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Bonus pre-travel roundup

Post #1445 • January 16, 2010, 11:34 AM • 204 Comments

I'm going to New York tomorrow, largely in order to attend a press preview for the Bronzino drawing show at the Met. returns Thursday, January 21. In the meantime, here are some items to tide you over.

Via Judy Rotenberg Gallery, Charles Movalli remembers Zygmund Jankowski.

Because of his iconoclasm, Zyg could be a particularly bracing or scary influence on students, most of whom cling tightly to any rule that might help them through the complexities of art. Rather than help, Zyg felt that "The Rules" hamstrung students, and made them afraid to trust their own instincts.

I quite like this.

At Hyperallergic, Hrag Vartanian inteviews Karen Wilkin.

The crucial thing is to keep looking, read critics who see and write well — and absorb Strunk and White The Elements of Style — and keep writing. Be willing to be wrong in public. There are no provable right answers. Resist fashion. Learn as much art history as you can. Read as widely as you can, to get a sense of the context of what you’re looking at — not everything was made last week. You know that I believe that the best criticism is informed by studio experience. It helps to know the nuts and bolts of what you’re looking at and knowing what artists think about and talk about is invaluable — or at least, I used to believe this, before pretentious artists’ statements and proscriptive artists’ explications began routinely to accompany works of art.

Bunny Smedley remembers Kenneth Noland.

After the famous, concentric circles — ‘target’ paintings which could hardly have been a more total refutation of Jasper Johns’ oeuvre — there would be shaped canvases, diamonds, stripes, chevrons, yet more ‘targets’, late flowerings of interest in tonality and mark-making, and what look like amateurish designs for new tartans. The continuity, though, and also the most obvious strength, remained Noland’s extraordinary feeling for colour. The result integrated all the various influences name-checked above, somehow producing from them something that felt clean, new, stripped of distractions and inessentials — a coolly unsentimental, unapologetically beautiful art, neither ironic nor socially engaged, concerned with very little, indeed, except some sort of alchemy of beauty itself.

Maciej Cegłowski refutes Paul Graham.

The reason Graham's essay isn't entitled "Hackers and Pastry Chefs" is not because there is something that unites painters and programmers into a secret brotherhood, but because Paul Graham likes to cultivate the arty aura that comes from working in the visual arts. Having been both a painter and a programmer, I can certainly sympathize with him.

Great paintings, for example, get you laid in a way that great computer programs never do. Even not-so-great paintings - in fact, any slapdash attempt at splashing paint onto a surface - will get you laid more than writing software, especially if you have the slightest hint of being a tortured, brooding soul about you. For evidence of this I would point to my college classmate Henning, who was a Swedish double art/theatre major and on most days could barely walk.

A beautiful show at Common Sense gets written up by SEE Magazine.

Although he is passionate about art, [Cesar] Alvarez says he can't take himself with the same seriousness. "I don't pull all these grand theories into my work," he says. "I see an image in my mind and I make it. If it changes halfway through, so be it. I don't know why we are always forced to explain our reasons. I know the nature of the wood and I know the images I want to create. So I create them."

Watch out for that last step: It's a doozy!

Department of Skillz: Abdominal Workout.

Bonus track: Breathe Later.




January 16, 2010, 2:52 PM

Well, I've been invited (evidently via mass mailing) to a "Contemporary Art Boot Camp." One can just imagine. I've half a mind to go to the thing, mainly out of anthropologic interest (the attendees are bound to be fascinating, after a fashion), but I suppose that much eye-rolling could be dangerous.



January 16, 2010, 3:25 PM

For David, and the odd pothead, tea bowl with poem:

Oribe 1
Oribe 2
Oribe 3
Oribe 4
Oribe 5
Oribe 6



January 16, 2010, 3:46 PM

A wonderful small Durer woodcut, ca. 1510:

Noli me tangere

(Click on image to enlarge as needed)



January 16, 2010, 6:06 PM

There are actually two Walshes, Jim & Ann. They have very different artistic personalities (though I admire them both) I lack the capacity to set up a link myself, but if anybody feels like cutting & pasting, try



January 16, 2010, 6:53 PM

Sorry, my last comment was meant to respond to Jack's comment on the previous day's thread, to the effect that "Walsh is better than Richter." I heartily agree, and am so glad that dude discovered Jim Walsh's website. But let him not stop there!



January 16, 2010, 8:13 PM

It strikes me that, in principle, the problem with Richter as an abstract painter is not unlike the problem with John Currin as a figurative one. Neither one is the real deal; they've simply appropriated something that's not truly them, like putting on a certain attire to suit a certain function or agenda. On top of that, they both give the impression (at least to me) that they're sort of knowingly slumming, or above or beyond this thing they're using, whether it be abstraction or figuration--lest anybody think they're "old-fashioned" or insufficiently "new and different."


Chris Rywalt

January 16, 2010, 8:36 PM

I requested an interview with John Currin after his most recent (I think it's still the most recent) show but the gallery director person I spoke to really sounded as if she wanted to wash the phone after speaking to me over it so I imagine she never really took it seriously. Anyway, I wanted to talk to Currin because, after a lot of thinking and reading after a commenter on my site told me he'd discovered Currin's porn photo sources, I formulated the idea that Currin is actually hopelessly adrift. From his interviews, articles and actual work I got the impression that he skyrocketed to fame for reasons he couldn't understand and since then has been casting around looking for whatever it might be that'll justify his continued existence at that level. His first big blockbuster painting -- Bea Arthur Naked -- was a joke lying around his studio when a visiting dealer saw it and encouraged that kind of thing. Currin had been an abstract painter at that point.

So I really think Currin isn't doing it on purpose -- he's completely at sea. His last show was, unlike Richter's, all over the map -- porn! Portraits! Still lifes! -- even the security guard I spoke to saw it when he said he thought the artist was trying to prove "he could do it all".

I haven't read as much about Richter but his show makes me think he's much more calculated and assured. I think he knows exactly what he's doing -- and, like you suggest Jack, I think he thinks he's slumming.


Chris Rywalt

January 16, 2010, 8:37 PM

Oops, didn't close the tag.



January 16, 2010, 8:58 PM

Preview! It's what's for breakfast.



January 16, 2010, 10:33 PM

Chris, forget Bea Arthur, naked or otherwise; I think Currin is a joke.



January 17, 2010, 12:20 AM

My response after reading #3 & #7.



January 17, 2010, 10:24 AM

Piri, I'm a fan of both Walshes. I've seen more of Jim's work in the flesh, and only a half dozen or so of Ann's color constructs.

Both artists are interested in color with physical dimension, and I'm willing to bet it has at least partly to do with their history in ceramics.



January 17, 2010, 11:27 AM

Speaking of Ann(s), I like Walsh's work better than Truitt's. While the Truitts are essentially shaped paintings, the Walshes are polychrome sculptures. Truitt's colour never seems as integral to its materials as Walsh's pieces (not surprising, since Truitt applies her colour to the surface, while Walsh uses solid colour forms).

I suspect the Walsh pieces are easier to clean than the Truitts. I found it rather unfortunate that some of the pieces in Truitt's Hirshorn show were grubbed up with the fingerprints of past handlers. It really spoiled their effect for me.


Chris Rywalt

January 17, 2010, 12:05 PM

Ann Walsh's sculptures make me want some cookies.



January 17, 2010, 12:42 PM

Interesting comments, though Chris's is a bit opaque. Actually, Ann Walsh considers herself a painter, not a sculptor, and the most recent work by her that I've seen is flat panels that go against a wall, like a traditional easel painting. The most recent work by Jim Walsh that I've mentioned (when I gave a presentation about my book this past fall) employs only a few, very bold colors, clearly differentiated from each other, as opposed to the more multicolored & blended paintings that were cited in the link to his website.



January 17, 2010, 12:57 PM

I believe Ann Walsh's color is applied vinyl...?



January 17, 2010, 1:00 PM

It is. Vinyl applied to Lucite, for the most part.


Chris Rywalt

January 17, 2010, 1:02 PM

The sculptures/paintings at that link up above remind me of those tricolor cookies that showed up at every family holiday gathering when I was growing up. I never liked those themselves, but they were always part of an assortment containing more edible cookies. They're all bakery-style cookies, and thus not my favorite -- I prefer gooey homemade ones -- but I'll eat anything that doesn't run away from me. And if it runs so slow I can catch it, I'll eat that, too.



January 17, 2010, 1:38 PM

I agree with MC inasmuch as I too like Ann Walsh's work better than Anne Truitt's, which could be simply due to liking things I've seen better than things I've not. Bearing that in mind as caveat, I respectfully disagree with his proposition that Walsh's are polychromed sculpture and Truitt's are shaped painting.

I suppose the vinyl decals Walsh uses can't really be considered a painting medium. Up close her vinyl colours give away their veneered, purely surficial application; in photos or from a small distance her colours solidify. All the A. Walshes that I've seen have been intimate things that draw me close enough to merely move my head around looking at them, and my appreciation for them has primarily been for their colour work and less their forms. While I perceive that Anne T.'s things, and particularly her Parva works (the most nearly like A.W.'s though bigger I think), would cause me to walk around them to study their proportions and bodily scale.

All that said however, I recognize in both Ann[e]s a search for or experimentation with the (paradoxical) shape of colour.



January 17, 2010, 1:51 PM

Piri, Chris is not opaque, exactly. I expect practically everything makes him want some cookies, which no doubt relates to his, uh, rather husky proportions.



January 17, 2010, 2:02 PM

I was about to call bullhockey on Chris' coloured cookie corollary because you might as well say the tricolour motif reminds you of european flags, but then I clicked on his google image link and have to give him half marks. Well, maybe quarter.


Chris Rywalt

January 17, 2010, 2:09 PM

They also kind of remind me of ice cream.

But, yes, Jack, you're correct: Almost everything makes me want cookies. Or ice cream. I come by my size honestly.


Chris Rywalt

January 17, 2010, 2:15 PM

"Kiss her under the mezuzah instead!" I'm sorry now I waited this long to watch that video.


Chris Rywalt

January 17, 2010, 2:28 PM

Speaking of Jewish rappers, have you listened to MC Paul Barman?

Warning: Barman's main skill is being hilariously filthy. He rhymes "Rubiyat" with "pube I got", and that's one of the tame ones. But he also name-drops Robert Mankoff, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Cynthia Ozick.

He's also got a brilliant but equally inappropriate duet with Princess Superstar called "Get MTV Off the Air".



January 17, 2010, 2:41 PM

Jewish rap? Is that like Jewish disco? Either way, it seems like a rather misdirected deployment of resources, but I suppose no ethnicity is immune to the lure of hipness. In my opinion, true hipness lies in not giving a damn whether one is hip or not--in other words, ignoring the hipness issue entirely as beneath one's concern.



January 17, 2010, 2:46 PM

...ignoring the hipness issue entirely as beneath one's concern.

Cue the MC Mr. Napkins.


