Sunday, May 10, 2020

The Artist’s Word

I am supposed to be writing missives about the art world but find that difficult while museums and galleries are closed. The art news is slim, as well, so  I thought I would look at some quotations from artists.  Artists express themselves with their creations but some also speak as creatively as they paint, draw or sculpt.

Bridget Riley is a British artist whose work is in many museum collections from the Tate Britain to MOMA, New York.  She has said, “My work is completed by the viewer”.  What a wonderful concept since if there is no viewer there, is there art?  It is not unique to Riley. You might even understand the quote better when you see a painting she did in 1963 titled simply, “Fall”.

Mark Rothko put it a bit more poetically, “The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when I painted them”.  I know there is a Rembrandt or two that my wife has wept in front of, but I have never seen anyone weep before a Rothko.  In a group, however, such as in the Rothko Chapel in Houston they can be moving.  Though, it is practically impossible when the Chapel is full of people. Also, It is impossible to take a good photo of the Chapel with Rothko’s nuanced colors, but here is a photo from the internet.

Artists, naturally, speak a lot about color but some feel their work is not about the colors used.  Edward Hopper said, “I am more concerned with light than color” and his paintings prove it.

Edward Hopper, 1940, Museum of Modern Art

Pablo Picasso looked at it this way, “The blue period was not a question of light or color.  It was an inner necessity to paint like that.”  If it had been anyone other than Picasso saying that I might think this was the only color he could afford at the time!

Picasso, 1903,The Phillips Collection

Very few artists can make a living through their art and all had different jobs to keep them going, even the successful ones started out struggling. Mixed media artist Jane Hammond advised, “Find something to do that will make you some money, that can support your art, and that you can become good at so you can make a decent wage and that you actually don’t hate.” 

Here is what a few had to say about it:

“At one time I was a bill collector in Harlem”, Alex Katz

Sol Lewitt wrote: “One summer I worked in a factory, and that was pretty bad, I didn’t last too long.  Then I got a job in the Street Department and digging a ditch…“

“I didn’t start photography until about 1929 and up until that time I had worked as a waiter on the railway, a bartender and road gangs, played semi-professional basketball, semi-professional football, worked in a brick plant, you name it….” That from the wonderful photographer, Gordon Parks

Indomitable ambition is surely essential to the success of any artist. Let me end with a quote from the abstract sculptor, Richard Serra, “I was in analysis, and I told my analyst I wanted to be the best sculptor in the world and he said, “Richard, calm down”.  Here is his 2005, Reverse Curve, shown at the Gagosian Gallery last year.

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