Posts Tagged ‘Franz Kline’

Blackpaint 570 – AbExes at the RA and the Thin Man in the City

September 30, 2016

Abstract Expressionism at the RA

Fantastic, of course; the best show in London since the RA’s Diebenkorn, which was not that long ago (OK, Auerbach at Tate Britain was also great, but I think the Diebenkorn had the edge, with the three distinct styles/periods/modes, whatever you wish to call them).  Back to AbExes – I went on Saturday when it opened; queued for only 10 minutes and for once, it wasn’t throgged with immovable punters, walkie-talkies clapped to their ears, so you could see some of the paintings.. and sculptures, mustn’t forget David Smith and a few Barnett Newmans.

I’ll be going again and again, for sure, so this is nowhere near exhaustive:

  • The Guston and Mitchell paintings made Frankenthaler’s “Europa” look rather dowdy, on the far right of the wall.

guston-prague

Guston, Prague

  • The stunning Mitchell “Salut Tom”; four huge panels of white, blue and yellow, Monet of course and a little bit Cy Twombly, those panels of the seasons that were in the Tate Modern a while back.

salut-tom

  • When you look through the archway at the two small pink, green and yellow de Koonings, they look like Toulouse Lautrecs.
  • The Clyfford Stills, most of them, are great on their own but as Laura Cummings says in the Observer, putting them all in one room next to each other, they tend to drain the others’ glory.

still

 

  • This is NOT the case with the de Koonings, however, before which you can only – well, I can only stand in awe.  Sorry, hyperbole creeping in – I could do lots of things, ONE of them being to stand in awe.  A couple of fantastic Women, “Whose name was writ on water”, “Villa Borghese” with its green sweeps, the yellow and grey one with its yellow sweeps, that juicy red one, the collage with the tin tacks…  He’s the guv’nor, no question.

dk-water

de Kooning  – Whose name Was Writ on Water

  • Pollock’s not bad either.  I’m quite familiar with Pollock’s work, so the one enjoyed most was the 1943 “Mural” with the repeated green figures.

pollock-mural

Pollock, Mural

  • Can’t get on with Barnett Newman, sorry to say; I don’t like that liverish red/brown he uses, or the orange zips.
  • Rothko – an unusual, scrapy, scrappy blue and yellow panel on paper.
  • Lovely, punchy B&W Klines and an unusual wobbly one.

kline

Franz Kline – Zinc Door

  • Ad Reinhardt, pursuing his obsessions to their black ends – one of his, with spidery lines and figures, just like a Constant.
  • Guston’s paint, especially on the cartoon one (yes I know, but they DO look like cartoons) is greasy, dobby and looks moist.
  • And then there’s Jack Tworkov, with the diagonal slashes of colour.

Enough for now.  I’ve been reading “Anti-Matter” by Ben Jeffries, an extended essay about Houellebecq and “Depressive Realism” in which there is a discussion of Faking It – the idea that all works of art are “fake”, even when they are avowedly realist.  I think that’s right in a sense, and particularly right for the AbExes; once you are putting paint on a support, brushing, dripping, blading, flicking, you are faking it, unless it’s a real action picture and even then, you choose the paint, so there is a gap.  Rothko is not in some transcendant state when he paints, at least not most of the time; he’s thinking how to portray his feelings/revelations – the ones he’s already had, that is.  He’s faking it.

Doesn’t matter – they’re fantastic anyway, faking it or not.

