Sunday, March 31, 2013


Exhibitions at the Morgan
Degas, Miss La La, and the Cirque Fernando
Marcel Proust and Swann's Way: 100th Anniversary
and the Metropolitan:
Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity

They made me think that the 19th century marked the final change from an art first of making to an art of the record of observing, the biggest difference between the artists we now call, "old masters" and those we call "Modern".  Modernity, in this sense, is the end of a brief moment. The crisis of "Modern-ism" the hypertrophy of the material, is less a new beginning than the death throws of an ideal, an ideal and thus unstable hybrid.

Literature is observational; it compliments photography. Both fit well alongside the classical material arts of Asia and European antiquity where art objects are the product of cultures based more profoundly in language than in things. The Renaissance and the high material arts of Europe over a 300 odd year period are anomalous.

From 2009

Raphael, Study of Soldiers in The Conversion of Saul, ca. 1515–16
At the MetAn amazing drawing, though it's amazing also how the low resolution almost makes that hard to see. An object lesson, quite literally, in the principles and poetics of the High Renaissance: simultaneously static and full of motion, a perfect but lightly held balance of action and reflection, observation, representation, and free craft. Rigor seemingly without tension, or tension seemingly without its affect. Imagine a performer on a tightrope or balancing on a sphere, and walking with the casual gait of someone on flat solid ground. 
The figures fly off the page, yet they're anchored as solidly in place as they would be seated and face forward in a Byzantine mosaic. And they demonstrate this incongruity, this absolute, categorical, conflict while responding to our anxious questions with courtesy and concern: as if to ask us what is wrong. A Stendhal moment occurs when a work pulls you so strongly at once in both of its directions that your mind is overwhelmed. I went back to this drawing three times over the course of an afternoon and felt dizziness and chills each time.
But what to say about this?  The anomaly is here. The hybrid naturalism and formal order.
These paintings haunted my childhood before anything in Florence.


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