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I'm Free To Do What I Want Any Old Time

Post #1603 • May 15, 2013, 3:58 PM

(Skip ahead to: the neo-atelier movement, fun with Bezier curves, The Department of Skills, Quote Of The Week.)

Two weeks ago, I suggested, "Congratulations, my fellow fine artists: we are dinosaurs and the Paleocene is well underway. What to do about this?"

I felt a manifesto coming on, but it never arrived. There's a short answer to this: Enjoy your freedom.

Art is useless. I won't attempt to outdo Oscar Wilde on this point.

Art is useless because its aim is simply to create a mood. It is not meant to instruct, or to influence action in any way. It is superbly sterile, and the note of its pleasure is sterility. If the contemplation of a work of art is followed by activity of any kind, the work is either of a very second-rate order, or the spectator has failed to realise the complete artistic impression.

A work of art is useless as a flower is useless. A flower blossoms for its own joy. We gain a moment of joy by looking at it. That is all that is to be said about our relations to flowers. Of course man may sell the flower, and so make it useful to him, but this has nothing to do with the flower. It is not part of its essence. It is accidental. It is a misuse. All this is I fear very obscure. But the subject is a long one.

Or if you understand it, that's the subject in its entirety. Visual art being a dinosaur in an age of small, ground-dwelling mammals is the current point of a natural progression, from an activity of religious import, to one of courtly veneration, to documentation, to pleasure for its own sake. Pleasure was there all along, but it didn't emerge as an end in itself until it was freed from practical obligations. But that kind of freedom is intolerable to most people. You need the spirit of a Wilde to bear it. In time, artists themselves longed to bolt obligations back onto art. Hence this line from Peter Plagens that warrants immortality:

[The Visible Vagina is] another one of those didactic anthology shows purporting to bring some issue that artists think regular folk have either thought about incorrectly, or have repressed entirely, out into the open and, in the patois of today's art world, "address," "confront," "deconstruct," "unpack," and "interrogate" the hell out of it.

Hence social practice art. Hence, really, all art that aspires to do something besides exist in its most perfectable form. Reasons are for fakers. "What about commentary?" I hear someone cry. Well, I'm no purist. Comment if you like. But remember the admonishment of Marcus Aurelius, that you and your enemy will be dead in a hundred years. Make something worth appreciating after everyone has forgotten what you were so bothered about. One day everyone will.

Until then, survive any way you have to, and have the best time you can under the circumstances.

Looking Back

It is not my place to question my muse, but to follow her orders. The latest were to go bone up on traditional skills. Since January I've been attending classes at the Boston Figurative Art Center. Thus the latest thing to come off the easel is this.

[Image: Repose, 2013, 28 x 24 inches, oil on linen]

Repose, 2013, 28 x 24 inches, oil on linen

I have entirely the wrong training and possibly the wrong temperament for this kind of atelier realism, although Alfred Leslie went from being one of the better de Kooning imitators to a realist of some note and even produced some comics, so who knows? At any rate, having been engaged in skill-based figuration has caused the topic to jump out at me more than usual. My old friends at the Aegean Center have been working with cameras obscura.

Surprised by the ease of painting in the dark and upside down, I left the reader waiting for an update while our underpaintings dried.

The projection seems bursting with color and light inside of our dark room or ‘camera obscura’ as is the Italian phrase. How strange it was to apply color then and find our efforts were too garish in comparison. Our second surprise with this project– how neutral the image needed to be.

I first suggested we tint our underpainting with some generalized glazes while still outside the camera. This gave us a sense of the general warms and cools. The vase was glazed in a warm transparent brown very thinly applied and wiped back with a rag; the wall was tinted with a veil of blue. In truth this glazing just barely altered the color of the painting from its monochromatic state to something resembling an old fashioned tinted photograph.

Atelier culture seems to be enjoying unusual levels of advocacy these days. To some extent this has been true for decades, led by the New York Academy of Art and the circle around Jacob Collins, but more reports have been rolling in.

[Michael] Pearce is currently on sabbatical from teaching, but doesn't seem a bit interested in sitting by the pool. During his time away from the classroom he is continuing to work on his personal mission: changing the course of art history.

Two weekends ago Michael Pearce gathered a select group of writers, academics and museum directors in an upscale hotel conference room, and gave them six hours to chat through a list of ten questions including one of his personal favorites: "What is the place of beauty in contemporary representational art?" The symposium, and the seven course meal that followed demonstrated one of Pearce's strengths: he knows how to bring people together, make them comfortable and get them talking. The event was also—in Pearce's words—a "call to arms," intended to generate wider discussion on the future of representational art.

Is a neo-atelier movement afoot?

Hugging the Curves (With Your Brain)

Jeremy Kun:

Now I don’t pretend to be a qualified artist (I couldn’t draw a bull to save my life), but I can recognize the mathematical aspects of his paintings, and I can write a damn fine program. There is one obvious way to consider Picasso-style line drawings as a mathematical object, and it is essentially the Bezier curve. Let’s study the theory behind Bezier curves, and then write a program to draw them. The mathematics involved requires no background knowledge beyond basic algebra with polynomials, and we’ll do our best to keep the discussion low-tech. Then we’ll explore a very simple algorithm for drawing Bezier curves, implement it in Javascript, and recreate one of Picasso’s line drawings as a sequence of Bezier curves.

It's worth it just for the animations.

Department of Skills

Rythmic gymnastics. Bonus points for music by Gotan Project.

Quote of the Week

"Nothing is quite so pleasant as to spend an evening with a pencil and a dog."—Andrew Loomis

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