Metropolis, dir. Fritz Lang (1927) 

metropolis

I’ve been watching the print found in Buenos Aires, and shown on BBC, in 30 minute chunks – I have a short attention span.  Once you get past the hero’s make-up, curly hair and jodphurs, it’s full of influence: so far, I’ve got montage scenes recalling Grosz; Rotwang the inventor’s false hand in leather glove (Dr.Strangelove);  Frankenstein, of course; the downtrodden, Zombie-like workers have offspring in the Wizard of Oz, Popeye cartoons and  – zombie films; all films with an underground or hi-tec citadel – Indiana Jones, James Bond films, Wallis and Gromit..  No doubt, there will be many more.  And it has another memorable villain to add to the gallery: Fritz Rasp as the “Thin Man”.

rasp

Fritz Rasp – watch the film, you’ll laugh – but he’ll come to you in your dreams….

islares-2

Islares under Cloud

Blackpaint

30.09.16

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Blackpaint 424 – Lanyon Sketches, Guston, Borgen and Sharks

December 6, 2013

Lanyon Sketches at Gimpel Fils

A fantastic exhibition for Lanyon fans at the above gallery in Davies Street W1, off Oxford Street by Bond Street tube.  There are sketches for the murals at Birmingham and Liverpool Universities and some other studies, all in gouache on thick paper, sometimes several layers.

lanyon4

This is the sketch for the Liverpool work, titled, rather portentously, “The Conflict of Man with Tides and Sands”, done over eight panels of paper; the washed-out colours, white, slate grey shading to blue, ochre, are typical of Lanyon, as is the drawing in heavy black line and sometimes wispy sketchiness, as if done with a nearly dry brush twirled against the surface.

In the Birmingham sketch, Lanyon uses much brighter colours, salmon pink, a bright, almost leaf green, a more vivid blue, a richer ochre; no title for this one.

lanyon5

Those black markings look like calligraphy, like Kline a bit – or maybe mathematical symbols; not sure which faculty the mural was for.  One other example – this one’s called “Yellow Middle”, but it looks like a plough to me.

lanyon2

Morton Feldman, “Give My Regards to Eighth Street”

A very abstruse collection of writings by the avant-garde composer, in which he frequently draws comparisons between music and painting, with particular regard to his favourite trio, Mondrian, Rothko and Guston.  In each little segment, there is maybe one paragraph that I understand.  here he is on finishing a painting:  “Guston tells us he does not finish a painting, but “abandons it”.  At what point does he abandon it?   Is it perhaps the moment when it might become a “painting”?  After all, it’s not a “painting” that the artist really wanted…..Completion is not in tying things up, not in “giving one’s feelings” or “telling a truth”.  Completion is simply the perennial death of the artist.  Isn’t any masterpiece a death scene?  Isn’t that why we want to remember it, because the artist is looking back on something when it’s too late, when it’s all over, when we see it finally, as something we have lost?”  I think he (Feldman) is on to something, but I’m not sure I understand it fully…

guston

Guston, in abstract mode.

Borgen

I thought the episode about criminalising prostitutes’ clients in Denmark and the conflation of prostitution and trafficking was particularly good.  I was astounded to read that Hollande’s government is bringing in similar legislation.  On the characters, I like the way that Birgitte is becoming colder, harder, more pragmatic.  The only way, really, since her new party doesn’t seem to have any policies of its own; on the other hand, it’s not real, is it?

Gravity

When she splashed down, and sank, and then emerged from the capsule and began fighting her way to the surface, did you also think “Shark!” followed closely by, “No, surely they wouldn’t…?”

??????????

In Progress

Blackpaint

6.12.13

Blackpaint 387 – The Theory of Validating Crapness

March 28, 2013

Jeremy Gardiner at Kings Place

This was one of those few exhibitions where you are actually excited to see the first few pictures from the floor below – or was it above?  I can never remember with Kings Place and its multi-levels – and you want to hurry to see the rest.  My first thought was how much they look like Schwitters collages from a bit of a distance; then I saw one, framed by the doorway to the large room, which had an obvious affinity to Peter Lanyon – swirls, greys, cold, clean blue – then, inside the room, four or five larger pictures that were stylised views over a bay and clearly recalled Ben Nicholson.

