Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Painting Archive Updated

I just added 14 paintings to paulcorio.com, all from this year. Please have a look, and please e-mail me if anything is not showing up correctly - I haven't tested it on all the different browsers yet.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Spare Some Change?

It's hard to believe that's it's been a year since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, whose bankruptcy filing on September 15, 2008 was the first domino to fall in the biggest Wall Street crash since 1929. It seemed like a fitting end to the deregulation mania of the Bush years, and it also seemed at the time like capitalism itself was drawing to a close. The art world looked on grimly, knowing that the stratospheric prices it commanded for nearly a decade were coming from the hedge fund cowboys who made zillions in exotic, unregulated investments.

But most of the artists I spoke to at the time, none of whom were Chelsea insiders, actually thought it was a good thing. A lot of ridiculous stuff was selling for mind-boggling prices, and it seemed like a shake-out couldn't be bad. Only the people who really cared about art and artists would still want to do this once the glamour has been tamped down by the rapidly disappearing Wall Street money.

The feeling that the dismal wreckage of supply-side economics would result in a change for the better was intensified by an event even more astonishing that the Lehman collapse: a black liberal was elected President! His posters promised change, and it seemed like the beginning of a whole new epoch.

When I read Jerry Saltz's review of the 2009 Venice Biennale, I could almost hear the paradigm shifting. It's not that what he said was so shocking - he addressed the same themes that many of the artists I know have been talking about for a long time - it's the fact that it was being said by an establishment critic in an establishment magazine that made it so surprising. It's worth quoting at length:

"[Curator Daniel] Birnbaum’s show, containing the work of 90-plus artists, doesn’t offend or go off the rails. Rather, it looks pretty much the way these sorts of big international group shows and cattle calls now look; it includes the artists that these sorts of shows now include. It’s full of the reflexive conceptualism that artists everywhere now produce because other artists everywhere produce it (and because curators curate it). Almost all of this art comments on art, institutions or modernism. Basically, curators seem to love video, text, explanations, things that are "about" something, art that references Warhol or Prince, or that makes sense; they seem to hate painting, things that don’t make sense or that involve overt materiality, physicality, color or strangeness.

Any critic who says this, of course, is accused of conservatism, of wishing for a return to painting. I’m not for or against video -- or any medium or style, for that matter. Nor am I wishing for a return to painting, which can never come back because it never went away. (That said, it’s hard to imagine anything more conservative today than an institutional critique. That sort of work is the establishment.) My beef is with the experience that "Making Worlds" produces. It’s just another esthetically familiar feedback cycle: impersonal, administratively adept, highly professionalized, formally generic, mildly gregarious, esthetically familiar, totally knowing, cookie-cutter. It is time we broke out of that enervated loop."

I want us to break out of that loop, too! But alas, look at the current landscape: The taxpayers bailed out the investment banks, paid the bankers their bonuses, and Treasury Secretary Geithner, himself a Wall street veteran, has put no new regulations in place. Exotic investments are once again being made with no oversight. And in the galleries, museums, and big group shows there is still the same monotonous drumbeat driven by the overarching mission of "critique" - the magic wand which has the power to transform the mundane into trenchant commentary. I'm starting to think the change might not be coming after all.

To be fair, maybe I'm being a little impatient. A friend pointed out to me that there are a lot of vested interests who are not going down without a fight. And these interests are not simply the people making money selling art, they are also the people who have PhD's and curatorial positions and university chairs; people whose entire careers revolve around the idea that the current era in art-making is not simply a passing phase or an in-between Mannerist period.

The fact that institutional critique is now completely institutionalized is an irony which I hope we can some day look back on and laugh. I just hope that day isn't too far away.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Paintings I Like, pt. 37

Titian, Virgin and Child with Saint Catherine, Saint Dominic, and a Donor, about 1513-14. Oil on canvas, 54" x 73."

That black wall behind Saint Catherine and the Virgin and Child is so strange. What could they be seated in front of?

