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Plagens prolific

Post #1393 • September 21, 2009, 8:32 AM • 171 Comments

Peter Plagens sends along a nifty Flash publication about the Kandinsky show at the Guggenheim.

Also, Plagens sat down for a charming interview with his wife, the painter Laurie Fendrich, about seeing sixty New York galleries in six hours.

Fendrich: You willing to give me an overview of what you saw?

Plagens: Sure. Things are kind of bright and deliberately tacky and bouncy, as opposed to minimal, thought out, and reserved. It's postmodernism in full flower - where postmodernism is taken for granted. The overall feeling is like Granny’s attic done in bright colors.




September 21, 2009, 9:00 AM

Man, the art world is small! I rarely comment on art blogs at all (this one is the exception, and I don't comment as often here, even, as I used to), but I know I've been compelled to leave a few comments in the past on Ms. Fendrich's site when she writes on certain modernist subjects.


Chris Rywalt

September 21, 2009, 9:07 AM

I've done sixty galleries in six hours. It's a rough trip, like a marathon for your eyeballs. To say nothing of how much my feet hurt by the end. I think I'm probably twenty years younger than Mr. Plagens, also, so if he's still spry enough to put in that kind of effort, my hat's off to him.

If anyone else is considering such a trip, by the way, my advice is simple: Don't bother.

Update: Mr. Plagens is almost precisely 30 years older than I am. I hope I can still get out of bed by then.


Girl Guide

September 21, 2009, 11:40 AM

MC : "I rarely comment on art blogs at all".....

.....Alright there guy. Just keep telling yourself that.



September 21, 2009, 1:31 PM

Is there some sort of stigma attached to the frequency with which one comments on art blogs, or how many blogs one does it on? I really must keep up better with fashion, it would seem.



September 21, 2009, 2:57 PM

Looks like I'm not the only one to screw up my tags.

I'm not sure what GirlGuide is trying to imply, there... well, actually, I suppose I do know WHAT they are implying, I guess I just don't know why.



September 21, 2009, 6:47 PM

You may take his to be a prolific amount of blogging, Girl Guide, but I'd be willing to bet that of all the possible responses bouncing around in MC's head his posted contributions to boggling numbers of wayward art blogs are only a restrained and meagre fraction.



September 21, 2009, 9:01 PM

I suppose I should have qualified my statement: I comment less on art blogs than some here do, but more than some others.

Of course, I comment on my own blog all the time, but that goes without saying, naturally.



September 21, 2009, 10:01 PM

So MC's nog is clogged with blog but the blog smog keeps him off the blog logs. Check.



September 21, 2009, 11:42 PM

Plagen's slideshow decently presents a decent thesis. I enjoyed reading his prose about the artists in question. Never heard of Albertan Mark Mullin, but I don't like very much of his. I can think of half a dozen ECAS painters who would make better examples of artists painting in the footsteps of Kandinsky. The Heidi Pollard looks good though, as do some others of hers. And I think Olitski is quite conspicuously missing from Plagen's lineup.



September 22, 2009, 9:05 AM

The connections between Kandinsky and the others seem tenuous, especially past Pollock. No matter its Newsweek, I guess. Even though Kandinsky gets propped up as the grandaddy of abstraction, I've never really liked much in his work. And someone has to explain what I'm missing in Elizabeth Murray too. Sheesh, I just cringe at some of her stuff.

Mullin is working in that smart-stroke photo-inflected surrealist vein that seems to be the territory of a lot of the 'it' painting right now, especially in Canada. Mullin owes to someone like Jonathan Lasker (who owes Winters in turn), as does Pollard in her earlier stuff, but I think Lasker is better. He's dumber, but still too smart most of the time. Kudos to Mullin for making it onto Plagens radar and thus Newsweek. Pollard looks ok, but a bit small. I enjoy Fendrich's tighty color cartoons though.



September 22, 2009, 9:20 AM

You can savour it all right here:

PAINT! What a joke.



September 22, 2009, 9:34 AM

Monopoly vs. chess. 40+ years ago and still so apt. Thank you, Bannard.



September 22, 2009, 10:17 AM

Mullen was in an EAG Alberta Biennial a few years back. I didn't remember the name, but I remembered the paintings (once I looked at your link, dude).



September 22, 2009, 11:05 AM

Hey dude, you are right about this "granddaddy" stuff. I can only add that being the "granddad" or "father" of any movement is not the same thing as saying or implying "more original" or "better" or anything of that kind.

For instance, most of the experts I've read think Riopelle was first with the all over drip method, but that does not put him over Pollock.

When George was active on Artblog we discussed his metaphor that the art world had become like the Mississippi delta, and the relative merits of headwaters versus deltas. In that comparison, the sparkling clear headwaters came out ahead of the mile wide and inch deep delta, but that was the difference between extremes, where the delta was the end of the line, the outlet for a massive but worn out and heavily contaminated drainage system.

So, while it is better to be compared to the headwaters than the nether end, exactly where one falls in the headwaters does not seem to matter, at least to me. I have also observed that the stretch of time in which a style "emerges" has lengthened in the past 100 years, despite the emphasis on obsolescence that gets so much emphasis these days at the delta end of the system, where every little piece of debris you find there is equal to every other piece.

I think this happens because everything is obsolete once it gets to be a mile wide and an inch deep. It is all worn out in this terminal style. So the herd is right when it declares last season's hot stuff to be obsolete. The only mistake it makes is when it puts up a different piece of flotsam as a "new" innovation.

A theoretical case could be made that modernism is still emerging but from my observations modernists are involved in a "late style", which is characterized by sure footedness that supports radiant achievements, but not the probing, volatile work that characterizes an emergent style. Thus the best of what I see today is more like Monet's water lilies than Picasso and Braque's analytical cubism.

Interesting, to me at least, is that the evolution of modernism from emergent to late style has taken place in a time period that began before pluralism emerged and after it reached its terminus. Pluralism, which I now regard as a single style characterized by anything goes, has been a side trip off the main road which is still going, though it is generally considered dead, while the stuff that really is dead, is considered to be alive.

The art world is dancing with the corpse.


Chris Rywalt

September 22, 2009, 12:30 PM

I like Elizabeth Murray's work. It's vibrant, energetic. I haven't seen much of it in person, but I've liked what I've seen.

I've never been too thrilled by Kandinsky, either, but I'm looking forward to seeing the show.


that guy

September 22, 2009, 12:30 PM

I would only add a few of the Hungarian artists to the good list of observationally obsessed above. Károly Lotz, Géza Mészöly and Oszkár Glatz for instance. When I was in Budapest there was a painting of herders and goats at one of the major museums that blew me away. Wish I could remember the artist's name. It felt more 'real' than any other painting I've ever seen. The paint handling had a lot of knife work, but applied with what appeared to be a very small palette knife.



September 22, 2009, 1:42 PM

I have Joseph Drapell's DVD about the crisis in art. It is focused on why the "new new" was not included in a Toronto show about artists who inherited the legacy of color field. Amid all the art politics, there was one question posed by Carol Sutton that haunted me. She asked why did pluralism seem so exciting in the 60s but now is so boring? No one gave a good answer and neither could I imagine one myself as I watched the thing unfold on my computer screen.