Many of the paintings are acrylic on birchwood, built up with plaques of jesmonite, giving a sort of rough marquetry effect.  They appear to be abstract at first, suggesting coastline, cloud, aerial landscape, rock; then you notice that they contain actual features of landscape, although not necessarily “correctly” placed – another resemblance to Lanyon, many of whose works are not really abstract at all.  The colours certainly resemble Lanyon, and John Tunnard as well.  The only reference which I didn’t get was to Diebenkorn – maybe in the aerial landscape thing, but not in appearance.

In addition to the paintings – one of which contains a moulding of an ammonite, maybe there are more – there are the monoprints.  These are mostly long, textured banners of heavy duty watercolour paper, printed with pictures of fossils, microscopic organisms, tracts of what look like contour lines of coast and hill… for some reason, they reminded me (incongruously) of prints by Sigmar Polke.

We stuck around for the tour and talk; Gardiner gave us a softly-spoken geology lesson and a” journey through geological time and space” from the Jurassic Coast of Devon to tin mines in Cornwall (the Levant Mine of Lanyon’s famous picture) and the coast of Brazil.  Proust got a mention; the white-haired audience of retired teachers nodded and smiled.  Then, we also retired, to egg, sausage and chips in the Turkish cafe up the road, in the company of mud-spattered building workers in high-vis jackets, from the huge site opposite.

Blackpaint’s Theory of Validating Crapness

Over the last three years of blogging, I have developed and promoted a number of original theories and observations:  they include “Michelangelo Didn’t do Trees”;  Blackpaint’s Theory of Spurious Plausibility; Shakespeare was Michelangelo Re-incarnated; and “The Taylor-Vincent Ad: Mistakes take on a Life of Their Own”.  Here is a new one, born when I rang my partner, urging her to look up Gardiner on Google and see the brilliant paintings.

She was less than overwhelmed – partly because I was so enthusiastic, but also because (she felt) they were too attractive, too formulaic, too saleable… briefly, not crap enough.  To be sure, Gardiner’s online images are disappointing, compared to the real thing; I still think he’s great; but the “not crap enough” idea inspired me to formulate the above.

The “Validating Crapness” is that element which prevents the picture being too perfect, too trite.  It may, for instance, be smudges, dribbles, finger marks, a scratch, an incongruous patch of colour (NOT the old Turner red spot, like the one on the picture in the doorway mentioned above); it may be a wobbly line, or anything that undermines perfection.  I realise this is very close to the old “beauty must have a flaw” thing- I’m going further.  My theory demands a real element of crap, a small pustule rather than a dimple.  In future blogs, I shall be identifying the VC in famous paintings, both modern works and Old Masters; watch this space.

Lightfields and The Sopranos

The first of these two programmes, a ghost story in which the action takes place at three different times in turns (1940s, 1975, present day) was on ITV1 and was a serial over five(?) weekly episodes; the acting was mostly good, the story was mildly absorbing – but then, as it finished, I realised I’d been watching children’s telly – anodyne, pretty, cliched, ridiculous.  Midwives, Downton, Selfridge, Mayday (apart from Leslie Manville, of course) – where’s all the offensive stuff gone from the mainstream channels?,

Then, the Sopranos, the one with Tony’s food poisoning, the talking fish, the fur coat and Big Pussy’s murder on the boat – funny, violent, sexy,  tragic, with an ironic distance maintained throughout – although that’s probably a contradiction.

Tate at Yourpaintings

Latest recommendations from above:

Ben Nicholson, “June 1937” (1937);

Keith Vaughan, “Leaping Figure” (1951);

Franz Kline, “Meryon”, (1960-61); my erstwhile favourite painting, I used to call it the Bridge;

franz kline

And Jankel Adler, “No Man’s Land”, 1943.

And here’s my one, called “Carbonara”.  Certainly one or two VC elements on show;

??????????

Blackpaint

28.03.13

Blackpaint 375 – Sexual Politics and the Ozenfant Coincidence

January 7, 2013

Out of sync. this week, because of the annual review, so will do a short one today and another on Thursday to get back on track.

