Blackpaint 219


Eraserhead

This was on TV last night, and I had forgotten that it was  unique in cinema in its creation of a dream atmosphere.  This had to do with the sound, the constant muted industrial racket, the gaps in the dialogue (a long, bemused pause after every cliche’d phrase – “So, Henry, whaddaya know?” – long pause – “Oh..not much of anything,”) and the way in which the utterly bizarre was treated as normal – the bleeding, moving chicken, the mother’s fits, the baby thing.

Ididn’t notice when I first saw it – 25 or maybe 30 years ago – the Bacon references.  When Henry’s head falls off and the baby’s emerges from his shirt collar to take its place (dream within the dream), you are confronted by one of Bacon’s besuited screamers, with an obscured or eroded face and just an anguished mouth in focus.  The baby itself, in its tight wrappers of dingy bandage, is nearly a Figure at the Base of a Crucifixion.  The little thrippets of flesh that keep popping up or falling down and flipping about are out of Tanguy, I think, or maybe Ernst.  And the frozen grin on the face of the father brought to my mind Lloyd Bridges high on glue in “Airport” – not an art-historical reference, I’m afraid.

Can’t end the subject without mentioning the dough-faced singer pausing and squishing the things dropping onto the stage, without losing the ingratiating simper…

Leonardo da Vinci 

And so to some proper art, if not proper art criticism.  Which of the two Virgins of the Rocks would Leo consider the better?  One is in the Louvre, the other (later) one is in the National  Gallery.  The latter has the better background – the blue of the gap in the rocks is more satisfying – and is lit more dramatically, faces paler, especially Mary’s, and more strongly shadowed; the blue of Mary’s gown is more intense.  On the other hand, Christ baby has the halo and baby John has the staff, both of which look faintly ridiculous and the faces of the babies are better in the French one.  Christ in the NG version looks as if he has dropsy.  Also, Uriel’s gown in the Louvre version is a pleasingly rich red.

I at first thought that Uriel in the Louvre version had no wings – they are certainly more distinct in the NG version.  In both, Uriel resembles a girl.  So, on balance – they come out even, for me. 

Appel

After writing about Leonardo, you turn back to abstractionists with a sort of trepidation; how can they stand up to these geniuses of the past?  Answer: Karel Appel, “Flying Heads” 1959.  Great, thick crusts of paint, slatched on with a knife or trowel, white, green, yellow, orange, red, black, grey; scored, scabbed, scratched.  It looks like two, or even three breasts whirling about in thick, white and grey clouds.  The text in Dietmar Elger’s “Abstract Art” (Taschen) describes it as a “veritable whirlpool of thickly applied masses of paint.”  It looks good enough to eat.

Quiz

Who filmed Pollock at work on Long Island in 1950?  (must make these a bit harder).

Blackpaint 14.11.10

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