Archives for posts with tag: Philiosophy of Art

Look, Glaucus, the broad-backed combers

are running high, storm clouds black out

Gyrae’s peak, and around my heart

a fear that rises from the unforeseen.  

ARCHILOCHUS

 

ANAKRONOS

In his novel Freedom and Death, Nikos Kazantzakis describes the revolutionary war fought against the Ottoman Turks in late 19th century Crete. He wrote about a small iconographic image of an emaciated woman, covered in blood, with her children clinging to her legs. It was this imagery that initially inspired the central figure in this nine panel granite frieze. However, I did not want my hero to be pitied; I wanted her to be feared. So I went back to the description of Athena- the warrior goddess, and clothed her in all her ‘daedalic’ glory. Her breasts are confrontational; her gun, a replacement for the sword; a belt of shot placed around her hips. This woman is not emaciated, she is an emancipator.

To Axion Esti is Odysseus Elytis’ evocation of eternal Greece, his experience of the Second World War and its aftermath, and his celebration of human life. Elytis won the Nobel Prize in 1979 for his poetry which, against the background of Greek tradition, depicts the sensuous strength and intellectual clarity of a modern human’s struggle for freedom and creativity. It was the poem To Axion Esti that was an essential element in the work Anakronos. 

Finally, the composer Mikis Theodorakis, one of the giants of contemporary Greek arts, has been the mainstay of my work. His choral symphony of To Axion Esti is a sublime interpretation designed to urge humans to be their greater selves. The primal link between each of these great people is one that reaches back to the ancient past of Euripides, Socrates and Pythagoras, and endeavors to propel us into the future. Anakronos, therefore, is a message for the individual to resist totalitarianism of any kind. 

Nicholas Georgouras 2010

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Nicholas Georgouras, 2005, Carrara marble, 250cm x 100cm

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”

Native American proverb

JE Thomas, 'Portent', 2002, 168 x 224cm

 

JE Thomas, “Portent”, 2002, oil on canvas, 168 x 224 cm

The Sculptures of Picasso.

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                              “I  heard [Picasso] complain about how all the people who came

 to see him and saw him give new life to old bits of tulle and cardboard,

 string and corrugated metal, crumpled rags from the garbage can

thought they were doing him a favour to bring him remnants of splendid

 fabric to make pictures out of. He didn’t want them, he wanted

the true refuse of human life something poor, dirty, and contemptible.”

Louis Aragon (Spies, 2000:13)

Robert Hughes writes that the tradition of modern sculpture, with its welded and assembled sheets of metal and its open and constructed form, was derived from a small guitar that Picasso made in 1912 (Hughes, www.time.com ).Picasso radically expanded the techniques and materials used in sculpture during the twentieth century. Besides using bronze, plaster and wood, he employed found objects and the ‘fetishism that arises from the inexplicable and the overlooked’ (Spies, 2000:13). His penchant for violating convention set in motion the combination of found objects, an ironic approach to functional value, and a presentation of discarded pieces of consumer culture which have become inherent in artistic practice today. This essay will concentrate on describing the particular use of materials in Picasso’s work and how they have determined its outcome by assessing particular sculptures done throughout his lifetime.

In 1912 Georges Braque (1882-1963), Picasso’s partner in the initial development of Cubism, was continually trying to adapt craft techniques to Cubism. Contrasting with the nineteenth century attitude which saw craftsmanship as secondary, an appreciation of craftsmanship was common to both Braque and Picasso, allowing them to manipulate and experiment with many types of materials (Spies,

2000: 17). Along with cut-out templates, Braque used sand and plaster mixed with paint to create a relief surface. By the time he had shown these new works to Picasso they had become three-dimensional. He had been assembling sculptural objects together, using paper and cardboard, and then painting and drawing over them. Braque conducted these experiments as a way of assessing their ability for creating illusion (Walther, 1986:207). Picasso then began making paper collages of his own and, when exploring the illusion of spatial values, began making three-dimensional work. These guitars were crudely made out of cardboard and left uncoloured.

