Sunday, January 26, 2014

Influences

                                       Lascaux Cave in Montignac, France


It’s often said of the cave paintings of the Paleolithic, of Lascaux or of Chauvet “no one knows the purpose for these works of art.” But what does anyone know of the purpose of art? Of any art? Prehistoric or Contemporary? What we do know that all art is a living force in the world expressing the artist’s imagination and in turn, a struck flint to  spark the viewer’s imagination. We cannot be sure if the works of the prehistoric were made for religion or magic or idle play, but we do know they were made of the human imagination.

The idea that art was expressive of progress began in the Renaissance. At the Uffizi in Florence paintings by Duccio, Cimabue and Giotto are lined up so you can see the improvements in perspective, special lighting effects like chiaroscuro and the expression of individual character. Each piece was more technically advanced than the next. Painting itself was a technology and a science that was posed to arrive at a higher truth. It was akin to theoretical physics like the Hadron Super Collider exposing the mysteries of particles. In this case artists were the whizzing protons smashing into the “given.” Depiction had been replaced by Impressionism, Impressionism replaced by Abstraction, Abstraction by the banality of Pop Art, the excesses of Pop Art replaced by the austerity of Minimalism and so on….


Frank Stella, "Gran Cairo" (1962)

Now, beyond the modern aesthetic idea of progress, as the world zooms into the information age with a whirlwind of images, a new human relationship to Art is appearing. Not only films and TV, but now vivid and compelling pictures live in our backpacks and pockets via smart phones and computer tablets. We don’t know what the outcome of living in a pictured world will be, but we present our art in this context. We’ve put in our bid for showing what we find at Kehoe Beach pretty much just as we find it.




We are grateful to the artists who have gone before , who changed how we see the world, and who continue to influence our work.

Caravaggio (1571-1610) changed the course of painting. Imagine the classical artists' studio with even "North" light—everything evened out in a constant bath of indirect glow. Direct light casts shadows and as the sun moves, the shadow line is in constant, albeit languorous motion. This presents a difficulty for the artist in pre-electric times. Caravaggio was the first artist of great talent to paint with direct light so that the subject was bathed in hot light and deep shadow. In our photography we are inspired by Caravaggio's purposely slanting light to give a solid feel to our work, where the textures come alive. This painting is The Calling of St. Matthew painted around 1600.


Hiroshige (1797-1858) the genius of Japanese woodblock printing has been the ultimate standard for composition for us as it was for Van Gogh and many of the early modernists. The prints were so common in the 19th Century they were used as wrapping paper for ceramics imported to France. His influence continues with contemporary comic book artists.
This image is from Hiroshige's The Shono Station. The dynamism of rhythm flowing back and forth in this piece demonstrates how much action can happen in so small a space.



Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) was credited with painting the first pure abstract painting in 1910. To him it was a revelation and remains so to us. Simple pieces of color put together in a considered way are the basis of how we go about our work. Colors are like musical tomes, keys on a keyboard and when placed compositionally together become like a song. Some pieces of plastic are recognizable, like words in a lyric; the pieces of pure color and shape become the notes. Kandinsky was the first artist to call his work Compositions. This piece is Composition VIII.


Johannes Itten (1888-1967) was an instructor at the Bauhaus school and was famous for his treatise on color, The Art of Color. His great question "What color is it?" sparks our reverie as we glean plastic from the beach. What green is it —olive, forest, mantis, teal? What blue – baby, navy, cobalt, ultramarine? It all depends what color is next to? Is it blue-red, orange-yellow, or green-yellow?


Tony Cragg (b.1949-), British sculptor began in the late 1970's using the plastic shards he picked up on walks past construction sites, in gutters, etc. He is the first artist we know who used this material in his work. This piece La Lune Bleu is from 1982. We both saw his work at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1985.






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