Monday, May 13, 2013
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Thursday, May 9, 2013
Thursday, May 2, 2013
Finally, the last thing that my eye is attracted to, but at the same time not “attracted to,” is the grid like pattern layered behind and on top of some of the other colors. It is almost as though this grid or graph like object is a tool to display some form of organization or a juxtaposition of disorganization. Relating my observations in the portrait to my experiences in life, I would argue that this painting resembles that of a tornado and storm.
|David Maxim - Tornado #19 (1999) Water Color & Charcol Medium|
When looking at this particular piece of art work, the first thing that my eye was attracted to were the bright and vibrant colors, hues and tones. Instantly, I my eyes paid close attention to the purples, violets, and even the grays and whites at the top of the paper, rather than the dark browns and blacks. My eyes then made their way down a slender and sleek cylinder like object that approaches the bottom of the paper. However, this object is interrupted by a strong solid dark black line causing a clash between the whites and grays and the black line.
It is almost as though this clash of colors portrays a dark and possibly violent explosion or disruption. Then my eye is attracted to what lies behind this disruption and I notice the yellow-ish tint of the paper or canvas. Furthermore, I notice all of the other disruptions or blotches of dark shades of gray and black. I then notice the smaller splotches of blacks, almost as though the artist, David Maxim, flicked his brush or dripped water colors onto the paper.
It is quite clear the Maxim would not be an advocate of the calmness in the storm, but rather the beautification of weather. He numerous of his works he paints tornados not as destructive and violent objects, but the beauty of the storm. He does not portray people and objects of civilization in his works, with the exception of a few roads, thus nobody is being hurt. Perhaps his works a critique of mother nature and weather, in that we should observe the natural acts of beauty rather than complaining about it whenever it interrupts our habitual routines, just as the tornado does the strong black line.
It comes as no surprise that J.M.W. Turner was best known as a masterful painter following a close examination of his work. Turner’s mastery of light and line allows for transcendence from the average print experience. Working in monochrome is in no way a hindrance for Turner; he takes shades and makes the viewer question the possibility of accomplishing such an emotional invocation with a single color. No inch of the paper is left without intrigue, excruciating detail, and evidence of his devilish talent for blending naturalistic portrayals with the presence of the divine.
Kirkstall Abbey on the River Aire is an engraving drawn by J.M.W. Turner (though actually engraved by John Bromley) from the year 1826. It stands 7 ¾ x 10 inches, but impresses the grandeur of a much larger work. Like many of his other pieces, Kirkstall Abbey portrays a landscape splaying out beneath wide-open skies and spotted with forms both living and inanimate.
The composition is divided into three main portions, with the foreground occupying the bottom third, separated from the background and sky by a stream running through the center of the frame. Dark, contrasting trees obstruct this composition with their dominant verticality. Lying in the background, the decaying frame of a building is presumably Kirkstall Abbey. The ambient lighting from the sky casts a gradient downward, which splays across the structure. The gradient reveals highlights and lowlights that accentuate the edifice from the surrounding hills, bringing it closer to the viewer. In the foreground a farmwoman stands with her arms raised, her head bearing a load of sorts. She watches a small herd of cattle stare at their own reflection as they wade in the waters beneath her stony perch. Some of the cattle stand beneath a small outcropping of trees that seem to levitate in the breeze.
Turner’s use of foreshortening and perspective gives us more than just an idea of what he is representing in his work. His subject matter comes alive. The plasticity of cattle forms is revealed as Turner’s stippling hugs the bovine musculature, suggesting where folds of skin cling to rippling muscle. Comparatively, finer line work is used to delineate the far-off abbey skeleton. What was once a bell tower now stands awash in soft light, in contrast with the surrounding structure and hills, planting the building in its nook and creating a real space.
The overall mood established by the piece is that of serenity. The tranquil lighting spills out behind the abbey and is reflected in the water’s glassy surface, resembling polished granite. The gritty stone textures are offset by the cleanliness of white cows passively collected near them. The soft haze in the background blends the heavens and the earth, allowing the viewer to imagine what might extend beyond the horizon to join the two.
