Dinner Party, Home at Last

Feminist art moves into the spotlight this year, with two major exhibitions and a housewarming for “The Dinner Party”

by Michele Kort

“Be careful what you wish 40 years for,” says Judy Chicago.

The famed feminist artist isn’t complaining, just noting all the hard work that’s gone into a remarkable occasion: This spring, her iconic 1979 art piece “The Dinner Party” will be permanently enshrined at the Brooklyn Museum.

Judy Chicago, The Dinner Party

And that’s not all. “The Dinner Party” will serve as centerpiece for the museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. Yes, an elite American art institution—Greek-pillared portico and all—has recognized an art genre that, over the past several decades, has been too often disparaged and too rarely feted. Moreover, the Sackler Center will also showcase the exhibition “Global Feminisms,” opening March 23—a survey of 86 women artists from nearly 50 countries who carry feminist concerns into their work.

As if that were still not enough, the exhibition “Wack! Art of the Feminist Revolution” will open at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) in Los Angeles on March 4, unearthing the roots and shoots of international feminist art from 1965 to 1980.

Read the rest here.

For more on Judy Chicago, click here.

WB Yeats, The Second Coming 1920

Sphinx

TURNING and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Second Coming

Seven Deadly Sins Again

These never go out of fashion …

These illustrations are by Giotto – frescoes in the Arena Chapel in Padua, Italy 1306

Wrath

Wrath

Injustice

Injustice

Infidelity

Infidelity

Inconstancy

Inconstancy

Foolishness

Foolishness

Envy

Envy

Desperation

Desperation

Allegory of Lust

Bronzino, Venus, Cupid and Time (Allegory of Lust) 1540

This work was probably created at the Tuscan court of Duke Cosimo de’ Medici for presentation to the King of France. It was designed as a puzzle, and incorporates symbols and devices from the worlds of mythology and emblematic imagery. It would have made the perfect present for the French king, known for his lusty appetites, yearning after Italian culture and magnificence, and with a liking for heraldry and obscure emblems.

The goddess of love and beauty, identified by the golden apple given to her by Paris and by her doves, has drawn Cupid’s arrow. At her feet, masks, perhaps the symbols of sensual nymph and satyr, seem to gaze up at the lovers. Foolish Pleasure, the laughing child, throws rose petals at them, heedless of the thorn piercing his right foot. Behind him Deceit, fair of face, but foul of body, proffers a sweet honeycomb in one hand, concealing the sting in her tail with the other. On the other side of the lovers is a dark figure, formerly called Jealousy but recently plausibly identified as the personification of Syphilis, a disease probably introduced to Europe from the New World and reaching epidemic proportions by 1500.

The symbolic meaning of the central scene is thus revealed to be unchaste love, presided over by Pleasure and abetted by Deceit, and its painful consequences. Oblivion, the figure on the upper left who is shown without physical capacity for remembering, attempts to draw a veil over all, but is prevented by Father Time – possibly alluding to the delayed effects of syphilis. Cold as marble or enamel, the nudes are deployed against the costliest ultramarine blue, and the whole composition, flattened against the picture plane, recalls Bronzino’s contemporaneous designs for the duke’s new tapestry factories.

Source: Web Gallery of Art

Beautiful flowers

Photographs of flowers by Katinka Matson

Three Parrott Tulips

Three Parrott Tulips

Water Lily and Leaf

Water Lily and Leaf

See more of Katinka’s work here.

Her work alludes to Dutch still life painting of the 17th and 18th centuries. Here are a couple of examples:

Still Life

BOLLONGIER, Hans
Still Life with Flowers
1639

Still Life II

BOSSCHAERT, Ambrosius the Younger
Still-Life
1627

See my still life etchings here and photographs here.

Bad Art for Bad People

By Martha Kearney

“The Chapman Brothers first hit the British art scene with Disasters of War in 1993, their sculptural re-working of the 19th century Spanish artist Francicso de Goya’s epic series of etchings Desastres de la Guerra. Ever since, Goya has remained a steady influence on their work. In Bad Art for Bad People, the first big show to examine their work, there is a large Goyaesque tree called Sex hung with the skeletons of soldiers from the earlier Disasters of War in an advanced state of decay. The other major sculpture in the room – an inflatable lilo featuring a couple having sex is made of bronze, and is entitled intriguingly, Death.

Chapman brothers, Explaining Christians to Dinosaurs

Chapman brothers, detail from Explaining Christians to Dinosaurs 2003

The Tate Liverpool exhibition traces the artistic journey of the Chapman Brothers. It’s centrepiece is perhaps the notoriously controversial Zygotic acceleration, biogenetic de-sublimated libidinal model, one of a collection of child mannequins where sexual organs are put in place of more familiar facial features, which hit the headlines in 1997 after its unveiling at the Royal Academy’s Sensation exhibition. Later works include the exotic sculptures of The Chapman Family Collection with their parody of McDonalds and globalisation. For those seeking their inner child, Hell Sixty-Five Million Years BC is the best room to explore. This is where the dinosaurs who got left behind live. Mostly made from cardboard, one even from an old Mitsubishi VHS box, there are a few made from bronze for the detectives amongst us to hunt down.”

