Sunday, May 13, 2018

Spider Woman and Spider Rock

Joan Miro and his Constellations

In 1939, at the outbreak of the second world war, Miró and his family moved to Varengeville on the Normandy coast, a few miles from Dieppe. Georges Braque was a neighbor. The village was subject to a blackout, and that fact prompted Miro's most luminous and affecting series of paintings, "The Constellations." He explained their genesis in a letter to a friend -- "I had always enjoyed looking out of the windows at night and seeing the sky and the stars and the moon, but now we weren't allowed to do this any more, so I painted the windows blue and I took my brushes and paint, and that was the beginning of the 'Constellations.'" 

Painted on paper, the pictures create the most vibrant expression of Miró's inner universe, with its by now recognizable system of codes and symbols. 

On May 20th, with the advance of the German forces, he managed to get his wife and daughter on the last train for Paris, from where they miraculously found room on a train leaving for Spain. Miró had time to take nothing with him, except a roll of the starry paintings. 

The family got passage to Palma, Mallorca, where Miro had spent his childhood summers with his grandparents, and where, on August first, he resumed work after more than two months of escape. 

"The Constellations," which Miro completed in Barcelona, were among the first artistic documents to reach America after the war, and were exhibited in New York in 1945. 

Andre Breton, who saw them, talked of how at a "time of extreme perturbation" Miro had escaped into a realm of "the purest, the least changeable..."

Joan Miro on his "Constellations" series...

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Mammon, Get Thee Away from the USA!

Mammon, get thee away from the USA...

"I rose up at the dawn of day, --
'Get thee away! get thee away!
Pray'st thou for riches? Away, away!
This is the throne of Mammon grey.'" 

-- William Blake, "Mammon"

"Mammon led them on --
Mammon, the least erected Spirit that fell
From Heaven: for even in Heaven his looks and thoughts
Were always downward bent, admiring more
The riches of Heaven's pavement, trodden gold,
Than aught divine or holy else enjoyed
In vision beatific."

-- John Milton, "Paradise Lost" (1667-1674), Book I, line 678.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Hit or Myth: Myth-Making and Myth-Busting

David Bates art and Roger Daltry of the WHO

A few years back, I was at a David Bates opening at Talley Dunn Gallery in Dallas, and I remarked to David that this sculpture reminded me of a rock 'n' roll singer with a microphone. He immediately said, "Thanks. You just ruined it for me." He had based this primordial image on a "nature man" wrestling with a snake. He was in deep, deep, deep into his MYTH-MAKING phase, while I was still in our previous, shared MYTH-BUSTING mode of the seventies and eighties. We used to joke around about our art like that, all the time. But NOW it was a clear-cut moment of, "open mouth, insert foot." WHO are you? -- We won't get fooled again, no, no, no...

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Art School Memory: The Unbearable Humbling of Being (an Artist)

Robert Motherwell studio wall

This shot of Robert Motherwell's studio wall reminds me of my "Dr. William Jordan story." You see how overshot paint/ink marks were made on the backdrop wall behind the art? Well I had a similar pattern on my own backdrop in my Graduate studio at SMU -- only there were no paintings pinned up this one time. I had just "cleared the decks." Dr. Jordan happened by, and he thought that the backdrop was my actual artwork. 

As a fan of Cy Twombly and other artists of that era, he began to lavish high praise on this "work." Since Dr.  J. was one of the finest art historians I have ever known, and was responsible for curating the fabulous Meadows Museum collection, including those Velazquez and Goya masterworks, I was not about to interrupt or correct his assumptions. 

Truth be known, as a neophyte Grad student, constantly challenged by my faculty over my searching efforts -- I was also "starved for compliments." So, I politely soaked it all in. After he left, I was both flattered and embarrassed by this development. 

Welcome to the bitter-sweet and ambiguous world of Fine Art appreciation. Always an extremely mixed-bag of results for me. A perfect example of my lot.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Frank Lloyd Wright: Johnson Wax Building Desk and Chair DesignReproductions

Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright

Late 20th Century Cassina - Frank Lloyd Wright Johnson Wax desk and chair, c. 1992

A reproduction by Cassina of the writing desk and chair based on the furniture system of the S. C. Johnson Administration Building, Racine, Wisconsin, 1936.

Charles Eames and Ray Eames

Charles Eames and Ray Eames

Charles Eames and Ray Eames

Charles Eames and Ray Eames

Charles Eames and Ray Eames

Charles Eames and Ray Eames

Charles Eames and Ray Eames

Charles Eames and Ray Eames