Archive | July, 2013

Art of the Day

26 Jul

Below is a fascinating article that appears online on the website of ARTnews (at artnews.com) about an exhibit that recently opened at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. The exhibit, titled “Hopper Drawing” examines the preparatory sketches that American artist Edward Hopper made for his 1942 oil painting Nighthawks, arguably the most famous painting he’s ever made and one of the most famous American paintings of all time. The article comments that Edward Hopper would have been quite surprised to see his mere drawings exhibited by themselves in a show at an art museum because to him they were no more than studies, and certainly not artworks. Despite the fact that Hopper therefore most likely never intended for his sketches to be exhibited, the Whitney decided that since it as an fine art institution considered Hopper’s drawings art, that was all the consent they needed to newly label them as art. I’m not writing this to criticize the Whitney, but this once again brings up an interesting question about who in the art world has the ultimate authority on what is considered art. Based on this instance as well as countless others, the dominant authority does not lie with the artists. This seems kind of strange since if it wasn’t for the artist the art wouldn’t exist. But this fact emphasizes that art, for better or for worse, apparently enters the public domain in terms of how it’s defined and treated. Of course that whole transaction also depends on the owner of the artwork, who actually decides whether to allow art museums to exhibit the artwork. So maybe it is the collectors of artwork and the foundations that control deceased artists’ estates that really decide how artwork travels through the art world. Or is it the public who controls the art world with their purchasing power, by deciding which shows they visit as the museums act accordingly in order to maintain adequate patronage? And above all this, there is the question of who should decide what is called art, and whether that is different from who actually does in today’s world.

How Edward Hopper Storyboarded ‘Nighthawks’

By Posted 07/25/13

Drawings at the Whitney reveal the step-by-step process the artist used to create his iconic painting of a New York diner at night

Sometime in 1941 or ’42, Edward Hopper, who liked to prowl New York City with a handheld sketchbook, lingered in a diner, making studies of a man wearing a suit and a fedora.

He made a few quick frontal studies of figures sitting at the counter.

Both images: Edward Hopper, Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942, fabricated chalk on paper, 7 3/16 x 4 7/16 in. PHOTOS COURTESY WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NEW YORK; JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER BEQUEST 70.189. ©HEIRS OF JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER, LICENSED BY THE WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART. DIGITAL IMAGE, © WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NY.

Both images: Edward Hopper, Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942, fabricated chalk on paper, 7 3/16 x 4 7/16 in.
PHOTOS COURTESY WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NEW YORK; JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER BEQUEST 70.189. ©HEIRS OF JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER, LICENSED BY THE WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART. DIGITAL IMAGE ©WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NY.

He sketched one figure, seen from behind, several times.

With quick strokes, Hopper captured the man as he moved: the variations in the tilt of the head, the press of the body against the counter, the play of light on the jacket.

All images: Edward Hopper, Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942, fabricated chalk on paper, 7 1/4 x 4 7/16 in. ALL PHOTOS COURTESY WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NEW YORK; JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER BEQUEST 70.192. ©HEIRS OF JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER, LICENSED BY THE WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART. DIGITAL IMAGE, © WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NY.

All images: Edward Hopper, Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942, fabricated chalk on paper, 7 1/4 x 4 7/16 in.
ALL PHOTOS COURTESY WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NEW YORK; JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER BEQUEST 70.192. ©HEIRS OF JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER, LICENSED BY THE WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART. DIGITAL IMAGE ©WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NY.

The man, seen in just slightly more profile, is an early and close relation to the painted version in Nighthawks, Hopper’s melancholy, suggestive, much-parodied 1942 masterpiece that is surely the most famous diner scene in art history. (The tableware made it into the picture, too.)

These drawings are among 19 studies for Nighthawks, brought together for the first time, in a revelatory show now at the Whitney. “Hopper Drawing” deploys 200 Hopper drawings—part of a trove of 2,500 bequeathed by the artist’s widow, Josephine—to showcase the role of drawing throughout his career, from his life drawing classes at the New York School of Art in the early 1900s, to his travels in Europe and Paris from 1906 to 1910, to the studies he made at the Whitney Studio Club and beyond. (After closing at the Whitney on October 6, the show will travel to the Dallas Museum of Art and the Walker Art Center.)

