Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Skat Players and Military Injury Now

Otto Dix, The Skat Players – Card Playing Invalids

The Skat Players by Otto Dix portrays three injured men who have gotten hurt because of the war. Dix was giving a narrative on how modern weaponry and extremism in war has gotten to impossibly destructive heights. He is right, from World War Two and onward, battles have been fought with weapons of mass destruction and entire communities have been knocked out in seconds.

War injury is an interesting subject in art, because it has changed vastly throughout the years. Some wounds are consistent like gunshots, but others change in relevancy and media coverage throughout the time. For example, very rarely are musket and cannon wounds an issue any more, however Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has arisen to new heights and is one of the most common side effects from a life in the milita.

Therefore, Dix was spot on for his time and brought awareness to a subject that can often be ignored especially in the upper class world of art. It would be interesting though to see how his art could be translated to reflect the big issues in war now such as PTSD and Nuclear Weaponry.

Upon a search, I discovered that these issues today have taken a new form in art. PTSD is now treated with art, as opposed to brought to light. Art therapy is a common form of rehabilitation for survivors of war. On the International Art Therapy Website (
uma.html) They have more information including a video on projects going on with PTSD.

It is interesting over the years, how the subject matter and aim of art can change and go in different directions, although all founded upon the same struggle: military injury.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Unpredictability in Interpretation

Paul Klee
Ancient Sound, Abstract on
Black (1925)
oil on cardboard

One thing that is interesting about the abstract movement is the concept that art can be experienced the same by all people if it is simplistic enough in both design and story line. Thus, the concepts during this period become more and more basic and geometric. Art, then which is historically thought of as free and expressive takes a more scientific approach. This is based on logic and rationality, however the problem comes in when the human condition does not always fall in line with predictability.

For example, take Paul Klee's Ancient Sound, Abstract on Black (1925). It is abstract in the traditional sense with basic colors and lines. Klee even went so far as to put "Abstract" in its title. However, the colors that Klee used are in the red and green family, which are often the colors which blend for those who are color blind: a large part, but not all of the population. Therefore, what was aimed to be a simple uniform piece of art is changed due to the nature of human unpredictability.

Germaine Greer once was quoted saying, "Security is the denial of life." Although I see some beauty in the simplicity of geometric patterns and design, they in some respects are trying to accomplish some type of security in their predictability, which as Greer eloquently puts, is nearly impossible in the human world.

Composition IV

Theo van Doesburg
Composition IV (in 3 parts)

In the first two houses that I loved in there were a large display of stained glass windows. I remember as a young kid looking at one in particular on the stairwell. based upon the lights that were on, upstairs downstairs or within that corridor the light would look different every time you looked. Additionally, it was changed by the time of day and weather. The texture of the stained glass and its changing color quality made staring at the windows and its surrounding area an interesting activity on a boring day. Those windows, of course were in the mor classical representation of stained glass windows. They displayed a picture, usually a scene from nature and used many different colors with each plate of glass. Theo van Doesburg's work, also stained glass does quite the opposite. His composition is streamlined and precise only using primary colors. However, van Doesburg did not create this work on any canvas or piece of parer, which could have easily been done. In my old house's windows, the intricacy of the work was still a main focus, and its effect on the surroundings was an after-effect in many ways, but in the way of Geometric Abstraction, van Doesburg makes his work almost beg for light and interaction, because the art itself is so simplistic that the color itself is what takes precedence when the light around it comes into effect. Whether or not van Doesburg intends it to, his creation can be seen with or without light and is changed with both experiences. This is one aspect of art which is essential to the human experience. Whatever way something is viewed impacts its effect on the viewer and vis-versa.

Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye

In the traditional sense of modern art, there is a somewhat paradox created between the concept of fluidity and contrast. Artists create architecture and art that is more streamlined than the traditional, intricate details of styles past. They get rid of almost all that is extra especially in modern architecture. Colors are generally solid and there is a limited amount of blurring of lines and more often than not things are quite simple. However in with this simplicity are hard lines and unexpected designs. The merging of both concepts creates an interesting juxtaposition in the approachable-ness of these creations.  Often, the goals of streamlined simplicity can conflict with those of utilitarian practice. For example, in Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye, Poissy, the general shape and features of the house are plain and the fluidity of the white in the design carries through to make a somewhat clean cut design. However, within that design Le Corbusier made the lower part of the house open to facilitate a car driving around and parking underneath the house. Of course, in order to accomplish this, he had to implement poles supporting the house which as a result divided up the line of sight in the exterior of the house, and the streamlined white blanket of a structure resultingly got broken up, allowing the surroundings of the forest, grass and sky to become essential aspects within viewing the house. In further studies, it will be interesting to see how architects and artists look to settle further this dispute between environment, creation, and utilitarianism. Le Corbusier's house was a start, but architecture certainly has reached new levels of balance in the years following Villa Savoye. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Edward Munch's Odd Success