Compositionally, it sets up a mass and void relationship that is at odds with the natural figure/ground scheme established by the five figures. And it's the type of arrangement that abstract painters would take up in earnest about 400 years after this picture was painted: figure and field interchange.

On the left side of the picture the women and child are punched out of the large black field which seems to rise past the figures, right up to the picture plane. On the right the black robes are clearly figure against ground, but unlike the black field on the left, they simultaneously look like holes in ground. That particular tendency of black to punch holes in the canvas was a bugaboo for representational painters over the centuries - many had their own recipes for black, or just avoided it altogether.

But many abstract painters used it in just the way that Titian has here - to create a figure and ground relationship that refuses to give a stable account of itself.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009

Paintings I Like, pt. 36

Veronese, Perseus and Andromeda, late 1570's-early 1580's. Oil on canvas, 102" x 83."

This picture is a real crowd pleaser - a horrible monster, a flying superhero, a voluptuous pinup girl and a climactic moment in Greek mythology. And I'm not going to pretend that I'm immune to that stuff; the Spielberg content of this picture adds to the dazzle, much like Gericault's Raft of the Medusa and Delacroix's Death of Sardanapalus.

But it also has all of the things that I like about Venetian painting, particularly the triangle of high key colors (mainly reds) in Perseus' superhero costume, Andromeda's robe, and the sea-monster's mouth and eye. Conversely, muted colors in low contrast to one another make the distant city mysterious and hazy, the water murky and foreboding, and Andromeda's prison-rock slimy and tomb-like. The crowning touch is the setting sun casting the pale orange glow behind the girl's head, reducing her face almost to silhouette and creating a halo that's usually reserved for biblical subjects.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Woodward Stakes Post Positions and Morning Line

Calvin Borel (wearing yellow shirt) sings a happy tune. Rachel Alexandra (wearing horse stuff) looks a little embarrassed.

In this Saturday's Grade 1 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga, super-filly Rachel Alexandra looks to slice off yet another piece of thoroughbred history. She's trounced all the boys her own age (twice) and now she takes on the older fellas - a quantam leap for any three-year old. No filly has ever won the Woodward, and while there's no such thing as a sure thing in horse racing (remember Big Brown?), I think the smart money is on Super Girl. She's been installed as an imposing favorite in the morning line.

Here are the post positions and morning line odds for the big race:
1 - Da' Tara, 12-1
2 - Bullsbay, 6-1
3 - Rachel Alexandra, 1-2
4 - Cool Coal Man, 12-1
5 - Macho Again, 8-1
6 - It's a Bird, 10-1
7 - Asiatic Boy, 10-1
8 - Past the Point, 15-1

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Paintings I Like, pt. 35

Veronese, "Cupid with Two Dogs," ca. 1581. Oil on canvas, 39" x 53."

This is another picture from the Venetian Renaissance exhibit at the MFA in Boston that left me so thunderstruck. I was taken with this painting for two reasons: firstly, Veronese decided to paint the dogs' heads in a value so close to the ground that they very nearly disappear into it. Conversely, the sharp contrast of black and white in their bodies brings them right up to the picture plane. These spatial effects are not perspectival - they're all about varying degrees of value contrast. This, to me, is a hallmark of Venetian Renaissance painting; the creation of space through color contrast as opposed to receding lines of perspective, something the Florentine painters were so obsessed with. The special bonus of painting space in this way is that it simultaneuosly creates that hazy, unmistakably Venetian atmosphere.

The other interesting aspect is the two very different styles in which Veronese painted the dogs and Cupid. The picture was made in the waning days of the High Renaissance, known as the Mannerist period, and just before the full onset of the Baroque. The Cupid clearly looks back at the Renaissance, in which the Greek ideal still loomed large - people were painted to match up with a Platonic ideal of that person's age, gender, role, and station, and not to look like a specific individual you might see on the street. The dogs, on the other hand, are clearly painted from life, an idea that would hit full stride with Caravaggio and reach its zenith with Velazquez at the height of the Baroque period.