Posts Tagged ‘Grosz’

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 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

 

Blackpaint 251

February 13, 2011

Kings Place

Three exhibitions on here at the moment, all of which strike a remarkable note of contrast – conflict, really – with the corporate surroundings:

Norman Cornish – The Narrow World of…

A series of drawings and paintings of cloth-capped, mufflered, rough-suited men in pubs, leaning on wooden bars before beer pumps, surrounded by straight glasses, not jugs, of amber beer.  Not a mug in sight – “Glasses with ‘andles? ‘Ow effete!” as an old Bill Tidy cartoon put it – and certainly, no wine glasses.  Dogs figure; rangy whippet-types, with muscular rear ends.  The best is a small yellow watercolour in a corner.

Cornish was a miner himself from Spennymoor, County Durham.  I think there’s a touch of early Van Gogh in his close-ups and a hint of Lowrie in his street scenes (which are not featured in the exhibition, but are in the Cornish book on sale).

Angela Hughes – Transitions

A number of paintings, ranging in size from vast to small, mostly featuring the basement of a derelict glass factory.  Ghostly is the word – sprays of glassy white on a brownish pink-grey background, dim lines of machinery, cable looping down like lianas, racks emerging from the gloom.  Pastels, charcoal and oil all used, but even the oil paintings look as if they were done in the dust and sediment of the factory floor.  This sounds bad, perhaps, but is not meant so – they are effective and haunting.

Keith Pattison – No Redemption

Outstanding photos of the Miners’ Strike, the 84/85 one that is, which mostly centre on Easington Colliery in County Durham and the streets of the town where the miners lived – past tense, because those who still live there won’t have been miners for 25 years.  Pickets, police, skin tight jeans and skimpy denim jackets, the odd biker leather, banners, arrests, working miners under escort…

What really comes across is how much of an invading army the police were – marching in in columns, hard-faced, riot masks and shields, lining your streets, standing on your doorstep, telling you go that way, not this way, dragging you off under arrest from outside your own front door.  You can’t tell if the police are local, or members of, say, the Met who allegedly inflamed the strikers by waving their overtime packets at them – some police were reportedly better than others.  Nothing can disguise the army of occupation impression, however.

Alma Street figures frequently – I wonder if it’s still there, not demolished or re-named.  The photographs are works of art, as well as reportage – beautifully “composed”, in the sense of great anticipation and instant selection on Pattison’s part.  Surprisingly little anger from the strikers; many of the photos have a cheerful, almost carnivalesque atmosphere.

Expressionist Woodcuts at the Strang Print Room, UCL

Nolde’s “Prophet”, a Resurrection by Beckmann, a Grosz with street executions and disabled soldiers, hungry street life, Kathe Kollwitz’s beautifully drawn but oppressively monumental pictures of women with dead sons.  Durer’s Four Horsemen and St. Michael to compare (measure them against?).  A little exhibition but great stuff.

Blackpaint

12.02.11

Blackpaint 234

December 24, 2010

British Museum Prints and Drawings (cont.)

Baselitz – Seated person in looping and criss-crossing black ink – but upside-down, as usual.

Hans Hoffman – A surprise for me to see this most painterly of painters in a drawing exhibition.  More looping and straight black strokes, a little like Bram Van der Velde, on red and … white, I think.  From the other end of the room, looked like an abstract Rouault, if such things there are.

Anastasi – New one on me; “Subway Drawings”, because done on the subway – with his eyes closed.  Little clouds of fine black lines on either end of a thicker black bar, like a barbell with fuzzy knapweed instead of weights.  I don’t know what the idea was (maybe just to see what came out).

Jay Defeo – Wrote about her one or two blogs back; a friend of the 1st generation “Beats”.  This a technically superb rendering of the top of a camera tripod (a little like Richard Hamilton in 60s).  Apparently, she did this stuff to relax between her proper abstracts.

Franz Kline – Instantly recognisable thick black calligraphy, like a letter K on its side.  Called “Untitled”, of course.

Seliger – Forgot first name.  Looping marks like etching (maybe it was) or staining in grey.  Like a cross between Jaap Wagemaker andLucebert.

Franz Ackermann – Modern white apartments, stadium, seashore, brightly coloured and as if through a fish-eye lens.

George Grosz – Street scenes of Weimar Berlin with usual caricatures – none the worse for that.

Dubuffet – “Landscape in Yellow” – usual scraped and scored surface, about as much like a landscape as a rhinoceros – which brings me to…

Durer – The famous rhino, etching and original drawing, in the permanent display bit.  As everyone knows, he’d never seen one and was going on a written description of the one delivered to Brussels(?) Zoo during his time.  If it’s true that he’d never seen one, it’s a pretty miraculous likeness, allowing for a few bizarrities (I know, but it should be a word).

Mehretu – One of those precise, exploding lines abstracts that look like computer graphics (probably are).

Merry Christmas to Christian readers – probably aren’t any left, by now.

Blackpaint

24.12.10

Blackpaint 102

April 2, 2010

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

I used to hate this artist’s work.  It was violent, crudely done in garish colours and too “Germanic” by miles.  Typical German stuff, I thought; women all portrayed as whores, murders (cf. Grosz and Kokoschka), cold, staring, cigarette-mouthing soldier waiting, while woman undressed for his attentions.. All impeccably Weimar and non-Nazi for sure – he was in the Nazi exhibition of degenerate art and was kicked out of the Prussian Academy of Arts – but still somehow brutish and sordid.

Then, I went to see the London exhibition at the Royal Academy – which I’m staggered to find was in 2003 (I thought it was maybe 3 years ago); I found that it was, yes, all the things I say above, but I loved it.  The colours are livid; he uses a sulphurous yellow, sickly oranges, pinks and especially lime greens.  His groups of secretly smiling, blank/black-eyed street women are like exotic, elongated insects, their fancy collars and hat plumes antennae; they are ogled by cigaretted men.  The pictures are strangely angled, as if reflected in a distorting mirror.

Those colours somehow seem to pervade German painting down to recent times, for me; Baselitz and Kippenberger, for instance.  Even – especially – when the colours are bright, they seem to have an inner darkness, or more a sort of deadness to them.  This sounds bad, but I like it; it’s not blinding Mediterranean, like those tiresome French and Spanish geniuses and not washed-out and understated, like our dour British masterpieces.

So, one thing you can be sure of when you visit Blackpaint’s blog – you will never be plagued by tired national stereotypes in the search for artistic truth.

Since I have given you two Kirchners , you have to have one of mine-

Blackpaint

02.04.10

PS – not sure if anyone is reading – please drop me a comment (good or bad) if you are.