Contre Toi

DVD of French film featuring Kristin Scott Thomas as a doctor, abducted by a young man whose wife died following childbirth attended by KST.  She is held captive in a bricked up cellar room and treated brutally – knife at throat, denied water, pushed around and eventually punched in the eye, after he tries to force her to masturbate him (he soon desists).  Naturally – it’s a French film – she soon starts to feel affection for him; he’s lonely, like her, and of course, there’s Stockholm Syndrome…

She escapes, turns the tables on him, takes him to bed wearing a very fetching slip – her, not him – so the sex we have been expecting is the inevitable pay off.  But she then turns him in.  So, interesting sexual politics; abducted, threatened, assaulted – of course, she has to fall for him.  But it’s OK, because she got free and CHOSE (sort of) to do it – and she gets him put away.  It’s written and directed by a woman, Lola Doillon.

The Ozenfant Co-incidence

I got Alasdair Gray’s Lanark for Christmas; I’d just got to the bit where Lanark meets Dr. Ozenfant when I stopped reading for the day.  Minutes later, I was reading Jane Rye’s great book on Adrian Heath and happened to see, in the notes, a reference to “Apres le cubisme” by Amedee Ozenfant and someone else.  What are the chances? Coincidence, you say;  I wonder…  then again, Gray is an artist and might well have studied or come across the book…

This is only one example of mysterious cosmic forces that I have noted – see previous Blackpaints on “The Taylor Vincent Ad”, Blackpaint’s Law of Spurious Plausibility and my convincing argument that Shakespeare was the reincarnation of Michelangelo.

Adrian Heath

Before leaving the Heath book, I was intrigued to see that, whilst teaching at Cosham, he used an exercise in which he developed a sort of abstracted landscape out of a figure drawing.  It’s a pretty common exercise apparently, and I only mention it because I find that I’ve done more or less the same thing in most of my last dozen or so paintings – maybe even more.  He does it better though.

Commenting on Heath’s practice of making preparatory drawings or sketches for his paintings, Rye writes,”This practice was certainly at odds with the ideas of the American expressionists who regarded preliminary drawing as a decadent practice incompatible with true spontaneity” (p.141).  Well,  yes, you would have thought so – but Franz Kline and de Kooning both used sketches and indeed, DK imported whole images from previous paintings.  They LOOK spontaneous though…

OK, stopping now; more on Thursday.

002

 

 

004

 

Blackpaint

7.1.13

Blackpaint 299

October 17, 2011

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

Blackpaint 279

June 11, 2011

Franz Kline

Time, surely, for a Taschen book on Kline; I’ve just come across a painting by him called “Gay Street Rooftops” dated 1941.  Good, but pretty conventional cityscape stuff.  I’d like to know how he got from that to those black and white structures (Chinese letters, some compare them to) for which he is known.

Riopolle

“Vol de Chute” from 1961, a fantastic, Appel-like painting, lozenge shapes of colour with that spidery black scoring outlining them in bands, like barbed wire; blue, yellow, orange, white, green , grey…  it’s all there.

Pollock

“Grey Center”, (I know, but it’s an American picture) 1946, one of the Accabonac Creek series; lots of leggy, angular shapes – maybe more like  knees and elbows, I thought at first by Lee Krasner, rather than Pollock;  it’s in white, grey, pink and ochre – de Kooning colours.  Still appears to have vestiges of the figures he used to put at either side of his paintings; “Pasiphae”, for instance (name of the painting was supplied by his dealer, Pollock not being familiar with Ovid at the time).

Fra Angelico

A while back, writing about violence in paintings, I mentioned Caravaggio’s Abraham and  Isaac, saying that C ‘s painting showed a brutal realism. It is exemplified  in the way Abraham grasps the boy’s face and throat in preparation for the killing stroke with the knife.  Of all artists, Fra Angelico matches this in his “Massacre of the Innocents” (San Marco, Florence).  The soldier on the far right grasps a woman’s throat while thiusting the dagger into her baby’s throat; she is holding the blade, trying to push it away.  Expressions of grief and horror, and violence all around.

