playing around with form (new)
Young R. Crumb…kind of a babe.
Robert Smithson by Alice Neel
“The Wrestlers” by Thomas Eakins
Just finished reading two completely disparate novels that, in their own ways, both deal greatly with representations of manhood and the complexities of human desire. I found the two paintings used for the respective book covers to be incredibly telling and well-chosen.
“The Thinker” by Thomas Eakins for John William’s “Stoner,” one of the most touching and brilliant novels I have ever read.
“Nude Man” by Henri Matisse for “Tropic of Cancer” by Henry Miller.
Those in the straight photography corner often appear to see conceptual photography as impure in some way, as if it were not what photography is really about. Without wanting to spark off another one of these debates, it seems to me that concept is indeed considered paramount in Western art photography today (in my experience, this is not at all the case in Japan, where “serious” photography can still very much be about wandering around with a camera and taking pictures). For example, I’m often struck by young photographers struggling to hang an ill-fitting artist statement with some big ideas in it over the shoulders of work that is clearly not conceptual in the slightest… presumably because they have been taught to do so in art school.
“If Dijkstra’s work sometimes flirts with essentialism and sentimentality, ultimately it maintains an edge that cuts the saccharine taste. The strategy is one that satisfies both a critical audience that expects discourse and a more populist one that prefers beautiful pictures.”
-from a review in the latest issue of ARTFORUM by Jordan Kantor of Rineke Dijkstra’s retrospective at SFMoMa
This idea of the “beautiful photograph” is something that has intrigued me for a long time. The aesthetic beauty of an image can, on occasion, be its downfall. Conceptual art’s “discourse” can become overshadowed (to certain viewers) by glaring, obvious beauty. Or, they may not pick up on anything beyond the beauty of the image in the first place. Dijkstra’s work straddles this fine line elegantly, as is stated in the quote above. My goal has always been to marry the two- to find a way to convey an idea or feeling, while still maintaining my desire for aesthetic perfection.
Marco Anelli, from the series ‘In Your Eyes’, documentation of Marina Abramović‘s, ‘The Artist Is Present’ MoMA, New York, 2010
“A symbolic substitute is required in order to externalize the imagined controlling gaze of the ‘big Other’: this job could be performed by an enraptured face carrying within it the idea of a space extending endlessly inwards, with which one could briefly commune. Just briefly – any longer would be unbearable.”
This is an excerpt from a really great article published by frieze magazine about modern portrait photography and the idea of the “enraptured face.” In it the author discusses the portrait work of distinctly different photographers, from Thomas Struth (“instead of pointing to inwardness, the face becomes a stylistic fetish to accompany a subtle, critically distant way of seeing”) to Aura Rosenberg (“[this] series prompts less of a curiosity about the individuals depicted than an interest in the eroticism of photography itself – the wish, here taken to absurd lengths, to partake of intensity and to affect the sitters at a remove”). View the full article here.
Of all the inspiring stuff I’ve been looking at lately, artist Letha Wilson takes the cake. I’ve been thinking a lot about nature vs. the unnatural; about what happens when you bring something artificial into a natural environment, thus obstructing it, and then forging the two to create new meaning. What does that shock look like? How does that unnaturalness manifest itself? Behold:
So fucking good!