This tapestry, hanging in the rotunda of the Bucksbaum Center, is titled “Lucas/Rug,” and depicts the distorted portrait of Lucas Samaras. Due to the fact that this tapestry was woven by hand from silk and linen, it took artist Chuck Close six months to finish it, in 1993. He spent four years planning each section. This likeness is one of several completed by Close portraying his friend and fellow artist Lucas Samaras. Most of Close's work consists of large paintings based off of photographs. Later in his career he began dividing each photograph into tiny squares of color and using alternative materials such as pieces of paper and fingerprints. Close’s paintings originally aligned with photorealist trends of the 1960s and 1970s, from which he later diverged by creating works that explore human perception.
“Lucas/Rug” spans 79x66 inches. Due to the fact that it abstracts the human face using non-analogous color blotches, it changes appearance based on the proximity of the viewer. These thousands of organic color ovals, when seen close up, do not appear to have any consistency or overall color scheme. However, when viewed from ten or more feet away, the human face comes into view due to the human eye’s ability to create continuity out of different shapes and colors, and therefore recognize objects. This is an example of closure, in which the contrasting and often clashing colors actually create overall harmony and unity throughout the piece.
The portrait itself is curvilinear and radial in construction. Large circles of analogous colors, primarily blue, red, and black, surround the head and create a halo effect throughout the entire piece. The face only comes into view from far away because it has little to no detail; in fact, the viewer can only discern that it is a male likeness because of its shorter hair, mustache, and beard. The facial hair is portrayed by darker shades of brown, blue, green, pink, purple, red, and black that contrast with the lighter creams, pinks, blues, and greens that make up the cheeks and nose. Red is the only color that consistently appears throughout each section of the tapestry, in various hues and saturations. The face is not depicted symmetrically by color, but rather by shade. The left eye is composed from blue, green, red and brown dots while the right eye is primarily red and brown. Both eyes have small patches of cream and light blue. The backdrop, only seen in the two upper corners and behind the shoulders, is mostly comprised of dark blue patches with specks of red and brown, bringing the lighter and more vibrant face much further forward. If one squints, one can more easily see the realism of the face and the way Close has chosen color to depict light splashing across certain parts of the face. The light source is omnipresent, neither coming from the top nor bottom but directly head-on. This stagnant image has little to no movement other than what is provided by the radial pattern of its construction.
The effect that this piece has on the viewer primarily relies its pattern of color and arrangement, which speaks to its content. Though he did not realize the irony of his portrait work until later in his career, Close suffers from the inability to recognize faces. This piece represents the nature of human perception, which is highlighted by the fact that the face in the tapestry appears to be staring straight at the viewer, placing him or her under an intense gaze (though this gaze is only noticed when viewed from a large distance).
In order to get a better idea of what Lucas actually looks like, here is a painting of him also done by Chuck Close:
Tina Chen's Formal Art Critique
Hung Liu, The Maiden (2001). Lithography, color, with Collage (77 x 77 cm)
The Maiden is a square-shaped color lithography with collage, by Hung Liu who is a Chinese-American artist, and is now displayed at the Library of Congress in Washington, D. C. It is one of Liu’s three-part series of works using anonymous historical photographs as the basis for imagined stories of women, and the other two include The Bride and The Martyr.
This lithography depicts a side-face image of a Chinese girl in a traditional Chinese girl hairstyle. The girl has straight black hair, which is tied by a red rope at her back, and parallel bangs hanging above her eyebrows. Although she is facing the right side of the piece, her right eye seems looking straight to the viewers. Her mouth leaves slightly open at a natural state. Regarding a small portion of her clothes, it seems like she dresses in a dark red traditional Chinese button-down outwear for adolescents back in the 60s, with a white shirt inside. The background color her face is pinkish and incarnadine, suggesting at she is at an early age. According to the customs during that period of China, the entire outlook of the girl indicates that she is from a lower socioeconomic class or that she works as a servant for a richer family.
