Archive for July, 2008

Art is the most enrapturing orgy within man’s reach.. Art must make you laugh a little and make you a little afraid. Anything as long as it doesn’t bore

July 31, 2008

Happy Birthday Jean Dubuffet

French avant-garde painter, born in Le Havre (1901-1985). Dubuffet took over his father’s wine business in 1925, and withdrew from the art world. He stayed in the wine business until 1942, when he returned to painting, having developed a distinctive style of simple, primitive images in a heavily encrusted canvas. This style helped Dubuffet gain a worldwide reputation. Fascinated by the art of children and the insane, for which he coined the term art brut (“raw art”), he emulated its crude, violent energy in his own work. Critics soon applied the term art brut to Dubuffet’s paintings, rather than to their stylistic source as he had intended.

Many of Dubuffet’s works are assemblages (combining found objects and other elements into a three-dimensional integrated whole), as for example Door with Couch-Grass (1957, Guggenheim Museum, New York City), which is composed chiefly of fragments of paintings, grass, and pebbles. During the early 1960s, Dubuffet produced a series of paintings that resemble jigsaw puzzles, such as Nunc Stans (1965, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City), in which tiny, obscure, closely spaced figures and faces dominate. His later work consists of large painted polyester resin sculptures. In all of his work the violence is tempered with elements of vitality and broad humor.

The creative habit is like a drug. The particular obsession changes, but the excitement, the thrill of your creation lasts.

July 30, 2008

Happy Birthday Henry Moore

Henry Spencer Moore was born on July 30, 1898, in Castleford, Yorkshire. Despite an early desire to become a sculptor, Moore began his career as a teacher in Castleford. After military service in World War I he attended Leeds School of Art on an ex-serviceman’s grant. In 1921 he won a Royal Exhibition Scholarship to study sculpture at the Royal Academy of Art in London. Moore became interested in the Mexican, Egyptian, and African sculpture he saw at the British Museum. He was appointed Instructor of Sculpture at the Royal Academy in 1924, a post he held for the next seven years. A Royal Academy traveling scholarship allowed Moore to visit Italy in 1925; there he saw the frescoes of Giotto and Masaccio and the late sculpture of Michelangelo. Moore’s first solo show of sculpture was held at the Warren Gallery, London, in 1928.

In the 1930s Moore was a member of Unit One, a group of advanced artists organized by Paul Nash, and was a close friend of Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, and the critic Herbert Read. From 1932 to 1939 he taught at the Chelsea School of Art. He was an important force in the English Surrealist movement, although he was not entirely committed to its doctrines; Moore participated in the International Surrealist Exhibition at the New Burlington Galleries, London, in 1936. In 1940 Moore was appointed an official war artist and was commissioned by the War Artists Advisory Committee to execute drawings of life in underground bomb shelters. From 1940 to 1943 the artist concentrated almost entirely on drawing. His first retrospective took place at Temple Newsam, Leeds, in 1941. In 1943 he received a commission from the Church of St. Matthew, Northampton, to carve a Madonna and Child; this sculpture was the first in an important series of family-group sculptures. Moore was given his first major retrospective abroad by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1946. He won the International Prize for Sculpture at the Venice Biennale of 1948.

Moore executed several important public commissions in the 1950s, among them Reclining Figure, 1956–58, for the UNESCO Building in Paris. In 1963 the artist was awarded the British Order of Merit. In 1978 an exhibition of his work organized by the Arts Council of Great Britain was held at the Serpentine in London, at which time he gave many of his sculptures to the Tate Gallery, London. Moore died in Much Hadham, Hertfordshire, on August 31, 1986.

Push yourself to the limit as often as possible

July 29, 2008

Happy Birthday Jenny Holzer

Jenny Holzer was born in Gallipolis, Ohio, on July 29, 1950. She studied in the liberal arts program at Duke University for two years before transferring to the University of Chicago. One year later, Holzer transferred to Ohio University, where she focused on fine art studies. There she received her B.F.A in painting and printmaking in 1972. She continued her education at the Rhode Island School of Design, where she met Michael Glier, a fellow student, whom she married in 1984.

In 1977 Holzer was awarded an M.F.A. in painting by Rhode Island School of Design. It was during her graduate study at the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Independent Study Program that she started experimentation in public art and words first entered her work. The first posters titled “Truisms” (1977-1979) surfaced throughout Manhattan. Her primary medium, language, structured her subsequent works.