But just like Carol, I was very excited about the parade of isms that together constitute pluralism AS THEY EMERGED, back in the good ole sixties. Now I think emergence is the key. There is a certain spectacle that comes with the first appearance of anything, an excitement that is generated by the possibilities that may or may not come next, as they appear and get refined in early development. That this is interesting to most of us is quite natural.

But a short run to the end was built into pluralism. Modernism clamped down on its mediums, forcing their essentials to the front, where development could continue, even after the initial emergence. Pluralism, in the name of inclusiveness and for the sake of an easy going "innovation", relaxed what it expected out of its mediums and bestowed every trivial twist and turn inside them with the importance normally reserved for just what is essential. Dilution, not intensification, was the core of the style. When Greenberg announced it would last just a couple of years, he was right as far as its fertility went. He just did not grasp the staying power of the end state. Nor did he grasp how difficult that would make it for modernism to continue into a late style, or how difficult that would make it for something else to emerge. But from the larger view, Clem got it exactly right. Pluralism's ability to innovate died almost as soon as each aspect emerged, leaving whatever promise it made about new possibilities empty of any worthy result. The best it could do was generate a few minor artists of some note. And Carol Sutton's observation that it has gotten to be a huge bore is right on target.

The side show is over, it's just that the crowd milling around inside the tent hasn't noticed it yet.



September 22, 2009, 1:54 PM

On last entry into this tirade against pluralism.

Where modernism continually rehabilitated its disciplines, pluralism destroyed one after another with the laxness of anything goes, laying waste to more art forms than any previous style in the history of art. It seems there is no discipline it can’t make worse. It included theatre only to give us flaccid “performative art”. It included architecture only to give us watered down “installation”. It included photography and film only to give us undisciplined “time based art”.



September 22, 2009, 2:36 PM

The side show is over, it's just that the crowd milling around inside the tent hasn't noticed it yet.

That's because they weren't there for the show, per se, but merely to be seen at the show by their fellow attendees. The milling you point to is actually their mingling, because it's the social scene they value. To paraphrase Bender from The Breakfast Club, "Demented and sad: but social".



September 22, 2009, 3:39 PM

MC, bingo! When pluralism hit in the 60s, you could see right through it, just whatever gimmick anyone could come up with so they could be popular at the party that weekend. It was all transparently social. The 'art' was/is the wallpaper at the party. The amazing thing is that rag is yet being wrung even though everyone knows it's dead and many knew it was hollow from the start.


stop me if you've heard that one before

September 22, 2009, 5:24 PM

MC, bingo! When modernism hit in the teens and twenties, you could see right through it, just whatever gimmick anyone could come up with so they could be popular at the party that weekend. It was all transparently social. The 'art' was/is the wallpaper at the party. The amazing thing is that rag is yet being wrung even though everyone knows it's dead and many knew it was hollow from the start.



September 22, 2009, 5:49 PM

Well, Stop Me, I'm the first to admit I did NOT see right through it from the beginning. I not only liked the early instances of pluralism, but saw them as extensions of the rebelliousness of modernism and the avant-garde - a continuation, not a break to the side. I was especially drawn to the directness and simplicity of minimalism, but liked a lot of the rest too and still draw from the "garish" and "commercial" color of pop.

To this day I would not deny the theory that everything is potentially art. Eventually it sank in that this true sounding theory was not delivering the goods, though. Only recently have I begun to consider the mechanisms of the process and discern differences in the topology of what happened - something that is very difficult to do when you are in the midst of the process.



September 22, 2009, 5:58 PM

Any art scene is inherently social. Nothing wrong with that. Perhaps that is how sex, morality, and politics manage to intersect with art. The social side is part of belonging to the right cave (just as it can be part of belonging to the wrong one).



September 22, 2009, 6:06 PM

Some things that made it so easy to see was the me-too-ism (I want in the right cave, maybe?) that drove so much of it, and the notion of the 'democratization' (pulling down) of art, in line with the unfortunate politics of that time. What drove modernism was something completely different. You can see that by just looking at the people involved in it.

I haven't thought much about the everything-can-be-art theory, but it's easy to see that the parts of everything that pluralism churned through were not brought to anywhere near the levels that modernists attained. Most of the people involved in pluralism wouldn't even have known what that would entail.


stop me if you've heard that one before

September 22, 2009, 6:44 PM

Looking at the people involved, huh? I'd wager that the handful of people whom you might revere as early modernists could easily be balanced out by laster modernists, and the same thing for the scoundrels and incompetents. Plus ca change... which goes just as well for the guardians of artistic excellence, valiantly standing firm against yet another great decline in standards and moral decency.



September 22, 2009, 7:00 PM

'Revere,' Stop Me?

The proof's in the pudding.

And what does '...guardians of artistic excellence, valiantly standing firm against yet another great decline in standards and moral decency' have to do with this exchange?

Is your balloon getting popped? Well, I hope it's not a Hindenberg.



September 22, 2009, 7:17 PM

Yes, Stop Me, I thought you had a good point initially - that there are underlying processes that need to be examined that might be different in different cases.

But "guardian of artistic excellence" - I hope I am one of those so I stand pat there.

But I just don't know what is even involved in "balancing" one type of modernist against another. If you can get your objection into some form that i can understand, I'd be happy to respond, perhaps even agree, as I implicitly did with your initial remark.



September 22, 2009, 7:19 PM

The issue here may be that I kicked the termite nest.



September 22, 2009, 7:39 PM

While it's always treacherous to delve into motives, I might see one.



September 22, 2009, 7:53 PM

Really, Franklin, you should know better by now. I mean, I expect you enjoy the exercise, such as it is, but don't you find it, in principle, rather like having sex with a mannequin, or eating wax fruit? In other words, no, you can't get blood from turnips, so leave the damn things to vegetate.



September 22, 2009, 8:01 PM

Oh, it's fun to do once a year.



September 22, 2009, 8:11 PM

I suppose there's something to be said for engaging unpleasant reality, however unfortunate, but I can definitely see the appeal of retiring from an unsatisfactory and apparently incorrigible world into a much more congenial and rewarding universe.



September 22, 2009, 8:48 PM

Hear, hear, Jack.



September 23, 2009, 12:11 AM

This is my fault. I was generally doing a good job avoiding this stuff, but lost my cool when I came across a piece on the value of (I think, but I'm still not sure) of criticism that needed some feedback, to be blunt. I mentioned it here and it obviously piqued the toreador's interest.

Thanks for the read John.


Chris Rywalt

September 23, 2009, 8:47 AM

John, your description of the emergence of pluralism is neatly summed up in a quote from Paul Schrader, talking about Pauline Kael. I have two quotes on my blog in rotation, first from Kael, then from Schrader: "When we championed trash culture we had no idea it would become the only culture." "It was fun watching the applecart being upset, but now where do we go for apples?"

The introduction of pluralism was fun because it was new and exciting and a big "screw you" to the established order. Once it became an established order it turned out to be lousy, probably because, unlike almost all previous establishments, it was based entirely and simply on not being the establishment.

This oppositional definition remains. I've had arguments on blogs with people defending video and installation art as if there's still some great edifice of Approved Old White Guy Art trying to ignore or crush such "avant-garde" work. What a number of people arguing with me couldn't see was that they were just cogs in the machine, bricks in the wall of the current establishment.