By 1914 Picasso had used the cut-out elements of the cardboard Guitar to make one out of sheet metal. A constructive and additive procedure was the profoundly innovative characteristic of these sculptures, along with the use of such foreign materials as sheet metal, wire and stovepipe pieces. These constructivist works were based upon new principles in which the material played the primary role. With his sheet metal Guitar 1914, Picasso had also broken with tradition by using ‘found objects’, in this case a stove pipe to represent the hole of the guitar. The introduction of these new materials meant that he was able to show the negative void in sculptural form, thereby increasing the means by which sculpture could express its three-dimensionality (Markus, www.tau.ac.il). The flat sheets of metal acted as planes as well as lines, thus defining the form and also containing the negative space. Wire and nails represented the strings while pins held the whole piece together. Finally, to unify the work, Picasso painted the whole piece a muted brown in accordance with the principles of Analytical Cubism.

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Guitar,1914, sheet metal and wire, Museum of Modern Art

After concentrating on the three-dimensional possibilities of applied set and costume design, Picasso returned to sculpture around 1928. Motivated by the desire to create a monument for the poet Guillame Apollinaire, he turned to Apollinaire’s own description for a monument of the dead poet Croniamantal in La Poete Assasine, ‘a statue of nothing, of a void…’ (Spies, 2000:117). Through this description Picasso wanted to realise the opposite of the nineteenth century idea of ‘the monument’ and, like his work with the Guitar, describe the reversal of volume. After viewing the sculpture of Jacques Lipchitz, which was also exploring the negative void, Picasso’s sketchbooks began to feature points and lines based upon star constellations. He gave four of these drawings to his friend Julio Gonzalez (1876-1942), who was a sculptor and proficient metal worker. Picasso envisaged scaffolding; ‘these sculptures of poles and antennae executed on a large scale, in pylons of iron or some other material’ (Spies, 2000:118).

Gonzalez executed four maquettes in reduced scale which were fashioned out of thin iron wire. The resulting sculptures successfully conveyed the immaterial spatial quality that Picasso had visualized, playing abstract form against representational, spatial against graphic with line and space both being juxtaposed. The iron rods represent material volume, yet at the same time have the illusion of two-dimensionality. They can be interpreted as outlining the figure and also outlining the air which is invisible, therefore achieving a ‘monument of nothingness’ (Walther, 1986:342). These maquettes were rejected by the monument’s selection committee as being too radical and were not realised in large-scale versions until 1962. The materiality that Picasso had conceived and Gonzalez executed became particularly important for future sculptors, such as Alexander Calder, who concentrated on welded metal structures.

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 Project for a Monument to Guillame Apollinaire, 1962, painted steel, Museum of Modern Art

Picasso continued his exploration of metal in his sketchbooks and also through his association with Gonzalez, whose welding techniques enabled Picasso to radicalize his forms and compositions. Welding, soldering and smelting allowed him to use iron wire, scrap metal and flat metal planes to create more ambitious and complex works. Already being aware of some extraordinary ethnological artworks made of metal in the TrocaderoMuseum in Paris, Picasso produced six large pieces of work with Gonzalez in the period between 1929 and 1931. The most complex of these was Woman in a Garden (1929), a piece which Gonzalez did not execute from sketches but which Picasso improvised from elements, such as a table body, to create the sculpture. This work is an assemblage rather than a construction and is also rather contradictory to the craft of metalwork itself through its use of unreconstructed scrap. It is a dynamic and rhythmic structure of line and gesture described by arts writer Werner Hoffmann as: ‘The piecing together of formal elements… rods and planes collide with injurious sharpness…’ (Spies, 2000:137). As with the iron wire works, Picasso’s concern was with transparency, with the lines in the work being paramount.

It was reported by the critic Andre Salmon that Picasso was highly amused by this form of work and enjoyed rummaging in the scrap heap for iron to perfect it.  Also, the Surrealist Andre Breton noted Picasso’s freedom in handling the material: ‘He even sought out the perishable and ephemeral for its own sake…’ (Spies, 2000:138). The assembled elements of the sculpture were then intentionally joined in a coarse and visible way, avoiding technical perfection, which lends it a quality of post-modernist self-reflexivity. Afterward Picasso painted the whole piece white to give it the appearance of uniformity. As the work had been designed for outside, a later bronze version was cast and welded by Picasso, which the critic Grace Glueck describes as being a ‘wild and compelling’ open-form assemblage that suggests both a woman and a garden fused in a poetic vision (www.nytimes.com).

