Blackpaint 299


Vertov, Man with a Movie Camera

Made in 1929 in Odessa, it contains all the fetishes of modernism – machines, steam, trains, trams, open saloon cars, fire engines – and a sort of tour of daily life; sport and leisure (high jumpers, hurdlers, swimmers, organised exercise,vodka and beer bars, cinema, circus), work (happy workers on assembly lines, packaging cigarettes at high speed), birth and death (what must be the first live birth – you actually see the baby emerging from a shot directly pointed at the mother’s vagina and at the same level), accidents, street life….

But the machines – sliding metal, spraying oil, shafting, rolling, clanking (I assume; silent film) punching, squirting steam.

Placards and statues of Lenin and Marx pop up, but none of Stalin – 1929 too early.  One or two happy tramps and bench sleepers, but mostly well-fed, well-dressed, happy workers, full shops, teeming streets, smiles, laughter….   The technical tricks – slomo, speedup, Dutch leans, split-screen, tracking shots; Vertov’s group were anti – fiction in film, pro-documentary.  The credits announce a film without narrative, but of course, the modernist bent creates its own narrative within the big one of birth, life, death Soviet – style.

Greatest Artists Ever

So the Guardian announced last week, as the headline to a choice of, not artists but  pictures, selected  by various luminaries; Amanda Levete, an architect, chose a Zurbaran still life. showing lemons, a jug, and a cup and plate, looming out of the darkness.  A surprise to me, after his saints and cowled monks.

Charles Saumarez – Smith and Isaac Julien, while making radically different choices (CSS picked “paintings of the Italian Renaissance”, which is cheating, Julien picked Cindy Sherman), both cited transcendance of time and genre as their main criterion.

And Blackpaint’s choice, the reader asks?  Changes from week to week, of course, but I think de Kooning’s “Palisades” – or maybe Lanyon’s “Headwind”, that I’ve just come across…

Headwind, Peter Lanyon

Yes, I know, Lanyon v. de Kooning.. but it’s magnificent, isn’t it?

Cezanne again

“Cezanne’s aim in segregating the sexes in the Bathers series was to exclude any … element of the transient, sexual or erotic”, says Ulrike Becks-Malorney in the Taschen.  She writes that “his strong feeling of shame, his sexual inhibitions and fears, and his shyness about showing naked men and women together in what he regarded as trivial, sensual poses.”

This is puzzling to me, since in the previous sentence, she refers to the pictures of 1860’s and 70’s in which he “used the confrontation between the sexes in a provocative way.”  Presumably, she is referring to “the Orgy”, 1864 – 8 (or circa 1870, as Catherine Dean has it, in the Phaidon book on Cezanne), “the Temptation of St. Anthony”, 1870 and “A Modern Olympia” 1873 – 75.  Check them out; hard to reconcile with sense of shame or sexual inhibition.

Also, there is this odd sentence, referring to a figure with arms behind his head in a male Bathers of 1900: “It is a gesture of opening oneself up and offering oneself – in this particular case, it is presenting an erection to the seated figure in the bottom left-hand corner”.  And, yes, she’s right, for sure.  what a strange old bugger Cezanne must have been.

Painters who took ages, and did drafts, even though it looks as if they knocked their pictures out in minutes…

Franz Kline.  This sounds critical, but I don’t mean it to be – I find some of his work staggering.  Just found some of his coloured ones, with the reds and greens – fantastic.  Google him and see.

Next time, Richter and Tacita Dean at Tate Modern.

Blackpaint

17.10.11

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