Monday, September 28, 2009

Beyond Appearances

Alberto Giacometti, Walking Man, 1960, Bronze.

An honest, unsettling sculpture of a man walking through life is Giacometti’s Walking Man.

Although daunting, I thought this would be an impactful first sculpture for me to write up. This elongated, literally withering, body can be taken past the first impression and onto the deeper, troubling core this body symbolizes gorgeously.

In this man's single step you can see his bronzed flesh pealing off in the sweeping motion and his face growing longer with pure desperation. There’s an inner struggle in the sculpture that is represented in a dramatic style.

It’s rare to see someone this physically warped which therefore might bring the notion that the sculpture is unrealistic. However, internally there have been many times when we could, in fact, relate to this man. As if the world is pushing vehemently against us and we’re left hollow, we are the Walking Man.

There’s not just the weighty aspect of the inner struggle but also the matter of fragility, both physically and emotionally. No matter how closed off or numb we are to the world, part of human nature is our fragile state. When we are stripped down to our core, purely our existence makes us delicate and easily broken down.

Whether it’s the love of your life, your family or yourself, our trust in each is so brittle that one simple move can break us just as this sculpture appears. Like a mere toothpick, we are, eternally.

It’s in Giacometti’s energetic, digging dashes that the sculpture opens an entirely shut off realm of our being. Walking Man represents the relationship that never had an ending and the internal struggle that we never make known.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Carel Fabritius, The Goldfinch, 1654, oil.

Simple and striking. This painting is the epitome of simplicity and I’m not even disappointed.

I’m a huge fan of birds, weird I know, so I’m a bit partial to this image to begin with. The fact that I’m also a firm believer of "less is more," only adds to the appeal of this image.

The warm intimacy that the painting oozes pulls your eye in and you can’t help but wonder the story this little finch has to tell. His glossy, small eyes could be saying anything.

I wonder how he got to the perch and where’s he’s been. Did he just get back from a travel with his love and got separated? Or is he young and this spot is where he’s beginning his journey.

It’s hard to tell. Just like the guy you see everyday at the coffee shop and can’t help but wonder where he’s from, what heartbreak he’s had and where he’s going. That man is this bird, and we’ll never know.

Outside of its intriguing expressive quality, the composition of this piece broke boundaries. A student of Rembrandt, Fabritius used the lighter color in the background and the darker, richer color on top. This was unheard of in the artistic world of this age. The dark color was always used in the background and the lighter, brighter color was to go on top.

Although a shove to the man at the time, this painting is truly a masterpiece. The combination of cool colors in the image creates a tender sentiment that you can’t help but immerse yourself in. Everyone has a story so therefore everyone is, in some way, a little Goldfinch.

Monday, September 21, 2009

An Overgrown Forest

Max Ernst, The Forest, 1927, oil on canvas.

Stuck in a small cage in the center of an overgrown, slightly manic forest seems to be an accurate illustration of my thoughts recently.

With the pace of classes picking up swiftly and extracurricular activities also picking up, Ernst’s trees’ are grades and my social life and I’m the bird stuck enchanted, even a little petrified, of everything growing over me in the bird cage.

This beautifully structured, almost industrial representation of a forest really caught my attention in more than one aspect. It reminded me of a Where the Wild Things Are scene from the new movie trailers. The image appears flat initially, like a book, but with deeper examination, the image turns into a motion picture. The tan lines that create this depth are primeval in style but there’s still modernity in the abstract nature of the lines.

The lines in Ernst's image are actually a result of a technique that he created called frottage. It consisted of drawing on paper that is directly on top of a rough surface which essentially makes a modern relief. This unpredicted aspect of the technique gave Ernst's paintings an edge and contrast.

The bird in the cage also adds compositional contrast in a red, sienna shade that actually looks whimsical and opposes the industrial lines. The bird’s eye looks like a sweet, white button with red stitching while the trees appear dead and lifeless.

In the amalgamation of horizontal and vertical lines, there is a beacon of hope for the bird suffocated by the forest in the pale blue sky towards the top register of the painting. The sky is the light waiting to reach the bird underneath the smothering trees, just as there is a bit of liberation and bliss at the end of an emtionally overwhelming week, or maybe even month.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Degas' Ballerinas

Edgar Degas, The Rehearsal, pastel on canvas, 1873-4

This is one of, if not my very favorite, paintings. In the most simple, concise terms- it’s pretty. Degas’ lyrically painted ballerinas and his elegant use of warm colors is unmatched by any other impressionistic painters.

Touching on Degas’ smaller details, there is also elegance in the fragmented light coming in through the windows, the use of a muted but somehow still striking color palette and the simple and yet expressionistic faces of the figures which all contribute to me starring at the piece as if I’m being hypnotized.

It’s Degas talent to make an image that initially seems as if it is being seen through a foggy lens still seem so alive that is truly remarkable.

Degas was known for his collection of beautiful work of ballet dancers. He was also known for his use of unique perspectives and angles in them. The Rehearsal is an example of this, allowing the audience to feel as if they are getting a secret glance at the practice.