Chris Rywalt

January 17, 2010, 2:56 PM

"I made like a Ford and Focused." Brilliant.



January 17, 2010, 3:08 PM

Well, Franklin, even someone as alien to the rap genre as I am can surmise that Mr. Napkins, relatively speaking, is operating at an unusually high level, but I'm afraid he's still stooping. He is indeed clever and amusing, and it appears he's largely turning the rap thing to advantage, as opposed to buying into it. He may even mean it as satire, which I'd endorse, but really, life is too short.


Chris Rywalt

January 17, 2010, 3:33 PM

Rap, like acrylic paint, can be good. The fact that it's so often awful is no reason to dismiss the entire medium.



January 17, 2010, 3:40 PM

Department of Skills, c. 1690 (click on image to enlarge as needed):


The French engraving is by Gerard Edelinck, after Mignard. The English mezzotint is by John Smith (great engraver, despite the name) after Kneller. I doubt anybody could match this now.



January 17, 2010, 5:16 PM

New pot:

Tanba 1
Tanba 2
Tanba 3


Chris Rywalt

January 17, 2010, 8:30 PM

Those engravings are pretty fantastic but, man, those guys are uuuuuuugly.



January 17, 2010, 8:45 PM

Chris, I'm interested in your rap/acrylic analogy -- might they both be somehow symptomatic of our very own Plastic Age? Perhaps the plasticity of plastic is similar to the possibilities offered up by synthesizers and other electronic technologies? And surely sampling is the musical equivalent of collage -- again, as you might say, much overused but potentially profound.



January 17, 2010, 8:47 PM

Those engravings were once the standard, and we're not even talking "fine" art. That's why I have essentially no patience for practically skill-free, attitude-rich would-be artists.



January 17, 2010, 8:48 PM

Kurt Schwitters and Paul's Boutique -- it doesn't get much better.



January 17, 2010, 8:54 PM

Aw yeah.



January 17, 2010, 9:07 PM

Notice, by the way, how mezzotint is more painterly than line engraving. The latter is suited to brilliant displays of technical virtuosity, but mezzotint tends to be softer, warmer and more velvety.


Chris Rywalt

January 17, 2010, 9:23 PM

Vegetable oil is really very similar to plastic itself. Oil painters like to pretend it's not -- to pick on acrylics -- at least I do -- but upon drying it's pretty much the same kind of thing. I don't know the true chemistry behind the two media, but from what I do know they're essentially the same.

Of course they don't work the same way. But they're still both plastic. Painting -- long before acrylics were invented -- was called one of the plastic arts, after all.

Anyway. I know what you're saying, I think. I don't think rap is synthetic, exactly. I like listening to the old "Rapper's Delight" and imagining how the form evolved from some guy playing records at a party in the Bronx. I like that image.

But rap and hip hop, as they've grown, have embraced a lot of synthetic junk. Some of the things that bug me about so much of are the relentless sampling, the drum machines, lately the Autotune. Also the failure to expand beyond a few areas of human endeavors (sex, drugs, shooting things). Most rap seems to be about how great the rapper is and that's tiresome.

But some of it -- I listen to a very, very small fraction of it -- is good. Exciting and energetic, sometimes funny, sometimes moving.

I just thought Jack shouldn't dismiss the whole genre. It's not like, say, video art. Some of it is good.



January 17, 2010, 9:42 PM

Department of Skills, c. 1880 (click image to enlarge):

Old Woman

It's an etching after Rembrandt, by the French etcher Rajon.



January 18, 2010, 6:11 AM

Well, okay, Rembrandt and Chopin are better than my cultural examples above. But still, they're very good.

Regarding plasticity: Yes, oil paint is tremendously plastic in the traditional sense -- it would be difficult to account for its range and enduring popularity otherwise. Likewise there is obviously an enormous range of things you can do with traditional instruments like pianos and guitars. I didn't mean to suggest otherwise.

But it's also true that acrylic paint offers up new possibilities texturally and relief-wise -- possibilities that redefine the notion of "painterliness" in ways that would have seemed novel and strange to the Old Masters, to Van Gogh and Soutine -- even to Pollock.

Likewise with synthesized sound and sampling, though I don't have time to go into those at the moment.

Sure, the analogy is probably far-fetched and there are good reasons to be skeptical of anything reminiscent of a Zeitgeist. I'm sure Chris was just pulling for an arbitrary example. But it seemed to make some sense.



January 18, 2010, 6:28 AM

Rap (most of it, at least) is synthetic in the literal sense that it a pastiche of recorded fragments. It is rarely performed all from scratch -- nor is it meant to sound that way.

I do agree with you Chris, about the contemporary stuff.

And you shouldn't dismiss video art either, especially given that much of it is just glorified film/movies.


Tom Hering

January 18, 2010, 9:21 AM

Chris. I work with acrylics. Upon drying, they're a different animal, with serious problems. Most of which are due to the fact that normal room temperatures soften the dried paint, making it sticky. Pollutants, like dust and smoke, are absorbed by the dried paint - and change the colors. Framing and shipping materials adhere to the dried paint, and can either pull it off or leave imprints. All problems I've experienced. As for vinyl on Lucite, those AW pieces are going to develop major problems within a few decades, just sitting there. It was only in the 1990s that conservators really began to understand what a bitch plastics are in the long run.



January 18, 2010, 10:07 AM

Tom: I have pictures usiong acrylic mediums and paints that are 40 years old and they are just fine.

Arthur: most art video is not "glorified film/movies" but boring, aimless, badly produced film/movies.



January 18, 2010, 10:41 AM

I don't disagree with you Opie. All I meant by "glorified" is that these badly produced movies -- along with the occasional decent one -- are presented as belonging to this hot new medium.



January 18, 2010, 11:03 AM

Tom, acrylics can be varnished with MSA that is as clear as pure water, but has ultra violet shields included for extra protection. It is removable with mineral spirits if and when pollutants contaminate it or it is otherwise damaged.

Acrylic "medium", on the other hand, is a horrible varnish. It can't be removed and absorbs humidity from the air, just like the rest of the film. Humidity adds to the problem of "normal room temperatures".



January 18, 2010, 11:05 AM

My experience with acrylics is along the lines of Tom's. One artist's work that clued conservators in on the problems is that of Morris Louis, much of which was finished with acrylic varnish. The varnish, which is simply clear acrylic, combines molecularly with the paint, so it is not removable. Also, it ambers badly. For a while, in the 1970s, a product called Sol-U-Var was used with the idea that it could easily be removed. I used it on some things, and I found the finish to be vastly superior to the acrylic varnishes. But later it was found that Sol-U-Var is also difficult to remove because it too has a tendency to combine with the paint. So then conservators began advising that no varnish be put on acrylic paintings, and as far as I know that's the latest.

I like the finish of acrylics without varnishes, but those paints still haven't been around long enough for the jury to be in on them yet regarding their durability. A conservator in the D/FW area advised me to wash the surface of an acrylic painting with soft soap from time to time to keep the problem Tom mentioned, dirt sinking into the surface, from occurring. In college, a friend and I determined that acrylic on canvas is basically Naugahyde.

I've seen maybe two examples of 'video art' (the very name of the category is stupid) that I thought had any merit. But I wouldn't dismiss the medium. It's just waiting for someone to come along and do something worth anything with it.



January 18, 2010, 11:09 AM

John, Sol-U-Var, if it is even around anymore, is also removed easily with mineral spirits. But it has to be removed in time or it will begin to combine with the acrylic. I haven't heard of MSA. I wonder if it's the same stuff or similar.



January 18, 2010, 11:15 AM

Tim, I have an acrylic, thick and with additives, that I did around 1968 that had gotten quite dirty, especially where additives like pearlite created a pebbly surface. I took it outside and hosed it down, then scrubbed it with soapy water, then hosed it again, and let it dry. Good as new. Yes, that is tough shit.

MSA is made by Golden. You can depend upon any claim they make for it. You can also call them and they will let you talk to an actual chemist if you have qualms. They are the best friends of artists in the pain business, though I have equal respect for Bob Gamblin and his oils and alkyds.



January 18, 2010, 11:16 AM

Not that it matters, but I didn't dismiss any medium in all its possible variants and uses. However, if a given medium or genre is overwhelmingly negative, the fact that there are or might be occasional exceptions simply proves the rule. Even a broken clock is "good" twice a day, but that hardly makes it a satisfactory, let alone desirable timepiece.


Chris Rywalt

January 18, 2010, 11:22 AM

I want to note that I typed my responses while my brain was barely operational. The TV was on playing some stupid show my wife and daughter were watching, and my wife was interrupting me with life questions, so whatever I wrote was mostly incoherent. I might just as well have been drunk. Sorry about that.

I didn't mean to pick on acrylic paint. With John and Darby reading regularly that'd be rude. It was more that I wanted to equate Jack's dismissal of rap with others' (including, at times, my own) dismissal of acrylic paint. Acrylic paints can be good and so can rap.

And this is coming from an old heavy metalhead who used to despise rap and all it stood for. So I'm a convert. Not, as I noted, that I listen to anywhere near a lot of rap at all. Mostly I'm a 1970s rock kind of guy.

There are long-term conservation problems with acrylics, but then there are with oils, too, and everything else, probably. We're lucky as oil painters that we've got five or six hundred years of experiments to learn from. I've been spelunking in search of good truly long-term conservation surfaces: Nothing holds up like a good cave wall painting!


Tom Hering

January 18, 2010, 11:51 AM

Thanks John! Golden MSA. Their recommendation seems to contradict the Smithsonian's, until you notice Golden advises using an isolation layer between the acrylics and the MSA. This still leaves framing, shipping and storage problems - anything that presses against the (forever?) soft paint layer.



January 18, 2010, 11:52 AM

Even the cave paintings only held up as long as they were left quietly in the dark with nobody looking at them. Since the advent of tourism, with the heat, light & moisture that goes with letting toomany spectators into the caves,the paintings began to deteriorate. That's why a lot of the most famous caves, I believe, are now off limits to all but the most privileged visitors.


Chris Rywalt

January 18, 2010, 5:56 PM

I think one of the more famous caves, maybe Lascaux, if you go there as a tourist you can see modern recreations of the original cave paintings. Which would be kind of disappointing to me if I made the trip.

The only cave painting I see around here is in the subway.

The Victorians were so lucky that they got to see this stuff when it had just been found. Of course most of the time they promptly wrecked it or carried it off.


Chris Rywalt

January 18, 2010, 5:58 PM

Er, Lascaux was discovered in 1940, so no Victorians. Don't mind me.


Tom Hering

January 18, 2010, 6:47 PM

Victorian cave painting



January 18, 2010, 7:04 PM

Clyfford Still might have liked this:

Raku 1
Raku 2
Raku 3



January 18, 2010, 8:02 PM

Strangely, I think I knew I was wrong about Walsh using solid colour (I remember closely inspecting one of her small pieces to figure that it was wrapped with what looked like florescent tape). I suppose it was the fact that I had to investigate this to discover it, that I unconsciously went with my original perception of them, which was as if they were solid forms.

