Posts Tagged ‘Robert Rauschenberg’

Blackpaint 330 – Guns, Knives, Spaghetti and Rubbish

March 12, 2012

Niki de Saint Phalle

I have been looking at her “Shooting Piece” for many short periods, during the last 11 days – reason being, it’s on the March page of our Tate calendar, which hangs on the toilet door.  On Saturday, at the Tate, I had the chance to look at it in the flesh, or rather, plaster.  It’s a white plaque of thick, rumpled plaster, down which several trails of paint –  red, blue, yellow, violet – have been allowed to dribble.  It seems that she put paint into polythene bags, buried them in the plaster, and invited fellow artists – Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg – to fire bullets into the work.  The paint released then ran down, in and out of the ridges randomly (sorry about the inadvertent alliteration).

I like the work; I find it pleasing visually and quite memorable.  I think I could have gone on liking the work and not knowing how it was produced, without being troubled by it.  Or rather, now that I know, it doesn’t alter my feelings in any way.  Is it now a joint work by Saint Phalle, JJ and RR?  Does the element of chance add or subtract meaning?   Not for me; I respond to its looks, not the information I have about its origins, the intentions of the artist, its context, in short.  Very shallow, maybe, but a good rule of thumb in galleries – unless you want to spend a lot of time peering at wall info, or blocking everybody’s view while you listen to some long audio commentary.

Igor and Svetlana Kopystansky

I watched their film, made in Chelsea district of NY over 2 years.  Called “Incidents”, it’s basically rubbish blowing about the streets in strong winds.  It’s hard to avoid the thought that they may have cheated by introducing particularly interesting bits of rubbish – why is this cheating?  Don’t know – it turns the film into something manufactured, rather than observed (but editing, which they of course did, does that as well).  Completely contradicts what I said about Saint Phalle, but blogger’s privilege…  Anyway, these plastic bags, cartons, bits and pieces slide and whirl about, occasionally pouncing on other bits like predators or mating insects.  Reminded me of one of those Czech cartoons you used to get on TV when they had a slot to fill.

Alighiero Boetti

At the Tate Modern.  Starts with a bunch of Arte Povera pieces, such as a perspex cube containing a sort of chest made from a variety of brown materials like bamboo and spaghetti; huge rolls of stiff paper, pulled out like a giant’s toilet roll.  Lots of writings on large yellowing paper sheets, noughts and crosses, alphabets, little broken symbols like Braille crossed with pixcels (not easy on the eye. requiring close study); letter/word colour tiles, that were almost the same as pieces by Gavin Turk, shown in a weekend paper a couple of weeks ago – some sort of hommage, presumably?

Aircraft drawn on blue in biro, apparently,; “Tutti” – tapestry wall hangings with everything in them, crammed in – bones, horses, people, trumpets…..; and the famous Afghan map hangings in bright colours, countries with flags embroidered on them.  Did it in 20 minutes, having not been stirred to serious thought or moved to tears by visual splendours.  I’d put it in the same slot as the Orozco show, a while back.

Colquhoun and MacBryde

I was interested to read in the Bristow book, “The Last Bohemians”, that Ken Russell made a BBC film about them for Monitor – only 10 minutes long, entitled “Scottish Painters”.  From Bristow’s description, it sounds like a serious study of their painting techniques and work.  A few years later, when Ken was in more florid mode,  would he have included the scene, related by Bristow, of a drunken, naked Colquhoun chasing a drunken, naked MacBryde around a front garden in Wembley, waving a knife. and lit up by occasional lightning?  I don’t think he could have resisted..

Stained Glass

Blackpaint

12/3/12

Blackpaint 239

January 5, 2011

Mantegna

I’m back in the Uffizi catalogue today, looking at two works by the above:  The Madonna of the Rocks and the Adoration of the Magi triptych.  The latter was apparently not conceived as a triptych, but was put together later.  It consists of the Adoration, the Ascension (of Christ) and the Circumcision.

I’m always impressed by Mantegna’s hard, chiselled edges, the paint sculpted to give a relief effect at times; that, and his vivid, somehow cold colours that remind me of the Northern painters of the Netherlands.

The Madonna pre-dates Leonardo’s two versions of the Virgin of the Rocks (1493-5 and 1506-8); the Uffizi guide gives 1488-90 for the Mantegna, which was painted in Rome.  I wonder if Leonardo knew the painting, and whether “on the rocks” was a common setting or theme?  It seems rather a coincidence otherwise.

