Posts Tagged ‘Dix’

Blackpaint 625 Murder, Sex, Suicide and Some Lovely Cornish Scenery

August 15, 2018

Magic Realism, Tate Modern

This is an excellent exhibition. free for a start, and always interesting, though the art is not all to my taste.  The term Magic Realism has come to be associated primarily with Latin American writing and implies a sort of teeming, intensified, intoxicated hyper-realism, spilling over into surrealism at times and then reeling back.  It is characterised by exaggeration, violence, a sort of profusion or excess that goes well with jungles, dictators, extremes of every kind – think Jodorowsky as well as Marquez.  The term was coined apparently back in 20s Germany, however.

Well, it’s all here: sex murders, suicides, hanging women, prostitution, garish, lurid colours, reds, sulphurous yellows, acid greens, paint like shining varnish.  The circus is a big thing, as are nightclubs, cabarets… seems to me there is something of a spillage into the stuff of “Aftermath”.  Grosz is well represented, with his scathing, precise caricatures – he’s very hard on prostitutes, it seems to me; he treats them not as victims (unless it’s a “Lustmorder”), but as predators and exploiters of the poor.  Dix also has plenty of drawings:  ringmistresses with whips, circus cowboys and Indians tearing round on horseback.

A selection of the pictures below:

 

Albert Birkle, The Acrobat Schulz (1921)

A terrific portrait – reminds me somewhat of Wyndham-Lewis, “The Tyro” maybe, BUT-

 

Albert Birkle

-the same artist was responsible for this monstrosity of a crucifixion.

 

George Grosz, Suicide Street with Dog 

 

Rudolf Schlichter, Woman in Red Scarf

One of several excellent portraits, the best, I think.  These artists seem to favour a confrontational representation, the subject staring straight out at the viewer.

 

Max Beckmann, Woman with Fan

 

Didn’t get this artist’s name but the colours and texture are typical.

 

Lovis Corinth

This Corinth is completely different in style and execution and feel from everything else there.  By the way, that is a white tee shirt and rucksack in the foreground, not a woman in Handmaid’s Tale dress..

Mark Gatiss on John Minton: The Lost Man of Art (BBC4)

A brilliant programme on Minton, painter and illustrator of the 40s and 50s, who killed himself in 1957.  Gatiss feels that his stature was never properly recognised, partly because he was branded “illustrator” (that is, not a proper artist):  he did lots of book covers, famously Elizabeth David’s Mediterranean cookbook.  Also, like many others, he was left behind when Abstract Expressionism arrived.  His students, for example, Robyn Denny, attacked him for his inability to embrace abstraction, “action”, gesturalism, whatever you choose to call it.  Then, there was the heavy drinking (par for the course in the London art world of the time) and the homosexuality, illegal and physically dangerous in post WW2 Britain.

I was struck by how similar his more stylised representation of human figures was to other painters on the scene: Colquhoun and MacBryde, for instance, and early Prunella Clough. all friends of his.  Like Kitaj and Hockney a little later, he was also capable, however, of a naturalistic precision in his portraits, like the one of Nevill Wallace below – looks a bit like a Degas to me.  The others I show were, I think, from his Cornish sojourn and resemble in some degree Sutherland, Piper and maybe Lanyon.

 

 

 

 

 

Ghost Geese Fly West

Blackpaint

August 2018

 

 

 

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Blackpaint 368 – Dancing with Death, Small Talk at Parties

November 22, 2012

Death at the Wellcome Centre

Yes, “Death” is the title of the exhibition.  It’s the collection of one man, Richard Harris, and it’s astonishing that he can live with all this stuff; I managed about half an hour before depression drove me outside into the rain.

Not that the exhibits themselves are depressing – many are amusing, some beautiful and all are interesting.  It’s what isn’t there that’s a downer, since you can’t get it out of your mind (I can’t anyway).

So, what is there?  As may be expected, skulls are omnipresent, Dances of (and with) Death, Deaths and Maidens, Death (i.e. skeletons) playing the fiddle.  Dancing skeletons seem to have penetrated all cultures – excellent Japanese and sub-continental examples here; simple but somehow beautiful death dolls from C19th USA.  A fantastic sort of diorama from Argentina, including miniature novels, corpses, monks, towns and villages, made in 2011 but looking archaic, if it wasn’t for the modern dustjackets on the little books…  It was only when I looked back from across the room that I saw the whole thing was in the shape of a skull.

There are 50 small etchings or prints made by Otto Dix, showing the horrors of the trenches and inevitably, some Goya etchings with his own atrocities.  A set of playing card-sized depictions of military life by Callot, I think; rapes, murders, executions all depicted.

The centrepiece is a horrible wax sculpture by John Isaacs, entitled “Are You Still Angry with Me?”; a corpse is sitting on a crate, partially flayed, great sections of flesh removed from the long bones, as if butchered for an anatomy lesson, perhaps, or, in line with the title, a victim of shellfire or bombing.

All the worms, bones and dancing skeletons, however, depict a sort of life-in-death; what’s missing is that suggested by the work of Rothko, or Ryman, or Malevich; oblivion, nothingness.  I know that’s not what Malevich intended in his black canvases, or Ryman with his white ones; that’s what they suggest to me, though – sometimes.  Best done in poetry, Larkin’s “Aubade”; “Not to be here, Not to be anywhere, And soon; Nothing so terrible, nothing so true.”

