Watercolor, Graphite, Charcoal and Tempera on Paper, 4″ x 6″
Listening to all of the resultant bickering surrounding St. Louis finally approaching a city-wide ban on smoking in restaurants and bar led to the creation of this little work. A few years ago, when I was still living in Chicago, I experienced all of the same sort of back-and-forths that I see here today. Chicago was another city that seemingly couldn’t “see” itself as a non-smoking town, and a lot of establishment owners were worried that they’d be closing down. Guess what happened? Smoking was banned, and business actually went up. To be honest, I am mostly ambivalent to the topic; I have been a smoker and I am now a non-smoker. However, I do think that it is important that everyone is provided with a smoke-free workplace, but on the other hand, I think that laws that restrict smoking outside, or in your own apartment, are a bit oppressive.
Rene Magritte was a painter who focused on opposing realities. Realities that, somehow were more tangible and expressible than those defined by the typical parlor tricks of other Surrealists. Possibly this was because Magritte’s subjects were mundane subjects, items and people you might run into on a typical day, people and items that an average person would instantly equate meanings to that Magritte could then shatter. In his work, an immense hovering cloud would fill a mere wine glass, a pipe was a painting was a pipe, and an artist could make a nude woman real through his brush. Through these paintings and more, Magritte’s reality was to oppose reality, and somehow, inexplicably, his opposition to reality also defined it.
We are all no more or no less than the sum of each of our histories. Our potential in this life is never greater than our ability to understand the past, and in art it is no different. What each generation of artists accomplishes is a veritable link to those artists’ work who came beforehand, whether immediately or 10,000 years ago. Too much of art today is about rebelling against the establishment (or the supposed act thereof); artists no longer embrace their predecessors, they are no longer the culmination of a discipline with a lineage of disciples. Therefore, art stands still, it is stagnant. With every artist searching merely for their own individuality within the media, the greater ideals of the profession are unfortunately lost into the abyss.
Nevertheless, my goal for this article is not just to comment on what I regard sometimes to be the twilight of a fading empire; rather, I hope to espouse somewhat on the connections between artists, who were beyond consigning themselves to being mere individualists. These are artists who sought linkage to the ghosts on the tip of their brushes or the fossils embedded in their heavy slabs of clay, and in doing so, pushed their own medium to its limits. Whether the artist is Michelangelo, pursuing the Greek ideals of form and content, or Pollock, conjuring the essence of Native American sand painting, and combining that with an esoteric wisdom of surrealism and the cubist grid, or finally, whether the artist is the purveyor of modern art himself, Picasso, whose new vision was locked in the firmest embrace with the history of art (both western and primitive), the conclusion will be the same, to trace the significance of understanding the past, while also culminating it into a unique future vision.
Barnett Newman once said, (more…)