Showing posts with label Salvador Dali. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Salvador Dali. Show all posts

Friday, September 27, 2013

If Salvador Dali Had Styled Cars

A comparatively easy way to increase fuel efficiency in the wake of the gasoline shortages on the 1970s was to improve the streamlining of cars.  Ford was one of the first American manufacturers to do this in the early-to-mid 1980s, the best-known example being the Taurus line.  These early wind tunnel tested Fords tended to have windows featuring large-radius corners.  This was something in the spirit of 1936 vintage models from General Motors, Chrysler and others introducing all-steel bodies in those days when metal stamping technology could not easily accommodate tight surface curves.

But when the aerodynamic Fords appeared, stamping technology didn't force large-radius window corners; stylists apparently chose strong rounding as a means of emphasizing the curved design theme derived from the wind tunnel testing.  At the time, I felt that all that curving wasn't really necessary and resulted in designs that seemed excessively soft looking; more crisp styling elements in the details would have been better.  And of course others came to the same conclusion, so today's aerodynamically efficient cars include many crisp elements along with the curves.

So why, when it came time for a complete 1996 redesign on the Taurus, did Jack Telnack and his crew decide to emphasize curves even more than they did for the original Taurus design?  I have no idea, other than they might have decided to zig while the rest of the industry zagged.  Or perhaps corporate management interfered.

In any case, while the Taurus design had some nice features (I like the subtle sculpting around the front of the hood and fenders), other parts of the car are simply odd -- especially the windows at or near the rear along with the instrument panel.

In fact, I now entertain the amusing thought that surrealist artist Salvador Dalí of drooping watches fame could have been on the Taurus styling team had he lived long enough.  This is especially true for the station wagon model, the subject of this post.


Here is a general view of the 1996 Taurus station wagon showing the subtle front end styling and hinting at the window curves towards the rear.

This appears to be a factory photo showing the rear of the wagon.  It was taken from close to the ground, a view few people normally have of the car.

I found this image on the Internet.  The car is painted white, eliminating distracting highlights and allowing us a good view of the large, rounded, droopy looking window shapes around the rear.  The rear passenger door looks to be the same as that for the sedan, a cost-saving detail (no special door tooling for the station wagon version).  The problem, as I see it, is that the rear area window treatment is not integrated with the rest of the design.  In particular, the upper edge of the rear side windows fails to link to the upper edge curves of the other side windows, giving the window a tacked-on appearance.

This is the Taurus instrument panel where curves further abound.  To me, the problem area is the cluster in the oval at the center, just forward of the shifter lever.  Control buttons are strewn across it in a somewhat organic pattern, not in well organized (from an ergonomics standpoint) groupings.

Also posted at Car Style Critic

Monday, April 30, 2012

The New Salvador Dali Museum

I'm writing this near Tampa Bay on the west coast of Florida while visiting friends. I've never been here before, so sightseeing has been the priority. One site was the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg.

The collection is reputed to be the best outside Spain, assembled by a wealthy Dalí fan over a period of decades starting in the early 1940s; click on the link for details. What's new is the building, which opened 11:11 a.m. on 11 January 2011 -- for any numerologists out there, that translates to 11-11-1-11-11.

The collection includes a few of Dalí's huge later works. But what interested me was how many paintings there were from his teenage years and elsewhere in his pre-Surrealist days. I consider the museum worth a visit if you're a Dalí fan or even just somewhat interested in him and his work. Be aware that the admission price is a little on the high side, 19 dollars.

Photography was not permitted on the gallery floor, so what you see below is what I could take.


Museum exterior with Dalí signature

Other views of the exterior

Dalíesque display between the gift shop, café and ticket desk

Chauffeur wearing diver's helmet
Dalí once tried to give a talk dressed in a diving suit and nearly suffocated.

"Mermaid" in back seat
The passenger compartment is filled with a plastic "shower stall" of sorts where from time to time water sprays down on the mermaid mannequin. Thanks to the "shower stall" plastic and the car windows, there are layers of reflection of posters on the opposite wall mostly obscuring the mannequin. Quelle Surrealisme!!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Artists and Writers Time-Warped

The Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern liked it, John Podhoretz at The Weekly Standard didn't (no link available). Me? I seldom go to movies. But when I do, it's usually because of the concept or subject. The last Woody Allen movie I remember seeing was his 1975 "Love and Death," demonstrating that I'm not a big fan. But his latest flick, "Midnight in Paris" (IMDb link here) intrigued me due partly to its time-travel gimmick and mostly because it includes writers and artists of Paris in the 1920s, a period I've read a fair amount about (that's the movie's Zelda Fitzgerald at the left in the photo above). So I went.