The background of this lithography is filled with a low key and low intensity yellow color. On top of this, there are a certain amount large black stains on the right side of the piece as well as some low opacity black colors drilling down at the top and on the left. In consistency, in the center of the piece there are several light blue and red drilling marks going down the girl’s face. Likewise, right in front of her nose there are a couple of light blue marks drilling from her bangs to her mouth. It seems to me that these marks are randomly positioned as if there were accidentally spilled over the piece. Also, these random marks with various transparencies suggest a passage of time because, with them present, the piece looks as if it were washed by rain or stained by ink a long time ago. This message goes along with the original source, a historical photograph, from which this lithography is created. Referring to the shape and the composition, Liu puts a black and a red organic circle on each side of the piece and complements the vertical and geometric lines. Besides, there is also some watercolor-like white, red and blue hiding in the girl’s hair, on her face and in the background, softening the rigid black colors. In general, there are a lot of wild and rough strokes and unrefined shapes.
The most fascinating part of this art work is that the artist integrates symbolized animal images and colored flowers into the portrait of the girl, and thus they become part of the depiction of this girl. In her hair, there is a red and a blue big detailed dragonfly, one on top of her head and the other at the back and below the red dragonfly there is a small light purple butterfly resting on a red peony. When looking close enough, I can see very fine lines drawn on the wings of both dragonflies, and the patterns on their bodies as well as their heads and antennae are also vividly depicted in details. In contrast to the low key yellow, black and red colors in most parts of the piece, the dragonflies, the butterfly and the peony add more high key colors to the surface and make this piece more interesting to appreciate. Moreover, the presence of these insects adds a sense of movement to the piece and complements the still and non-active depiction of the girl. It seems like the two dragonflies are approaching the peony and the butterfly is sniffing the flower. As far as the symbolism of these insects and the flower, in China, dragonflies and butterflies represent women and feminine characteristics, especially women at an early age, and also they express vulnerability as well as frangibility because these insects are easily killed and short-lived. Therefore, this expression is consistent with the image of this early-age Chinese girl. Oppositely, the peony flower is a symbol of nobility and high social status, so the depiction of these insects around the flower suggests that the low class is pursuing for the rich and is inferior in the sense that they are surrounding the high class. This indicates what was happening in Chine during Chairman Mao times because the whole China was having a strong belief in Communism and was worshipping Chairman Mao as an authority of power. Below her ear, there is also a butterfly with transparent green wings and purple body flying over pink flowers. In addition, there are three dragons in the piece, one is in the red circle on the left, one is at the bottom left, and the other is at the bottom right. There are all drawn in details and are colorful, but the way in which Liu depicts them is not the same as what had been done for Chinese emperors in ancient times; those dragons are similar to what is drawn on the traditional new year decoration pictures, which households would put up for good luck and future. I think that this indicates that Chinese people are not only blindly worshipping the authority, but also are controlled by it.
Liu uses animals and flowers as symbols and well integrates them into his piece as a method of expressing certain level of sarcasm towards people’s political attitudes. Also, this method shows a connection between the human and the animal and highlights the importance of animals in our lives.
Kara Walker, Occupation of Alexandria (2005). Offset Lithography and Silkscreen (39" x 53")
Kara Walker’s large achromatic lithograph presents a scene from the Union’s occupation of Alexandria, Virginia during the civil war. Walker only uses the color black and relies on cross-hatching to express value. Throughout this piece, Walker uses receding lines, proportion, and value to create the illusion of depth. The receding lines meet at a focal point in the center of the composition. Additionally, the objects that are further away from the focal point are generally larger and brighter.
A large portion of the background and the upper-half of the lithograph is a cloudy sky. The cloudiness of the sky is presented by completely parallel horizontal lines with varying widths. Even though these lines are geometric, the changing width of the lines cause the lines to appear more organic from afar. This technique gives the clouds shape and volume.
The lower-half of the picture is a scene of a port revolting against troops that are occupying it. The furthest left portion of the piece is a sequence of buildings that are mainly produced with parallel vertical lines. These buildings create a line that serves as a continuous path for the viewer’s eyes and separates the sky from the rest of the scene. The receding buildings come to an end at a focal point in the center of the composition. Generally speaking, as the buildings recede toward the focal point their value darkens. A mass of people, almost entirely men, are in front of the buildings. It is hard to decipher exactly what the people are doing. Some of the people appear to be throwing punches and violently rioting, while others are waving their top hats in repudiation of the occupation, or appear to be standing and merely observing the presence of the Union’s military forces. These people are outlined with a hard edge and are rendered using parallel diagonal lines. Some of these lines are slightly curved.
