Showing posts with label Art. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Art. Show all posts

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Babbling from the Art Opening;Art, democracy, history

Image result for painters studio
A young painter who is given to creating huge canvases blessed with sub-Cubist line drawings somewhat highlighted with fading coloration that suggest a cross between Robert Motherwell and an anemic Peter Max opined, over drinks, that democracies are anti-art. Where this came from I don’t know, as I wasn’t in her conversation, but it is a topic that I thought about for about an hour, on the way home, my head alive with half-formed ideas needing a keyboard for elaboration. This is among the benefits (or curses) of not drinking, you tend to remember every idea that comes to you. I thought, regarding the comment from our young abstractionist, that the matter of democracies being “anti-art” is less that democracies are anti-artistic than they are resistant to the notion that aesthetic concerns and artistic expression are reserved for a cultivated elite. Democracy rejects this sublimated priesthood on principle, and opens the arena, the galleries so that more who wish to do so may engage in the intuitive/artistic process and keep the activity alive in ways that are new and precisely relevant to the time--this is the only way that the past has any use at all, as it informs the present day activity, and allows itself to be molded to new sets of experiences. 

Art is about opening up perspectives, not closing them down, and that is the democratic spirit at its best. Otherwise, the past is a rigor mortised religion, and history is an excuse for brutal, deathwish nostalgia. One advances into their art with no real concern about making history--their obvious concerns are about making their art, with some idea of what it is they're advancing toward, and what past forms are being modified and moved away from. But the judgment of history--as if History, capital H, were a bearded panel viewing a swimsuit competition--will be delivered piecemeal, over the years, after most of us are dead, and our issues and concerns and agendas are fine dust somewhere. The artist, meantime, concentrates on the work, working as though outside history, creating through some compulsion and irrational belief that the deferred import of the work will be delivered to an audience someday, somehow.

That is an act of faith, by definition. The artist, painter or otherwise, also cast their strokes, with brush or mallet, with the not-so-buried-dread of the possibility that the work will remain unknown, shoved in the closet, lost in the attic, and they will be better known for their day job rather than their manipulation of forms through a rarefied medium. History, for that matter, is not some intelligence that has any idea of what it's going prefer in the long run--the best I can offer is that history is news that stays news, to paraphrase a poet, which implies that the painter who survives the tides and eddies of tastes and fashion and fads will the one whose work has an internalized dynamic that is felt long after the brush is dropped and the breathing stopped. History, however, it comes to be made, and whoever writes it, is a metaphysical dead end the better art makers sidestep, and instead make the punch and panache of their invigorated wits count in the strokes of the brush, the curl of the paint scudding over the surface, the blurring and clarifying of forms, shapes, colors and its lack: painting, coming from the modernist angle that still seems a sound and malleable way of handling the hairier knots on the chain, comes as where the world ends, the limit of what the eye can see, the forms the eye is blind to but the mind, muddle that it is, tries to imagine in a sheer swirl of perception. It is about the essaying forth of projects that strive for a moment of perfection that suddenly dies with the slightest re-cue of temperature, it is always about the attempt to convey a new idea. The articulation of the fresh, original perception may end in inevitable failure, but the connections made along the way, the bringing together of contrary energies made the attempt and its result worth the experience.

This seems to be the material that the shrouded groves of History recalls, the earnest and frenzied striving of artists who are too busy with their work to realize that history may, or may not, finally absolve them of strange rage for paints and brushes.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Stax of wax and wane

Well, creating a timeline concerning the rise and wane of Dylan's considerable talent is easy, but the criticism of his work is a more subtle enterprise. That is the actual analysis, inspection, parsing, interpretation, theorizing of the music and words themselves, and the taking into consideration the external factors --politics, fashion, religious conversions, divorces, age--that inform the creation of the music. Criticism is the x-ray we use to get inside the work and attempt to come up with adequate terms and descriptions as to how Dylan's material works and , perhaps, why it stands out among the throng of other singer-songwriters who hadn't near Dylan's resourcefulness.

Criticism, distinct from the consumer-guide emphasis with reviewing, is an ongoing discussion that seeks less to pass judgement than it does to comprehend large subjects thoroughly by interrogating one aspect of the work at a time. It is, of course, something like a make-work project as well, a means that some of us use to escape the terrifying silence that falls behind all of us at one point or another, that emptiness of space that sends a shudder down your spine when it seems even your thoughts are too loud and echoing off the rafters. Many writers keep writing, turning from mere expression into pure process, and it is with a good many worthy writers where we can look and see where their particular timelines became crowded with product that vacillates crazily between good , bad and awful, rarely matching what critical consensus considered their best material from their best period.