The main and spectacular focus of the show is the series of preparatory drawings Hopper made for his large oil paintings. “Hopper Drawing” includes seven sections pairing well-known canvases including Soir Bleu (1914), Manhattan Bridge Loop (1928), From Williamsburg Bridge (1928), Early Sunday Morning (1930), New York Movie (1939), and Office at Night (1940), with the studies that document their step-by-step evolution.

Edward Hopper, Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942, fabricated chalk on paper, 4 7/16 x 7 3/16in. COURTESY WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NEW YORK; JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER BEQUEST 70.192. ©HEIRS OF JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER, LICENSED BY THE WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART. DIGITAL IMAGE, © WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NY.

Edward Hopper, Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942, fabricated chalk on paper, 4 7/16 x 7 3/16 in.
COURTESY WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NEW YORK; JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER BEQUEST 70.192. ©HEIRS OF JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER, LICENSED BY THE WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART. DIGITAL IMAGE ©WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NY.

Hopper, who started signing and dating his drawings at the age of ten and went on to make thousands more until his death in 1967, would have found the very idea of the show befuddling.

Not because it took almost a half century after his death for any museum to focus a major exhibition on his drawings.

But because a museum is showing his drawings at all.

Hopper generally didn’t consider his drawings as art objects that should be exhibited or sold. To him, they were simply studio materials—documents of the process he used to conceive and to plot, in minute detail, the stories he told on his canvases.

The Nighthawks drawings reveal how Hopper choreographed his voyeuristic scene of the nighttime convergence of the man, a couple, and a server in the eerie Deco diner, refining every nuance of the countertop, the figures, the architecture, and the effects of the fluorescent lighting.

The diner first emerges in a compositional study with just a few slightly diagonal lines intersected by short verticals—just the essence of the painting’s spatial conception.

But also present is a serpentine leg of one of the coffee urns, in the upper center. “This marvelous demonstration of both extreme specificity and near abstract compositional summation on the same surface beguilingly reflects how empirical observation and imagination coexisted in Hopper’s head,” curator Carter E. Foster writes in the catalogue.

Edward Hopper, Study for Nighthawks (verso), 1941 or 1942, fabricated chalk on paper, 8 7/16 x 11 in. WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NEW YORK; JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER BEQUEST 70.200A-B. ©HEIRS OF JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER, LICENSED BY THE WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART. DIGITAL IMAGE, © WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NY.

Edward Hopper, Study for Nighthawks (verso), 1941 or 1942, fabricated chalk on paper, 8 7/16 x 11 in.
COURTESY WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NEW YORK; JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER BEQUEST 70.200A-B. ©HEIRS OF JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER, LICENSED BY THE WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART. DIGITAL IMAGE ©WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NY.

In other studies, the viewpoint moves to just outside the scene. The format becomes more horizontal. The figures appear in their places: the man in the fedora with his back to us; the couple across the counter; the stooped-over server.

In one drawing (below right), we see the emergence of the glowing wedge—highlighting the diner’s modernist lines against the 19th-century brick streetscape—that Roberta Smith describes in her recent review of “Hopper Drawing” as “really the picture’s main character.”

Top left: Edward Hopper, Study for Nighthawks (verso), 1941 or 1942, fabricated chalk on paper, 8 1/2 x 10 15/16 in. Top right: Edward Hopper, Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942, fabricated chalk on paper, 8 7/16 x 10 15/16 in. Bottom left: Edward Hopper, Study for Nighthawks (recto), 1941 or 1942, fabricated chalk on paper, 8 1/2 x 11 in. Bottom right: Edward Hopper, Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942, fabricated chalk on paper, 8 1/2 x 11 1/16 in. ALL PHOTOS COURTESY WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NEW YORK; JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER BEQUEST 70.192. ©HEIRS OF JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER, LICENSED BY THE WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART. DIGITAL IMAGE, © WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NY.

