Tag Archives: literature

Inscrutable Klee

Readers of this blog will have noticed that I sometimes allude to T.J.Clark’s articles in the LRB. Recently he reviewed the massive Klee exhibition at Tate Modern. I think he is right to stress that it is very hard for … Continue reading

Posted in Early Abstraction, Principles of Abstraction | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Realism

I sold one piece from my recent DIY show in Toronto, and so treated myself by buying a couple of books not available in the library. Livin’ high! First of all, got two catalogs of Frank Stella’s prints. That’s what I’m … Continue reading

Posted in Abstraction and Society, Asian Abstraction | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Lost Steps

Returning to an earlier discussion of books and art, my own favorite iconic novel of art is Alejo Carpentier‘s The Lost Steps. Although it is about a musicologist, it does have a lot to say about abstraction, if we can … Continue reading

Posted in Abstraction and Society, American Modernism, Conceptualism and Painting, Principles of Abstraction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Theaster Gates

Theaster Gates recently gave a talk in Toronto, which sadly I missed, but the other day I came across two articles about him, one in the New Yorker, the other in the New York Times Magazine. As usual, certain small … Continue reading

Posted in Abstraction and Society, Conceptualism and Painting, Current Affairs, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leon Ferrari

In an earlier post I was critical of Leon Ferrari, and was feeling as if I might have been too much so. I thought he deserved further research, so have been looking at a couple of catalogs. Although I have … Continue reading

Posted in Abstraction and Society, Conceptualism and Painting, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Figures

An earlier post got me thinking. Balzac’s “The Unknown Masterpiece” is an iconic work of literature for modernists, from say Cézanne to Picasso. The blank map in The Hunting of the Snark is equally important for the transition from abstraction … Continue reading

Posted in Abstraction and Society, Early Abstraction, Principles of Abstraction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Early Monet

Some years ago I was very struck by this Monet in Chicago. It is beautifully ordinary – the subject, the treatment – a kind of bland, unassuming realism. I thought of Harold Bloom’s description of Wordsworth, whose use of ordinary … Continue reading

Posted in Early Abstraction, Principles of Abstraction | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Out of Control

Recently I saw a remarkable four page spread of photos in the Sunday Times of the turmoil in Kiev. Part of their effect was owing to their size, somewhat larger than the usual newspaper photo, but they were also intensely … Continue reading

Posted in Abstraction and Society, Current Affairs, Ethics of Abstraction, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sex and the Empty Canvas

I’d like to think more about sex and abstraction, because there is something undiscovered there. But in the era of mass pornography and internet explicitness, a genuinely artistic approach to sex might be anerotic. The other day I was driving … Continue reading

Posted in Abstraction and Society, American Modernism, Conceptualism and Painting, Current Affairs, Early Abstraction | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Vasudeo Gaitonde

Just discovered an important Indian artist, Vasudeo Gaitonde. Apparently he was something of a mentor to Nasreen Mohamedi. His work reaches me variably, as expected. I’ll say more about him in my book, but for now just want to suggest … Continue reading

Posted in American Modernism, Asian Abstraction, Principles of Abstraction, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ordinary Conceptualism

Back in the day, conceptual art had the cachet of difficulty, abstruseness and extreme refinement. That the works were regarded as unsaleable was supposed to guarantee their seriousness and integrity. These qualities were operative even if the work was silly; … Continue reading

Posted in Abstraction and Society, Conceptualism and Painting, Current Affairs, Ethics of Abstraction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Groys

I found an article/review on Boris Groys by Benjamin Kunkel in the London Review of Books. Overall it’s probably accurate, but I didn’t perfectly recognize Groys in some of the more summary descriptions: “Groys is…idealist in his belief that the … Continue reading

Posted in Abstraction and Society, Conceptualism and Painting, Current Affairs | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kandinsky Pro and Con

Recently I saw a couple of early abstractions by Kandinsky, which provoke me to revisit the reasons I don’t like them. As it happens, my normal disinterest in the artist has just changed – I’m now strongly disposed in his … Continue reading

Posted in Early Abstraction | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Andrei Platonov

I’m becoming very interested in Andrei Platonov, a Stalin period Soviet writer who remained relatively unknown until recently. Most consider his masterpiece to be The Foundation Pit, quoted some time ago on this blog. I like that book, but am … Continue reading

Posted in Abstraction and Society, Conceptualism and Painting, Principles of Abstraction | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dressing Up

Since Rrose Sélavy we have seen a lot of masquerade in the art world, from Cindy Sherman’s great film stills, to the comic “American Uncle” of Stanislaw Witkiewicz, to Luigi Ontani’s epicene Hindu gods—only to mention the influential past masters. … Continue reading

