Posts Tagged ‘Orozco’

Blackpaint 407 – Bloodshed at the RA; is Stoner Perfect?

August 15, 2013

Sorry for hiatus – been away.

Mexico, a Revolution  in Art, at the RA

Not all Mexican – Edward Weston, Tina Modotti, Philip Guston, Cartier -Bresson,  DH Lawrence  et al, all down there on a visit at one time or another.

Starting with the inevitable sepia photos of firing squads and their dead victims, one sequence showing the shooting of four Mexicans, one after the other, at the moment the bullets strike; violent death somehow seems more prevalent in Mexican revolution, the executions routine and casual – maybe a reflection of the ubiquity of photographers.  Also strikers, prostitutes peeping from windows, semi-surrealist street shots…

A few lurid, blood-raw landscape pictures, and one snow-capped peak that recalled the Canadian “Seven” painter, Lawren Harris.  Maybe the landscape really IS that raw, blood orange colour – best to leave it to God, perhaps, like those lurid American Sublime sunsets.

The Guston (early figurative mode) and the one opposite of a man in a cat’s suit the best, along with a portrait by Siqueiros of Zapata – like a hooded-eyed, ancient deity.  Also an Orozco and a Rivera; both better as murals, I think.

Guston in Mexico

The RA Summer Exhibition

Overall, not inspiring.  Lots of well-known RAs doing their usual thing; some beautiful Irvins, especially the small, marmalade orange prints called “Shakespeare” (presumably after Shakespeare Road, rather than the playwright) – and a huge, penetrating blue canvas by Barbara Rae,   I think the most striking painting – in a good way – in the show.  But I didn’t record the title.

Gillian Ayres’ flower-shaped images on prints, Tracey Emin’s broken-line etchings, John Carter’s Oiticica-like wobbly squares… A number of John Bellanys in garish, livid colours, humans with seabirds’ heads.. a big, brown, messy, lovely Basil Beattie.

Jock MacFadyen’s paintings were interesting – none of the cartoon-like tattoo’ed thugs with pit bulls; instead, a realist derelict factory with graffitti and a minimalist portrait if Humphrey Ocean – good, but I think I prefer the cartoon stuff – speaking of which, A big Rose Wylie over the door in her usual style.

Most striking of the non – RAs was a small yellow, patchwork print by Hetty Haxworth, called “Rig and Furrow”, loads of prints of which already sold.


Worst painting by famous artist; Per Kirkeby’s “Laokoon”, a roughly executed serpent in ugly colours.  Also Pete Tonkins’ acrylic abstract.  Ugliness, whatever that is, not necessarily bad in a painting, of course, but should be something else to carry it; coherence, structure, something anyway.

Stoner by John Williams

First published in 1965, a campus novel set in University of Missouri in years from WW1 to the 50s.  I thought it was stunning – I normally read a bunch of books a few pages each every day, but I put others aside until I finished this, in maybe four days, really fast for me.  It’s not flawless; the dialogue in the love scenes a little shaky, perhaps, and a death scene seems prolonged; but it made me reflect on my own time as a student and teacher, with some very depressing and uncomfortable results.

Something that occurred to me, but apparently to no-one else who has written about the novel on the internet, was that Lomax’s campaign against Stoner through Walker could be read as a metaphor for the ideological struggles between radical movements and more conservative forces on campus, which became common a little later in the 60s; I was thinking particularly of the accusations of racism or misogyny that were often deployed against conservative and liberal academics.  No doubt this take is somewhat crass; all other reviews stress the universality of the themes and the perfection of the novel.

I couldn’t help casting some of the characters mentally, in the film that must soon be made; Stoner himself, as a young man, I see played by Paul Dano (There Will be Blood); Finch could only be Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master).

Great book; best of its kind I’ve read since Richard Yates.



Montreuil, Blackpaint


Blackpaint 26

January 1, 2010


Jean Francois Lyotard thought that the age of “Grand Narratives” was at an end;  the late 20th century and beyond, there would be the age of  little narratives.  So, no more Nation, Empire, bloc – from now (then) on, neighbourhood, tribe, cult, family, individual.  Historically wrong, then; Global Warming, War on Terror are both Grand Narratives, even if they are illusory or misnomers.

As far as art goes, however, it seems to me he was right – it’s all fragmentation, no great Movements, absolute truths.  He divided art into “Figural” – based on emotion, immediate reaction, shock, irrationality – and “Discursive” – rational, intellectual, narrative – and “privileged” (awful transformation of adjective to verb) the visual over the written.  the meaning of “figural” art?  Whatever the viewer sees/thinks/says.

So Lyotard is my man; my stuff is Figural and means whatever thr viewer wants it to mean (it may of course be Discursive too, if anyone reads something interesting, or appealing,  into it).  More Postmodernism from “Art Theory for Beginners tomorrow.

“Intensely Dutch”

I got this fantastic book for Christmas, full of staggering, beautiful abstract and figurative Dutch artists of late 20th century (with de Kooning included; fair enough, I suppose).  The colours are enough to burn into your brain, and the names are good too – Jaap Wagemaker, Wim Oepts, Jaap Nanninga, as well as Appel, Constant and deK.

“100 Contemporary Artists”

My other Christmas book, a big 2 volume Taschen, has more up- to- date artists.  I prefer the painters, and going by Lyotard’s dictum, picked out the following on the basis of immediate visual reaction (i.e. without reading the notes):  Cecily Brown, whose surfaces and colours reminded me immediately of de Kooning’s; Andre Butzer, ditto for Jorn and Guston; and John Currin, whose “Rotterdam 2006” can hardly fail to have a Figural effect – check it out, as the young people say.  The girls on the opposite page in “the Old Fence” are like something by Lucas Cranach, I think.  Then there is the great Marlene Dumas, with her ugly/beautiful, smeary pictures of dead women, pole dancers and creepy little girls with hands dripping blood.  And Peter Doig, of course, canoes, stars, jungles, uniforms…  Volume 2, I – Z tomorrow.

Propaganda Art

A few blogs back, I was rambling on about art and propaganda and said that only propaganda for or by “the oppressed” was likely to produce any decent art; propaganda on behalf of the powers-that-be – Socialist Realism, Nazi art – was likely to be laughable, or sinister, or both (depending on the distance of the viewer from the Power that Be’s).

This sounds like the sort of thing George Orwell would say, only much better, of course; however, what about the following?

Republican posters in the Spanish Civil War (I’m thinking of Miro, for example); Rodchenko’s posters for various Soviet Government ventures in Bolshevik Russia; murals and other art produced under the auspices of the WPA in 30s USA; murals produced in Mexico and elsewhere by Rivera and Orozco.


Listening to Steeleye Span, Bedlam Boys.

“Still we sing bonny boys, bonny mad boys,

Bedlam boys are bonny,

For they all go bare and they live by the air,

And they want no bread nor money”.

Just finished reading “Bartholomew Fair” by Ben Jonson, and was totally lost by the last 30 pages – as many characters as “And Quiet Flows the Don” and full of 17th century London slang.