Archive for the ‘aesthetics’ Category


Francesco Clemente on Charlie Rose– Aristocratic Roots Not Enough

August 22, 2008

He’s traveled widely and made friends with many of the greats. He’s a gentle soul, and he’s spent his life searching. With a man who has accomplished the life that Clemente has, it’s hard to find the justification, never mind the heart, to criticize too harshly. But goodness gracious sakes alive, I am not impressed with his work. He wouldn’t be with mine either, I’ll bet a dollar.

Self Portrait — woodcut, 1989, Francesco Clemente

Just the same, his interview on Charlie Rose is very good. He talked about being grateful for the opportunity to create his own narrative (Charlie provides this opportunity for his guests over and over again for decades), and by embracing the light and the shadow in his work, we see how easily the painting becomes metaphor…should become metaphor.

During a discussion about Andy Warhol–a significant figure in Clemente’s life–Clemente said that color is the important quality in Warhol’s work. huh? color???? …weird. sure, there’s color in Warhol’s work, but I can’t imagine seeing it as a defining feature.

Not everyone born with a silver spoon in his or her mouth turns out to be a pretentious bore. Clemente seems so nice, so relaxed with everything on the surface; but I found it hard to trust that surface. He has worked hard, or so he infers, to make himself vulnerable… but I wonder how someone who has never had to worry about the roof over his or her head can be truly vulnerable. And staying up all night to paint a mural does not quite make you a laborer.

However, there are many kinds of vulnerability. We see a genuineness, (dare I use the word “authenticity?”) (no, someone would shoot me) as he makes himself available and shows some vulnerability during this interview. In discussing what sorts of things he fears in life, Charie asked him if he feared the loss of his talent. Clemente reframed, to say he might fear not being able to do the work– “I wouldn’t call it talent, I would call it my language, the privilege of being able to tell my story.” Perhaps he recognizes his own deficiencies? or is it a pseudo-humility.

Dialogue — oil on canvas, 2001, Clemente

Given that he has played on the world’s stage for a considerable time now, it would be useful to say what qualities do emerge in Clemente’s work. I see a certain preciousness, that unless it is couched in the ironic is too much. it is hard to say now, being in a time of irony on steroids. the gentle wry humor may be getting lost as we project our post 911 hopelessness on to all creative work.

We want to take this artist as seriously as he takes himself. Clemente is a bit cryptic. He’s at once fresh out of the 60’s, a searcher who went to India, Japan, came here, and has gone beyond. I was not completely familiar with his work before this broadcast, so maybe I am jumping to judgment too quickly. But he vies with Cy Twombly for last place in talent? skill? on my list of the well-knowns. This is hard to talk about.

Poems to the Sea — oil, crayon, pastel colored pencil on paper, 1959, Cy Twombly

I feel like I’m being duped when I stand in front of a work like this in a museum. So it could be my own paranoia that prevents me from going to a deeper level with it.

Was Charlie more interesting than his guest? He spelled out what is hoped that artists will do, and that is, to capture the idea of a narrative that we all understand.

A recent self portrait by Clemente shows a partial skeletal view of the artist. Meaning: vulnerability is “the ideal state of the artist.”


Mary Cassatt Show at Shelburne Museum

July 29, 2008

Touring the show Sunday, I was struck by the real differences in Cassatt’s style between the paintings and the drawings. Many of the paintings contain passages in which the artist’s freedom takes flight: wildly counter-contour brushstrokes, choppy-textured, casual rendering and some areas left completely unfinished, as was in vogue.

Summertime — circa 1894

This painting was not in the show, but it is actually a better painting than any that were, so I’m using it for an example of her painting style. This particular work is better organized energy in motion; the rythmic patterns created by brush strokes work well, and relate the shapes to their space; enlarge the piece two times and you will see. However, most of the paintings that contain her flights of freedom with the brush are not the happier for them, for those passages often seem at odds with the rest of the painting.

The drawings were much more tame, timid,  … too precious.

quietude — 1891

This is pretty representative of the drawings in the show. Call me crazy, but this type of drawing is SO BORING to me!

Much is made of Cassatt’s relationship with Degas, as if her body of work on its own isn’t strong enough to carry the show. This may be true, but sad… . A friend who saw the show last week mentioned the Degas connection right off, and then went on to talk a little bit about Degas’s craziness. So, if a main narrative to emerge out of a discussion about a show of works by a female artist is about a male artist contemporary, what does this tell us? aighghgh! back to the drawing board!


Indiana Jones and Ultimate Knowledge

June 11, 2008

Not being an Indiana Jones kind of gal, I am surprised at how easily I said yes to the invite to see the movie with two women friends. The nominal reason, I told myself, was that it would be a good test of my current movie sensibility. What does that mean? After a semester-long involvement with Hegel’s Aesthetics, often filtered through film theory and mechanisms of meaning, I was afraid that my already narrow and elitist taste in movies might have become further constricted. But no, … surprise surprise… apparently I LOVED the IJ4 movie more than the critics do. Of course for me it’s not the “same old same old,” because I haven’t seen #2 or #3.

There was plenty of food for thought for those who require a dose of the intellectual/political/philosophical to make the medicine go down. For example, “These aren’t just drawings, they’re directions…they’re a map!” said the professor (Harrison Ford), as we realize that every drawing is a map in some sense, especially if you are an anthropologist. Did anyone notice that the map could only guide them so far? That their eventual progress was more pinned on the “crazy” guy’s intuition than on the piece of paper?

Of the crystal skull people: “Knowledge was their treasure;” it is only under the model of a collective consciousness that all can be known, but what a price to pay! “Lawnmower Man” in which the intellectually challenged gardener gets a taste of pure knowledge and becomes addicted tracks a similar pull between good and evil on the path to ultimate knowledge. Was Socrates right that knowledge is a virtue, and that it’s only in the case of deficiency of knowledge that evil is done?

The sunset last eve, following wild and wooly storming was something to behold.

I don’t think this quite conveys how special — golden yellow almost brassy– the lighting was. then my neighbor Larry came along and pointed out the rainbow right behind me!


Fear of Beauty

May 20, 2008

I wanted to post a very beautiful picture of my nephew’s new boy Brady, but the image uploader isn’t happening on the blog. same problem a couple of days ago. I’ll try later.

Anyway, why is it that we are so afraid of “beauty” in our art, culture, music …architecture is never described as beautiful any more, even a very good looking person is rarely called beautiful. The design industry points to the sythesis of elegance and functionality but the particular B-work is the third rail. the concept is just too quaint.

Why fear beauty? to call something beautiful, one puts oneself in the position of not being taken seriously. As if to be able to participate in the attendant joy or elation that beauty can elicit is a flaw; a sign of naivette or worse. If the beautiful is found out to have no more substance than mere pleasantness, it’s no good.

However, I do think beauty is an idea that is due to re emerge. Any day now, those of us who never shunned it in the first place will be able to safely say “That’s beautiful” under circumstances made safe again, as irony, sarcasm and the guardedness made necessary in this strange age finally wither away.

I have heard rumor that beauty is indeed on the horizon again. Academics, art and culture critics have written often of this beauty question. But it’s not up to them when we get beauty back.