Rational discussion of art


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I am opening this moderated thread on art for a more in-depth discussion than has been happening on other threads recently. I do not wish to restrict anyone on OL unless they are an outright troll, but one poster in particular has become an impediment to proper discussion with an enormous volume of repetitive and bombastic posts that have no purpose other than to be disruptive. Some posters have turned him off with our "Ignore" feature and others simply are not posting any longer.

So he will not post on this thread. Any post by him at all on this thread, despite content, will be deleted.

I will go over the other threads on art and cull the best of the discussions and put them here. Many important issues were raised and I would love to go into some of these issues deeper with the wonderfully talented people on OL.

I am also thinking of breaking off some discussions and setting them up in their own threads, like the marvelous one on architecture.

For those who wish to continue engaging the omitted poster, he is not moderated or anything like that. He is merely restricted from posting on this thread so a rational and civil discussion can ensue about art. There are the other threads.

Also, any strident, taunting-like post from any other poster will be returned to the poster with a request to put it on another thread. The focus of this thread is content, not empty rhetoric. (It's OK to disagree, though, if something substantive is being offered.)

Michael

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Now that I have started to review the material, there is an enormous amount of good material. We had a very good start of a discussion back in March, 2006, called Modern Art. The opening post is given below.

Michael

Here is a link to a blog by Libertarian, Roderick T. Long, that I stumbled across on another forum.

http://hnn.us/blogs/entries/21257.html

Extremely interesting reading, even the comments. I posted this link in "News and Interesting Articles," but there is a specific esthetic Rand issue that popped out at me, which is why I duplicated it here. The intriguing quote is the following:

As for art: in an early draft of We the Living, Rand wrote admiringly of the infiltration of Western abstract imagery into Soviet Russia: “laughing, defiant broken lines and circles cutting triangles, and triangles splitting squares, the new art coming through some crack in the impenetrable barrier.” So it seems she was not always immune to the expressive power of abstract art. Indeed, the entire Fountainhead could be seen as a hymn to abstract art – a fact that reportedly (and unfortunately) led her in later and more rigidified life to repudiate the account of architectural art she had defended in the novel. In short, the young Rand was a good deal less culturally conservative than the later Rand. (In fact, I have the impression that in earlier years she was generally more open-minded; would she have become such a fan of the egalitarian socialist Hugo or the Christian existentialist Dostoyevsky if she had first read them in 1960?)

Then later, Long returned to this same idea:

(Maybe this is the story with regard to art also. In the 1920s and 30s, when the Soviets were denouncing abstract art as an expression of western decadence, she liked such art and even found it liberating; in later years, living in the west where leftists had embraced abstract art, she came to detest it. Might it really be that simple? Certainly the Rand who wrote The Fountainhead was eminently equipped to answer the objections to abstract art raised by the later Rand.)

Over the years, one thing that always bugged me beneath the surface about Rand's esthetics was the modernistic lines and forms of the architecture she admired - and even those in some of Frank O'Connor's paintings - clashing with her rather conservatively stated druthers in art. It is refreshing to see it uncovered like this.

Rand's change of heart in plastic art, but continuation of the "modern" esthetic in architecture, is almost an example of the old adage that the best place to hide something is right out in the open.

Michael

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I have cherry-picked a few posts from the thread mentioned in the previous post as interesting continuations of that issue. (I left in the reference to architecture in Jonathan's first post so as to not delete anything from what he wrote, but I intend to start a specific thread on architecture, so that part is not really pertinent.

I will follow this post with other posts from other threads I have found valuable in no particular order.

Michael

Roger wrote,

"There definitely IS representation of reality and expression of metaphysical value-judgements in architecture -- at least, so I argue -- and I continue to be puzzled as to why Objectivists don't get this point."

I don't know that they don't get the point. I think it's much more likely that they're reluctant to accept it because they're worried about its implications regarding abstract painting and sculpture, which they don't want to recognize as art.

Speaking of which, Roger, am I correct in assuming that you believe that the type of abstract art Rand wrote about in the quote Michael provided above is art according to your views, and should be considered art even according to Rand's?

After all, in seeing laughter and defiance in abstract lines, circles, triangles, squares and their relationships to one another, she was describing moral qualities, feelings and intentions as reflected in actions, events and situations. She grasped the shapes as powerful imaginal symbols that represent fundamental abstractions by means of stylized embodiment, or as virtual persons engaged in certain kinds of virtual motions and actions to which she sympathetically responded as if they were a real or fictional persons, no?

J

Jonathan wrote:
...Roger, am I correct in assuming that you believe that the type of abstract art Rand wrote about in the quote Michael provided above is art according to your views, and should be considered art even according to Rand's?

According to my views, yes. According to Rand's, I'm not sure.

My view is that art fundamentally presents an imaginary world (a microcosm) which is set off from this world (with or without a frame or proscenium &c. to help one's viewing it that way), and which functions as an imaginary world to the extent that its content functions as things in the imaginary world. That's primary re-creation and secondary re-creation, respectively. This really isn't straying all that far from Rand, and how she explained the necessity of "representationalism." But it allows more latitude for representationalism than she seemed to, especially in her later years when she railed against "modern art."

