Here’s a little repost to test your knowledge.
The photographer Matthias Schaller has spent the last several years documenting the palettes of some of the most recognizable artists in history. Try to match the artist to the palette.
When it comes to public art you would be hard pressed to beat Bernini’s masterpiece The Fountain of the Four Rivers in Rome’s Piazza Navona…….well maybe the Trevi Fountain in the same city. Public art or art in public spaces is freed from the confines of the gallery and adorns our cities like jewels in a crown or at the very least gigantic garden gnomes decorating our financial and cultural institutions. As I am in the middle of planning our next escape I was going through some old photos and came up with a theme. Here are a few examples taken from some our travels over the years.
Washington Brushstroke Roy Lichtenstein
If you ever find yourself in Washington and are looking for a place to eat, I highly recommend the food-court at the National Museum of the American Indian (unfortunate name but really good food).
Between the architecture and all the public art in Chicago you don’t even have to step foot inside an art gallery to see some of the biggest names in Art History. I would say, right up there with Bernini’s fountain would have to be Anish Kapoor’s Cloudgate referred to as ‘the Bean’ by locals. I’ve never seen an artwork have such universal appeal. Both young and old are drawn to it. The minute you see it you automatically start walking towards it. It is like a magnet.
Not all public art has it easy. Cleveland’s Thinker had a bomb placed under it. Read more here Slashed, Smashed and Blowed up: Blowed up Real Good. There’s tons more I didn’t include, but I recommend the next time you’re out and about take a look around you might be surprised what you encounter.
Prolific doesn’t even come close. Pablo Ruiz Picasso was an endless well of creativity. He did things that predict and predate art movements and styles decades before they are fully realized by following generations of artists. Picasso Sculpture on now at The Museum of Modern Art in New York highlights; that 43 years after his death, he is still teaching us a thing or two about combining a thing or two.
The show is a marvel of objects collected from every phase of his career. Cubism has it’s rightful place along with many of his other styles. There was even an area showcasing all of the maquettes he developed for his large public works.
Picasso approached sculpture the same way he approached painting. He is at his best when he combines unexpected elements into alarming results along with capturing the essence of something with what looks like very little effort.
The best example of this I can point out is his Bull’s Head made from a bicycle seat and handle bars. The concept is mischievously simple but it’s impact is enormous. It has elements of the readymade and the combine all the while screaming Picasso.
Sometimes he’s subtle and sometimes he’s bombastic but he’s always surprising.
This was a great survey of one of the titans of Modern Art that delighted as much as it enlightened. On until Feb 7th.
Marcel Duchamp was her art adviser, Max Ernst was one of her husbands, she once got drunk with James Joyce, she lived in Paris in the 20’s during the golden age along with the Fitzgeralds and the Josephine Bakers, Man Ray took her picture, Samuel Beckett was one her many lovers, her father went down on the Titanic, she was the first to show: Hoffman, Rothko and Pollock at her New York gallery Art of the Century, she referred to one of the great architectural triumphs of the 20th century as her ‘uncle’s garage’; Peggy Guggenheim’s life reads like a who’s who of artistic spoils and the new documentary Peggy Guggenheim Art Addict by Lisa Immordino Vreeland gives us a small glimpse into this extraordinary woman’s life.
If you’ve ever been to Venice then chances are you may have visited her wonderful museum there. The walls within house one of the finest collections of Modern Art to be found in any place. She collected Magrittes, Miros, Picassos, Ernsts, and so on and so on. The majority of her collecting took place in an eight year window during and shortly after WWII. She stayed in Paris to last possible minute before the Nazis arrived to ensure her artwork made it out safely along with procuring some last minute deals in the process.
Vreeland’s documentary does a wonderful job showcasing her collection and painting the backdrop of her life but in the end I felt no closer to really understanding the woman. A few talking heads like Marina Abramovic and even Robert DeNiro (she collected his parent’s paintings) weigh in on her, but everything veers towards her reputation rather than her true self. Even an audio interview with Peggy that runs throughout the film doesn’t really give you any insight into her motivations and place in history especially pertaining to some very rich topics.
