About Me

Garrett Vitanza is a painter living and working in Boston, Massachusetts.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Works in progress

Here are some works I have on the go and kind of show the dilemma I have with my own work presently.

The self portrait is fairly new and I have only had a few sittings with but I was reading and think about Antonio Garcia Lopez and his approach to "realism"....more on that in a latter post

The other work is a resurrection idea. Not necessarily a messianic one, rather I was thinking of the resurrection of the figure in art.

I apologize for the awful quality of the photos. I will have better quality ones when the works are completed.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Academic and Modernism Part 2

In the previous post, I discussed some of the motives behind the applications of modernism in painting. One of the main staples was the elimination of the figure from the language of paint, due to its heavy connotation to narrative, art history and its contamination of the purity of the optical flatness that modernist painting demands. As Simon Schama puts it in his series "The Power of Art", " they abandoned painting things.....to strive for a new form of pure expression."

However the defiguration in painting is not so black and white. There were political as well as cultural factors. During the late 1930s-early 1940s, the fascist dictators of Europe had employed figurative artists (and subsequently the figurative tradition) in creating propaganda for the military and their own radical ideals. Mao Zedong, Stalin, and Hitler all implemented the visual arts as a recruiting tactic. This further warranted the figure to be absent from painting in the modernist mind, or at least modernist painting in the United States.

One of the ways the use of the figure in propaganda elaborated on the modernist theory, which required the extraction of the figure, was that it made art easily accessible and easily influential. Propaganda was targeting the easily manipulated which tend to be those who are uneducated. The WHAM SHAZAM illustrations of the heroic war bound figures, that plucked at the patriotic heart strings, and promised a role as a heroic patriot to the viewer. Thus the figure was seen as eye candy, or as a professor of mine put it "a visual sugar rush". So it was a simpletons, easy to understand form of expression.

The amorphous splashes and seamless shapes of Pollock, Rothko, De Kooning etc., were a global testament to the free accepting  democracy of the United States, and in fact the paintings of the Irascibles went on a tour of Europe to act as counter insurgence to the fascist propaganda (which is somewhat hypocritical).

This leads to the esoteric reputation that modern art currently has. To further distance modernist painting from its nemesis, figurative propaganda, modern art had to consider its accessibility. As was said above, because of its fairytale like nature, propaganda was accessible to all because, instead of communicating an emotion, which is a complicated and unique experience, it was dictating a command which is non-exclusive. So the work of the abstract expressionists are very much a theoretical rendering, and some knowledge is required to fully grasp their content.

A required education to understand the work, as un artistic as it may sound, is an important factor in the modern mind. Its important because it places a filter on its applicants. If only people who are educated can appreciate modern art, that means only those who are willing to educate themselves in the subject, have access to it which makes it high culture, and it escapes the dull stare of the casual observer. Accordingly if its high culture it is high/fine art. So it is suppose to be difficult to understand because it forces the viewer to be disciplined and not have the painting being a visual buffet. The viewer has to THINK as well as look.

So the roots of modernism were not a goup of untalented and frustrated artist who rebelled at the figure because of lack of ability. On the contrary, many of them had academic training. However what the abstract expressionists were doing was striving to achieve a new form of expression that would transcend all physical borders because it depicted none. To use self reflexive mark making to reveal the process of art making, creation, and in that moment of creation, discover another person, the artist. Which at the time was not only the theoretical and artistic advancement but a political statement.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Academic and Modernism Part 1

I think there is a misconception in the present art world, especially from the atelier circle and its perception of modernism and vice-versa. There seems to be a line drawn in the sand that filters artists according to their choice of a subject and its depiction. The subject of the human figure is the subject that ultimately decides if an artist is "modern" by popular standards or, in lack of a better term, a " revivalist". For instance, if a painter depicts the human form they are seen by the dominant art consensus of today as regressive. While, figurative painters see "contemporary" artists as a unskilled painters with a businessman's touch.

Both point of views are severely misguided. Firstly, the modern art mindset is based on theory. The current understanding of modern art stems from the writing of art critic Clement Greenberg. In his writings, Greenberg defines modernism as a self criticizing discipline: using the tools of a chosen skill to reduce it to it's basic function, e.g., sculpture is three dimensional. When painting is subjected to this modernist reduction to a mediums basic essentials, painting is a flat surface and is experienced optically: it is a flat surface the eye moves ACROSS not THROUGH.

The idea of one point perspective or depicting an object three dimensionally is considered illusionary painting by this train of thought. It is thought of as fake or illusionary because it is trying to be something it is not, or trick the viewer. If a painting is merely a flat surface in the modernist mentality, to paint the illusion of space violates the purity of the medium by making allusions to sculpture. Paint in itself is not experienced 3 dimensionally, sculpture is. So Jackson Pollock is a modernist because his splattered paint makes no attempt at creating a fake space for the eye to wonder, but rather he highlights the flatness of the painted surface.

Secondly the reasoning for the absence of the figure in modern art, or any recognizable renderings, is the idea of narrative. Modernistic painting is not only an evolution of theoretical application, but an attempt at a more personal/transcendent experience. Because there is not earthly bound subjects the mark making of splatters and drips are a self reflexive act. So the painting is a recording of the encounter of the painting surface artist and his/her medium. Each mark is unplanned and intuitive. This subconscious decision making is meant to allow a unique, personal, and transcendent experience with the viewer.

Narrative was seen as a negative to the Greenbergian modernist because any depiction of any recognizable object, automatically triggers a narrative in the mind of the viewer. The narrative then seems dictatorial. The "realistic" painting not only illusionary in aesthetic but it TELLS the viewer there is an idea, or story that the viewer may understand or not. While the modernist abstracted work offers no constrictions of predetermination by not representing anything recognizable and therefore opens the viewer to a cerebral experience that is devoid of figurative or earthly representation and purely optical.