Oh, blind faith! The Soul Guided by Christ (El alma guiada por Cristo) by Francisco Martinez (Mexico, active 1717-1757) Oil on canvas, painted in 1732. 39x61 in. I thought it was the artist being led by her muse, while simultaneously being pulled back by a collector, curator and gallery owner.
Guan played hooky from work and joined me at LACMA to see The Arts in Latin America, 1492-1820 which will be on view through the end of October. This will be the last chance to see the show, which travelled from Philadelphia and Mexico City. The fourth stop at the Royal Academy was cancelled, due to the cost of shipping the big altar pieces and decorative stuff in the show. It looks like the Royal Academy is following the gallerists at the art fairs, where shipping costs trump quality and importance of the work: The RA was able to clear some wall space to promote Charles Saatchi's collection.
Detail, Christ Child of Huanca (Niño Jesús de Huanca) Peru, c. 1600-1610. Polychromed wood with gilding. 32x17x15 in. Church of San Pedro, Lima, Peru.
The show was a pop quiz on religious iconography, with Katherine and her wheel, and the occasional indigenous curveball, like Jesus with an avocado. It got me thinking about pictorialism and aesthetics: the kind of stuff that goes through your head when you've had Art History 101 and a 2D design class. It's the way most art is framed and decoded in places like Bad at Sports or schools with foundation programs that give freshmen a chunk of charcoal and teach them to represent a nude model all the same way. It's the quality lacking in messy installations and documentation style work.
The show made me think of how so much of contemporary art lacks the pictorial as a point of entry into the work, essentially turning its back on a big chunk of the art world. A few days ago I was at ICA Boston and got a chance to revisit Paul Chan's work I saw at the Whitney, reminding me that the pictorial and political are not mutually exclusive.
Speaking of the pictorial (and art turning its back), check out the picture below. Click on it for a larger view.
The work above was a gift from Guan Rong (thanks!). From my crappy snapshot, it's hard to tell that it's made from three pieces of smoked Plexiglas, a horizontal piece with two rectangular pieces spaced about five inches apart. This is the view you see when it's hanging on my wall. When you get up close, you can see that the smaller piece in front is painted on the back side. Below is the view from the other side, which would normally be seen from an acute angle.
So I guess the pictorial can be there, but not necessarily as an entry point. I'm going to miss having her art around at CalArts next year.