Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Poetry Wednesday


You pushed a button and
the world pinked up,
responded vitally and was far
far out on the sea;
smaller and discreet
from all things, clearly bounded and

Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd something not-mine that I love:

by Molly Peacock

may favor obscure brainy aptitudes in you 
and a love of the past so blind you would 
venture, always securing permission, 
into the back library stacks, without food 
or water because you have a mission: 
to find yourself, in the regulated light, 
holding a volume in your hands as you 
yourself might like to be held. Mostly your life 
will be voices and images. Information. You 
may go a long way alone, and travel much 
to open a book to renew your touch.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Exposure: Antony Gormley's Crouching Man

There's this fantastic wave of land art I've been noticing recently that, with varying levels of subtlety, addresses climate change. Like so many of my favorite artworks, these pieces are very beautiful and very scary. Nele Azevedo's Minimum Monument project (better known as "the Melting Men"), which I posted about a few months ago, is just one of many such works.

Antony Gormley's 60-ton, 85-foot-tall Exposure sculpture is another. It takes the skeleton shape of a man as he crouches on a bit of jutting land in central Netherlands, surrounded on three sides by the sea. The sculpture's form is that of Gormley himself, taken as a cast and then digitized into a geometric framework by computers.

"The work cannot have a plinth," Gormley states. "Over time, should the rising of the sea level mean that there has to be a rising of the dike, this means that there should be a progressive burying of the work."

Time and the progression of global warming (massive, universal forces), then, will act upon the figure. But so does the movement of the individual. As the viewer gets closer to the sculpture, Gormley explains, "The nature of the object changes. You can see it as a human form in the distance. It becomes more abstract the closer you get to it. And finally it becomes a chaotic frame through which you can look at the sky." To make sense of the work, a change in perspective becomes necessary.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cristina Battistin and the Modern Portrait

January 2010, oil on canvas, 27x20cm
Painting is dead. So is portraiture. This is what we are told. Artists like Gabriel Orozco have spent years experimenting with media ranging from fruit to laundry lint to whale bones (the motley materials of modern artistic practice?) before moving on to paint in what seems to be a regression. But Orozco's paintings aren't about the paint. They're about formulas and geometric progressions. They're about color the way that Modrian's paintings were about color. They're mathematical functions. They are not about paint.

Artists like Cristina Battistin confuse and delight me. Painting is not dead, and there is a modern, relevant space for portraiture. The genre still holds the possibility of progressive movement. Her work proves this, or at least asks us to consider it. They are, indubitably, a celebration of the materiality of paint, and the materiality of the human form.

At first glance, her portraits seem to resemble those biology textbook diagrams of human musculature, where the skin is stripped away to reveal the tangle of rosy sinew hiding underneath. Her people seem raw and exposed. When you look again, you see that they're really just caught in a gorgeous process; dematerialization, or perhaps its opposite. The glitter you see isn't the shine of naked muscle, but of atoms arranged just so. Color and texture become part of a new, physical, painterly vocabulary that describes human materiality, rejecting the scientific and surrendering to an adoration of the genre that borders on religiousity.

Detail from 15 December 2009; Oil on Canvas, 27x20cm
I'm not talking about the Russian or Byzantine religious icons that, admittedly, Battistin's portraits do resemble. I'm thinking more about an obsessive, truth-seeking spirituality like Robert Smithson's, visualized as spirals and crystallization and mirrors. Something without boundaries, something understood as forever in progress. Transcendentalism without need for an endpoint.

All that aside, the paintings are gorgeous. Check out more of Battistin's work here.

XI, May 2006; Oil on Canvas, 39x31 cm
X, March 2006; Oil on Canvas, 39x31 cm

Poetry Wednesday

The Load

I like to watch films by myself, it is
I know,
but I cannot share.  I do it very
the posting of ‘Oversize’
on the end of the truck that carries houses
is a reminder
as though the undersized people
and I
are incapable
of sensing our relation to it.
I kept stories of selkies in my head
as a child;
they overwhelmed me

Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd something not-mine that I love:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Rochester Update

There’s nothing like brand new Moleskine notebooks and the promise of daily purpose. I love the first few weeks of school; I don’t have any papers to write (YET) and I don’t have any papers to grade (YET). I’m just soaking up all that good book-learnin’ and soaking up the warm weather while it lasts. Also, I enjoy that bi-monthly paycheck. Oh yes. I do.

This semester, things might be a little bit different, since I’m TAing in a few studio photography classes. All of the classes I’ve previously taught or assisted with have been hard-core theoretical ones, so this will be quite a change. I’ll admit, I don’t know a whole lot about practical photography. In fact, even my art historical background has very little photography in it, so this is probably going to be either a fascinating introduction to the subject, or three months in which I demonstrate, flamboyantly, how little I know about it. Adventure!

I had my birthday about a week ago, and I can honestly say it was the loveliest one yet. Fruit, flowers, Italian food, balloons, cheesecake, AND kisses? I am a very spoiled 23-year-old. That being said, 23 is closer to 25 than it is to 20, and I think I hear my bones creaking.

Despite having a prettttttty lazy summer, I remembered a couple of important things that I always seem to forget during stressful semesters:
  • Reading for pleasure is da best. Literally da best. 
  • Having time for exercise will KEEP YOU SANE. 
  • Sunshine exists, and you can have it. 
  • I really, really, really love school.