Chapman brothers installation

Chapman brothers, installation Bad Art for Bad People

“Wrestling with earlier artists and with history, trying to get beyond cliche and to say something if not original then at least fresh, they keep our perversities alive – which is pretty much the best an artist, or even a pair of artists, can attempt to do”. (Anthony Searle)

· Jake and Dinos Chapman’s Bad Art For Bad People is at Tate Liverpool until March 4.

Read more here and here.
See a slide show of work from the Tate Gallery exhibition here.

Surrealism and the feminine

Surrealism’s women thought they were celebrating sexual emancipation. But were they just fulfilling men’s erotic fantasies?

By Germaine Greer

Monday March 5, 2007
The Guardian

Delvaux, The Birth of the Day

Delvaux, The Birth of the Day 20th c

Among the “surreal things” to be celebrated at the V&A’s exhibition this month is the human body. The body when separated from its identity – or soul, if you prefer – becomes just another thing. In her book The Surreal Body, written to accompany the exhibition, Ghislaine Wood struggles mightily to present the body that “the surrealists endlessly manipulated and fetishised” as unisex or ambisex, but it is actually feminine. Not female. Feminine. Even in the deliberately dis-gendered figure of Claude Cahun, the operation of narcissism is purely feminine. Herbert Bayer mugging at his naked and mutilated self in the mirror is feminine. Hans Bellmer’s dolls are all, horribly, feminine.

Fini, the Ends of the Earth

Fini, The Ends of the Earth 20th c

In our polarised culture, in which real men may not be treated as mere body, and women must consider themselves primarily body, the portrayed body becomes the feminised body, regardless of its sex.

Man Ray, Veiled Erotic

May Ray, Veiled Erotic (portrait of Meret Oppenheim) 20th c

At the same time that the women of surrealism were endlessly arraying and portraying themselves, as often in carefully posed photographs as in any other medium, the men of surrealism were disappearing into short back and sides, and suits and ties. Femininity was all image; masculinity had no image at all. Real men don’t look in mirrors. …

Oppenheim, Object

Oppenheim, Object 20th c

Read the rest of the article here.

For more on Surrealism, click here.

Pygmalion

The Story of Pygmalion and the Statue

Pygmalion loathing their lascivious life,
Abhorr’d all womankind, but most a wife:
So single chose to live, and shunn’d to wed,
Well pleas’d to want a consort of his bed.
Yet fearing idleness, the nurse of ill,
In sculpture exercis’d his happy skill;

Delvaux, Pygmalion 20th c

Delvaux, Pygmalion 20th c

And carv’d in iv’ry such a maid, so fair,
As Nature could not with his art compare,
Were she to work; but in her own defence
Must take her pattern here, and copy hence.
Pleas’d with his idol, he commends, admires,
Adores; and last, the thing ador’d, desires.
A very virgin in her face was seen,
And had she mov’d, a living maid had been:

Gerome, Pygmalion and Galatea 19th c

Gerome, Pygmalion and Galatea 19th c

One wou’d have thought she cou’d have stirr’d, but strove
With modesty, and was asham’d to move.
Art hid with art, so well perform’d the cheat,
It caught the carver with his own deceit:
He knows ’tis madness, yet he must adore,
And still the more he knows it, loves the more:

Gerome, Pygmalion and Galatea 19th c

Gerome, another version of Pygmalion and Galatea

The flesh, or what so seems, he touches oft,
Which feels so smooth, that he believes it soft.
Fir’d with this thought, at once he strain’d the breast,
And on the lips a burning kiss impress’d.
‘Tis true, the harden’d breast resists the gripe,
And the cold lips return a kiss unripe:

Falconet, Pygmalion and Galatea

Falconet, Pygmalion and Galatea 17th c

But when, retiring back, he look’d again,
To think it iv’ry, was a thought too mean:
So wou’d believe she kiss’d, and courting more,
Again embrac’d her naked body o’er; …

Bronzino, Pygmalion 16th c

Bronzino, Pygmalion 16th c

Read the rest of Ovid’s poem here.

Narcissus

Waterhouse, Echo and Narcissus

Waterhouse, Echo and Narcisssus 19th c

Excerpt from Ted Hughes’ “Narcissus”

… Weary with hunting and the hot sun
Narcissus found this pool.
Gratefully he stretched out full length,
To cup his hands in the clear cold
And to drink. But as he drank
A strange new thirst, a craving, unfamiliar,
Entered his body with the water,
And entered his eyes
With the reflection in the limpid mirror.
He could not believe the beauty
Of those eyes that gazed into his own.
As the taste of water flooded him
So did love. So he lay, mistaking
That picture of himself on the meniscus
For the stranger who could make him happy.

Caravaggio, Narcissus

Caravaggio, Narcissus 17th c

He lay, like a fallen garden statue,
Gaze fixed on his image in the water,
Comparing it to Bacchus or Apollo,
Falling deeper and deeper in love
With what so many had loved so hopelessly.
Not recognising himself
He wanted only himself.
He had chosen from all the faces he had ever seen
Only his own. He was himself
The torturer who now began his torture. …

Narcissus

Narcissus after the metamorphosis

Read the complete poem here.

On contemporary narcissism.

Ovid’s Echo and Narcissus.