9/11: reaching for the noble among the ruins

Politics in art seems almost inevitable, especially the emotional issue surrounding 9/11, national identity and larger geopolitical concerns which with the unfolding of the Arab Spring, perhaps a metaphor for “regime change”, bring to light an arc of economically motivated behavior cradled in the arms of ideology. No matter what is created out of the tragedy and sacrifice of 9/11, it may be pleasing and coherent politically, but artistically hard to justify beyond its propaganda function; like a shock of dadaism that would break with tradition and embark on a form of nihilism.

---We can see Parrish’s unswerving dedication to study and mastery of technique in his latest allegorical mural entitled The Cycle of Terror and Tragedy: September 11th 2001-2006. Commissioned for the New Britain Museum of American Art to memorialize the events surrounding 9-11, this may be the most important commission from a Classical Realist artist in recent years. And at 8 x 18-feet, it is certainly one of Parrish’s most ambitious undertakings. Here, according to Parrish, the painting “represents the endless cycle of human frailty; how we are blind to tragic events, no matter in what form and no matter how many have come before.” (While I do not agree with the painting's theme of human frailty and blindness in the face of future tragedy, I will add how glad I am that Parrish’s painting actually has an integrated theme—and just as important he can name it, which is another reason he is so different from today's artistic establishment that flouts such notions.)--Read More:http://www.sandstead.com/images/artists/parrish/parrish.html

Graydon Parrish’s Cycle of Terror 9/11 painting is visually compelling and narratively convincing and thematically coherent. There may be some minor flaws , but the artist is reaching for something noble here, and its the big picture that is important. Its surprising that this work is not better known, or that advertisers have not appropriated the iconography.

Miles Mathis:The response from the left has been completely predictable, as I said: the last thing they want to see in art is any return to standards, talent, or a hierarchy based on any definable thing—that would force them into another field overnight. They have to keep playing their little games of misdirection and psychology, hoping to fool the real artists into cutting their own throats for another decade. But the response from the right, although not shocking in any way, is both illogical and disappointing. Even those that feel this is only a step in the right direction should be embracing Graydon with giant hugs. Even if it is not exactly what they were looking for in their stockings this Christmas, that is, it is still a gift of such major proportions they should never stop extolling it. This is precisely the sort of painting that should be vastly oversold in the media, if anything; and yet is has been vastly undersold, caviled and gift-horsed to an extent that can only be called tragic. Read More:http://mileswmathis.com/parrish.html

---Parrish’s intent to revitalize the craft and iconography of the academy is commendable, but this is only the first step in regaining control over figurative painting. The grand tradition rested upon a solid foundation of Western thought—religious, historical, mythical, moral, iconographic. The West no longer has a set core of beliefs. Parrish chooses to represent the tragedy of 9/11 with illustrations that have little connection with the symbols and myths of 2,500 years of Western civilization. A thousand years of paganism, a thousand years of Christendom resonate through the works of Aeschylus, Shakespeare, Rembrandt and Lincoln. To replicate images and objects culled from nineteenth-century masterpieces is technically impressive, but the exercise leaves us unmoved. Parrish, to his credit, has dared venture into the area of history painting. He has assimilated the technical lessons of the past, but his lack of passion is confirmed by the aesthetic flaws of the composition. What is needed is a more convincing iconography and a public willing to embrace it. I hesitate to suggest that the most direct way to raise the level of aesthetic quality in visual art is through content which motivates the artist as well as the audience.---Read More:http://www.nccsc.net/2007/8/31/grand-themes-need-great-art

Parrish has totally mastered the technical part of painting and draughtmanship.There might be a little profundity amiss in the iconology, a subtle hints of a Fragonard or Boucher, but the gest is bold, and the form does not dominate the content. The axiom is that composition will in relation to the clarity of the ideas and form will follow content.  So, Parrish succeeds here and is not really recycling the art of the past.

But does Parrish’s memorial create the proper mood, or any strong mood? This is impossible to answer, except as each individual person answers it for himself. Guernica is the most famous 20th century painting in this line, being a war memorial of similar dimensions, but I have always found Guernica absurd. Whenever I have seen it in person, I have always laughed outloud. I find it amusing, and I don’t mean that sardonically. I mean that it makes me laugh like a funny cartoon.

