Unreal Nature

September 23, 2014

Field-grown Monsters

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:48 am

… While Giacometti could raise his monsters by hand and in a hothouse, Hare has to meet the rush of a horde of late, hot, field-grown monsters coming from every direction …

This is from ‘Review of an Exhibition of David Hare’ (1946) found in Clement Greenberg: The Collected Essays and Criticism, Vol. 2, edited by John O’Brian (1986):

Hare stands second to no sculptor of his generation, unless it be David Smith, in potential talent. But like Smith in his latest phase and like all those who practice the baroque seriously at this moment, he is overwhelmed by the challenge of what is thought to be the contemporary mood.

Hare’s is the most intensely surrealist art I have ever seen — in the sense tha tit goes all the way in the direction of surrealism and then beyond, developing surrealism’s premises with a consistency and boldness the surrealist doctrinaires themselves have hardly envisaged.

Hare_magicians-game-1944
David Hare, Magician’s Game, 1944 [image from WikiArt]

Hare preserves Giacometti’s demiurgic ambition to create in each work of art a non-aesthetic personality, a new element of “absolute” experience, but he has failed to possess himself as yet of a sense of style comparable to Giacometti’s at his best. And he is not concerned enough with the necessity of making sure that the work of art be at least art before becoming a personality. There are, of course, extenuating circumstances in Hare’s case. While Giacometti could raise his monsters by hand and in a hothouse, Hare has to meet the rush of a horde of late, hot, field-grown monsters coming from every direction of present day history [1946]. They are not as easy to control as Giacometti’s horrors.

Hare’s art as a whole suffers from its diversity, its lack of a unifying formal principle, of a consistent plastic bias. The twenty-three “personalities” on exhibition belong to at lest seven different periods of geology. Their variety is upsetting instead of stimulating, because it is the result of the absence of style and the presence of elaborations and complications too often motivated by nothing more than exuberance or mechanical facility. Nor does the individual excellence of so many of the pieces — some are superb — remedy their failure to relate to one another.

As I have said, Hare has a prodigious amount of talent. The linear inventiveness of his sculpture cannot be denied; it is almost possible, in fact, to argue that he is a great draftsman– which is, perhaps, why he is not a successful sculptor in any final way. He still derives too closely from painting and fails to distinguish between the different orders of feeling proper to it and to sculpture. And in this respect, particularly, gothic surrealism, with its deliberate obliteration of such distinctions, is a handicap. (Perhaps it is necessary to remind the reader that the surrealism of Picasso, Miró, and Masson is not gothic.) Only when Hare comes to include his surrealism in something larger and outwardly more impassive and controlled, something that scorns to compete with nature in procreation, will he realize the fulness of his unquestionable talent.

-Julie

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