In reference to my previous post, which seems to be terribly popular, I want to take a moment to comment on this.
Just because it disturbs you, that does not make something art.
The Kardashians disturb me, and no, they are not art.
Socks worn with sandals disturbs me, and that is most definitely not art.
The murder and rape of innocents in war disturbs me, and that is not art.
Art can be disturbing, it can make you uncomfortable, it can make you think, it can make you face your worst fears but just because something does disturb you does not make it art.
Those artists who build their entire body of work upon this idea disgust me. Contriving the most retched, sick, twisted ideas in the most unskillful ways possible only to argue that ‘of course it’s art, just because it disturbs you doesn’t mean it’s not.'
Again, What is Art?
Things I know for certain: Art has meaning. Art caries a message. Art starts with a vision. And good Art is not made simply for 'Shock Value’.
Some say that the strongest emotion on Earth is love, that love can compel one to do anything. Men have been killed in the name of love, wars fought, entire countries toppled. Even John Lennon said that ‘All you need is love’. Love is a splendorous thing, but it can also be used against each and every one of us. It can manipulate us, turn us against one other. Love can turn us into pawns.
Jacques-Louis David has turned millions into pawns with this single painting.
There are few things more beautiful than La Mort de Marat. Simple, stark, and poignant. You can feel death creeping up on this man, nude in his bath as he reads and writes. His face is calm, more serene than one should be after a fatal stab wound such as his, but the wound itself is subtle. No excessive gore, no glorification, just a simple puncture wound the likes of which so easily took this mans life. I have spent hours appreciating this painting, the simple composition which makes you feel the same heavy black weight that sits upon him, the skill with which it was executed. He’s just like you, David says through his paint, pointing to his simple wood box desk and cloth draped bath. He’s intelligent, thoughtful, and look! He’s even sending away a donation in a letter, a man who wastes not a moment, not even for himself.
Love him, David says. He is beautiful. He is virtuous. Love him.
Jean-Paul Marat was a paranoid and a radical, ordering the death of hundreds of thousands during the French Revolution because of their political ambiguity. The endless lists of 'enemies’ Marat compiled could easily be compared to McCarthy’s endless list of Communists, falling short of massacre only because of it’s blaringly patriotic propaganda.
Which is exactly what this is.
La Mort de Marat is nothing more than the most compelling piece of propaganda to rise from the rubble of the French Revolution (aside from La Marseillaise). Marat suffered from a skin disease, leaving him covered in puss and sores from head to foot, relief from which he could only find in his bath, where he spent long hours of each day. In reality he would not be writing back to admirers, sending off donations but rather searching his mind for every citizen he could think of, low born or wealthy, to send to the guillotine. The Jean-Paul Marat of the French Revolution is nothing like the Marat of David’s painting.
But does that matter?
Who knows this?
Do we care?
This is propaganda, pure and simple. It’s beautiful. It’s ideal. It’s inspiring and heartfelt and it makes you love Marat.
Love. David has betrayed you all with your own love.
I am one of those, betrayed by the artist, tricked into loving the idea of a man who seemed so honorable, but in the end I don’t even care.
No, these are not paintings by Van Gogh. Before the glory of all Post Impressionists was stolen by a ginger who sold not one canvas in his life time, Cézanne was leaving his mark on the art world with an emotional and dazzling style of painting the likes of which Paris had never seen before. Cézanne’s compositions and bold paint strokes took the Salon in Paris by the balls and screamed ‘LOOK AT WHAT I’M DOING!’. Needless to say, they didn’t appreciate that much.
Albeit he wasn’t alone in this Post Impressionist movement, the fact that he was one of the most pivotal and trail blazing players is an incredibly hard point to deny. Though, it’s not his part in history that I want to talk about, but rather his art itself. His treatment of both paint and subject is filled with such raw emotion that I often find myself wondering how he was able to create what seem to be such thoughtful works with such gutsy and bold moves.
A palette knife. He was able to control not only paint, but color and tone with a palette knife. I can hardly hold a knife straight while cutting a bagel, give me a palette knife and I’m lost to the world, except for scraping gum off the sidewalk. He had guts and vision and one hell of a steady hand, but he also had a fantastic eye for color, (one of the small factors that many an artist seem to forget all about). He understood the way light played off of a surface and how it bent and shifted shadows and colors. Most fantastically of all, he used blue. And not 'straight from the tube Modern Art’ blue, but blue as it relates to all shadows. Ever.
