Here’s a post from William Poundstone on two of Goya’s miniatures that are on view at the Getty and that I just missed seeing. I also missed the show of them at the Met, although I got the book that accompanied it.
Poundstone astutely observes that Goya’s Old Master technique is in essence identical to that of Ernst’s frottage method. Also recall that Ernst was dripping paint from a can set in motion prior to Pollock’s full embrace of it. Pollock derives similarly from the Old Master tradition as does the Outsider artist Janet Sobel, whose work inspired Pollock to begin painting primarily in the air above the paint surface. Incidentally, Pollock didn’t drip paint. This is the ludicrously idiotic invention derived from the insulting epithet “Jack the Dripper” used by the buffoons in the art press of the time.
But I digress.
I’ll reiterate the quote that Poundstone lifted from Goya’s contemporary Antonio de Brugada: “Goya took advantage of these traces and always turned them into something original and unexpected.”
There is only one account of Turner working (as was secretive by nature regarding his technique) and that is by a young child who reported him just splashing the color about and turning it all miraculously into masted ships at harbor with lights reflecting luminously.
Poundstone also notes the similarity between a fallen horse in the Getty Bullfight and a Dali form. Naturally. We’re in the same visionary territory. The Surrealists, most self-consciously Vermeer obsessed Dali, painted just as most Old Masters did.
A point that Poundstone seems to be missing or at least he’s articulating awkwardly is when he describes the Goya bullfight this way: “Close-up, the broad technique turns faces into near-caricatures.”
It has to be understood that the faces are turned into near-caricatures by the viewer. The paint marks are crudely gestural and ambiguous to the point that it’s the viewer who completes to what degree the faces are caricatures, near-caricatures or not caricatures.
That in a nutshell is the difference between painting before it’s near complete detioriation at the hands of Post-Modernism beginning with the neo-Dadaist, minimal, photo-real, op, pop cul-de-sac promoted by Greenberg and associated acolytes.
And Chuck Close (speaking of close-up) is emphatically NOT an example of what I’m referring to above. Close’s images adhere to a photographic source. Dali, Ernst, Goya, Turner and the rest of painting as it developed until it’s desecration were painting what was in their own minds–internal visions.
While close-up, Close plays with the disintegration of the image into colored marks, they’re allied systematically to a grid and a banal image. This is hardly magical or mysterious and that’s the whole point after all.
We lose sight of the fact that Goya is painting something quite real but not photographable, while Close and the photo-realists are painting something photographable but not real. Descartes figured this out a while back. Or more entertainingly read some Philip K. Dick.
Here’s Descartes for those who missed Philosophy 101 or need a refresher:
“And so something which I thought I was seeing with my eyes is in fact grasped solely by the faculty of judgment which is in my mind.”
I remember hearing Norman Mailer say something to the effect that for him and his generation Dali’s painting, Premonition of Civil War, 1936 more fully captured the horror of what was taking place (Mailer, of course, fought in WWII) than any photograph could possibly have captured.
The world has decided it can dispense with painters since it now has movies and photographs. And, from what I see around me, most painters have decided this as well. More power to them…. and the world for that matter.
At this point, I’m opting for solipsism.
If Don Quixote can tilt at windmills, why not me? I’ve got nothing better to do these days.