Edvard Munch
Madonna (Conception)
color lithograph
23 3/4” x 17 3/8”

One thing that Edward Munch is able to do with his art is tight rope the line between creepy and approchable. His bold colors and subject choices could easily portray a sense of madness which could have been cause to run many artists into the ground. However munch is able to pull off his works and make them accessible to an audience beyond those living outside of the spectrum of what societal standards have historically qualified as crazy. He does this by making his art reflect insanity and doubt on life but instead of in a way that encourages insanity or rash acts, he instead takes a more existentialist  stand on the questions of life. His subjects experience emotions without any obvious repentance for them. By conveying an experience rather than an opinion, Munch can bring out the emotional triggers in viewers of his works from all walks of life. The extent of emotional turmoil may be subjective, but every person experiences a range of emotions throughout each day of their life, sometimes varying in extremes even by the hour. Therefore, depression or insanity does not act as a hinderance for Munch, but instead a catalyst for art which encourages thought and reflection. As a result, Munch's works tell more about the reflections of the person viewing and experiencing them, than their creator.

Schelling and Aitken

Robert I. Aitken
A Creature of God

What struck me about Aitken's work was his ability to convey the effect of transformation through his sculpture. The pieces he creates literally look like the subjects are emergine out from the rock. They take this form and thus show themselves less as a construct of humans but something that was there the entirety of the rock's existence. This idea assumes, thus, that art is in fact something which is not necessarily created by the artist and generation which it evolves in, but instead unearthed or rediscoverd by that artist.

Aitken's work has led me bak to the association of art and philosophy. I have previously discussed parallels with famed philosopher Immanuel Kant, and now I must make the connection with one of kAnt's descendant, german idealist Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling. Schelling was a lover of Art, claiming that the creation of art is one of, if not the highest goal of humanity. Of course, many famed scholars and philosophers praised art, but where Schelling connects to Aitken is not only that they were both active around the same time period, but more precisely in why Schelling attributes so much significance to art. 

It was Schelling's belief that in the creation of art, the creator acts as a connection to the divine in his execution of his work. In the act of creating art, he experiences a disconnect from the material world and as a result what he creates is not only through him, but a message in some ways from a greater power. 

The ways in which Aitken's sculptures appear as if they are just being uncovered by the artist and not necessarily "created" goes along well with Schelling's theories on the creation of art. When looking at Aitken's work, it is easy to imagine this process as a transcendent one.

Further, in the creation of art, we must ask based off of Schelling's assertions, is creating art really a choice, and are we as humans entitled to even say what is art, or must it be experienced with some divine context in order to be quantified as "art"? Perhaps in the new visual building, it will create an environment which these questions can be asked. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Melancholy and Mystery of a Street by Giorgio de Chirico (1914)

This painting took me of my feet with the title. The word choice is fairly specific, and it has given me the wondering about what it is actually implying. This painting is characteristic to me because the house arcades (on the left) stands as a scenery around empty space with highly cast exaggerated shadows or maybe just the very right moment of the sunset of the day. It is disturbing, but yet an evacuating and timeless universe where the laws of sense seem to give way to the dream world. It might sound a little too poetic for no reason, but of course I will try to explain.

Everything in the painting is ultimately done with great preciseness to contour with color use to set an empty atmosphere. In the left bottom corner is a girl (presumably) that is playing very peacefully with her stick and bicycle rim balancing her into the painting, where another shadow is to be seen. This creates a mental illusion, given the time (1914), the title, and also to consider what message to infer. The use of elements is very few, but imagination can build upon raging ideas for what this painting actually means. I suggest that the girl holds on to the whole meaning of the painting and that is by saying that she represents so much in so little.

