Friday, December 30, 2011

Natalia Moroz

Natalia Moroz. Boris Pasternak, linocut, 5 x 7." Available on Etsy (see link in post). [Image: stylized black & white block print of a man's head and neck. The shading is made up of black areas and rhythmic lines emphasizing the curves of the face so it appears somewhat cubist. Wavy shapes are repeated in his cheekbones, eyebrows, neck, and hair that appears to be blowing straight up in a satanic wind, anchored by the straight vertical line created by the bride of his nose, his upper-lip-indentation, and chin shadow.}

A photo of the actual Pasternak. Added because someone asked me, "Who is that a portrait of, a satyr?" Nope, just this guy.
I ran across this awesome portrait on Natalia Moroz's Etsy shop. It's a hand-pulled linocut for sale for $70. If I just had a spare $70.... She has jewelry for sale too but you can click the link on the left to see her prints only. She has a whole series of famous literary types.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Kent Williams

Kent Williams. Kevin Llewwllyn as Queen Elizabeth 1, #2, oil on linen, 2007.
I enjoyed looking through Kent Williams' gallery at Merry Karnowski Gallery. I had mixed feelings.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Eye Level Art is closing

I hear that Eye Level Art is closing its doors after December. Mike Elder, who owns the gallery, says he's not making any money so he's closing the place and moving to New York.

I interned at ELA when I first moved to Charleston, when they had a warehouse space on Heriot Street and gallery space on Queen. It was a good way to get a handle on a new art scene and meet some people. Back then Adrienne Antonson was the art director, and she had a gift for networking, creating an art/fashion community that formed one of several hubs or cliques that seem to make up the Charleston art scene. I guess REDUX will fill ELA's place? Or Scoop Gallery?

They're having an event tonight, Dec. 16 from 7-9 that will be their last show. I'd go but I have a million bajillion portraits to finish before Christmas.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Oxford Researchers Note Trees, Miss Forest

I've read some pretty poorly designed research regarding art in my time-- or possibly merely poor reporting of valid research, or poor reporting on poor research-- but of those turds this one is pretty steamy.

According to The Telegraph researchers conducted brain scans on people while they showed them portraits by Rembrandt (prints or actual paintings were not specified). Some viewers were told the portraits were fakes, some were told they were "real." People generally reacted to the "real" ones using the same part of their brains that appreciates pleasure, like food and gambling. When people were told the paintings were fakes they scrutinized the picture to try to see why scholars regarded them as such.

Interesting premise, right? According to Nadia Khomami, who wrote the short article, the study ..."suggests that when we make aesthetic judgements on things like art, we are influenced by many different parts our brain- including what others have told us." So far so good.  And then:

Professor Martin Kemp, Emeritus Professor of the History of Art at Oxford University, and one of the conductors of the experiment said: “It is always better to think we are seeing the genuine article. Our study shows that the way we view art is not rational, that even when we cannot distinguish between two works, the knowledge that one was painted by a renowned artist makes us respond to it very differently. [...]The fact that people travel to galleries around the world to see an original painting suggests that this conclusion is reasonable.”
 Not quite, sir. Let me explain:

Behold! the electronic device you are using to view this blog post. It's pretty neat, right? Now what if I told you it was manufactured by highly trained monkeys? Does that change the way you feel about the device? Would you stop and examine it? Or: think of a song you like. Now what if I told you the songwriter was trained not as a rock musician but in traditional Japanese opera? Would you go back and listen to that song, examining it for the Japanese influence? People have sort of similar reactions to the information that Alicia Keys and Tori Amos were classically trained. Guess what? Your appreciation of something has been altered by "what others have told us."

But then the researchers added art and authenticity to the mix, along with all the classist, Eurocentric, elitist social baggage that comes along with it. We are a society where people are not generally well educated in art except the privileged few who attend universities, a society where art is generally seen as a hobby for a wealthy elite, where galleries and museums are associated with intimidation and snobbery. Where venturing an opinion about art is, frankly, terrifying. Moreover the general art world has spent the last three or four centuries spreading the myth that art is a magical phenomenon of powerful genius. The same art world that has built up a mythology of the Original (and just so happens to benefit financially from such an attitude). So perhaps-- just perhaps-- the enjoyment of a pretty painting is cut short when the viewer is presented with these pressures?

