Sunday, August 31, 2008

Action Tableaux

I just came across
this remarkable ensemble
made in 1994 for Pamplona, Spain,
by Rafael Huerta (b. 1929)
(and updated - presumably with more figures - in 2007)

How it feels when standing in that square --
well, I have no idea.

But the pictures look pretty thrilling,
and the individual men and bulls quite vigorous.

This is the sculptor's self portrait
(he got into trouble adding the portraits of
a few local politicians)
and I think it shows him as a Classicist --
i.e. -- he's looking for eternal stillness
even as he covers the street with rampaging bulls

I'd like to see this duet
all by itself in my museum.

It's kind of how I feel about life
at this moment.

Here's how it looks
to meet your destiny!

The artist's self portrait again,
somehow at peace
amidst the chaos.

There's not very many
of these monumental,
multi-figure tableaux
to be found in the world
(at least -- outside the old USSR)

But we have one in our
nation's capitol:

Henry Merwin Shrady's
Ulysses S. Grant Memorial in Washington D.C.

(these excellent photos
taken by Kimberly Faye )

Shrady's background is
almost the complete inverse
of Huerta's.

Shrady was an academic outsider,
a self-taught
sculpture maniac
who devoted his entire professional life
to this one monument
(and died before it was dedicated)

While Huerta,
the son of a distinguished sculptor,
has been a life-long professor at an art academy,
with this monument,
coming at the end of his career,
being his greatest achievement.

Shrady was more like an expert in the Civil War,
Huerta an expert in sculpture.

But despite his lack of a beaux arts education,
Shrady's piece
is as exciting as it can be.

He really had a taste for drama

and action.

If he had made movies,
he would have been John Ford.

It's as if....
he loved this subject so much,
he forced himself to learn sculpture
by sheer force of will.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Deutsche Kunst, Kunstpalast Düsseldorf 1928

Ruth Horadam

Here's a wonderful document from history,
illustrated catalog

of an exhibit of German contemporary art
from the year 1928.

(making a nice contrast to
this collection
of things done ten years later.)

Can you feel the impending catastrophe?

The thing about this work ....
is that, to me, it feels a few cuts above the
Annual exhibit of American art
that the Art Institute of Chicago was showing during the same year.

Maybe it's just that the German catalog
was showing a lot more sculpture,

Or -- maybe it's because the German artists
have lived with so much Medieval sculpture.

As is evident -- in the "three Marys" shown above.

(and, BTW, this artist
has utterly dropped out of sight)

Hermann Haller

What a wonderful head!

Herbert Garbe

"I am lost - where am I going ?"

And -- whatever happened to this sculptor ?
Not every artist who joined the NAZI party
enjoyed a big career.

Garbe died in a POW camp in 1945,
and he's now principally known as
another sculptor's husband.

Josef Enseling

Another great head!

(and this poor artist
had the distinction of being credited
as the teacher of Joseph Beuys --
so that's the only way
he can be found on the internet)

Edwin Scharff

These portraits really come alive

Franz Xaver Lindl

A nice little riff,
more Romanesque than Art Deco,
but whatever happened this guy ?

Richard Langer

Quite an accomplished designer
who never made it to my list.

This piece can be found on Wikipedia,
but apparently he died in 1927,
at the age of 40

Fritz Koelle

Here's the first artist
that was already on my list.

Another great head,
how I envy his ability.

We won't go into his career
with the Third Reich,
but it appears that his descendants
have made a site for him here

Georg Kolbe

The great one --
what a wonderfully
lost figure.

Another lost figure
(or maybe -- she's just day dreaming)
from another one of my favorite sculptors,
Anton Hanak

Johannes Knubel

I never heard of this elegant sculptor either,
but his rather clumsy
architectural work
is all over Wikipedia

Bernhard Sopher

I'm guessing that he was Jewish
(since he was born in Palestine and
moved to the U.S. in 1935)

I wish I could find more of his work.

Hans Wissel

I usually don't go in for the
ugly figure school,
but this one does
feel compelling

Josef Daniel Sommer

I find him listed
in a 1936 catalog,
but other than that,
this guy has entirely disappeared.

This piece feels a little small,
but I'm hoping he got better

Otto Schliessler

And... another great head!

But I'm afraid he gets listed in
"Artists for the Reich"
as one of the fellows who
took the jobs
of the politically/culturally/ethnically
artists who were purged from the academies.

Jupp Rubsam

Not really to my taste,
but it does bear a strong
to a Ruben Nakian piece
in the Chicago American exhibit
from the same year.

Max Esser

A very tight sense of form
that feels so Germanic

It has to be ancient

In December of 1963,
this handsome dude
was pulled off the bottom of the Mediterranean,
about 300 meters off the coast of Valencia.

Scholars pondered it origins,
and decided that it was Greek, 4th C. B.C.
(or a Roman copy thereof)

And -- of course -- it's ancient,
because this is simply not the way
a male figure would present itself
in any subsequent civilization.

This is a male bathing beauty ---
i.e. --- it's way too gay.

The insouciant pose...
as well as the sensual way
that beautiful right leg and foot has been drawn.

