Friday, May 25, 2012

The Strange and Beautiful

Stumbling upon the PBS broadcast of The Enchanted Island last weekend, I was reminded of how intensely some producers seek to offer the strange and the beautiful.

As something that might pleasure an audience for the full 90 minutes or more that the show is running.

Gallery paintings only need catch the eye or tweak the mind for a few seconds, and causing intense discomfort through the banal and ugly is a frequent strategy for accomplishing that.

But Arturo Herrera is an artist who's also an opera fan, so he seems to be striving for the kind of theatrical beauty that glues you to your seat in astonishment.

With the opportunity it provides to instantaneously make surprising juxtapositions, collage seems a direct path to the strange and the beautiful.

This series of pieces is dedicated to a choreographer friend of his - and yes, the colorful fragments certainly seem to be dancing within the confines of a strongly defined proscenium.

The dance continues in this series, but it might have been better had he cultivated the skills of figure drawing so he wouldn't have needed to nearly obliterate the half-figure that he has drawn in the center.

And to demonstrate his diversity, here's some dream-like visions of Chicago where he lived for a few years before a DAAD grant took him to Berlin.

It's not exactly a travel poster is it?

But still, it has its own kind of spacious and aggressive beauty, appropriate for those high-rise apartments that overlook the lake.

As a fine art professional in the contemporary artworld, it's not especially his job to make things beautiful.

Happily, he seems to have dropped the imagist Disney-pop-cartoony stuff after he left Chicago, though the larger pieces in this show have enough of a tedious all-over ABX clutter for those who seek profundity in discomfort.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Domestic Bliss

William Merritt Chase, The Ring Toss (1896)

Back in its heyday, this was the kind of the painting that the Terra Museum used to show in special exhibits organized around themes in American art.

Winslow Homer,"Crack the Whip" (detail, 1872)

Ah -- those golden days, back when it was OK for high art to be about happy domestic life.

John Singer Sargent "Carnation Lily, Lily, Rose" (1886)

And it was OK to depict happy children, which though still a ever-popular subject for middle-brow art and children's books, hardly makes the kind of critical commentary about the world required of contemporary art.

Henri Matisse, Pianist and Checker Players (1924)

Although this theme was not rejected by the early modernists.

Stephen Gjertson,"Bedtime Story", 1994

It's difficult for the re-born techniques of Classical Realism to make this subject feel less than ponderous, but this painting does feel gentle with a touch of magic and wonder.

But the hilarity of childhood seems perfectly suited for the re-born techniques of early Modernism as practiced by Carly Michele Silverman , a young artist still in her twenties.

Her paintings are so joyful, I couldn't stop laughing along with them

They seem so distant from any kind of critical dialogue concerning contemporary life, I couldn't believe she ever got an M.F.A..

But indeed, she's a recent graduate from the S.A.I.C..

So, perhaps I'm missing something.

But what's this erotic scene doing in the children's party?

It seems as if she quit working on it before she figured out where it was going.

Perhaps it was too distant from the world of childhood innocence with which she is so comfortable.