Peggy Guggenheim was in the right place at the right time and clever enough to know it. She had very forward attitudes towards art and sex, which I believe can be very threatening to some. Many tried to marginalize her but she persevered through it all. The film gives us a brief glimpse into what it was like to have been there at the time surrounded by some of the biggest names in history through the eyes of someone who lived it, and that is worth the price of admission.
These were the 3 most viewed posts on holditnow in 2015.
Birdman: “a thing is a thing, not what is said of that thing.”
Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) slowly unravels like a sweater caught on a nail. Birdman unspools relentlessly through a continuous maze of backstage corridors and claustrophobic dressing rooms of a Broadway theatre that could easily stand in for the mythological labyrinth of Minos. Michael Keaton is Riggan Thomas, who is Birdman; who may have or may not have been Icarus. Birdman reads like a Fable. Birdman felt more like a performance than a movie. While watching Birdman, I didn’t want it to end, right up until it did.
It’s the classic boy meets girl story. Married by a curator/collector in 1927 resulting in a relationship cemented by sentimentalism; Thomas Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy 1770 and Sir Thomas Lawrence’s Pinkie 1794 have been eternally entwined in the collective consciousness of the wigs and keys crowd since the early twentieth century. They are the subjects of endless reproductions, porcelain figurines, commemorative plates and all manner of kitsch. Two youths betrothed to one another by the place they shared on a museum wall. The girl in pink and the boy in blue; how perfect is that?
Van Gogh and Picasso are two of the most recognizable names on the planet. Countless books and millions of words have been devoted to their lives and work. Their art changed the way people see the world around them. This fact is no small feet and these men were 2 in 107,602,707,791. There weren’t billions of people waiting in line for Picasso Masterpieces from the Musee National Picasso, Paris in Toronto or for Van Gogh: Up Close in Ottawa but at times it felt like there was. The big names bring the big crowds. For me this is a mixed blessing. I love the fact that people are going en masse to experience art and taking the time to truly look at things but it can make viewing the art troublesome. This summer has been a spoils of riches for the art going public, with two blockbuster shows just four hours away from one another. So, this past week I made my pilgrimage to spend time with two of the icons of western art.
Happy New Year and see you in 2016.
So…. the thing is….umm……in a word….. pointless.
One of my favourite things to do in this world is making mixtapes. I love to spend hours selecting the right songs, more importantly spending hours deciding the right sequence to put them in. A good mixtape should have a wide variety of genres with some hard to find gems along with unexpected favourites. If the painting choices currently on display at the Gagosian gallery in New York are any indication; Jeff Koons just made a pretty crappy mixed tape.
Don’t get me wrong, I love, love El Greco’s View of Toledo and Rubens’ Tiger Hunt and the Turner etc.. but the versions I love have the right scale and don’t have a shiny blue ball in the middle of them.Jeff’s mixtape is all bad covers that drain the life from the originals. I kind of get why Mr. Koons decided to pursue this body of work as a logical extension of his gazing ball sculptures, but that doesn’t make it good. I like the Gazing Ball statues. The white and the blue play very nicely together.
The blue here clashes with most of the paintings (with a few exceptions), but the bigger problem is the ‘why’? What are the viewers meant to get out of this? Are these solely meant for rich buyers who can’t have the real Rembrandt self-portrait or Van Gogh Wheat Field but still want to drop a ludicrous amount of money on a painstakingly recreated copy with a famous name attached to it?
While looking at them I felt sorry for the team of underpaid factory workers whose job it was to make them. I imagined it was like the equivalent of stripping to put yourself through college. Maybe I’m missing something, I can see myself in these paintings… literally, you’re right there reflected in the blue ball. Is that it, the Jeff Koons running gag about being able to see yourself in his artwork,although you’ll never be able to afford them? Simultaneously in and out.
