Talking Pictures (24) – Genre: Contemporary/Abstract Art and the Power of Text [Barbara Kruger, (1945-to date, American)]

Welcome followers and visitors to my blog and the latest update in my photography diary. The aim of this particular task is to gain, through research, an understanding of  Contemporary/Abstract Art genre in photography that will hopefully continue to inform and support a personal project entitled The Object as Cipher – Interpretation, meaning and the Development of Narrative. Today’s topic is a discussion about work by American artist Barbara Kruger.

Barbara Kruger, Face It (green), 2007

Barbara Kruger, Face It (Green), 2007

The interest, for me in BK.‘s work is the way in which she employs photograph-based images to explore and examine the representation of power via mass-media images, appropriating their iconography and slogans and deconstructing them visually and verbally.  It is the juxtaposition of these words and images that I find so exciting.

BK’s trademark style: large-scale photographic works that appropriate anonymous cultural images and text and juxtapose them in unexpected ways.

In this image she has employed an oversized image of a model’s face and divided it into sections.

Placed across the image is the phrase “Your body is a battleground”, by which she called into question the objectification of women and raised the issue of women’s reproductive rights.

Such work embodied the deconstructivist concerns of much feminist art from the 1980s and ’90s. This is achieved through manipulating and recontextualizing imagery.

BK sought to question the way accepted sources of power, in this case the mass media, presented female identity. Her grounding in the theoretical connects her with contemporary developments in conceptual art.

The appeal is how she exploits an economy of image and text to articulate and undermine the power-based relations established in stereotypical situations of everyday life as portrayed in mass media images.

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Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Your body is a battleground), 1989
Photographic silkscreen on vinyl
2845 × 28405 mm
Location Unstated

BK addresses media and politics in their native tongue: tabloid, sensational, authoritative, and direct. BK’s words and images merge the commercial and art worlds; their critical resonance eviscerates cultural hierarchies — everyone and everything is for sale. 

To fully comprehend the tensions contained within the image one has to understand its context in time. 1989 was marked by numerous demonstrations protesting a new wave of antiabortion laws and the significant concerns feminists had with regard to the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision and the right of female freedoms.

The woman’s face, disembodied, split in positive and negative exposures, and obscured by text, marks a stark divide. This image is simultaneously art and protest. Though its origin is tied to a specific moment, the power of the work lies in the timelessness of its declaration.

BK’s visual language is distinct and combines eplicated black and white photographs from the 1950s with stark white Futura Bold lettering on red panels in public spaces like buildings and billboards, Kruger produced endless prints and public art pieces which examined the issue of inequality.

When asked about her juxtaposition of phrases and photography she stated

“… there is an accessibility to pictures and words that we have learned to read very fluently through advertising and through the technological development of photography and film and video.

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Barbara Kruger, Untitled (We Dont Need Another Hero), 1986
Photographic silkscreen/vinyl. 2770 x 5330 mm.
Location Unstated

In adopting the language and medium of advertising, BK disrupts the recognizable language of mass media. She delivers meaningful messages directly to the viewer as in, Untitled (We Dont Need Another Hero, 1986)  and Untitled (You invest in the divinity of the masterpiece) 1982.

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Barbara Kruger, Untitled (You invest in the divinity of the masterpiece)
1982,
Gelatin silver print, mounted and framed
1822 x 1158 mm
MOMA, NY

In an interview she highlighted the fact that,

“… what the media have done today is make a thing meaningless through its accessibility. And what I’m interested in is taking that accessibility and making meaning. I’m interested in dealing with complexity, yes. But not necessarily to the end of any romance with the obscure.

My concerns with regard to this project are not related to conveying any particular political agenda but rather with the way that BK combines text within an image to create a narrative for the viewer to explore and interpret.

Reference List

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Barbara-Kruger#ref667964

https://www.daily.jstor.org/the-history-your-body-is-a-battleground/

https://www.medium.com/@aaliacoovadia/postmodern-features-explained-through-we-dont-need-another-hero-by-barbara-kruger-b7a1668fc683

https://www.moma.org/collection/works/79334

https://www.thebroad.org/art/barbara-kruger/untitled-your-body-battleground

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All images used here are the copyright of:

© Barbara Kruger

Talking Pictures (23) – Genre: Still Life Painting [Laurens Craen, Dutch, c. 1620 – c.1670]

Welcome followers and visitors to my blog and the latest update in my photography diary. The aim of this particular task is to gain, through research, an understanding of the still life genre in painting that will hopefully continue to inform and support a personal project entitled The Object as Cipher – Interpretation, meaning and the Development of Narrative. Today’s topic is a discussion about a painting entitled Still life with imaginary view, circa 1645 – 1650 by Laurens Craen.