This contrasts strongly with Piero della Francesca, who was being discussed, I think by Tim Marlow on TV the other night.  The painting in question was a battle scene but it appeared to me to be absolutely static – something in the way Piero paints seems to drain all movement from his paintings.  And the faces appear expressionless; they don’t engage with the other figures, but usually stare out from the canvas.  I think they look like figures in surrealist paintings, say Delvaux or de Chirico.

Le Quattro Volte

Film by Michelangelo Frammartino.  A sort of seasonal portrait of an Italian mountain village, almost silent – the camera views from a distance much of the time.  It has the Brughel snow scene (cf. Tarkovsky’s “Mirror”); close-ups of wood surfaces, like a tree trunk with lichen and scrambling ants, drifting smoke, a spectacular sky – and lots of goats – those amazing rectangular retinal slots in their eyes.  It seems as if nothing much happens, but it does: a goatherd looks after his flock, coughs, and dies eventually-  we accompany him into the catacomb and hear the door shut on us.  There is a crucifixion festival, a tree felling and climbing festival, and eventually – second time I’ve said that, must say something about the film – we find out what they’re making and why all the smoke.

It skirts sentimentality – the little lost goat, the doughty dog, life and death, life goes on, the men  shake hands with each other  before doing business….  I suppose all films are romantic in one sense, though, as soon as you frame a scene and a narrative emerges.  What about Chien Andalou and l’Age d’Or?  Probably they’re romantic too – have to think about that one.

Blackpaint

Saturday

Blackpaint 196

September 21, 2010

Pushed fortime today, but I’ve been in the Tate Modern again, to see the “Chromatic Constructs” or whatever they are called.  Thought it was new, but realised when I got there it was Mary Martin etc., seen it before.  So.. to visit Jorn, Pollock and friends again.

Judit Riegl

“Guano”.  Canvas placed on floor underneath other paintings in progress – creating ripples on surface, which she painted over to create a slate-like consistency.  looks like a lithograph.  Took her 7 years.

Jorn

Looks dirty and dull close up, but clean and vivid from across room, cf. Appel at St.Ives and so many others.

Pollock

Jazz dance?  Seemed dead and trite, like 50’s wallpaper.  I think it’s those dodgy, Disney style black dancers, disguised as loops along the canvas.

Kline

Always powerful.  I don’t what he called it or said what it was, or was not – it’s always a bridge to me, black iron over misty white marshes.

Joan Mitchell 

The one on show in the Tate is quite an early one, relatively restrained, but its beautifully constructed and complex, even if her fantastic colour sense is reined in.

Viera de Silva

Not a good one; too tame and tricksy, not enough wild surface.

Some new books – new to me, anyway.  A beautiful Cecily Brown, weighing in at £40.00; full of de Kooning -like colours and brushwork, barely concealing obscene goings -on – and many with no concealment at all.

There is a Fiona Rae, £28.00 I believe, in which her palette appears to have become much brighter, rather like Ofili.

Finally, a Hans Hoffman with a whole lot of rather unpleasant green pictures, from around 1960 – it just shows that even a painter of his brilliance can turn out some dull stuff. 

Painting

I’ve started to mix a bit of white spirit in with the oil now and then, so that I can get areas of relatively uniform staining onto the canvas; now, not everything has to be slabbed on in thick oil slicks and then dragged into smooth, shiny tiles of paint, usually with white glimmering through in patches – still like that effect, though now there is some textural contrast.  I realise that all this is elementary, but it’s still new to me.

And so, it begins..

David Mitchell, as Cyrano de Bergerac, said this to camera in a Mitchell and Webb sketch the other week and it popped up last night in “The Year of Living Dangerously”; is this its original source?

 

Spider’s song by Blackpaint

Listening to “North to Alaska”, Dwight Yoakam out of Johnnie Horton;

“Where the river is winding, big nuggets they’re finding,

North! To Alaska,

We’re going north, the rush is on!”

