Tuesday, June 30, 2015

24 & 25 Painting, The Art of - Karla Klarin © 2015

24  The Biiiiiig Rock

A very big rock moved to LA in 2012. It's not like it moved by itself (now that would have been interesting!), LACMA spent 10  million bucks to bring it here from its original SoCal desert home to its fancy new home on Wilshire Boulevard.  A lot of people lined up to witness the arrival of this very big rock via truck.

It is a very nice big rock and I'm sort of a big rock afficionado.  I've seen some pretty big rocks up close: Yosemite (Half Dome!), Arches (Delicate Arch), Zion (the Three Patriarchs), Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Mexican Hat and those mothers of all rocks-the Mittens of Monument Valley.  Actually these are not just very big rocks-they are MONSTER rocks.  Monolithic Rocks that inspire silence.  Sort of like seeing the Sistine Chapel.  They are stoically magnificent.

The very big LACMA rock with the walkway underneath is an excellent addition to big rock culture.  But more than the rock, I like the couple of acres of flat decomposed granite that surrounds it.  Because for the LACMA rock it's all about "context." (A much loved word of art curators.  Context.  Go figure.  That means that if you return our new big rock to its home in the desert, it's back to being just another not very special big rock.)  That wonderful flat emptiness emphasizes the very bigness of the big rock.  (And in spite of its name, "Levitated Mass" is not really levitated at all, it's sitting on a couple of shelves.)

Levitated Mass, Michael Heizer, LACMA

Half Dome, Yosemite NP

At the end of the day, I'm not sure how wise it is for artists to compete so directly with mother nature.  Mother nature is always going to win.  

25  Painting, Seriously?

For paintings to be important, they need to be taken seriously.  For them to be taken seriously, the paintings need to be serious.

One of the oddest aspects of much contemporary art is that it doesn't want to be taken seriously.  It is often jokey, without skill or aesthetic rigor.  Oddly enough, the lack of these very qualities seems to accelerate success in the art marketplace.

Over the past few years I've read 25 artist biographies.  I thought I knew quite a bit about 20th century art before my reading binge.  Hah!  Nothing beats a good bio to take one to the dirty meat of the matter.  I was fascinated by the sometimes demonic behavior and sad melodrama of these artist's lives. 

But more than that craziness, I am left with a surprise- i.e. in the past artists took their work seriously.  SERIOUSLY.  They took their craft of painting or sculpture seriously.  They took art history, whether embracing or rejecting it, seriously.  They took their subject matter (whether abstraction or representational) yes, you guessed it, seriously.  Making art was not an intellectual amusement or a career.  It was life.  And sometimes it was death.

Today I rarely see this depth and passion in the belief of the importance of "fine" art.  I see quite a bit of at-arms-length cynicism, sloppiness, an oddly cool intentional stupidity and lack of skill in much of the most valued art made today.  

These are Warhol's children and grandchildren.  Mass-produced low brow imagery popped out of factories.  Billions of dollars worth.

On the other hand let me mention Ad Reinhardt (1913-1967) the painter of what are surely among the most serious paintings of the 20th century.  But what a funny guy!   Below is one of his cartoons about abstraction.  Imagine the cartoons he could draw today.

                                                        end of post 4, (24 & 25)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

21, 22 & 23 Painting the Art of - Karla Klarin © 2015

21  The Hand

I was wandering around the Uffizi Gallery last year when I saw this hand.  I've seen thousands of marble sculptures from the Italian Renaissance.  For the most part they are  beautiful.

But amongst the dozens of sculptures lining hallways and exhibition rooms this hand caught my attention.  I could look at it everyday for the rest of my life and never tire of it.  It is the smooth hand of youth.  It has not yet been damaged or worn by life.  It is relaxed in death (notice the wound on the torso to the left).  The beauty of this hand is so unassuming that upon close inspection it is stunning to see how exquisite it is.  It is a stone hand sculpted by a living human hand.  It is a physical contemplation sculpted by one human 500 years ago about being human.

22  Words

"Theatricality may be put in tension with this received epistemology because the temporality of the theatrical is the logical corollary of the stability of sculptural space, as the undifferentiated space of the world at large is the corollary of the differentiated space of painting..."

This is a quote from a 1974 art magazine.  I have no idea what it means.  When I was young I forced myself to read articles containing sentences like this.  Then I decided that the problem wasn't that I was stupid, the problem was that these writers didn't know how to write.  I gave up on art magazines 40 years ago.

I think there are too many words.  They are everywhere:  newspapers, magazines, billboards, advertisements, books, bumper stickers, pasta boxes, tattoos on bodies, blogs!    It's exhausting.  And then in the late twentieth century words invaded visual art.  I don't want to read visual art.  I want to just see it.  I want to feel it.  I want to decipher it.  I want my eyes to soak it up like a sponge soaks up spilled coffee on my kitchen table.

But I don't want to read it.  As soon as I see words plastered on "art" I turn around and walk away.

                                               Bruce Nauman

23  Theater of the Burn

Los Angeles burns on a 20+ year cycle.  The canyons, hillsides and forests.  Desert winds kicking into high gear in the fall is the usual reason.

In 1970 I was a teenager living in the middle of the SF Valley-which naturally, being a valley, is surrounded by several small mountain ranges and national forests.  

1970 was the year they all went up in flames.  I remember standing outside our house spinning around and around and on every side flames lit up the hills.  I wasn't afraid the fires would get me, after all I could just jump into our swimming pool if the flames got too close.  So I watched for several days until it burned itself out.  In this weird fantasyland known as LA, the wolf is always at the door.

                                                     end of post 3, (21-23)