Rethink.

Ora sono ubriaco d'universo. (Ungaretti)

Tag: fine arts

Gerald Murphy, “Razor”

Gerald Murphy, “Razor”

Was at the Dallas Museum of Art and this leaped out at me. As S.S. Fair notes in the review above, it features “a vividly rendered matchbox, Parker fountain pen, and Gillette safety razor.” They look “fresh and modern,” and yeah, in this age it looks like an “elegy to everyday tools beautifully rendered but quaint in today‚Äôs plastic, junk-tastic universe.”

I got a bit something different out of it. The theme is safety. In addition to “safety” matches and the safety razor, the background is composed of box and file-like shapes, boxes and files protecting and compartmentalizing their contents. The lid of the matches and the crossed razor and pen below resemble some kind of coat of arms. This is our flag, our declaration – oh wait, one of these things doesn’t belong. The fountain pen doesn’t really claim to be safe, especially when one considers what constitutes real writing. The “safe” world is that of design and marketing. The pen reminds of what truly lasts.

Tantric Buddhist Statue from the Crow Collection in Dallas, Texas

From the Crow Collection in Dallas, Texas

From the Crow Collection in Dallas, Texas – photo: Mark Alonzo

The Tantric Buddhist statue pictured above (credit: Mark Alonzo) is sexual and symbolic. Saw it with Mark and Laura this past Wednesday when we made a trip to the Crow Collection. I don’t remember exactly when or what region it is from, but Mark took a beautiful picture that gleams.

The Tantric statues on display were meant for more monks of a more elite status. Like this one, they were meant to be contemplated, meditated on. Some of the statues were of figures that would wear chains made of human faces. You could see, say, on the Lord of Death a bunch of faces which seemed smug or vain or any number of related emotions. I, at least, thought that death as the end or “judge” of any human pride might have been part of the point.

Exactly why the statues are so erotic is an open question. The Crow Collection discusses Tantric practice as bodily ways to achieve a body/mind unification, where compassion can flow from one’s very grounding in reality (their phrase):

Tantric practices, unlike other Buddhist vehicles, explicitly use the body as the path. Visualization makes use of the power of sight to bring the outside in and the inside out, to dissolve the boundary of our body. Breath control, gestures (mudras), and positions of the body (yogic asanas) are tools to stimulate and direct the flow of energy, along with extensive ritual performances ordering and purifying space and summoning and dispelling energies.

Part of me feels this a bit too technical, though many of the statues feature some cosmic force personified trampling other bodies: a rejection of human form. And the practices described are obviously important. But to what degree are the statues simply about using one’s own erotic passions to pursue something higher? The statues are stylized and symbolic, but there’s a lot of sensuality on display.

The statue pictured above is probably the mating of wisdom (Buddha) and compassion (the girl). His hands, left over the right, are in a “teaching” gesture. While gold, it is relatively unadorned, instead focusing on their expression, their gestures, their unity. “Wisdom” is a bit distant, but “Compassion” seems to have warmth and joy. This is a cosmic tension represented.

A Tale of Two Galleries – First Friday in Philadelphia, 9/4/09

1. Artists’ House exhibition, “Art of the Still Life,” was a failure: it was all still life, and it was hard to see what many of the individual artists were trying to achieve through their choice of style. Only a few pieces of that one genre were to be had per artist; the paintings all seemed to be the same rather quickly – “okay, there’s fruit, it’s on a table, and there are also pitchers or cups and other random objects BORING.” I wondered what kind of house the artists lived in that moved them to make these paintings: apparently no one owns a television if they’re an artist? Or has anything on their table besides tastefully arranged fruit and cups? Artists’ House has been excellent when it displays portraiture, and allows the human form to speak despite the artists’ limitations.

A few things stood out: Paul took note of the brushwork on Samuel Evensen’s “Pomegranates” – the build-up of texture was slowly done, and every color was meticulously positioned to create that lifelike look without elimination of the strokes. I thought Logan Speirs’ “Sunflowers” showed an excellent sense of line; you could get lost in the gnarls the backs of the flowers’ heads take. I felt he was one of the few artists at the exhibition trying to say something, not just show off his technical ability or design sense.

The other artist trying to say something – I think – was Ed Bronstein. Take a look at “Still Life in Blue and Orange.” There’s a jar with a grinder atop it, and a picture within; a pump for oiling things (h/t Paul); a book about the abstract painter Richard Diebenkorn; three more pictures at the upper right. All of this sits on a white surface, which is itself upon a blue chair. I’m not quite sure how to interpret all of this; it looks like some general comment on motion (grinding – coffee? oiling – bicycle?) over a landscape (Diebenkorn), with arrival being the pics at the upper right; yes, that’s a counter-clockwise motion, but the chair indicates to me “hey, maybe this is a portrait of someone who should be seated.” Again, not sure, I’d have to look at the painting more closely. The trouble with the painting is that technically, it wasn’t the sharpest thing I’ve seen, not by a longshot.

2. Rodger LaPelle held work by the artist David FeBland – you can see his style vividly here – it’s almost like he’s painting photographs with his own unique photoshop filter applied. It works: he picks bold images that convey the discomfort and intensity of the environment throughout the exhibition, but there are times he releases that tension or works with it to accentuate a portrait. I think I almost fell in love with the elfin girl – can’t tell the age, something about her seemed older when I first glanced the painting – from “My Search for Paradise” while looking into the distance with her; the thickness of the air isn’t an obstacle, but lighted such that she is that much brighter when she appears while approaching the picture.

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