Blackpaint 190

September 9, 2010

Michelangelo’s Method

Should have checked out Wikipedia before I wrote yesterday’s blog; I was quite wrong, as usual.  He didn’t use cartoons and pricking – he did paint directly onto the wet plaster, with no previously prepared markers.  Sometimes he worked from a small drawing divided into a grid.  Incredible, isn’t it? 

Corneille

His obituary in the Guardian today.  When CoBrA exhibited in Amsterdam in 1948, there were fist fights at poetry readings during the exhibition.  That’s what art should provoke; punters should want to punch the artist for having the effrontery to show such offensive rubbish;  these days, the only reactions are from religious fanatics.. oh, and those who didn’t like the Myra Hindley hands portrait and those who thought photos of unclothed children encouraged paedophiles.. so, yes, people are still prepared  to be provoked – but by the content, rather than the style.

I would welcome a riot at my next private view; pity I can’t afford to pay people to be offended by my paintings.  I bet some artists have done that in the past…

Alphabetical Art Books

I love the way you sometimes get great juxtapositions in these books, purely by alphabetical arrangement.  I’m looking at the Phaidon Art Book now, and I have Leon Kossoff on one page with “Christchurch No.1”, and on the facing page, Peter Kroyer’s  “Summer Evening on the Southern Beach”.  The Kossoff, from 1991, is distorted, crudely painted in his usual dull and dirty palette – “a sort of churned-up, mud-like morass”.  It “deliberately avoids the picturesque”.  It positively seethes with movement.

The Kroyer, from nearly 100 years earlier, is a blue-grey beach stretching into a misty distance towards a headland, with two women in beautiful white dresses progressing slowly along the sea’s edge.  It exudes tranquility,  perhaps melancholy; it positively doesn’t seethe with movement.  What a fantastic contrast of scene, technique, purpose, mood, conception, just about everything – and that fortuitous 100 year gap.  Could make a good art history lesson…

A few pages earlier, Klimt’s “Kiss” faces off Kline and the Kline black square and bar echo the black rectangles in the cloak of Klimt’s man beautifully.  You could go on forever – Turner’s whirling sea “Snowstorm” against Twombly’s “Bolsena”, for example.  Maybe the editors pick the paintings to go with each other.  Anyway, trivial I know, but one can’t concentrate on important things ALL the time.

RIP Corneille – and Anton Geesink, the judo giant who was the first European to take a judo world championship title from the Japanese, in 1964.

Walcheren by Blackpaint

Blackpaint 174

August 13, 2010

Frank Lloyd Wright

Documentary on the above on TV- I was amused by the fact that he was traditionalist as far as painting was concerned; he couldn’t make out the work of the Abstract Expresionists at all.  This in itself not funny, I grant you; but the Ab Exes such as de Kooning and Franz Kline vehemently opposed to his design for the Guggenheim in NY (the famous white spiral); they didn’t think it would show off their works properly.  Nice case of the traditionalist attacked by the avant garde for being too innovative.

I’d never heard the story of the murder of Mamah Borthwick and her kids at “Taliesin” in Wisconsin.  Mamah, for whom Wright left his wife and children and set up home in Taliesin, was axed to death with six others by a cook, Julian Carlton, who’d been dismissed.  He cooked their dinner, then poured petrol all round the house, set fire to it and chopped them down as they emerged.  Wright was in Chicago at the time.  So, Wisconsin Death Trip yet again.  To think I spent a couple of nights camping out in that state some years ago…

Wright rebuilt “Taliesin” on the same spot; you’d have thought he’d never want to see the place again.

I was intrigued at the difference between, say, the Guggengeim and his prairie houses and their furnishings; the latter had touches that reminded me of William Morris, those high-backed chairs, for instance.  And the low ceilings, to emphasise the horizontal distances within; I got the impression that the buildings came first, people later.  Unusual that, for an architect.

