Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Meet the Delaunays

The Delaunays - Robert and Sonia - were a married artist couple. Artists marrying other artists is not too unusual. What makes the Delaunays unusual was that while their individual work is quite distinctive, it is also compatible for exhibiting together. As a matter of fact, as I write this, the Delaunays' art is on exhibit in Japan - some 30 years after the last partner's death!

Robert Delaunay (1885-1941) was senior to Sonia by six months, so we'll look at his background first. Born in Paris, Robert studied art and began exhibiting at the tender age of 19. His influences were: Paul Cézanne and later Vasily Kandinsky.

Sonia Delaunay (1885-1979) was born in the Ukraine and studied art in Germany. She disliked the strictures of art school and left for Paris where she was influenced by the art of Van Gogh, Gauguin and Rousseau.

Robert and Sonia met in 1908. Sonia said of Robert, "In Robert Delaunay I found a poet. A poet who wrote not with words but with colours." They married and had a son, Charles.
Sonia made a quilt for Charles that is now in the collection at Musée National d'Art Moderne in Paris. This patchwork quilt would be the turning point of Sonia's art.

As Sonia moved towards cubism, Robert was studying color theory. Together, the Delaunays founded an art movement known as "orphism" which combined purely abstract shapes with bright colors.

All the while the Delaunay family was supported by Sonia's allowance from her family in Russia. WWI forced the family to leave Paris for Spain. During this same time, the onset of the Russian Revolution meant the end of Sonia's allowance. To generate income, Robert designed stage sets and Sonia designed costumes for the opera until the end of WWI at which time the family returned to Paris. The Delaunays continued to paint, design and collaborate until 1941 when Robert succumbed to cancer.

Sonia carried on designing fabrics, clothes and costumes. She also spent a good deal of her energy and money on retrospectives of Robert's art. In time, she passed through the sadness of loss. She spent the last part of her life painting and re-establishing her own artistic and design contributions. (Below left are Robert's paintings and on the right are Sonia's geometric textile designs.)


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Da-Da, Da-Da, Da-Da

When the times reach a point where people begin to question the wisdom of their leaders, it is art that often mirrors the populace. Such a time occurred during WWI and continued for seven years (1916-1923). It was known as the "Dada" anti-art movement.

Dada was a French word for a hobby horse but the word had no meaning in other European languages. Since it didn't make sense, it was the perfect word for a movement that wanted to break with tradition and the rules of art. The break was the way that artists expressed their anger at WWI and the insanity of authority.

The artists of the movement created shock art in the words they chose and the everyday items that they referred to as "art." The viewers' shock and anger were the two responses the Dadaists enjoyed most of all. The point was to provoke and outrage critics and viewers as to the outmoded art traditions and the absurdities of life.

Marcel Duchamp, who was one of the best-known of the Dadaist, painted a mustache on a copy of the Mona Lisa. He also titled a urinal "Fountain" and hung it on a wall.

Some of the other artists who were connected with this anti-art movement included: Man Ray, Jean Arp, Raoul Hausmann, Hannah Hoch, Beatrice Wood, and Max Ernst. All connected to the movement created works that were not just shocking but also humorous, whimsical, and nonsensical.

Interestingly, what seemed shocking and outrageous then is now part of the art scene. Assemblages of recycled materials, collages, and photo montages are all widely accepted.

Can you recall seeing art that fit the description of Dada?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Artists Make Dessert Happenings

With the decision that annual art museum dinners were boring, visual artists were invited to turn their creativity to making desserts. There was even an organization founded to foster this not-so-lofty-art concept. The organization was named "Kreemart." (Cream-art?)

The idea was to create performance art into edible desserts. In other words, dessert became the floor show at events such as the annual dinner for the Patrons of the Tate Modern.

The artistic trio known as "Los Carpinteros" created a dessert known as "Brazo Gitano" (Gypsy Arm). It is actually a jelly or cream roll from Spain. However, the artists dressed like butchers. They served the cakes as if the patrons were coming to a butcher shop, including taking a number ticket.

When the patron's number was called, a thin slice of meat...er...cake was cut and handed to the diners on butcher wrap!

At another event, performance artist, Marina Abramovic, had individual fine dark-chocolate molds made of her lips that were then brushed with edible 24-K gold leaf.

As the patrons ate the delicious lips, the gold stuck to their lips - a kind of transfer of design.

Argentine sculptor, Leandro Erlich, created a replica of Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona couch as a cake.Ehrlich created a corner as a psychologist's office - complete with a blatant sketch of a nude woman on the wall just over the chocolate couch.

To show the range of creativity, the highly regarded sculptor, Teresita Fernandez, created a more serious dessert. She copied the 1930s house designed for a single woman by architect, Gregory Ain. However, being a dessert, the plate-glass windows were made of carmelized sugar, the marble floors of almond paste and the dirt under the rooms of brownies.

OK. Put on your creative hat. What would you make if asked by Kreemart?