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Laurens Craen, Still life with imaginary view, circa 1645 – 1650

Laurens Craen, Still life with imaginary view, circa 1645 – 1650
Oil on panel
634 x 853 mm
Art Gallery NSW, Sydney

This painting typifies the compositional structure and formal elements of 17th century Dutch banquet paintings.

The work possesses, in the background, an imaginary view of a landscape; whilst, the foreground depicts objects of contemporary rarity and were included by LC for their sheer novelty and to engage viewers.

Describing a work by another still-life painter of the period, Herbert Furst (The Art of Still Life Painting, 88) writes:

There is little doubt that these expensive luxuries were the means by which he [Willem Kalf] endeavoured to interest his public: they were the “subject” of his still life.”

The composition is filled with Imported lemons, oysters, Venetian glass, silverware, velvet and silk drapery all commonly viewed as elements within contemporary banquet-pieces. The work is steeped in a luxurious atmosphere of luxury filled with rare, precious and expensive objects that celebrated prosperity and abundance. An image that cane described as

…grandiosely and anachronistically, as “the painting as museum”; what it essentially involves is a link between still life and the mentality of collecting.

Elizabeth Alice Honig, Art Historian

(“Making Sense of Things: On the Motives of Dutch Still Life,” Anthropology and Aesthetics, no. 34 (Autumn, 1998): 176)

In this work LC displays a collection of differing objects belonging to different seasons. A symbolic manifestation of contemporary affluence.

 “… a specimens from different seasons were often included in the same composition.

 Scott A. Sullivan

(“A Banquet-Piece with Vanitas Implications,”The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art 61, no. 8 (October, 1974): 275.)

 

Other suggest different interpretations where still-life paintings such as Craen’s are not merely presentations of objects to be admired but an invitation for their consumption and communal sharing. (Elizabeth Alice Honig, [“Making Sense of Things: On the Motives of Dutch Still Life,” Anthropology and Aesthetics, no. 34 (Autumn, 1998): 174.] ) The image can equally be viewed as R.G. Saisselin [in “Still-Life Paintings in a Consumer Society,” 180] suggests as a form of advertising,

However, the use of images to sell a product is anything but new and still-life painting was potentially advertising from the moment that it was secularized. […] One may call it a pre-literary advertisement … one cannot say that they induce the viewer to consume … merely [an indication of} … an activity and the product of that activity. The modern advertisement is far more insistent for it is meant to move viewers to make a purchase.

As Herbert Furst (The Art of Still Life Painting, 71) argues LC’s painting demonstrates a meticulous technical skill in handling

… the cubic pattern made by the volumes placed one on top of the other and at different angles. Here were problems of recession, in fact, of volume, to be solved together with problems of light.

and [the work} had

… no decorative purpose; even the associative ideas, [….], were manifestly subordinated to the pleasure of rendering thing as the physical eye saw them.

 Herbert Furst, The Art of Still Life Painting, 81.

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and were, therefore, perhaps

produced, not for the public so much as for the artist’s own sakes, more exactly for the sake of the problems involved in the treatment rather than the subject-matter”.

Herbert Furst,
(The Art of Still Life Painting [London: The Whitefriars Press Ltd, 1927], 71)

 

Both abundance and urgency can be detected inLC’s Still life with imaginary view – the rich and enjoyable feast has been suddenly interrupted against man’s will suggesting both the fleeting nature of the enjoyment and man’s inability to prevent its passing.

Paintings in which […] expensively set tables lie asunder served as a memento mori or “reminder of death,” intended to underscore life’s transience and the greater weight of moral considerations.

National Gallery of Art Washington, Painting in the Dutch Golden Age, 87.

At the same time, the vast landscape in the background, with the canals flowing out to the unknown, implies an insignificance of the material objects in comparison to the sublime in the nature.

It is certain that LC and his contemporaries found a great interest and motivation in the formal aspects of representational art – display of craftsmanship and pictorial realism – but the image also carries a broader allegorical content paradigmatic of the 17th century Dutch painting and, therefore, equally legible to its viewers.

Reference List

https://artiris.wordpress.com/2015/01/01/still-life-painting-in-the-dutch-golden-age/

 

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Talking Pictures (22) – Genre: Still Life Painting [Willem Claesz Heda, Dutch, 1594 – 1680]

Welcome again followers and visitors to my blog and the latest update in my photography diary. The aim of this particular task is to gain, through research, an understanding of the still life genre in painting that will hopefully continue to inform and support a personal project entitled The Object as Cipher – Interpretation, meaning and the Development of Narrative. Today’s topic is a discussion about a painting entitled Still Life with Oysters, a Silver Tazza, and Glassware,1635 by Willem Claesz Heda.

