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Posts Tagged ‘Matisse’

icongaragemoma

This garage is directly across the street from the Museum of Modern Art in New York.  Not knowing that Icon is the name of a NY garage chain, I thought it was a clever name for a MoMA garage. MoMA houses major “Icons of Modernism” and isn’t that an oxymoron.   I pictured the parking guys in blue Icon uniforms with their first names embroidered over the breast pockets discussing how Picasso, Braque and Matisse et al had been exerting themselves to produce images that negated all that iconic stuff they’d been brought up with and now, here in this MoMA building were their once outrageous paintings, all gaped at with touristy awe because, well, because now they’re Icons. One of the guys in this garage conversation about semiotics and art history likes to say, that deserves to be deconstructed.  Or so I imagined.

The word icon comes from the Greek, meaning image.  The term was first used for depictions of the central characters of Christian mythology that confronted the faithful with severe, staring authority.

iconpantokrator13cent

In the early Christian church there were opposing views on whether these images should even be allowed, since they posed the czestochowskatemptation for the faithful to fall into idolatry.  That idolatry won out is suggested by the fact that some of these old icons draw pilgrims to their site, as for example, the Black Madonna of Częstochowa, one of the national symbols of Poland. Such an image is commonly called “sacred icon.”

If you don’t get it, you’re not one of us.

 

That’s nice to know, you say, a little history never hurts, but we’re in the 21st and icons are about the internet. So you type in “icon” and you get a site, https://icons8.com/web-app/,  that gives you mouse-5033,600 icons including this, which you recognize instantly.

The communication is one-dimensional and unambiguous. Recognizing the icon puts you in the In-group. If you don’t get it, you’re not one of us.

Now back to the MoMA. This is Picasso’s Les demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907.  It’s called an “icon of modernism.”  The people standing around it have seen it in reproductions, but they’ve come here to be with it in person.

posingpicassoavignon2

Are they pilgrims. Is this a sacred site?

To be instantly recognizable is the same as to be famous. Did the tourists travel here to see something famous? By being with this famous object are they participating in its fame?  Is fame something intrinsic in that canvas and does fame radiate out so that those close by can absorb some of it?

If you don’t get it, you’re not one of us.

Maybe the designation “icon” does apply equally to the Byzantine deity, the mouse and the 1907 Picasso, the common denominator being fame, which separates the in-group from the out.

Funny how that boundary can shift.

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/12/23/les-demoiselles-davignon/