My view allows, for instance, that a building primarily re-creates a world in the form of a stylized human environment and secondarily re-creates (for instance) physical masses exerting force against one another, as a column vs. a roof). It also allows that a musical piece re-creates a world in the form of a stylized tonal landscape, within which various musical events re-create symmetrical and harmonious interactions between entities or conflicting and goal-directed forces exertd by entities, etc. It also allows that, to the extent that geometric figures &c. relate to one another as various masses relate to one another in architecture, abstract art also presents an imaginary world in which even its elements can serve a representational function.

Teasing out the exact philosophical or emotional meaning of abstract art is the real challenge, and there is much room for scam artists to claim that they are re-creating reality. But discarding it all as non-art is throwing out the baby with the bathwater (or the Binswanger, I should say. :-) ) Whether Rand was willing to discard all modern (= abstract?) art, or just the absolute crap (such as paintings by monkeys and canvases with excrement flung at them), I don't know. She certainly would not rule out "The Scream" as art, just because it had a malevolent view of life. As for geometric/color art, she might have continued to appreciate it, but just as "pleasing pattern" (much as Kant appreciated music) or decoration, rather than "true art." Again, I don't know.

Quoting Jonathan again:

After all, in seeing laughter and defiance in abstract lines, circles, triangles, squares and their relationships to one another, she was describing moral qualities, feelings and intentions as reflected in actions, events and situations. She grasped the shapes as powerful imaginal symbols that represent fundamental abstractions by means of stylized embodiment, or as virtual persons engaged in certain kinds of virtual motions and actions to which she sympathetically responded as if they were a real or fictional persons, no?

I think that this interpretation goes way beyond the evidence. Rand certainly could have responded to abstract art that way in her younger days. But I think that's putting way too sophisticated an aesthetic spin on what she wrote in that rough draft for We the Living. It seems to me that she was simply (and simplistically) cheering anything that broke up the soul-deading regularity and state-serving rigidity of Soviet Realism. (Did that style exist in her Russian days, or did it come along later?)

Not that I'm a authority on sensitivity and insightfulness into the "true meaning of art," but it seems a stretch to me to attribute "laughter" or "defiance" specifically to shapes or colors. IMO, anything that flew in the face of official Soviet approval could potentially have been responded to by Rand as a defiant flaunting of statist authority and oppressive culture. In other words, I'm wondering if Rand wasn't simply projecting her own exultant feelings about abstract art's challenge to Soviet culture into the paintings.

Therein lies the real problem of analyzing and interpreting abstract art. Suppose you are an artist wanting to use abstract art to convey a worldview or a strong emotion of some kind. (Or an aesthetician or art critic claiming that a certain worldview or emotion is being presented by an abstract artwork.) The litmus test of your sincerity (and competence) -- especially if the general public simply does not get your work -- is this: can you point to objective indicators in your artwork that embody the artwork's supposed meaning?

If you, or your intelligent, intellectual supporters, cannot at least give some explanation of the artwork's supposed meaning, and point to the means you used to convey that meaning, how can you expect anyone else to get it? If you're using a secret code, let us in on it! If you're just pulling our leg, well, get your hand off our leg! (And stop trying to get our tax dollars to support your nonsense!)

That, I think, is what Rand, in her later, less naive approach to art, was concerned to combat: the charlatans who had the disingenuous attitude of, "To those who understand, no explanation is necessary; to those who do not understand, no explanation is possible." Rand's reply to this was: it's got to be representational somehow, and if it isn't, it isn't art. She just erred (I think) on the conservative side, when it came to what counted as representational and what didn't. (But again, I'm not sure about that, because she said very little about modern art, except vitriolic putdowns of the easiest, most despicable targets.)

REB

My first Bachelor's was basically in modern art. Technically, it was a double major in Media, in Photography and Digital Art (Computer Arts). However, the whole of my undergraduate education was in modern art and often we toed the line of postmodernism and all the art I've written on or made would have been considered "modern art". The classes I had went from critique to media theory to culture studies to electronic art to video production to film history, etc. It was an interesting experience, and looking back, it was a rich one. To me, there is a distinction between modern art and what I call fine art. To me, fine art is what Michaelangelo did. Modern art is Dali. I like both.

So, having had some experience of what it's like to be in it, to think constantly about being expressive, creative, questioning, and challenging, it's fascinating to come across art critique by Rand, who obviously did not study modern art, yet felt fine enough to say some virtiolic things about it-- most of which I think is her opinion.

