First in a series of hard pieces I’m doing. I can’t bring honesty to every social issue I’m worried about or advocating for, but I can talk about the things that brought me to them. And the damages of American masculinity and rigid gender norms is as much a place to start as any.
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The Masaccio Exchange
Posts about the art world, theory, society, and other national topics.
So, thinking of paintings made with mammary glands reminded me of this work I’ve read about lately. So, Pierre Brassau did four paintings for a show in Sweden, which received rather consitently good critical review. Mind you, Pierre Brassau turned out to be a chimpanzee, who did in fact paint the works for Åke “Dacke” Axelsson, a journalist with something to prove to the art critics. Now that’s a stunt.
Hit the link below to read the full details. Something to think about while we ponder how much the stunt makes the art.
So, I have really no details about this (other than being done by a 21-year old Caucasian gal with 36B cup size using non-toxic paint and her breasts) painting. I found it today on the Reddit, from user “marblecakes” (click the image to skip to his profile). So, all shock factor aside (and chances to use words like ‘knockers’ seriously on my site), how do we process a painting like this? I mean, it’s attractive–I rather like it–but, without the context of the execution, is it worth anything? Knowing the context, is it worth anything even then? I’m unsure, actually, but it was enough to catch me off-guard.
Anyway, I’m not even sure where to start with this. If you’re unafraid of the internet, or are otherwise unphased by staring down 500+ Reddit comments, you can find the full comments on it here. And then, hey, hit me up in the comments with your thoughts, and maybe we can figure this thing out.
So, let’s get it out of the way: there is no doubt in my mind that artists who work in a photo-realistic style– that is, in a style that without immense scrutiny is indiscernible from real life or a photograph–have immesne and extraordinary talent, and deserve all due recognition for it. But, other than feathers in the cap for technical skill, I don’t get the point. Technical skill does not itself make art, if it did Flickr’s approximately 18 billion technically flawless macro shots of flowers and elapsed landscape shots of water crashing on rocks would seriously threaten Christie’s business model.
And that’s because—for photography, at least—we’ve accepted that technical merit alone does not equal art. It equals technical merit, while art is retained for something that captures an idea, emotion, or moment. So why is photo-realism in painting, a medium that long ago abandonned capturing life verbatim once the camera tripped onto the scene, so popular right now?
Don’t get me wrong, artists like Diego Gravinese and Juan Francisco Casas (both pictured, linked, and found on Artist A Day) make good images. I’m just saying I’d like them identically as photographs and not just paintings (or ballpoint pen drawings) that look just like photographs. Again, other than the “oh wow” factor, which is transient, I don’t understand what this retrogressive technique adds to the image.
I suspect, whatever the artist’s intentions, the popularity has to do with the notable trend currently of ditrusting anything but the most authentic image, because of a fear of forever being lied to spurred by the digital revolution. It’s popular currently to cling to the insane notion that there’s an ‘honest’ way to create images that doesn’t distort, alter, edit, and lie the moment you frame a slice of infinite, 3 dimensional life elapsing in time into a single, 2 dimensional frame. Which, I also don’t understand. But, I welcome your thoughts and debate on the subject.
So, I don’t talk often about the tools of the trade here, because I don’t especially think they’re as important to discussions about art as, you know, the art. Put too much emphasis on the tools and you end up with the DPReview forums, and that’s a level of banality I don’t wish to encourage.
That said, I think I might on occasion now stop to say some words about a few of the tools I think are worth noting, starting with the color known as ‘phthalocyanine blue.’
I was first introduced to phthalocyanine, or ‘thalo’ for short, in the late 90’s by my after-school art instructor Melanie Richwine. But, it probably wasn’t until my time in Painting 1 in college when I started developing the appreciation for the color I have today.
According to Ye Olde Wikipedia, it’s a pretty recent addition to the artist’s palette, when you consider that some of the classic pigments have remained more or less the same for many hundred years. Thalo, though, has apparently only been with us since the 1930’s. Apparently its discovery happened twice, both by accident, and the second time happened to be at a Scottish dye factory, so it was followed up on. Learn something new every day.
Thalo, in use, is an interesting hue to work with. It’s the richest blue in the palette, period. It’s amazingly potent, verging on and often waltzing across the line to over-powering. It’s a translucent color, which makes it very useful for glazing. Even thinned out, it remains amazingly rich and vibrant. And, I find it useful. Just a touch of it on a palette knife when mixed with titanium white will yield a hue very similar to cerulean, and it’s useful for mixing in a variety of other situations as well.
Since it’s largely translucent, but nonetheless rich and dark, I find it useful as a glaze to layer richer shadows, or more nuanced cool- shifts into paintings.
Artists, as a lot, are known for accepting quite a bit, and justifying quite a deal of nonsense. Marcel Duchamp, Jackson Pollock, Piero Manzoni, Andres Serrano, Joel-Peter Witkin– you dig around in art long at all and you’ll find plenty of questionable, weird, misunderstood, or inflammatory works that many artists will bend over backwards to not only justify, but to revere.
And then there’s Andy Warhol, the one man who everyone seems to find it OK to hate. And, worse, it seems that the reason there’s so much hate for Warhol doesn;t usually come down to some of the morally questionable things he did in life–no no. People hate Warhol because of how often his style is imitated.
It’s a strange disconnect. Warhol, known for his Campbell’s soup cans, and probably more despised for his multi-color screen prints of celebrities, is almost without a doubt the representative face of the pop art movement. But, it’s not for his actual works (his iconic work of Che is just that— iconic, and still popular fodder for t-shirts among the very people who like to scoff at the work of Warhol today), but for the fact that they’re such a simple, striking visual style that is copied almost without end and almost always without purpose.
Is it fair to hate someone because of the drivel their work inspired? I don’t think so. Not even if you weren’t particularly fond of the original work. Warhol’s work may now seem strikingly obvious and bombastically simple, but it’s worth noting it still wasn’t done before Andy stopped to do it. Whether or not you like it, his pop art had a way of embracing the ephemerallity of media that gives it merit. Imposters and advertising groups like to ride the coat-tails of the instantly recognizable visual style, but none of them seem to understand the almost black humor involved in Warhol’s originals.
Looked at another way, hating Warhol for the hollowness of modern ‘pop art’ would be like hating Tolkien for the loads of derivative troll-and-elf fantasy that we’re subjected to. I pikc this particular example because I am, personally, as unthrilled by Tolkien’s classic works as many people are with Warhol’s works, to illustrate that the difference between artistic merit and enjoyment is one worth noting.
And all you artists out there deriding Warhol for his artistic works, shame on you. I expect better. If you must hate Warhol, he’s got plenty of questionable actions in his biography to work from. But his art, whether you like it or not, is an interesting and worthwhile addition to the history of art. To provide a point of contrast, if nothing else.