---Sanstead:Painting in layers is one of the most important techniques in oil painting—and Parrish has worked for years recreating the classical techniques and perfecting his own. Add his attention to light, color, composition, line, perspective, draftsmanship, ambition, ambitious ideas--and imagination--and we have an extremely promising painter who has already produced some of the best classical artworks of today. A painter who brings us gorgeousness in figural line, grace in pose, vitality in skin and sensuality in oil. Read More:http://www.sandstead.com/images/artists/parrish/parrish.html

Walter Benjamin:The secular cult of beauty, developed during the Renaissance and prevailing for three centuries, clearly showed that ritualistic basis in its decline and the first deep crisis which befell it. With the advent of the first truly revolutionary means of reproduction, photography, simultaneously with the rise of socialism, art sensed the approaching crisis which has become evident a century later. At the time, art reacted with the doctrine of l’art pour l’art, that is, with a theology of art. This gave rise to what might be called a negative theology in the form of the idea of “pure” art, which not only denied any social function of art but also any categorizing by subject matter. (In poetry, Mallarme was the first to take this position.)

---The cover art uses photographer Masatomo Kuriya's photo of the second plane flying toward the second tower, while the first tower burns and belches smoke. But the photo has been modified with an overlay of black and brown stains and gritty horizontal lines, obscuring the cloudless blue sky that we remember from that day. Reaction to the cover has been swift and impassioned, with commenters using words like "vile," "repulsive," and "despicable," though others thought the image fit the subject matter. My impression from reading through comments in various places was that the overwhelming consensus gives a thumbs-down to the image, but a poll featured on one site showed the voting fairly evenly split at the time I viewed it, at about 48% in favor and 51% opposed.---Read More:http://www.themortonreport.com/arts/classical-opera/classical-cover-controversy/

An analysis of art in the age of mechanical reproduction must do justice to these relationships, for they lead us to an all-important insight: for the first time in world history, mechanical reproduction emancipates the work of art from its parasitical dependence on ritual. To an ever greater degree the work of art reproduced becomes the work of art designed for reproducibility. From a photographic negative, for example, one can make any number of prints; to ask for the “authentic” print makes no sense. But the instant the criterion of authenticity ceases to be applicable to artistic production, the total function of art is reversed. Instead of being based on ritual, it begins to be based on another practice – politics. Read More:http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/ge/benjamin.htm
Cooper:Parrish avoided the trap of many theory-driven art programs by studying at the private ateliers of Michael Aviano and Richard Lack, the founder of Classical Realism. But these ateliers focus on craft. They do not yet provide the iconography or understanding of history necessary for a painter to develop substantive themes. Ateliers build their curricula primarily on portraits, still lifes and landscapes. Parrish has successfully recovered the subtle technique of glazing, painting in layers, which reached its height during the High Renaissance and continued until the end of the nineteenth century. Glazing is a slow process of building up a series of transparent colors laid over a dried underpainting. Some of the old masters employed as many as sixty layers of paint on certain portions of the human figure, which accounts for the beautiful qualities of works by Raphael. Parrish’s impressive draftsmanship has been previously demonstrated in several drawing exhibitions, most recently at the Hirschl & Adler Galleries in New York City.Read More:http://www.nccsc.net/2007/8/31/grand-themes-need-great-art
Kramer and Hughes and all the rest of th

lazy critics won’t get in the car or do a websearch, won’t look at people like Graydon until they are served up hot by the New York Times or the London Times, by Nicolas Serota or Phillippe de Montebello, and even then won’t give them a fair shake. If Graydon doesn’t instantly outstrip Goya and Velasquez combined, sprinkled with the “relevance” of Bacon, then they think it best to return to their whining about Hirst or the Chapman Brothers….

…Again, speaking relatively, if Pollock’s dribble is worth 140 million, we would have to bankrupt the Pentagon cutting Graydon a check for his next canvas. If Graydon is, say, 100 times better than Pollock, then that is what, 14 billion? Start saving now. All these things with such huge pricetags, the Naumans and Koons and Hirsts, will be worth pennies in a few decades, or will be pitched into the sea as flotsam to feed the fishes; but Graydon’s works will survive. How he will fare against Bouguereau or Millais or Waterhouse is yet to be seen, but any fool can see that he is already better than his ancestor Maxfield, already better than Rockwell and Ives and Lack, already better than all the phony Moderns with their assemblages and poses and empty constructs. He has climbed out above that already, and future generations will see him competing only with the Wyeths, and with other realists emerging now—Wang, Collins, etc.

Read More:http://mileswmathis.com/parrish.html

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