29.11.11

SUBLIME: Nature

This short chapter is about the sublime that nature evokes. If you've ever stood on the edge of the world, looking out into the vastness of the pacific ocean, or been in any setting where nature does no less than belittle your existence, you'll need no convincing of the existence of sublime. Beginning with heaven and earth, taking you through the abstract sublime, through Frederick Law Olmsted, and lightning fields this section offers a broad yet concise overview of subliminal nature in art. While later chapters about earthworks fail to actually manifest a single sentence between the work and the sublime, it's alright, that's what our imaginations are for. This chapter ends with the essay I'm going to write about:

John Berger
Into the Woods// 2006
  
In the early 2000's Jitka Hanzlov√° took a series of photographs that featured scenes from the depths of the forest. Berger, to no surprise, wrote a beautiful essay about the affect and power this work has. I'll let you follow along a series of quotes that emphasize the ease with which this essay reads. 
"A forest is what exists between it's trees, between its dense undergrowth and its clearings, between all its life cycles and their different timescales, ranging from solar energy to insects that live for a day. A forest is also a meeting place between those who enter it and something unnameable and attendant, waiting behind a tree or in the undergrowth. Something intangible and within touching distance. Neither silent nor audible."
Berger further establishes fundamental notions about the forest before placing his hand inside of the very core of photography, setting up a dual foundation to this short essay between photography and the forest. 
"It's commonplace to say that photographs interrupt or arrest the flow of time.  They do it, however, in thousands of different ways... ...What is strange about some of Jitka's forest photos - not her photos of other subjects - is that they appear to have stopped nothing. In a space without gravity there is no weight, and these pictures of hers are, as it were, weightless in terms of time. It is as if they have been taken between times, where there is none."
It seems that this particular series of photographs, in Berger's eyes, have captured not only the movement of time, but a lack of acknowledgement of time itself.  Without seeing these photographs in person, I'm hesitant to come to such similar conclusions so easily, but stronger than my skepticism is a strong desire to really see these photos, in some sense these photos are already more successful than previously mentioned.  Berger continues,
"To make sense of what I'm suggesting it is necessary to reject the notion of time that began in Europe during the eighteenth century and is closely linked with the positivism and linear accountability of modern capitalism: the notion that a single time, which is unilinear, regular, abstract and irreversible, carries everything.  All other cultures have proposed a coexistence of various times surrounded in some way by the timeless."
For me to imagine a negation or acknowledgement of time makes me laugh, human beings have come so far, but have not gotten anywhere without at least the acknowledgment of forward movement. There is no forward without a linear idea of time, and I can't help but giggle at the thought that these photos point to a perhaps larger scale of things, a broader understanding of space that doesn't care to admit any linear direction at all. 




26.11.11

BLUE PINK IMMATERIAL VOID: TRANSCENDENCE

Yesterday I began reading the second chapter of SUBLIME and felt refreshed, instantly grateful that I read three novels before digging into more art theory. Transcendence is a pretty short chapter, so I'll focus on one essay that I loved. Probably because I love James Turrell and have secret fantasies of flying to Flagstaff Arizona to visit that beautiful crater in the desert. Mostly, this chapter is about that exact moment when our souls escape physicality and reach for the void of spiritual transcendence.




Lynn M. Herbert
Spirit and Light and the Immensity Within//1998

Leaving our physical realms behind, Herbert starts this essay by talking about light and its power to bring us to our knees. We take it for granted most of the time but, "Not only does it reveal what is around us, it also makes known that which is inside us." Herbert then continues by introducing Turrell whose sole medium has been light since the 1960's. She emphasizes Turrell's, "particular gift in affording us the opportunity to have a unique and intimate experience with light and to feel its transcendent power." Our experience with Turrell's work becomes extremely personal and for many, leads to thoughts about spirituality and religion.  Not to get too caught up in religion, Herbert quotes a former priest who makes the point,"one doesn't get 'religion' in a church anymore than one gets 'education' at a university." I liked this point because it opens the door to suggest that spiritually is manifested in so many other places.  Herbert gives a brief explanation of Turrell's upbringing and his constant relationship with light and brings us to the 60's where Turrell was able to work alongside arist Robert Irwin with scientist Dr. Edward Wortz.  After this Turrell created immaterial pieces out of light that tied him to minimalism, yet referenced the color of artists like Mark Rothko.  Turrell found Roden crater, an extinct volcano in north of Flagstaff Arizona, where you feel geological time and the sky is theatrical and vivid. "Sunrises and sunsets present ranges of color unimaginable to the uninitiated.." I have yet to forget the kind of intensity of color that exists in this part of the South West, hues are more saturated, and the lack of cloud cover allows the deepest of blue to penetrate the surrounding landscape in a heavy way.  Herbert describes the work that Turrell has made at the crater, 
"Emerging from tunnels and chambers to the rim of the crater, one will experience a phenomenon called 'celestial vaulting' in which the eye sees the sky as a dome rather than a flat expanse.  With this vision of the heavens embracing one overhead, the feeling is very much as if one were standing on the edge of the earth, close to the sky."  
Turrell speaks of the crater's ability to connect time in a vast way. He states that there are stars that are billions of years old, and there is starlight that is very recent, perhaps only 20 light years old, and that mixing this light of different ages speaks of its time.  Herbert ends this essay on Turrell's ability to create a transcendent experience in the simplest of ways, that draws our attention to the immensity within ourselves. "He allows us to look at light in such a way that we can see into ourselves through to the universe beyond..." 