In front of this mass of people is an empty space that separates the people from the troops. A few soldiers with horses prevent the civilians from encroaching on the marching soldiers. A similar vacant area exists on the right side of the troops. These areas are much brighter and display more white than the rest of the composition. This contrast highlights that area of the lithograph and brings the viewer’s attention to the troops. Every soldier is in uniform and holding a bayonet. The troops are marching in rectangular brigades in perfect unison. These unity creates a pattern that is repeated until the focal point. It appears as though some soldiers are firing their bayonets into the sky which is creating a cloud of smoke above them. This cloud is portrayed by parallel organic lines which intersect with other parallel organic lines and imply movement -- like the clouds of smoke are billowing into the air.
To the right of the empty space that separates the people from the troops is a path that creates a boundary between the lower-left and lower-right portion of the composition. This path can be separated into three areas. The furthest area is a mass of people much like the group of people in front of the buildings. In front of that area is a mostly empty space with an American flag, waving in the wind atop a flagpole, with a man standing underneath it (holding a walking cane? shovel?). The empty white area around the man and the flag highlight the two objects. The foremost area of the path converges with a group of people that are positioned to the right of this path. Some of these people are on the path and some are next to the path, standing on grass.
This area appears as the foremost portion of the composition. Although it is the area closest to the viewer, it is very dark -- much darker than anything around it. This darkness is in contrast with the rest of the composition; the rest of the composition gets lighter as it comes forward. The people in this area are acting in a similar manner to the rest of the townspeople except there are a few elements of this crowd that are distinct.
First, they are portrayed almost entirely as a solid black color. Second, there are some people that are sitting down and expressionlessly looking away from the troops, in contrast from every other person in the scene who are positioned towards the troops. Third, although everyone is a solid black color the race of a few people is suggested by a white cheek or white hands. The race of everyone else is indistinguishable. Third, in contrast with the dark area, there are two people wearing white maid’s-like clothes. It appears to me that the people sitting on the ground and standing in white maid uniforms might be slaves. Behind this group of people is a solid black area of ground that leads to the water. The steamboats on the water and the water itself comprise the majority of the lower-right portion of the composition. The steamboats on the water serve as the antithesis of the buildings on the left. The boats create a line that continues from one boat to another and recedes back into the focal point. The darkness of this lower-right portion directs the viewer's eyes toward the much brighter lower-left portion of the piece.
Lastly, in the far lower-right corner of the lithograph there is an adult women and a young boy (mother and her son?). The two are composed of the most saturated black on the entire composition. The woman is naked except for an african bandana, sitting on her knees, shaking her left hand in a fist towards the sky; her head is tilted upward and her mouth is open as if she is yelling out or crying towards the sky. She has strange entities extending off her body in a vine-like nature. Behind her is the boy who is lying on his stomach with his arms out in front of him as if he is swimming. The proportion, position, and saturation of these two imply that they are not part of the scene.
This woman and boy coupled with the possible slaves amongst the foremost mass of people greatly indicate the content of this piece. I believe this scene is supposed to illustrate the role of the black person during the civil war. Although the result of the war was the abolishment of slavery, it was never the black man’s fight. Even though slaves were the ones tyrannized, the fight was between the white government in the north versus the white government in the south. While some African-Americans did fight in the war, African-Americans as an entire population, were largely observers -- watching, from afar, the livelihood of their entire people being fought over by people who were not them.
