Unreal Nature

September 15, 2015

He Handles the Wind

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:37 am

… no seeking for graciousness, no painterly references, but self-invented realism …

This is from Modern Painting and Sculpture: 1880 to the Present at The Museum of Modern Art, edited by John Elderfield (2004). This book uses extracts from other books to comment on the featured artists (I’m extracting from those extracts… ) If that text does not refer specifically to the MoMA art that is shown in the parent book, I may choose to use some other work by the artist to illustrate my post. Today’s first is an essay by William Carlos Williams in Charles Sheeler: Paintings, Drawings, Photographs (1939):

… The difficulty is to know the valuable from the impost and to paint that only. … It is the measurable disproportion between what a man sees and knows that gives the artist his opportunity. He is the watcher and surveyor of that world where the past is always occurring contemporaneously and the present always dead needing a miracle of resuscitation to revive it.

Sheeler_American_Landscape1930
Charles Sheeler, American Landscape, 1930

… Any picture worth hanging is of this world — under our noses often — which amazes us, into which we can walk upon real grass. It’s no “fabrication,” we realize that at once, but what we have always sought against that shrunken pulp (from which everyone is running faster nowadays than ever) called, monstrously, “the real.”

The next is from Edward Hopper by Charles Burchfield (1933):

… It is my conviction, anyhow, that the bridge to international appreciation is the national bias, providing, of course, it is subconscious. An artist to gain a world audience must belong to his own peculiar time and place; the self-conscious internationalists, no less than the self-conscious nationalist, generally achieve nothing but sterility. But more than being American, Hopper is — just Hopper, thoroughly and completely himself.

The following is from Contemporary Painters by James Thrall Soby (1948):

… If Hopper describes light with rare skill, he also records the density of air like the most delicate of barometers. A subtle gradation of atmospheric values is common to many of his finest works. In Gas, for example, the air seems to thin out as the eye moves from the bright areas of the service station toward the thick woods across the road, light and the breeze waning together. The extremes of his atmospheric control are to be found in his depiction of absolute calm and the medium wind, and it is typical of his restraint that he should reject [Winslow] Homer’s northeasters as too plainly dramatic. But he can bring the summer air to a dead halt — a far more difficult task than might be supposed — and he handles the wind with knowledgeable stagecraft.

Hopper_gas1940
Edward Hopper, Gas, 1940

… his strength lies in the fact that he is so inartistic in the European sense of the term; no formalism, no seeking for graciousness, no painterly references, but self-invented realism, warm, convinced, romantic in overtone through its very bluntness of statement.

-Julie

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