18.11.11

CHROMOPHOBIA DETOUR

Cheese and rice! Okay, I know I said I would finish SUBLIME before I read different things, but I couldn't help myself! I took one look in my bookcase and it was over, suddenly there were three books in my bag at all times.  My favorite of which was Chromophobia by David Batchelor.


This book is a collection of 5 essays, and I've decided to give you a little taste of three, but only a taste because this book is not long, and too much would be, well too much!


Whitescapes//
This essay speaks of the significance of whiteness in relationship to darkness and color.  Batchelor talks about Joseph Conrad, Francis Ford Coppola, and Herman, 
"Melville works in something like the opposite direction: he begins with one great big white thing and, at certain points, begins to wonder whether the terrible whiteness of this thing could be generalized beyond it and infect his more homely conception of white.  'It was the whiteness of the whale that above all things appalled me', he admits, while at the same time noting that 'in many natural objects, whiteness refiningly enhances beauty, as if imparting some special virtue of its own.' He recognizes the gravity of the impasse and his confusion" 
"Horrible electric white, implacable, murderous," delightful. 

 
Chromophobia//
Sometimes we are scared of color, we discriminate against it in social/political ways, Aldous Huxley describes taking mescaline and sees intense color, Technicolor in cinema is used to emphasize a coming to reality, and so on...
"Falling or leaving: these two metaphors of colour are closely related. Their terminologies - of dreams, of joys, of uprootings or undoings of self - remain more or less the same.  More than that, perhaps, the descent into colour often involves lateral as well as vertical displacement; it means being blown sideways at the same time as falling downwards." 
Um, exactly.


Apocalypstick//
There is danger in color. Color is powerful, sexual, intense, aggressive, and that scares us too. 
"Gradually, his conscious colour-delirium leads him to fall into a restless sleep and then into a colour-nightmare where the flowers transform into a woman and the woman in turn becomes flower-like: 'glowing colours lit up her eyes; her lips took on the fierce red of Anthuriums; the nipples of her bosom shone as brightly as two red peppers.' To his horror the woman embraces him fiercely and reveals 'the savage Nidularium blossoming between her uplifted thighs, with its swordblades gaping open to expose the bloody depths'."
Batchelor goes on to elaborate on how color can give life and death, and that color is a very peculiar other. Color is a scary sexual flower waiting to consume you.
There are two more chapters, but I will leave those for you. Batchelor's main points become about the implications of color beyond art and outside of art itself.  He ends with a fantastic quote by Goethe from his Theory of Colours, 
"...it is also worthy of remark, that savage nations, uneducated people, and children have a great predilection for vivid colors; that animals are excited to rage by certain colours; that people of refinement avoid vivid colours in their dress and the objects that are about them, and seem inclined to banish them altogether from their presence."


9.11.11

Grisaille, The Dwarves, The Forests

Monday night I went to the upper east side to check out two shows, the first of which was called Grisaille, a word that generally refers to a painting that is made entirely in monochromotic greyscale.  This show was split between many different colored rooms, which did their job to make all of the work active, and created cohesion between works from so many different artists. This show is Part II of Grisaille, Part I is residing in the Luxembourg & Dayan Gallery in London, maybe I should ask Will to go have a look for me. 
This painting was probably my favorite, mostly because it was against a grey wall which created a nice constant to appreciate the grey in the work. Also because I enjoy how haunting and creepy this work is. By Rudolph Stingel, 2011, oil on canvas, 16 x 13 inches. 

The Dwarves, The Forests
McCarthy has been making work based on the theme of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves for a bit now, so having seen much of the imagery already, it was great to finally see it in person. 

This sculpture was my favorite in the show. Mostly because it felt the most lewd, sexual, and precarious. I'm still unsure about how that sculpture isn't falling over, it's so top heavy, and you can definitely feel the presence of that weight when standing near underneath. 



7.11.11

SUBLIME: The Unpresentable

"After hiking miles into the wilderness and discovering my first real waterfall, I immediately began looking for the pumps and conduit that make it work" Fred Tomaselli, Interview with Siri Hustvedt, 2007

Things are dying down a bit and here I am back to reading consistently, yes. Though I think after I finish this, I will take every one's advice and find a different type of book to read. All these essays might be stirring my brain into a tizzy. 

SUBLIME is broken up into 7 chapters, the first of which is this, The Unpresentable. I must admit that I've read little about the Sublime and it's relationship to art, so there will be a lot of learning going on.  Here are the two essays I connected with from this chapter. 