This seems to be a sculpture of two rectangular forms. The sculpture itself does not have any organic lines, rather seeing it in a 2-dimensional way; it seems to be made from inorganic lines to form geometric shape of a trapezoid. The eleven equally spaced rectangles on the left side of the sculpture is arranged in a way that one end is higher up. The space within the rectangle is empty. Then there is just one large rectangle that has different shades of blue. Smaller and flatter rectangles touch the other side of this blue rectangle with a larger green trapezoid to the other side. The blue shades in the largest rectangle are split into two. The top part has light shades of blue with different values: darker on the left and goes lighter as it the eyes travel to the right. The bottom part looks like a mix of light green and light blue hues. This color seems consistent throughout the bottom part of this large rectangle. Throughout this large rectangle, there seems to be several inorganic lines that split this rectangle into smaller rectangles. There is a consistent division of the rectangle as the lines travel upward diagonally and other sets of lines traveling downward diagonally left to right. The lines travelling upward are in white and the lines traveling downward are of yellow hue. In the large green rectangle to the farthest right, the lines travel the same way but the ones going upward diagonal are yellow and the ones going downward diagonal are white. This rectangle also has a split color. Three fourth of the top is darker green and the bottom ¼ seems to be a mix of light green and light blue with more emphasis on the green. The top parts of the large rectangles seem to have a scratchy texture whereas the bottoms have a smother texture. Both large rectangles look as if the base had been yellow.
The inorganic lines that make up this artwork seem to give off a sophisticated, chic, modern look to this sculpture. What is this art? What is this sculpture? What is the meaning behind this artwork? Is artwork ever just a decoration? Personally, this artwork reminds me of a human being’s mind. The inorganic lines remind me of the closed minds that people have. The balance between smooth surfaces and scratchy surfaces seems to represent split personality. Why yellow, green, and blue? Yellow usually carries the meaning of joy, happiness, and energy. It also is the color of the sunshine. Green represents growth and harmony. It is usually associated with the concept of nature. Blue is frequently associated with depth and stability. A human mind can create all these emotions and the color seems to represent these emotions. Though the lines are inorganic, the color blue gives depth to the sculpture and mix of green almost seems soothing. The hint of yellow in this sculpture gives life and energy. Although this sculpture is made of inorganic lines, the colors itself contrast the vibe of these lines, so the lines do not seem threatening.
This sculpture evokes the feeling of nostalgia and serenity. The straight lines almost seem to box the peacefulness inside. The scratchy lines gives off the feeling that I am hurt but the empty spaces of the smaller rectangles makes it feel like though this pain is there, you can always slide it through the empty spaces. Many people pass through the hallway. The fact that this sculpture is untitled seems to leave the meanings open ended.
Louise Bourgeois18 -1/2"x 25"
Champfleurette, the white cat, 1994
Drypoint with etching and aquatint
Champfleurette, the white cat, 1994
Drypoint with etching and aquatint
“Champfleurette, the white cat” by Louise Bourgeois is drypoint with etching and aquatint. It stands 18 and half inches high by 25 inches. It depicts a white cat in a room with only one window. I will say that I use the term cat very loosely. The figure has the ears of the cat, and the tail of a cat, the whiskers, of a cat and paws, but the mane of a lion. But the figure’s face is a simplistic human face, but the more human feature of the figure is it’s high heels. This white cat figure’s back is arched it’s buttock is in the air. Backdrop is a barren room. Which isn’t proportional or in perspective to the white cat. The walls are shaded from a light gray on the right to an almost black on the left corner of the room. The widow is on the right wall, but I can’t see anything out of the window. The ceiling is whiteish-cream color all the way across.
The figure is surreal. The figure is combination between a feline and a human with the body part in different proportions. The buttock is bulbous, as are the thighs. But the legs are tiny in comparison. The backdrop and the figure don’t seem to interact very much. The figure doesn’t seem to be on the floor, or really interact with the backdrop. Also, the backdrop has dimension that the figure doesn’t have. Take for example the window on the right wall. It first makes the lines into a very obvious room, not just a box. It also gives a light source that the wall vaguely follows, but the figure does not. This forces the figure to stick out even more.After writing that description, I notice how strangely sexual the pose of the figure is. It’s back is arched, and legs up into the air and the face below the buttock area. Especially after the fact that the buttock is the largest part of the figure, it find that the pose is reminiscent of “doggy style”. Which might a joke on the fact that it is cat. Since this was 1994, the word “pussy” was in common vernacular, which might be read as a double entendre. But the tail is not a ready position. It is down over the buttock area.