The forefront in the painting carries the largest and boldest variety of colors in the color palette with the deeps green shawl, dark black hair, crimson robe and a rich peach tutu.

This contrasts with the more subdued background. The only bold colors are in the small ties around the dancers’ necks and the crimson robe of the small man in the right corner.

At first sight, it’s the appeal of the dancers that draws the viewer in. Yet, it’s the tiny and endless details and impressionistic style that keeps the viewer entranced by the image. Hence, making this my favorite piece.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Caillebotte's Compelling Paris

Gustave Caillebotte, Young Man at his Window, 1876.
You’re probably thinking, “Wow, this is the first seemingly normal painting she’s picked.” And yes, depending on your standards of “normal” art, it seems pretty simple. It’s an impressionistic (but fundamentally realist) portrait of a man looking, perhaps contemplating, out his window. But of course, there’s something about this painting that comes across to me as dark and cold, and I’m engrossed.

My magnetism to moods of darkness in art has probably been amplified with my recent reading of Dante’s “The Divine Comedy.” Seeing as the epic poem is about the demonic layers of purgatory, there’s still something symbolic and relatable to my, much less sinister, life. I love thinking that my dull life could have some deep, ominous second meaning.

This painting speaks to me in the same way as Dante’s work. As the man is gazing out into the stunning streets of Paris there is something unsettling in the cold colors of the buildings and sky that contrasts eerily against the man’s jet black suit.

The unique perspective, that Caillebotte is known for, also lures me even more to the painting. The position of the man in the open balcony acts as an invitation for the viewer to join him out on the balcony, even though his stance is quite astute.

You can’t forget to notice the wall between the man and Paris which could mean countless things. The rail and glass could allegorically be people, the world or a mental barrier that is blocking him from something. And I think we could all relate to that feeling.

All of these aspects contributed to Caillebotte’s lack of appreciation from the people of his century. As with most impressionists, his work was looked at as strange in his lifetime. Yet, his work was finally recognized for its unique perspectives and techniques in the 21st century when these impressionists artists were reviewed with more artistically open eyes, thankfully for us.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Beckoning Bierstadt

Albert Bierstadt, The Rocky Mountains, 1863, oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY.

For my final art history credit, I’m taking an Art in American West class this semester. In homage to this class, I figured I should choose Albert Bierstadt’s, The Rocky Mountains, before I’m completely burnt out on 20th century American Art. I’ve learned that study in one specific era always harvests onset Attention Deficit Disorder for me.

Anyways, beautiful landscapes of a young America, like Bierstadt's, usually don’t speak to me like, say, Andy Warhol’s pop art. However, with a couple of weeks in this Art in American West class, I’ve been able to gain a new appreciation for this art and I hope to pass some of this onto you.

In 1863 when America’s west was an alien-like space, landscape paintings were necessary for further funding and exploration. But artistically, it was like painting a landscape of mars- you could idealize but nothing was definite and often creative liberties were used by the artists.

This is an example of a landscape that used classical romanticism style on a new subject matter, mountainous regions and Native Americans. Simply the colors alone represent a cheery perfectionism with the use of warm and bright shades, even though natives were beginning to be pushed out by explorers.

In further examination, the Rocky Mountains in the background are painted so subtly and softly that they could be marshmallow-y clouds instead. And in the foreground, the life of Native Americans is depicted. With tepees, horses, and the natives involved in work and play this is a much idealized portrait.

Life seems to be in perfect harmony with the natural world. Portraits like The Rocky Mountains, although normally disregarded, were important as they “beckoned” folks from America's east and even Europeans to explore and put down roots in the west. Without these luring landscapes portraits, we'd have no Hollywood or Las Vegas.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A is for Atypical

Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Summer, 1573, oil on canvas, MuseƩ du Louvre, Paris.

For my first official piece of artwork on my blog voyage, I decided to pick something a little whimsical and not so pretentious since first impressions are everything. I chose Arcimboldo’s Summer in hopes to prove that my approach to art will be just that, approachable. I’m not here to patronize, just enlighten.

And as I hope to enlighten the blogging world, this personification of summer by Arcimboldo was a reaction to an enlightenment going on at the time, commonly known as The Renaissance.

The usage of fruit, wheat, veggies and flowers in this portrait is a twist on art that could be questionable to some art critics. Arcimboldo could have very well been nuts. However, that’s not for us to judge. I like to think that this piece was probably edgy for the 1500’s which is always in.

At first glance this portrait says “scarecrow” to me. This could be because of the organic nature of “summer’s” facial features and, the tip off, wheat peeking out from the top of the potato sack reminiscent collar. Either way, I love how organic the figure is.

“Summer’s” face has soft round lines thanks to the curvatures of the peach. The personification’s hair seems to fall perfectly like a halo with the mixture of soft leaves, cherry fillers and cowlick-like corn husks. There’s something so effortless about this meticulously contrived painting.

Summer was received well by the 16th century but hype fizzled out after Arcimboldo’s death. When the 20th century rolled around, surrealist artists, novelists and film makers stumbled upon his work again and were inspired by Arcimboldo’s inventive paintings.