The Easel

1st May 2018

The art of the machine age at the de Young

By the 1920’s the age of the machine had clearly arrived. European art responded with cubism and constructivism and these ideas were transplanted by the “precisionists” to America. Theirs was not a uniquely American art movement but they did view mechanization with New World optimism – “reverential commemoration of the clarity and simplicity of industrial forms”

Leon Golub

Golub’s view was that history was full of “toxic masculinity … bad men doing bad things”. In response, he filled his paintings with violent images. Was Golub’s depiction of violence excessive? “[H]is critique of power and violence consisted of confronting slaughter by representing slaughter. Whether this amounts to a genuinely ethical response … is an open question.”

Rembrandt and the Mughals

In 1656 Rembrandt was close to bankruptcy. Perhaps as a way of generating cash, or simply promoting himself to collectors, he made a set of drawings copied from Mughal paintings then reaching Amsterdam. “[A] painter of one “golden age” paying homage to a “golden age” on the other side of the world” An excellent backgrounder on Mughal art is here.

Polymorphous Eden

Wood’s American Gothic is “the most universally recognized American painting”. Yet many find it inscrutable and Wood’s other works too. His “perversely sexualised landscapes, dream trees, dream fields, dream corn, dream ribbons of roadway … no hint of actual dirt or dust. One cannot imagine wind blowing there.” (The March 20 newsletter carried a different review of this show.)

24th April 2018

Celia Paul Paints Her Biography

Some think that the English are “mingy” in the recognition they accord their own artists. Hilton Als, the eminent American critic is not so restrained. “Contemporary British art [including “visionaries” such as Paul] has had a global impact. She builds up on a series of canvases a great originality, an emotional breadth, a vocabulary of loss, of loss even before it happens.”

How This Globetrotting Artist Redefines Home and Hearth

Suh has lived in lots of houses. Because of this transient existence “home” is an important concept to him and drives his art. He makes “fabric sculptures”, delicate life-sized recreations of past dwellings, complete with embroidered household objects. These works “convey both the weight of architecture and the weightlessness of memory.” Images and a video (2 min) are here.