Sunday, October 30, 2011

peter schjeldahl | you want to be worthy of it

While you're looking at Giovanni Bellini's big oil on wood "St. Francis in the Desert" (circa 1475-78), at the Frick Collection, it seems to satisfy every personal use you've ever had for art. Wanting any other work would betray gluttony. Now the museum has organized a little show around research into this most perfect of pictures. There's not much to discover. X-rays of the scene, in which the saint stands transfixed in a multitudinous landscape, find a completely worked-out drawing, across which Bellini applied the skin of paint as deftly as if he were pulling a blind. The jewel-like style rivals that of contemporaneous Flemish oils but is suffused with Italian tenderness. The painting stuns with its conception of physical and spiritual vision as one and the same. We are seduced by naturalistic and poetic details - that personable donkey, unforgettably - while being set back on our heels by the polished execution. Like the humility of St. Francis, the work's sublimity makes you want to be worthy of it. Change your life!

Peter Schjeldahl,
The New Yorker, July 11 & 18, 2011

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

photos | re:union

by Sean Devine
pictured: Andrew Wheeler, Alexa Devine, Evan Frayne
pix by me

Monday, October 17, 2011

w.h. auden | musee des beaux arts

Pieter Breughel the elder

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

Thomas Hoepker

Sunday, October 02, 2011

janet malcolm | struth on the bechers

Spherical Gas Tanks | Hilla & Bernd Becher

Thomas Struth entered the Kunstakademie in 1973, and studiesd with the photographers Hilla and Bernd Becher. The Bechers are cult figures, known in the photography world for their typologies of water towers, gas tanks, workers' houses, winding towers, and blast furnaces, among other forms of the industrial vernacular.

"Eventually their meaning in the history of art will be linked more with their teaching and the influence it had than with their work."

I asked Struth about the influence on him of the Bechers' pedagogy.

"They were fantastic teachers in the way that they demonstrated the complexity of connections. When you met with Bernd and Hilla they didn't talk about photography alone. They talked about movies, journalism, literature - stuff that was very comprehensive and complex. For example, a typcial thing Bernd would say was 'You have to undertand the Paris photographs of Atget as the visualization of Marcel Proust.'"

I said, "I don't get it. What does Atget have to do with Proust?"

"It's a similar time span. What Bernd meant was that when you read Proust that's what the backdrop is. That's the theatre."

"Did you read Proust while you were studying with the Bechers?"

"No, no. I didn't."

"Have you read Proust since?"


"So what was the point for you of connecting Atget with Proust?"

Struth laughed. "Maybe it's a bad example."

SolarWorld Factory | Thomas Struth

from Depth Of Field" by Janet Malcolm
The New Yorker, September 6, 2011