Top left: Edward Hopper, Study for Nighthawks (verso), 1941 or 1942, fabricated chalk on paper, 8 1/2 x 10 15/16 in. Top right: Edward Hopper, Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942, fabricated chalk on paper, 8 7/16 x 10 15/16 in. Bottom left: Edward Hopper, Study for Nighthawks (recto), 1941 or 1942, fabricated chalk on paper, 8 1/2 x 11 in. Bottom right: Edward Hopper, Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942, fabricated chalk on paper, 8 1/2 x 11 1/16 in.
ALL PHOTOS COURTESY WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NEW YORK; JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER BEQUEST 70.192. ©HEIRS OF JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER, LICENSED BY THE WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART. DIGITAL IMAGE ©WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NY.

Here, says Foster, the artist tackled, “perhaps for the first time, the way in which light and dark would play out to underscore the dichotomy of inside and out. Perhaps this was even when he decided to make the painting a night scene, for the swath of chalk that shades the upper left corner—applied broadly with the side of the stick—adds that extra bit of darkness, effectively turning on the interior light in the diner (actually nothing but the reserve of the paper) seen through the large window.”

In other studies, made on higher-quality paper than the others, Hopper refined the figures—the tilt of their heads, the angle of their bodies, the way light falls on their skin and clothing. His wife, Jo, posed for the female figures. Hopper himself posed for the males—presumably using double mirrors so he could see himself.

Edward Hopper, Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942, fabricated chalk on paper, 10 7/16 x 8 in. COURTESY WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NEW YORK; JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER BEQUEST 70.255. ©HEIRS OF JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER, LICENSED BY THE WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART. DIGITAL IMAGE, © WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NY.

Edward Hopper, Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942, fabricated chalk on paper, 10 7/16 x 8 in.
COURTESY WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NEW YORK; JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER BEQUEST 70.255. ©HEIRS OF JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER, LICENSED BY THE WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART. DIGITAL IMAGE ©WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NY.

Continuing his studies of the lone male figure, Hopper worked in “firm, linear strokes with the tip of the chalk and nuanced shading achieved with stumping and blending,” Foster writes. The artist develops the three-quarter view seen in the painting, with the right side of the face just visible. The light sketch on the bottom of one page (upside-down to the main image) shows a change in the way his head tilts—“a slight difference,” notes Foster, “but one Hopper considered carefully.”

Left: Edward Hopper, Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942, fabricated chalk and charcoal on paper, 8 1/8 x 8 in. Right: Edward Hopper, Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942, fabricated chalk and charcoal on paper, 11 13/16 x 8 7/8 in. COURTESY WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NEW YORK; JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER BEQUEST 70.254. © HEIRS OF JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER, LICENSED BY THE WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART. DIGITAL IMAGE, © WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NY.

Left: Edward Hopper, Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942, fabricated chalk and charcoal on paper, 8 1/8 x 8 in. Right: Edward Hopper, Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942, fabricated chalk and charcoal on paper, 11 13/16 x 8 7/8 in.
COURTESY WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NEW YORK; JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER BEQUEST 70.254. ©HEIRS OF JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER, LICENSED BY THE WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART. DIGITAL IMAGE ©WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NY.

Another sheet shows studies of Jo Hopper’s arms. A study of her right hand holding a cigarette evolved into the man’s hand in the painting, the one closest to touching the woman—“a spot with a tense undercurrent of suggestion,” as Foster puts it.

Edward Hopper, Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942, fabricated chalk and charcoal on paper, sheet: 15 1/16 x 11 1/16in. COURTESY WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NEW YORK; JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER BEQUEST 70.256. ©HEIRS OF JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER, LICENSED BY THE WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART. DIGITAL IMAGE, © WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NY.

Edward Hopper, Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942, fabricated chalk and charcoal on paper, sheet: 15 1/16 x 11 1/16 in.
COURTESY WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NEW YORK; JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER BEQUEST 70.256. ©HEIRS OF JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER, LICENSED BY THE WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART. DIGITAL IMAGE ©WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NY.

After years of search and scholarship, experts have determined that Nighthawks was not inspired by one specific diner. Rather, it was a composite of wedge-shaped intersections around Greenwich Avenue. Its curving prow seems partly inspired by the Flatiron Building.

In the final drawing, the couple turns to face each other.

Edward Hopper, Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942, fabricated chalk and charcoal on paper, 11 1/8 x 15 in. COURTESY WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NEW YORK, PURCHASE AND GIFT OF JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER BY EXCHANGE  2011.65.