Sensitive and caring with her elegant jump/run, conscientious and introverted when looking closer to the direction of her face (towards the white building, instead of the bigger unknown shadow). Usually these elements do not play a role all together, but with my knowledge of World War I and the ‘mystery’ of the future was unpredictable, just like this painting.

In 1914, it was probably to no one’s knowledge what the outcome of the WWI would be which is just like the outcome of this painting; it is to no one’s knowledge where the girl is heading and what she is to encounter.

I utterly and strongly suggest anyone reading this blog to review my 4th source to read a poem that magnifies this painting to something beyond what I have ever thought of or researched about.



Exquisite Corpse: A game of the artist

        Le Cadavre Exquis (Exquisite Corpse) is an artist's game. Our instructor told us many different things about Exquisite Corpse. He told us that, historically, Exquisite Corpse was born out of Surrealism. It is similar to a game where players create random sentences by saying random phrases and words that are chained together at the end. For instance, "Le cadavre / exquis / boira / le vin / nouveau" (The exquisite corpse will drink the young wine). This phrase, of course, was where Exquisite Corpse got its name from. 

       The goal of Exquisite Corpse is for all of the participants to let to of their normal intentions, instead creating a collective subconscious that is reflected in the finished "work." Exquisite Corpse works by each artist taking turns drawing something on a surface (usually paper), and then folding that surface in a way that shows only a part of that work so that another artist can draw something else based on what the first artist drew. This process repeats until the "work" is "completed."


Andre Breton, Valentine Hugo, Greta Knutson, and Tristan Tzara, Exquisite Corpse. Ink on paper, 23.5 x 31.1 cm. 1930.
        No doubt works like these are open entirely to interpretation. I, for instance, see a bulls-eye with a pipe as a dart that's smoking feathers. The bulls-eye is connected to a snake's head which goes down to a skeletal figure with a rolling belt attached to a sneaker. A small desert scene at the bottom right completes the work. Overall, the spontaneous and ambiguous product of a collective group's minds puts Exquisite Corpse in the same realm as Dada and Surrealism, as well as some Freudian influences.

       To read more on Exquisite Corpse and see a gallery of Corpses, visit

       For an article on Freud's influences on art, visit

       For an article explaining the Dada movement, visit

Monday, March 18, 2013

Le Corbusier. Villa Savoye, Poissy, 1928-31

Le Corbusier. Villa Savoye, Poissy, 1928-31
Le Corbusier's architectural piece, Villa Savoye, Poissy was built from 1928-31 and was a collaboration with his cousin, Pierre Jeanneret.  It was one of the first buildings to fit into the category of modern architecture and has a very clean, stream-lined feeling to it.  The long windows, bright color and open feeling under the living space seems ahead of it's time. On the one hand I like it very much but on the other it sort of reminds me of a prison which is ironic because the people that he built the house for were Jewish and were sent to Concentration camps during WWII. The house was built with the automobile in mind and the open first floor is meant to allow the car to drive right up under the living space.  I think that Le Corbusier was influenced by the radical change happening in French society during this time.  Mobility was a new way of life, the lower class was leaving the agricultural life and moving to the cities and many artistic people were hoping for a new kind of society that led them to reject the ways they had known and to embrace new ideas of politics as well as art.

George Braque Houses at L’Estoque

George Braque Houses at L’Estoque
Houses at L'Estroqu is a 1908 oil painting by George Braque.  Many people believe it is the first Cubist landscape although some would say it is pre-Cubist.  For me,  the picture is a little dark, doesn't excite me and seems to have a sense of uniformity.  All the houses are in an area with some trees and although they may not be exactly alike,  there isn't much individuality or beauty involved.  In fact, it looks like a lot of cardboard boxes and I don't really understand the critical acclaim of this movement.  Although I believe Paul Cezanne had more talent,  he could have been an inspiration to George Braque in this work.  They both lived in L'Estoque and many of Cezanne's paintings, such as Pyramid of Skulls,  seem to have the same color scheme as this painting.   He was also said to have an great interest in painting with naturally occurring geometric forms which is obvious in this "cubistic" painting by Braque.

Robing of the Bride by Max Ernst

       Max Ernst was born April 2nd, 1891 in Bruhl, Germany. He is considered a major pioneer in the movement of Surrealism, an offshoot of the Dada movement. His childhood and four years of service in World War I were major contributors to many of his works. For this post, I will focus on one of his postwar works, Robing of the Bride, which he painted in 1940.