Read Morgenstern's review for details about the movie. I'll just name-drop. There are major speaking parts for Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein, lesser ones for Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí (who is obessing on the concept of "rhinoceros"), Luis Buñuel (in need of movie ideas), Man Ray, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald (she attempts suicide at one point), T.S. Eliot, Henri Matisse, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Gauguin, Edgar Degas (the last three in a secondary time-warp), and a singing part for Cole Porter.

The casting director did a good job finding actors who could be made up to look a lot like the originals. Since you can't win 'em all, there were some compromises. For example, Picasso might have been a bit too tall and slender, and Man Ray definitely was too tall. But you watch it and find more near-misses, though that probably won't interfere with your experience.

A character in the 2010 part of the movie is a know-it-all who disputes facts with the guide at the Rodin museum; that one hit pretty close to home. The guide, by the way, was played by France's femme No. 1, Carla Bruni.

There also were some temporal ambiguities. Hemingway was encountered after his first novel (1926) but before he wrote much more. Dalí was in Paris in 1926, but Surrealism was largely a literary movement at that time, its better-known painting/visual aspect was only starting to emerge even though much is made of it in the movie. Those points and others make it difficult to pin down just when in the 20s the action takes place. But again, that's minor because Allen is trying to evoke a short, rich era rather than any particular time within it.

So if you like arts and letters and have more than passing knowledge of Paris and the 1920s, you'll likely find much in this movie to enjoy.

Monday, December 13, 2010

In the Beginning: Salvador Dali

This is the introductory item of a series of occasional posts dealing with modernist painters who began their careers as representational artists.

My concept is that this will form the basis for speculation as to how a given artist might have developed had he not "gone modern." Obviously, there is no way of telling for sure what might have happened absent a system of parallel universes and wormholes for traversing them. Still, speculation is usually a fun, harmless activity as evidenced by the popularity of pre-game sports programs on television.

To begin, let's consider Salvador Dalí (1904-1989). Unlike the artists to be featured in later posts, he almost never drifted very far from representationalism and, in post-Surrealist years, largely returned to representation. This gives an example of beginnings and representational potential attained. The main defect with my choice of Dalí is that examples of his early painting that I could find are not particularly representational. Oh, well.

Maybe I'd better explain what I mean by his degrees of representationalism. Surrealism, as Dalí practiced it, meant painting images representing unreal things in a manner so detailed that they might be seen as being real. That's why I claim his drift was small; small compared to changes in style exhibited by the likes of Picasso, Kandinsky and Mondrian, for example. By the 1950s, as we shall see below, the Surrealist content of his paintings became much less extreme. The result was that some paintings, particularly those with religious content, were close to representational with a touch of symbolism analogous to details in religious art of the mid-second millennium.

Let's take a look:

The Artist's Father at Llana Beach - 1920
Dalí was about 16 when this was painted. It's hard to tell if he was already experimenting with modernist ideas (see below for examples) or, like many at that age, hadn't developed much skill.

View of Port Dogue - 1920
This was painted the same year as the one above, and the same critique could be applied.

Self-Portrait (Detail) - 1923
I snapped this at the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid where it and the two following paintings (not my photos) can be found. Dalí is now about 19 and experimenting with Cubism.

Retrato de su hermana (Ana María) - 1925
Two years later, he is returning to representational art. This portrait of his sister is hard-edged and slightly simplified -- a style often found in paintings of the 1920s and 30s.

Figura en una finestra - 1925
Another painting of his sister from the same year. This takes on the solidity and featuring of form that characterize much of Dalí's future painting.

The Persistence of Memory - 1931
At 27, Dalí created this, his most famous work. Most of his purely Surrealist paintings were done between the late 1920s and mid 1940s. Art critics tend to dismiss work done after this period.

Leda Atomica - 1949 (click for larger, clearer view)
This was painted when Dalí was about 45. It contains echoes of his earlier Surrealism, but actually was as carefully planned as any classical or academic painting.

Leda Atomica study
This is one of several studies for Leda Atomica. Others dealt with the perspective of the platform his wife Gala is (almost) seated on.