No, modern art isn't aesthetic; that isn't its aim. Modern art goes over my head sometimes, and no, I don't think it's comprehensive right away, all the time. Yes, that pisses me off when I look and look and still don't get it. Yes, it sucks that I have to read a placquard to understand. But this doesn't happen all the time. At least half the time, I can get a message from a piece of modern art. Some, if done well, can and do portray what modern art usually does: tell a message. Question. Challenge convention. Ask us to analyze our lives and reactions and thoughts; what we are doing, why? To me, those are valid questions. No, my classmates didn't do the "I feel this color" crap; we talked about *how* to compose, express, and use colors, media, subject matter, balance, etc. We said, "It looks like this person is trying to say...." or "I'm not sure about putting that over there, it makes the composition unbalanced", etc. I don't know if anyone here has an art degree, but that's what I did in my classes; that's what I did to critique all sorts of media, from video all the way to photography. That's what I did to graduate.

"To those who understand, no explanation is necessary; to those who do not understand, no explanation is possible."

That kind of attitude about art, from any artist, isn't going to help him/her. Yes, it does get really ridiculous. But this sentiment wasn't true in my education. Those people who say these things-- and where is this quote from, by the way-- are having their art discussed in art classes by art students. We may not like what we see, but we get over that to find the message. It's called proactive critical thinking. Also, could this quote be said as well of Objectivism from some Oists out there? I've seen it expressed in different ways. What's the difference?

Rand's reply to this was: it's got to be representational somehow, and if it isn't, it isn't art.

Representation of reality according to whom? People like different pieces for differing, individual reasons. I like what I like and I can understand why I like something. It might not be what someone else can see (or hear). I have a friend who loves blurry motion in his taste; he just loves motion-- he's on the move all the time, he's got a Choppered BMW cruiser that's blue, he's intellectually active, in literature (writer) and science (pre-veterinary)-- he likes art that depicts motion. He likes power. He likes activity of life. And he likes Jackson Pollock because he sees that. I understand it, even if I don't *personally* like it. I like fine detail, controlled precision, layers of discovery, a balanced portray of color, and depiction of something I can recognize, even if its form is played with. There is much depth in the field of modern art, more depth in any field that one outside may not realize. Yes, I can critique Jackson Pollock, drawing on my education, but ultimately, it's going to be my opinion that I think his art doesn't say anything. It just doesn't say anything TO ME.

she said very little about modern art, except vitriolic putdowns of the easiest, most despicable targets.

Her attacks (or any attacks from anyone) on matters that she (they) did not honestly study-- deeply and with wisdom-- such as modern art or neuroscience, in my case-- is irrelevant to me. She did not get a modern art education. Does she know what goes on? Or is she outside looking in? It makes me sad that while she had her opinion, that a few unfortunate people (nameless to me) can't separate her opinion from their opinion. It's like her opinion becomes their opinion. Or her opinion becomes their fact. My values are my own. I suppose that it's a "damnation" to have a modern art education and a myopic soul would not hesitate to judge my entire life on my first Bachelor's... but get this: I'm also 5-7 classes away from my second Bachelor's, one in Physiology emphasizing in neuroscience. I find that people just *love* to critique either field that I've studied/am studying, without actually having *done the work*. Yes, some artists are "obsessed with their work", but you know... some scientists seclude themselves in their labs, "obsessed about their work".

That said, because some are so willing to crucify a field without really, really understanding what goes on in it makes them less trustworthy to me. BUT, I do respect Rand's philosophical thought and what she studied in history, as well as her wisdom in having been a writer. I know a little bit of how hard it is to write; my mom published two books. However, I do keep Rand in context; I've come across science-themed fiction books written by non-scientists and I do sometimes find errors, vaguaries, or at the least, using the wrong name for something. I just have to keep my head on my shoulders and realize the author's context.

Below is a modified version of part of an email I recently wrote to a very good aritst. (I will start posting some of his things before too long.)

On the abstract versus representational art issue, I have a perspective honed from the experience of living with an excellent abstract painter - one of my exes (we were together for 2 years). She also was quite good at representational art. Some of her landscapes were quite beautiful.

She painted with a passion. When we separated, she had over 1,000 paintings done. When we would run out of money for canvases, she painted the doors and walls. As a last resort, she would paint over an older painting. If she couldn't get normal artist paint, house-paint would do. Even watercolors. Or a mouse on a computer (although she never did go too far with computers).

What I discovered in her abstract paintings (which I have not seen too often elsewhere in abstract art) was that she had a talent to make you daydream.

Here is the theory I came up with. Your eyes are bombarded by many light waves when you open them. The mind is what organizes the light waves into patterns based on some of their physical properties and the mind's organizing capacities (gestalt). When I have opened them quickly while concentrating on the experience, I have been able to "see" an instant where everything is still not congealed. Then the normal images snap into place. My ex was extremely good at capturing this instant.

When I used to look at one of her paintings for a while, before too long I would find my mind wandering all over the place, sort of going into a focused stream of consciousness. The random thoughts kind of took on an Alice in Wonderland kind of logic. Frankly, I enjoyed this experience tremendously.

Obviously, the purpose and effect of a painting like this is not the same as a representational one. It is not conceptual in nature and does not seek to concretize a concept or group of concepts in order to elicit an emotion. It is made more to induce a directed contemplation process. Thus I am loathe to call it "death premise," "anti-conceptual" and the standard Rand judgments for abstract work (although it is "preconceptual" maybe).

