Sunday, November 27, 2005

Julio Gonzales

Another great show from the Chicago Cultural Center -- Gonzales has an interesting
story. Born the son of a blacksmith in 1876, he went to Paris to become an artist around the turn of the century -studied painting -- learned how draw a pretty strong figure -- tried some of the modern styles that were then current. Biographies are not clear about the progress of his career -- but it appears that he didn't get very far until Brancusi and then Picasso hired him as a technical assistant in the art of metal working (which he had learned from his father -- and from working at an automobile factory) Picasso designed the sculpture -- and Gonzales made it -- until eventually he asked the master's permission to keep on making it as his own.
Thus began his career as an avant garde, modernist sculptor -- at about the age of 50.

He also made figurative pieces -- an occasional head or hand -- and some very sweet, small metal reliefs.

The thing about Gonzales is that he could -- and would --- make beautiful things -- the kind of things that might be found as ornamental flourishes on wrought iron gates or in high-end art/craft fairs. Lucky for him, though, Picasso helped him also become an art-star.

Enrique Santana

All the time I was visiting this show at the Cultural Center,
a woman sat on a bench and stared into the spacious
depths of this painting --
and who could blame her ? These are captivating,
sun-drenched, shadow-cast cityscapes -- like
Caneletto painting Venice (but without any people
-- and with big-box architecture instead of late-Gothic)

Plain but mysterious, so sharp, clear, and sunny
-- like so many Saturday afternoons that I've spent
around downtown Chicago -- even depicting the elevated
train station where I wait when visiting the gallery
district. Most cityscapes look for the charming/quaint
-- or the dreary/wasteland-ugly -- but these look for power and beauty.

And he also paints seascape (or lake-scapes) of adjacent Lake Michigan -- and
again -- no people --- no boats -- just sky and mostly waves -- going from foreground to background -- and inviting complete immersion.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Moissei Liangleben

The cold, sad, perfection of Russian
classicism -- frozen in time --
like a Russian ballet -- showpieces
for a catastrophic autocracy -- whose
era nearly coincided with the life of
this vigorous octagenarian. And yet,
I love these things -- each piece so
similar in style -- but so individual
--- like each performance of a mournful cello
sonata -- and just a little, just a little
awkward in places

There's an uncertainty, a brittleness here -- like a hanging, dry leaf in autumn -- about to be blown into the sky. That's why the woman in the green coat (and the ambivalent expression) was such a good model for him --
one more young actress from who-knows-where, just out of college,
and lost in the big city.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Bamboo leaves in rain

Xia Chang (1388-1470)Bamboo Bordered Stream in Spring Rain --1441

This is a 12" section (about 2 feet from the left edge) of a 50 foot scroll.

What's suckering me here is the delicious sense of space that depends on the varying darkness/lightness of the brush strokes. Xia was apparently a scholar/official who was in charge of scholar/officials --- so I'm guessing that his ability was well recognized by his peers. This painting apparently was made a year after his retirement -- accompanied by a poem dedicated to a friend whose estate offered a similar spot for retreat -- the sense of the poem being "isn't it nice to get away from everything and look at the bamboo in the rain.

This shows the last of the 8 feet of the 50 foot scroll that is currently on display --- and you can see how the delicacy of the leaves is giving way to the heavier volumes of a tree trunk -- and a very different kind of space develops.

This is near the left-most edge -- the trip to the garden beginning with the flat space of crackling silhouettes of leaves against the page , set off, just occasionally, by lighter brush strokes that indicate a deeper space. I can stare at this part over-and-over again. It's so refreshing - envigorating.

Here's a detail -- shot with my new Panasonic FX8 camera with
"optical image stabilizer" to compensate for my shaky hand.