The “Inflammatory Essays” text (1979-1982) was shown on street posters; “The Living Series” text (1980-1982), was cast on multiple bronze wall plaques.

Her work reached an even larger audience when she employed the large Spectacolor Board to convey her newly created “Survival Series” (1983-1985) text to New Yorkers frequenting the Times Square area in New York City. Ultimately she used electronic signboards and L.E.D. (light-emitting-diode) signs to reach the general public and museum audiences alike. In conjunction with the signs, she employed stone benches and sarcophagi etched with works titled “Under a Rock” (1986) and “Laments” (1989).

In 1990 Holzer was elected to represent the United States at the 44th Venice Biennale. Her installation, consisting of rooms filled with various texts including the latest series “Mother and Child” (1990). The texts, shown in multiple languages, pervaded the installation by way of L.E.D. signs, benches, and floor tiles. Holzer won the Leone d’Oro for best pavilion.

Her more recent work, “War” texts (1992), “Lustmord” (1993-1994) and “Erlauf Peace” texts (1995), focuses on the atrocities of war. The “War” text, first shown in installation at the Kunsthalle in Basel, Switzerland, speaks of wartime disaster. “Lustmord” is written from three different perspectives (the Observer, the Perpetrator and the Victim) regarding the rape of women in wartime. The “Lustmord” photographs, images of the text written on human skin, originally were presented in the magazine of the Suddeutsche Zeitung, reaching five hundred thousand readers. The ink used on the cover of this magazine contained women’s blood.

The “Erlauf Peace” texts memorialize lives lost and peace gained in World War II. Two commemorative installations, the Erlauf Peace Monument in Erlauf, Austria, and the Black Garden, in Nordhorn, Germany, incorporate the design of landscape with Holzer’s inscribed benches and stone pathways.

In addition to her permanent installations, Holzer’s latest projects explore the capacities of modern technology and its ability to reach a growing audience. Her Web site, Please Change Beliefs, makes her original “Truisms” texts available for altering.

Holzer resides in Hoosick with her husband and their daughter, Lili.

I don’t believe in art. I believe in artists.

July 28, 2008

Happy Birthday Marcel Duchamp

Born on 28 July 1887, in Blainville, near Rouen, France. French painter, poet, experimentator in films and chess player. He is the brother of Raymond Duchamp-Villon, the sculptor, and of Suzanne Duchamp, the poetess and a half brother of Jacques Villon. In 1911 he was a member in the painters’ circle known as the “Golden Section”, together with La Fresnaye, Léger, Metzinger, Picabia, and others. Influenced by cubism he painted the picture “The Chess Players” and the first studies for his “Nudes descending a Staircase”. In the same year he created “The Coffee-Mill”, important as regards to form and the part it played in the general development. Many problems of dadaism (mechanical drawings by Picabia, Max Ernst, etc.) and of surrealism were anticipated in it. In 1912 he painted one of his main works, “Nudes descending a Staircase”, shown for the first time in October of that year at the exhibition of the “Golden Section”. In 1913 it was the hit of the New York “Armory Show”. In 1914—15 he confused the public with a series of works which he called center In 1914 he put his signature to a second-rate landscape reproduction by an unknown artist after adding a green and a red patch, calling the whole work “Pharmacy”. “Ready-Mades” were banal objects of every-day use such as a bottle holder, a snow-shovel, etc., which he signed with his name after giving them titles totally unconnected with their functional use. In 1915 he went to the United States for the first time and soon became the center of the circle of painters round the “Stieglitz” gallery. That group had adopted an “anti-art” attitude and was thus a movement parallel to Zurich dadaism. In 1917 Duchamp sent a “work” called “Fountain” to the New York “Independent Show”, signed with the name “R. Mutt”, it was nothing but a common urinal. The “Ready-Mades” demonstrated his profound contempt for the bourgeois conception of art. Their descendants were in later years the “surrealist objects”. In 1917 Duchamp edited the periodicals, “The Blind Man” and “Rongwrong”, which had an unmistakably dadaist character. “La vierge”, “Mariée”, “Passage de la vierge à la mariée”, etc., pictures painted in 1912 – some on glass and others on canvas – were the points of departure for his monumental work; (painted on glass): “La mariée mise à nu par ses cèlibataires” (“The married woman stripped nude by her bachelors”), at which he worked from 1915 to 1923 and finally left unfinished, to devote himself to chess-playing and to mechanical and optical experiments (films) etc. In 1934 he published 93 facsimile drawings etc. preparatory studies to his unfinished monumental work, a fascinating insight into the structure and evolution of this unique creation. In 1920 he published, under the pen name of Rrose Sélavy (arroser, c’est la vie), puns in No. 5 of the periodical “Littérature”. With the same pseudonym he still signed lesser works. Together with Katherina Dreier he founded the “Société anonyme” for the propagation of modern art in America. Preference was given to anti-traditional, cubist, futurist and dadaist works. From 1942 to 1944, together with Max Ernst and André Breton, he edited the surrealist periodical “VVV”, in New York. Through the charm of his personality and his works Duchamp has exerted great influence on young American artists.

