Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Moods and Storms

I'm back to work today, after about five days of refusals. My views haven't changed any, but you can only keep up the furies so long. News is breaking since yesterday about the heedless, unnecessary and horrible cuts our newly-elected Mayor is about to inflict on this city. At this point, aside from signing petitions and passing on the usual social bits of interest, it's a relief to feel some distance and resignation. There's only so much you can control - if that's even the right word to use. Maybe 'influence' would be a better word. One has to pick one's battles, as well.
As it stands got my two co-existing downers and a long mental hangover from trouble to murk with daily.

North America isn't used to history. North America has thought, since the First People genocides, that it can control history. But history is really starting to take North America and wring it.

But, as for art and furious times: Matisse painted right through two world wars, but you'd never know it. His work is consistently abiding with pleasure. No one picks on him for that - it's hard to imagine him being of the necessary aesthetic temperament to paint the trenches. Sargent tried it, but the results didn't quite impact. He was too late and long in his fatuous career of painting gilded cream puffs by then.

It's interesting - is the art that dealt with trouble quite as...loved now? You don't hear the names of noted war artists very often. Barclay McClelland springs to mind - but not too many others. Pictorial art dealing directly with war hasn't held up in the mainstream.

Abstraction took worldwide anxieties up, perhaps with better results. Picasso's Guernica is a masterpiece, though he preferred to deal with his friends, dames and mythologies. Notably, there's Motherwell's Elegies For The Spanish Republic. However modern art is loved, it's generally ambivalent about being tied subject matter, or even a name. Divorced from appearance, it could deal with anything without having to actually bow to it. As warfare jumped ahead in inhuman, mechanized scale, maybe that range of distancing it embodied, combined with it's large physical scale, allowed it to succeed where humane pictorialism began to fail.

I'd say representations of war have held up in the media, but they haven't really. Reporter's images of it have been frontally blocked by the government, for starters, and the reporting has been 'imbedded' anyway, as they say. The programs about it are pretty crap. There's been a lot more worthy social art close to home, but it's more localized.

I don't paint abstractly, and I don't think I'm the guy to take on the woes of the world pictorially, either. My stuff is more inward, more hesitant. That said, I wonder who could do it?
Who's painting about the CIA, rendition, torture, right-wing authoritarianism, pollution, machined media, petro-Christianity and all the other things bedevilling us right now?

Cezanne said that he wanted "to conquer Paris with an orange." He did. Isn't that interesting?
That bit of history soothes my soul, right now.

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