They were the Man, but these days the Man's pose is that he's not the Man, he's just a regular little guy.

When you think about it, it's genius: It's the genius of capitalism and the market that's there's no rebellion so extreme it can't be absorbed, repackaged, and sold back to its foot soldiers at a handsome profit. All the while, of course, leaving their illusions intact.


Chris Rywalt

September 23, 2009, 8:57 AM

Speaking of Edmonton I just looked it up on a map and I'm amazed to see it's this square of streets in the middle of absolutely nothing. It looks like, if you make a wrong turn, you fall out the side and into the wilderness.

It baffles me that people live like that. We're packed so tightly here, when I fart my neighbor says "Gesundheit."



September 23, 2009, 10:39 AM

It must be really crowded if your farts are coming out your nose, Chris.

There's nothing but empty space up here.

Edmonton: the final frontier.

Speaking of today's trash culture, this article is relevant.


Chris Rywalt

September 23, 2009, 11:10 AM

Looking at Edmonton from the air it really appears to have been dropped from the sky, like, hey, let's put the city here, plop!



September 23, 2009, 11:52 AM

Chris, please, you're being paternalistic, or something. And you're white, too, and male. Stop it. I'm sure it's forbidden.



September 23, 2009, 11:58 AM

Chris, I take it your neighbor is foreign?

Well the Peter Plagens quote says it very well. Granny's attic indeed.

I kind of had the idea that the only place to go to be really radical was toward craft - well made, thoughtful cultural production. But nah, that'l never happen.



September 23, 2009, 12:29 PM

Some good quotes from Scott Burton from 1989 in a new book, "Choosing Craft", which just arrived.

"I still believe in furniture and designing things as a rebuke to dying or dead traditions of contemporary art. I really think that there have been so many mini-generations and so many bad schools and failed artists teaching the wrong things and ruining generations of students dumb enough to believe it. Art is just in a horrible way. Painting and sculpture. I mean, painting is just hopeless, as far as I'm concerned. This is theoretic."

from a transcript of an interview from 1987, Archives of American Art.

"I still expect art to be significantly different from life, but I also want to make it exactly the same as life. There's an ambivalence and a contradiction. For many years, I talked only about wanting to reduce it to life. Now, I understand that art is art and I'm an artist and I would like to be a great artist and a profound artist and (create) emotionally rich works and things, and not just do deck chairs that are only deck chairs, but to somehow do deck chairs that are poetic or that reverberate, but are also accessible in their language because it's functional, because it's a chair - or fountain."

I wonder if he was into tea bowls?


Chris Rywalt

September 23, 2009, 12:45 PM

As a middle-aged white male of European ancestry who has fathered two children I can't help but be paternalistic. Everything that comes out of my mouth (or keyboard) ends up paternalistic. Even if I were to say something like "Kara Walker deserved her MacArthur Grant" I'd sound like I was saying "You kids get off my lawn with your rap music!"

My neighbors are pretty much all white males of European ancestry as well. They say "Gesundheit" when I fart because they're still far enough away passing gas and sneezing sounds about the same. Especially when practiced by fat middle-aged white males of European ancestry.

A small group of earnest people in suits and ties rang my doorbell the other day. Too late I thought they might be Jehovah's Witnesses but instead they claimed to be looking for Spanish-speaking people to help out, and did I know if any of neighbors spoke Spanish? None of my neighbors do.

I felt unaccountably bad about this. I know a lot of people who speak Spanish and English. I know people from Colombia, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Ecuador, and Peru. It's just that none of them happen to live on my block, and now to these earnest people in suits I look like some kind of cracker.

Of course, since I sound paternalistic in everything I say, when I said, "No," it probably sounded like, "No, and get off my porch, wetback, before I get my shotgun."



September 23, 2009, 4:25 PM

Ed Rollins on fashion:

Most of us really don't care about fashion. Just look at how we dress.

I just love that guy. He ought to write for Arforum. Heck, he ought to edit it.

Did anyone know Arthur Danto works in the studio? Hit Danto's prints for a look.

A philosopher friend of mine calls Danto a "failed philosopher who turned to art".

I would choose his prints over his writing, any day.



September 23, 2009, 9:47 PM

So would I, John.

But that does not qualify the fact that his prints are awful.



September 23, 2009, 11:21 PM

I thought the portrait of Kant might be a fan favorite.


that guy

September 23, 2009, 11:37 PM

If Kathe Kollwitz was a crack addict I think she would still print/draw better than Danto. He gave a talk down here awhile back and I couldn't help but feel sorry for the man. However, I felt even sorrier for the poor slobs that went to the lecture clinging to his every word. Damn the art world needs an enima. Thanks artblog for letting me vent! I feel better now. Good night.


Chris Rywalt

September 24, 2009, 7:42 AM

Looking up Käthe Kollwitz for the first time just now, I think if she had been a crack addict she'd still print and draw better than 99 percent of everyone. Wow.

We're not so ironic these days that we can't appreciate such work, but we're too ironic to create it. It's a shame.



September 24, 2009, 8:01 AM

Re Danto's prints, can you say crass and lumpy Giacometti rip-off? I can. Funny he didn't go the Brillo box route, but I suppose that sort of thing is now too quaint and dated.

I mean, the guy's entitled to his hobby and his illusions, but really, he should be at least as diffident and circumspect about his "art" as Greenberg was about his.



September 24, 2009, 8:38 AM

All I said was his prints are better than his writing. I stand by that.

How many of you knew he dabbled in art until you clicked on the click on? I didn't.



September 24, 2009, 8:39 AM

I don't think they're that bad. They're sort of in that Marino Marini neighborhood.



September 24, 2009, 8:50 AM

OK, John, that's valid, but it's obviously saying very little. As for finding out about his art, trust me, in doesn't raise him a millimeter in my estimation.



September 24, 2009, 8:53 AM

I don't think they're that bad either. They all date to 1959/60, incidentally.

Ya Chris, she is very good, non? I never tried any printmaking in school, largely because of the homogeneity of all the work being churned out by the faculty and students at the time. Nobody was or is now, anywhere near the figure with their prints in our region.

When Kollwitz got trotted out as an example by one of my lecturers (a printmaker) in an early drawing course, I distinctly remember thinking well if these are prints, and you guys think they're so good (I sure did, she blew my doors off at that time), why does all the stuff you guys make suck so bad? The discipline or fetish, as practiced and revered by most of the printmakers up here has degenerated into a fascination with technique and an over-reliance on photo-based technologies.



September 24, 2009, 8:55 AM

And furthermore, even the least inspired of Daumier's commercial lithographs, which he hated making, holds considerably more interest than this Danto stuff, not to mention having considerably more life.



September 24, 2009, 9:03 AM

Agreed, Jack. The irony of the printmaking department up here, is that for all their mediocrity, they are consistently the best funded and supported division in the Fine Art department. Like way over the top, relative to sculpture and painting. Beginning in the nineties many were pushed into 'installation' because, "you just can't get a show with prints anymore." Needless to say, the installation work that's been churned out by them, is just plain insipid.



September 24, 2009, 9:23 AM

Jack, Danto's revelation about the sanctity of the Pop Vision came to late for Brillo Boxes to be new any more.