Or are the blue balls the naked girl at the picnic? Meant to shock and stand out. Who knows or more importantly who cares? I think Jeff should stick to sculpture, it’s what he’s good at and leave the mixtapes alone.
Blogging can be a tricky business at best, coming up with engaging content is not always easy. Sometimes you have to set yourself a challenge to get the juices flowing. Any regular readers of this blog will have noticed an irregular set of posts entitled Who’s the Greatest Artist? What I thought would be a quick summer series has now stretched out over two years. I hadn’t really appreciated the scope of the project when I started down this road, but I would have to say it being one of the most enjoyable to research and write. Close to 14 000 words later and here we are. As I approach writing the final four face-offs: Picasso vs Van Gogh and Da Vinci vs Michelangelo, I thought I would compile the story so far.
Here’s the one that started it all and explains the premise – Who’s the Greatest Artist?
I didn’t want to make it easy on myself so I intentionally tried to create difficult match-ups – Picasso vs Rembrandt
I liked the idea of using the artist’s likenesses in the banner for each piece – Goya vs Rothko
In my mind the outcome of some match-ups were more obvious than others – Dali vs Warhol
I liked this one because it pits two very intellectual artists against one another – Da Vinci vs Duchamp
As I went along, it was increasingly enjoyable to find the parallels between the two – Bacon vs Basquiat
This may have been one of the more difficult one’s to decide – Cezanne vs Kandinsky
Sometimes the two artists couldn’t be more unalike if you tried –Velazquez vs Van Gogh
This was a tough one because whoever got eliminated could easily have gone on to the top of the bracket –
That was the first round, now I had the daunting task of writing about some of the same artists all over again but try to keep it fresh. In my mind I knew I had to pace myself and if I knew a particular artist might advance I had to keep some interesting information for later. Some pairings really helped to inform the direction the piece would take. Now on to the quarter-finals.
I made sure I found pictures where they are both wearing their ‘trademark’ striped shirts – Warhol vs Picasso
This one was probably the most lopsided of the bunch – Bacon vs Van Gogh
I had to eliminate one of my all time favourites, which is always a bit difficult – Da Vinci vs Goya
David and the Giant Peach – Michelangelo vs Cezanne
This brings us up to date and soon the semi-finals. At this point, I’m still not sure who is going to take this thing and that’s part of the enjoyment. I hope you have had a fraction of the amount of pleasure reading these things as I have had writing them.
Think what you will of their work; these two could arguably be considered the most influential artists that have ever lived. The art they produced was like an atom bomb whose fall-out we are still feeling the effects of to this very day. Picasso owned the first half of the 20th Century and Warhol the last. After them nothing was the same again. They may have not been the sole inventors of the movements they are most renowned for, but they sure perfected them. They both launched a million imitators, with very mixed results. In the 21st century; some of our biggest names: Koons, Hirst and Murakami (to name a few) all follow the Warhol formula. In the arena of painting, Picasso’s shadow still looms large. Their output was astounding and they both worked right up until their deaths. Long after the soup cans and the three musicians they continued their respective artistic journeys, but was it still genius? If we set aside all the masterpieces and focus on the later work when the shock of the new had faded and try to divorce the art from their reputations, who’s the greater artist?
Throughout his career Picasso reinvented himself countless times from blue to rose to cubist to neoclassical and so on and on. Along the way he relaxed into a bold hybrid of cubism with expressionistic overtones. He relied on black to outline his ideas and the immediate world to be found only an arm’s length away to inform his subject matter, but because it is Picasso the simple isn’t all that simple. If we look at the Tomato Plant painted in 1944 during WWII we see a moment of change. The fruit is ripening on the vine and the outlook feels promising. Picasso leaves the background flat accentuating the plant. It feels like a simple study in colour and composition but it reflects his deeply entrenched approach to exploration.