Edward Dorn is said that almost any good poet has written all their best work by the time they reach age 35, with the general output after that time becoming less daunting,daring, spry. Dylan is like this, I suppose, as is Woody Allen, John Ashbery , John Upidke, and Elvis Costello. I'd always thought that it was a hedge against death, that as the hair and teeth fall out , the arthritis escalates its assault on the joints and the memory takes on the consistency of swiss cheese, the writing, one poem after another, one novel after another, one movie, one song, one opera after another, the work somehow forestalls the inevitable darkness that awaits everyone. And criticism comes in again during these late period efforts of less notable content and turns itself into apologetics, where one theorizes about the proverbial canvas and kinds being changed, the brush strokes being bolder and less intricate as established ideas are played through yet again. It seems we're stuck with this crazy cycle ; even critics, great ones and mere carpetbaaggers, want to deny death in some sense and also avoid the idea altogether that they've nothing left to say about another man's words.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

some words about the art of Jill Moon

Jill Moon, a university professor, painter, set designer, glass artist, and doll maker who passed away this July, was a painter of distinct style and approach who hadn't been given a great deal of critical notice during her too-short life. This would be due in large part, though, to the fact that she retired from public life soon after she left her teaching position in set design and art history at Cornell. She did some design work for the theater, but she had no showings that I can remember. She willingly pursued anonymity that was her right. Jill didn't stop making art, however, and indeed her productivity was prodigious and prolific. Jill Moon's otherworldly figuration was a marvel. She was a dear friend of mine for the better part of thirty years and change, and it was my good fortune to "see her in action" as she took to the canvas with her paints, brushes, and assorted implements. Jill had a sense of how to bring the incongruous together and make it do work as if the disparate details--a fairy in a pope's Miter, leotards and a polka dot skirt, a red/green/orange trout standing upward blowing blue bubbles, a rainbow-crested dandelion waiting patiently for the fairy and the fish to notice its glorious impersonation of an umbrella--belonged in the same space. 

Poet Wallace Stevens' had a theory of the Supreme Fiction, that space between imagination and the real world that it's about to work upon, where the notions, ideas, imagery is worked out, arranged, finessed as though being fussed upon before going out the door for the business day, but always without explanation to justify their visualization or placement before the eyes of the observer. This was the sphere where there were no secrets, only matters you hadn't discerned yet, or explanatory narratives to connect her figures with a cogent suggestion of what makes sense in the reality they were brought into. 

There was a painting Jill had done for a show of hers at UCSD that featured small, mischievous devils scattered about the color-saturated straits of a particular portrait. Someone asked her what they were and she explained, laughing so slightly, that "...they were devils playing with the other things in the painting. I painted them because I like them. What they mean is private. Actually, I'm not even sure if I know what they mean..." 

I wouldn't doubt that at the time, Jill would have to create something that would contextualize the leitmotifs and tropes and her use of a flat style for a critical appreciation to be applied and calm those minds that demand how the contents of paint operate as a critique of how we live. Still, in the moment of creation and long afterward, she was taken with the joy of creating this space where instinct, dreams, mystery, and ominous ritual, combined in the odd and angular ways that fit Jill's idea of allowing forms to migrate, mutate, associate as they may.  

I remember Jill, in one of those graduate student bull sessions at the Pub following an art show she had been featured in, reflecting on the ideas of Derrida and deconstruction and the insight that because meaning is not fixed in a text, whether be it a book, painting, movie, play, saying that she gave her art over to the idea of play. "I don't think art needs to be about anything," she said firmly. I don't recall what she followed that declaration with. Still, I do recall many a conversation that artists can only be responsible for making the art and making sure that the pieces they introduce to the world have their own integrity, on their terms.  "What the painting means isn't my job," she said at one point, "that would kill the happiness someone else could have creating their own meaning and sharing it with others." Jill was taken with the idea that art had no commitment to reaffirm or even threaten an audiences' shared cosmologies; the artist wasn't required to speak to how the world does or does not work or dwell in the joys or depressions that art lovers might project on the campus. 

The poetic analogs are obvious, I think, the first being Ars Poetica by Archibald McLeish.

Ars Poetica

By Archibald MacLeish
A poem should be palpable and mute   

As a globed fruit,


As old medallions to the thumb,

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone

Of casement ledges where the moss has grown—

A poem should be wordless   

As the flight of birds.


A poem should be motionless in time   

As the moon climbs,

Leaving, as the moon releases

Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,

Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,   

Memory by memory the mind—

A poem should be motionless in time   

As the moon climbs.


A poem should be equal to:

Not true.

For all the history of grief

An empty doorway and a maple leaf.

For love

The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea—

A poem should not mean   

But be.