One of the interesting things is that the mental wandering experience varies with other paintings only if they are vastly different in design and color. If any two of these abstract paintings like my ex paints bear a slightly similar, but remote resemblance to each other, the mental wandering is the same.

I have been trying to work on my concept of art so that this kind of aesthetic experience does not contradict the Objectivist one, but is added to it instead. For emotions like exaltation, for instance, you have to be representational. But I enjoy my particular brand of abstract daydreaming too much to find it somehow demeaning.

Michael

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I am opening this moderated thread on art for a more in-depth discussion than has been happening on other threads recently. I do not wish to restrict anyone on OL unless they are an outright troll, but one poster in particular has become an impediment to proper discussion with an enormous volume of repetitive and bombastic posts that have no purpose other than to be disruptive. Some posters have turned him off with our "Ignore" feature and others simply are not posting any longer.

So he will not post on this thread. Any post by him at all on this thread, despite content, will be deleted.

I will go over the other threads on art and cull the best of the discussions and put them here. Many important issues were raised and I would love to go into some of these issues deeper with the wonderfully talented people on OL.

I am also thinking of breaking off some discussions and setting them up in their own threads, like the marvelous one on architecture.

For those who wish to continue engaging the omitted poster, he is not moderated or anything like that. He is merely restricted from posting on this thread so a rational and civil discussion can ensue about art. There are the other threads.

Also, any strident, taunting-like post from any other poster will be returned to the poster with a request to put it on another thread. The focus of this thread is content, not empty rhetoric. (It's OK to disagree, though, if something substantive is being offered.)

Michael

Michael, if we are to talk about Ayn Rand's early regard for abstract art within discussions of abstraction and architecture, we should see the work she admired. I do not know if it's been posted anywhere on your site. If not, I would be glad to put up a few images of the work, if there is interest. It was Russian Constructivism, particularly that of 1914 onwards, and it had an enormous influence on 20th Century art and architecture. The spectacular paintings she admired are by Kazimir Malevich, I believe. He was a wonderful artist and architect who died in 1936. By the time of his death he was reduced by the Soviet government to painting awful, somewhat abstracted images of collective farm workers. His work sounds exactly like her description. If it was someone else that you know of, please let me know.

Where are the instructions on OL for inserting Photoshop jpegs into posts, and quoting specific parts of posts?

I'm very much in favor of an architecture thread.

Jim Shay

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Here is a wonderfully perceptive post by Kevin Haggerty that got buried, but I wish to preserve it in a better place in the hopes that it will get greater exposure.

Michael

I'm so ambivalent about posting in this thread. On the one hand, as an artist living and working among artists for most of my life, and someone who loves reason, I feel I have a stake in this conversation. On the other hand, Objectivists have such a powerful tendency toward strong opinions without a lot of personal investigation (I don't mean knowledge, I mean investigation) or (perhaps more importantly) any sympathy for people who have dedicated their lives to pursuits Objectivists tend not to have any interest in, I fear my insights will be wasted.

On top of which, there are so many angles from which to approach the beast! But to get started here, I think I'll limit my thoughts to the issue of "skill" in Abstract Art.

In my experience, good abstract work requires a lot more real skill and a far more sophisticated and individualistic "eye" to pull off, than good figurative work. I liken abstract art to jazz or free verse. Anyone can pick up a sax and start improvising, but not everyone can play like Charlie Parker. And anyone can write

some sentences

and arrange them

haphazardly

down a page

in lines of varying length

without giving the T. S. Eliots of the world anything to worry about.

These forms, jazz and free verse poetry, are superficially unstructured, but that doesn't mean that all jazz and all free verse is crap. Certainly, many many folks without the dicipline to get a real music education or to study the full history of poetic form can ape the acheivements of giants and call themselves "artists." Seems to me that most of Victor's examples of crap are the works of Abstract Art's second handers and posers and psuedo-intellectual wags.

But let's return to the father of Abstract Expressionism, Mr. Jackson Pollock and his infamous masterwork, Lavender Mist:

g001_pollock_lavender_mist.jpg

I'm always very impressed with this work. How anyone can take a good look at it and not see a profoundly subtle, ordering mind at work, is pretty amazing to me. No, really, I'm not being fanciful in the least. To my mind a good piece of Abstract Art creates what I call a profound associative field. And that is extremely difficult to do.

Let me explain. Our minds seek out visual order almost compulsively. Our brains are hardwired to make the visual data we receive comprehensible. Our minds are often so obsessive about creating order that it can be very difficult to simply see what is in front of us. Beginning art students usually have to "unlearn" the mind's symbolic visual language in order to be able to draw accurately what they simply see. Ask a non-artist to draw a human eye, for instance, and you will likely get a familiar image of a circle within an almond shaped elipse. It can take weeks of hard work for the student to be able to lay these compulsive symbols aside, but once he does, a whole world of magnicent complexity and mystery opens up. The whole world is new and unknown and must be drawn to be understood!