In the mid ‘30s Picasso began a more extensive use of mechanically textured surfaces. Form played a secondary role to clear textures, such as the flowing parallel folds of corrugated cardboard representing the fluting of early Greek sculptures. Woman With Leaves (1934) contrasts these corrugated cardboard pleats in the lower body with vegetal veining of elm leaves pressed into fresh plaster. The surface of the sculpture consists almost entirely of adopted textures. Picasso considered this work to be one of his great achievements (Withers, 1975:72). Subsequently, the combinations of objects and materials began to play an ever more important role with the free interpretation of sculptural form and quotation from reality allowing a simple integration of real elements.

A good example of this is Head of a Bull(1942) which is the most famous of Picasso’s reproduced sculptural works. By achieving the simplest mode of sculptural expression, the coupling together of two unaltered bicycle parts, Picasso intended that the elements of the work should not be isolated by the consciousness. He understood that the process of assembling these ‘ready made’ works could be undone to become the functional objects again; that the functional value never completely disappears. Roland Penrose wrote that Picasso’s bull, though initially humorous, through its combination of material can also create a metamorphosis which can challenge our sense of reality (Green, 1985:73). A new viewer experiences Picasso’s synthetic illumination in reverse after realising that the sculpture is constructed of two visually and functionally separated bicycle parts. The material unity is completed through the process of bronzing.

However, Picasso says that the danger of the unifying nature of the bronze material is that the viewer may only see the ‘bull’s head and no longer the saddle and the handlebars rendering the work uninteresting’ (Green, 1985:71). The work needs the optical illusion of the metaphorical tension created between the two objects and the aesthetic image they create. Picasso anticipated a further stage in which the sculpture could be reduced again to its separated state and be reused in its original function (Green, 1985:72). By taking something that is rubbish and using it in an unexpected way is the visual renewal which Picasso made to twentieth century art. This approach could be associated with the period of war and its ‘characteristic peddling and use of scraps’ (Spies, 2001:216). Rubbish, garbage and scrap gained increasing importance in his sculptural work.

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Bull’s Head 1943
Handlebars and seat of a bicycle

Picasso’s sculptural activity was often confined to sketch models. These were an experimental approach to materials to try and force expression from formless and contentless elements. They were works influenced by ethnographical pieces such as masks from the Belgian Congo in which found objects are arranged together. Also ancient Gallo-Roman coins were another influence in his clay-moulded reliefs. This may have been due to the Surrealist interest in the metaphorical importance of objects. Whereas Marcel Duchamp was also interested in tiny works such as these and saving them in a suitcase (Spies, 2000:220), Picasso was interested in these reduced models because of their ‘intimacy and concealment’ (Spies, 2000:221). His paper pieces were not cut but torn; sometimes mouths or eyes were burned in with a cigarette. The paper was sometimes folded to create a spatial effect. Pebbles, bones, pieces of wood and tiny tin caps became birds, fish, foxes, goats, vultures, masks, children’s faces, death heads, cigars and nit combs embellished with a pair of lovemaking lice. They anticipated the sheet metal sculptures that would come in the 1950s and 1960s.

Picasso also produced sculptures whose appearance was mostly dependent upon materials that had a particular form or statement. His work was always grounded in the representational, and in pieces such as Woman with Baby Carriage 1950 he used a wide variety of different pieces of metal, such as bits from a real pram, but also cake pans and a stove plate, modelled in clay, which he then stuck together not leaving any doubt as to the fragmentary nature of the elements which had formed the sculpture. In his She –Goat 1950 he went about the assemblage in a different manner, only looking for materials that he would need to form the image that he envisaged. The sculpture consists of materials such as a wicker basket, palm leaves, bits of metal tube, flower pots and pieces of china, but these are no longer recognizable having been stuck together underneath a layer of plaster. Goat Skull and Bottle 1954 was also created from a number of found materials such as bicycle handlebars and large bolts for the eyes. The goat’s head is covered in a layer of corrugated cardboard that gives a textural direction of the hair; nails are used for the tufts in the ears and also for the rays of light emanating from the candle nestled in the bottle. Again the sculpture was unified by casting in bronze but he also painted it in shades of grey that matched the sombre palette of his post-war years. As in his other sculptures, the found elements never quite give up their original identities (www.moma.org).