Notice that I have referred to the figure as an “it” or “figure’”, since there is a contradiction in the figure. First, as I have commented on before, it is wearing high heels. Which is a socially constructed as a female piece of clothing. In fact, I would say one the quintessentially female piece of the clothing outside the bra. While a mane is only on a male lion. This again the quintessentially male deviation from the genders in the lion specie. But the room doesn’t lend the figure to any gender, which heightens the surrealistic quality of the figure.
While the find this piece to be visually interesting, I find that the ceiling detracting from the figure and backdrop juxtaposition.
Buzzard’s Roost Pass is a lithograph/screen print by Kara Walker, as part of the Pictoral History of the Civil War series. The series was made in 2005 and is currently residing in the basement of Bucksbaum. In the center of the frame, is an image of a battle scene. There is another layer on top of the battle, depicting a face, two breasts and a hand. The body parts are done in a solid black silhouette, distinguishing them from the bottom, multi-valued layer. The entire piece, including the frame, is black and white. There is a thick white rim surrounding the battle image, only broken by the outreaching black hand.
The battle scene consists of a foreground and a background. In the foreground, there are several men and horses. There are two men on horseback, while the rest are on foot. One of the men is carrying an American flag. Part of a canon is sticking out of the right-hand side. Smoke rises from the canon and draws the eyes into the mid/background. In the distance, there are hills of empty land that stop at two mountains. The mountains are divided by a valley and where we should be able to see the horizon, there is instead another cloud, probably smoke. And in the very, very back, there are legitimate clouds in the mostly clear sky. Based on my prior experience and general awesome-ness, it looks like this image was made many years ago, during the time period this battle was taking place. Perhaps the print was made by the artist, or maybe it was borrowed in order to create a more authentic overall piece. Since the series is about the Civil War, I’ll assume this battle of Buzzard’s Roost Pass is from that time.
The silhouettes collectively resemble what I think is a woman, because there are breasts and the hair is done in even braids with bows. She appears black to me because of her hair, large lips and sloping nose. Her head is lying between the two mountains and her face is turned up. The base of her neck ends in jagged lines that look like tear marks. Her left hand is in the white space. If you think about the position her hand is in, it looks very uncomfortable and strained. The thumb is pointing away from her body, so her hand is doing a strange twist. Mimic her hand and you will understand. The hand and the breasts are also cut off in the same torn endings as the head. Her breasts are in a strange location in relation to her head. If the rest of her body was present, I imagine the proportions would not match up. The breasts are leaning on opposite sides, as though her body was splayed on the ground.
The “slipping into content” part: Her pose leads me to believe that she is in pain. She is in an unnatural position because of her wrist and her strange breast leanings. Her mouth is open, as if she is crying out and there is only a small slit where her eye should be, making the eye appear closed. Her breasts are an important part of the piece, not only because they are centered in the middle, but also because they make the atmosphere of the work violent. Another aspect of the piece that conjures up violence for me is the explosions. There are explosions in the battle that look like little, white stars. There are also three in her face that the artist recreated. These are the only elements that seem to tie into the first and second layer, therefore, I’m relating the war in the picture with some sort of war within or acting upon the woman.
Possibly, the woman is suffering for reasons relating to the Civil War, her race and her sex. As a black women, she would have been seen as the lowest social class in the U.S. at the time. It was common then that black women were abused mentally, physically and sexually by rich, white men. This piece very much reminds me of sexual abuse, because of the pain in her face, sprawled pose and exposed breasts. As her hand reaches off the page, it appears she’s trying to get out, of the battle and possible an inner battle? I see themes of sexuality, abuse, racism, sexism, internal/external conflict and white patriarchal dominance. However, I am already over my word limit so you’ll have to work those out on your own.