So, to my mind, a great work of Abstract Expressionism like Lavender Mist is practically a master class in unprejudiced perception in a single work. Anyone can throw random slashes of paint at a canvas, but it takes an extraordinary eye to keep the image from resolving one way or another. One can stare at a cloud and see a face or an animal, but that's as far as you get with clouds. The associative field of a great piece of Abstract Art can seem nearly infinite--the moment you think you see something in it, the larger context of the work refutes it. There is no face or animal anywere in Lavender Mist--take a good long look at it and try to track the things you almost see in it. Is Lavender Mist flat, or does it express depth? Flat like a map or deep like a foggy morning landscape? Are there objects in the mist? People? Houses? Points of fire? A city? A battle? A line of monks walking slowly up a hill?

And yet, like the beginning art student who doesn't really look at what's in front of him but instead looks for the symbols his brain is preconditioned to seek out, the too-literally minded viewer of Lavender Mist may become frustrated because his mind's attempts to deliniate and classify what he sees come to nothing. His inability to find the familiar and the known may cause him to lash out at the work, to try to domesticate it that way. What crap, he says. Meaningless chicken scratch! A child could do better.

But what such a viewer misses out on, I think, is the opportunity Pollock grants him to experience the viewer's own creative soul. What meaning do we seek to impose on the work? What thoughts and associations, unbidden, arise within our own perceptive field? To look into Lavender Mist and really see the work, is to participate in the Artist's creative process. When we look at Lavender Mist on it's own perceptual terms, we are all artists caught in the moment of creation.

What I find most troubling about this whole discussion, though, is the way it tends to make visual art over as a sub-genre of literature (and literature a sub-genre of philosophy, for that matter); as if the visual in art were merely the illustration of the artist's entirely prosaic thoughts and principles. As if there's nothing worth investigating on purely visual terms, with metaphors that have no relationship to the written word. Why paint an image if you can explain it away in a few paragraphs of text? Why would anyone want to do that?

-Kevin

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Michael, if we are to talk about Ayn Rand's early regard for abstract art within discussions of abstraction and architecture, we should see the work she admired. I do not know if it's been posted anywhere on your site. If not, I would be glad to put up a few images of the work, if there is interest. It was Russian Constructivism, particularly that of 1914 onwards, and it had an enormous influence on 20th Century art and architecture. The spectacular paintings she admired are by Kazimir Malevich, I believe. He was a wonderful artist and architect who died in 1936. By the time of his death he was reduced by the Soviet government to painting awful, somewhat abstracted images of collective farm workers. His work sounds exactly like her description. If it was someone else that you know of, please let me know.

Where are the instructions on OL for inserting Photoshop jpegs into posts, and quoting specific parts of posts?

I'm very much in favor of an architecture thread.

Jim,

Please do include these images. This is precisely the kind of thing I would like to see and I am sure many readers would too. Frankly, I am fascinated.

In general, for inserting images, put bbcode image tags around the address where the image is on the Internet (there is a button on the posting toolbar that does this for you when you select the address after pasting it in the post).

Some images that contain a complicated address do not appear because of security issues. Our site was once hacked, so we are more careful. In that case, download the image to your hard disk and upload it to a Photobucket account (or similar) and use that address (I will be glad to put any image in the OL photobucket account if need be.) In this case, I usually include the original link as a link when showing the photo to show where it came from.

The architecture thread will be coming soon.

Michael

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The spectacular paintings she admired are by Kazimir Malevich, I believe. He was a wonderful artist and architect who died in 1936. By the time of his death he was reduced by the Soviet government to painting awful, somewhat abstracted images of collective farm workers. His work sounds exactly like her description. If it was someone else that you know of, please let me know.

Jim,

Actually, Malevich has already been brought-up (to a limited degree) and I posted several of his works in one of these threads...I'll try and track it down my post...

RCR

Edited by R. Christian Ross
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Actually, Malevich has already been brought-up (to a limited degree) and I posted several of his works in one of these threads...I'll try and track it down my post...

Here we go...

PS: Speaking of Malevich: J., RCR, Dragonfly, could any or all of you post some samples of his work?

Here are some samples of Malevich's work...btw, I'm keeping these image refs large, for better viewing, so they might take moment to load, depending on the speed of your connection.

http://www.abcgallery.com/M/malevich/malevich.html

malevich191.jpg

malevich.jpg

Interesting the resemblance to O'Connor's "Diminishing Returns", no? Malevich actually has a series of these blank-faced mannequins...I wonder if O'Connor was directly influenced by Malevich or if the similar choices were just coincidental.

Malevich-snowstorm.jpg

malevich101.jpg

RCR

Edited by R. Christian Ross
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Christian,

Thank you for mentioning that. Here is you second post dealing with Malevich images. (Our posts crossed, so I deleted the first one since you provided it above.)

Michael

RCR, thanks for the Malevich images. The first and fourth ones aren't loading on my computer, although the middle two are. Is there possibly something wrong with the coding of the first and fourth links?