That, in contrast to the Truitt pieces, which I never believed as solid forms. Such close scrutiny was not needed.


George R

January 18, 2010, 8:17 PM

McCracken is still the best. What you see is what you get,



January 18, 2010, 8:28 PM

Or, to put it another way, I'm right, in that Walsh constructs with coloured material (collage might be an accurate word to use), while Truitt's colour is added on as liquid pigment. I'm not sure if there's a real perceptual difference made here, though.

To respond to Ahab, I don't mean to suggest I'm admiring the Walsh pieces for their sculptural form, more than their colour, but rather I'm merely commenting on the fact that, as artworks, they appear to me as coloured objects,like a Judd, say, rather than as a sort of 3-D Barnett Newman, which is how I perceived the Truitts.

Perhaps my different reaction to the pieces is influenced by their different scale and presentation. The couple of Walsh works I have seen in the flesh have been small enough to apprehend as intimate, handle-able objects, while the Truitts at the Hirshhorn were perhaps taken out of the physical realm for me by their placement on spacey white platforms.

Of course, some of her works, "First", and the tombstone-lookin' one, etc., are clearly a different species.



January 19, 2010, 9:46 AM

Thanks for the new pots Jack. I've been happily away from computers for 3 days in Washington County, N.Y.. The Tanba especially is interesting when you think about the idea of controlled or guided accident. Much better than Richter. I still want to scan the image of the reverse of the Ogata Kenzan waterfall bowl. I'm also trying to catch up with the Karen Wilkin interview which is great so far.



January 19, 2010, 1:20 PM

Here's the waterfall tea bowl with it's poem on the reverse.

Ogata Kenzan

The translation is typically archaic but you'll get the idea:

"Billowing forth, white like snow
Then a river that flows for all eternity"

Here's another painted by his older brother Ogata Korin, the great Rimpa painter.

Kenzan and Korin

The translation here "reflects his pride and entusiasm.." according to my book.

"Made by the hermit potter Shinsei (Kenzan) at
Shokosai in the northwest mountains of Kyoto
in the great land of Japan"

And one more Kenzan



January 19, 2010, 8:31 PM

Modern tea bowl inspired by Kenzan:

Kyoto 1
Kyoto 2
Kyoto 3
Kyoto 4
Kyoto 5



January 19, 2010, 9:55 PM

Very fine, Jack.

Tonight the bigger part of the world watches Massachusetts for an awful, wonderful complexity of reasons.



January 19, 2010, 10:09 PM

Bigger part of the world? I think you might be overestimating a tad, there.



January 19, 2010, 10:18 PM

Good luck, MC.



January 19, 2010, 10:53 PM

John, can you say a bit more about Morris Louis looking too much at Still? Can't remember exactly how you phrased it. Anyway, I just want to be sure I know which pix you were talking about.



January 20, 2010, 1:11 AM

OK dude, some Louis under the influence ...

Addition V
Para IV
Para III
Quo Numine Laeso
Dalet Zayin

And a few that worked out a little better, but were still hung up in the pointy thing ...

Omega IV (upside down according to Upright)
Omega III
Saf Dalet
Ambi IV

And one that may have made it all worth it (Louis was always capable of hitting a singular picture really hard, out of the park, so to speak):


And another, while not obviously influenced by Still, is a good example of just how baaaadd it could get for Louis:


This last image was the path he had taken after completing his first group of really good pictures in 54 (example: Atomic Crest), each one rather singular. But he had sunk quite low by 56:

untitled (just had to hit this one twice; call it my homage to the with-its)

After Greenberg saw this and others like it, Louis returned to a couple of pictures in his first group (like Atomic Crest) that resemble the series of now famous "Veils" that followed the visit by Clem. Clem said he suggested that Louis go back and start over again from where he was in 54 which some interpret as telling the artist what to paint. I interpret it as a very constructive suggestion. Louis was what I call an "ambitious artist", that is, one who will do anything to get better, including taking painful advice. Louis mercifully destroyed many of these 55-56 pictures, but a few remain. I guess they are inspirational in the sense of reminding us that bad pictures are part of making good ones.

Now that I've been so specific, I expect the quibbling to begin ...



January 20, 2010, 8:13 AM

John, classes have started and I really don't have time to discuss this extremely interesting bit of art history.

Nothing to quibble about, just too much to talk about.

Maybe later.



January 20, 2010, 9:21 AM

Re: 67

The first three on your list were the type I thought you meant, and then maybe aspects of some of the others. There are a couple there that I hadn't seen before, like 'Ambi IV' a sorta half-baked veil.



January 20, 2010, 10:02 AM

No quibbling here, or not much. Based on the images, which I realize may be somewhat deceptive or misleading, I think Seal is better than Atomic Crest. As for the rest, I quite agree. That last one, the untitled one, should simply be called Mess. It's awful.



January 20, 2010, 11:20 AM

The "baaaaad" painting is the victim of a fairly simple mechanical (in retrospect) problem of modernist painting, explained to some extent by the last 3 or 4 paragraphs of:

Louis, applying his genius to a suggestion of Greenberg's, worked it out.

Great art is by nature a collaboration, with everything in the artist's life, really. In Louis's case the collaborator (Greenberg) it just more clearcut.

"Originality" is one of the main conceits of modernist art. As John says, in art there is only one thing that counts: how good it is. We should welsome "influence", not condemn it.

Clem did not suggest that much, much as I continually begged him to. It was always "that's good" or "that isn't good enough"


Chris Rywalt

January 20, 2010, 11:50 AM

I admitted in my recent batch of reviews that I'm not all that familiar with Helen Frankenthaler, which in this crowd is probably not a good thing to admit. I must now also admit I'm not that familiar with Morris Louis. In fact the only Louis I can remember seeing is "Alpha-Pi" at the Met. It's somewhere in that sequence descending from Picasso and Matisse down through Johns and into Hockney. (I suppose if you come up from downstairs it's more uplifting than depressing as you get the art in the opposite order.)

It looks like "Alpha-Pi" comes from around the same time as the middle batch John listed up there. I've never thought it was very good -- it sort of blends in with the Barnett Newmans as simply being there, not very interesting.

The first batch of John's, though -- the Still-influenced paintings, I guess -- and the last couple, including the "baaaad" painting -- they look really good. Especially compared to a lot of contemporary abstract work I've seen.

I'm not sure I'd say, based on these images alone, that "Seal" is the best one. But that is the one I see echoing in John's work.

Here's an article on conservation and Louis' paintings and here's where john got the image for "Seal", a show that sounds really great but ended back in 2008.


Chris Rywalt

January 20, 2010, 11:56 AM

If you search for Tatiana Ausema, by the way, you'd find she has a Facebook page. Her profile image? One of Ken Noland's target paintings. It made me smile.


George R

January 20, 2010, 11:57 AM

John, Is the Louis - Still connection something you know about as a historical event/situation or is is based on your observation ow the two painters works?



January 20, 2010, 12:24 PM

Good question George. The comparison seems apt and it bothers me because I have written about Louis and although I had noticed Still-like characteristics in some of the mid-50s pix the matter of influence did not come across, and now it does.


George R

January 20, 2010, 12:52 PM

I wonder how many Still paintings Louis might have seen.

Still was a crank: In the early 1950s, Still severed ties with commercial galleries and in 1961 moved to Maryland, removing himself further from the art world. [wiki]

I don't know anything factual one way or the other but it seems like what Louis did compositionally was both in the air at the time and a function of how liquid paint moves around on the surface. Still's compositions are obviously more directed by hand.



January 20, 2010, 12:55 PM

Seal is a really beautiful painting. Like Chris, Louis was always "just there" for me, represented by just a few examples. (Louis, check)



January 20, 2010, 12:58 PM

Still's a character. He basically created Bay Area Figuration by pissing off every artist of note in San Francisco, souring them on abstraction for the decade after his arrival at the California School of Fine Arts, and in some cases permanently.



January 20, 2010, 1:12 PM

The Louis-Still connection is one that I first became aware of in conversation with Clem, who said that Louis was so aware of his "problem" of being too easily influenced (for the worse) by other artists that Louis would ask to be dropped off somewhere else when he was with Clem when Clem intended to drive to see a show somewhere.

My observation of the works themselves, of course, bore this out. Yet, in the case of Seal, for instance, Louis leveraged the influence to the benefit of the work.

After Clem showed Louis and Noland the work of Frankenthaler, Louis went back to DC and painted a few "stained/splattered" pictures, including one called Trellis (can't find it on the web) that Clem exhibited in a show he did for French. Trellis (53), in my view, was not that much better than earlier pictures such as Firewritten V (51), but it was different.

In several conversations with Clem I learned that a year or so later a roll of 7 canvases showed up at Clem's NYC apartment, which contained works such as Iris (54) and Breaking Hue (54) and some others, including Atomic Crest. I could make a case that between the seven singular pix, much of what Louis was to do later in separate series, was prefigured. In any case, Clem said he was astonished - he had no expectation he would see what he saw as he took each one off the roll. Clem sold all seven for $500 each and sent all the money to Louis - which amounted to the largest sale Louis had ever had. So much for how Clem took advantage of artists.

I suspect, but Clem never said, that one of the purchasers was Patrick Lannan, who later established his own museum/foundation which included them. (The foundation auctioned Atomic Crest in 2000 through Sotheby's, where it fetched $335,000.)

One of the more interesting pictures in the 54 group was untitled, a picture that takes some getting used to, but prefigures the "florals" as well as the "veils", before the color got pumped.

I had a long conversation about Louis with Leonard Bocour when he came to WMU to demo his paint many years ago. According to Leonard, "everybody" "knew" that Louis would never amount to much as an artist. Because Louis did not have much money, out of kindness Bocour traded his paint (trade named Magna) for a couple of Louis's early pictures, thinking the pictures would never be worth anything. Firewritten V was one of them, so was untitled (Jewish Star). Ultimately Bocour's widow, Ruth, donated them to the Jewish Museum after his death. That museum has put an "explanation" on Firewritten V (which is one of the "Charred Journal" series) that it represents Nazi book burning. I have no idea if there is any basis in the facts of Louis's life to substantiate this. Myself, it represents one side of the evil twin pitfalls of abstraction, the doodle side. (What Jack rightly calls "mess" above is the other, the mess side.)


George R

January 20, 2010, 1:14 PM

F, yes Still's a character but I don't think there is any basis in your remark. Do you have references?

I knew Diebenkorn personally, and I don't recall ever hearing him indicate this.



January 20, 2010, 1:16 PM

Chris: Alpha Pi is an "unfurled", a series that came after the ones I have been discussing. Louis considered that series to be his best. (I don't agree.)

I knew when I put up bad pictures someone would think the opposite.



January 20, 2010, 1:22 PM

Do you have references?