Barbaric Genius, Sky Arts

Film on last week by Paul Duane about John Healy, the author of “The Grass Arena”, about his life as a drinker, rough sleeper, criminal, writer, chess master, yoga adept; a brilliant book, episodic, filmic – it’s been filmed, starring Mark Rylance – and a Penguin Modern Classic, despite Faber, his original publishers, having junked it, following a confrontation with Healy a decade ago.  I was introduced to him at a party some time ago, the only author of a Penguin Modern Classic I’m likely ever to meet; we talked about how much he liked cheese.

A Bigger Splash

The Tate Modern has  a show about action painting that I visited briefly last week; it’s very big and packed with info.  Unfortunately, the whole point of action painting is the action, so without it, you have only the remnants and the photographs, and sometimes the commentaries.  Nevertheless, it looked really interesting, if not visually stunning and I’m looking forward to going again.  Felt unwell halfway round, not the result of the Austrian Actionist photos, and had to cut it short.  What I do remember was the photos of the Yves Klein event in Paris at which a number of stunning naked models rolled in blue paint and left impressions of their bodies on great sheets of paper – all before a seated audience of bourgeoisie in evening dress.  Klein himself in dinner jacket and black tie, being the master of ceremonies.

More on this next time.

 

My Kitchen at Home

Blackpaint

22/11/12

Blackpaint 276

May 26, 2011

Jonathan Jones’ review of Mark Leckey at the Serpentine Gallery

I haven’t yet seen the show, but Jones’ review in Tuesday’s Guardian has to be the most damning I have ever read:  I have to recommend it for the degree of vehemence contained – it’s an artwork in itself.  Several reader comments on Jones’ review assumed it was some sort of post-modern satire (he denies this and asserts it’s a genuine opinion).  A few extracts: the headline refers to “farting about with speakers and screens”; “…how terrible an exhibition I had stumbled into”; “The installation GreenScreenRefrigeratorAction with its bonkers talking gadgets…. is one of the worst works of art I have ever seen in a serious gallery”;  “Nothing prepares you for the stupidity and arrogance of the central exhibit…” – and so on.  Read the review on the Guardian website to feel the heat.

What makes this really intriguing is the review posted under Jones’ name for the 2008 Turner Prize, later won – by Leckey.  Here are some extracts:  “This year I care (about the Turner Prize) because Mark Leckey is on the shortlist..”; “Mark Leckey is a fantastically creative example..”; “I find this artist irresistible..’; and he refers to Leckey’s art as “captivating, mysterious, soulful and provocative.”

I checked and, yes, it’s under Jones’ name on the site, dated 13th May 2008.  So what’s happened – has Leckey deteriorated, or has Jones had a Road to Damascus?  The degree of hostility in the recent review suggests the latter.

Violence in Painting (2)

Wrote about this recently in relation to the Caravaggio Abraham and Isaac in the Uffizi.  I was going to do more on pre-20th century paintings of violence – then I realised the scale of the job! Consider the following:

Goya’s horrors of war, Saturn scoffing his young, the witches, the cudgel fighting, the firing squad;

Various Massacres of the Innocents (Rubens comes particularly to mind);

Crucifixions and scourgings of Christ (Grunewald for instance);

Beheadings, sawings, grillings, stonings, skinnings, piercings by arrow of numerous saints – Catherine, John the Baptist, George, Ursula with her Virgins – 11.000 was it?  Agatha with her breasts on a plate…  that  saint having his thin intestine wound out round a tree.

And none of this is shocking to see; we look at it with perfect equanimity in the National Gallery et al, with maybe a wince at the idea of poor Agatha, say.  So what about the 20th and 21st centuries?

Beckman’s Night;

Grosz’s scenes of murder and suicide in Berlin;

Dix’s mutilated Card Players and corpses in the trenches;

The War artists’ pictures of the two World Wars;

Warhol’s car crashes and fallers;

Marlene Dumas’ Dead Marilyn.

Again, none of these are shocking to us, except perhaps the Warhols, because they are prints of actual photographs.  Bacon’s paintings are still more “violent” and shocking than these actual depictions.

The same can perhaps be said of cinema.  How many genuinely shocking instances of violence in recent TV or cinema?  Very few, since Reservoir Dogs started the intensification process in cinema and CSI followed suit on the small screen; we (or at least, I) have become unshockable – nearly.  So in cinema, this is my short list of shocking moments:

Antichrist, the self mutilation of the Charlotte Gainsbourg character;

The Pianist. Again, self harm, this time Isabelle Huppert:

The Orphanage, when the car hits and kills the old woman;

Salo, the scalpings and blindings at the end – but like St.Agatha, this is more the idea than what is actually seen;

Man Bites Dog, the rape and murder scene;

As for TV, I can only think of the John Lithgow killings on Dexter, which I think really pushed the limits.

The knowledge of reality is all – genuinely shocking and distressing, and destined to remain so, is the footage of people falling on 9/11 and the few seconds of the einsatzgruppen in action and the Kovno murders.

So – that’s enough of this unsavoury topic; didn’t set out to dwell so much, but things kept popping up in my head (worrying, in itself, really).  Next blog on still life and flower painting.

Blackpaint

26.05.11