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Goat Skull and Bottle. 1951, Painted Bronze, Museum of ModernArt, N.Y.

Picasso also used wood from crates, sofa feet, broomsticks, painting stretchers and sometimes an easel. Therefore these constructions and assemblages were largely determined by the materials used. In 1912 he had begun composing guitars using the same visual values in wood, cardboard and sheet metal. Further on, in the stage sculptures proposed for the ballet Parade1917, his sketches depict the use of boards and wooden elements. The Bathers 1956 with their clearly demarcated rectangular bodies are further investigations into these designs. Lines were carved and burned-in to convey a formal appearance along with a red and black paint transparently applied by rubbing. On the child’s face small wooden pegs are fixed to the disc of the head. The sculptures of this period were made of thin planes referencing painting in their near flatness.

Although Picasso was mainly recognized as a painter in his lifetime, perhaps it was because his sculptures were generally confined to his own collection that gave him the audacity to consider the ephemeral and unusual as material. Although the influence of primitivism and the inspiration of artists from such places Central Africa and Oceania must also attest to his ready acceptance of found materials. Moreover, he obviously did not feel the constraints of having to consider the durability of many of his sculptures, yet when he did he ironically resorted to the tradition of bronze casting. It was the bronzing of these ephemeral works which can unfortunately relegate some of them to quaintness, through the loss of the surprise of their materiality. This was an unfortunate result as artists such as Marcel Duchamp never felt the inclination to unify their sculptures through this process and the use of such materials were philosophically important to the work. However, it is generally accepted that Picasso’s sculptures are ‘among the most radical, thought-changing artworks of the modern period’ (Dickerman, www.moma.org).

Bibliography:

Dickerman, L., http://www.moma.org/exhibitions/exhibitions.php?id=8722&ref=calendar  Retrieved: August 10, 2008

Glueck, G., 1982, Art View: Picasso Revolutionized Sculpture Too, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F02E6D81038F935A1575AC0A964948260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=allRetrieved: August 7, 2008

Glueck, G., Art: Gonzalez Survey, A Sculptor’s Reshaping, http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9406E3DB1439F932A25750C0A965948260 Retrieved: August 7, 2008

Green, J., Picasso’s Visual Metaphors, Journal of Aesthetic Education, Vol. 19, No.4 (Winter, 1985) pp.61-76, University of Illinois Press

Hughes, R., www.time.com/time/time100/artists/profile/picasso.html Retrieved: July 14, 2008

Markus, R. Picasso’s Guitar 1912: The transition from Analytical to Synthetic Cubism, www.tau.ac.il?arts/projects/PUB/assaph-art?assaph2?articles_assaph?13Markus.pdf Retrieved: August 5 2008

McCully, M.,  Picasso Painter/Sculptor. London, Tate Gallery, The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 136, No. 1094 (May, 1994), pp. 326-328

Morisset, V., http://www.centrepompidou.fr/education/ressources/ENS-Picasso-EN/ENS-Picasso-EN.html#image09  Retrieved: August 15, 2008

Spies, W, 2000, Picasso: The Sculptures, Hatje Cantz Publishers, Stuttgart

Walther, I, 1986, Pablo Picasso, Benedkt Taschen Verlag, Bonn

Withers, J., The Artistic Collaboration of Pablo Picasso and Julio Gonzalez, Art Journal Vol.35 No. 2 (Winter 1975-76) pp. 107-114, College Art Association

Withers, J., Review: Werner Spies: Sculpture By Picasso, Art Journal Vol. 35 No.1 (Autumn 1975) pp.70-72, College Art Association

 

 

 

In this essay I will attempt to explain the ideologies behind the two periods of art known as Modernism and Postmodernism employing the works of Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) and Julian Schnabel (1951-). Modernism is known for its characteristic simplicity and being futuristic, whereas Postmodernism is known for its complexity and historical quotation. Kandinsky, a renowned Modernist, is considered to be the founder of abstract art and a major artist of the Expressionist movement. Schnabel is known as one of the first Post-Modernists to arise out of the 1980s and also as a Neo-Expressionist. They are ideally posed to show the ideologies of each movement because they are influential in each of their separate period’s development.