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Willem Claesz Heda, Still Life with Oysters, a Silver Tazza, and Glassware
1635

Still Life with Oysters, a Silver Tazza, and Glassware
1635
Oil on wood
498 x 806 mm
Met Museum NY

The image – a monochrome banquet piece, or banketje – is typical of HWC’s body of work in the mid-1630s. That which I find really interesting is how WCH has created a composition imbued with impressive subtlety. The employment of a muted colour range of silvery greys, golden yellows, and browns with their accurately observed tonal values accentuates the painting’s naturalistic effect.

The work is restrained composed of glass and metal vessels delicately arranged on a table with oysters, a half-peeled lemon and or other motifs. The image demonstrates his mastery of draftsmanship and his skill in imitating the varied qualities of different light-reflecting surfaces.
The relatively high viewpoint adopted affords an overall survey of the objects.

The lighting is very low key and comes from left top of frame and divides the image diagonally into two counterbalanced shades of light and dark. A central vertical line passing through the mouth of the paper cone, the highlight on the spoon and goblet accentuates the images classical construction. Yet with its very monochromatic tones and limited use of objects possesses a very contemporary minimalistic feel.

The composition, laid out on a the horizontal table top, is made up of – on the left, an empty oyster shells rest in front of a plate of oysters yet to be consumed. The ebony and ivory handle of a knife extends over the edge of the table, and a gleaming spoon carefully leads the eye to a shard of glass and other curving forms that give the work a sense of rhythmic dynamism. A cut lemon, a single pit, and a paper cone of spice rest on another pewter plate in the foreground.

In the mid 1630’s the printed paper would have been recognized as a page torn from an almanac, arguably a reminder that one’s days on earth are numbered. The lemon with its bitterness and the wineglass that has tipped over and broken are symbolic of how fleeting worldly pleasures are.

The pewter plates are balanced visually by the silver tazza lying on its side, which reveals the untarnished interior of the base. I particularly admire the way the base touches the plate and how the lemon peel highlights the play of light over the elaborately worked surface of the tazza. WCH displays a virtuosity in describing reflections and transparency. Indeed the variety of reflected light throughout the painting—while somewhat open to question on optical grounds—is extraordinary.

Behind the tazza to the left is a glass of beer, and to the right a pewter plate and a fancy glass pitcher. An open, leather-covered knife case to the right mirrors the position of the knife to the left, and draws attention to the artist’s signature.

Walnuts are scattered to the far right, and hazelnuts below the stem of the tazza and at the foot of the large roemer.

A tall window is reflected three times in the bowl of the glass, and the beaded moulding on the glass (at the top of the pruned stem) is echoed more than once in the wine.

The work is filled with symbolic references.

Reference List

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Willem-Claeszoon-Heda

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/438376

www.museothyssen.org/en/collection/artists/heda-willem-claesz

 

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Reflection

 

Reflection FBO

Goff James,  Reflection, 2017, (Painting, The Three Kingdoms – Heaven, Earth and Hell © Artist Preecha Pun-Klum, MOCA, Bangkok)

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The painting, The Three Kingdoms – Heaven, Earth and Hell 

© Artist Preecha Pun-Klum, MOCA, Bangkok

 

The poem used here is the copyright of:

 goffjamesart/photography/poetry

Talking Pictures (8) – Image and Genre

20171027_102333abcde Eight FBO

Goff James, Eight with Two Squares, 2017, FL 3.54 mm, Exp 1/8 sec, f/2.6, ISO 400

All images used here are the copyright of:

© goffjamesart/photography/poetry

Welcome followers and visitors to my blog and another update in my photography diary. The task set was to create and select six personal images across six different genres and then present them for discussion within an open forum. This is the sixth image in the series entitled “Eight with Two Squares”.

Fine Art Photography / Photographic Art / Artistic Photography / Creative Photography  – Definition

Fine Art Photography may be defined as;

  • having no universally agreed meaning or definition,
  • referring to an imprecise category of photographs, created in accordance with the creative vision of the artist/photographer that involves a combination of differing processes – photo-collage, photogram and photography,
  • producing a personal conceptual impression in which the narrative maybe evocative, atmospheric or provocative,
  • primarily being about the artist and where the intention is artistic aesthetic,
  • an incorporation of mixed-media, installation art and assemblage art,
  • not about capturing or documenting reality objectively but going beyond the literal representation of a scene or subject,
  • intentionally being artistically subjective,
  • capturing what the artist sees – an expression of vision,
  • the camera being utilised as a tool to create a work of art and containing elements of artistic control,

“Art implies control of reality, for reality itself possesses no sense of the aesthetic. Photography becomes art when certain controls are applied.”

