Friday, June 3, 2011

A new take on fingerpainting

I hope y'all have seen some examples of David Hockney's iPod touch paintings—executed with his forefinger! He has more talent in his little finger than most of us have anywhere ... but I love to look and marvel. Although an exhibition was mounted in France, he doesn't sell them; instead, he e-mails them to his friends.
Since I've established that I'm more of a visual arts voyeur than creator, allow me to recommend a most excellent book on one of my favorite artists: Modigliani: Beyond the Myth. 
(I recently learned that the 'g' isn't pronounced.) If he hadn't died so young, the artist would undoubtedly have explored sculpture more fully, and his impressive efforts in that medium are  revelatory. As the Washington Post's Blake Gopnik wrote in his review of the show that spawned the book:
"Head," now in the Guggenheim.
The rebellion, on view in the sculpted heads, is impressive. Modigliani may have been heavily influenced by Brancusi, but the Italian's work sometimes moves ahead of the Romanian's. Brancusi tends to err on the side of a kind of pared-down art deco elegance. At his best Modigliani pushes toward rugged solidity. His heads can have a tough, barely roughed-in quality, borrowed from some African, Asian and prehistoric models, that you can read as a kind of negation of the Renaissance poise that was all around him growing up.
The caryatid studies have a more traditionally European flavor than the heads. Strictly speaking, the caryatid, as an architectural form, comes out of ancient Greece, where graceful female figures were sometimes used as structural elements. And the crouching, straining bodies in Modigliani's studies are based on Renaissance images of the muscled titan Atlas struggling to support the globe. But combining the two, so that a bodybuilding woman labors to hold up a crushing weight, makes for a work of modern art that barely registers as part of the tradition. Or that at very least seems to be a thorough, knowing revamp of it. Shaking up traditional ideas about what the sexes are supposed to do was one way for the Parisian avant-garde to push back against 19th-century proprieties, and Modigliani was on top of the trend.

4 comments:

  1. wow! i never would have guessed that this painting had been done on an iphone! now if the app could only create virtual brush strokes...

    and i didn't know that modigliani was also a sculptor (a fantastic on at that!). thanks for the info!

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