Barnett Newman
The Sublime is Now//1948

This essay opens with discussion regarding beauty and it's relationship with European art. Newman makes some key points about human nature's obsession with creating perfection, and how those notions of perfection are tied to the sublime.  Of course he talks about Greek art, "there is no doubt that Greek art is an insistence that the sense of exaltation is to be found in perfect form," and then moves to mention a climax in the struggle between beauty and the sublime via the Renaissance.  He makes a great statement about Michelangelo; 
"It was no idle quip that moved Michelangelo to call himself a sculptor rather than a painter, for he knew that only in his sculpture could the desire for the grand statement of Christian sublimity be reached."
Illusion is one thing, but Michelangelo was correct in believing in the aura and presence behind a perfectly articulated human form completely imagined out of a giant piece of marble.  Newman goes on to discuss how the impulse of modern art was a desire to destroy beauty. Newman reaches a climax in emphasizing the continuous presence of European culture in modern art.
"So strong is the grip of the rhetoric of exaltation as an attitude in the large context of the European culture pattern that the elements of sublimity in the revolution we know as modern art, exist in its effort and energy to escape the pattern rather than in the realization of a new experience. Picasso's effort may be sublime but there is no doubt that his work is a preoccupation with the question of what is the nature of beauty."  
Newman is stating here that the sublime notions that live deep in the work of European art via their relationship to beauty are so strong, that the sublime continues to be a presence in modern art. That modern art escapes the pattern but fails to offer a new experience. He gives Picasso as example of a well celebrated artist who was completely obsessed with what is beautiful, regardless of this obsession, Picasso's works still came out sublime. Newman makes an excellent final point, that I will save for you to discover later, but what a wonderful and concise essay.



Barbara Claire Freeman
The Feminine Sublime//1995

In this essay Freeman talks about the relationship between the sublime and the history of masculine discourse that perpetuates "the material and psychological oppression of actual women."  This essay was heavy in it's reference to many ideas that I had not actually considered before.  Freeman identifies what she means by feminine sublime, and then goes on to discuss it's relevancy to politics. This sums up a great deal of what she is getting at, 
"...the sublime is not the presentation of the unpresentable, but the presentation of the fact that the unpresentable exists. To invoke the nondemonstrable - not as a familiar feature of aesthetics but rather in the context of the incommensurable - is to situate the sublime as a site of resistance to aestheticism and also to underscore its political and ethical dimensions." 
So here, Freeman is saying that the very nature of the sublime becomes a site of resistance to emphasize political and ethical dimensions, I'll make the jump and say, feminine political and ethical dimensions. She continues, 
"Unlike the masculinist sublime that seeks to master, appropriate or colonize the other, I propose that the politics of the feminine sublime involves taking a position of respect in response to an incalculable otherness. A politics of the feminine sublime would ally receptivity and constant attention to that which makes meaning infinitely open and ungovernable."  
I love this last point, to take a seat back and respect the otherness of the sublime for what it is, instead of trying to  master and colonize it.  Duly noted, oh, but art?  Sometimes these books have really juicy essays that give artists many delicious things to think about without actually manifesting some critical point regarding art. That is not necessarily true for this essay however, because the way we create meaning and make visual associations has entirely to do with accepted patterns of masculine rhetoric.

This chapter also features interesting essays by Derrida and Zizek,, plenty to think about. On a side note, I'm not going to say how awfully annoyed I am to have missed Zizek speak 3 separate time here in New York City, (Occupy Wall Street, Columbia, and at a Brooklyn bookstore....) this place has a way of making it impossible to find the time to get to where you want to be. You know, it's that whole, full time job thing, that suspends infinitely availability. 

Okay! Time to finish prepping my canvas and eat lunch. Painting later and Paul McCarthy opening tonight.  I love days off.

1.11.11

Excuse me? No.

It's November. So I've been here a little over 2 months and finally starting to feel settled in.  My new job at the ACE is going well, I like it and it likes me. 

A very respected friend came to New York this last weekend and I was happy that we both had time to catch up and chat amongst the wonderful de Kooning exhibition. I got in trouble for taking these during a previous visit. These two photos are hardly a glimpse of this retrospective. They indicate nothing of de Kooning's mastery of line, shape, color, and the figure.

The paragraph on the outside. This exhibition was good about informing you of the relevancy of each era without being overly explanatory. You easily moved through many rooms in chronological order. You could spend 3 hours in this exhibition without spending very much time with each work at all. 


This work I really appreciated, simply because I used to paint backdrops for plays, so it was interesting to see how he went about dividing up the same space. The security guards were much more assertive this time around, probably because people like me assumed the outside of the galleries were okay places to photograph.  A security woman to a viewer with a camera, "Excuse me? No."



Then we went to CANADA
 
We saw great little paintings by Lily Ludlow, that at first seemed a little comical but then honest and sincere. Colin said the art world is very interested in sincerity and authenticity these days. I thought of that when these works were described as such. I hope Colin is right.


 
I enjoyed how these works are about shape and color, and then after a moment it becomes clear how sensual and sexual they are. Very intimate. 

I am still reading! Slowly, because I've been painting, and it's difficult to make decisions about work when reading about why other artists make decisions about their work.  Many people have recommended that I read something that's not about art, I can't help it, I can't seem to motivate myself to read one of the many novels I have sitting around my room. I do think it's good advice though. There is still too much to see and not enough time. 

Time to paint.