The Easel

4th September 2018


The Easel will be snoozing over the next few weeks while the editor travels. Publication will resume on October 16. From then until Christmas a bumper crop of essays and interviews awaits, including:

  • Delacroix
  • an interview with David Kastan abut his book On Colour
  • a remarkable Morgan Meis essay on indigenous art

Street to studio: a new book charts the evolution of street art

Some view graffiti as vandalism, but a book claims that its most complex form – street art – has artistic merit. This medium deserves critical attention as it is “the world’s most practised art form’. Whether or not you agree with that, street art has influenced some big names – Le Witt, Wool, Holzer and more. Attempts to market one prominent alumni, Rammellzee, are described here.

Introducing the greatest aboriginal artist unknown in America

Art critic Robert Hughes called indigenous art “the last great art movement of the 20th century”. Where does it fit in the art canon? Perhaps it is more clearly seen from outside Australia, the writer wonders. To judge the aesthetics, one artist simply places his works among the trees. “I walk away and I come back and I look at it to see if there’s movement, shimmer … If it does, I am happy.”

(See Coming Up above – Ed)

A Good Fit

Coloured sculpture was once frowned upon. Chamberlain thought differently. His expressionist eye liked colour and saw auto body parts as a malleable (and free) raw material. After crushing the parts he would laboriously fit them together as a collage, producing sculptures suggestive of “exotic flowers … or drapery”. “It’s all in the fit”, he said.

Monsters at the Morgan

Monsters can be especially potent symbols to the uneducated. In the Middle Ages, educated monks filled their manuscripts with dazzling images that demonized foreigners, denigrated women and idealized piety. All admirably suited a male clergy. Before condescending about those times, it is worth recognising our modern infatuations – Star Wars and video games.

Eighty Years Ago, Both Sigmund Freud and the ‘Degenerate’ Art Exhibition Came to London

The Nazi’s degenerate art show in 1937 was a “venomous” attack on modern art. As a rebuttal, the same artists were featured more positively in a London in the following year. The details of the events are surprisingly dramatic. Art, while not directly a matter of life and death, was a primary tool for manipulating public opinion to accept the dark deeds that were shortly to occur.

28th August 2018

You know Monet and Manet. This female Impressionist deserves your attention, too

From the outset, Morisot’s work was distinctive. Her female subjects had “a profound psychological presence”, reflecting her own experience of womanhood. But she was also expressing life’s impermanence. “Her work’s lack of finish conveys, like no other Impressionist, a sense of evanescence. We do not live long”. More images are here.

Superforms and Praying Machines: Massimiliano Gioni Interviews Thomas Bayrle

Prescience is a word often associated with Bayrle. In his first job in textiles, he realized that large images could be created using mass repetition of a small image. His “superform” style resulted and it resonates strongly in our digital age. “I believe in total individualism, even in the largest mass. I think that’s the richness of art, to define this singularity in the mass.”

The Pixels Themselves: An Interview With Mario Klingemann

Klingemann uses artificial intelligence to generate art. As he describes it the process sounds more human that one might expect. What he aims to produce: “visual pleasure”. The source of his art: “the model and the software.” His role: “the curator of the machine”. How he describes his digital portraits: “vague memories of paintings that never existed.”

Overshadowed for Years, Milton Avery Became an Icon of American Painting

Avery, it seems, was nearly great. His talent lay as a colourist and seeing Matisse’s work led him to the idea of a painting as a field of colour, one without depth. Then he met Rothko who both promoted Avery’s career and was inspired by his subtle and distinctive use of colour. Avery’s work, said Rothko, was “the poetry of sheer loveliness, of sheer beauty.”

The Secret Society of Rebellious Artists Behind a Dreamy, Hyper-Romantic Movement

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood is not to everyone’s taste. These artists wanted to overturn Victorian England’s stodgy art with an aesthetic that emphasized colour and idealized the past. They, and their swooning damsels, now look anachronistic but they were a small step toward modernism. And they have, as one critic observes, “an armour-plated niche in the English imagination”.

Art by Algorithm

Online aesthetics are driven by algorithms that “optimize” our experience. Is this a good thing? “What we crave most in art, what we reward more than anything else, is surprise. Computation is not good at this. [It produces] an increasingly perfect average. The visceral reaction is to rebel against these simulations of progress and perfection.”

The Art of Wanderlust

Who’d have thought hiking was so complicated? The 18th century Romantics liked to depict trekkers experiencing the grandeur of Nature.  Modern art wants to do more. Rothko and others were ambitious not to show the hiker but to elicit the hiker’s feelings in the viewer. “Should art be about showing a person as he experiences a feeling or … actually creating that feeling?”