I agree, John. By comparison the drawings are better. I was only characterizing the comparison.

Franklin, bad as he was, I think these things would have made Marini jump on his horse and gallop away.



September 24, 2009, 9:32 AM

I hate to beat a dead horse, but I can't resist an inside comment, meant for those familiar with the Miami art scene. These Danto prints are the sort of thing I'd expect to see at a show at the old Bakehouse in Wynwood.



September 24, 2009, 10:04 AM

Prints, by the way, good ones, are a wonderful, exceedingly rich and much undervalued field. There's the chronic idiocy, aided and abetted by many dealers, that works on paper are somehow inferior or "minor." There's the lack of exposure by art venues, which reinforces the perception of prints as arcane, esoteric and forbidding stuff, the province of prissy specialists. And there's also the lack of high-profile, trendy flash.

It's possible that prints attract a more cerebral and/or reflective type, someone more sensitive to technique and more attentive to subtle detail, and there are logistical issues, such as light exposure, preservation problems and the ability (or inability) to actually handle the prints, which is tied to their appreciation.

Still, for those who educate themselves and do the requisite legwork, amazingly fine work can still be had for very modest sums (but no, I'm not talking about prints by or ascribed to Warhol or by the likes of Jasper Johns, which I gladly leave to rich idiots).



September 24, 2009, 10:13 AM

When I want to introduce someone to the delights of printmaking, I turn their attention to the work of J. A. M. Whistler, particularly the Venice Set.



September 24, 2009, 10:38 AM

I would have bewn quite happy, when I taught, to have an undergrad make prints like Danto's. I haven't visited an art fair lately, but I'd guess his prints are better than much of what is presented there too.

His writing, on the other hand, is not acceptable at any level. I wish he had stuck with art instead of "philosophy". He might have gotten somewhere by now.



September 24, 2009, 10:44 AM

His writing is abysmal and the acceptance of it in academia is incomprensible. It can only be partially explained by the general mindlessness of academia and that academics know nothing of and expect little from art and art writing.

But even that still leaves me bewildered.


Chris Rywalt

September 24, 2009, 10:45 AM

I don't come from a wealthy family or one with a background in art collecting or appreciation; we're strictly lower class people with lower class tastes who happen to have a strong current of drawing talent. I'm the first in a while, that I know of, to take my talent more seriously as a pursuit. It helps that I've become incompetent in my formerly main paying profession.

My father, however, for some reason, went through a phase of collecting art. He's since moved on to collecting militaria -- medals, rifles, flags, helmets, dinnerware with swastikas, that kind of thing -- but when he was collecting art his focus was a local Staten Island artist named John Noble.

Noble's main subject was sailing ships in and around New York Harbor. He lived for a time on a houseboat and would take his rowboat out to make drawings of ships, bridges, and the Statue of Liberty.

Noble's main focus was on lithographs. He strongly felt that art should be something the common man could own. He worked very hard on his prints, carrying the stones out to his houseboat and working on them and then carrying them back out and through Bayonne to the printers. His print runs were anywhere from a hundred through 300, depending, of course, on the stone and so forth.

My father collected Noble lithographs assiduously for several years. He ended up with quite a collection. He's been slowly deaccessioning it over the past few years, though, for reasons both financial and storage related.

He gave me one. I like it. Despite having grown up two blocks from a great shipping channel, and only a few miles from New York Harbor, I've never had the slightest interest in ships, sailing, or the ocean. But I like the print anyway, because I like the texture of the paper and the nubbly pattern of the ink from the stone. I like the light and dark.

I've been thinking that paper is so very different from a painting surface, whether panel or canvas. I can lay down a few strokes of ink on paper and I love how it looks. Lay down the same strokes in paint on an empty panel and it looks dead. Paper, I've been thinking, is an activated surface, while gesso on a panel isn't: You need to cover the gesso with paint to activate it, and not just paint, but you need to activate the paint itself somehow. But paper has that living quality already, and a few strokes of ink against it can be enough.

Why works on paper are considered lesser works I don't know. I know they are. I mean, I guess I've felt more from the best painting than I have from the best drawing or print; but that's just the absolute best. On average I'm not sure painting is any better.

Seeing Kollwitz's work makes me think again about trying lithographs. When I was at SVA I talked with one of the printmaking students while he worked on an etching, and when I saw all the work he had to go through -- rubbing the plate, wetting the paper and all that -- I don't know if I have that kind of patience. But lithos, maybe I could do that.



September 24, 2009, 10:47 AM

It's the hisory of good prints that gets my back up looking at most contmeporary printmaking for the most part. I've seen some contemporary Polish printmakers that I like. In the wrong hands, printmaking can become some of the artiest arty art out there. It can be outright painful.



September 24, 2009, 10:54 AM

man i wish i could edit my comments...

Painting gives real surface. Not more, just fuller. Prints are more like appetizers. Delicious and you could eat a dozen.


Chris Rywalt

September 24, 2009, 11:22 AM

You know, I love appetizers and buffets. A little of this, a little of that. Sushi bars. Not too much of any one thing, but eventually, too much of everything. That's the way to go.


Chris Rywalt

September 24, 2009, 11:29 AM

Incidentally, as late as the 1970s Noble would trade his prints for food and alcohol. I can't imagine being able to do that today. I can't imagine it worked in the '70s. How does that work? "I really could use a corned beef sandwich, but all I have is this 20 by 30 litho of a broken sailing mast." "No problem, John. Mustard on that?"

One time I borrowed 12 cents from the cashier at the store around the corner from my house. I paid her back the next day and gave her a drawing, too, one of my sketchbook pages filled with squiggles of ink.

I haven't seen her there since. I'm afraid I frightened her off.



September 24, 2009, 11:32 AM

I guess this would be a good time to mention that this weekend I'm doing Annie Bissett's moku hanga workshop at Zea Mays. I get my namisei gouges in the mail tomorrow.


Chris Rywalt

September 24, 2009, 11:32 AM

Now I see why I'm not doing lithos: The Noble Museum has a printmaking shop which charges $200 start up and $40 per print for 15 prints. And I thought oil painting was expensive!


Chris Rywalt

September 24, 2009, 11:35 AM

Did you make your own baren yet, Franklin?



September 24, 2009, 11:38 AM

Not yet. I've seen good prints done with a wooden spoon.

I was put off of litho for good when I saw people grinding stones. I thought, hell, this looks like even more work than itaglio.


Chris Rywalt

September 24, 2009, 11:54 AM

A wooden spoon? That's not very Japanese of you, Franklin. Any craft is about tools, terminology, practice, and immersion in arcane details to the exclusion of all else. If you can still carry on a conversation with someone not conversant in your sub-sub-discipline, you're doing it wrong.


that guy

September 24, 2009, 12:07 PM

Vote in my new poll. Click the link above. Looking to get some real eyes on this question.



September 24, 2009, 1:40 PM

Chris, I wouldn't recommend mezzotints for you (or Franklin). It really is astonishing what used to be routine in printmaking. The degree of technical virtuosity once commonplace (or at least expected) is now simply out of the question. There's essentially nobody anywhere who can now approach what used to be more or less ordinary.