The modernist period emerged from the Age of Enlightenment at the end of the eighteenth century. There was a shift from a belief in the will of a god to the humanist theories of Descartes, ‘I think, therefore I am’. Modernism envisaged a new era in which rational thought, not religious faith, would reign supreme and bring about a new and just society. In its utopian vision, modernism was essentially an optimistic school of thought and focused on innovation and originality. In painting it really evolved during the last half of the nineteenth century with Impressionism. The Impressionist use of brushstrokes and their absorption with the surface of a painting became known by the term reflexivity. At the beginning of the twentieth century this reflexivity, combined with the obsolescence of depiction as a factor in art, heralded in the age of abstraction. The invention of photography as a documentary device meant that there was no longer a use for artists to depict a scene. The aesthetic aspects of a work of art became utmost in the artist’s mind and the illusion of reality was quickly dispensed with to aid making the aesthetic elements more powerful. This type of non-narrative painting became known as abstraction.

Wassily Kandinsky is known to have made the first completely abstract painting in 1910. Born inMoscow, he arrived inMunichin 1896. He had trained as a lawyer but recognised that his true gifts were in the world of art. At first he was influenced by the lyrical naturalism that was the trend inMunichat the time. Then he came under the influence of German Primitivism and the Fauves. At this stage his narrative painting compositions showed unity and harmony but, following the example of the Fauves, he reduced the naturalism in his art and greatly extended its expressive powers. Glowing colours and fervent brushstrokes communicated sufficiently enough for him to depend less and less on his subject matter. By 1910 he made his first innovative attempt at a completely original abstract painting. This watercolour intended to carry the works meaning directly to the spectator by using just patches of colour and gestures of the brush. It was intended that the spectator should feel his way into the composition rather than read it. (Stangos, 1994, p.40)

In 1910, Kandinsky had written a book entitled On the Spiritual in Art. His leanings towards theosophy and the occult encouraged him to turn his back on the material world and commit his art to the world of the spirit. Kandinsky sought to connect visual art to the inner life of man by turning pictorial means to spiritual urges. As arts writer Nikos Stangos states, ‘Instead of reinforcing the false values of a materialistic society, art thus used would help people to recognise their own spiritual worlds’ (Stangos, 1994, p.43). In his book, Kandinsky wrote of the avant-garde’s battle with traditional limits of artistic expression. He wanted to represent the battle between spiritual values and the materialism of contemporary society.

During the following years, Kandinsky developed his non-referential art further, using semi-improvisatory techniques to get the greatest possible immediacy. Kandinsky’s move into abstraction was not welcomed by some of his fellow artists in Munich, therefore he joined together with Franz Marc (1880-1916) and other like-minded artists to form a new group, De Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider). According to their manifesto, art was to be a vehicle of human hopes and fears all linked by a desire to find a new means of expression. In Composition VI  (1913), the surface of this large canvas is teeming with energy and, even though the individual elements are balanced, the composition is very complex and without a central focal point.

 By1921, Kandinsky was already making fewer marks than his earlier abstractions, arranging them into a more identifiable diagonal composition. In The Black Spot (1921), the forms of his earlier work, some of which can be traced back to stylised ciphers for mountains and figures have begun to develop a life of their own and have settled into a pictorial vocabulary that Kandinsky is using more sparingly at this time, and in simpler compositions.  

