Saturday, May 8, 2010

Signifying Oedipi

"In the year 867, a new portrait mosaic of the Virgin Mary & Son was unveiled in the apse of the Hagia Sophia — the seat of the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church in Istanbul (then Constantinople) — homilized by the Armenian-born soon-to-be–Patriarch Photios as a victory over Iconoclasm: the almost-century-long proscription on depiction that had rocked the ages-old Byzantine art world to its foundations. This forbearance of graven images was (and remains) one of the most profound differences between Islam and its Great Satanic neighbors. At least until the advent of modernism, and the eruption of abstract painting — just about a century ago."

"The craving for persuasive facsimiles of human bodies has reached a recent epitome with James Cameron's Avatar, a realization that makes one yearn for the rigorous formalism of the Taliban — or at least Clement Greenberg. Mid-20th-century critic Greenberg's successful championing of the abstract expressionists and insistence on the transcendental flatness of the painterly medium have just reached an epitome of their own in the most awesome sheet of U.S. postage in recent memory, including dollhouse-ready reproductions of Jackson Pollock's Convergence (1952), Willem de Kooning's Asheville (1948) and eight other iconic images of the New York School."

"These bold artists used art to express complicated ideas and primitive emotions in simplified, abstract form," Linda Kingsley, USPS senior vice president of strategy and transition, says. "Although these stamps can't compare in size to their real-life canvases, they bring the passion and spirit of abstract expressionism to an envelope near you. The Postal Service is proud to pay tribute to the legacy and unique perspectives of these revolutionary artists." Well, yes ... to the general public and the philatelic community, the AbEx painters may still seem revolutionary. But to any artist who came of age in the wake of their conquest, nothing could be more Establishment: By the end of the 1950s, the commercial galleries, public museums and burgeoning academies were presenting a more or less unified front in support of the new, mandatory sublime."

"The current slate of exhibitions at L.A. Louver pairs two artists whose work gained prominence through their association with highly conspicuous movements — '60s pop and '80s neo-Expressionism — that were essentially iconophile reactions against AbEx's monopoly. But neither David Hockney (pop) nor Charles Garabedian (neo-Ex) has ever sworn allegiance to his respective pigeonholes, and their separate engagements with the human body, illusionistic space and art history are as individualistic in their particulars as they are similar in their transcendence of late-20th-century-art critical contextualization."

Read the rest of Representing Motherfuckers here

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