Chris Rywalt

September 24, 2009, 1:58 PM

Jack, it's amazing how much used to be routine just to keep living. Consider outhouses. Or horseback riding. I went horseback riding this past weekend with the Boy Scouts and, wow, I realized I fucking love my car.



September 24, 2009, 2:44 PM

That guy - interesting. It will show that there is agreement that is way beyond statisatical probability.


that guy

September 24, 2009, 2:51 PM

I'll do some more of these. Tough getting my left hand to play along. He let's me know he is not interested in doing work.



September 24, 2009, 4:32 PM

Chris, that's obviously not the sort of thing I had in mind. The technical abilities formerly readily available are now virtually extinct. If you're sufficiently familiar with historical printmaking, what used to be more or less standard (at least at the top end of the market) now looks like it was done by higher life forms from another planet. I don't think there's anybody around now who can pull off that kind of work.



September 24, 2009, 5:17 PM

A few more pots for the potheads:

The last one is a very nice black Oribe tea bowl, which I like a lot.


Chris Rywalt

September 24, 2009, 5:43 PM

I know what you were saying, Jack. I understand. I was reading online a few years back about bronze casting of sculptures and the author described how he had to invent his own processes to create the patinas he wanted. A hundred and fifty years ago, there was a class of craftsman dedicated to patinas. Their knowledge was handed down from master to apprentice for generations, until the advent of Modernism broke the chain. Likewise there was a class of craftsmen dedicated to mold-making. This sculptor described how he had to learn the casting process from end to end all on his own because the specialized knowledge was simply gone.

On the other hand, part of why these things die out is they're replaced, or anyway part of their purpose is replaced. Manual printmaking just isn't as important as it used to be with the advent of photographic techniques and now this here Internet. Analog photography is rapidly going the same way. The skills vanish.


Chris Rywalt

September 24, 2009, 5:51 PM

"You can put your weed in there."



September 24, 2009, 6:11 PM

Yes, Chris, the advent of photography made a big difference, but a photograph really is a copy, a cold mechanical image generated by a machine via technology. That's very, very different from an engraving of a painting by Rubens made by someone trained and supervised by Rubens himself, for instance. And that's just talking about reproductive engravings.



September 24, 2009, 6:18 PM

Jack, lithos and etchings are made by machines. Both involve chemistry, heavily. And whatever else an edition of prints is, it is a bunch of copies of itself.

It all gets down to what you are looking at, not an apriori condemnation or exultation.



September 24, 2009, 6:26 PM

Then there are things like the glorious prints by and/or after Turner, especially his Liber Studiorum mezzotint series, made under his very close supervision and to his highly demanding specifications. His Liber was inspired by Claude's drawings for his own Liber Veritatis. Those Claude drawings were marvellously reproduced in the latter 18th century in a mixture of etching and mezzotint by Richard Earlom, a great English engraver now only known to historical print people. And on and on.



September 24, 2009, 6:40 PM

John, the lithos and etchings I'm concerned with were made, manually, first and foremost by people, by artists. The chemical aspects involved were carefully and lovingly controlled and manipulated, often after extensive experimentation and/or experience, to achieve particular artistic effects. I seriously doubt someone like Rembrandt or Whistler would find your description of the process in #81, which sounds rather impersonal, an apt description of their practice. And I would hope that even a passing familiarity with my comments here would make it clear that my judgment is always based on the end result, not how it was arrived at. Again, I am primarily concerned by historical printmaking, not what may be produced now in some university art departments.



September 24, 2009, 6:49 PM

Beautiful pots Jack. Are they modern? Where is the site?


Chris Rywalt

September 24, 2009, 7:12 PM

I think, though, that the loss of the bottom end of the craft left nothing for the higher craftsmen to stand on. As long as the world needed a lot of engravers, there was plenty of work to allow a very refined and skilled set to rise to the top. Without that foundation, the top end falls off, which is what we've seen.

Photography isn't engraving -- and honestly I don't consider photography art at all, but that's another argument -- but the invention of photography helped wipe out...well, a lot of skills, among them really good printmaking.

On the other hand, though, a lot fewer people probably suffer from heavy metal or arsenic poisoning.



September 24, 2009, 7:23 PM

To Jack and Chris, if you don't think good photographs are "carefully and lovingly controlled and manipulated, often after extensive experimentation and/or experience, to achieve particular artistic effects" then maybe you are not very aware of what goes on in the medium.

Photography didn't wipe out skills - artists did, by no longer using them.



September 24, 2009, 7:26 PM

It's funny, Chris, but in the craft of stained glass, the bottom end is what's left. I have no trouble locating skilled fabricators. But the artistry is essentially gone. If ever there was a medium just waiting for artists to come along and do something with it, it's stained glass.



September 24, 2009, 7:33 PM

John's right about photography, to say the least. But, John, etching and stone lithography are far more about the involvement of the hand than they are about machines, which play an important, of course, but minor role. Artists in those media don't see their work as a bunch of copies. Look at a complete edition of Whistlers, for instance. Each one is conceived entirely differently from the rest.



September 24, 2009, 7:38 PM

tim, how does an experienced stained glass guy like yourself go for saint- chapelle in paris? i don't know squat about stained glass but that place is an incredible space. even with two sreaming kids i did not want to leave.



September 24, 2009, 7:46 PM

You were in the right place, 1. But, to understand the medium, Saint-Chapelle almost too overwhelming. You can't really break the medium down and study constituent parts in an extravaganza like Saint-Chapelle. But, how fortunate that you and your kids got to have that transporting experience.



September 24, 2009, 7:56 PM

Opie, the pots are roughly between 30 and 60 years old. The first one is the sort of thing you probably like best; it's a Karatsu bowl (e-Karatsu, since it has pictorial elements). The second is a yellow Seto (ki-Seto) cup, made in the Mino area, like Oribe. This Oribe is not the most common or familiar kind, which always features dark green somehow, like the previous Oribe I posted. No. 550 is a little jivey but I like it; it's not a specific style but falls under the mingei or folk pottery umbrella. The third pot (with 3 images) is inspired by the work of Mokubei (1767-1833), a famous and very versatile Kyoto potter who was also a poet, painter and tea master.



September 24, 2009, 7:57 PM

Tim, do you know Judith Schaechter's work?



September 24, 2009, 8:02 PM

Franklin, yes, I know her things. She's been mentioned on here before. How do you like her things?



September 24, 2009, 8:10 PM

John, Tim's #88 more or less answers you for me, and maybe I should leave it at that. I don't care to get into semantics or splitting hairs, but you statement that "etchings are made by machines" is something I neither agree with nor can relate to, and I have to assume you didn't mean it literally.

The genesis of an etched image, which comes from the etcher's hand, is very different in very important ways from that of a photographic one, which is ultimately a mechanical copy, however fussed with, not a created or human image, as I see it (and as you may not).

A photographer, any photographer you care to name, is very different from a printmaker like Rembrandt or Whistler or Goya. There's simply no comparison, though you could say it's apples and oranges, but surely you get what I'm driving at.



September 24, 2009, 8:12 PM

I got my fill of Pop Surrealism out in California last year but she does it extremely well. We've met, and I happen to like her a lot personally.

Damn, a year ago I was traipsing around the country and a year before that I had just started teaching in Orange County. I think I'll sit down.



