David Auerbach on literature, tech, film, etc.

Tag: art (page 1 of 2)

David Auerbach’s Books of the Year 2022: Comics and Art

Installment two of my books of the year, with most nonfiction still to come. It seemed a very lean year for comics overall. The big event is the long-delayed translation of the first half of Lewis Trondheim’s Ralph Azham, his 600-page treatment of power, politics, religion, and family. Trondheim’s ability to improvise a better story than most people can plan out remains exceptional. There is also the final book of Hubert’s uncompleted The Ogre Gods, putting a point on his loss through suicide.

Ralph Azham #1: Black Are The Stars (1)
Trondheim, Lewis (Author)

Ralph Azham #2: The Land of the Blue Demons (2)
Trondheim, Lewis (Author)

First Born: The Ogre Gods Book Four (OGRE GODS HC)
Hubert (Author), Gatignol, Bertrand (Artist)
Magnetic Press

La Synagogue
Sfar Joann (Author), Sfar Joann (Illustrator)

Dungeon: Early Years, vol. 3: Wihout a Sound (3)
Gaultier, Christophe (Author), Sfar, Joann (Author), Trondheim, Lewis (Author), Oiry, Stephane (Author)
NBM Publishing

Dungeon: Twilight vols. 1-2: Cemetery of the Dragon
Sfar, Joann (Author), Trondheim, Lewis (Author), Kerascoet, [none] (Illustrator)
NBM Publishing

Pogo: The Complete Syndicated Comics Strips: Vols. 7 & 8 Gift Box Set (POGO COMP SYNDICATED STRIPS HC BOX SET)
Kelly, Walt (Author), Evanier, Mark (Editor), Kelly, Walt (Artist)
Fantagraphics Books

The Projector and Elephant
Vaughn-James, Martin (Author), Seth (Editor), Heer, Jeet (Introduction), Seth (Designer)
New York Review Comics

All Your Racial Problems Will Soon End: The Cartoons of Charles Johnson
Johnson, Charles (Author)
New York Review Comics

The George Herriman Library: Krazy & Ignatz 1922-1924
Herriman, George (Author), Herriman, George (Artist)
Fantagraphics Books

Yumoto, Koichi (Author)
PIE International

George Grosz in Berlin: The Relentless Eye
Rewald, Sabine (Author), Buruma, Ian (Contributor)
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Käthe Kollwitz: A Survey of Her Work 1867 - 1945
Fischer, Hannelore (Editor)
Hirmer Publishers

Women Artists in Expressionism: From Empire to Emancipation
Behr, Shulamith (Author)
Princeton University Press

Austrian and German Masterworks: Twentieth Anniversary of Neue Galerie New York
Price, Renée (Editor), Lauder, Ronald S. (Preface)

Uragami Gyokudo

I am too lazy and obstinate to paint small scenes;
I can wet the black ink and grind the red, but ideas are difficult.
Why busy myself to death with my small talents?
Better to discard the brush and face the true mountains.

Uragami Gyokudo (tr. Stephen Addiss)

Uragami Gyokudo (1745-1820) was a musician, poet, calligrapher, and painter affiliated with the Nanga “literati” school of Japanese painting, which drew influence from the earlier Southern School of Chinese literati painting. Known more for his music and poetry during his life, he resigned from his post at age 50 to become an itinerant artist.

The titles below are taken, where possible, from the catalogue of the Chiba City Museum of Art exhibition, Life as Bunjin – The Art World of Urakami Gyokudo and His Sons, Shunkin and Shukin, unfortunately difficult to obtain.

Eastern Clouds, Sifted Snow (~1812)
Rain Cloaks the Mountains
Scholar’s Pavilion by a Stream
Reading the Book of Changes by a Mountain Stream
Mountains Dyed Scarlet
Playing the Koto in the Mountains
Half the Sky is Misty Rain (1813)
Pine Groves on a Cold Peak
Strange Peaks, Autumn Colors
Crossing a Bridge in the Deep Mountains (1818)