The aim of every authentic artist is not to conform to the history of art, but to release himself from it in order to replace it with his own history.

July 27, 2008

Harold Rosenberg

Harold Rosenberg (February 2, 1906, New York City – July 11, 1978, New York City) was an American writer, educator, philosopher and art critic. He coined the term Action Painting in 1952 for what was later to be known as abstract expressionism. The term was first employed in Rosenberg’s essay “American Action Painters” published in the December 1952 issue of ARTnews. The essay was reprinted in Rosenberg’s book The Tradition of the New in 1959. The title is itself ambiguous as it both refers to American Action Painters and American Action Painters and reveals Rosenberg’s political agenda which consisted in crediting US as the center of international culture and action painting as the most advanced of its cultural forms. This theme was already developed in a previous article “The Fall of Paris” published in Partisan Review in 1940.

Rosenberg was born in Brooklyn, educated at City College of New York and received a law degree from St. Lawrence College in 1927. Later, he often said he was “educated on the steps of the New York Public Library.” From 1938 to 1942 he was art editor for the American Guide Series produced by the Works Progress Administration. Later he was deputy chief of domestic radio in the Office of War Information and a consult for the Treasury Department and the Advertising Council of America. Later, he was professor of social thought in the art department of the University of Chicago.

Rosenberg is best known for his art criticism. Beginning in the early 1960s he became art Critic for the New Yorker magazine. His books on art theory include The Tradition of the New (1959), The Anxious Object (1964), Art Work and Packages, Art and the Actor and The De-Definition of Art. He also wrote monographs on Willem de Kooning, Saul Steinberg, and Arshile Gorky.

Rosenberg was also the subject of a painting by Elaine de Kooning. Along with Clement Greenberg and Leo Steinberg, he was identified in Tom Wolfe’s 1975 book The Painted Word as one of the three “kings of Cultureburg”, so named for the enormous degree of influence their criticism exerted over the world of modern art.

Saul Bellow wrote a fictional portrait of Rosenberg in his short story “What Kind of Day Did You Have?”.

In visual arts, prodigies don’t count. In music and literature, yes, but not in art.

July 26, 2008

Clement Greenberg

Clement Greenberg was born on January 16, 1909, in the Bronx in New York City. He was the oldest of three sons born to Joseph and Dora (Brodwin) Greenberg. In 1914 the family moved to Norfolk, Virginia, where his father was a storekeeper. Six years later the Greenbergs moved again, this time to Brooklyn, New York, where Joseph Greenberg became a manufacturer.

Clement Greenberg was educated in public high schools and graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor’s degree in literature in 1930. When he graduated Greenberg was unable to find a job, but during this time he studied German, Italian, French, and Latin. In 1933 he and his father began a wholesale dry goods business from which Clement resigned in 1935. A turning point for Greenberg came the following year, when he went to work for the federal government, first in the office of the Civil Service Commission and in 1937 in the Appraiser’s Division of the Customs Service in the Port of New York. This latter position gave him time to begin his career as an essayist. In winter 1939 Greenberg published his first review – a commentary on Bertolt Brecht’s A Penny for the Poor. This began a period of critical writing about art and culture that would span five decades.

The 1940s marked Greenberg’s greatest activity as a critic. From 1940 to 1942 he was an editor of Partisan Review, and from 1942 to 1949 he published regularly as the art critic for the Nation. In August 1944 he accepted the position of managing editor of the Contemporary Jewish Record. When this bimonthly magazine was replaced by Commentary, Greenberg was named associate editor, a position he held until 1957.

