreshortened horse is Joshua Reynolds’  portrait of Captain George K.H. Coussmaker.  The wall sign at the Met says, “Reynolds gave close attention to his portrait of George Kein Hayward Coussmaker, a lieutenant and captain in the first regiment of Foot Guards.  No fewer than twenty-one appointments—and at least two more for the sitter’s horse—are recorded between February 9 and April 16, 1782.  The composition is complex and the whole vigorously painted.”  Complex, indeed.  The  horse’s body is forced into a semi-circle, stretching its head to an anatomically unbelievable length. To show that the head is connected to a horse, Reynolds paints in some hooves,  pointing daintily like a ballerina’s toes.  A tour de force, all for the sake of framing the captain in an elegant arch. He must have been a vain, humorless man.

We get an even more daringly foreshortened horse in Henry Raeburn’s portrait of George Harley Drummond. This horse—and I wish we knew the horse’s name—is shown in complete indifference to the proceedings.  She grazes nonchalantly while the aristocrat is posing for his portrait.  Aside from the anthropomorphizing of the animal, the artist has solved the foreshortening challenge in an ingenious, witty and possibly satirical way.  Really, your lordship, the horse’s hindquarters?!

One wonders if the expression “horse’s ass” was in circulation in Scotland in the early eighteen hundreds.  Perhaps the man in the fine boots had a sense of humor—after all, he must have approved the composition—and hung it in his great entrance hall where he positioned himself to greet his neighboring land owners as they arrived for his party, letting everybody know what he really thought of them.

The Met, once again, stays away from the possibility of satire: “The foreshortened view of the grazing bay horse is the most complex part of the composition, though not the most important.  It is curious, therefore, that the animal’s hindquarters should so prominently displayed.”

Exquisitely painted hindquarters, yes.  But the Met is prudishly polite: the horse’s ass is  obviously the most important part of the painting!

Happy April Fools Day to All!

George Stubbs | The Marquess of Rockingham’s ‘Scrub’, 1762

Joshua Reynold (1723-1792).  Captain George K.H. Coussmaker

Henry Raeburn (1756-1823). George Harley Drummond.

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17feb

Just try!  Look at this and try being bored.  Try harder.

Bruce Boyer, oil on canvas, 30” x 40”

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16septdanstilllife

Dan Goffman never likes his work. He can see that his drawings are not realistic.

But I’m fascinated by it. Could that be because I’m a modernist.  I respond to composition.  Realism?  Not so much.

Ten years ago Dan Goffman suffered a stroke which resulted in partial paralysis and aphasia.  He’s a historian and author with a long scholarly bibliography. Drawing was suggested as therapy and now he draws every day.  I have his permission to show and talk about his work.  “If I hadn’t had the stroke, I wouldn’t have discovered that I can draw,” he says with wry humor.

20160922_144150What you see in this drawing is far from a depiction of objects on a table.  You throw away the realism check-list and instead your eye wanders through this pattern of shapes, textures and negative spaces.  Of all the things he could have focused on, he chose these shapes from the still life set up on the table. They sit on the page with an uncanny sense of rightness, balance and economy. Any concern about “realism” or more “detail” would have ruined the drawing. Do we need the three-dimensionality of the oranges and that bowl?  No.  The ellipse in the upper right corner is enough.  Notice how your eye briefly rests there and then keeps moving through the composition.

Drawing by Dan Goffman, graphite on paper, 30” x 22”

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2016/10/08/reading-a-shape/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2016/10/08/how-it-sits-on-the-page/

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mistakeroom1

The program of this gallery is failed art.

How can we think about this?  What is failed art?

Apparently it’s the artist who decides that what he or she attempted to do ended in failure.

But that can’t be, because the artist then submits the work to the gallery. Doesn’t that mean the work is an interesting failure?  Sorry, that’s an oxymoron.  If it’s interesting, it can’t be called a failure.

Maybe the artist doesn’t find it interesting, but depressing.  Then the gallery would be offering therapy by accepting the work.

This gallery would have to be swamped with inquiries.  How does the curator decide which failed work will get shown because it’s the best failure? Best failure? Worst failure?

When an artist’s failed work is chosen, does the artist then consider herself a success?  At the opening, do the guests congratulate her? Will this go on her résumé?

On the gallery’s web site, http://www.tmr.la/, the word “mistake” is crossed out.  Ah, so that’s it.  There’s no such thing as a mistake.

Or is the word “mistake” crossed out by mistake?

Back to square one.

mistakeroom

An installation view of “Oscar Murillo: Distribution Center,” 2014, at the Mistake Room.

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2015/08/30/seeing-something-awful/

The Mistake Room, 1811 E. 20th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90058

Phone: (213) 749-1200.  Email: info@tmr.la

Wed – Sat     11am – 6pm.     Sun – Tue     Closed

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MondrianGroup

The “Mondrian Class” exhibited paintings for ten weeks, from mid-March to the end of May, at the Ethical Humanist Society in Skokie.

http://ethicalhuman.org/

This was a great opportunity for students to experience hanging a show, a rotating show in this case. The space is not a gallery, per se, but the large meeting room of the Ethical Humanist Society.  The painters had a chance to show their work without costs or complications and the people meeting in that spacious, high ceilinged room with one wall all glass, enjoyed the works and the inspiration it brought them—a winwin arrangement.