Edward Hopper, Study for Nighthawks, 1941 or 1942, fabricated chalk and charcoal on paper, 11 1/8 x 15 in.
COURTESY WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, NEW YORK, PURCHASE AND GIFT OF JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER BY EXCHANGE 2011.65.

In the finished oil painting, Hopper has opened up the perspective, adding an area of ceiling painted pale yellow. We now see the tops of the stools. More of the countertop is visible, its continuous surface connecting the characters in a way they weren’t before.

The arms and hands of the couple emerge in the final painting, too. (It’s impossible to tell what the woman is holding—it might be a sandwich, it might be cash, or it might be a pack of Lucky Strikes.)

Now, though, these figures are not as close as they were in the final study. “If Hopper’s paintings are an art of silence,” Foster writes, “much is told through nuance of gesture and body.”

Edward Hopper, Nighthawks, 1942, oil on canvas, 33 1/8 x 60 in. COURTESY THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO, FRIENDS OF AMERICAN ART COLLECTION 1942.51. © HEIRS OF JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER, LICENSED BY THE WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART. PHOTOGRAPHY © THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO.

Edward Hopper, Nighthawks, 1942, oil on canvas, 33 1/8 x 60 in.
COURTESY THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO, FRIENDS OF AMERICAN ART COLLECTION 1942.51. © HEIRS OF JOSEPHINE N. HOPPER, LICENSED BY THE WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART. PHOTOGRAPHY ©THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO.

Painting of the Day

22 Jul

Tomorrow I May Be Far Away. by Romare Bearden (1911-1988). Collage of various papers with charcoal and graphite on canvas, 1967. Belongs to the collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Notes from nga.gov:

Bearden’s title, Tomorrow I May Be Far Away, evocative of journeys and partings, comes from the blues classic “Good Chib Blues,” recorded by Edith North Johnson in 1929. And like the blues, this monumental collage by Romare Bearden derives its power from repetitions, multiple meanings, and the layered associations of its imagery. Richly interwoven with metaphor and memory, informed by art historical tradition and life experience, and steeped in a vibrant African American cultural heritage, Tomorrow I May Be Far Away is quintessential Bearden in its expression of the universal human condition.

Bearden’s art is exceptional for the way in which it expands the jazz and blues idioms into the visual realm through the medium of collage. In Tomorrow I May Be Far Away, the artist created the visual counterpart of improvisational jazz intervals—marked by shifts in scale, breaks in color and pattern, and disarranged perspectives—and employed repetition, a characteristic of the blues, through the juxtaposition of cuttings from his own hand-painted papers along with those from magazines, catalogues, wrapping papers or wallpapers, and at least one art reproduction—a snippet of a photo reproduction of Henri Rousseau’s The Dream (1910), from the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The result is a rich and varied surface, further enhanced by the artist with charcoal and graphite additions. Bearden said: “People have asked me why I use the collage. I find that when some detail such as a hand or an eye is taken out of its original context and placed in a different space and form configuration, it acquires a different quality.  In such a process the meaning is extended.”

The central figure in Tomorrow I May Be Far Away is seated in front of a rustic cabin. Behind his left shoulder the exterior wall is pierced by a single open window through which a second figure looks out. The shingled wall of the shack is composed of a staccato arrangement of clippings displaying various wood grains that have been repurposed from a catalogue or other printed source.  Constructed of printed papers, this exterior wall also suggests the interior walls of early 20th century sharecropper’s shacks in the rural south, where newspaper, magazine, and catalogue pages were commonly pasted to provide both insulation and adornment.

Romare Bearden was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, and his southern roots became the linchpin for his art: “I put the South in my work because it seems near to me. I can’t seem to exhaust the things I remember. The South seems to me, in other words, to be more in my work than any other place.”

Other references to southern rural life can be found in this scene, including the female figure dressed for farm work wearing a head scarf and long skirt and holding an armful of produce.  In the upper right corner of the composition is a train, smoke billowing from its stack as it speeds across the landscape.