Mantegna’s virgin looks particularly doleful, whilst the pasty, pudgy faced Christ actually looks dead to me (I panicked a lot when my kids were young).  This dead look chimes rather with the tomb “visible below – an allusion to Christ’s sepulchre and a prediction of the destiny of the Child (sic) lying in the Virgin’s lap”, as the guide puts it.

The Adoration is a strange picture – sharply drawn against a cold, darkening blue sky, it features a circlet of those little putti, I think they’re called – winged half -babies, pinky red on the left, stone coloured on the right, surrounding the virgin and child as if mounted on a Christmas tree behind them.  A star – THE star – is set amongst four grown-up angels, immediately above the cave; the stable, presumably.  The tail of the star drops a perpendicular tail to the mother and baby, and there is a black, thread-like line, possibly a crack, dropping from the top of the picture down to the Magi.  the effect is that of grappling hooks and lines being lowered from heaven.

The Ascension also features a circlet of putti, all red this time, their little wings powering Christ’s ascent on a small round tablet of rock.   As he goes up, he grasps the pole of the red cross standard, like a boy scout on Church Parade.   A group of disciples gaze up at him, as well they might.

Cezanne

I’m very struck by the varying attraction of Cezanne’s paintings in the Phaidon book by Catherine Dean.  For me, they range from nothing much (Bay of Marseilles, seen from l’Estaque, Chestnut Trees at the Jas de Bouffon, building at Jas de Bouffon, Dr. Gachet’s House) to staggering (Lac d’Annecy, some Mont St. Victoires, Card Players, Boy in Red Waistcoat – with the really long right arm – the Still Lifes with apples and/or peaches and the fantastic Blue Vase).

The one that caught my attention today was “A Modern Olympia” – rather comical, cartoonish, especially the black servant whipping away the white sheet to reveal the naked woman, her legs scrunched up in front of her for modesty, before the upward gaze of the bearded, seated gentleman visitor – Cezanne himself?  Particularly striking, I thought, was the difference between this and all the other repros in the book.  I would never have guessed Cezanne.  The colours and the looseness of the brush strokes, as if the images were almost on the verge of disintegration, called to mind Cecily Brown – if only for a moment.

Rauschenberg

Cezanne’s picture is a “modernisation” of Manet’s 1863 Olympia, of course; I happened to come across Rauschenberg’s “Odalisque”, 1955-9, presumably another modernisation.  A stuffed white rooster stands atop an easel(?) on which is a colourful Rausch collage, topped by a small picture of a naked woman seated on the floor – looks like Marilyn, but I can’t quite make it out.

Fish Eye

Blackpaint

05.01.10

Blackpaint 201

October 1, 2010

Gauguin

Review of the new exhibition at Tate Modern by Adrian Searle in Guardian this week said Gauguin had re-emerged in the work of Peter Doig and Chris Ofili.  Hadn’t thought of this before, but he’s right, in my view.  Easy to see why Ofili, the relocation to Trinidad, the choice of local subject matter, even the use of colour – the central picture in the Guardian article is suffused with a shade of mauve reminiscent of Ofili’s latest work (at least, the work exhibited recently at the other London Tate).

Why Doig?  his paintings, after all, are usually enigmas, in a way that Gauguin’s are not, or are not intended to be.  I suppose it’s simply that sometimes they resemble one another in their use of tropical location, colours and configuration.

He also mentions Tuymans – have to think about that one!

Rauschenberg

He uses the word “schwandel” or “schwendel” when discussing red paintings in “Painters painting” in a manner which suggests he thinks it would be  a familiar term to viewers; what is he talking about?  Is this a term in frequent use in the art world? 

Grown up Politics

I know it’s nothing to do with art, but I have now heard or seen this term used not only by the insufferable prick of a Lib Dem MP (see Blackpaint 197) but Toby Young on TV and Polly Toynbee in the Guardian.  Another phrase which seems to have spread like germs on a toilet door handle is “wriggle room”, sometimes delivered as “wiggle room”.

Exhibition

Tomorrow.  Haven’t done the titles or prices yet – panic!  Closing now…

Blackpaint – Old one

Listening to Richard Thompson, Vincent Black Lightning 1952

“I see angels and Ariels in leather and chrome,

Swinging down from heaven to carry me home,”

And he gave her one last kiss and died –

And he gave her his Vincent to ride.”

