nude awakenings

Quarrels, separation, arguments, spats, plenty of yelling and screaming, sobbing and tears. The male artist and the nude has, as defined by modernism and then post-modernism, a contrapuntal relationship for the most part; the discordant seeking to resolve issues in which the fates of both hang in the balance, or for the artist, on the easel. It was a first love, but through cheating, duplicity, and plain bad faith, the act of getting back to the garden in a utopia with first love has been a tortuous journey indeed….

—Why is woman the target of de Kooning’s hatred? Why does he have to destroy her? Why does he skin her alive — the bodies of Woman, Sag Harbor, 1964, and Woman, 1964-65, are no more than strips of skin, pink animal hides — disembowel her, and smash her face, as though wanting to knock her teeth out, tear her body apart like a wild beast (crazed Fauve, as it were)? Each painterly gesture is a like a cutting wound — a cutting edge indeed, leaving disfigured flesh in its wake. The remnants of her body are scattered in various abstractions, from the black paintings which first established his reputation to the later white paintings. They may be esthetically edifying — formally ingenious, as it were — but they putrify into surreal morbidity. De Kooning, like Picasso, had an “attitude” to woman and to beautiful art. —Read More:

The most interesting period of this making up is hard to do period was the Bay Area painters of the early 1960′s picking up the shattered shards of abstract expressionism. Any painter who returns to the nude, who goes forward into a new treatment, must bear some comparison to the past, even if that echo is no more deeper than Matisse. The California painters such as Park, Bischoff and Diebenkorn, seemed to recall Matisse in combination with less impressive painters such as Anders Zorn, who also painted nudes in sunlight with large, fat, vigorous areas of color. Against centuries of familiar art,any new art can seem a hybrid from sources that supply piquant recombinations.Even the overdiligent search for parentage of abstract art could make Jackson Pollock look like late Monet, which to some extent frees even the painter of the nude from the tradition that will weigh on any artist.

—Just as the classical Freudian analyst tries to overcome the analysand’s resistance to the unconscious truth about himself — in effect stripping him emotionally naked within the safety of the clinical relationship — so, for Lucian, the portrait painter struggles to overcome “the sitter’s power of censorship,” as he calls it, in order to convey the emotional truth about him or her. The difference is that the analyst wants to bring the analysand to consciousness in the hope of relieving his or her suffering by revealing its unconscious sources, while the portrait painter — Lucian — is interested in his own consciousness of the model, not in his or her consciousness. —Read More:

Even surrealism, which insinuated its way into pop art, still left the nude in a high minded position. No matter how much a Picasso or de Kooning could seek to posit nihilistic attributes to justify their sum of destruction, egged on with the rhetoric from that demagogue of misogyny himself, Duchamp, the nude, the inner beauty remains somehow intact and indestructible.

David Park
American (Boston, Massachusetts, 1911 – 1960, Berkeley, California)
Les Baigneuses (The Bathers)
painting | oil on canvas
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
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There was an old movie called Dinner at Eight, where Jean Harlow, playing a beauteous high-class trollop, tries to make intellectual conversation with Marie Dressler, playing a caustic matron. “Isn’t it wonderful today the way they’re making machines to do everything?” says Harlow. Dressler looks her up and down and says pertinently, “You needn’t worry.”

—Kitsch is perhaps most clearly visible where love poetry changes into pornography … perverting the infinite goal of love … into a series of finite sex acts….. Whoever produces kitsch … is not to be evaluated by esthetic measures but is ethically depraved; he is a criminal who wills radical evil.
Hermann Broch, Evil in the Value System of Art, 1933
Who has no kitsch in his unconscious, can throw the first stone.
Wilhelm Worringer, “Thoughts On Kitsch,” 1951
Perversion was implicit in modern art from the beginning, and remains a vital factor in it today. In fact, one can regard modern art as by and large the history of the representation of perversion. What makes it innovative — “modern” — is its perverseness, both in attitude and form. Curiosity about perversion, supposedly the most novel, adventurous sexuality, motivates many modern artists. Certainly some of the most famous, innovative works deal with perversion, more or less openly. They also tend to be structurally perverse, at least by traditional standards. —Read More:

Nor need the nude. Firmly rooted in sex and gloriously elevated by the finest traditions of Western art, it can be debauched, degraded, and rejected without losing its potency for renewal.Even if the artists have to deal with critics, and the tastemakers of “the market” who are often unwilling to back down from positions based and dependent on unrestricted, near unlimited maunderings in discussions on post-conceptualism etc.; and it is true, that Botticelli, Manet, Cranach et al. set an impossibly demanding tone, it still makes no difference. The nude will be irreplaceable as a theme for artists as long as men feel the need for a body to enjoy and brains to see with.


Cranach the Elder, Venus with Cupid as a Honey Thief. 1531. Read More:



(see link at end) …”The beauties of the Parthenon, Venuses, nymphs, Narcissuses, are so many lies,” Picasso aggressively declared. “Art is not the application of a canon of beauty” — as though beauty was merely “academic,” he adds — “but what the instinct and the brain can conceive beyond any canon.” Uncontained by any canonical order, the artist is free — if it is freedom rather than compulsion — to “express what is in [him],” more pointedly “unload” his troublesome emotions: the “anxiety” of Cézanne, the “torments” of Van Gogh. “Even if the apple Jacques Émile Blanche painted had been ten times as beautiful” as the apple Cézanne painted, it would not convey “the actual drama of the man.”…

—it is this tragic but comical keynote that evokes strong, but sometimes also oppressive emotions in us, especially when Cattelan, in all his diversity, repeatedly centers on death as his central motif. In this the artist is very close to his ancestral and national roots. According to Francesco Bonami, death is “the very last moment of pathetic intimacy, the most radical way to avoid public responsibility.”—Read More:

…This attack on beauty — now supposedly in the name of the sublime, which he finds in primitive pre-art rather than in the human drama — reaches a climax of sorts in Barnett Newman’s assertion that “the impulse of modern art was this desire to destroy beauty,” more particularly, to “discard Renaissance notions of beauty” grounded in “the ideals of Greek beauty.” The “simple low mud walls” of “the Fort Ancient and Newark earthworks” in “the seductive Ohio valley,” with its “dramatic landscape,” are not only “the greatest works of art on the American continent,” but “perhaps the greatest art monuments in the world.” I am not sure if this is moronism, but it is certainly anti-classical art and beauty. Read More:

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