Books for Students

Portraits: Talking with Artists at the Met, the Modern, the Louvre and Elsewhere (Modern Library Paperbacks) (Paperback)
by Michael Kimmelman (Author)
ISBN-10: 0375754830

This is the book we found out about late last week for digestion, incorporation and completion by Syracuse time...(opening day is Monday, July 30th), though to be fair, we have that week as well. However, the assignment is to read these essays and relate one/ or the impressions of one artist to your own work. I find this stuff stunningly un-fun. So, I scrambled to get the out of print book (Amazon had them for $65. a piece) and found one for $20, called the online store and had them fedex it to me with my number to have a few more days with the book versus waiting. I figured if I could read around 5o pages a day, I could knock it down in 5 days and have a day or two to think about the linking. Or, if I hit my article soon, do I have to read the rest of the book? All gli studenti out there...what's the protocol?

I sat down at a table last night after dinner and started. It is pretty good reading except I would love to have the opportunity to read this not under duress. However, sometimes you dont get what you would optimally want. I covered the chapters on Balthus, Francis Bacon, Elizabeth Murray and am half way through Richard Serra. The intent of the author was to interview artists not about their own work, but to visit a museum and have the artists talk or narrate their relationships with specific pieces of art to encourage talk about art, and their personal views. Amazon says:

""One can only speak properly about paintings in front of paintings," Paul Cézanne once said. It is usually, though, critics who speak in front of paintings, not artists. With an eye toward rectifying that situation, Michael Kimmelman, chief art critic of the New York Times, constructed Portraits. He invited individual artists to meet him at museums, then tagged along on their peregrinations through various galleries--sometimes the most unlikely ones. At New York's Metropolitan Museum, the late Roy Lichtenstein, papa of pop, stopped to praise some frou-frou Fragonards. Who knew? "Clearly there's something wrong with me," Lichtenstein said."

The book is good and made better by occasionally opening up the browser and googling the artist or specific works mentioned in the stories to better see what is being discussed. I found Elizabeth Murray salient and embraceable. Bacon is wierdly fascinating with his work and lifestyle, his selection of Constable paintings and his eccentricities which are adorably and frighteningly British. Balthus is someone I know nothing about and would like to explore his work and thinking later...but am inspired by his compositions and direct references to art history in his work. And Richard Serra is a treat.

We love Dia Beacon because of Richard Serra and his sculpture. The enormous rooms constructed like enormous cor-ten steel boats, rusty and seemingly inpenetrable. Serras journey to become Serra is interesting ...including the changes to his work and his friendship with Philip Glass. It all makes his work make more sense...the majesty and rhythm of his work almost seems to mirror the some of Glass' musical compositions (Dias Ira, for one).

I am puzzling on how to relate this art to the venture of illustration as illustration may be an expression of an illustrator's vision --it also reflects a client and an imposed communications objective that does not figure into the art making of an artist. I find it very offputting and may actually need to speak to that at the end of my chit -chat, music and words slide show. Maybe a friendly smile and fudge the whole thing. This is the end of the SU Chapter...

More on this later as I progress through this tome.

Picture above: Elizabeth Murray. (American, born 1940). Yikes. January-February 1982. Oil on canvas, two panels, 9' 7" x 9' 5 1/2" (292.1 x 288.3 cm). Gift of Douglas S. Cramer Foundation. Museum of Modern Art, NY. © 2007 Elizabeth Murray