E-

Huh...they all come through fine for me.

Here are the links themselves...

http://www.abcgallery.com/M/malevich/malevich191.jpg

http://www.mala.bc.ca/~mcneil/jpg/malevich.jpg

http://www1.ku-eichstaett.de/ZIMOS/pics/Ma...h-snowstorm.jpg

http://www.abcgallery.com/M/malevich/malevich101.jpg

Also you can browse a good number of his works here

http://www.abcgallery.com/M/malevich/malevich.html

RCR

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Christian,

Thank you for mentioning that. Here is you second post dealing with Malevich images. (Our posts crossed, so I deleted the first one since you provided it above.)

Michael

RCR, thanks for the Malevich images. The first and fourth ones aren't loading on my computer, although the middle two are. Is there possibly something wrong with the coding of the first and fourth links?

E-

Huh...they all come through fine for me.

http://www.abcgallery.com/M/malevich/malevich191.jpg

http://www.mala.bc.ca/~mcneil/jpg/malevich.jpg

http://www1.ku-eichstaett.de/ZIMOS/pics/Ma...h-snowstorm.jpg

http://www.abcgallery.com/M/malevich/malevich101.jpg

Also you can browse a good number of his works here

http://www.abcgallery.com/M/malevich/malevich.html

RCR

I'll send this image to see if it comes through from a Photobucket account. Jim

malevichsupremusno.jpg

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Christian,

The links work for me. I could not get the one in Jim's post to work (but I corrected a code mistake for the quote).

So these are the paintings Rand admired when she was younger? She changed her mind later, but I wonder if she ever thought about why she admired them enough in the first place to write about them.

Michael

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Interesting side note re: Russian avant garde painters and Ayn Rand... :)

http://medianomad.blogspot.com/2004/09/co-opted.html

From the 1860s to the early 1920s, Camilla Gray writes in her history of the Russian avant garde art community, a debate raged over what art should be, whom it should serve and where the artist should fit into society. There were two general positions on the matter. On one side, a crimson thread beginning with the group known as "The Wanderers" and ending with the Constructivists just after the Revolution believed that art existed for something beyond itself, that it should speak to and live within the context of human life. The opposite perspective, a white thread beginning with the wholistic artistic vision of a group known as the "World of Art" community and ending with the abstract Supremacists, believed that art was spiritual and that the artist's job was to bear witness to these highest ideals.

The Russian Experiment in Art: 1863-1992 (Thames and Hudson, 1986, 324 pp.) tells the story of how the crimson thread won. This edition, revised and enlarged from Gray's original 1962 manuscript, tells a story of how art in the modern world took its place in social change, then lost it in the agit-prop of Socialist Realism. Artists dropped their easels--and the idle speculation that took place there--to become industrial designers, creators of a futuristic aesthetic that melded people to machines.

The Marxist overtones in Gray's narrative, though unexplored, are clear. Marx believed that simply creating art for art's sake was unproductive labor because the artist would be simply a merchant of his or her produce and would exist outside the relationship of capital. The artist needed a job that would connect him or her to the material facts of economic life. The Constructivist aesthetic was a materialist aesthetic, which means that it dealt with the materials first and then explored the consequences of those materials. It created art from the bottom-up, using the mundane aspects and motifs of common life as the substance of expression and making stoves, coffee pots, buildings, clothes sites of artistic creativity. It explored the concrete functions of life and the relationships between flesh and steel. But ultimately, it required that the artist have something to do.

[snip]

Dealing with the material facts of existence did not mean relinquishing imagination, but channeling it towards revolution. And revolution, it seems, lay at the core of what these artists were about.

(Malevich: The Knife Grinder, 1912)

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[snip]

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The fact that Gray begins her history two years after the liberation of the serfs in 1861 is important. The idea of a modern Russia seemed to be in the air, but no one seemed to know what it meant. A 1907 painting by Valentin Serov, Peter the First, seems to capture the spirit. This painting, drawn in a traditional representational style, shows the tzar striding against the wind as his retinue struggles to keep up. One gets the sense that Russia was--perhaps always has been--struggling against an invisible force pushing it back from the modern West, which it seems to want to be but never can be. The artists Gray depicts are similarly passionate, striking out against the world and themselves. Artists starved to death and engaged in fisticuffs. There is something passionate and violent here, a self yearning to break free. One can see Ayn Rand happening.

RCR

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In post #2, Michael quotes from a blog entry by Roderick Long:

As for art: in an early draft of We the Living, Rand wrote admiringly of the infiltration of Western abstract imagery into Soviet Russia: “laughing, defiant broken lines and circles cutting triangles, and triangles splitting squares, the new art coming through some crack in the impenetrable barrier.”

Jim Shay comments:

Michael, if we are to talk about Ayn Rand's early regard for abstract art within discussions of abstraction and architecture, we should see the work she admired. [....] It was Russian Constructivism, particularly that of 1914 onwards, and it had an enormous influence on 20th Century art and architecture. The spectacular paintings she admired are by Kazimir Malevich, I believe.

