We want Culture Currents to flow though your eyes like a river through a waterfall, easy yet strong, full of energy and momentum, vivid with color and striking form. That’s why we’ve started the Culture Currents fave art gallery.
The CCFA is a feature recently debuted on our new Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/culturecurrents.
Please visit and bookmark that page, because that’s where you’ll find regular updates on the most recent art work hung on our FB page and in the galley here, at the blog site. As some of you may know, I am a practicing artist with a BFA in art, and I’ve written about art through my long career as an arts journalist. It’s an ongoing passion of mine and I strive as often as possible to use it to illustrate cultural points and contexts, and to let it speak on its own terms, which are sometimes abstract, sometimes story-telling.
So without further ado, let’s let the art do most of the walking and talking (with a bit of my own commentary thrown in from time to time). Arshile Gorky “The Liver is the Cock’s Comb,” oil on canvas 1944. These two paintings are superb examples of Gorky’s great skill at hanging a composition along the formal undergrid of The Golden Mean. The proportional ideal allowed Gorky guidance as he explored the boundaries of surrealism and abstraction. Much of this best work derives from his intensely close observations of nature. In one famous instance, Gorky laid face-down in a garden, opened his eyes and took in the visual sensation of this extreme perspective. In this manner, one can begin to understand the relationship between acquired impressions and an artist’s abstractions.
So, look at the intense, lyrical sensuality of “Water of the Flowery Mill” (below) from 1944. And yet, we see Gorky, a self-styled art-historian as well, still abides by the compositional grid of The Golden Mean, a formal standard which dates to antiquity. Horizontal compositions but can work with vertical pieces as well.
Honore Daumier, “Third-Class Carriage,” watercolor and ink, 1864
You can also detect the mean in Daumier’s painting above, “Third-class Carriage.” Within a composition, the Golden Mean employs proportions that involve segmenting the internal form by two thirds, both horizontally and vertically. Here, the top third horizontally runs clearly along the back shoulders valve the carriage seat (dividing the classes of riders). The vertical proportion is more subtle — the left third runs up and down the face and hands of the elderly woman, who is the work’s focal point.
Next, I offer images by three different artists, which I have blogged about previously.
Edward S. Curtis. “Mosa – Mojave” 1903. This is the extraordinary portrait by Curtis that so enchanted millionaire J.P. Morgan that he became a crucial patron of The photographer’s Curtis’ pioneering anthropological effort to document the death of Native American culture and life in its original forms. Rembrandt van Rijn “Self Portrait,” oil on canvas 1661, This late-life masterpiece was on display last year at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Rita Cox with one of her “underground railroad” quilts, from the book “Hidden in Plain View.” Photo by Richard Allen.
Finally, a sequence of works by the great American “Ash Can School” artist John Sloan. John Sloan “View of the City from Greenwich Village,” oil on canvas 1922
John Sloan. “Roofs, Summer Night” etching 1906
John Sloan, “A Woman’s Work,” oil on canvas 1912.
This painting makes for a lovely storytelling diptych with “A Woman’s Work.” In this second scene, our working woman seems overcome by the sudden beauty of a New York dusk. Sloan titled this oil from 1906 “Sunset, West Twenty-third Street (23rd Street, Roofs, Sunset).”
Sloan was a political artist as well as an acute social observer. Here’s a provocative cover illustration for the left-leaning periodical “The Masses.” It depicts a scene from the notorious Ludlow massacre. The tragedy involved an attack by the Colorado National Guard and Colorado Fuel & Iron Company camp guards on a tent colony of 1,200 striking coal miners and their families at Ludlow, Colorado, on April 20, 1914. Some two dozen people, including women and children, were killed.
The chief owner of the mine, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., was widely criticized for the incident. The massacre echoes to today’s challenges between the powerful (The “one percent”) and “the rest of us,” as well as to environmental issues regarding the ongoing exploitation of coal resources.
Finally, day is done for all first-shift workers and rush-hour arises in Sloan’s bustling and quintessentially urban oil painting, “Six O’ Clock.” The mad rush to get home was evidently ingrained in the American psyche by 1912.
Look for more postings of Culture Currents Fave Art Gallery both here and on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/culturecurrents .