Until 1941 Greenberg’s criticism was largely confined to literary subjects. In May of that year, however, he published an appreciation of the artist Paul Klee in the Nation. This initiated the art criticism for which he became most widely known. The intellectual justification for his approach had been articulated a few years earlier in two essays published in Partisan Review. “The Avant Garde and Kitsch” (1939) was a manifesto in which Greenberg made a sharp distinction between “true culture” and “popular art.” He asserted that quality in a work of art had nothing to do with contemporary social and political values. “Retiring from the public altogether,” he wrote, “the avant-garde poet or artist sought to maintain the high level of his art by both narrowing it and raising it to the expression of an absolute….” This was necessary, he argued, because of the ways in which modern society had debased high art into kitsch. In “Towards a Newer Laocoon” (published in Partisan Reviewin 1940) Greenberg explained the necessity for avant-garde artists to break away from the traditional dominance of subject matter and place a new emphasis on form.

Greenberg’s early thinking was influenced by the theories of Karl Marx and Hans Hofmann. Greenberg’s study of Marxist theory made the avant garde of interest to him, and it suggested that abstract art was a revolutionary move away from the popular appeal of narrative painting in America. More important, however, was the influence of Hans Hofmann, the German artist and educator. In 1938 and 1939 Greenberg attended Hofmann’s classes in which he stressed the importance of the formal qualities of painting – color, line, plane, and the “push” and “pull” of shapes on the flat canvas. In his criticism of the 1940s and the 1950s Greenberg developed these ideas into a unique critical tool.

In the mid-1940s Greenberg was the first to champion the work of the New York School of abstract artists such as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, and David Smith. When, in the 1950s, the New York School of painters gained recognition, the quality of Greenberg’s criticism brought him a great deal of attention. He was asked to organize exhibitions and was invited to teach and lecture at Black Mountain College, Yale University, Bennington College, and Princeton University, among others. Greenberg continued to refine his ideas about art and to write art criticism. In concise prose, Greenberg mixed references to the history of modern art and his analysis of the formal properties of painting in such a way as to make the abstract work of these artists accessible to critics and students of art. His criticism was characterized by a personal and passionate articulation of his artistic enthusiasms. In 1961 Greenberg published a collection of his essays in Art and Culture, a book that would influence the next generation of critics.

In the early 1960s Greenberg also published one of his most influential essays. “Modernist Painting” outlined a formalist history in which the preoccupation of painters with the formal elements of painting, particularly the flatness of the picture plane, was the common thread of his reading of the history of modern art. From Edouard Manet to the contemporary paintings of the New York School of the 1940s and the 1950s, Greenberg traced a continuous stripping away of subject matter, illusion, and pictorial space. Caught within the internal logic of their medium, painters rejected narrative in favor of painting’s unique, formal qualities.

With the emergence of Pop Art in the 1960s Greenberg’s formalist approach was no longer relevant. Pop Art, with its reliance on conceptual wit and its sources in “low,” popular art, was the antithesis of Greenberg’s formalist theories. As an answer to the success of Pop Art, in 1964 Greenberg organized the exhibition “Post Painterly Abstraction.” In the accompanying exhibition catalogue he extended his critical principles to argue that paintings exhibiting openness, linear clarity of design, and high-keyed, even-valued color were the natural progression of the formal history of art that he had outlined earlier in “Modernist Painting.” Despite his arguments, Greenberg’s emphasis on a formalist interpretation came under increasing criticism during the 1970s and the 1980s.

Even to his challengers, however, Greenberg remains one of the most important critics of his time. All recognize that he articulated clearly and concisely an approach to art that has remained prevalent for almost half a century. Greenberg’s influence is so significant that for contemporary critics his articulation of art criticism has come to define the Modernist movement.

Enthusiasm for one’s goal lessens the disagreeableness of working toward it.

July 25, 2008

Happy Birthday Thomas Eakins

An uncompromising realist whose works and teachings inspired generations of artists, Thomas Eakins was born July 25, 1844, in Philadelphia. Eakins attended Central High School, which was known for its academic emphasis on science, and from 1862 to 1865 studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, also attending courses on anatomy at the Jefferson Medical College, for which he created one of his most celebrated works, The Gross Clinic (1875). In 1866, he enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he studied under Jean-Léon Gérôme. He traveled to Italy, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, and Spain before returning to Philadelphia in 1870, establishing a studio at his family home.

In 1876, Eakins began to teach at the School of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He was appointed professor of drawing and painting in 1879 and became director in 1882. Two years later he married one of his students, Susan Hannah MacDowell. Despite growing opposition to his methods, which included the use of nude models in his classes, Eakins continued to teach. After he was forced to resign in 1886, his student supporters retaliated by forming the Art Students League of Philadelphia (1886–93) with Eakins as their instructor. After this event, he concentrated on portraiture. His subjects were portrayed with the same unyielding attention to the fact of appearance and psychological presence that Eakins had demonstrated in his earlier scenes of athletes and figural compositions. Eakins continued to paint regularly until his health began to fail in 1911. He died June 25, 1916.