I've done a lot of reading on David Park and I'm pretty sure it's in the little monograph I have on him. I'll thumb through it later.



January 20, 2010, 1:25 PM

George, the influence is not on the appliucation of paint, which couldn't have been more different for each artist, but on the conformation of color areas. If you look at John's first group you will see this strongly. I remember using Still's methods to deal with the same problem at about the same time, or around 1959.

Both of them were wrestling with the basic problem thet abstraction kills depth illusion.

Still coped with it by creeping small strokes across a large surface, like lichen on a rock, which deliberately accepted the visual flatness.

Louis tried to overlap semi-transparent color areas which was problematic in the veils & florals until he just said to hell with it and threw the color against the edges in the unfurleds.

The big problem with the baaaad painting is that he was trying to paint a traditional organize-the-parts type painting with big-color-area ambitions. It won't work.


Chris Rywalt

January 20, 2010, 1:28 PM

They may be bad Louis but they're better than a lot of what I see on a regular basis. Richter comes to mind.

I like the twin pitfalls of Mess and Doodle, though. Like Scylla and Charybdis but more fun.

Apparently the "unfurleds" are supposed to be the best of Louis but the one in the Met doesn't do much for me. It's too wide. When you stand in front of it it's blank with some colors off to the distant sides, and if you back up to take them in, the whole thing's too far away.



January 20, 2010, 1:37 PM

Chris, I hope I don't come off as picking on you. That said, Clem used to tell me (numerous times), the further apart the edges of the unfurleds, the better. I tend to agree.



January 20, 2010, 1:42 PM

Opie, there are a bunch of other "bad" "traditional" pictures that still exist. WMU's slide collection includes a huge really horrible one in which Louis is standing in front of it smoking a cigarette (in the tradition of "thoughtful" AbEx?). I could not find them on the web, though.


Chris Rywalt

January 20, 2010, 1:50 PM

I don't feel picked on because you haven't called me any creative names yet.

More seriously: I've only seen that one "unfurled", so I can't talk about them more than that. That one in particular doesn't do much for me. But then I'm also immune to Rothko and Newman for some reason.



January 20, 2010, 3:37 PM

Nobody should judge Louis on the basis of those early black & gray paintings, any more than Picasso should be judged on the basis of his imitation Toulouse-Lautrec from the 1890s or Pollock upon the basis of his imitation Thomas Hart Benton of the early 1930s. But even mature Louis takes some getting used to.

I remember that I was really turned off by him at first. This was when I was just starting out to write the art page on Time, around 1967. My senior editor, Cranston Jones, decreed that we should do a story with a page of color photographs on a Louis show being held in the Boston area. God, I resented doing that story! To me, Louis looked like warmed-over abstract expressionism & ab-ex was The Establishment & pop art was the new avant-garde. At the age of 32, I was gung-ho to go with the new avant-garde, and you know, I don't think I really saw enough Louis to form a positive judgment about him until MoMA's beautiful retrospective in the mid-80s. By this time, the pomo Establishment was solidly against him & Peter Schjeldahl was pillorying Clem as "the art world's Sun Yung Moon" in Art in America.

More recently, I've become aware that Louis painted many great pictures but also many stinkers. This applies to all the different categories that he created after reaching artistic maturity: the veils & stripes as well as the unfurleds (plus paintings which he made during transitional periods from one image to the next). Clem seems to have been pretty good about getting Emmerich to hold back on the second-raters & only exhibit the great ones, but what this meant is that the Morris Louis estate got stuck holding all the second-raters.

In recent years, it has been exhibiting them & selling them off, to the delight of all those postmodernist critics to whom a bad Louis looks better than a good one. I remember one show at Paul Kasmin in particular that featured a really lousy Louis in its ad for the show in Gallery Guide. One of the NYTimes critics (can't remember which one) picked up on that painting & praised it to the skies. A year or two later, I went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and here was this really horrible Louis proudly displayed as part of its permanent collection. Really depressing to think how many art students in future years are going to look at that painting & say to themselves, so this is Morris Louis! What's all the fuss about?



January 20, 2010, 4:04 PM

John, as I remember (perhaps incorrectly) Clem liked the unfurleds best and liked the unfurleds with a lot of strips of color best.



January 20, 2010, 6:09 PM

Opie, I remember Clem as preferring the unfurleds too, but not particularly more stripes, just the wider the better, although the two metrics do coincide in some of them.

I shy away from "the greatest ..." type of statements, but if I were in a good mood and perhaps a little drunk I might say Louis was the greatest painter of the 20th century. Better than Noland, better than Olitski. Certainly he was the last of the true blue modernists to reach full flower before modernism fell into the black hole.

Piri I am amazed that you had problems with Louis and how good he was, but I appreciate knowing. His goodness flowed like melted butter into me, from the very first one. But I didn't get to know the pre-54 stuff until later in life. The MFA in Boston has a "study collection" of some seventeen "stinkers", donated (I think) by the estate for study of his methods, not as official product - some are obviously not finished, in fact. (Think I read he intended to destroy them, but got sick before he could do it.)

Clem once told me there was a whole roll of pictures to be destroyed out in the garage or somewhere like that when Louis died. Given that each one is a six to seven figure picture, it is not hard to understand why the estate would hang onto them. Sometimes I would tell my art history class about the roll and ask them what should be done with it. Practically 100% said destroy it because that was the artist's intention. Then I would ask one of them, if you owned just a single picture from the roll and it was worth $1 million, what would you do, burn it or sell it? Most students admitted they would sell it. Many admitted they would sell the whole roll if they could.

Shows how the way you ask the questions influences the results of any survey.


Chris Rywalt

January 20, 2010, 6:33 PM

I love Harlan Ellison but one of the places we part ways is with this "artist's wishes" thing. He's written more than once that he believes an artist's wishes are absolutely paramount -- even if that means we'd have no Kafka, for example. Ellison's wishes are pretty clear: Anything unpublished when he dies should be destroyed. He hates the idea that anyone might profit off his work after he's dead.

I personally think artists are often wrong about their own work. Often? I might even say usually. It pains me to think about how much work we've lost because an artist got depressed or stupid. But then I'm a pack rat who keeps everything in case some day someone wants it.



January 20, 2010, 6:53 PM

i think many artists (famous or not at all known) would have trouble destroying finished work even if they thought it was not great or even just below average for themselves.

ron davis was out in california and he started in a still like style, but ended up at the opposite end of the paint spectrum. i think he had contact with still.


George R

January 20, 2010, 7:34 PM

John, You might say Louis was the greatest your favorite painter of the 20th century.

But in my book, he's not even in the top 10.



January 20, 2010, 7:36 PM

And let that be a lesson to you, John, for speaking out of turn. I mean, the nerve!


Chris Rywalt

January 20, 2010, 8:00 PM

I'm not the world's biggest Louis fan -- I haven't seen enough of his work -- but even I'd be hard-pressed to come up with as many as ten 20th century painters I like more. Who's better?

I feel as if painting dropped off the map in the 1960s sometime. Pop killed it, at least as far as really great painters you could see. I'm sure there are great painters working in relative obscurity, but who's up there with Warhol, Rauschenberg, Johns? In terms of popularity, I mean.

Everyone here is big on Olitski but the one show of his work I saw I didn't like very much. It was an odd snapshot from his long career, though. Other than that I haven't seen his work much.

So who's better than Louis? Kandinsky? Gorky? Rothko? I'm running out of names. I like Pollock a lot more, but I've seen more Pollock, too. If I had to judge ole Jack from one or two, and they were the wrong one or two, I wouldn't like him much, either. The Pollock at the Met is pretty awesome, though.

To come up with more than nine definitely better 20th century painters -- might be tough.



January 20, 2010, 8:52 PM

An interesting dripped glaze:

Drip 1
Drip 2
Drip 3
Drip 4



January 20, 2010, 9:13 PM

Target (18th century Japanese version):




January 20, 2010, 9:37 PM

A bottle for Morandi (click to enlarge if needed):

Bizen 1
Bizen 2
Bizen 3
Bizen 4



January 20, 2010, 10:10 PM

re. Bizen: What an amazing surface. It looks like the side of an old barn, or a 200 yr. old Windsor chair.


Chris Rywalt

January 20, 2010, 10:16 PM

That bottle is too baroque for Morandi.



January 20, 2010, 10:18 PM

Here's another shot, David:

Bizen 5

The bottle is late Edo-early Meiji era.



January 20, 2010, 10:26 PM

Baroque, Chris? Try again. The bottle would not be out of place in a Shaker or Amish setting. The richness that you apparently perceive is mainly due to the natural color of the unglazed clay and, I suppose, the faceted surface, which is rather sober and straitlaced.



January 20, 2010, 10:35 PM

This is a Baroque ceramic piece (and Italian, to boot):

Baroque plate



January 20, 2010, 10:52 PM

Sorry George, I said "the greatest" not "my favorite" - you know that. As far as thinking anyone would agree with me, I don't expect much - it's an extreme statement, residing at the most remote edge of what's agreeable. "The greatest" doesn't usually enter into my mind, anyway. I made the statement cautiously, not to make you or any others happy, but to make myself happy.

Louis will still be standing when most of the others have fallen. His work does not play upon social, political, psychological, philosophical, cultural, theoretical, historical, referential, or any other "issue". He addressed only the eye and the perceptual apparatus that is attached to it. In other words, he restricted himself to the most universal of all the possible ways people interact with art, one that will be around as long as humans are around.

Beauty, in art, is not only enough, it is all there is. Louis understood that. Do you?



January 20, 2010, 11:03 PM

Yeah, something Shaker about it definitely. The perfect joining of geometries though - the faceted sides into the circular opening - is pure Japanese. Donald Judd eat your heart out. Do you think if I did that at 6' tall in wood I could get a show in N.Y.? I could probably get the surface pretty close.



January 20, 2010, 11:07 PM

Chris -- Matisse? Picasso? & I think Pollock has to be right up there, too. How much time did you spend at the Pollock retrospective at MoMA in '99? How about that big show of Matisse & Picasso that MoMA staged a year or so later out in Queens?

John, maybe my slow respose to Louis is just because I'm like this but I don't think I'm unique in having to grow up to artists. An awful lot of people couldn't see Pollock in the 40s but suddenly could see his work of the 40s in the 50s (well, sort of -- at least they said they did).

I wasn't ready for Noland, either, the first time I saw him -- which was maybe his greatest stripe show at Emmerich in the fall of 1967. I had a color page on Stella's Protractor series planned, and my editor (Cranston) asked if there wasn't any other abstract painter I ought to be looking at. In retrospect, I am sure he meant Noland, but although I'd seen the Noland show, I said no to Cranston. I hadn't known what to make of the Noland stripe paintings. They shook me up but also mystified me. In other words, they were way over my head. Then (as you know from my book) I met Bill Rubin in early '68 & started doing stories on the painters I'd seen in his loft, but still without any real insight into them. That June I did a story on Olitski with a color page but I didn't really get him & it's a very routine story as a result. In November, I did a story on Poons, who had just experienced a breaththrough of sorts with a painting named Dark Journey. He begged us to photograph that painting & we used it, but half the reason was because I was told that Rubin had been very excited over this painting & wanted to buy it but Castelli (who was representing Larry at that moment) had sold it to Carter Burden because Larry owed him (Castelli) money. My story in Time was maybe a little better than the Olitski story but still without any real oomph. (Perhaps that's why none of Time's readers took exception to either of them.)