Guggenheim Bilbao 3 

The huge paintings room

My name for it, obviously.  Huge canvases by “post Ab Exes” (my term too, as far as I know).  It seems to me that the artists on display have only that in common.  Twombly first; “Nine Discourses on Commodus”.  Nine portrait panels in grey, with pink, white and yellow splotches and squirts, writing-like marks, sometimes drips and dribbles and at least one faint, sketchy grid.

Warhol – Marilyns on black, in greens, mauves, yellow too, I think.  150 Marilyns, if you count the top row of half Marilyns.

Yves Klein – huge, blue smash on canvas, done in dry pigment and resin, presumably to stick the pigment on – how was it applied? Naked women’s bodies, perhaps, although no tell-tale signs…

James Rosenquist – Raspberry, yellow and metallic silver-grey airbrush – a metal paint tube, possibly, or maybe toothpaste, with US flag stars.  Vast of course.

Robert Rauschenberg – my favourite painting in the building.  Black, white and grey, photographic transfers, painted on here and there.  The whole thing could have made 4,5 or 6 separate works.  It’s called “Barge”, for no obvious reason – maybe there’s one in it I missed.  From left to right, top to bottom: a screen,  a sketched box, several mosquitoes, an open-plan building, clouds, waterfall, umbrella, American footballers, black water cloud, shower, milky spurts, swimmers, space capsule, army vehicles, Velasquez’ Venus, a “spaghetti” road system top shot, prairie water towers, a parabolic structure, black shower, workers fuelling space craft, drawn box…. and so on.  Look it up on Google.

One more to come from Guggenheim – Rauschenberg’s Gluts, tomorrow.

Should have a new painting by tomorrow – here’s another old one.

Listening to Charlie Jordan’s Hunkie Tunkie Blues.

“Love you, woman, love your husband too;

Got to love your husband to get next to you.”

Blackpaint

13.08.10

Blackpaint 168

July 18, 2010

Turtle Burners’ Portrait Prize at the NPG

Managed to get up to this today.  All portraits very competent and, no doubt, accurate – but only one had that thing of grabbing your eye; cynosure is the word, I think.  This one was by Diarmuid Kelley and was titled “What a Terrific Party”, or something similar (didn’t have a pen on me).  It was of a British Army officer in dress uniform, seated on a cot in pensive (or possibly drunken) mode.  It was painted with those flat, short brush strokes and strong contrast of light and dark and reminded me of someone like Orpen.  The background was ochre, I think, and grey or black and was abstracted to a degree.  The only one where the surface of the paint drew me. 

The other painting I liked was the one based on Rembrandt’s Dr. Tulp, by Henry Ward.  It was huge, and showed a group of six or seven besuited dignitaries surrounding a patient on the operating table, whose kidney has just been removed by the “Finger Method” (!  Is this a joke?)  They look like a group of ghouls or vampires.  the reference is clearly to those pictures where loads of VIPs were painted at some conference or meeting, with their faces turned unnaturally toward the viewer.  They leer satanically out at you – I presume that was the painter’s intention.

I have decided to celebrate the success of BP’s timely and efficient operation to stop the leak by returning to oils.  I’d forgotten, however, that the bloody stuff never dries, so have already managed to ruin a pair of jeans.  Oils are much better than acrylics though, somehow – they glow more and they’re more slippery and unctious, which is just another way of saying they’re…oilier.

Jean Miotte

Miotte is today’s recommendation.  born 1926 and still with us, he does wild gestural stuff often “built” around black, spidery knots of paint with vivid colours.  Check out “Deliverance” 1960 in Taschen’s Art of the 20th Century (very Franz Kline-ish), and Google him – well worth it.

Brixton Urban Art

Been sitting in the gutter opposite my paintings all day in Josephine Avenue, getting sunburnt and watching the crowds from the Lambeth Country Show go by.  Not a great deal of action down my end, I’m sorry to say – but you get your stuff seen, which is half the battle.

Black Fork on White by Blackpaint

18.07.10