Are we sure it was specifically Russian Constructivism, and in particular Malevich she was talking about? (Does Chris S. say in Russian Radical? I'm not remembering.) Her including the word "laughing" in the description sounds more to me as if she's thinking of Kandinsky than of Malevich -- although "defiant" sounds more appropriate to Malevich. I get a strong sense of "laughing" from some of Kandinsky's work. Malevich I find "heavier."

Ellen

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A note to Jim Shay:

I hope you saw my two follow-up posts about the cave art, post #229 and post #232 on the "Art as Microcosm" thread.

Also, if you and your wife like tribal art (I do, too) you might enjoy John Haule's own murals; they're strongly based on Kwakiutl totem motifs.

http://jrhaule.net/murals.html

Ellen

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Are we sure it was specifically Russian Constructivism, and in particular Malevich she was talking about? (Does Chris S. say in Russian Radical? I'm not remembering.) Her including the word "laughing" in the description sounds more to me as if she's thinking of Kandinsky than of Malevich -- although "defiant" sounds more appropriate to Malevich. I get a strong sense of "laughing" from some of Kandinsky's work. Malevich I find "heavier."

Further, I'm not sure that Malevich is really considered a "constructivist"...more often than not, I see him referenced as a "supremacist" (although the two movements are related).

BTW, AHEM--

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malevich

"When the Stalinist regime turned against modernist "bourgeois" art, Malevich was persecuted. Many of his works were confiscated or destroyed, and he died in poverty and obscurity in Leningrad, Soviet Union (today Saint Petersburg, Russia)."

RCR

Edited by R. Christian Ross
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(In another thread I mentioned that in the We The Living outtake Long quotes, Rand was talking about decorative art [book design], while in her later denunciations of non-representational painting she was talking about fine art. These are different undertakings with different sets of rules, so Rand didn't necessarily change her mind or contradict herself.)

Too often in discussions like this one people talk as if art were, by definition, what they like to look at or what they find emotionally affecting or what expresses a sense of life. Whether or not any of these is an adequate definition of art, they aren't, singly or together, Rand's definition, and to say that you like Mondrian or Pollock is not to say that they are art or to dispute anything she said.

Somewhat like Long, I've wondered if she would have liked Coward had she discovered him in her intellectual maturity.

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Pete,

I remember you mentioning this before, so I looked it up again because something was nagging at me. Here is the full quote in context (The Early Ayn Rand, "No," p. 231):

A month to wait is a fortnight in Paris, a week in New York, a year in Soviet Russia.

"No," said the saleslady in the bookstore, "we have no foreign magazines, citizen. Foreign magazines? You must be new in Petrograd. We have no more publications from abroad than from Mars, citizen. Unsuitable ideology, you know. What can one expect of bourgeois countries? . . . Here's a nice selection, citizen: The Young Communist, Red Weekdays, Red Harvest. . . . No? . . . We have splendid novels, citizen. Naked Year—all about the civil war. Sickle and Hammer—it's the class awakening of the village—futuristic, you know—but very profound."

The shelves were bright with white covers and red letters, white letters and red covers—on cheap, brownish paper and with laughing, defiant broken lines and circles cutting triangles, and triangle splitting squares, the new art coming through some crack in the impenetrable barrier, from the new world beyond the borders, whose words could not reach the little store where a picture of Lenin winked slyly at Kira , from above a sign: "State Publishing House."

From what I gather, the book and magazine covers were on brown paper with red and white covers and designs. However, the designs were actually based on the concept of modern art from abroad "coming through some crack in the impenetrable barrier."

So even though she was talking about the decorative art on the book covers, it was based on contemplative art from "beyond the borders." Also, this art was seen in a benevolent sense (at least for this image) with the laughing and defiance.

This is how I understand this excerpt.

It would be interesting to see the actual book and magazine covers of the time.

Michael

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A note to Jim Shay:

I hope you saw my two follow-up posts about the cave art, post #229 and post #232 on the "Art as Microcosm" thread.

Also, if you and your wife like tribal art (I do, too) you might enjoy John Haule's own murals; they're strongly based on Kwakiutl totem motifs.

http://jrhaule.net/murals.html

Ellen

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Thank you, Ellen, for your terrific postings. They are of great interest to me and my wife, as well. I will check out the murals this evening. Jim

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Are we sure it was specifically Russian Constructivism, and in particular Malevich she was talking about? (Does Chris S. say in Russian Radical? I'm not remembering.) Her including the word "laughing" in the description sounds more to me as if she's thinking of Kandinsky than of Malevich -- although "defiant" sounds more appropriate to Malevich. I get a strong sense of "laughing" from some of Kandinsky's work. Malevich I find "heavier."

Further, I'm not sure that Malevich is really considered a "constructivist"...more often than not, I see him referenced as a "supremacist" (although the two movements are related).

BTW, AHEM--

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malevich

"When the Stalinist regime turned against modernist "bourgeois" art, Malevich was persecuted. Many of his works were confiscated or destroyed, and he died in poverty and obscurity in Leningrad, Soviet Union (today Saint Petersburg, Russia)."