In early '69, I heard that Noland would have a show with Larry Rubin's new gallery in April & scheduled a color page timed to coincide with that show. Sometime in January or early February, I went to the warehouse & met up with Ken & together we picked out the paintings we would photograph. They were still horizontal stripe paintings but much paler in color & for this reason I was a little disappointed by them, but figured catching Noland in an off moment was still better than no Noland at all.

Before I could write the story, though, Helen had her big retrospective at the Whitney. I related strongly to her paintings upon seeing them & started thinking in terms of doing a cover story for Time on her (successful women artists were still pretty much of a rarity & I thought having a woman artist would add the human interest which was so essential to cover stories & particularly when the subject was abstraction -- which bored most Time readers). While researching what would eventually turn out to be not a cover but only a major article, I learned that Clem had dated Helen back in the early 50s, before she married Motherwell (and he married Jenny), so I decided I had to interview him.

The experience of meeting him & talking to him sharpened my eye & energized my writing style. The result was that both the story on Helen & the subsequent story on Ken were written with a passion & conviction that infuriated many Time readers, but has led to those two stories wearing better than anything else I wrote for Time (two neo-Marxist art historians are still taking pot shots at the piece about Helen in the 21st century) . A year or so ago, Leslie Feely had a show of those pale striped Nolands,and they were as good as they'd seemed to me in '69 -- maybe not peak Noland but again just so much better than anything else around. Of course, in the interim I'd seen the big Noland retrospective at the Guggenheim in the 70s, so I was better able to place the pale stripes in the context of Ken's overall development.

Another instance of how I had to learn to love an artist is Cezanne. When I was in grad school, I respected him enough to take a seminar on the late Cezanne, but it was only after the seminar that I could begin to relate to him strongly. The reason I could was because our teacher had each of us take a different subject among Cezanne's work, and then work out of a chronology of what was painted when, making a report on our findings to the class. One student took still lifes, another took Mont Sainte-Victoire, etc. My assignment was the bathers (male & female, large & small). I looked at dozens of photographs of Cezanne bather paintings & every live Cezanne bather I could find (including a trip to the Barnes Foundation, which has a number of them). A year or two later, I attended a great show of late Cezanne at MoMA, several times in fact. The result of all of this is that I get a terrific kick out of Cezanne, especially the late ones, but when I started teaching at CW Post after completing my graduate school coursework, I discovered that Cezanne was pretty rough stuff & a fair number of my students reacted with horror to his paintings. I compared notes with a classmate from grad school who was teaching at Hunter, and her advice was to avoid giving Cezanne to beginning students. "Give them a nice easy Seurat instead!" she said.



January 20, 2010, 11:09 PM

John - nice. Especially with the Edo/Meiji bottle interposed in the Louis thread. There's method in Jack's madness.



January 20, 2010, 11:12 PM

By the 50s, it was possible to be influenced by another artist without ever seeing the work in the flesh, thanks to the quality of reproductions that were appearing in the higher quality press. Perhaps that was not the ideal way, but it was no longer necessary to physically travel here and there to get a feel for what was going on amongst artists who were getting ink, as was Still (I think?).

And 1, it sure wasn't hard for Louis to destroy work. Most authorities agree he did under hundreds of works. Some attempt to blame it on Greenberg because one of the largest purges was undertaken after Clem suggested he return to the breakthrough works of 1954 and reboot from there.

I have a good friend who lives in Virginia who prides himself in not having a pubic showing in over 25 years. When I first met him here in Kazoo he told me of the joy he experienced every time he loaded his trailer with paintings and took them to the dump ... stretchers, frames, and all. There was an instant bond between us, even though I save the stretchers and frames.


Chris Rywalt

January 20, 2010, 11:24 PM

I was joking about how plain the bottle is and how plain Morandi's bottles would be. Hyperbole. Ha ha.

How short are you guys? I didn't think that one would go over your heads.



January 20, 2010, 11:24 PM

John, what a modest fellow! No pubic showing in 25 years?



January 20, 2010, 11:24 PM

Piri I love "to grow up to artists." I started to get Cezanne after hithchiking the South of France in my early 20's, even though it seems like he gets more mysterious and enigmatic as time goes by.



January 20, 2010, 11:29 PM

The bottle is wonderful and of course related to the Louis paintings in an obvious but delightful way.

My guess is that it was turned on a wheel, left thick-sided and then faceted with one of those wire doohickeys potters use - you can still see the streaks where the tool pulled down bits of impurity.

I can't tell if it is a slip glaze or just the clay body but the mute coat of iron red is just right, especially with the few random yellow flecks.



January 20, 2010, 11:35 PM

Jack, wow, #103, now that's baroque. I should spell that BAROQUE I think.

Piri, your account of getting to know the artists in #106 is fascinating. The more you say, the better it is. I would hate to be your editor, unless the budget was unlimited and the need to please readers minimal.

Myself, when I first saw Cezanne, I was compelled to try to paint like him. It didn't work out aesthetically, of course, but it was a way to absorb what I wanted from him. My Painting I teacher (Bavinger) correctly observed that the picture was too advanced. He gave it a C ... the only passing grade anyone in the class received for that assignment. This was obviously before the days of advisors telling students to take art classes in order to get off probation.


Chris Rywalt

January 20, 2010, 11:41 PM

Piri sez:
Chris -- Matisse? Picasso? & I think Pollock has to be right up there, too. How much time did you spend at the Pollock retrospective at MoMA in '99? How about that big show of Matisse & Picasso that MoMA staged a year or so later out in Queens?

I wasn't going to go and name every artist I could think of. I didn't see the Pollock retrospective -- I guess I didn't hear of it -- but I went through the Matisse/Picasso show pretty seriously. I don't know if I'd put either of them ahead of Louis. Maybe. The two lived a lot longer and got a lot more done. Hard to compare. Neither really grabbed me, though. They're good (obviously) but not my favorites.

I'd personally put Pollock in the top ten for sure. Maybe close to the top for the 20th century.

The painters I've reacted most strongly to, if you ask me, are Van Gogh and Rousseau. Rousseau's sort of a 20th century painter, but really he just overstayed from the 19th. "The Sleeping Gypsy" was 1897. Pollock has been great, also.

Who else is there? Freud? He's okay. Schnabel? Ha. Pearlstein? Katz? Don't make me laugh. Should we put Monet or Cezanne into the 20th century? They lived long enough (Cezanne only just). Klimt? I like Klimt but I'm not sure he's top ten material.

There's a Top 200 you can go down if you like. Morris Louis isn't on it but Martin Kippenberger is, even though the latter was an idiot.



January 20, 2010, 11:42 PM

Yes, the bottle relates to the directness of Louis. It also would sit perfectly in the early Ben-Shahn-lives-as-Amish pictures, such as untitled (Two Young Men), which I can't find on the internet.



January 21, 2010, 12:06 AM

If anyone is interested in a 100 page discussion and list making regarding the best dead artists of the 20th century, get it here. It is in PDF form, with a large number of well tuned JPEGs of many, many artists. Got a real nice picture of Larry Poons, Jules Olitski, Darryl Hughto, and Olitski's dog too.


Chris Rywalt

January 21, 2010, 7:56 AM

Conversations like that make me want to become an abstract artist.



January 21, 2010, 8:58 AM

OP, the bottle is not glazed; Bizen never is. The yellow flecks are deposits of flying ash that settled on the clay body and fused with it during firing. The effect is known as goma, or sesame seed.



January 21, 2010, 9:33 AM

So Jack, is the red just from the clay itself?



January 21, 2010, 10:23 AM

Yes, and whatever the firing did to it.



January 21, 2010, 11:03 AM

Thanks Jack. I figured that was the case because of the character of the surface - nothing is filled in. Bizen is glazed sometimes, if I remember correctly.

I never had a hard time with Cezanne but by the same token I never appreciated him until later. I went for the "romantic" painters like Van Gogh at first, and then Monet and Picasso, who I swallowed whole, and Miro, and Nolde and Redon and various other colorists. My biggest miss was Hofmann and then Pollock, both of whom took a while. And then Still, who by the late 50s was really driving me. I loved Rothko and have since become bored with him.

I think when you are 20 years old the enthusiasm is more important than the choices.

Louis is an odd case for me. I admire him, but I don't love him. He doesn't reach me like Olitski does.

Let's be thankful there is so much good stuff out there to choose from!


Chris Rywalt

January 21, 2010, 11:46 AM

Does anybody dig Newman any more?


George R

January 21, 2010, 11:50 AM

John, Read my comment more carefully. I was suggesting that "the greatest" didn't really apply but I was willing to accept "my favorite" in its place.

My list of twenty (dead) painters who have to be considered important as painters in the 20th century.

Pablo Picasso (the greatest?)
Henri Matisse
Piet Mondrian
Fernand Léger
Vasily Kandinsky
Joan Miró
Jackson Pollock
Wilem De Kooning

Georges Braque
Juan Gris
Paul Klee
Stuart Davis
Edward Hopper
Max Beckman
Hans Hoffman
Philip Guston
Georgia O'Keeffe
Alice Neel
Jasper Johns
Jean-Michel Basquiat
Francis Bacon


Chris Rywalt

January 21, 2010, 11:56 AM

Basquiat may look important in your rearview mirror, George, but he's not.



January 21, 2010, 11:56 AM

Well, I started to read that 100-page discussion, then remembered that I am trying to write my January 15 column this week so I really don't have time for it. Maybe in the next week or so I'll go back. I did notice that lot of the images looked wonderful, though, especially Float & Gypsies Kiss by Link, and Tridacna by Bannard. The color on Lavender Mist & Autumn Rhythm, however, is way off, and I do wish the discussion hadn't been so exclusively centered on American painters (with only one Canadian & 2 British sculptors tossed in). Greenberg certainly wouldn't have left Mondrian or Miro off his list, to say nothing of Analytic Cubism, which was Picasso (along with Braque) in really top form, and which was almost totally absent from the Matisse/Picasso show. The show you really needed to see for that, Chris, was MoMA's Pioneering Cubism, but that was 1988-89, I think, maybe before you had reached your artistic maturity, as were the big Matisse & Miro & Mondrian retrospectives at MoMA in the early 90s. Of course, as David Smith said, every artist gets to choose his own ancestors, and as a figurative painter you'd naturally be more inclined to relate to Rousseau & Van Gogh than Mondrian. I like Rousseau, too, just not as much as Mondrian (though I will say that the Mondrian retrospective at MoMA ca. 1995 was very poorly & discouragingly installed -- the Dutch museum in the Hague (forget its name) did a much better job of installation, when the show originally opened there.