EthicalHum1

We got this space because I attended Darwin’s birthday party there in early February, saw the drawings displayed there and had an aha-moment. By coincidence, they were eager to have a new exhibit.  Ta-tah! Not only that, I mentioned that I could give a talk on “Morality in Modern Art” and, ta-tah, there was a day open for a presentation, April 24.  These things happen, you know.  The talk was well received and I hope to give it again this fall, at another venue.

EthicalHum3

Artists showing their work in “alternative” spaces is a well-established strategy.  Eateries of all kinds have been doubling as galleries for a long time.  Now, consider your living room as a gallery.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/04/arts/design/its-an-art-gallery-no-a-living-room-ok-both.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Farts&action=click&contentCollection=arts&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=8&pgtype=sectionfront&_r=0

EthicalHum2

Shown in these photos are  works by Robert Frankel, Harold Bauer, Keven Wilder and Terry Fohrman.

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RedStudio

Charles Jencks’ book on Post-Modernism was at 700 JE on the library shelf. What a relief, I had to refresh my memory on what he says about Pruitt-Igoe.  But at 700 HO, right next to Jencks, was “Art for Dummies.”  I pulled it off the shelf, hoping to find something to chuckle over after a week of overworking myself.  Hoving!  They got Thomas Hoving to contribute to the For Dummies series?!  I opened the book at random and there on p. 173 under the heading “Is Modern Art Something of a Joke?” I found this wonderful paragraph:

“Modern art is, admittedly, rash, confusing, prone to making one suspect that it’s all a joke, annoying at times, and forever puzzling as to meaning and significance.  Yet, much of it possesses a power and an elegance equal to the greatest earlier movements and styles in Western art.  The real gift of Modern art is that it allowed artists, if they wanted, to go far beyond the rather restricted practice of copying a subject faithfully.  Pure energy could be expressed.  So could mysterious emotion.  It takes dedication and lots of work to come to grips with Modern art, but when you have saturated yourself in it, you will, in time, appreciate the explosive genius of Picasso and the infinite calm and serenity of its most illustrious master, who is, in my opinion Henri Matisse.  He once observed that he wanted to create an art that might be so comforting that tired businessmen would readily turn to it for solace.  Once you gaze at his triumphant Red Studio or Luxe, Calme et Volupté, in New York’s Museum of Modern Art, you’ll see that he succeeded.”

I took it to the circulation desk and checked it out along with the architecture books.  In his Art for Dummies book Hoving inserts some cartoons by Rich Tennant—something to chuckle over, after all.

LuxeCalmVolupte

Henri Matiss,  Red Studio, 1911

Henru Matisse, Luxe, Calme et Volupté, 1904

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Jan2015

You saw this painting (30” x 40”) in a gallery. You stood in front of it so long that you thought you might as well buy it if it’s going to hold your attention like that. You take it home. You hang it in your dining room and start preparing for your dinner party that night. You have just four people over, people you’ve known forever, who sometimes get rowdy and other times yawn without apologizing. But this evening you notice that they’re exceptionally witty and imaginative. You credit the painting for this lively upswing in your social life. Over the weekend your retired uncle Bert is dropping by on his way to the hardware store. Because of his back, he prefers to sit in the dining room chairs and he says, “what in the sweet-baby-jesus name is that supposed to be.” He’s trying to describe to you how he’s planning to rig the back gate so the kids won’t cut through his yard on their way to school, but he can’t seem to keep his bolts, wires and springs straight. He keeps repeating what he just said, going in circles, and relating things that aren’t mechanically connected in his invention. He mumbles something about getting older and he’s got to be going and would you happen to have a couple of aspirin.

You’re determined to get to the bottom of this. You take down your heirloom oil painting of the Spanish galleon from over the mantel in your living room along with the carved candelabra and you hang this new painting there. You plunk down on the couch in front of it, determined to enjoy an afternoon of peaceful art contemplation. Two hours later you’re in the kitchen pouring yourself a double Black Label. You stagger to your computer and write angry letters to congressmen about global warming and to the New Yorker about the use of the word “iconic.” You go on Facebook and unfriend anybody who’s ever posted a cat video or that thing where the elephant and the dog become best friends forever. You email your ex to say, the arrangement with the kids is not working, we have to do better. You suddenly realize that your mom doesn’t want another frog broach for her birthday, what she would really enjoy is a plate of little sandwiches you made and sit in the backyard with you one afternoon. You pick up that library book, the one that needs to be renewed again soon, about genocide in the 20th century that you’ve been mostly not reading because it’s so awful to think about that. It must be getting late, you guess, you go back to the living room, reach up to grab the painting with one hand, you unhook it and take it upstairs to your bedroom. Tomorrow you’ll hang it. For now you lean it against the dresser and you throw a sheet over it so you won’t accidentally catch sight of it and be drawn into its vortex.

In the morning you hang it properly and you start a new early-rise meditation. You stand in front of it for five minutes, a to-do list racing through your mind. Can do! You drape the sheet over it for the rest of the day because you have no time to look. Too much to do, to fix, to learn, to experience!

Bruce Boyer, oil on canvas, 30” x 40”

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