Althouse | category: art



a blog by Ann Althouse

"I delivered talks at universities and lecture halls arguing that the fan’s capacity for enthusiasm was as holy as the works of art we lived by."

"I would quote a passage from Salinger’s 'Franny and Zooey' comparing a performer’s audience to 'Christ Himself,' a righteous entity worthy of serving. I found similar comfort in a scene from 'Manhattan' in which Woody Allen’s character asks what makes life worth living, then rattles off a mix of cultural touchstones (before landing, of course, on 'Tracy’s face'). At nineteen, I wrote in a private journal that 'the knowledge that anything I feel has already been expressed in a work of art' was my version of feeling watched over by a higher power. I still value the sanctity of the artist-audience exchange, but it worries me when conversations about artists’ misdeeds end up centering on it. When an artist is revealed to have abused someone, we ask, 'Can we still like their art? Is it still O.K. to?' These questions treat every individual’s response to art as a morality test. They confuse optics with ethics, muddying a useful distinction between reacting to a work of art—an act that, after all, is something visceral and involuntary, like laughter—and materially supporting it.... "

Writes Tavi Gevinson in "What 'Tár' Knows About the Artist as Abuser/Todd Field’s film about the downfall of a world-famous composer shows the toll that untouchability takes even on the person it supposedly benefits" (The New Yorker). 

ADDED: Here's the passage from "Franny and Zooey":

“I don’t care where an actor acts. It can be in summer stock, it can be over a radio, it can be over television, it can be in a goddam Broadway theatre, complete with the most fashionable, most well-fed, most sunburned-looking audience you can imagine. But I’ll tell you a terrible secret—Are you listening to me? There isn’t anyone out there who isn’t Seymour’s Fat Lady. That includes your Professor Tupper, buddy. And all his goddam cousins by the dozens. There isn’t anyone anywhere that isn’t Seymour’s Fat Lady. Don’t you know that? Don’t you know that goddam secret yet? And don’t you know—listen to me, now—don’t you know who that Fat Lady really is?… Ah, buddy. Ah, buddy. It’s Christ Himself. Christ Himself, buddy.”

"The showstopper is no doubt 'Untitled (Toothbrushes),’ from 1973-4... Three toothbrushes hang from a rack, as a fourth one with a red rubber tip lies horizontally across the top."

"The upright toothbrushes — as evenly spaced as Monet’s poplar trees —structure the air around them and provide evidence that Brainard, at heart, was a stickler for classical order.... In the three decades since Brainard’s death, the interest in his work has only increased. Last year, the Metropolitan Museum of Art received a gift of 16 of his best works, including 'Prell,' an assemblage that incorporates a dozen shapely shampoo bottles; and 'Whippoorwill,' a small, velvety painting of a long-limbed whippet reclining on a green couch...."

Writes Deborah Soloman in "No Ordinary Joe/The prodigious artist Joe Brainard reveled in making small-scale works, but as a new show reminds us, exemplified the soaring spirit of collaboration between painters and poets in the ’60s" (NYT).

"But should representation and abstraction be regarded as ideologies? I don’t think so."

"It’s true that styles have sometimes been given an ideological spin. Hitler and Stalin were doing that when they embraced the art of the figure and banned everything else. Avant-gardists have all too often regarded abstraction as a symbol of human progress. But representation and abstraction—and their almost limitless variations—are anything but ideological absolutes, at least not when they are celebrated by a solitary artistic explorer.... 'Postmodernism' is a term we hear much less than we did twenty years ago, but the postmodern emphasis on a relaxation of artistic dispute—a sense that art history has ended and we are now enjoying a creative free-for-all—is one way of understanding the collapse of representation and abstraction as distinct value systems.... Of course, the problem with belief systems is that they can become sclerotic...." 

From "Between Abstraction and Representation/Artists today think they no longer have to choose between two opposed artistic traditions. But what is being lost in this eclecticism?" by Jed Perl (NYRB).

"Of course, the problem with belief systems is that they can become sclerotic"... and the problem with no beliefs at all is that after a short period of saying things like "postmodernism," nothing seems worth talking about at all. 

"I saw that it wasn’t the black that made the picture come alive but the light reflected on the black surfaces... The light was... coming from the color that is the greatest absence of light."

Said Pierre Soulages, quoted in "Pierre Soulages, Leading French Abstract Painter, Dies at 102 Once called 'the world’s greatest living artist,' Mr. Soulages was best known for exploring the possibilities of the color black" (NYT).

 For more than four decades, Mr. Soulages worked every possible variation on black in an evolving series of paintings he called “outrenoir,” or “beyond black,” sometimes using spoons or small rakes to create new textures in his thick slabs of paint and evoke subtle effects of color and light.

“Some mornings, it is a silvery gray,” he told the critic Bernard Ceysson in 1979. “Sometimes, capturing the light reflected from the sea, it is blue. At other times it can be tinged a coppery brown. In fact, it always corresponds to the light that falls on it. One day, I even saw it green: There had been a storm, and there was a blaze of sun on the trees not far away.”

