Sunday, October 14, 2012

Milwaukee Side Show

We went to the Milwaukee Art Museum yesterday to see this show , and spent almost all available time and energy staring at
Rembrandt and Gainsborough.

But as an after-show treat, we wandered a bit through the galleries.

The nice thing about sculpture, especially big sculpture, is that it's different in every setting. So it was a special treat to see this cast of Rodin's 'Walking Man'. The museum dates this version to 1905, but that's only the latest version of a piece that goes back 30 years earlier, to the beginning of his career.

It's his celebration of that upright, hairless ape we call 'man'.

Is he suggesting that this creature is better off without his big-brained, dangerous head - or his genitals ?

The Art Institute of Chicago has a cast of it as well - but every place it goes, it looks different.

This big, long, nearly empty Calatrava gallery feels like it belongs on a spaceship.

Jacques Lipchitz, 'Theseus and the Minotaur', 1942

Here's another piece that gets around - in multiple editions as well as multiple sizes, even as a lithograph.

I guess it's not too hard to guess what this narrative would have meant to a Jewish sculptor in the early 1940's.

One monster is fighting another.

Does it make any difference which one calls itself 'human' ?

Hendrik Cornelisz van Vliet (1611–1675)
Old Church in Delft, ca. 1670

This painting fascinated me not because it's beautiful. (though, that would have been enough)

But also because it exemplifies the topic of this chapter written by Norris Kelly Smith.

As Smith wrote:

It is easy to regard these works as being hardly more than large picture postcards, souvenirs made for people no longer seriously concerned with religious matters. Witness the dogs, children, beggars, and miscellaneous bystanders one so commonly sees in such images. But if we understand church buildings to be primary symbols of the enduring reality of the Church, and if we concede to the artists a seriousness of concern that is commensurate with the intensity of their acts of looking, composing, and rendering, then we may see those paintings as religious affirmations.

....The most engaging and provocative of the works ...are those in which the artist has chosen a perspectival vantage point from which he can win for himself a harmonious but asymmetrical composition created out of the regularly disposed elements of a great basilica, a composition that had little or nothing in common with the tectonic schema that the architect himself had invented as an appropriate symbol of the Church.

Yes --- why do these painters, and presumably their patrons, like to give distracted children or dogs so much attention in the depiction of their magnificent churches ?

It was probably a very important issue to them in that age of religious warfare.

The point being that the church building itself, and its contents, are not the proper focus of reverence.

But unlike the examples chosen by Smith, this view is pretty close to an Albertian box -- it's just that the viewer is not smack in the middle of the two side walls.

This really feels like time travel to me.

I can smell the oil on the wood and hear the footsteps echoing off the stone surfaces.


Blogger Robert said...

Good to see you are still at it Chris. trust all is well.

October 23, 2012  

Post a Comment

<< Home