January 21, 2010, 12:16 PM

piri, the hughto link was only concerned with american artists, thus yes to bush(north american), but no picasso, mondrian etc.



January 21, 2010, 12:21 PM

George I assign very different meanings to "important" and "good". I don't think Johns belongs on any "good" list but he is certainly "important".

Alice Neel's name certainly does not belong in that company for either reason, in my humble opinion.


George R

January 21, 2010, 12:56 PM

The problem here with Johns is that most formed their opinion years ago and as a result are stuck to it.

Johns is one of the best painters in the 20th century and it is why he is considered important.

Neel is JMHO


George R

January 21, 2010, 12:59 PM

But, Jasper Johns is still alive, so he really didn't fit my criteria.



January 21, 2010, 1:11 PM

OP, to my knowledge, any glazing in Bizen ware is a so-called natural glaze due to kiln conditions during firing. The goma effect, for instance, can be more extensive and coalesce over larger areas, but that is still natural as opposed to applied glazing. The potter can fiddle around with kiln conditions during firing to "help along" or "propitiate" certain effects, especially if he's both very experienced and very good, but the outcome can never be exactly controlled or predicted.



January 21, 2010, 1:47 PM

George my initial take on Johns was very positive. it took me years (his Whitney retrospective helped) to realize just how second rate he is.

I don't know what JMHO means.



January 21, 2010, 1:49 PM

You are right, Jack. I checked it out. The "glazes" I was seeing are firing "accidents".



January 21, 2010, 1:52 PM

Just My Humble Opinion



January 21, 2010, 2:12 PM




January 21, 2010, 3:27 PM

Re 131, OP, just hush. You'll disturb the blue-chip (or ostensible blue-chip) crowd. I mean, if Johns can't be depended on, what's the world coming to? No, it's just too scary to contemplate. It's cruel to mess with people's security blankets.



January 21, 2010, 5:04 PM

Chris, I did want to say that I'm glad you got to Matisse/Picasso, only sorry that you didn't relate to Matisse. On the other hand, there's a huge cadre of people who say they love him but who really only want to be able to say they relate to "modern art" and can't take anything more recent. Actually, he's more difficult than might at first appear. I did a little research on him a few years ago, and found that at the Armory Show of 1913, he was the one who really upset people. Duchamp's Nude Descending the Staircase got more publicity and was the biggest target of jokes, but people got really angry at Matisse. Maybe this was because his figural types are so far removed from the classical standards of female beauty that they looked like caricatures of it to people who couldn't relate to them on their own terms.

As for Johns, Greenberg preferred him to Rauschenberg & Warhol(for what that's worth). I prefer W to either J or R. I mean, with J & R there is this big pretense that they're really making Fine Art, whereas with Andy there's no pretense, it's just cheerful out-and-out vulgarity.


Chris Rywalt

January 21, 2010, 5:27 PM

Artistic maturity, Piri? I'm not there even now! But back in 1988 I was only just graduating high school and discovering the joys of women. Woman, really, because I met my wife in September 1988.

As far as relating to Matisse, Picasso, Rousseau, Van Gogh, or anyone else: I'm not sure my personal style of painting has much to do with it. Greenberg preferred landscapes but when he saw good art he had to say so, and that's how it is with me. When I first stood in front of "The Sleeping Gypsy" I was working at Citibank for a manager who'd gone to India for two weeks and ended up staying for two months, during which time I was getting paid hourly to do absolutely nothing. The life of a computer consultant! Anyway, at the time I was painting maybe once a year, and when I got the chance I was painting a kind of Magritte Surrealism (cf. "Blues One Two Three"). One extended lunch hour I went up to MoMA (this was shortly before it closed for rebuilding) and stood in front of "The Sleeping Gypsy". I felt as if I was falling into the painting. I almost swooned. This was a work I'd seen reproduced hundreds of times before, but in person, I nearly fell over.

I had a similar experience with Van Gogh a few years earlier, I think, finally leaving the Egyptian and Medieval wings of the Met, getting past the Cot and the Gérôme and discovering the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists.

That made me realize there was more to painting than illustration. That changed how I looked at art, what I asked for out of art. I used to be a big fan of Dalí and Magritte -- and I guess I'll always like those guys a lot -- but I began to want more.

I've never been thrilled with Picasso or Matisse, although I liked the big show a great deal. Still, neither of them move me the way Rousseau or Van Gogh do.

I started painting what you see on my site -- started working with figures and in a Matisse-like way -- because of Picasso and Henri-Georges Clouzot's film The Mystery of Picasso which convinced me of the value of scribbling and being less precious, less careful, less concerned with the final result. At the end of 2001, also, my world fell apart -- September 11 and then things in my own life -- and I was looking for something definite to hold on to. Sex and love and beauty seemed as solid as I could find and I began to explore that.

So my current style is newer than my personal discovery of Van Gogh and Rousseau. I'm actually surprised at how much I love Van Gogh's landscapes because I usually like there to be people in paintings.

I like Mondrian, also. His work made me realize very forcefully that you can't go by reproductions: Some of his paintings have such a texture, with tiny brushstrokes visible in the colored lines, that they come alive in a way impossible to see in print.

Matisse is tough for me. I always want him to be a little better than he is. He always seems a little messier than I'd like. But maybe that's what makes him great. I don't know.



January 21, 2010, 6:51 PM

Piri I think Rauschenberg is a way better picture-maker than Warhol or Johns. He just put a picture together better, and never did anything as awful as some of those larger Johns pix of the late 60s & 70s, or quite as weak as Warhol any time. I recall discussing this with Clem and he didn't put up too much of a fight about it because he didn't think thst much of either of them.

I know serious art people who really dislike Matisse. I think it is something about the flaccid drawing and soft forms and the apparent carelessness of the paint application. Also, he fell off some after the 20s, but not nearly as much as Picasso. But a lot of the early things are killers. Nothing like them. And his landscapes are unequalled.



January 21, 2010, 7:32 PM

Re opinions on Matisse, I ran across this while downloading images:

I think the people commenting are a fair cross-section of takes on Matisse



January 21, 2010, 8:49 PM

Piri, "As for Johns, Greenberg preferred him to Rauschenberg & Warhol(for what that's worth). I prefer W to either J or R. I mean, with J & R there is this big pretense that they're really making Fine Art, whereas with Andy there's no pretense, it's just cheerful out-and-out vulgarity." It's interesting to me that Twombly is rarely a part of a sentence like that (unless it's in an article about T specifically). He was and is such a painterly painter and I would have thought some one of these modernistas here would have loved his work. Did Clem ever proffer an opinion. I mean the guy lived with Rauschenberg. He was there. Was it the fact that he went off to Italy? Granted, he's been an enthusiasm of my 50's,(nearing their end). Maybe he's the right counterpoint to a working life centered around making 3D objects in wood. The last time I brought him up Darby said I seemed to know more about T than he did and that surprised me too.



January 21, 2010, 9:00 PM

yes that matisse geranium is special.

that background reminded me of the male nude background,

another flower still life:

and yet another great matisse still life:



January 21, 2010, 9:07 PM

Non sequitur, Tim.

Chris, I haven't looked extensively through your pictures of your own work, but I've seen a few, enough to say that I think I like that Monkey picture the best (except, of course, you made his banana look too mechanical). Perhaps you're a better illustrator than a painter. Obviously, it's up to you, but I think working in a tighter, drawn manner would produce better results than the loose, brushy stuff... use the skills you have, man.

Oh, and, when I was at the Phillips Collection recently, I saw a surprising Mondrian self-portrait... you should go to DC and check it out, Chris.

Also surprising, at the Hirshhorn, hung a good Rauschenberg (Dam, '59). I had never seen one of those before, and may never again, so I took a picture.



January 21, 2010, 9:17 PM

Thanks 1, Le Serf is one of my favourites.



January 21, 2010, 9:35 PM

That Matisse Lemons on Pewter Plate is absolutely to die for.

And by the way, people, we really must learn to link images. I mean, I learned, even if I now occasionally abuse my powers. Maybe.


Chris Rywalt

January 21, 2010, 10:17 PM

Thanks for the compliment, MC, but it's not a monkey, it's an ape. A chimpanzee to be precise. No tail, therefore not monkey.

I'm not sure it's a very good painting. It's gouache, for one thing, and I used it all wrong. I treated it like acrylics, basically. Also, it really is very illustrationy. I kind of like parts of it -- I can't believe I painted that saxophone, and, man, do you know how many friggin' parts a sax has? I have the painting hanging in my living room -- right next to me right now, actually -- and I'm always a little amazed that it came from my hand.

It's not my style any more. Very photo-based, very idea-based. Back then I'd start with an image in my head and then proceed to illustrate it. Very Surrealist. I wanted to be Magritte when I grew up -- Magritte crossed with a Photorealist.

I honestly don't think I can work that way any more. It was beyond my abilities even then and I never had the discipline to learn it properly. I'm not Graydon Parrish (who, curiously, is only a few months older than I am) who spends 10 hours a day in his studio trying to learn the techniques of the old masters.

I've been going through my old files to clean up and winnow out the junk and I've been going through a lot of my drawings. I find I probably could've been a very talented comic book artist if I'd stuck with it. The last few drawings I did back when I was doing that kind of thing are, in retrospect, excellent.

I could go back to that, maybe. Who knows?



January 21, 2010, 11:08 PM

MC, re my 'non sequitur,' I communicated with someone in the Crimea yesterday, and she knew all about it. And a friend in Brazil said she was watching about it on TV. And you seemed to know about it enough to have gleaned what I was talking about from my comment.



January 21, 2010, 11:26 PM

Jack, yes, Lemons on Pewter Plate, gimme two to go, please, yum! But 'absolutely to die for' suggests a vulnerability I hadn't expected from you. But I completely understand.

Re late Matisse, the Vence Chaple is unparraleled as far as I know. By comparison, Ronchamps is gimmicky.



January 21, 2010, 11:38 PM

Yes, I know. Chapel. Whew!

About Matisse, tomorrow I visit again the 'Backs' (a complete revelation when I finally 'got it' after seeing it in the MOMA courtyard and at the UCLA campus) in that wonderful little park on the west side of Downtown Cowtown!!! Who'duh thunk it?!!! Yee Hah!!!!



January 21, 2010, 11:44 PM

Chris, I like your more recent work better than the chimp with the sax (though that's cute, too).

Re Matisse, I'd agree with OP that earlier Matisse is better than later, but (as with Picasso) even in the late years there are individually fine works. My favorite is La Danse, which is a relatively early one. Messy, maybe, but such verve! Thank God Ann Temkin has taken it out of the stairwell at MoMA, and hung it in the Matisse gallery, where it belongs.



