From Breton's Surrealist Manefesto:
...All in all Soupault's pages and mine proved to be remarkably similar: the same over-construction, shortcomings of a similar nature, but also, on both our parts, the illusion of an extraordinary verve, a great deal of emotion, a considerable choice of images of a quality such that we would not have been capable of preparing a single one in longhand, a very special picturesque quality and , here and there, a strong comical effect. The only difference between our two texts seemed to me to derive essentially from our respective tempers. Soupault's being less static than mine, and, if he does not mind my offering this one slight criticism, from the fact that he had made the error of putting a few words by way of titles at the top of certain pages, I supposed in a spirit of mystification. On the other hand, I must give credit where credit is due and say that he constantly and vigorously opposed any effort to retouch or correct, however slightly, any passage of this kind which seemed to me unfortunate. In this he was, to be sure, absolutely right. (I believe more and more in the infallibility of my thought with respect to myself, and this is too fair. Nonetheless, with this thought-writing, where one is at the mercy of the first outside distraction, "ebullutions" can occur. It would be inexcusable for us to pretend otherwise. By definition, thought is strong, and incapable of catching itself in error. the blame for these obvious weaknesses must be placed on suggestions that come to it from without.) It is, in fact difficult to appreciate fairly the various elements present: one may even go so far as to say that it is impossible to appreciate them at a first reading. To you who write, these elements are, on the surface, as strange to you as they are to anyone else, and naturally you are wary of them. Poetically speaking, what strikes you about them above all is their extreme absurdity, upon closer scrutiny, being to give way to everything admissible, everything legitimate in the world: The disclosure of a certain number of properties and of facts no less objective, in the final analysis, than the others.
--On experimenting with the process of automatic writing with Philippe Soupault.
In the news: Starbucks is creating small drive throughs from shipping containers. Lots can be used by starbucks until they are developed at which point the containers can be moved and rebuilt at a new location. Seems very North European.
The act of raw creation happens within a space in which the artist works separate from the realities of everyday life. I used to imagine myself in a mirrored ball. On the outside of the ball was a complex mechanism with gears and motors, very industrial. From the inside, all I could see was my reflection and an empty landscape without the other side of the ball being reflected. It was a magical mirror that reflected my image but then behind me unfolded a scenic view. Now I'm not sure what this recurring image meant, really. I suppose it is myself being concerned with myself and all of the things that concern myself. It was a space.
The surrealists were fascinated by dreams, and I guess that this for them was a space--a creative space. I wonder if it isn't a space that is meant to replace an earlier creative space, the one found in painting from nature. Surely painting subjects will cause the creation of this space when one becomes so lost in the painting process that he no longer thinks about the life around him, the concerns of the world, of society, or his family, friends, when he is no longer concerned with the past or the future, the implications or the results of what he is doing...he is simply painting, creating. Were the surrealists missing this space?
And I wonder how this space evolves. Doesn't this empty space, over time become full? Isn't it overrun by things so that eventually it is similar to the reality of everyday life...the life that once was outside of the space? At first the space is empty and pure. Things happen automatically here. Reading about "automatic writing/ painting" of the surrealists, the key is to act with as little conscious intention as possible--emptying the mind is surely an attempt to create space, isn't it? To step away from the work, to let things fall into place, to occur, to come from somewhere other than man's usual way of thinking. And this happens in landscape painting, and the painting is magical, spontaneous, original, suprising--perhaps because it happens in this place that is not tainted with man's intentions--his conscious intentions. He wants to paint a tree, but soon is so lost in his work that the tree happens on its own, colors are chosen on their own, lines are delicate or bold on their own.
I remember once in a critique classmates were marveling over these figure drawings that I was doing, and really I had no idea what I was doing...I was just drawing what I saw. I had found a paper that was for making prints and used a hard vine charcoal and the drawings were the most beautiful things. The really were. And the teacher asked the students whether they felt the marks were intentional or not. And one student who I never knew too well because he was a bit ambitious always trying to find locations for student shows (something artists should do, I guess) and whatnot said that he thought the drawing was deliberate and I felt good saying that none of the lines were done with any purpose. Because it seemed then as it does now that nothing ever comes out of deliberate painting.
And so artists are looking for this empty space, creating "new myths", as they were called back in the 30's influenced so strongly by Jung and Freud. Because the myths are a new space. But it seems that the spaces are all being created so fast and that they are polluted even faster. Perhaps for some artists they happen and are gone in minutes. Maybe a weekend. A week. More and more there is a sense that artwork has been created outside of that sacred space--without experiencing it at all. The world moves too fast, doesn't it. And this is the thing that keeps artists always in melancholy states, searching, dreaming, restless, haunted.