Now when it comes to color temperature, art and science are hardly friends. According to the Black Body Theory, blue sits at a toasty +8,000k while red is chillin’ out at a mere +1,800k. Now, if I were to give you a blue Mike and Ike, you’d expect a fruity blueberry or raspberry, right? Well if you bit into it and it tasted like a Hot Tamale, I’m sure you’d wanna punch my teeth in (unless you really like Hot Tamale’s. If that’s the case, then you can keep them all). All silly science jargon aside, we see blue as a cool color while red is a hot color. It’s just the way the world works, really, and Cézanne took advantage of this.
Simply put, he uses blue for shadows and it works. Sure, it might not be the spot on shade that a real shadow may be, but we associate the deeper tone and the cool of the blue with shade, with the dark, with shadows. He uses patches of blue on fabrics to create folds and dimples, on the edges of fruit to indicate light, on the bark of trees to give texture.
On the flip side as well, he uses warmth the pop his art. Bright patches of yellow or orange on the cheek of a man, the red flush of a ripe fruit, the warm golden tones of Earth. He’s not afraid of color, but rather uses it to his great advantage. He forgoes the old rule of 'hide your brush strokes’ and instead leaves bold blotches of color and texture that only add to the punch of the painting. Terribly ballsy for a child of the Impressionist era.
Sad to say he never made it into the Salon in Paris, but not for a lack of trying. Though I have to say that I will forever be grateful that Cézanne never folded under the pressures of what 'true art’ was, or should be. Without such brave and reckless artists there is no progression, only repetition . Though not all forays out past the boundaries of a particular societies imagination are successful, there is no doubt in my mind that Cézanne was and is a bloody hero.
Think of Germany in 1919. A country after WWI, battered and bruised and fuck all broken, trying to bring itself back together. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the opening of Das Bauhaus doesn’t help much.
Opened in 1919 in Weimar, Germany, Das Bauhaus was the epitome of this God awful new wave of modern art that took such a strong hold in the early years of the 20th century. Technically Das Bauhaus was a ‘Schoold of Fine Arts and Crafts’ which is just a pompous way of saying 'we make tea cozies from strips of old underwear’. They had departments in metal working, wood working, weaving, potter, painting, so on and so forth, which thankfully allowed students a full range of mediums, though if their instructors had any hand in helping to guide their learning it’s hard to say.
Das Bauhaus wasn’t only a school, it acted as a dormitory as well. Imagine every self important 'free thinking’ highschool artist you have ever known, the kind who dream of a 'Utopian Society where there are no rules’ and essentially no work or bills to pay. That’s Das Bauhaus. Students lived, slept, ate, worked, socialized within the walls of this school which no doubt only added fuel to the fire when it came to those strange, cultish groupings that art students tend to form.
Now that’s all fine and dandy, but the art that Das Bauhaus produced is, in my humble opinion, laughable. While some products of their students, such as tea kettles with clean lines and light weight steel chairs are commendable and influential, they appear to be more design then art. Theater productions, which were common, consisted of students in robot costumes of primary colors and the most rudimentary shapes lifting their arms and turning right or left in time with God awful music. Das Bauhaus wanted to simplify art down to its very being, which included abstracts of shapes based on how the made them feel (Kandinsky) and mobiles made of paper that look strikingly like vaginas (not uncommon in art, really). All in all, this 'House of Construction’ served very little purpose, except in helping to design those hand little tea steepers you can now get at Ikea for $3.50.
Das Bauhaus, in theory, could have helped to construct a Utopian society concerned not with the past but with progressing our world to a place of higher understanding, where innovation and the imagination ruled supreme. What they didn’t factor in was the human element; that we cannot forget out past, no matter how much hollow steel tubing or basic blue we use, and that the lack of structure and direction leads to a single carriage being pulled ten different directions by ten different horses.
Plus, Hitler didn’t like them much. There were strong Socialist undertones, not to mention an outspoken Socialist Head Master (Dessau) and these 'rebellious’ students were never popular with their quiet suburban neighbors. Das Bauhaus moved from Weimar to Dessau to Berlin, three campuses in 14 years, and was finally shut down in 1933 by the Third Reich.
I’m gonna say it, and you’re gonna hate me for it, but the only thing the Nazi Party ever did right was to shut down Das Bauhaus. Sure, they figured out how to build low cost housing (that was ugly as sin) and gave us the model for the first uncomfortable office chair, but a few do-dads in a sea of painfully abstract and vague art hardly constitutes a standing ovation.
In short; Das Bauhaus was a safe and glorified haven for well off liberal bohemes, too 'special’ to get a real job, who instead spent their days whittling Ikea furniture and painting it in painful primary colors and calling it art.