January 21, 2010, 11:59 PM

MOMA, MoMA... Howbout COMA? But that Matisse room is the finest, post redux.



January 22, 2010, 1:13 AM

I have to chime in about Matisse. Opie, I think the reason some people get so bent out of shape about Matisse is that he makes it look so damn easy. His paintings go against some deeply ingrained beliefs they have about art. Also, I suspect some people see only his bravado. Ironically, his best work is actually quite humble. I see him as a healthy hedonistic man painting. Of course the same people who can't/wont see Matisse probably aren't big fans of hedonism either. So the cross section you speak of, I see as a cross section of humanity. He was Bacchus with a German work ethic as far as I can tell.

The Art institute of Chicago besides the Lemons on pewter dish above also has some other great Matisses. Bathers by the river, which is just a killer picture no matter how you look at it. They also have an earlier geranium still life from 1906 which is fantastic. The colors in this link don't come at all close.

The Geranium, autumn 1906



January 22, 2010, 9:18 AM

Piri I agree about late Matisse but it is really hard to find a Picasso (apart from small-scale work) after the mid-30s that is much good, and there are so many horrific dogs! "Night fishing at Antibes" and that Korean War mural come to mind, not to mention the universally sanctified "Guernica". I welcome examples to prove me wrong.

Lucas I think that "so damn easy" is consistent with the "apparent carelessness" I mentioned - more or less the same thing, actually. People who don't know art love the idea that someone really put a lot of work into something and get irritated when it looks dashed off.

"Bacchus with a German work ethic" is good, and the remarks on hedonism are right, except that I would say that is is not always anti-hedonism but anti the association of hedonism with anything sacrosanct like art. In otherwords, repressed hedonism.



January 22, 2010, 9:43 AM

The late Picassos that CG liked weren't among the paintings but among the graphics & sculpture. Glancing through my 1980 MoMA Picasso catalogue, I would guess he'd have gone for some if not all of the 11 stages of the Bull lithograph (1945-46) & the big 1956 multipart bronze Bathers (or anyway its wood original). Myself, I also like the bull's head made out of bicycle parts & Baboon with Young.



January 22, 2010, 10:10 AM

RE repressed hedonism: A good quote from the new Terry Fenton book About Pictures, under the 'why do we distrust art?' section: (quoting a friend) ""the Puritans came to the New World to escape from art and they're still running." Put more bluntly, North Americans tend to identify the arts with either sin or frivolity. Some artists rise to the bait and make art simply to provoke the Puritans."
------end of quote----
It is funny because it is so true. BTW I don't put Matisse in the category of master baiter. (bad pun intended) His paintings are more like a happy ending massage of the cerebral cortex. To ascribe motives such as Puritan baiting really would be a disservice. Fenton, I believe, is talking about the masses of second rate artists that litter the art mags, whose main goal appears to be to shock your sensibilities rather than to sooth them.



January 22, 2010, 10:28 AM

Lucas' #151 is pretty much on the money. For me, the appeal of Matisse has to do with Teutonic intellective rigor treating full tilt sensuality. Picasso is all about reaction. Matisse is all about reflection.


Chris Rywalt

January 22, 2010, 10:42 AM

I'm not anti-hedonism. I'm a big fan of hedonism, although ultimately I suppose I'm not very good at it, judging by the evidence of my life. I don't know that I mind that Matisse makes it look easy so much as I really want him to be a little tighter, a little less sloppy. Not that he needed to put more work into it, just maybe pay a little more attention. I guess I want him to be more like me. On the other hand I've worked for years now at caring less and being less controlling and reserved -- you might even say repressed. Getting away from the idea that a given work of art has to be a lot of effort and sweat.

That's why I no longer do those Surrealism-type paintings. They were just too damned hard. "Blues One Two Three" took me six months. Not constant work -- I had a day job at the time -- but nevertheless it ate a lot of minutes. And the result is good but not good enough.

Finally I fetched up against this painting -- good lord was that really four years ago? -- and just...couldn't do it any more. It was too hard, and the results simply not worth it. That's when I started trying to pull my drawings into my paintings.

Still haven't succeeded. Working on it.

So I've come to appreciate the idea of dashing something off, of allowing all the years of learning to draw to take over without trying to force it. Moving away from rigidly controlling everything, getting frustrated, throwing things across the room, and coming up short all the time. Now I still come up short but I can say, well, it's just one painting. There'll be more.

And yet I still look at Matisse and wish he'd tighten up just a little.

Also, I'm jealous that his life was apparently so paintable. Flowers and lemons and naked women all over the place. Every window a view onto loveliness. My life is far too cruddy to serve as a subject. Should I do "Still Life with 50-inch Plasma TV and Pile of CD-Rs"? "Bratty Kid with Froot Loops"? "Fat Man on Toilet"?



January 22, 2010, 11:09 AM

Tim, re 144, I agree my language was rather vulgar, certainly unsophisticated, but I was in a hurry and went for the easy phrase. I had not seen that Matisse before, and, like OP says, it's a killer.



January 22, 2010, 11:32 AM

I understand, Jack. Just kidding with you. I always enjoy your contributions on here.



January 22, 2010, 11:46 AM

Chris, go for "Bratty Kid with Fruit Loops" and "Fat Man on Toilet" I would avoid the TV idea, but hey, you won't really know until you try.

Scott Bennett posted some vaguely Bonnardish interiors. They might kick the fruit loop series into gear.

Bennett interiors

I can not agree with your statement that Matisse should tighten up. And you should really put a Not Safe For Work label on some of your links. The last thing I need is my boss to walk in while I'm innocently reading up on your playboy cover bunny art research. Speaking of puritans, for an institution that purports to be a place of higher learning, our administration acts more like cattle prod wielding ranchers. Our new motto is in fact: "Get them little bitches through that graduation gate!"


Chris Rywalt

January 22, 2010, 11:49 AM

I hope you're kidding about that NSFW thing, Jack. That's 25-year-old Playboy we're talking about. You can see more nudity on Nickelodeon these days.



January 22, 2010, 11:57 AM

Actually you are right, some of my students wear less clothes. But there is just something about being at work with a big red playboy logo riding across my p.c.'s screen...


Chris Rywalt

January 22, 2010, 11:58 AM

I know I must be old because I go to the shopping mall and feel like the only one who bothered to put on clothing before leaving the house.



January 22, 2010, 12:54 PM

Lucas, 'vaguely bonnardish"? Maybe Bennett should just go ahead and change his name.

Chris, I made this in the Spring of 1972 in New Orleans. Acrylic on canvas. I looked at it and decided that I was just showing off skills. I was just then getting into Monet and Matisse. I threw a piece of canvas on the floor and just slammed away on it for about 15 hours straight(I was 25 yrs old), determined to do nothing but make the paint make some kind of sense. It made me think of that old Doors tune, Break On Through To The Other Side. It worked. I never looked back. I learned to just let paint be paint and let it do all the talking.

Here's one I've been punching around on lately, for no reason except my personal delectation, acrylic on masonite. It has changed dramatically since I made the photo. The surface she's on has gone creamy white.

Not sure I get why you go for those Playboy nudes. I went to the Cowboys/Eagles game a couple of weeks ago. Not really my cup of tea, but a neighbor convinced me that I needed to go out and see the new stadium, which I have named the Death Star (I flew over it once at night, and it looked like a big sci fi booger with light rays shooting out of it.) Anyway, the Cowboy cheerleaders may as well have been pole dancers. I don't get why women aren't more pissed about that than they seem to be. It seemed utterly degrading and unattractive to me.

Re the toilet thing, it's already been done. Be very glad that I was unable to get it to post, especially this close to lunch.


Chris Rywalt

January 22, 2010, 1:01 PM

I am not personally into Playboy women, especially not since the late 1980s when things became...plastic. I inherited a collection of Playboys from 1974 through about 1988 from my dad when my parents moved out of the old homestead, which is why I had that elderly issue to steal the centerfold from. I was looking to say something about the nostalgia of old adult magazines for a guy who grew up before photos of naked women were all over the place. When I was in junior high, about the best thing that could happen was finding an old dirty magazine someone had thrown out or lost or whatever.

I also wanted to get at the idea of what happens to these photos over time, with aging and fading and trash and so on. Note that this is all "idea" painting and not what I'd do any more. No more ideas! Enough with the ideas!

Part of what I've been doing with painting and drawing since I started (and never finished) that painting is an attempt to chart my way to the antithesis of Playboy.


Chris Rywalt

January 22, 2010, 1:06 PM

I like your masonite painting, Tim. I think it's interesting that you didn't paint to the size of your ground but apparently started in and made the painting the size it wanted to be. I guess you can cut it down later. I've never tried that on panel -- I cradle my panels before priming, which precludes cutting them down, kind of -- but I can see how it might work. I have trouble, sometimes, composing properly the first time. Sometimes it just works, but sometimes I screw up. Being able to change the ground size would help.



January 22, 2010, 1:30 PM

Chris, re the size issue, I used to staple canvas to the walls of the old beaten up apartments I lived in, and just start painting where ever I wanted to, because I really didn't like the idea of a premeditated composition, (or a premeditated anything for that matter). A set of croppers I made out of matte board were used as much as my brushes. I kept it a secret until I saw that painting by Vuillard of Bonnard doing the same thing. I still rely on that method often. I like the adventure of 'finding' the painting as I go.

I'm on my way to view the Matisse backs, but not until I attend the matinee of the annual Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo and have a barbeque sammich and an ice cold Shiner Bock. Priorities.


Chris Rywalt

January 22, 2010, 1:50 PM

If it's a true bock, I'm not sure it should be too cold.


Chris Rywalt

January 22, 2010, 2:22 PM

I liked Matisse's cut-outs.

Looking at the Website, there, George, I'm surprised to find that Matisse was quite a draftsman.

Although recently I looked up "odalisque" and I'm unsure of why anyone would purposely call a woman that, since it denotes a female harem slave who could only hope to one day be a concubine. Not really a pleasant association, striped pants or not.


George R

January 22, 2010, 2:33 PM

A Matisse exhibition review in Time


Tom Hering

January 22, 2010, 2:33 PM

George, I'm glad you linked to some of the cut-outs. My favorite works of art. I have three big volumes among my art books that deal with Matisse's "second life." Now if only I could afford to add the new, 2 volume set from Taschen (which includes a "Jazz" facsimile). :-(



January 22, 2010, 2:46 PM

This one is for Chris



January 22, 2010, 2:48 PM

I've seen that work in person, I'll have you know.


George R

January 22, 2010, 2:53 PM

Tom, MOMA had a big Matisse exhibition in the 90's.
It was in the old museum, which feels more intimate than todays artmall, and there was a room with paintings/cutouts from I believe the late 40's.

When I say "room" I mean just that, it was a smallish gallery with two openings and to this day I remember my surprise when I turned the corner. Absolute fabulous pieces, I was just stunned speechless.