That's why I find figure sculpture so fascinating ---

because design choices change over time and place,
even if human anatomy is always the same.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Gallery Re-Opens

Otto Dix (1891-1968) "North German Girl", 1920

After being closed for 10 years
(to make space for a coat check room)
the Print and Drawing galleries at the Art Institute of Chicago
have finally re-opened with an exhibit called:

Collecting for Chicago: Prints, Drawings, and Patronage

to feature some recent acquisitions
as well as the donors who gave them.

Since most of it was collected
to exemplify Modernism rather than exceptional visual quality
little of it interests me.
(i.e., it's as mediocre as Andy Warhol)

But following my last post
about figure drawing,
I thought I'd include
some relevant examples from this show.

Otto Dix could do beautiful when he wanted ,
and there's something ominous about going in the other direction,
but still, let's face it,
he's in control.

Ernst Kirchner (1880-1938) "Portrait of Gustav Schliefler", 1922

So was Kirchner (in control)
in this little pen drawing
that seems to have been made
in about 10 minutes.

(Where multiple lines do the job
that heavy lines did for Dix)

Emil Nolde ( 1867-1956 ) "Hamburg Harbor" 1910

So you don't have to be Asian
to make a good brush drawing

Jonathan Richardson the Elder (1665-1745), self portrait, c. 1730-39

Exhibition notes tell us that JR specialized in
character study.

At the museum, I was rather underwhelmed
by this little drawing,
but all alone with this reproduction
I do feel the presence of
an interesting person

Egon Schiele (1890-1918) - 1907 , the artist's mother

Quite a talented teenager, wouldn't you say ?

On top of all that skill in rendering and design,
that poor woman is suffering!

Done any other artworld reputation
sit so high
exclusively on the basis
of figure drawing ?

******** and yet ********

other, far less famous, people
have drawn their own mothers,

and I think the results are no less impressive.

Like this one
by the blogger known as
Suburban Life

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I love figure drawing

Paul Cadmus, 1970 (born 1904)

I love good figure drawing.

I like it tight....

Primo Conti, 1970 (born 1900)

.... and I like it loose

But I don't like it
when it loses its page/space/force
and just records the details of a subject.

Like each and every drawing
in this
of neo-academics.

Is there some unwritten rule
that everyone born after 1940
has to treat figure drawing
as either a tedious inventory of details
or a desparate opportunity for self expression ?


Note concerning Primo Conti:
I discovered him on this
incredible website of Fascist/Communist art from the 1930's.

Alas -- Primo worked for the Fascists,
perhaps, like many Futurists,
finding their dynamic spirit invigorating.

But he spent the decade after the war as a Franciscan,
so perhaps he repented his evil ways.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

I go to Sao Paulo

Victor Brecheret (1894-1955)

No, I didn't really go to Sao Paulo,
I've just been following the footsteps
of the "Art Explorer" who lives there
and who has never seen a sculpture
which he did not photograph.

Brecheret seems the most remarkable

Victor Brecheret (1894-1955)

for having developed his own happy world
of fulsome, tropical figures,
but there's so many more.

Alfredo Ceschiatti (1918-1989)

Lacking the political idealism
that motivated so much European sculpture
in the last century,
the Brazilians seem attracted to two principal themes:


(and what a magnificent church that must be)

Alfredo Ceschiatti (1918-1989)

... and SEX

(or -- something like sex,
since these nude figures are embracing
but they seem more like Olympic athletes
hugging after someone has just cleared the high bar)

Edgar Duviver (1916-2001)

Some more nude figures embracing,
but it's not all that erotic, is it?

They seem kind of ... exhausted ?
(maybe it's too darn hot)

Luiz Morrone (1906-1998)

Lots of fine portraiture, too.
This one could have come from the Capitoline hill,
indeed, most of these sculptors came from Italy
as the civic leaders of Sao Paulo actively
recruited Italian immigrants
around the turn of the century

Claude Dunin (active 1960's)

Here's a more modern style of portraiture,
and he is quite a striking character,
isn't he?

Amadeo Zani (1869-1944)

Italian-Brazilians stayed
about 30 years behind
their counterparts back in Europe.
(which is not a bad thing)

Amadeo Zani (1869-1944)

And, yes,
they have their extravagant monuments

But I also like the earlier work.
Since we don't name of the sculptor,
this has to be called "folk art",
but I think he's the equal of
any sculptor shown above.

Valentim da Fonseca e Silva

Mestre Valentim is 18th C.,
but there's certain inner strength in this piece
that was considered quite modern around 1900
as in the work of Joseph Bernard

Sandra Semeghini

Now... we move into the 21st Century.

I've been told that
the figurative tradition in Brazilian art schools
has been thrown out - or marginalized.
(just like in the U.S.)

Cicero Davila

But some people just can't stop
trying to make classical sculpture.

(this guy reminds me a lot of Bruno Lucchesi )

T. C. Carneiro

So... I'm hoping that more such statues
will keep popping up in Sao Paulo,
and that Art Explorer
will be there to broadcast them
to the world.