Warhol as well constantly changed his game from Pop to film to portraiture to social commentary and so on. Later in his career he collaborated with other artists including Clemente and Basquait. His portraits became more about business than art but he still messed with the formula. Although every portrait he ever did was roughly the same dimensions (22.2 x 22.2 -his intent was to have a huge show of them displayed in a grid at the Met after his death) he did constantly experiment with colour and line. He even famously played with copper oxidization (piss paintings) that poke fun at both abstract expressionism and the art market itself. In the above portrait Jean-Michel was in on the joke and aware of his own critics. Warhol was also hyper aware of his own reputation and even if he didn’t show it on the surface wanted more than anything to be remembered as an important artist and not just a showy personality.
Picasso’s reputation remained intact throughout his lifetime but as the post war world found new delights in action painting, conceptual and pop art his voice was being pushed to the sides. The demand for his work was still high but newer artists weren’t following his lead any longer, so Picasso started looking to the past. In the fifties he decided to tackle one of the heavy weights of Spanish painting -Velasquez. He did 58 variations on Les Meninas, many which can be found in the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. Standing in front of them you get a sense that Picasso is trying to work out the demons of cubism that he is now eternally chained to. Most of the studies feel unresolved and repetitious. Picasso tries to best Velasquez at his own game but constantly comes up short. The strongest of the suite is the large black and white version that feels like many paintings all rolled into one and has to rely on a reference to one of his own masterpieces – Guernica to compete with original Les Meninas. There will always be something compelling in his attempts but the end result is neither good Velasquez nor good Picasso.
Warhol also tackled the greats throughout his career. The Last Supper painted in 1986 based on a kitschy reproduction of the Da Vinci original works for that very same reason. The fact Warhol used a reproduction as the source material comments more on his own output than the original subject matter. It reflects any version other than the original will always fall short. This is the lesson Picasso had to learn the hard way.
One of the strongest collaboration pieces done with Basquait would be their Punching Bags . Warhol who was a devout Catholic and attended church every Sunday places religion firmly in the ring with public opinion. Like all good Warhols, it satisfies both aesthetically and conceptually.
In the last few decades of Picasso’s life he started to paint against the clock. It would not be uncommon for him to do a painting in the morning, break for lunch and do another one in the afternoon. These works have been considered a side note on a long distinguished career and not taken very seriously due to their fevered execution. Although they seem pale shades of past triumphs,they are still very much Picassos.
As distinct as his style is, and along with the sheer number of paintings he completed, it is mind boggling that there is always something innovative to look at in every one of Picasso’s works. He was always surprising from his first painting to his last. Every brushstroke is applied with a confidence and assuredness that is both intoxicating and humbling.
Repetition was a cornerstone of Warhol’s ethos but sometimes too much of a good thing can take its toll. Near the end of his life new ideas were too often being replaced with recycled ones. Warhol made endless Warhols but if you strip away all the helpers and the mystique of the factory, he was still a brilliant draftsman and colourist. Picasso could have learned a thing or two about colour from Andy and Andy could have benefited from being a more solitary artist like Pablo. In the end, the entirety of Warhol’s career qualifies him as a true artistic genius whose influence will be felt for a long time to come, but ultimately he can never escape from the long shadow of the Spaniard.
Winner: Pablo Picasso
Related Who’s the Greatest Artist?
One died penniless, the other a worldwide celebrity who came to represent what people regarded as the quintessential definition of what an artist is. Both exhibited extraordinary talent at an early age. Their works hang in all the important cultural institutions across the planet. A masterpiece by either one of them would be considered the centerpiece of any art gallery’s collection; not that any museum could afford to buy one in this day and age. Their influence on young artists continues to this day and their names are synonymous with genius. They are two of the greatest that have ever been, but who is the greater?
The legend that is Picasso started at an early age. As the hyperbolic story goes: a fifteen year old Picasso applies to an academy of art in Barcelona. The candidates are given three months to complete the entrance portfolio. Picasso completes his in a mere three days and is immediately admitted. His talent was undeniable and this is evident in some of his earliest works executed when he was only in his teens. In his own words “At an early age I could draw like Rapheal.” The only thing that could be bigger than his talent might have been his ego.