Or perhaps the act of examination versus pleasure-center appreciation is not a "better" or worse proposition. The researchers or writer did not mention if the part of the brain used to examine a fake painting is the part of the brain reserved for stuff that sucks.

Wouldn't it have been interesting to examine the idea that "the knowledge that one was painted by a renowned artist makes us respond to it very differently," by designing an experiment where similar obscure paintings are shown in a neutral fashion, some by artists the viewer will not recognize and others by, say, Mondrian? When you remove the real/fake better/worse premise I wonder, people will react to unrecognizable artists using the pleasure center referred to above? Or upon hearing that the art is the early work of a famous artist, will the examination process kick in?

And to address the last bit of the remark, about visiting galleries to see the originals, that is a misleading analogy. The reproductions to which we are accustomed are not similar paintings or drawings that we can view three-dimensionally; they are photographs of the work, usually printed in a completely different size, on flat shiny paper. Originals can sometimes look the same as their reproductions but they tend to look different and can actually be quite surprising in person, therefore you have to visit museums to observe the materiality, the brushstrokes, the size, sculptural angles, etc. It's not just an attitude toward the authenticity of the piece, it is an observable difference.

To compound the wrongness of this article it is titled, Our Brains Respond Differently to 'Fake' Art. As if to imply that it is the fakeness of the art which causes a chemical reaction due to its sheer inferiority, like magic, as opposed our attitudes being swayed by social pressures related to the authenticity of art.

I'm not holding my breath for Science and/or Research to approach art from a rational place of deeper understanding. Judging by the heaps of either smug or starry-eyed research, science-related people seem to take particular pleasure in debunking (and sometimes confirming) the elitist magical thinking that surrounds art (and fine wine), probably because they've bought into such thinking in the first place.

Sheldon and Leonard from The Big Bang Theory. Sheldon has an Idea; you can tel because he's pointing at his head. Leonard responds like a sad sack.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Newly discovered possible portrait of Jane Austen

I read about this via The Guardian. According to Austen scholar Dr. Paula Byrne,

The previous portrait is a very sentimentalised Victorian view of 'Aunt Jane', someone who played spillikins, who just lurked in the shadows with her scribbling. But it seems to me that it's very clear from her letters that Jane Austen took great pride in her writing, that she was desperate to be taken seriously," said Byrne. "This new picture first roots her in a London setting – by Westminster Abbey. And second, it presents her as a professional woman writer; there are pens on the table, a sheaf of paper. She seems to be a woman very confident in her own skin, very happy to be presented as a professional woman writer and a novelist, which does fly in the face of the cutesy, heritage spinster view.

 Here is the 'previous portrait,' referred to by Byrne.

Sketch of Jane Austen by her sister Cassandra Austen, 1810, pencil and watercolor. She is generally thought to look "cross,' but I see the baggy eyes and nostril-to-cheek wrinkles as a common amateurish trait in a drawing. [Image: light simple pencil sketch in oval outlined frame of Austen with her arms crossed looking to her right. The skill is amateurish and the proportions of the face are a bit off.]
 And here is the drawing being proposed as a contemporary portrait of Austen:

Graphite on vellum. [Image: softly gradated monochromatic drawing of Austen at a table writing on paper and looking up at and past the viewer. A cat is asleep on the table in front of her. She sits in front of a thick tasseled curtain partially drawn back to reveal a the base of a classical column and what might be an Egyptian column Westminster Abbey with a hazy horizon line. She wears the contemporary dress of around 1815 with what could be a cloth cap or neoclassical laurel crown, a necklaces, a shawl and lace sleeves. Her faces is regal looking due to being placed prominently two-thirds up the page and contrasting with the curtain.]