I used to imagine myself in a mirrored ball. A ball in which all the mechanics of life are trapped on the outside, secure, unable to affect my world. Inside the sphere are all of the things that I need.
How did one of the most interesting periods of modern art play out exactly? Here, page after page documents the little advances, the setbacks that led the New York artists from a fascination with Surrealism through wartime politics into a new way of creating. Well worth checking out.
de Kooning in the 50's
Gorky shortly before committing suicide.
1951, the big names in American art as published in Life magazine.
Pollock and Krasner on the day of Pollock's death.
The Surrealist Matta
This painting is important. It is the first time in a long time that I have painted people. A cold day and family members are huddled around a coal stove eating hot pot. I was possessed enough to rush out and get my easel and put out this painting. But it has really been a long time since I have felt urges to paint people. It seems like what is next.
And then my close friend called to wish me a happy new year, and he said, "You should start painting people." Ha! Where did this idea of his come from? How did he know?
I just sold two paintings, and the new owner sent me photos of the pieces in their new frames, hanging on his walls. They looked good. It felt good for them to have a good home.
But when I saw them hanging on the wall, I realized that once a painting becomes art on a wall, it is no longer what it was to begin with. It seems that once on a wall it is art, but before being placed on a wall, moreso before being placed in a frame, a painting is simply the result of a process, a process that my friend says is in fact what art is. And yet this art, and the art on the wall are different entirely.
About 2 weeks ago my brother wrote saying that a professor at his alma mater, Washington University, had written a book about Gauguin's use of photographs. I had noticed that much of Vuilard's work was photographic in nature, so much that a few pieces looked like colored photographs. From expressions on faces and compositions in particular, his work, particularly later work, looked like photos. But I always assumed that the impressionists and post-impressionists, in their many shades and forms, had been working from models, from sketches. I thought they were so good at drawing that they didn't need a photograph.
This kind of information has been kept away from us so it seems almost as if it is some sort of conspiracy to hide the truth. Probably it was to some extent. I imagine the debates at the time something akin to the pro/anti Photoshop people arguing about whether digitally altered photographs are as pure as unaltered images--with most people trying to conceal the amount of PS they actually used on a photo. I mean, photography was a great new technnology and the one that probably affected fine artists the most. And they must have found themselves drawn, as we often are, between technology and "the craft". I can see Cezanne complaining about road construction ruining the landscape, being reclusive, holding to his principles. And then tinkering with a camera and what it might do for him. Was his "poker players" also from a photograph. I suspect it was.
Now, we it's all coming out. I did a search and found these photos on the discussion forum: http://www.fogonazos.es/2006/11/famous-painters-copied-photopraphs_06.html (the comments are as interesting as the pictures)(might have to view pictures here)http://xmb.stuffucanuse.com/xmb/viewthread.php?tid=3112The amazing thing is that doing a search for the topic, this (published back in 2006) is the ONLY information that I have found about the new scandal. In 6 years, nobody really chased the story, it seems. Is it because we just don't want our beliefs shattered? Is this one of the extraterrestrials that we just don't want to know exists? For myself it's a bit disappointing. No. It changes the history game entirely. It's a real reality shift. Now, when I look at the works of Degas, I know longer see a master. I think about those 60 something paintings of Mt. St. Victoire, and wonder how many were from photographs.
I am back into abstraction. But this time more accidental, more natural. In a different medium--acrylic.
I have been trying to figure out abstraction for a long time. And now I think I am closer to understanding.
For me abstraction is de Kooning. And de Kooning is abstraction. But abstraction should be de kooning's abstraction which was undefinable at the time, which is what made it a hit. But hit or not is irrelavant. It's impact on society is secondary. It's impact on society was not its creation but only the result of it's creation. de Kooning's abstraction, what abstraction is for me as well, I think, was a source for abstraction. His work, only the result, the product of the source.
So, what I am finding, what I am learning is not how to paint an abstract painting. This is irrelavant. Instead I am finding a process. So, it is the same as landscape painting. Only the result is different.
I am back from Yunnan with 17 new paintings, 16 considered finished, all considered decent, none breathtaking or astounding to me. Of course they can not be as I am repeating what I have done before. How can one be astounded by repetition. A joke the second time is not as funny.
Breaking out of old habits because one has no other choice is difficult. Knowing that you have no other choice is harder.
This winter I was not painting long enough to know that I needed to break out of my old habits...not until the last days did I realize that paintings like these two were much more important than all the others.