Imagine spending 4 decades painting in black paint. Not black shapes on white, but all black, with the variations in brushstrokes and texture.

And then he is "commissioned to make 104 windows for the Romanesque abbey church of Sainte-Foy in Conques." This is 11th century architecture. What do you do?

Rather than design stained-glass windows, he devised a series of translucent panes, framed by black steel bars, whose variable thickness diffused and modulated the incoming light. The windows were installed in 1994.

Here's a documentary. Go to 38:35 to get to the church windows:

"His studio, which sits just across the hall from the apartment he shares with his wife, is crammed full of the reimagined Picasso canvases, including one where he superimposed the face of 'Astro Boy'..."

"... a robot character invented by his childhood hero, the Japanese manga artist Osamu Tezuka — onto the face of the child in Picasso’s original. 'At first I thought I would draw 10 and stop,' Tanaami said, but he kept going until he had produced close to 400. Before he started, he 'didn’t especially like Picasso,' he said. 'But as I was painting work inspired by him, I came to love him.'"

From "Keiichi Tanaami Remembers Everything/At 86, the Japanese pop artist has a lifetime of vivid recollections — some more real than others — and a new show in New York" (NYT). The Picasso painting he reimagined 400 times is "Mother and Child."

There's an interview with the artist. I loved the stuff about his routine: "I do the same thing every day. I wake up at eight in the morning, I take my time until around 10 to eat my breakfast and work on writing jobs I have. I come here [to the studio] between 11 and 12, work until the evening, go home, draw some more and go to bed around midnight. I don’t have any hobbies, so all I have to do is make art.... I live a very disciplined life — even more so than those who have to commute for work every day. For instance, I have a bath time. You need to have these things decided. I have a fairly boring life."

Have you ever done art based on the work of another artist? Picasso did it himself — reimagining Velasquez. Why not take something you love or — better?! — something you dislike and copy it over and over, faithfully, then with variations, big and small?

Here's Tanaami's Instagram page. You can see tons of his work there, including the Picasso variations.

He does the same thing every day. How close are you to I do the same thing every day? I'm pretty close, but I like some variations. If you have a good "same thing," then on any given day, you can just do it, and that's great, or you can have a small or big measure of variation, and maybe that will be great too.

"Seemingly superficial generations like an 'avocado chair' showed that OpenAI had built a system that is able to apply the characteristics of an avocado..."

"... to the form factor and the function of a chair.... The avocado-chair image could be key to building AGI that understands the world the same way humans do. Whether the system sees an avocado, hears the word 'avocado,' or reads the word 'avocado,' the concept that gets triggered should be exactly the same, she said. Since DALL-E’s outputs are in images, OpenAI can view how the system represents concepts."

From "AI can now create any image in seconds, bringing wonder and danger" (WaPo). 

DALL-E is now open to all, without a waiting list, so prepare your requests. I'd put my name on the waiting list, but now that I can waltz right in along with anybody and everybody, I can't think of anything I want AI to turn into an image for me. A few weeks ago, I was interested in a TikTokker who was using DALL-E to generate images. I clicked the "follow" button and caused him to come up in my scrolling, but in the last couple weeks, as soon as I see him I immediately swipe him up out of my view. I just don't care what the computer coughed up. It was pointless weirdness.

But if you get the right request, it might be vaguely intriguing:

Here are 10 TikToks to amuse you for a few precious moments. Some people love them.

1. Painting invisibility.

2. What the hell is the internet?

3. One by one, he's eliminating the least popular state and merging it with a neighboring state.

4. One by one, they're replacing family photos with photos of Danny DeVito until Mom notices.

5. The man deserves a medal for all the years he's patiently listened to his wife tell stories like this.

6. Chef Reactions judges the French grandfather's making of lunch.

7. "Have you ever wondered what items in your place just give men 'ick'?"

8. "We're going to go look at wedding dresses."

9. My favorite music-and-the-child video of all time.

10. Finally, the dolls.

"I’m attracted to things like pointillism or a Jasper Johns ‘numbers’ work because they come out of breaking something down into its components, like bytes or numbers..."

Said the late Paul Allen, who co-founded Microsoft, quoted in "Opening Paul Allen’s Treasure Chest/It’s been a closely guarded secret which masterworks in the Microsoft co-founder’s collection will be auctioned at Christie’s in November. Here, highlights of a billionaire’s bounty" (NYT).

This isn't a Jasper Johns "numbers" work, but it is the Jasper Johns in the soon-to-be-auctioned collection. It's called "Map":

"I saw that it wasn’t the black that made the picture come alive but the light reflected on the black surfaces... The light was... coming from the color that is the greatest absence of light.""Seemingly superficial generations like an 'avocado chair' showed that OpenAI had built a system that is able to apply the characteristics of an avocado...""I’m attracted to things like pointillism or a Jasper Johns ‘numbers’ work because they come out of breaking something down into its components, like bytes or numbers..."

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