Train images recur frequently in Bearden’s art in all media. The train is one of his “journeying things,” bringing with it many associations, from the personal (his father had for a time worked for the railroad) to the broader allusions of the Underground Railroad and the Great Migration. In a 1977 interview Bearden noted: “Trains are so much a part of Negro life. Negroes lived near the tracks, worked on the railroads, and trains carried them North during the migration.” The importance of repetition and recurring motifs like the train in Bearden’s art has an equivalent in the call-and-response of blues music and in the improvisation of jazz. As Bearden famously explained, “I paint out of the tradition of the blues, of call and recall. You start a theme and you call and recall.”

 

Painting of the Day

9 Jul

Atlantic Ocean. by Jennifer Bartlett (born 1941). Enamel over silkscreen grid on baked enamel steel plates, 1984. Currently on view in the exhibition “Jennifer Bartlett: History of the Universe–Works 1970-2011” at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA), Philadelphia.

Notes about Bartlett and her artistic process from the aforementioned exhibition brochure:

Emerging in the mid-1970s to become one of the leading American artists of her time, Jennifer Bartlett is one of the first female painters of her generation to be both commercially successful and critically influential. When her monumental painting Rhapsody was first shown in 1976, it was regarded as a tour-de-force postmodern pastiche of the history of Modern Art. This pivotal work later served as a point of departure for Bartlett to explore different media and develop new techniques. Over the course of her 50-year career, Bartlett has become known for her process-oriented, abstract works that offer viewers inventive narratives.

Moving freely back and forth from abstraction to figuration, from minimalist rigor into maximalist exuberance, exploring various materials, combining plate paintings with paintings on canvas, Bartlett has remained true to her vision of painting as an open associative process with unending possibilities. She continues to experiment, always willing to subvert and unsettle the seeming happiness and simplicity of her imagery and to break the rules that she invented more than 40 years ago.

In the late 1960s, Bartlett, inspired by New York City subway signs, began using twelve-inch square steel plates coated with baked-on white enamel, in place of stretched canvases. Liberated by an infinitely expandable painting surface that could easily be hung on a wall and by restricting her palette to only six colors– white, black, yellow, red, blue, and green–Bartlett was able to allow her compositions to unfold spontaneously plate by plate.

Bartlett’s plate compositions often form an unstructured grid made of structured grids. The plates are 16-gauge cold-rolled steel, with smoothed edges, measuring one foot square with a white baked enamel surface, and a small hole in each corner with which to fix the plates to the wall. They are silk-screened and epoxied with a light gray grid that mimics the graph paper that Bartlett, like so many other artists of her generation, used for drawing. All the dots in Bartlett’s plate paintings are painted by hand. No two dots are ever alike and they routinely cross over the grid rather than neatly filling each square.

My comments:

Unfortunately this picture does not give anything close to the same experience you have when you see this giant grid painting in person. You can’t see the lovely, exquisite rendering of the sea that Bartlett has accomplished with her careful, deliberate painting. I visited the exhibition in which this painting is currently on view last week, and it was a treat to take in each and every square, one by one, absorbing all the lovely swishes of dark blue paint that Bartlett so skillfully used to paint and represent the ocean. I will be writing my first review for the Phoenix on this exhibition, which will appear in its first issue at the beginning of the school year in the fall. But anyway, looking at this painting now, it reminds me of the cloudy sky I saw last night. I’ve literally never seen a cloudy sky quite like it in my almost 19 years of life. The clouds were incredibly close to the ground, and they were almost patterned or layered, with each layer bearing a different shade of blue/grey from the others. It was an incredible painting in the sky filled with hues of blue, grey, lavender, and dark violet, just absolutely gorgeous. It was easy to feel like you could stare into it forever, and that was the same feeling I got when I looked at this painting by Barlett, as well as many of her paintings featured in the the exhibition. She is able to create a work that truly captures nature. But she is not mimicking nature or trying to be naturalistic. Instead she is able to evoke the same breathtaking beauty that one can only see in nature, which is quite a feat. It’s an interesting version of the man vs. nature conflict you hear about when you study literature in school, but in this case the fight is about who can create the most beautiful sight?

Art of the Day

3 Jul

Burger and Fries. Part of the series called “Blue Plate Special.” By John Miller (born around 1969). Blown glass, date unknown.

