Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Art News from The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal has been evolving its Saturday/Sunday edition. A few months ago some morphing yielded two new sections. One is titled "Off Duty" and it deals with fashion and lifestyle matters. The other is "Revue," dealing with everything from longer pieces related to recent news events, to science developments, the arts and books.

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I noticed a lot of good stuff in the 7/8 May edition. Off Duty had a cover piece devoted to fashion magnate Ralph Lauren's car collection, part of which is on show at the Louvre in Paris. Well, not the Louvre Louvre, but instead the Musée des Arts Décoratifs part -- you know, way out there at the western end of the north wing along the rue de Rivoli.

Anyway, Dan Neil, the WJS's pit bull automobile reviewer interviewed Lauren in Paris, trying to make him confess there might be a tennsy bit of synergy in play between the exhibit and Lauren's commercial empire. Lauren pretty much sidestepped the issue, but Neill did allow in conclusion that Lauren was indeed an actual "car guy."

Gee, I could have told him that. I've been to two Pebble Beach Concours d'Élegance and saw Lauren up close both times. One year he was standing by his Bugatti Atlantique, the other he was helping a bunch of guys pushing his 1939 Alfa Romeo around the 18th Hole site; rolls up his sleeves when need be, he does.

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Over in Reviews it was reported that Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema's "The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra: 41 B.C." was auctioned at Sotheby's for $29.2 million. Forty years ago one could hardly give his paintings away. We're making progress, realism fans!

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Art writer Karen Wilkin reviewed the book "Joan Mitchell: Lady Painter" by Patricia Albers. It seems that Mitchell was a piece of work, whatever her Abstract Expressionist abilities might have been. But the part of the review that caught my attention was this paragraph:

Ms. Albert's book is not the place to turn for an understanding of art. It is punctuated with extended, over-written and yet imprecise descriptions of paintings that fail to evoke particular images despite the self-consciously "vivid" prose and lists of colors. A discussion of "the gorgeous Canadian paintings" made in 1974 is typical. "The diptych Canada V beguiles with the bosky masses, its incantatory lights and darks, its use of white around the cut between the two panels, and its oddly right colors (pale mint, white claret, and the color of night)."

Agreed, that is pretty turgid. My personal problem is that I have an aversion to just about any written description of a painting. Ditto descriptions of music. Music must be heard and paintings (or their reproductions) viewed if they are to be comprehended at all. A few apt remarks and a decent amount of background information are usually okay, but otherwise my eyes glaze even if there's a reproduction right above all that text.

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As a final note, the section also had a short piece about Modernist collector Peter Brant. Among other quotes from him is this: "The thing is, when you look at a great work of art, it has to evoke in you something that's troublesome. If you hate it, it's probably a better indicator than if you just think it's OK. An artist is supposed to be telling you something that's not obvious or something you've not thought about in that way before."

Shh. Please don't mention this to Monet, Renoir, the Hudson River School or even poor, ignored Alma-Tadema.

1 comment:

dearieme said...

"An artist is supposed to be telling you something that's not obvious or something you've not thought about in that way before": what tiresome rubbish - if I wanted to hear a sermon I'd go to church.

What I want from an artist is that he show me something. Mere beauty would do.