After spending World War 1 in revolutionary Russia, Kandinsky returned in 1922 to Germanyto help Walter Gropius with teaching at his new school, the Bauhaus in Weimar. The Bauhaus was to become famous as the school that pioneered the teaching and practice of modern industrial and architectural design. Gropius wanted to lead the Bauhaus from its concern with artistic self-expression toward “an objective involvement in socially useful design” (Stangos 1994, p.48). Kandinsky continued to teach at the Bauhaus until the school closed under harassment from the new Nazi regime in 1933. During his time at the Bauhaus, Kandinsky formulated more of his understanding of art and creativity. He published his text Point, Line to Plane as one of the Bauhaus books in 1926. It is an attempt to codify the sensual and emotional value of colours and forms so as to enable the artist to control the expressive means at his disposal. His work lost much of its impetuous character and became simplified and controlled (Stangos 1994, p.48). His teachings about form were essentially new, starting with an analysis of individual elements such as point, line and plane, and examining their relationships to each other. The circle, a symbol of perfect form and a cosmic symbol at the same time, was the focal point of his paintings of this period.

After he was dismissed from the Bauhaus, Kandinsky became an exile again, this time in Paris where he continued to work as an artist, although conditions were not originally favourable . Cubism and surrealism were in fashion, but Kandinsky continued to paint his abstractions. He died inNeuillyin 1944 of a stroke.

 Postmodernism emerged in the latter part of the twentieth century after the Punk movements of the 1970s. Change, upheaval and conflict signified the jostling for supremacy amongst the various superpowers. Counter-cultures developed within Western society as people struggled to find identity amongst all these power shifts. The clamouring for recognition by different identifying groups was seen in art as a reason to break away from the formalist dictates of modernism. Representational art along with conceptualism allowed an ‘anything goes’ mentality during the late 1970s. Abstraction was no longer the sole determiner of a work of art as it had become under the influence of art critic Clement Greenberg. Postmodernism allowed an undisciplined array of styles and it has become a widespread cultural phenomenon. As a movement it has accommodated seemingly everything in art which makes it extremely difficult to provide a clear and concrete definition of the term. (Kleiner & Mamiya 2005, p.1034)

Whereas Kandinsky can be identified as one of the first modernists of the twentieth century, Julian Schnabel can be identified as one of the first artists to be identified with post-modernist characteristics in the late twentieth century. While the modernism practised by Kandinsky looked optimistically towards the future, post-modernism is inherently cynical and irreverent. It uses parody and pastiche to reject high art forms (Sturken, 2001, p.238-239). Post-modernism relies heavily on style and image and contains a reflexive quality that shows people’s absorption in the world of simulacra. It is a world in which people live through advertising and popular media. Schnabel’s work recycles conflicting images and systems of representation. His huge panels combine images quoted from film, photographs and religious iconography on surfaces patched together from posters, rugs, driftwood and  broken crockery.                                           

Julian Schnabel was born in New Yorkin 1951. After studying art at the Universityof Houstonand participating in the Whitney Study Program from 1969-1974, Schnabel was catapulted to the status of art world superstar in the early eighties, when his career was synonymous with the revival of painting as a meaningful art form. One of the most financially successful and aggressively self-promoting artists of his generation, he was a leading figure in what came to be known as ‘neo-expressionism’. He produces paintings and prints, and his brash appropriative style combined huge scale, often garish colours and obscure textural reference. The most iconic of his works are his ‘plate paintings’ in which broken crockery is attached to a support and painted in oils. The Student of Prague (1983) draws on the imagery of Christian ritual, layering roughly hewn crucifixes over the bed of broken china vessels, and deploying structure that recalls traditional triptych alterpieces. The title also copies a German silent film of 1913 by the German expressionist director Paul Wegner.  The plate painting Self-Portrait in Andy’s Shadow (1987) demonstrates Schnabel’s frequent use of the plate surfaces for large-scale portraiture, mostly of friends and personalities in the art world. Here, Schnabel makes his own image and links it, as homage, to Andy Warhol, whose date of death is written on the surface.

The use of historical quotation, referential imagery and great reflexivity, by his use of unconventional painting materials, elicits divided responses from the art critics. Some are offended by his deliberate flouting of the conventions of ‘high art’, while others hails his work as following in the best traditions of Pablo Picasso or Jackson Pollack. Some feel that Schnabel’s popularity in the 1980s was synonymous with consumerism and that he exemplifies the cold commercialisation of the art world that was tied to economic boom of the era. The reviewer Ken Johnson wrote that whatever the formal virtues of Schnabel’s art there is always a reckless theatricality about it. He goes on to say that in his series of portraits of the same young blonde woman whose eyes’ have been covered by a horizontal bar of paint, there is a cliched quality in the fact that he is replicating an amateur portrait found in a thrift store (Johnson, 2005).