Notes from artist’s website, johnmillerglass.com:

John is fascinated by American diner and fast food culture, as well as the personalities that surround it – patrons, chefs, and waitresses. The pieces are infused with fun and whimsy – much like Miller’s own personality. “I was searching for something I really wanted to make.  Objects are a big part of our lives, and all the forms, shapes, and colors are a giant part of the culture of this country. Yet you overlook it because it is an everyday object that you know you need …salt, coffee, food. I wanted to create art that is fun, but also makes you look at these objects in a new way.”

My comments:

I’m still researching contemporary glass artists at my internship that would be good candidates to commission for a glass menorah for the glass craft show that the Gershman Y will be exhibiting in the fall, and so I stumbled upon this artist in my research today and I really admired his work so I wanted to feature it on the blog. His work is strongly reminiscent of Pop Art, which similarly took icons of pop culture (there are few things more American than a big cheeseburger and curly fries) and transforming them into works of art. This artist not only does that, but he also blows up the size of these objects as we would typically encounter them in everyday life and makes them monumental-Claes Oldenburg did something similar with his  fabric sculptures of cake and toilets. He goes even further by recreating the classic food combination in a fragile, delicate medium. These are two adjectives that I don’t think anyone would normally associate with burgers and fries. In fact, we usually reserve our sloppiest, laid back and relaxed behavior for the times that we’re consuming burgers and fries. But Miller’s artwork has changed the dynamic of our relationship with this food, because now this messy, anything but dainty food is too beautiful and precious to eat. And its dramatically increased size renders it completely inedible, being something that we can only admire as it shines in the light.

Art of the Day

2 Jul

Man Ray. Anatomies. 1929

Anatomies. by Man Ray (1890-1976). Gelatin silver print, 1929. In the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, NYC.

Statement from Man Ray about art that was reprinted in the book Art in Theory 1900-1990: An Anthology of Changing Ideas:

American by birth, though involved for most of his career with the European avant-garde centered in Paris, Man Ray is normally associated with his development of photographic techniques in the orbit first of Dada, and later, Surrealism. In this early statement he articulates a more orthodox formalist point of view. The ‘Statement’ was originally printed in ‘The Forum Exhibition of Modern American Painters’, Anderson Galleries, New York, March 1916:

Throughout time painting has alternately been put to the service of the church, the state, arms, individual patronage, nature appreciation, scientific phenomena, anecdote, and decoration. 

But all the marvelous works that have been painted, whatever the sources of inspiration, still live for us because of absolute qualities they possess in common. The creative force and the expressiveness of painting reside materially in the color and texture of pigment, in the possibilities of form invention and organization, and in the flat plan on which these elements are brought to play.

The artist is concerned solely with linking these absolute qualities directly to his wit, imagination, and experience, without the go-between of a ‘subject.’ Working on a single plane as the instantaneously visualizing factor, he realizes his mind motives and physical sensations in a permanent and universal language of color, texture, and form organization. He uncovers the pure plane of expression that has so long been hidden by the glazings of nature imitation, anecdote, and the other popular subjects.

Accordingly the artist’s work is to be measured by the vitality, the invention, and the definiteness and conviction of purpose within its own medium. 

My comments:

Man Ray’s statement is quite complex and interesting to ponder. It came several years before he started creating the rayograms like the one above for which he is famous, but the main points that he wrote in the statement can be applied to the rayograms like the one above that is the Art of the Day. It seems to me that Man Ray is fundamentally saying that art ultimately boils down to its formal elements and the way that an artist uses them, because it is these formal elements that link all paintings ever created. It’s really the only thing that all paintings, or even artworks that aren’t paintings, share in common. Modern artists like Man Ray decided to zero in their focus on these formal elements and see how far they could go in eliminating the recognizable imagery in a painting while still creating a work that is expressive and meaningful to viewers. With Anatomies, at the first, brief glance it appears to be a print with a black background and a large, white, looming upward triangle in the foreground (this is what I saw when I first gazed upon it). But as your eyes spend more time lingering over this white shape, you realize it’s actually the underside of a person’s chin, with the neck and collarbone hovering below it. The shape and implied motion of the body depicted here reminds me of a great, enormous humpback whale breaking out of the waves. This simple, not often noticed part of the body is transformed into shapes that have incredible majesty and grace. This is the power of art revealed.

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