September 24, 2009, 8:25 PM

The etching plate is roughly the same as paper or canvas. A human sensibility commences the etching process and is directly in the driver's seat except when the proof is pulled.

A photographic image is the product of a mechanical or electronic device. That, conditioned as it might be by a human sensibility, is the starting point of a photographic print.

Two different worlds.



September 24, 2009, 8:26 PM

Jack, I'm not splitting hairs. When you said a photograph is a cold mechanical image you were wrong, dead flat wrong. Some photographs might be, just as some prints might be, and some paintings might be, but "cold mechanical image" is not a generic characteristic of the results of any of these mediums.

And good god, they all originate from humans, last I checked. Except for maybe a few pesky chimpanzee painters.



September 24, 2009, 8:27 PM

Well, after a very cursory look, "her things" strike me as somewhat akin to so-called art glass. Let's just say I'll stick to Japanese pots.



September 24, 2009, 8:30 PM

John, Tim seems to understand me perfectly. You, evidently, do not, unless you're being deliberately contrary. So be it. It happens.



September 24, 2009, 8:32 PM

Franklin, my problem with Schaechter's things is that they could be done on illustration board as convincingly as they're done on glass. Her things don't have that much to do with the glass; that is, she doesn't use the material to advantage, but as an incidental ground on which to do her (really not) thing.



September 24, 2009, 9:21 PM

More about Scheachtner: I expect to see her work on the jackets of throwaway literature and in the pages of GQ and Playboy. In other words, it's all en passant. Nothing in it takes me out of time.

But, at risk of seeming eqivocal, I really respect her craft.



September 25, 2009, 12:39 AM

I'll take the craft in those pots. The faceting on the bottom of the first bowl is a subtle detail I don't think I've seen before, not at the bottom like that. It's nice. I like the deep unglazed foot on the third one, it just sort of sets off this wonderful mess up top like a plinth. The last one I want to hold the most.

Thanks again, Jack. If there is a website, please consider sharing.

Chris and Jack, your comments about the loss of the bottom end are interesting. I was thinking about this kind of stuff looking at reproductions of Leonardo studies the other day. It's amazing that at some point those guys trained so much they had enough superpowers to compose with the figure off the top of their heads. And we're not talking crude approximations. Some of it was made easier through convention. But a lot of art sure seems to have given up on skills alright. Generally, drawing just isn't valued the way it once was, and I think this particular loss underlies a lot of the disinterest and loss of quality in more traditional mediums. Photography might be part of the problem. Another topic. Nevertheless, all the good stuff starts with drawing, and if artists aren't cultivating those hand eye skills, then there's really nowhere to go.



September 25, 2009, 6:42 AM

I like all of them, Jack. The first is most traditional but the more modern variations of some of the others are very nicely done. The folk pottery cup is not too jivey at all; it is quite lively & original.



September 25, 2009, 8:07 AM

Dude, the Japanese make a big deal of how these things are supposed to be used or experienced, as opposed to simply looked at. I need to work more on that concept. They also appreciate and "give points for" the effects of time and wear, even for damage that has been repaired in some cases. Hagi ware, for instance, characterized by a milky white or loquat-colored glaze, is noted for changing over time with use, the so-called "seven stages of Hagi," and the Japanese are sensitive to that.



September 25, 2009, 8:38 AM

Jack, re "work more on that concept": the utilitarian and the esthetic are very nicely conjoined in these objects.

To begin with the utility itself does not determine any overt complexity. It is very simple and simply expressed, as a bowl shape, for exmple. This amounts to no more than a convention, like the rectangle for a painting.

Second, the actual use is repetetive and simple, and it furthermore allows a moderate extension of certain straightforward pleasures, such as touch, and the observation of change over time.

These things conspire to cause the utilitarian and the esthetic to work together rather than get in each other's way, as is so often the case with objects of use.



September 25, 2009, 9:16 AM

Jack, speaking of wear etc. I was poking around after the first round of pots you posted and found a page on kin-tsugi, an interesting technique where gold is used to in-fill cracks on a damaged pot. There are some examples here if you click on 'fakes':

I like the effect on darker pots. This site seems to have some good info.

I wish design at large would relearn how to "conspire to cause the utilitarian and the esthetic to work together."



September 25, 2009, 9:40 AM

Jack, it is not that I don't "understand" you; I disagree with you. Tim, apparently, does not.

No argument, by the way, that a photographic print is different than a lithographic print than an etching. Just that photographs are not intrinsically "cold". Artists are the ones who supply that characteristic and they can supply it to just about anything.


Chris Rywalt

September 25, 2009, 9:46 AM

It's true, John, that artists can supply that magic something to just about anything, but as WDB is fond of pointing out, some media are better carriers than others. I personally have yet to see the photograph that could affect me the way a painting can.

To me the main attractions of a photograph are intellectual, verbal: Pleasing technical construction (such as composition) or documentary qualities (this person stood in a such a way in this location at this precise moment in time).

Whereas what I want from the best art is purely nonverbal. I haven't seen the photo that can give me that.



September 25, 2009, 10:27 AM

Chris, take a look at MOONRISE by Adams (in the flesh) or maybe HALF DOME. They are not "cold".

Or heck, pick up a copy of HUSTLER. Or go to a good movie of your choice - they are shot with the fully automatic machine gun version of the camera.


Chris Rywalt

September 25, 2009, 10:30 AM

I didn't say photos were cold or mechanical. I don't think that's the problem, exactly. I just think they don't possess the features necessary for activating my nervous system in the way that great art does.

Porn's a whole other category, by the way.



September 25, 2009, 10:33 AM

A photographic image is a two-dimensional graphic image. The information in a photo has to be intellectively translated into meaning, like letters in an alphabet.

A camera doesn't see like a human eye. No parallax, no peripheral vision, thus no real sense of volume or real sense of the kind of psychological space that occurs in painting. Also, in a photo, everything in the field of vision is in the same focus unless unconvincing techniques are employed. And photographic color is, for me, jarringly unnatural, especially the greens, though digital technology has improved color in photography.

Painting traditionally deals in volume, and even the illusion of volume doesn't have to be intellectively translated into meaning. The brain automatically gets it. That is because, by means of parallax, humans naturally visually negotiate the physical world in terms of volume.

Chris is right, photographs, compared to paintings, have their place as documentary, facsimile.



September 25, 2009, 10:37 AM

I dunno, John. MOONRISE, & Adams in general, has always struck me as pretty chilly.

Besides the only measure of art is not how it was made but how it affects you. Of course there are many things that are just plain self-defeating when it comes to making art. It's a matter of degree and results.

Chris, I believe Bannard said years ago that you could build a better house with bricks than with motorcycles.



September 25, 2009, 10:40 AM

Another important point: A good painting is a presentation. The best photo is a representation.

When people use photos in painting it almost inevitably looks like they copied a photo. To use photographic imagery successfully in painting, transposition from the graphic to the volumetric is necessary. One artist who understood that perfectly was Eakins. Another was Degas.



September 25, 2009, 11:41 AM

John, disagree away. I more than disagree with your "etchings are made by machines," unless you equate a person with a machine, which I do not. I also disagree with your "an edition of prints is a bunch of copies of itself," for reasons Tim started to get into, but never mind. As to your statement that everything originates from humans, well, yes, all manner of things originate from humans, in some fashion, including, say, farts, but that does not mean they are all equivalent or analogous.