from Edgar Wind, Art and Anarchy

In the place of an art of disengagement, which rejoiced in its separation from ordinary life, we are now to have an art which completely involves us in real life – what in France is called art engagé. If I am sceptical about this doctrine, it is because it seems to me to make essentially the same mistake as the theory which it opposes. Both try to escape, in opposite directions, from the plain and fundamental fact that art is an exercise of the imagination, engaging and detaching us at the same time: it makes us participate in what it presents, and yet presents it as an aesthetic fiction. From that twofold root – participation and fiction – art draws its power to enlarge our vision by carrying us beyond the actual, and to deepen our experience by compassion; but it brings with it a pertinent oscillation between actual and vicarious experience. Art lives in this realm of ambiguity and suspense, and it is art only as long as the ambiguity is sustained. However, suspense is an awkward condition to live in, and we are persistently tempted to exchange it for some narrow but positive certainties; and yet we know very well that, as soon as the artistic imagination begins to work on us, we leave the safe shore for the open sea.

Edgar Wind, art and anarchy (1967)

Lyonel Feininger at the Whitney

The exhibit is a great one, even if it’s a bit small and shortchanges his late work and drawings (which I think have another exhibit devoted to them somewhere or other). I do love Feininger’s work, and he’s probably the artist where I felt the biggest gap between looking at reproductions of his work and seeing the paintings close up. Especially with his post-Bauhaus work in the 1920s, the use of color gets tricky to figure because the lines are so straight and sharp while the color is so diffuse.

I now think of Church of the Minorites II as his absolute masterpiece, but I never would have prior to seeing it up close.

Church of the Minorites II (1926)

The sheer lack of definition of the green lamp on the right, for example, is nowhere near as noticeable. Likewise with the general use of light and shading. This painting is representative of the style probably most closely associated with him, the austere post-Bauhaus view of architecture mixed with sensuous colors. At least of the paintings on exhibit, it stands out as being concertedly richer and massive.

But Feininger’s development does not move in a straight line. There are certainly general shifts, but even within a period he seems to echo back to different styles that he had earlier used. You can’t really say that his work got smoother or more bloodless over the years, because rough and jagged bits reemerge sporadically, even as he made heavier use of much smoother textures. Four years after the above painting he did this:

St. Mary's Church with the Arrow (1930)

The arrow seems to have been borrowed from Paul Klee.

Euphoric Victory has a Kandinsky-ish feel to it, but feels more dramatic to me than any Kandinsky.

Euphoric Victory (1918)


He did, however, mostly move away from drawing people, who generally get reduced to clothing with triangle heads, except for his carved toys, which include chickens and owls with hats among the figures.

Houses and Figures (Birds with Hats)

His angular shading of buildings also translates remarkably well into three dimensions, though you can’t really tell from this picture.

In those early years, his people often had obtuse angles and unsteady curves and the small head/big body combo weirdly anticipates Crumb’s Keep On Truckin’-era work.

In a Village Near Paris (1909)

His comics, which influenced Chris Ware among others, have a more lurching, blocky feeling to them. This panel reminds me of The Triplets of Belleville:

The Kin-der-Kids (1906)

The limits of newspaper printing required higher-contrast lines; his penwork was finer:

The Disparagers (1911)

Yet the frail linework here would return much later in his career in the 1940s. The bolder and generally straighter lines of the 20s were replaced by the suggestion of texture by single lines more than by color. The show doesn’t have much from the late period; I wish they had had some things like the gorgeous Mystic River.

Mystic River (1951)

Feininger wrote a few fugues and that and his “toolbox” approach to painting (he returned to certain buildings and sites repeatedly over long periods, cycling through various aspects of his style, notably with twelve paintings of the Gelmeroda church done over a decade) seem to have suggested a functionalist, engineer’s approach to painting.

It also makes his career much more non-linear than many would have it, those who praise the early stuff and dismiss the later work. (Critics seem to like artists who have more distinct periods.) Don’t be fooled; see the exhibit.

More Feininger available at Mid-centuriaArt Tattler, and on the comics, at Mad Ink Beard.

A Retrospective of the Work of Christiane Paul: “Cory Arcangel: Pro Tools”

Here I present a tribute to the work of Christiane Paul currently on display in the Whitney Museum in her exhibit “Cory Arcangel: Pro Tools.”

Continue reading

« Older posts

© 2024 Waggish

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