Adapted from Eye, RO/LBW

All mankind’s inner feelings eventually manifest themselves as an outer reality.

July 24, 2008

Stuart Wilde

Stuart Wilde is an urban mystic, a modern visionary, he’s written fifteen books on consciousness and awareness. His perceptive and quirky way of writing has won him a loyal readership over the years.

He has been a researcher of consciousness for over twenty years. Some consider him an expert on transdimensional worlds and the phenomena of the supernatural. He has simple a way of explaining things that hitherto have seemed a mystery.

Stuart’s political writings are satirical and often very funny. Nonetheless, he seems to have an accurate grip on the ebb and flow of world events and many of his long-term views and predictions have turned out to be quite prophetic.

You should keep on painting no matter how difficult it is, because this is all part of experience, and the more experience you have, the better it is… unless it kills you, and then you know you have gone too far.

July 23, 2008

Alice Neel

Alice Neel (1900-1984) started out with three strikes against her: she was a woman, she was a woman artist, she was a woman artist who ignored American abstraction and painted portraits of real people, people she knew. That she painted portraits not of the rich and famous merely compounded her difficulties. Painting in her home without gallery or museum recognition, her career reflected the larger cultural pattern of ignoring female talent that then pervaded the country. Until the 1970s she had neither recognition nor sales.

Coping with poverty, two difficult marriages, raising her children, the vicissitudes of family life (her first husband in a fit of rage destroyed 300 of her pictures), she embraced leftist ideology bravely incorporating it into some of her work. None of this, however, is apparent in the portraits of the 1970s and 1980s of her family and friends. By the 1970s, her turbulent life had attained a balance, much like Picasso’s in the 1950s (as can be seen in his paintings of his children and domestic life after Dora Marr). The anger and search for causes of her earlier work yielded to a new calm, a sense of humor and love.

A basic assumption of the work is that the quotidian reality of an American life in the 20th century is centered on the family. As such it is also autobiography. Neel’s portrait gallery is her world. Only a small portion of her sitters belonged to the art elite, but it didn’t matter.

Perhaps for that reason her backgrounds are rendered schematically and accouterments kept to a minimum. Her figure(s) dominate the picture surface cramped and twisted in a shallow space and create patterns of angles with the two-dimensional edges of the surface. Primarily a draftsman, her delineation of the sitters’ features began by means of contour lines. The deployment of faces, hands and fingers – like the particular placement of a vase of flowers – convey the artist’s idea about the sitter or subject.

Unlike her more famous contemporaries, Neel affirms the individualism of the sitter. She emphasizes the person as a particular person – not as a contemporary icon (Warhol), not as a source of formal invention (Pearlstein), not as a signifier of social milieu (Katz), and not as a display of depersonalized technique (Close).

During the last period of her life, Neel’s depiction of her children and grandchildren, neighbors and friends are especially plentiful. The children are lopsided, rumpled, ungainly, insecure, defiant. Neel never used photographs. She relied on observation and memory. Exaggeration of certain facial features, especially the eyes (Picasso, Beckmann, Munch) are historically important device in transmitting psychological information. Neel exploits them both but always there is a point of view, an insight that is her own.

It is unfortunate she didn’t create more prints, but clearly she wasn’t thinking about exploiting a commercial market nor had she a desire to explore the medium of printmaking (Katz, Serra, Bosman). Her prints largely reprise her paintings. Nonetheless, they teach us all we can learn from Alice Neel about traditional portraiture in America just as her emergence from obscurity exemplifies the changes women have wrought in gender equality in American society at the end of the 20th century.

To an engineer, good enough means perfect. With an artist, there’s no such thing as perfect.”

July 22, 2008

Happy Birthday Alexander Calder

Alexander Calder (1898-1976), whose illustrious career spanned much of the 20th century, is the most acclaimed and influential sculptor of our time. Born in a family of celebrated, though more classically trained artists, Calder utilized his innovative genius to profoundly change the course of modern art. He began by developing a new method of sculpting: by bending and twisting wire, he essentially “drew” three-dimensional figures in space. He is renowned for the invention of the mobile, whose suspended, abstract elements move and balance in changing harmony. Calder also devoted himself to making outdoor sculpture on a grand scale from bolted sheet steel. Today, these stately titans grace public plazas in cities throughout the world.