Let's just say that I know what I mean and how I perceive photography, any photography, by Adams or anyone else, as opposed to how I perceive or react to work like an etching, a lithograph or a painting. To me there is a definite, intrinsic, qualitative difference, and I'm not talking about the quality of the individual piece as art, which is obviously variable regardless of medium. If your perception differs from mine, well, so it does. That changes nothing, at least not for me.



September 25, 2009, 12:11 PM

From #112:

The only measure of art is not how it was made but how it affects you.

Photography happens to affect me differently than what I consider more organic, more personal, more human work. Yes, photographs are taken, or orchestrated, by humans, but they are generically different, to me. Perhaps it's a matter of degrees, but whatever the case, my "wiring" is what it is.



September 25, 2009, 6:24 PM

And now for something a bit different, a Japanese okimono, or small ceramic sculpture (about 5 x 2.5 x 2.5 inches in this instance):

I trust the Canadians will have something to say, given their peculiar proclivities.



September 25, 2009, 6:33 PM

And here is a kashiki, a dish for sweets used in the tea ceremony. It's Kyoto ware, echoing the work of the great Ogata Kenzan (1663-1743) and his master, Nonomura Ninsei. This piece is ca. 1940.


Chris Rywalt

September 25, 2009, 7:43 PM

I've been looking for a tanuki figurine. I carved my own, but I'd like a real one. I can find Buddhas and neko nekos by the score, but no tanukis. The only one I've seen in person is three feet tall near the entrance to a very fancy local Japanese restaurant.



September 25, 2009, 8:10 PM

Tanuki are mass-produced in Shigaraki, an ancient and venerable ceramics center known for considerably more serious and respectable wares. However, though I hesitate to indulge you, you can try going here:

You can also try Google, obviously.


Chris Rywalt

September 25, 2009, 8:18 PM

The (admittedly not extensive) Googling I've done on the subject hasn't turned up anything I really liked.

I love that the catalog page you linked to says, "Display Use Only!" Because I'd use a two-foot tall statue of Tanuki for...what, exactly?



September 25, 2009, 8:42 PM

All right, Chris, if you must, try this:

(and I'm not helping you any more with your kitsch issues).



September 25, 2009, 8:56 PM

You know, I think Peculiar Proclivities is a great name for a blog.


Chris Rywalt

September 25, 2009, 9:59 PM

Hey, it's not like I'm collecting the darn things. I just want one. Not like you and your tea bowls.

I read Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates by Tom Robbins. I'm a big Tom Robbins fan, although after Skinny Legs and All most of his books are kind of a letdown. Anyway, Tanuki leads off the book and I realized I had a kinship with him: Overweight, addled, unserious, in debt, big testicles. I realized Tanuki is my totem, my icon. Which is why I carved myself a little Tanuki. Except I'm no sculptor, or even a whittler. Heck, I'm not even Whittler's Mother.

Did you see the tanuki jar? Talk about your jivey bowls!



September 25, 2009, 10:09 PM

Chris, there was no need to subject me to that unfortunate little object.



September 25, 2009, 10:17 PM

Maybe you should check out a tengu as a possible totem. It has a phallic nose. The wife might like that better than a tanuki. Just a wild guess.



September 26, 2009, 2:21 AM


Tha last pot in 77- the black Oribe - is fantastic. (and to the reference in the later group)I often refer to Ogata Kenzan as the Rembrandt of Japanese potters, which I'm sure is a terrible analogy to an expert, but conveys my admiration to folks who have no idea of the importance of these things in Japanese culture.

re. Judith Schaecter, her imagery isn't my cup of...uh, tea, but they really work when mounted properly. I saw some at the Tacoma glass museum a few years ago, which really opened my eyes to the appeal of contemporary imagery in glass. I'm hoping to meet her in a few weeks at the American Craft Council conference. She seems like a character.


Chris Rywalt

September 26, 2009, 8:06 AM

That tanuki jar is pretty hideous, isn't it?



September 26, 2009, 8:08 AM

David, Oribe ware was the brainchild of an apparently very idiosyncratic man, Furuta Oribe (1545-1615). He liked bold, striking designs, both in terms of decoration and vessel shape, which even now seem modern. It makes sense that this is the sort of work that would come from a samurai tea master. His style is very distinctive, especially the classic green, brown and tan pieces. I happen to be a sucker for it.



September 26, 2009, 8:09 AM

Yes, Chris. Don't remind me.



September 26, 2009, 8:41 AM

Jack one of your links above was for a company that sells Japanese influenced porcelain ware for very reasonable prices (not the awful little dog things) and it was fun to browse through it.

A good place to go if you are stuck for a gift for someone that looks both thoughtful, tasteful and seemingly more expensive than it actually was



September 26, 2009, 8:50 AM

I don't actually know that company, OP. I just found it through Google to help Chris with his tanuki problem. Chris needs a lot of help, you know.


Chris Rywalt

September 26, 2009, 9:32 AM

But that jar, wow, that was ugly. Didn't you think so, Jack?



September 26, 2009, 10:19 AM

Chris, see #129.


Chris Rywalt

September 26, 2009, 10:31 AM

I gotta say, though, that jar was really nasty. Did you check it out, Jack?



September 26, 2009, 10:33 AM

Chris, take your insulin. Your blood sugar must be way up there.


Chris Rywalt

September 26, 2009, 10:36 AM

In fact I should probably up the dosage of everything I'm on.

But did you see that jar? It was very ugly.



September 26, 2009, 10:54 AM

Yes, Chris, I saw the jar. And yes, it was ghastly. Now go and work on your tanuki.


Chris Rywalt

September 26, 2009, 10:56 AM

But did you....

I'll stop now. Made myself laugh, and that's what's important.



September 26, 2009, 1:40 PM

So, let us try to move on from Chris and his peculiar proclivities to something like this: /

I had never seen it before yesterday and only vaguely knew the painter by name. Bunny almost certainly knows him, but he's new to me.



September 26, 2009, 1:47 PM

I get an error message with tht, Jack. What is the name of the painter?


That gut

September 26, 2009, 1:48 PM

Nice painting Jack. Link has two extra letters that need to be deleated. Nice color.



September 26, 2009, 1:51 PM

Try this, OP:



September 26, 2009, 1:59 PM

Here's another one by him:


That guy

September 26, 2009, 3:03 PM

Just noticed my typo. I think That gut makes for a better handle anyway. Another nice painting Jack.



September 26, 2009, 3:25 PM

I don't mean this is super major-league work or anything, but it's rather nice work by someone who wasn't especially big in his own time, let alone now. The first painting, by the way, which recalls Manet and dates from 1881, is better than the second one (1900), which is prettier but less interesting and a bit sugary.

The painter is H. H. La Thangue (English, 1859-1929). He spent time in France and helped introduce French plein air work to England, opposing the academic establishment. He painted mainly rural/peasant subjects.



September 26, 2009, 6:37 PM

Nice picture. Nothing like skill, is there?


Chris Rywalt

September 26, 2009, 7:19 PM

The geese look just a hair below Kinkade.



September 26, 2009, 8:27 PM

Chris, if you've looked at Kinkade that closely or intently, I'm afraid you may have sustained retinal damage.