Blackpaint

October 1st

Blackpaint 182

August 25, 2010

Louisiana again

Just a few more artists to mention from this catalogue (see yesterday’s blog):

Rauschenberg

Two great pictures with those downpours or waterfall effects he has in blacks or greys, over the composite pictures he transfers to canvas from photographs – one called “Tideline”, the other “Untitled” (the 1st Apollo Landing), which is odd in itself.

Niki de Saint Phalle 

A tall, narrow colourful panel called “Drame de Coup de Feu” – what’s that, “drama of the fire strike”?  Sorry, schoolboy French inadequate.  Take a look at the picture, anyway.

Anselm Kiefer

Several typical huge, ominous works by Kiefer; best are “Ausgiessung”, dark grey, white, green, like a field of corn stalks below a louring, scratchy sky with a big black, dripping blob low and dead centre over it.  Looks like a grey, cone-shaped trumpet set in the “earth” below it.

“Saulen”, browns, blacks, whites, greys; a scratchy, splintered surface; the facade of a ruined brick building beneath a grey-black sky – impossible not to think of the fall of Berlin.

Per Kirkeby

a whole bunch of beautiful works from this painter, with his patches, lines and slurs of bright reds, greens, blues on black or brown or grey.

Arnulf Rainer

A series of “deathmasks” and “blind und Stumm”, recalling Marlene Dumas, somewhat.

Etc.

Picasso, Bacon, Warhol, Morris Louis, Tapies, some great Sam Francis, Jim Dine……

And

Sculpture.  Giacometti (loads, including that striding thin man), Miro, Arp, Ernst, Calder, Caro, Moore…..

Red

In that film “Painters Painting”, there are some really intense red paintings by Rauschenberg.  They look like caves of red.  He says on the soundtrack “There’s a lot of black in red”; I didn’t understand at first, but now I see it’s a dark colour, even (especially) when its glaring at you like a furnace.  Maybe the black is in your eyes or brain; or is that stupid to say, because all colour is in your eyes and brain…?

Poor Tom

Blackpaint

25.08.10

Blackpaint 176

August 16, 2010

Rauschenberg

Last blog should have read “Ruscha’s OLDER vandal brother” – although doesn’t sound so good.  Rauschenberg was born in 1925 and is dead; Ruscha was born in 1937 and is still alive – important differences (to the artists anyway).

Rausch. is included,with Ruscha and Rosenquist et al, in the Taschen “Pop Art”.   I  think I’m right in saying he’s  the only one with any real texture to his surfaces – the others are all smooth and glassy, some airbrushed.

Tate Britain

 A Mary Feddon, mauve table floating at a Cezanne angle, floating on it a red-orange fruit and other objects I can’t recall – and an Arthur Boyd, “Bride drinking from a creek”, depicting exactly that; a ghost -like figure with, a stiff white lace veil sticking up behind her, face in the river, surrounded by blackened stumps and sticks of trees burnt in some bush fire.  Both fabulous painitngs.

Blake

There is an exhibition of beautiful small pictures by William Blake, mostly from the Book of Urizen, including one that looks like God using a bowling ball, another of a highly stylised skeletal figure with a patriarch and one of those squareish, massively muscled, but huddled and  troubled (sorry) figures with the staring eyes.  Also a single page of beautifully etched trees and pastoral scenes, each the size of a pair of dominoes, and showing clearly Blake’s influence on modern artists like Graham Sutherland.  We have a copy of the book at home with tipped in illustrations, that are clearly different versions of the ones on show here; apparently, he did a number of versions in different media.

Sutherland, etc.

In the next room are works by Sutherland, Michael Ayrton, John Piper and Keith Vaughan, which seem to follow naturally somehow; Vaughan’s figures, in particular, are solid and chunkier than the more abstract figures of the 60s I’m used to (see various previous Blackpaints).  The main Ayrton is a Temptation of St. Anthony, which is a wonderful drawing  in terrible  colours, to my eyes anyway.

The Sutherlands include the Welsh(?) landscape with the cow’s skull in those Bomberg-like orange-reds and ochres, the green, white and black tree tunnel and the long, green log which always looks to me like a pig’s head on the end of a battering ram.