Christ of St. John of the Cross - 1951 (click for larger, clearer view)
Aside from the landscape at the bottom, this painting might be considered an example of hyper-realism.

Dalí did receive formal art training, even though surviving examples of his early work do not suggest this. Nevertheless, once his venture into Surrealism sealed his permanent fame, he focused his efforts on becoming a highly skilled representational painter of interesting works. I reject the idea that his work worsened after World War 2 and his focus on Surrealism.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Artist as Brand-Name

Kelly Crow's 6 August Wall Street Journal article "Lust for Late" highlights higher sales prices for later works by Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso and -- the artist featured in the piece -- Salvador Dalí.

I find the following passage interesting:

The fever for late-period works is being driven by market demands as much as scholarly curiosity. Typically, the pieces created by major artists late in life aren't as prestigious or pricey as their early breakthroughs or prime examples. The art world, like the field of fashion or mathematics, likes to discover genius among the young while often dismissing whatever comes after as repetitious or second-tier.

But as artists' top works seep out of the marketplace and into museums, collectors' tastes begin "migrating to the supply," says David Norman, Sotheby's international co-chairman of Impressionist and modern art.

I find it interesting because it adds evidence for the supply-and-demand factor in art pricing. Elsewhere I've seen claims that one reason auction prices for French Impressionists has been high for decades is that the supply of first-rate 15th through 17th century painters has largely dried up.

But there is another factor in play: buyer caution. If one is in the mood to spend a few million dollars on a painting, the potential investment value of that painting is hard to ignore. (The exception is when a buyer truly loves a painting and plans to keep it for as long as he lives.) So rather than risk money on a recent artist whose long-term investment potential is unclear, go for undervalued works by proven artists even if this means ignoring the opinion of critics and curators.

Regarding Dalí, Crow observes:

Few artists could reap more from a late-period revival than Dalí. The artist created at least 1,200 paintings between his art-school years in the 1920s and his death in 1989. Yet he was only 36 when the Surrealists in Paris expelled him from their circle, citing his outsize ego and political apathy. As a result, more than half of Dalí's entire output is considered "late."

After breaking with the Surrealists, Dalí toyed with a variety of different topics and styles, a surprising mix that's reflected in the upcoming show at the High Museum. These include his 1951 "Christ of Saint John of the Cross," a nearly 7-foot-tall, photorealistic portrait of the crucifixion that's owned by Glasgow's Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum and hasn't been exhibited in the U.S. for over 40 years. A pixelated rendering of Raphael's Madonna embedded within the outline of a huge ear in his "Sistine Madonna" from 1958 reveals Dalí's later fascination for trompe l'oeil. Other artworks tease out his boredom with Abstract Expressionism and his early nods to Pop, conceptual, video and performance art.

This assessment seems reasonable. Moreover, I don't consider his post-1940 paintings intrinsically inferior to his Surrealist efforts. In each era, he painted both good and so-so works. His drawing and prints are another matter, their value affected by uncertainty regarding fakes.

Actually, the business of artist-as-brand-name doesn't bother me. After all, how can an artist not be a "brand" if he is a professional whose main source of income is sales of his work. I can't think of any alternative, but if you can, please let us know in Comments.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Dali on the Geography of Great Painting

Great painters don't pop up just any old place, or so claimed Salvador Dalí.

I came across this while reading his book 50 Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship, a mix of his ink drawings, some bits of thoughtful advice and quite a lot of image-maintaining Dalíblather.

Here are some extracts from pages 62 and 63:

The ideal prison for the delicate eye of the painter is therefore vegitation, and the best of all vegitations is that of the olive tree, and consequently also that of myrtles...

You must understand now that since the light of the olive trees has the equivalent of certain screened lights of the Ile de France or of Flanders it is exceptionally conducive to educating and refining your retina. On the other hand, nothing in the world can be more harmful to the education of your young eye of sixteen -- this is the moment when you must already have decided your vocation as a painter -- than the frequent sight of colors that are too vivid or absolute. ...

[footnote:] The worst enemy, for your eye of a painter who respects himself, is exotic and tropical flora, which besides is absolutely and radically antipictorial. The chromatic hyperchloridity of a Gauguin should suffice to cure the acidity of any young painter for the rest of his life. For that matter, the idea of a good painter coming from the tropics would be as absurd and ludicrous as that of that of a good Swedish painter.