RCR

You're right about the suprematist designation. I let that slip through my mind.

None of the images up here thus far give an inkling of what it is about Malevich's work that I think she liked. I'll have to look at Kandinsky tonight. Perhaps he's the reference, but offhand, I don't think it's him.

HOW can I get my images up on this site? I opened a Photobucket account, which did no good. I've got 3 images here that I believe are perfect. You'll see a lot of laughter.

Jim

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None of the images up here thus far give an inkling of what it is about Malevich's work that I think she liked. I'll have to look at Kandinsky tonight. Perhaps he's the reference, but offhand, I don't think it's him.

Jim, did you have a look at this site, they have a large collection of Malevich's works, you may even find more examples...I'm actually really curious now to see what you are thinking of.

http://www.abcgallery.com/M/malevich/malevich.html

RCR

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A wee bit ago, there was a discussion about the proper "subject" or "theme" of the majority of Vermeer's paintings (among other bits and pieces)...without dwelling on the arguments, I thought this side-by-side comparison between a few works by Vermeer and one of his Dutch contemporaries, Pieter de Hooch, would prove illuminating and interesting to readers.

When I look at their work, it seems to me that in spite of the glaringly obvious similarities, the difference between their "subjects" (using ES's meaning here) is like night and day. Also, even granting the highly limited "naturalist" lens, to me Vermeer clearly shines; there is a human reverence and a strong psychology at work in Vermeer's craft, so much so, that I think he transcends the "naturalist" boundaries completely.

A Soldier and a Maid. c. 1653. Oil on wood, 71 x 59. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia.

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Soldier and a Laughing Girl. c.1658. Oil on canvas. The Frick Collection, New York, USA.

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A Woman Reading a Letter. c. 1664. Oil on canvas, 55 x 55 cm. Szepmuveseti Muzeum, Budapest, Hungary.

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Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window. c.1657. Oil on canvas. Alte Meister Gallerie, Dresden, Germany

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The Mother. c. 1659-60. Oil on canvas, 92 x 100 cm. Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, Germany.

mother.jpg

Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid. c.1670. Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, Ireland.

32ladyw.jpg

Thoughts?

RCR

Edited by R. Christian Ross
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[...] illuminating [....] shines [...].

It would be fun to do this with a projector and be able to swoosh a lazer pointer around on the images.

The reflections. Look at the glass panes in "Soldier and a Laughing Girl." And the back of the chair behind her. (I've seen that one, at the Frick.)

"Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window": her reflection in the glass. Also the window curtain and the hanging behind her seem almost to be moving in air currents.

"Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid": the brightness of the window panes and of the tiles on the floor. And, again, almost a sense of motion in the curtain.

The one called "A Mother" I find something incredibly sad in, some heaviness of aeons of motherhood's bondage. But I wouldn't use the term "naturalist" for the de Hooch works any more than for the Vermeers. As I've said, I don't think Rand's categorization properly applies.

We might have seen the one at the Szepmuveseti ("A Woman Reading a Letter"). We visited that museum in 2003, and I recall there being some rooms of Dutch masters; but I was becoming too tired by the time we got to those to take in details. What I remember especially noticing was the el Grecos in one room. Those were startling in style contrast to most of the work on display.

A question about Vermeer: Do any of his paintings of interiors have the light source on the right, or is it always on the left?

Ellen

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A question about Vermeer: Do any of his paintings of interiors have the light source on the right, or is it always on the left?

Vermeer's light sources are almost always on the left, but there are few notable exceptions:

Girl Asleep at a Table. c.1657. Oil on canvas. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA.

vermeer6.jpg

The Lacemaker. c.1669-1670. Oil on canvas. Louvre, Paris, France

vermeer25.jpg

Possibly misattributed to Vermeer:

Girl with a Flute [corrected]. c.1666-1667. Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA.

vermeer30.jpg

Girl with a Red Hat [added]. c.1666-1667. Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA.

27redhat.jpg

RCR

Edited by R. Christian Ross
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Too often in discussions like this one people talk as if art were, by definition, what they like to look at or what they find emotionally affecting or what expresses a sense of life. Whether or not any of these is an adequate definition of art, they aren't, singly or together, Rand's definition, and to say that you like Mondrian or Pollock is not to say that they are art or to dispute anything she said.

Peter,

I'm surmising from your remark that you haven't been following the various art threads. Or even if you were looking at them now and then, that you've missed points being made around the edges and through the noise. I expect we all of us here know that merely saying we like something doesn't of itself say that that something is art. However, I think all of us here at minimum have cavils with Rand's views on the nature of art. I for one do not accept her definition, and I dispute quite a bit of her entire theory -- indeed I only agree with her in a sort of vaguely broadly-brushed way. Specifically re Mondrian or Pollock, if she did consider their work not art -- Pollock's I know she considered not art; I think she probably considered Mondrian's abstract work not art as well -- this is among the numerous points on which I dispute what she said.

Ellen

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