Finally, in this room, there is a glass case, full of  sketchbooks by Sutherland, Vaughan and Robert Colquhoun which have some of the best pictures, as always.

John Riddy

Next room, have a look at one particular picture by Riddy, the shot of a brick wall in Weston Street.  It looks just like a painting to me, the brickwork and old poster tatters making an illusion of paint texture.

Lanyon

The great little exhibition of Lanyon’s preparatory works for the 1951 “Porthleven” is still up and it makes me doubt whether Lanyon’s work  is in any sense abstract.  Everything he paints is there in the world, apart maybe from sweeping lines representing a glider’s trajectory; it’s just  cut up and jumbled, “abstractified”, I suppose.  Margaret Garlake in her Tate book goes for “near-abstract”.  An interesting bit of info is that Lanyon claimed he was unaware of the presence of the fisherman and his wife, the two figures that “contain” the town, until he’d  finished.  Sounds far-fetched, but I believe it – happens  to me all the time.

Blackpaint

16.08.10

 

Blackpaint 175

August 15, 2010

Douanier Rousseau

I’ve read the passage in Penguin Book of Art Writing on the above, to which I referred in BP 173 and, as usual, I was quite wrong; it’s written by Picasso’s lover at the time and, although Rousseau is portrayed as a comic, rather pathetic buffoon, there is no suggestion that Picasso himself regarded him as such.  As to my comparison of Rousseau to Ornette Coleman, that was wrong too.  Rousseau was a catalyst; he influenced P. and the Cubists, but didn’t develop much himself.  Coleman, by way of contrast, became the next big thing with, and after, Coltrane and the leading force in “free” jazz from the late 50’s on.  So – moving on…

Rauschenberg’s “Gluts” 

Last word for this year on the Guggenheim Bilbao.  These sculptures and found objects are so named because they are the detritus from the North American culture of overproduction, conspicuous consumption and built-in obsolescence (three cliches in succession!).  It’s capitalism, anyway; nothing particularly USA about it – except for the scale.  Rausch, fortunately,  had a rather sentimental attitude to these bits of refuse and went round rescuing them like stray cats.  then he attached this to that, producing a sculpture; maybe adding some paint, maybe just calling  it something.

Scoreboards, calendars, road signage, car parts (fenders,  exhausts, tyres), garage detritus, STOP signs, production statistics on factory notice boards, iron ladders (maybe attached to venetian blinds – or not), bent panels, cots, a pair of Pegasus horses facing each other across a Greek marble head painted over in yellow, those silvery aluminium air ducts, squashed and twisted…  He’s like Ed Ruscha’s younger (?) vandal brother; Ruscha’s stuff is spick-and-span, Rauschenberg’s is crushed and crumpled.  White blinds, long yellow metal slats, cymbal, old wheel, blue “wood effect” panel, iron stove, chair, car radiator.

One room contains only silver metal, no painted objects – I like the painted stuff better, less pure but the paint’s part of the glut too.  Interesting that he got names from what the sculptures and objects look like – for example, “Dirty ghost Glut”, “Samurai Glut”, “Gold Strike Glut”.

The exhibition ends with photographs of R’s collaborations with dancers Merce Cunningham and Trisha Brown.

Mike Nelson

Went to Tate Britain yesterday, and very nearly missed this artist’s “Coral Reef”.  That’s because you enter the installation through a little scruffy cream doorway and are confronted with the uniformed back of a Tate attendant sitting at a wooden counter behind a grille, filling in some forms.  As you mutter an apology and go to withdraw, you notice that there are other punters beyond the grille.  Progressing further, you find a confusing suite of rooms, low ceilings, made out of wood, dark, smelling  like the basement of  a second-hand bookshop, with various random objects scattered around: a settee, rumpled sleeping bag, clown’s head, tommy gun – some of the rooms look like temporary offices in old Portakabins, or more likely, disused rolling stock.  It was a little like going round the Haunted House in some impoverished travelling fairground.  It reminded me of the Kienholz “Hoerengracht” thing (see Blackpaint 34  ).  Coral Reef?  I suppose it winds in and out, like a maze – but it was more like a reef of detritus, washed up by the tide.

Listening to Easy Rider Blues by Texas Alexander.

“Takes midnight til the early rising sun,

Midnight til the early rising sun,

Stood on the corner, just to see my baby come.”

Torn Curtain 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