The Feud That Sparked the Renaissance: How Brunelleschi and Ghiberti Changed the Art World by Paul Robert Walker. Since Italy has become our favourite vacation spot I like to read about this beautiful country. Although modern history is more interesting to me, I enjoyed listening to this history as an audio book while I worked in my studio. It is actually amazing that many documents from this era have survived for scholars to study. There are stories of plagues, wars, social customs and, of course, artistic practice. However, the central story is the design and construction of the dome for Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, interestingly inspired by Middle Eastern architecture. We are told by Ghiberti that ancient Roman art, architecture and literature was eagerly destroyed by Emperor Constantine and Pope Sylvester so it is lucky for us that 15th century Italian artists developed a passion for Roman ruins and avidly studied what remained. I enjoyed the stories of Donatello and Brunelleschi carrying out archaeological digs in Rome, the discovery of geometric perspective and other key moments in the birth of Renaissance Italy. There is a reason why historic cities like Florence are so beautiful – the citizens were actively involved in their development.
Before Anselm Keifer left La Ribaute, his 86 acre art studio in an abandoned silk factory in Barjack, France, Sophie Fiennes made the documentary “Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow”. This is a wonderfully inspiring movie that takes us on a tour of the property – underground tunnels, buildings, art installations, paintings, giant concrete structures, etc. We get the opportunity to see Keifer and his assistants at work on a number of pieces – all wonderful. Keifer built a house for each large painting where the art can “explode into the world.” We also get to eavesdrop on an interview where he describes how he created this space out of rubble and explains some of his philosophy. This is a beautifully shot movie and La Ribaute must be a wonderful place to visit. From the Internet I learned that after the theft of some iron works, Keifer packed up some 110 trucks with art work and moved them to his new gargantuan studio outside Paris. Apparently plans are underway to donate the property to the French state.This would be a really great place to see!
Nancy Princenthal’s book on Canadian-born Agnes Martin was quite a good read. Happiness, innocence and inspiration are words that are often used by Martin who sought harmony and composure instead of expressive, colourful work. The things I learned from Martin include: “Painting is not about ideas or personal emotion … the object is freedom”; trust your inner eye, not your intellect; “If a decision is required that is not inspiration you should not do anything by decision. It is simply a waste of time”; don’t engage your critics; “…a sense of disappointment and defeat is the essential state of mind for creative work” (oh joy); “There is no halfway with art. We wake up thinking about it and we go to sleep thinking about it” and, interestingly, “you will never know what abstraction is unless you ask the women” (p.252). I would like to read another book about Agnes Martin but, maybe next year. In the meantime, she will be on my mind as I endeavour to become more serene.
At 88, Agnes Martin, in one YouTube video says: “I think of nothing but painting. The older I get, the more I like to paint. It grows on you.” I’m in love! My painting life has taken me from boisterous, poly-chromatic painting in oil to much more subdued, pastel and white painting with acrylic, keeping it as light as I can. So while I was waiting for 2 large white acrylic skins to cure, I sat down, cat in lap, to view Agnes Martin videos on YouTube. The playlist has a whopping 146 videos, probably a week’s worth of viewing. The interviews with Martin, although brief, are inspiring. We get to see a lot of her art, which even if you are viewing them on a big screen TV, are still hard to see. The interview with Arne Glimcher, her long time gallery representative, is excellent – must read his book. Martin’s advice to not let ideas interfere, that too much thought makes inspiration disappear, is too true. How many times do we mess things up by making them too complicated? So next week I will watch more Agnes Martin videos and pick up a biography.
Book 4. The Painting Factory. I’m a big fan of Andy Warhol. I love books by and about Warhol, movies about Warhol and I love his art. I was very intrigued by The Painting Factory, the catalogue for a contemporary abstract painting exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, in 2012. The starting point is Warhol’s abstract paintings – The Shadows, the Rorschachs, etc. Warhol’s aesthetic and screen printing influenced these 21st century abstract painters. The works are conceptual, minimal, multi-layered, mainly monochromatic; process and mechanical reproduction results in a ‘minimalist, factory-like aesthetic’. Artists include Mark Bradford, Christopher Wool, Glenn Lignon, Tauba Auerbach and Rudolf Stingel. Excellent interviews and essays, terrific reproductions.
Book 3. ILLUMInations; the catalogue for the 2011 Venice Biennale. Jose and I intend to visit la Biennale di Venezia in the near future so I was happy to see that the Weldon library has a good collection of the Biennale’s catalogues. In 2011 Christian Marclay’s The Clock was shown. The National Gallery of Canada with The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston purchased one edition of The Clock. I was fortunate to see it at the NGC in Ottawa when the Van Gogh show was on in 2012. The Clock is truly brilliant, everyone should see it! The catalogue for 2011 shows many great pieces of art. I was particularly struck by Franz West, also seen in Extreme Abstraction, Duvier del Dago, Kristaps Gelzis, and Karla Black to name only a few. It will be so great to see art from all over Africa, the Middle East, India, the Nordic countries, the Balkans, etc. Can’t wait!
We went to catch the Carl Beam show at the Art Gallery of Windsor on Saturday before it closed on the 22nd. I love Carl Beam’s work and it was nice to see so many works together. We also saw an excellent photo show by Brenda Francis Pelkey. Out of curiosity we went to see Caesar’s Casino. What a riot! We were amazed by how large it was and dazzled by all the lights. The theme song from the Godfather ran through our heads and Donald Trump was on the big screen TVs. We got a good laugh out of that. It is so cheesy that we expected to find pole dancing somewhere. What I don’t get is this, out of all the money they bilk those suckers out of, why do they buy such cheap gaudy reproductions of Italian art? Anyway, the cheesy “glamour”, the disconnect between authentic Italian classical art and the tacky stuff they use in casinos like this is worthy of an art project.