Posted in Abstraction and Society, Current Affairs | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Funny But No Joke

Not all artists are noted for their humor, lightness, gaiety and wit. In all the years I knew Jeff Wall I only heard him crack one joke, but it was a pretty good one. I came late to the Bodega, … Continue reading

Posted in Conceptualism and Painting, Principles of Abstraction, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Total Structure

Still harping on Ehrenzweig, I choose these words as the core insight of use to any artist: “In a work of art any element however paltry has to be firmly related to the total structure in a complex web of … Continue reading

Posted in American Modernism, Conceptualism and Painting, Principles of Abstraction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Curation at the limit

In a recent Artforum the very distinguished critic Claire Bishop has an interesting review of the combined Lithuanian/Cypriot pavilion at this years Venice Biennale. Some artists are suspicious of the curator as artist, but in a way that development was … Continue reading

Posted in Abstraction and Society, Principles of Abstraction, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Honor, Power and the Love of Women

From Freud, General Theory of the Neuroses Part XXIII. “The Development of the Symptoms” “Before I leave you today I should like to have your attention for a while for an aspect of imaginative life which is worthy of the … Continue reading

Posted in Abstraction and Society, Ethics of Abstraction, Principles of Abstraction, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Many Images

My friend Jeff Tutt tells me that he is not satisfied with a shape unless it suggests at least three images. A good approach, and inspiring. He also has a great abstract book.

Posted in Principles of Abstraction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Complex Process

It takes an effort of imagination for an ordinary viewer to recapture the enormous difficulty of Stella’s methods in the reliefs—time consuming, and requiring the coordination of many different activities and people. First he has to plan the work with … Continue reading

Posted in American Modernism, Conceptualism and Painting, Principles of Abstraction, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Large Forms

Following from the previous post, some thoughts from Ehrenzweig suggest what might be interesting about an abstract book: “…integration [of the artwork] can only be controlled by the empty stare of unconscious scanning which alone is capable of overcoming the … Continue reading

Posted in American Modernism, Conceptualism and Painting, Principles of Abstraction, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Abstract Book

I’d like to return to a woodcut by Kandinsky posted earlier on this blog. When I first looked at it I saw an early compendium of techniques still useful in abstraction. Take repetition and mirroring, for example. The white crescent … Continue reading

Posted in Early Abstraction, Principles of Abstraction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Expressivist Smithson?

The publication date of Ehrenzweig‘s book was 1967, but he died the year before. He was well versed in contemporary art, and mentions the color field painters, Neo-Dada and Op Art, and has something important to say about them all. … Continue reading

Posted in Abstraction and Society, American Modernism, Conceptualism and Painting, Principles of Abstraction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inwardness of a Work

What is inwardness anyway? It exists, and it matters, but it’s not really “in” anything. I used to think that commentary expanded as the art work diminished, but now disapprove of such off-hand criticism. Kitaj is right, commentary may not … Continue reading

Posted in Ethics of Abstraction, Principles of Abstraction, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Extinction

Another, very affecting perspective on the disappearance of species comes from Hayao Miuyazaki, the great maker of animated films. At the climax of his long graphic novel Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind, the heroine confronts a machine programmed to … Continue reading

Posted in Abstraction and Society, Current Affairs, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inwardness

In the Brooklyn Rail conversation mentioned earlier, Robert Hullot-Kentor offers the following observation: “…academics included, the U.S. verges on homogeneity in its denial of psychological reality. Hardly anyone wants to know what goes on inside themselves. There is strikingly little … Continue reading

Posted in Abstraction and Society, American Modernism, Current Affairs, Ethics of Abstraction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Memories of Jack Vance

My friend the late Bruce Serafin and I shared an enthusiasm for Jack Vance. We had different ideas about why Vance was a good writer, but the pleasure we took in his books was equal. Like many science fiction writers, … Continue reading

Posted in Current Affairs, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Generational Change

The burden of these sad times we must obey Say what we mean, not what we ought to say The oldest have suffered most, we who are young May never see so much, nor live so long I’ve always loved … Continue reading

Posted in Abstraction and Society, American Modernism, Conceptualism and Painting, Ethics of Abstraction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Backyard Hermit

This really blew my mind, the fact that me, an overfed, long-haired leaping gnome should be the star of a Hollywood movie Another provincial with cosmoplitan ideas. See Whim. The girls are in another panel.

Posted in Abstraction and Society, Conceptualism and Painting, Ethics of Abstraction, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment