Posts Tagged ‘Jules Olitsky’

Blackpaint 170

July 22, 2010

Alice Neel at Whitechapel

At first glance, I thought these would be mediocre, a bit sketchy, not finished off properly, dull colours like Neue Sachlichkeit stuff – portraits, boring.  Second glance proved me drastically wrong. 

They look as if done quickly, impressionistic, an element of caricature and definitely a touch of NS, Christian Schad, Modersohn – Becker.  I even got a taste of Diane Arbus from the flat stares and awkward poses.  Sometimes, they taper off into mere outline (hands,  legs, sofas).  However, they clearly capture the idiosyncracies of the subjects – a frown, slight sneer, complacent smirk, nervous glance, effusive smile… 

The best portraits: the youth Hartley, Andy Warhol with his scars and several inches of underpants,  the two men immediately on your right as you enter – the serious man in the sleeveless pullover against the Duccio yellow background (or is it more Van Gogh sunflower?), and the fierce man with the slight sneer in the next picture.  Look at the shiny patch on his forehead. 

Her flesh tones are greenish, apart from the pregnant women and babies upstairs.  She used a heavy black outline in the 50’s and 60’s, changing to a Van Gogh-like light blue outline in the 70’s and 80’s.

Upstairs are the pregnant women, mothers and fat, staring, slightly sinister babies (Small Assassin, Ray Bradbury would have recognised them).  one of the women in particular looks dazed and desperate, the picture earning Neel feminist acclaim.  There is a beautiful, young, pregnant woman on a sofa facing the doors, the line of her figure strong and confident, as if done with one sure, single stroke.

In the next room, old age; dim eyes, arthritic knuckles, hunched postures – but still, all recognisable individuals with their vanities and concerns.  Her own self portrait is here, naked and unflattering (of course, stupid to think it might be).

There are some clinkers here, though; I thought the buildings were poor, as was most of the stuff from the thirties and the man with three pricks was like a really bad imitation of R. Crumb.  There were a couple of nasty caricatures, both of arty women.  A flattering portrait of a woman academic she obviously liked had a big patch of red, some ochre I think, and some grey scribble in the background, prompting someone to say on the blurb that this showed Neel could have been an Abstract Expressionist – utter rubbish on this evidence.  But, on the whole, a great exhibition.  I’d like to see it with some Lucian Freuds, to compare their approaches.

Painters on Painting 

DVD on sale at the Whitechapel; saw it at the ICA some months ago.  The magnificence of some of the paintings is too great to exaggerate; Hoffman, de Kooning, Rauschenberg, Johns, Pollock, Frankenthaler, underlining the sheer offensive silliness of that snide remark on the caption in the Neel exhibition.  Unfortunately, some of these boys can really ramble on.  Frank Stella is like Woody Allen, obsessed with critics who found his work cold compared with Ab Exes.  Jasper Johns, like a drawling character from Frasier and Jules Olitsky, obsessed with the edges of his paintings and brandishing a huge cat (as if about to dip it in paint and swipe it across the canvas.

Adrian Searle

In the Guardian, reviewing a drawing exhibition at the White Cube and a book by Deanna Petherbridge “the Primacy of Drawing” (says it all, really), quotes her as follows: “Drawing is the basis of all art and visual thinking…Drawing renders thoughts visible”.  Sorry, when I draw, I draw – when I paint, I paint.  I don’t, usually, do sketches.  I think painting is a different, but not lesser, process; unless, of course, you define sweeps of the brush or dabbles in the paint as drawing.  I think, unlike Robert Hughes and his followers, that you – sorry, some painters –  can produce magnificent paintings that are not based on drawing prowess, and many Ab Ex and others have done just that.

I’m pleased to say that Kenneth Noland more or less says just that in the DVD.  He calls it One Shot painting.  Good on you, Kenneth; RIP.

Hereward 1, by Blackpaint

Blackpaint

22.07.10

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Blackpaint 142

May 27, 2010

WordPress advises bloggers to start with an eyecatching headline, so here goes:

Artists and cannibalism

Diego Rivera claims in his autobiography that in 1904, he and companions lived off corpses that they bought from a local mortuary and ate.  This claim is uncorroborated; I got it from Mary Roach’s’s book “Stiff” (Penguin 2004).  More gratuitous sensationalism as soon as I come across it.

Some more abstract (or near abstract – or just a bit abstract, but good) art to look at

These are all to be seen in the Taschen “Art of the 20th Century”, I recommend you buy it and no, I don’t have shares in Taschen.

  • Nicolas de Stael, Portrait of Anne, 1953
  • Jonathan Borofsky, Canoe Painting, 1978
  • Jules Olitsky, Strip Heresy, 1964
  • Larry Rivers, Africa 1, 1962/3
  • Hans Hoffmann, the Ocean, 1957

In addition, there are “Untitled”s by Walter Stohrer, Albert Oehlen and Per Kirkeby that are all excellent, the last resembling a flame bursting in midnight blue.  There is easily enough in this book to send you straight to the canvas ready to chuck the pigment on – and then to give up in despair, several hours later, wondering how they make such beautiful pictures.

Now I’m thoroughly depressed, so signing off for the night, and resorting to the bottle.

Blackpaint

26.05.10