[following footnote:] The Russians, with the whole vast expanse of their territory and their eminently artistic temperament (consider their writers and their musicians) have in spite of this never had a single great painter. They don't have one today and never can have one, and the explanation of this astonishing phenomenon is, besides many other more subtle ones, the snow. No snow country has ever produced good painters, for snow is the greatest and most harmful enemy of the retina.... The white of snow is simply blinding, and it is for this reason that the colors of their painters are violet-hued, congested by anilin acids, and poisonous to the eye as well as to the spirit. This is why the Russian painter is the worst colorist of all.

This is a case where Dalí sounds fairly serious. Can he be right? Well, I can think of some Scandinavians and Russians who painted pictures I liked; Edelfelt, Zorn, Gallen-Kallela, Serov and Levitan are names that quickly come to mind. And as far as I'm concerned, their ability as colorists is no less than Dalí's.

On the other hand, I can't think of many important painters who originated in the tropics. Pissarro might be an example, though he moved to France at age 12. Others might be the Mexican muralist school exemplified by Rivera -- whose work I'm not generally fond of.

I suppose Dalí's little game makes whatever sense it might if one feels that color is the most important factor in good painting, more so than composition or draftsmanship, for instance.

Then there's the larger issue of whether or not some parts of the world produce better artists and art then others. But it's a huge subject where conclusions usually boil down to the biases of whoever is making the analysis. When Dalí wrote what was excerpted above, it was just after the end of World War 2 when the center of gravity of the Western art world was still shifting from Paris (where Dalí had made his reputation) to New York. So Dalí's view is Paris-centric. And I wouldn't be surprised if he made the claim that the best of the Scandinavian, Russian, etc. artists had some part of their training in Paris. Which is largely true, because it seldom hurts to be trained by the best if you want to eventually joint the ranks of the best.

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Salvador Takes on St. Paul

There are actually times when Salvador Dalí's statements should be taken seriously. More accurately, taken as intended to be serious.

Such, I believe, is his take on Paul Cézanne, a painter taken in great seriousness by art historians as well as modernist painters in his own time and thereafter.

The safe stance for Dalí would have been to go along with the crowd. But then, Dalí thrived on controversy and grandstanding, which is why it can be tricky trying to separate outrageous statements from those that truly reflected his mind.

However, Dalí went after Cézanne on more than one occasion, which is why I'm inclined to think he really had it in for Aix-en-Provence's alternate claim to fame besides the Cours Mirabeau.

For instance, on pages 51 and 53 of the Dover edition of Dalí on Modern Art, he states:

Paul Cézanne -- one of the most marvelously reactionary painters of all time -- was also one of the most "imperialistic," since he wanted to redo Poussin "from nature".... It is unfortunate that his Apollonian impulse was betrayed by his fatal clumsiness. His awkwardness can be compared only to the delirious virtuosity of Velasquez. It should have been Velasquez who, like Bonaparte, poured the anarchy of orgiac painting into the Caesarian empire of forms, adding that notion of discontinuous nature that Poussin lacked.

But, however touching it may be, never did Cézanne succeed in painting a single round apple capable of holding -- monarchically -- the five regular [geometrical] bodies within its absolute volume.

The dithyrambic critics, completely in line with the mediocrity of Cézannian paintings, were only able to set up as categorical imperatives the catastrophic deficiencies, clumsinesses and awkwardnesses of the master. Before this total rout of means of expression it was believed that a step had been taken toward the liberation of pictorial technique.

And on pages 15-16 of his 50 Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship [Dover, again], he says:

"Post -Cézannism" has erected into a system every one of the clumsinesses and deficiencies of Cézanne and painted square mile after square mile of canvasses with these defects. The defects of Cézanne, in his fundamentally honest character, were often consequences of his very virtues; but defects are never virtues! I can imagine the profound melancholy of the master of Aix-en-Provence, Paul Cézanne, when after having struggled so long to build a well-constructed apple on his canvas, possessed like a demon by the problem of relief, he had succeeded on the contrary only in painting it concave! And instead of keeping, as was his ambition, the "intact continuity" of the surface of his canvas, without making any concession to the illusory friviolities of verisimilitude, he finds himself in the end with a canvas frightfully lacking in consistency and filled with holes! With each new apple there is a new hole! Which, as the immortal Michel de Montaigne said in another connection, "chier dans le panier et se le mettre sur la tête."

I never understood Cézanne and so take some comfort that my position is supported, even if by somewhat odd company.

[Cross-posted at 2Blowhards.]