Woke up this morning thinking about the work of Jacques Callot and his images of war and hell… and William Tecumseh Sherman’s concise dictum: “War is Hell.” And after committing troops to Syria the other day exactly how many military conflicts we’re engaged in (not to mention losing)? We’ve been in Afghanistan how many years now and haven’t so much as secured Kabul? Am I dreaming this? Perhaps by mid-century we’ll have the situation stabilized?
I was also thinking of how while artists like Callot in the 17th century and Goya in the 18th witnessed their surroundings while the American Art World offers up empty images, masturbatory performance pieces, etc. to the point that Chomsky’s famous visitor from Mars surveying the mess of rubbish at art fairs would have no idea whatsoever the work was created in a country engaged in (how many, folks?) global military interventions.
Of course, if you want to see images of war and destruction pick up any video game or hit your local cinema. Just don’t bother wandering around the Santa Fe art world, which is my local kitsch peddling art community. I don’t know if anyone else out there goes to art galleries that shows work that isn’t kitsch… It’s all I see in art magazines I pick up.
The Lynda Benglis type sculpture that are an epidemic looks like they’re inspired by an elephant’s bowel movements. Nothing if not critical, eh, Robert Hughes?
How mediocre and untalented does an artist have to be to be ruled excluded from the circle of American Art Geniuses I wonder? I also wonder how many of these manure piles decorate the McMansions of the sophisticated art collectors of today.
So to witness just how far Spengler’s West has declined (whoever Spengler was) we can travel back from gray elephant flop just a couple centuries to Jacques Callot. It’s also notable that Goya gets so much play for his Disasters of War and Callot is virtually unknown/unmentioned by comparison. Naturally if one is unmentioned one is invariably unknown. Perhaps if the brilliant Chapman brothers had clowned up some Callot etchings he’d have gotten a nod from the cognoscenti?
Callot (1592-1635) made over 1400 etchings, each a small masterpiece (IMHO) ho ho. Clowns, beggars, gypsies (tramps and thieves), and mercenaries. Refreshingly modern…. So let’s date the beginning of Modernism with Callot and not Goya, although Josipovici (Gabriel Josipovici Whatever Happened to Modernism?) prefers starting with Dürer. Why not Giotto as the first Modernist? He had all that flattened space after all, Greenberg’s idea of art. Or why not Egypt just after the birth of Christ?
Egyptian Mummy Portrait
A Gabrielle Bakker portrait described from where I picked it up as some of her “startling new work”…. Yes, startling if you’ve never looked at an art history book. Otherwise, a tepid rehash of French Beaux Arts style from the 19th century with some pseudo-primitivism to Modernize it up for sophisticated art buyers.
Callot’s work pulsates with observed life, whereas Post Modernism is mummified imitations of mummy paintings. PostModernism is Death in Life for a Zombified culture. If you can’t feel what is in these Callot etchings your imagination has been replaced by your computer. Shut it off. Don’t even continue viewing the rest of these Callots. There’s no point in it.
Callot worked for the Medici court, like so many other great masters of the time. Rembrandt was a big collector of Callot’s work and clearly inspired by it. Personally, I’d take that Callot above over any of Rembrandt’s etchings but there’s no accounting for taste. And what do I know after all? Rembrandt is the giant of the centuries and Callot an obscure nobody. Rembrandt is the master of light… Callot has mastered dark. Perhaps I favor Callot because the light that informed Rembrandt, that of the Enlightenment, is now extinguished? For whatever reason, I’m fascinated by the space in Callot’s hell, as I’ve always been by that of Bruegel and Bosch… and much as I love Rembrandt, his space is too obvious and logical and doesn’t correspond to my experience of space whatsoever, the space between my ears.
I like to think of Rembrandt and Spinoza coexistent in the same place. Spinoza, one of the architects of Enlightenment thought, was considered a heretic by his religious contemporaries. He was expelled from the Jewish community and there was even an assassination attempt on his life. Show where rational thought gets you surrounded by a community of true believers. We all know of Galileo’s famous trial by the Inquisition. The Sun at the center of the Solar System!!! What madness is this!!!
So science had it’s day and it manifestly failed…. unless there are still some people out there expecting better living through chemistry on the horizon? PBS viewers, NPR listeners? Oprah gives commencement lectures to Harvard Grads… Rule the world through the power of Positive Thinking! Pope Oprah and Deepak Chopra… has a nice ring. Faith-based reality, that’s where it’s at.
“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” –Albrecht Einstein