Rembrandt apprenticed under a few working artists in his late teens and early twenties but by the time he hit twenty-two he was accepting pupils of his own. He developed a mature style early on in his career that he constantly improved upon but remained consistent throughout his lifetime. He painted roughly 90 self-portraits over his 63 years that document his highs and his lows but every one go beyond the simple representation and give a glimpse into (as cheesy as it sounds) the soul.
As prolific as Picasso was at an early age; Rembrandt’s early works show a deeper understanding of materials and the overall human condition. In his early twenties Picasso moved to Paris and was influenced by the work of Toulouse-Lautrec. He quickly tried to exert his own style and approach to painting and by the time he was 26 had already burned through his Blue and Rose periods.These periods offer glimpses of his genius but feel more like explorations than finished masterpieces. Rembrandt at this same stage had already truly mastered his medium.
Rembrandt’s reputation and his wife’s connections helped him become one of the most sought after artists in all of Amsterdam. The trend of the day was to do multiple portraits in large scale group scenes. Rembrandt could both flatter his sitters along with revealing some narrative that transcends straight forward portraiture. His paintings are sumptuous but are also very much at the mercy of his patrons.
Being a starving artist in Paris at the beginning of the twentieth century also put Picasso at the mercy of his patrons. Luckily for him his early supporters wanted him to explore to his heart’s content. Picasso at his very core is a constant searcher. The carnage he left in his path is epic. With the help of Georges Braques and under the influence of Cézanne; Picasso negated centuries of painting practice and invented Cubism and collage. He completely freed painting from the rules of representation and stepped firmly into modernity.
That is not to say Rembrandt was devoid of innovation. If you take a close examination of his paintings you will witness exquisite passages of painting that almost veer on the abstract. The background of The Jewish Bride is simply Impressionistic – two centuries before Monet. Rembrandt handles light and drama with equal expertise and no painting depicts this better than his The Night Watch. Heralded as a national treasure, it has become an art pilgrimage for the painting faithful.
Picasso has his fair share of masterpieces: Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, The Three Musicians, Guernica and so on but I would argue that none of them draw you in like The Night Watch. I’ve personally stood in front of both Guernica and The Night Watch and been humbled by their scale, dazzled by their technique and felt the presence of their genius but it is Rembrandt who takes you out of yourself and transports you somewhere else.
Over the course of his life, Picasso’s output was prolific to say the least. He wasn’t satisfied unless he was painting. The constant exploration could sometimes produce multiple canvases in a single day. With all that output, not all of them are going to be masterpieces, but Picasso had way more successes than failures. He redefined his style numerous times, always demonstrating skill and innovation. Picasso‘s strength lies more in process than product. We get to witness the act of creation and the multiple decisions and variations one painting problem can pose.
Rembrandt inspired a school of imitators. Every one of them trying to emulate the master’s control and handling of paint. All of them came up short. No one can as effortlessly lay down colour and light with such an economy of stroke and precision as him. Rembrandt’s virtuosity is both inspiring and humbling and definitely created a league all his own. Picasso on the other hand, constantly opened doors for other artists to step through. His influence is immeasurable.
I would argue that no one before or since has handled paint like Rembrandt Van Rijn. Anyone who has ever picked up a brush since him has felt his presence. He is hands down a far better painter than Pablo Picasso, but does that make him the better artist? Rembrandt‘s contribution to art is immense but so is Picasso‘s. Rembrandt helped to redefine what art could be and Picasso helped redefine what art is.They are both equally matched but Picasso had one advantage Rembrandt did not: a competitive equal. I’m sorry but Frans Hals is no Matisse. Without Matisse we would have had a very different Picasso and I would dare say a less compelling one. Constantly being challenged pays off in the end.
Coming soon…. Goya vs Rothko