Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Fine Art or Optical Trickery?

In 1965, TIME magazine coined the phrase, "Op Art" which was a shorthand description for optical art. Op Art refers to nonrepresentational art where the color and perspective give the viewer a sense of movement, patterns or vibrations. (Victor Vasarely's work on right)

Starting in the 60s, Op Art style was the rage in fashion, architecture, decorating and advertising. It was considered by a many to be a very hip new art form created by young emerging artists.

In fact, not only had artists such as M.C. Escher and Josef Albers been experimenting with color and perspectives for decades, but the artists most associated with Op Art in the 60s were: Bridget Riley (1931), Victor Vasarely (1908-1997), Richard Anuskiewicz (1930). In other words, these were older and more highly experienced artist.

In spite of the popularity of Op Art, there were art critics who contended that it really wasn't a fine art style. Instead, they contended that since the goal of Op Art is to fool the eye - much like trompe l'oeil painted murals which create illusory scenes of depth - Op Art was nothing more than art trickery. (Bridget Riley at left and below left - Richard Anuskiewicz below right.)

Below is an example of trompe l'oeil.

What do you think? Fine Art or optical trickery?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Russian Who Got the Light Just Right...

We have shared many artists from many lands, but until now there's been an absence on this blog of gifted Russian artists. I was first introduced to Russian art work through a special traveling exhibit at the D'Orsay Museum in Paris.

One painting in particular caught my attention. It was so beautifully luminous that I couldn't stop looking at it.

I had to write the name of the artist and the title of his work in my sketchbook/journal so I could find out more about him when I returned home.

The artist was Arkhip Ivanovitch Kouindji (1841-1910) also spelled Kuindzhi, Kuiniji, and, well, if you want to look him up just key in his first name. Orphaned as a six year old, he worked at a variety of menial jobs until his natural gift led to a job as a photo retoucher. He eventually went to St. Petersburg where he took some training, but remained largely self-trained.

He is recognized as a painter who sought and succeeded in transmitting "light's fullness and density." Below are a few more of his paintings showing his capture of light and mood. What's your opinion of his works? Have you ever heard of him? Please share your comments.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Do-Ho Suh and the Haunting Sculpture

Recently a friend sent me a wonderful video featuring Picasso's "Guernica." (A mural depicting the bombing of the town and citizens during the Spanish Civil War.) Feeling the impact of "Guernica" got me thinking about how art can reach into us in so many ways. I remembered an exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum a few years back with a sculpture that still haunts me with its beauty and ambiguity.

The artist's name is Do-Ho Suh and the piece that came to mind was a stunning sculpture titled, "Some/One." As I walked into the room where the piece was featured, I was taken with the monumental size and simplicity of this Asian emperor style robe and how beautifully it shimmered. There was a grace to the form and the way it arced around the floor as I approached from the back to the front of the piece. (Please double click on images for enlargements.)

Upon closer observation, I noticed layers - like armor plate. When I was even closer still, I realized what I was looking at and it startled me. The robe was entirely made of military dog-tags. I was stunned. Suddenly the sculpture took on another meaning, another dimension. I have never forgotten the image and the impact it had on me.
As you look at the images what feelings does it conjure up? How would you interpret the title, "Some/One?"

When you face the front of the sculpture, the robe is open and the form underneath is made with mirrors.
You can see yourself imposed on the form. In your opinion, what was the artist asking us to consider?

Is there a work of art that haunts your memory? Why do you think that is?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

About Domenicos Theotocopoulos...

With a name like that, you might think I'm writing about another Greek friend. Not so. If he were a friend, he'd be about 400 years old. Actually, it was the Spaniards with their penchant for nicknames that referred to him as "El Greco," (the Greek).

El Greco (1541-1614)was born on the island of Crete and received extensive art training in both Venice and Rome. Later, he moved to Spain where he lived in Toledo until his death.

Art historians have had a hard time categorizing his style. Part Renaissance, mannerism, and expressionism in style, he is considered the precursor for cubism and impressionism. From what is historically known about him, it's more than likely that what he really was a man who did not live his life or art under the strictures of the times. In his art, he believed above all in freedom of style and is quoted as considering color more important than form.

His unique style meant that his work was not highly regarded in his lifetime. It would be another 300 years before his unusual amalgam of styles and fervor were recognized and appreciated.

One of the best known of his works is titled, "The Burial of Count Orgaz" shown below. (This is a very large painting - click image for detail.)

Here are a two more of his paintings. You can see the quality of his portraits and his ability with composition. The background on the right one seems to hint of surrealism. What do you think?