The debate seems to hinge on whether this is an "imaginary portrait," painted in homage to Austen after her death during her new-found fame in the 1870's; or a contemporary portrait from Austen's lifetime (1815). While Austen would not yet have been famous she did struggle to be seen as a serious writer and could conceivably have commissioned the drawing. I'm no Austen expert or British art history expert but I think it is from 1815. The ethereal aura created by the soft mark-making and lack of chiaroscuro is common to portraits from the Napoleonic Era because it reflects, I believe, the humanistic idealism of the Enlightenment which turned to hard-edged sentimentality in the later Victorian era (such as Ingres or Bouguereau).

Bougeureauiffic naked lady, late 1800s

Portrait by Ingres.

If this were an homage from the 1870s after Austen's death the artist would have made her face more idealized. If they were basing it on the portrait by Cassandra Austen they would have worked with the wide-set eyes, broad face and tight lips to make a heart-shaped cupid's-bow-lipped beauty typical of the era (see Ingres' portrait above). In portraits from around 1815, however, quirky female facial features abound. For comparison's sake here are some other portraits from around 1815:

Another possible portrait of Jane Austen, purportedly by Ozias Humphrey when Austen was around 13. It is referred to as "the Rice Portrait." [Image: full-body portrait of a girl in a white dress walking through a park with a parasol and her dress in movement].

Yet another possible portrait of Austen, by Stanier Clarke, 1815.

Hortense Bonaparte by Fleury-Francois Richard, 1815. This was a much more formal, finished portrait than Austen's as befitted a Bonaparte.

Alexander Ya. Patton (1762-1815) by George Dawe.

Lady Elizabeth Croft by John Constable, late 1700s.

John Quincey Adams by John Singleton Copley.

Louis Alexander Berthier. Engraving after drawing by Eugene Charpentier, 1840.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Pecha Kucha 12

Time for another Pecha Kucha y'all. As you may recall (probably not) I went to Pecha Kucha #10 and had mixed feelings regarding anal beads, community sharing and Penicillin, though completely unrelated. Here is the lineup for this one:

The stage will be set and the lights will go on for Pecha Kucha 12 on Wednesday, December 14th.

Ethan Jackson, emcee for the night 
DJ's Cassidy & The Kid
Concessions: Westbrook Brewing Co.
Josef Kirk Myers & Will Willis – Visualive
Jay Fletcher - J. Fletcher Design
Chris McLernon - Two Heads Music
John Smith - SPARC
Ryan Eleuteri - Charleston Mix
Stephanie Barna  - Charleston City Paper
Bob & Kris Galmarini - Neve Inspired
Abigail Marie - Photographer
John Barnhardt - Barfly Productions

If you don't know what I'm talking about Pecha Kucha is a speed-lecture series held by Charleston Creative Parliament in which people take the stage for six minutes each and discuss anything remotely creative-- report on projects, discuss ideas, explain how stuff works, etc. You pay a ticket and go see it and become inspired, ideally.

I may sit this one out, sadly. Although I typically enjoy this type of self-betterment when forced to participate I just don't want to pay for a ticket to be surrounded by trendy optimists for two hours. You should go though, you trendy optimist you.

Tickets will go on sale mid-week next week.  Check the Parliament Facebook Page or Blog to get all of the latest information.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Happy blogiversary, to me!

So it occurred to me that my blog has a "blogiversary." And that I missed it. This November marks three years of Post- but I barely wrote anything the first two years. I guess I started writing so much in 2011 because of a New Year's Resolution-- the first resolution I appear EVER to have kept (2011 also marks the third annual failure to be able to do a single push-up as resolved). My goal is 100 total posts by New Year's; I'm at 82 so far.

I've run into two of the artists I've blogged about in random places and chatted, and seen others out & about who had no idea who I was, which was kinda weird. Having people mention they read the blog and having people comment is so cool! Definitely worth the effort.

I'm glad I've gotten more practice at writing because when I went back and read my first couple of posts they didn't make any fucking sense. "Now," I mused in 2008, "painting and all the painterliness it entails has been irrevocably identified as a sort of monument to Culture." What?! I'm swifter to edit things down to a manageable size now, if you can believe it. So on that note:

Birthday hat by AmongstLovelyThings. It can be yours for only $18!