Müller, Richard, Auf Freuersfuessen [Courting, or Looking for a Wife] (1914). Etching (56.6 x 44.5 cm)
Müller's achromatic piece displays an unusual pair, a woman and a bird (perhaps a heron). The piece, entitled Auf Freursfuessen (also known as Courting, or Looking for a Wife), is an etching on paper from 1914 that derives from a series of prints. This is edition, number 191, was created by a steel faced plate. Müller draws a variety of detailed figures and objects. One of the most commanding focal points is the nude. The young woman, stands tall and upright, with her right foot placed slightly in front of her left foot as she peers behind her right shoulder at her admirer. Her leg muscles are flexed, as well as her buttocks and the tendon in her foot. She holds a large bouquet of flowers across her chest that partly covers her face. Only her eyes and above can be seen to the viewer. Her dark hair is pulled back in a braided updo hairstyle. A single breast can be seen peeking through the space between her folded arms and the bouquet. Two small flowers appear at the bottom of the piece by her feet, as if they have fallen from the bouquet to what we perceive as the ground of the piece. The next focal point that demands the viewer's attention is the bird. The image of the bird is a stark contrast to the youth and beauty of the nude. The bird is hunch-backed, and his feathers lack luster. His feathers tend to stick out at odd angles. His beak is slightly ajar and his head is hung down low. His feathers appear to have an uneven and coarse texture which opposes the smooth, hairless skin of the young woman. To the left of the bird's feet lies a overturned top hat and a glove. Thick lines outline both pieces, and after a close examination the viewer may notice that the blank are actually lightly lined and shaded. The intricate and deliberate shading gives all the objects a sense of depth in this two dimensional, flat piece. Another striking detail is that the negative space surrounding the focal points is not actually blank. Müller creates a sense of depth by shading the outer edges of the piece which steadily lightens up as it approaches the center of the piece. This allows for the viewer to detect boundaries within the piece. For example although every object in the piece is floating in an expansive void, the shading and saturation create the appearance of a ground and walls that enclose the focal points.
I was initially drawn to this etching because of the unusual subject matter: a classic beauty being courted by a beast. This theme has been around for awhile, but what's unique about Müller's piece is that instead of having a handsome beast, the bird is grotesque. Yet, despite his unsightliness he also appears dignified because of the top hat and glove that rest at his side. The title of the piece implies that the bird is courting the young woman, but, in contrast to most relationships of this nature, the young woman seems to hold the power in the relationship. Despite the fact that the bird seems dignified and wealthy, he seems bashful. On the other hand the woman seems confident and in control despite her nakedness.The interaction also implies that the woman does not judge on appearances. This piece can be viewed as a positive message that emphasizes that there is more than just external beauty and the strength and independence that women can possess in the matter of courting, which would have been a radical idea in the early 1900s.
Diane Victor, Birth of a Nation: Romulus and Remus (2009). Aquatint on Unknown Surface (10.6” x 14”)
Diane Victor’s print focuses on three main characters: a hyena and two infants. All three figures are located on some kind of platform. The two infants are seated below the hyena. The hyena is female, judging by the anatomy of its underside, whose attention is directed towards something unseen and beyond the boundaries of the print. This is evident in the characteristics of her head, eyes, and ears pointing towards the same, general direction, as well as potentially raised hackles (hair along the neck). Where is she staring? Is she scared or protective? The two infants are male, validated by their uncovered genitals, and appear to be of African descent. Each one is pushing the other and the expressions of each are that of fierce determination.
The colors of the print are monochromatic. It was completed in aquatint, which is an engraving process that allows for a smooth gradient from light to dark values. This is particularly useful in the case of Victor’s print in order to guide the reader’s eye through the piece. The darkest area of the print is the head of the hyena. The eye travels along the body of the hyena, where darkness exists (for an unknown reason that I cannot deduce), and ultimately leads the viewer to intently look at the two infants. The infants’ skirmish is the main subject of the print.
The historical context of the print comes from the mythology and symbolism of the inception of Rome. The story of Romulus and Remus, from which the aquatint is based, addresses two orphaned boys who were raised and nurtured by a wolf. In the same way, Victor’s painting shows two African boys who are attempting to be nurtured by a hyena. I believe that Victor is commenting on conflicts between African countries. This seems plausible since Victor is from South Africa herself. I believe that she portrays Africa, the mother continent, as the hyena in her piece who is offering her nutrients to those she is taking care of. The infants (or distinct nationalities) refuse to take advantage of her resources, however, because they are too busy fighting each other.