Here are three more (though you needn't look):



September 26, 2009, 8:46 PM

For what it may be worth, Walter Sickert liked La Thangue's work. I tend to doubt he would have felt similarly about Mr. Kinkade.



September 26, 2009, 9:22 PM

This 1890 lithograph, by the way, is what led me to look into La Thangue:


Chris Rywalt

September 26, 2009, 9:28 PM

The others JPEGs aren't Kinkadian, just the geese. And, of course, I haven't seen it in person, so my opinion is baseless.



September 27, 2009, 2:33 PM

La Thangues, an interesting find, Jack.

In the one with geese, I'd have preferred that the geese be left out altogether or cut down in number. In the water the color is right but the strokes are all the same shape and size, and it lacks the sparkle and sheen that a little creek like that would have. I'm drawn to the landscape in the upper part, which could make a fine little painting by itself.

In the shipbuilding one, everything is composed and rendered well in a tonalist way (explaining Sickert's appreciation, maybe?), but the dark next to the woman's profile, meant probably to relieve the profile from the background, is out of character to the extent that it interferes with the movement of the painting at a critical spot.

The canal scene is the most convincing painting of the bunch. The composition is expertly worked out with the same kind of tonalist treatment as the shipbuilding one, there is a sense of palpability in the buildings' walls, and the light and atmospheric condition are satisfyingly plausible.

The woman at the well puts me in mind of some paintings Sargent made in Italy, or, better, early Childe Hassam in his Parisian period.

The sewing ladies, technically well enough done, though I miss a certain element of crispness (or something) in the ladies' attire which would've set them off a little from the natural setting. And it's a bit too prosaic for my palette.

I wanted also to chime in with the others about the fine little nearly all black asymetrical Oribe bowl.



September 27, 2009, 2:53 PM

Asymmetry is an important concept in Japanese aesthetics, and one becomes increasingly sensitive to it the more one looks at Japanese art.


Chris Rywalt

September 27, 2009, 3:28 PM

I'm a big fan of asymmetry.

Regarding La Thangue, Making Ligurian Lace looks almost Kinkadian also, but I totally love the feet of the young women, the way their toes are grasping the stools. That's a lovely little touch.



September 27, 2009, 4:05 PM

Chris, how you could compare an innocuous enough little genre painting to the obnoxious sentimentality and stupid painting of Kinkade is really beyond me. You're just up to getting a rise out of us, right? Or, a wild stab: Could it have something to do with your not seeing purple in shadows?

Jack, I've been wanting to get your take on the work of Sarah Connolly. You know she's all the rage in England, and I heard her doing the last of Dido's part, when she goes ahead and dies because Aeneas has to run off and found Rome, in Purcell's opera, at the Proms earlier this month. It was haunting, and I could tell she reveres Purcell, but it didn't blow me away, though the audience went crazy (Maybe you heard.).



September 27, 2009, 4:48 PM

Tim, I'm afraid I've turned away from the contemporary opera scene for reasons not entirely unlike those that have put me off the art scene. However, I was able to see and hear the specific performance you refer to online.

Dido's Lament, if it's done at all well, is practically foolproof, like Violetta's farewell aria in the death scene of Traviata. Connolly's is a lovely, sensitive, felt version, sung with a fresh voice, but no, it didn't have the impact on me that my first Dido did--Victoria de los Angeles (on record, not live). Connolly is a little too delicate and lady-like, a little too English, I suppose, even though Purcell was obviously an English composer. Still, it's a perfectly valid rendering.



September 27, 2009, 5:39 PM

Jack, I never would've linked the earthiness of V. de los Angeles with the comparitive courtliness of Purcell, but now I have to hear it! So Connolly is too polite, doesn't open up and turn herself inside out. That suggests a lack of confidence in technique, or a bow to English properness. I relate de los Angeles to Villa-Lobos, Bachianas Brasileiras. When she tried her hand at Canteloube...a flop. But when Dame Te Kanawa, who does Songs of the Auvergne so well (my opinion) tried her hand at Bachianas Brasileiras...a flop.



September 27, 2009, 5:47 PM

I suppose I should add that, while watching the Connolly video, I was somewhat distracted by her appearance. She has a wonderful singer's face, like a cross between Joan Sutherland and Kathleen Ferrier, and her skin is to die for.



September 27, 2009, 5:54 PM

Amazing how that profile expresses song, the exactness of a note.


Chris Rywalt

September 27, 2009, 6:28 PM

Kinkade's shadows are so purple, they're fucking ultraviolet.



September 27, 2009, 7:35 PM

Tim, regarding de los Angeles as Dido, remember that the first time is usually special, and she was my first. I was responding as much to Purcell as to her. In other words, your mileage may vary.

If you have not heard it, Google "sposa son disprezzata cecilia bartoli" and the video should come up. It's a relatively obscure Baroque aria by a now forgotten composer, used by Vivaldi in a pastiche he put together. She sings it in recital (piano only). I don't want to say more about it now; listen to it and tell me what you thought.



September 27, 2009, 8:21 PM

Jack, Bartoli's "Sposa," very fine, completely convincing. I shivered. Did you suggest it because passages are like the Bachianas Brasileiras? Thank you. A fine thing for my evening.



September 27, 2009, 8:51 PM

I suggested because it is an extraordinary performance of a classic Baroque lament, albeit by a now obscure composer (Francesco Gasparini). It represents the essence of Baroque pathos: profound, dignified, serene, nobly beautiful, without a hint of hysteria or loss of control. That sort of performance is what I want in that sort of music.



September 27, 2009, 9:02 PM

For all of it's dignity it did not lack sentiment. That's the brilliance of the Baroque for me.



September 27, 2009, 9:06 PM

Depth of feeling is one thing; vulgar sentimentality is another.



September 27, 2009, 9:16 PM

Vivaldi vs. Kinkade, Ha, oh my, what has this blog come to?! A sign of the times, for sure.



September 27, 2009, 9:51 PM

Actually, Tim, I think this blog is doing pretty damn well, if you ask me, certainly relatively speaking. As for Chris, I think part of his, uh, idiosyncrasy has to do with not being quite secure enough to be a full-blown nasty arrogant elitist like me. But of course, he has to deal with the New York art scene; he can't become completely out-of-it. I can, and I love it.



September 27, 2009, 9:58 PM

Well, Chris has those kids. Priorities and all of that.



September 27, 2009, 10:16 PM

Plus, he has a...WIFE... She who must be obeyed...



September 27, 2009, 10:49 PM

If I moved to NY, the FIRST thing I'd do, if I expected to get anywhere at all, is to make certain that everyone is aware that I'm not an 'artist' (loser).


Chris Rywalt

September 27, 2009, 11:09 PM

I can't be an elitist because I'm no good at it. I don't listen to opera, for one thing. Never seen a ballet.

Then again, these used to be middle-class pleasures. How they bubbled up to the higher classes I don't know. Regardless, I don't have enough money or innate class to be any kind of elitist, and I've had my arrogance beaten out of me over the years. You should've known me twenty years ago.

The great thing about having kids is not having to impress them. I can sing along with the car radio while they're with me. My daughter chides me when I go off key, but otherwise, it's fun.



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