Max Ernst, Robing of the Bride, oil on wood, 96 * 130 cm. 1940.

        My instructor told my class what Surrealism's claim is: "Nothing we see is real. All that is real is invisible." It means that many Surrealist works often feature highly abstracted objects that are open to interpretation at best. This is likely the most realistic interpretation that I can give Robing of the Bride: The work features four vaguely human figures, each mixed with the characteristics of an animal without losing their human appearance. From left to right, we see a green heron with the legs of a human (no gender clearly assigned) wielding a broken but still sharpened spear, a woman with a mask on her chest whose head is covered by a headdress that is part of what seems to be a thickly down-covered chick (if the chick isn't the woman's head), another woman behind her with a pale purple pallor and a peacock's tail feathers for hair, and finally a little girl standing to the side who appears to be crying. She is pregnant, has two sets of breasts, male genitalia, and the legs of a frog. Behind all of this is a painting displaying the downy-haired chick and its body(?).
        Our instructor showed us two other works made by Ernst that also had featured avian forms.

Max Ernst, Surrealism and Painting, oil on canvas, 195 * 233 cm. 1942. The arms and legs in this work bring to mind the long necks of the bird family Anatidae. The family includes ducks, geese, and swans.

© 2006 Max Ernst / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Max Ernst, Two Children are Threatened by a Nightingale, oil on wood with painted elements and frame, 69.8, 57.1, 11.4 cm. 1924. The nightingale in question is that small speck above the fence on the left. Truly threatening.

       Our instructor told us a story about a certain bird that Ernst kept as a pet when he was a child. The eventual death of this bird had a profound impact on Ernst, and was likely the first death he experienced. Coupled with the stress that he no doubt faced during his service in World War I, it is easy to see why he would choose birds as a subject for some of his works; a loss of childhood innocence coupled with the brutality of war.

       For a biography on the life of Max Ernst, visit:

       For more information on Surrealism, visit:

       Even when drawing in Surrealism, it pays to know basic facts of your inspiration. For more information on the avian family Anatidae, visit


Max Beckmann, Night

Max Beckmann, Night
Beckman believed that one must find the metaphysical in the new objectivity; metaphysical in this sense referring to the representation of human destiny. He showed the effects of war, how even neighbors can become torturers. One day you could have coffee with them the next they could be torturing you to see if you are the enemy.This was a post world war I movement. This is such a gruesome painting, and even kind of twisted looking. When I look at it I feel like I may go crazy like these people. The war has driven them mad, not being able to trust anyone and people and loved ones getting tortured all over the place. It is so straight forward. I love paintings like these, because they do show the hard to see kinds of things, those things you do not want to be shown, but the public needs to see what has happened. One needs to see the reality of things and art brings that out for all to see. The song “After You’ve Gone” was written by Henry Creamer and composed by Turner Layton in 1918, around the same time as this painting. One of the lyrics at the very end reads “I'm gonna haunt you so, I'm gonna taunt you so It's gonna drive you to ruin After you've gone, after you've gone away.” Although this is talking about a breakup like most songs now adays, it has a deeper meaning to me. This woman is going crazy for her lost loved one. He left her, she is broken, like many of the people that were caught up in WWI, they are left with nothing. Turning to no one and eventually it made them crazy. Not knowing who to trust, if anyone. The War took so much from people and didn’t stop taking, the scary thing was they never knew who was on their side. Like the heartbroken woman in the song who thought her lover was on her side and would stay with her forever, these people were blindsided by people who were as close to the as neighbors they saw every single day.

Otto Mueller Bathing Women

Otto Mueller Bathing Women
Painting nude was still so common but Mueller showed it in a different way. I like the different ways artists paint the naked body. This one showed these woman bathing in his own way. Taking this everyday art that was so common in that time and showing these woman in his own way. I also love that Mueller used crayon on paper. He was using such a common, mass produced product and elevating it tot the status of art that he made. This is so interesting and important to me, using something ordinary and making it extraordinary. I just want to compare this art piece to his other one, “Landscape with Yellow nudes.” I think here he focused more on the landscape and the culture that these people might have. They seem to be playing in the water, rather than bathing, although I do not know for sure. The brush strokes on the nudes is very simple but the shading and color draws your attention here. It is also just as much about the landscape rather than just the nudes, where in his “Bathing Women” piece it is very focused.