The painting also might be a commentary on the struggles of the African race. I think that there is a contrast between the past and the future. I believe that the platform upon which the three characters are on is a slave auction platform. The children on the platform are there to be saved, as is Africa, considering parts of Africa (including South Africa) used to be owned by other nations, like Great Britain. The hyena’s eyes form an implied line across the page and draw our own eyes to move from left to right along the print, as if on a timeline. The attentive expression of the hyena seems to comment on the idea of looking ahead to the future, yet her expression also seems to show anxiety, a need for the protection of the children, and possibly fear. I believe that this is also established by the title of Victor’s print series, “Birth of a Nation”. This was also the title of a famous movie which came out in the early part of the 20th century. The film was made to bring awareness to racial conflicts in the United States. Finally, the expression of racial conflict is expressed through the style the artist preferred to use. One website noted that aquatint was often used “where contrasts of dark and light were dramatic elements” (Printed Image 1).
The overall sense that I feel from the piece is that of frustration. Victor used mythology as the premise for the story behind her work, but I think it also serves as a standard. To me, Victor is asking the question, “What went wrong?” She sees that African people have struggled and continue to struggle, not just with other races, but among themselves as well. I believe she is searching for reassurance that her continent will, one day, have peace.
"Printed Image" Accessed May 1, 2013. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/aqtn/hd_aqtn.htm
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Roy De Forest, The Airplane (1993). Color lithograph (22 1/4"x29 15/16")
Roy De Forest's The Airplane (1993), is a color lithograph strewn with chaotic lines and surreal images on a solid white base. The ground of the image consists of what appears to be a mountain range made up of dogs of varying shades of green. Lines shooting out several of the dogs' eyes suggest that they are projecting lasers or beams of light. A pink plane with bird heads attached to its front end is soaring through the sky. It contains a line of bird passengers seen in a row of porthole windows running along the side of the plane. A solitary red bird-like figure with long thin legs and a small brown hat accompanied by their dog-like companion watches this plane from atop the dog-mountains. Another bird flies above this figure's head, moving in the same direction as the plane. A series of chaotic lines and smudges complements the surreal feel of the piece. The lines in the air, in addition to the slight foreshortening of the plane adds a sense of motion. Cross-hatching on the dog-mountains and trees hidden within them add a contrast between the bottom and top halves of the piece -- they ground the image, in a sense, by weighing it down with a high line density at its end. In fact, there is a higher density of lines along the sides of the image as well, drawing focus to the plane in the center. The colors in this piece are complementary (reds, pinks, greens, and some blues), and heighten the feeling of chaos that emanates from the work. In fact, the matching colors among the birds and among the dogs help to create a strong sense of unity amidst the chaos. The grouping of similar line styles both for the dog-mountains and for the plane also reinforce unity through repetition and continuation.
The solitary figure at the bottom right of the piece appears to be close in color to the birds in the sky, but upon close inspection doesn't quite look like a bird. They are followed by a white dog with an orange-red eye that matched their body color. The hat on the figure implies some human qualities. This implication, tied with the fantastic landscape spread before them evokes the fantasy trope of the hero and their dog traveling to lands unknown on some quest. They have entered into a land where their own physical qualities are reflected in the world around them -- the white dog by the dog-mountains, and the orange-red by the birds in the air and in the plane. The whole concept of a plane made of its passengers is surreal, and bring complete self-sufficiency and technological upgrades to mind (the plane with many birds versus the solitary bird flying alone beneath it). Hunting dogs can prey on birds, but there is no sense of hostility in this image -- in fact, the dog-mountains appear to be fairly benign.
The work is hung by a solid rectangle of styrofoam running behind its top edge. It has torn and messy looking sides along its top and bottom, and cleaner sides to its right and left. The Airplane is located in the Faulconer gallery, on the far right wall from the entrance. The surprising amount of color and action in the work draws focus in that area of the gallery, as do all of Roy De Forest's pieces that are spread throughout the space.
Posted by Eleanor Tursman at 2:49 PM