uffizitourists

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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15JaneWhatFour
You’re not inclined to interpret this painting. You’re probably not asking “what is the significance of the number four, what does it symbolize or refer to, what is the sum of all the fours here and what would be the meaning of that large number, ditto for multiplication,” etc. This kind of interpreting is what we used to do. For example, when you look at this painting by Nicolaes Maes, you can’t help but try to figure out what the NicolaesMaesIdleServantartist is illustrating. Why did the artist put in the cat, the sleeping maid, the guests in the background? What is the hostess saying to us by gesturing that way? What was the social status of servants in mid-17th-century Holland?
We stopped digging for meaning about a hundred years ago. I recently found this 1923 Picasso quote in an announcement of the current MoMA show: “Everyone wants to understand art. Why not try to understand the songs of a bird?”
If this sounds perverse, it’s because prior to about 1900 images were used for didactic purposes and that’s what we got used to. They illustrated a story, a myth, a compositional ideal, an ideal ratio, an ideal body, an ideal color relation, etc. Ideals are culturally defined and over time get enshrined as absolute and immovable. By the early 20th century, these ossified standards were crumbling in Western culture: in the place of capital-t Truth we got evolution, relativity, psychoanalysis and the leveling of social classes. This is not to say that Cézanne, Manet, VanGogh, Matisse and Picasso were now illustrating these new theories. Not at all. They painted in a new way because to be alive at that time felt new.
The major societal shift involved the relationship between artist and client. Whereas before, the artist was a servant, he is now of the same middle class as his client. Whereas before, the client (pope, emperor, czar, king, archbishop, et al) was interested in the finished product and how it promoted his power status, now the client becomes more and more interested in how the work is put together and what philosophical dynamics those artistic processes embody. Whereas before, the work of art “appeared” in a mythical sense, like Athena from the head of Zeus, now the painting or sculpture shows the traces –the brush strokes, the chisel marks, the scratches, the nuts and bolts—of how it was made.
This is why the reviewers of art exhibits and the critics in art magazines like Art in America and Artforum will write at great length about the process that went into the making of the work of art. Most of the writing does not attempt interpretation of the pre-19th century kind at all. It’s assumed that you, as a contemporary, love process. You love to stand in front of a painting or sculpture and try to figure out how the artist made this thing. Reconstructing the process will trigger empathy with the artist, will vicariously pump you up with energy and, generally, make your day. Later you’ll meet a friend for lunch and, gesturing energetically,try to convey your aesthetic experience.
Well then, what was the process behind “What Four?” You can see that the painting, 30” x 40”, started as a color study: blue/purple and greens. What followed was only one layer of paint, but a layer produced through complex procedure. The artist, Jane Donaldson, decided to mix media. The first layer is painting. This second layer is printmaking. She carved the letter four on a linoleum plate. She painted it white and pressed it onto the canvas, one four after the other, until the white paint was worn from the plate. She now inked the plate again and started another set of “four,” and so on.
I find this very exciting. It has something child-like about it, but at the same time it hearkens back to that incision in Western civilization when in 1439 Johannes Gutenberg invented printing in Mainz, Germany, and literature was able to take off. Without printing, no Renaissance, without the Renaissance, well, you know, on and on.
That’s one of the chain reactions set off in the mind. There are others, because the process of decline/degeneration/fading and rejuvenation/fresh start is so true to the experience of life. The process tempts you to interpret metaphorically, but remains unspecific. It reverberates deeply in the imagination because it is visually rich. That richness comes from its process.
All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.
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IMG_5184
I took all these close-ups at the MoMA earlier this month. What you see is how I framed the shot as I stood in front of the Matisse painting. There was no tweaking in Photoshop. Now that I have these passages in a series, I can see my eye at work. They all have my compositional bias and look like something I might have painted, if I say so myself.
Tomorrow you’ll see the whole Matisse painting here. I invite you to copy and paste the image into your own computer and play the cropping game. Chances are, you’ll learn something about yourself.

IMG_5185

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/12/29/matisse-zoom-four/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/12/28/%EF%BB%BFmatisse-zoom-three/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/matisse-zoom-two/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/12/26/matisse-zoom-one/


All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.
http://facefame.wordpress.com
http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com
http://www.katherinehilden.com
http://www.khilden.com

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IMG_5170
These passages from Matisse are a sort of gift in speechless delivery.

IMG_5183https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/12/28/%EF%BB%BFmatisse-zoom-three/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/matisse-zoom-two/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/12/26/matisse-zoom-one/

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.
http://facefame.wordpress.com
http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com
http://www.katherinehilden.com
http://www.khilden.com

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IMG_5176
By now you’re probably thinking there must be more to this than looking. You’re tempted to guess what Matisse painting these passages are taken from. But no, it really is about looking.

IMG_5177
If you can’t let go of the guessing game, just keep looking. Stay with it and your mind will turn off the verbal mode and you’ll go visual. Ahhh!

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/matisse-zoom-two/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/12/26/matisse-zoom-one/


All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.
http://facefame.wordpress.com
http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com
http://www.katherinehilden.com
http://www.khilden.com

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IMG_5174
The intention here in showing you these passages from a large painting is to invite you to feast your eyes.

IMG_5175

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/12/26/matisse-zoom-one/
All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.
http://facefame.wordpress.com
http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com
http://www.katherinehilden.com
http://www.khilden.com

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Matisse1a
I’m trying to find a metaphor for what happens to me when I look at a Matisse. Let’s see, in sci-fi movies you ‘re shown the space craft suddenly accelerating, exiting our solar system and zooming into galactic space.
The zooming experience comes close, but I don’t feel zoomed to another-worldly realm with Matisse. It’s more like a centripetal zoom into this, just this, without any thought of “painting” or “culture” or “what’s he saying here” or even “isn’t this wonderful.” I lose a sense of time and place. It’s just this. I fall into this moment, intensely aware and intensely stupid at the same time.

Matisse1
Here are two passages from a Matisse painting that will remain unidentified for a few days. I’ll post two passages every day til December 31st, when I’ll show the whole painting. Each passage can be imagined as a large, entrancing painting in itself.
May the Zoom be with you.
All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.
http://facefame.wordpress.com
http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com
http://www.katherinehilden.com
http://www.khilden.com

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