Moreover, the late Matisse paintings and cutouts really do make Noland look cold and uninventive.


Chris Rywalt

January 22, 2010, 2:57 PM

The title "Sunday on the Pot with George" totally makes it.

Tom, you can get Jazz (not a Taschen printing, of course) really, really cheap. Like, for four bucks. and most of that's shipping. I have a copy on my nightstand.


Chris Rywalt

January 22, 2010, 3:03 PM

Compare and contrast: My 11-year-old daughter drew this and it struck me so I set it aside (she tends to throw her drawings away because she doesn't think they're any good). Put it next to Matisse: "Face of a Woman".



January 22, 2010, 3:19 PM

Chris, I don't want to alarm you, but your daughter's drawing is vaguely reminiscent of Frida Kahlo. I hope, for everyone's sake, it's just a coincidence. One Kahlo was more than enough.


Chris Rywalt

January 22, 2010, 3:25 PM

My daughter doesn't have a mustache. Yet.


Tom Hering

January 22, 2010, 4:03 PM

George, I'm jealous.

Chris, thanks. I forgot all about that edition of Jazz. But I'll order it through my local second-hand book seller. (A highly endangered species I try to keep alive. What would I do if I could no longer browse through dark, narrow aisles of densely-stacked old books?) I see Chagall in your daughter's drawing.


George R

January 22, 2010, 4:37 PM

One with stripes/patterns.
Matisse, A Nude Lying on her Back, 1927


Chris Rywalt

January 22, 2010, 4:59 PM

See, I just don't know where Henri comes up with those backgrounds. Wild wallpaper! Maybe it's because I didn't take after the Italian side of the family with the gold-veined mirrors and the flocked red wallpaper.

Tom, I understand about the used book store. I love those places. Not as many as there used to be, but my two favorites are still going. One on 18th Street and one in Montclair, NJ. I used to go to the Strand now and then. One time I was there and found a cool science fiction book. Then another. Then another. Then I realized they were all coming out of this one box, and all had the same guy's name written inside the cover. I suddenly saw I was looking at the future of my personal library and shuddered.



January 22, 2010, 5:12 PM

Chris, re #169, it's a guy thing.

Ah, the museum of Bad Art. I'd forgotten about them. They have some dynamite paintings. That one is a beaut.

I've always admired the cut-outs but never went for them that much. That begonia was more my type of thing, and some of the earlier pix George put up, above.


George R

January 22, 2010, 5:48 PM


The Met had an exhibition in 2005, "Matisse: The Fabric of Dreams - His Art and His Textiles:

For generations, Matisse's family had been involved in the textile industry in northeastern France. He had an innate appreciation of textiles and was an avid collector of fabrics, from his days as a poor art student in Paris to the latter years of his life, when his Nice studio overflowed with exotic costumes and wall hangings. Used traditionally at first, as mere background elements in his compositions, textiles soon became the springboard for his radical experiments with perspective and an art based on decorative patterning and pure harmonies of color and line.

This painting Matisse, Odalesque with Gray Pants, 1927 or one like it was in the exhibition. I knew the painting from prior exhibitions but I had always assumed the red/green jacket was an artistic decision. At the Met, the painting was exhibited alongside the actual jacket worn by the model, and it was in fact red-green. The little blurb above is from the Met website explains how this all came to be.

Also, the review I linked was to the Philadelphia retrospective in 1948 when Matisse was still alive. It gives an indication of both Matisse's attitude towards his paintings and notes his early academic training.



January 22, 2010, 5:59 PM

Chris, an odalisque is as much a concept as an actual being, like a nymph or a Japanese courtesan, with obvious pictorial possibilities as well as an established tradition of being depicted by artists. It's essentially a kind of genre, like a still life or a landscape. There's no need to get all PC about it.


Chris Rywalt

January 22, 2010, 6:06 PM

Maybe it is a guy thing, OP. I don't know. I'm not a normal guy. I may be a woman on the inside. Some days I'm sure I'm a lesbian trapped in a man's body. Rimshot!

I don't see the appeal of a harem, honestly. I have enough trouble dealing with one woman, let alone a group spending time in a tent with nothing to do but think up ways to nag me. A male harem makes more sense to me. That way there are enough guys around to handle getting stuff off the high shelves and carry decorations down from the attic and get the car's oil changed and so forth while the others get plenty of nap time.

Even if I saw the point of a bunch of concubines, I still don't see the appeal of the odalisque, which is a woman who isn't good enough to have sex with the sultan. The way it worked -- according to Wikipedia -- is the head guy was only allowed to see any given concubine once. If she got pregnant, she was promoted to wife. Otherwise she went back to the harem. Odalisques were slaves hoping to qualify for concubine and get their one shot.

Sounds like grad school, actually. Or Hollywood.


Chris Rywalt

January 22, 2010, 6:08 PM

I know what you mean, Jack. Still, non-sexual slave doesn't strike me as a worthwhile fantasy. Sex slave, I can sort of see that (even if it doesn't work for me personally). Non-sex slave? Might as well have that Ingres chick washing dishes or something. Wait, she does have a feather duster in her hand, doesn't she?


Chris Rywalt

January 22, 2010, 6:09 PM

George, thanks for all the Matisseness. Really good stuff.



January 22, 2010, 6:11 PM

Chris, you're being too literal about this whole odalisque thing. I mean, what are you, an artist or an accountant?


George R

January 22, 2010, 6:42 PM

Wiki definition for the way "odalisque" was used by Matisse: During the 19th century, odalisques became common fantasy figures in the artistic movement known as Orientalism, being featured in many erotic paintings from that era.


Chris Rywalt

January 22, 2010, 7:03 PM

I was a computer programmer for many years, and for almost as long I realized that computer programming is the modern-day version of accountancy. Every company needs them and they do very boring stuff with numbers somewhere where no one else has to see them. Pay's pretty good but not great. Fun at parties.

I'm not fully used to using the past tense with it, either. There's a new guy in our studio -- he's actually not that new but I've been showing up so rarely, he's new to me -- and when I spent half of yesterday debugging our Internet connection he asked me, "Are you in IT?" My first instinct was to be insulted -- I'm not in IT, never was, IT is where the people who aren't programmers live -- and my second was to say I AM a computer programmer, but then I remembered I'm not. "I was a computer programmer," I replied, and it kind of hurt. I felt a little like Jacob Marley. "In life I was your Perl programmer. And, yes, I can sit down."

Anyway, that's why I nitpick on these things. Odalisques? Might as well paint a dugong and call it a mermaid.


Chris Rywalt

January 22, 2010, 7:14 PM

Incidentally, in that 1948 Time article George linked to, old Henri explains it all: "There is an inherent truth which must be disengaged from the outward appearance of the object to be represented. This is the only truth that matters.... A constant struggle for complete expression with a minimum of elements."

Apparently his wife supported him until he was 39 or so. There's hope for me yet!


Tom Hering

January 22, 2010, 7:16 PM

A 1903 anti-odalisque.



January 22, 2010, 7:23 PM

Thanks, Tom, but I kinda miss those striped pants.


Chris Rywalt

January 22, 2010, 7:30 PM

She looks like one of those angry kiln gods.


Tom Hering

January 22, 2010, 7:31 PM

She's angry she didn't get to wear the striped pants.



January 22, 2010, 8:29 PM

Exactly, Tom. Chris is a little slow about these things. He's a, you know, a programmer.


Chris Rywalt

January 22, 2010, 8:50 PM

Former programmer, current layabout.


Tom Hering

January 22, 2010, 11:13 PM

No one is beyond hope. Gauguin was a banker. Warhol was an ad man. Hitler was a painter. No. Wait. That's backwards. I guess a guy's future is wide open ...



January 23, 2010, 12:32 AM

A lot of those textiles of Matisse are from North Africa. That is widely known. I'm surprised the Met blurb didn't note that.

Chris, Shiner Bock is brewed by the Spoetzl brewing Co. in Shiner TX since sometime in the 19th Cent. It is a very popular brew in TX, and it goes especially well served ICE cold in an icy mug, with a barbeque sandwich and potato salad...on a 75 degree day in mid January YEAH!

I visited the Kimbell museum today. The Matisse 'Backs' now reside there. I liked them better in that little park, but that's OK, I'll take um where I can find um. I started to write about my visit but a bunch of sloppy-sounding blithering superlatives is all I can come up with after going there. Suffice it to say that I come out of that place feeling as though my soul had been washed clean.

There's a little Fra Angelico there about 10" x 8". It always knocks me over. The color orchestration in that painting is impossible, no way to understand it. It has something to do with proportions. It carries and has major impact across the room. How could a little postage stamp like that have so much power?

People think of Austin when they think of visiting Texas. Nope. It's Fort Worth.


Chris Rywalt

January 23, 2010, 1:03 AM

I don't think about visiting Texas at all.



January 23, 2010, 1:36 AM

Chris, when I was a kid, besides crossing the Red River from the Oklahoma side, you could tell you were in Texas because the highway automatically smoothed out. We made many trips to Ft. Worth (pronounced "foat worth" by the natives) and I remember my auntie shreeking when I waltzed up to the "colored" drinking fountain in a department store to find out what color the water in it was.

Since then Texas has become much more progressive, and really does seem to be a great place to live. Ron Paul, for instance, represents Houston. Can't be all that bad if they elect him and a gay mayor too. Houston also has the best bar-b-que I've ever eaten.

Your art probably stands a better chance of acceptance there than it does in Jersey too, though that is speculation based on what I knew 40 years ago. There was not so much of a glut of artists there, though there still were too many. In Oklahoma there was strong minority support for risky art (Bavinger house, Contemporary Arts Foundation, etc.) that extended south. When the majority is so large and conservative, those who feel differently do so with more verve than the moderately and often sickeningly liberal east coast types.

Git yur butt down thar and see fer yurself.



January 23, 2010, 7:30 AM

Jphn, I had a similar experience as a 10 year old kid the first time I went to the Annapolis MD waterfront there were two small lavatory sheds and one said "white" and the other said "colored", and when I was puzzled & pointed out to my (native Marylander) friends that both buildings were in fact painted white they though I was joking.

There is a place halfway between Houston and Victoria which has the best BBQ I have ever had. I can't remember the name.



January 23, 2010, 11:14 AM

as for culinary prowess the south, including texas, has a leg up when it comes to bbq, sweet tea, cobbler, grits and tex/mex (although california/arizona are strong here).

grits done right are fantastic, but other times they are inedible.

as a people, texas natives are more boisterously proud of their state than any, probably with new yorkers right behind. texans and new yorkers often are way over the top when defending and promoting alliances. and they may even believe it too.

a more subdued confidence concerning state identity is or was had in CT and i think california has it now too. being from CT i can attest that people from there have a quiet feeling that they are a little better than all the rest. it may have had something to do with the average annual salary numbers and education system.


Tom Hering

January 23, 2010, 11:20 AM

Hush puppies. Slaw dogs. Dear God, send me Southeast again.



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