A retrospective exhibition in 1998 of Schnabel’s work included one of the first of the series of smashed plate paintings The Painter and the Doctors (1978). The reviewer Phyllis Braff wrote that this work generates thoughts about Schnabel’s  treatment of materials, space, scale and imagery and the way he constantly questions art practices (Braff, 1993). Another reviewer in 1989, Roberta Smith, called him ‘the master of conspicuous pictorial consumption’. He uses found artefacts, materials, words and cultural figures in his artworks. However, Roberta Smith felt that he has ‘a tendency to catapult genuine emotion into the realm of self-parodying melodrama’ (Smith, 1989). Michael Brenson wrote in 1987 that when combining an expressionist method with consuming self-consciousness and control ‘kitsch is always a danger, and the artist loves courting it’(Brenson, 1987). The curator at the Whitney Museum wrote in the 1989 catalogue that Schnabel’s work straddles modernism and post-modernism, ‘swinging between a modernist faith in painting and heroic individuality and a postmodern scepticism that mocks heroism and compels the viewer to see art first of all as performance and fiction’. The artist himself has written about his ambiguous plate paintings, ‘I wanted to make something that was exploding as much as I wanted to make something that was cohesive’. In his painting Rebirth I : (The Last View of Camilliano Cien Fuegos) he adds a pair of enormous blue eyes and a series of evenly spaced horizontal lines to a Kabuki backdrop of a cherry blossom landscape.

Whatever is thought of his work, Schnabel can be considered a ‘maximalist’ in that he throws everything at his paintings, including the kitchen sink. His Baroque tendencies seem to stem from a reaction against the arte povera movement, with their emphasis on humble materials and absence of colour. A secular Jew, Schnabel even uses Catholic iconography to match his forms and textures, such as ecclesiastical purple velvet. Although he still paints and holds regular exhibitions world wide, he is now more respected as a filmmaker. He has made the highly reviewed biographical films ‘Basquiat’ and ‘Before Night Falls’ and has recently won best film at theVenicefestival for ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’.

Kandinsky wrote: ‘Every work of art is the child of its age… [and] that each period of culture produces an art of its own which can never be repeated’(Kandinsky, 1914). In my use of Kandinsky and Schnabel as examples of their periods of art, I cannot but think that each of them truly is ‘a child of their age’. They show that, through clarity, innovativeness and optimism, Modernism is to the Renaissance as Postmodernism, in its playfulness, melodrama and complexity, is to the Baroque. Kandinsky, in his studies into the abstract in art, was a major influence on the Modernist period and Schnabel, in his innovative use of historic sources and varied materials, is a major influence on the Postmodernist period.

 

References:

  1. Stangos, Nikos, 1994, From Fauvism to Postmodernism 3rd Edition, Thames andHudson
  2. Kleiner, F.S. & Mamiya, C.J.,2005,  Art Through the Ages 12th Edition, ThomsonWadsworth Press
  3. Sturken, M. & Cartwright, 2001, Practices of Looking, An Introduction to Visual Culture,OxfordUniversity Press
  4. Johnson, K., 2002, New York Times, Art in Review, April 5th
  5. Braff, P., 1993, New York Times, Art Reviews; Revealing explorations of works by two contemporary masters, August 23rd
  6. Smith, R.,1989, New York Times, Review/Art; Julian Schnabel’s mantra: Stop ruining the world, December 8th
  7. Brenson, M., 1987, New York Times, Art: Works by Julian Schnabel at the Whitney Museum, November 13th
  8. Kandinsky, W., 1914, The Art of Spiritual Harmony, Translated by Sadler, M.T.H., from Über das Geistige in der Kunst, originally published 1911

http://www.mnstate.edu/gracyk/courses/phil%20of%20art/kandinskytext.htm

 

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