Posts Tagged ‘Wisconsin Death Trip’

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 156

June 21, 2010

Sally Mann

I was hoping to do Sally Mann today, but Photographer’s Gallery closed on Monday.  Pity, because it sounds as if it sort of follows on from a couple of themes I’ve looked at in the last few blogs.  She takes antique-looking B and W pictures of her kids in the woods and riversides of Virginia.  The ones I’ve seen in the Observer and online look pretty risky, in the sense that stuff like this, naked and semi-naked kids, has been raided before in London on a complaint from the public; it might have been Mann’s photographs then, too.

The photos I’ve seen are posed, beautiful but sinister in the way that B and W photos set in woodland seem to be; looking at the Observer, they bring to mind Haneke’s “White Ribbon”, “Wisconsin Death Trip”, those Balka photos of the pond in the Polish wood (see Blackpaint 20 and 21).  It’s not just me, either; to quote Sean O’Hagan in the Observer, there is “an image entitled “The Terrible Picture”, in which one of her young daughters appears to be hanging by the neck from a tree”.

I suppose you could say that one of the functions of an artist is to confront terrible things that are part of human experience and to present them back to us in some form which embodies a truth or truths.  Whether or not Mann does this, I’ll have to wait and see, but I would have thought it takes some –  nerve?- to do this using images of your own children.  Superstition alone would stop me.

 If this weren’t enough, the other series of her photos shows decaying corpses at a Body Farm run by the University of Tennessee.  O’ Hagan asks two questions: should the scientists have let her take these photographs, and should they then be displayed as art.  I think the first question is tougher than the second; if I was the director of the Body Farm, I think I’d want permission of the relatives before letting some artist loose, especially if any of the corpses are recognisable.

As to the second, it’s not a problem for me.  We don’t see dead bodies all that often in Western society, so there’s an intrinsic interest. It’s going to happen to all of us sooner or later – or would do, if the undertakers didn’t get to us first – so it doesn’t seem to me to be totally ghoulish, just slightly morbid curiosity.  OK, then, on a Chamber of Horrors,  True Detective level; but whether it’s art…. I’ll go and see tomorrow.

Blackpaint

21.06.10