Ansel Adams

  • revealing that it was created by an artist and not by just the camera,
  • involving an original, deliberate creation and that every aspect of making the photograph in the field and in the photographer’s post-processing digital studio, including the printing, are an individual expression from within the artist, 
  •  not re-presenting objective reality literally but rather through subjective intent.

Reference List

https://photographylife.com/what-is-fine-art-photography

http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/fine-art-photography.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine-art_photography

 

20171027_102333abcde Eight FBO

Goff James, Eight with Two Squares, 2017, FL 3.54 mm, Exp 1/8 sec, f/2.6, ISO 400

The image is a composite creative art photograph made up of four different layering processes – the first being a photogram constructed from organic and inorganic materials, the second being photo collage made up of elements pasted onto the surface of the photogram and thirdly a photographic image taken of the work and the final elements were attached in the photo editing process.

The image was taken indoors in normal natural daylight conditions. The camera, in auto mode, was hand held directly above the final composition. Within the image the depth of field is particularly shallow due to focussing so close. A large aperture of f/2.6 was selected to maintain as much sharpness as possible. As the subject was static a long exposure time of 1/8 sec. A slow film speed of ISO 400 was utilised.

Consequently only the very centre of the image can be considered to be in the sharp zone. However the multiple foreground objects remain clearly defined whilst the background and the objects therein and their edges lack precision and are softened through blurring. The crispness of the number eight was achieved by introducing this element in the photo editing process and with the use of layering and filters.

From a compositional perspective the cropped numeral eight, on the blurred grey hued background, dominates the frame and is located off centre towards the left frame edge. The five subsidiary elements are comprised of;

  • the two thin lines that extend across the image from bottom to top,
  • the six fragmented rectangles set one upon the other at the lower right frame edge,
  • the two square shapes – the one situated top right of the composition complemented by the other and found in the bottom left section and finally
  • the triangle descending from the top left frame edge.

The muted background monochrome hues have been accentuated during the photo-editing process through colour adjustment and the use of a Difference Layer. The editing modifications that have occurred have accentuated the crisp outlines and colouration of the foreground shapes making the overall composition sharp and strong.

The process of creating this image contains within itself a sense of creative irony in that though there is a degree of artistic control this image which is unrepeatable contained the seeds of its its own destiny.

There was no certainty with regard to the initial stage how the selected object would have been recorded even though the projected light source remained static. The process of creation, from the outset, was inherently unfixed and dynamic and the final outcome was similarly defined.

The staging of the composition reflects the influence of Cubist artists such as George Braque (1882-1963, French), Pablo Picasso (1881-1973, Spanish) and the American artist/photographer Man Ray (1890-1976)

“… colour acts simultaneously with form but has nothing to do with it …”

George Braque

The reasoning behind this work was to permit the image to act as an inspiration for a painting composition. However the image works as an independent piece its own right.  The figure eight acts as the pivot for the composition. The shapes appear to have been stencilled onto the surface. There is no concrete evidence to suggest that the number eight acts in some overt way as some kind of symbolic or subliminal gesture other than as part of the title of the image. The work is intrinsically a study of shapes within shapes and their fragmentationt in a narrative inspired by movement.

The image not only possess a provoking geometric asymmetry, a feeling of monumentality but also an exploded perspective which is accentuated by its broad spectrum of monochromatic shade and texture as well as its minimalist abstraction. A pleasing counterpoint is created through the use of contrasting light and dark areas as well as the varied textures employed. The viewer is drawn into a strange world  and has to search the image to truly perceive all its content.

“There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterwards you can remove all traces of reality. There’s no danger then, anyway, because the idea of the object will have left an indelible mark.”

Pablo Picasso

The image echoes the genre of photographic construction built up from multi-layers possessing no solid centre but is open to space. It contains a variety of solid shaped elements that seem to float around the dark coloured figure eight the focal point of the composition. The light background is more representational of the natural world. The monochromatic nature of the composition, the various shapes and contrasting textures  creates a sense of rhythmic cohesion.

The composition is a shallow arrangement of planes made up of mundane everyday materials, objects and processes.The pictorial element represents a conglomeration of fragmented forms devoid of volume. The image represents an aerial view of a shape-scape set within the framed edges an empty vista which permits the viewer see into and through it into to the background. The work is characterised, to a large extent, by its very indeterminacy.

As Surrealist poet Robert Desnos wrote in 1923, Man Ray

“… succeeded in creating landscapes which are foreign to our planet, revealing a chaos …” 

Speaking of Pablo Picassos Cubist work André Salmon stated

“ … delivered from painting and sculpture…[photography] … liberated from the imbecilic tyranny of genres.”

Reference List

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/265487

https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/1088?locale=en

http://www.theartstory.org/artist-braque-georges.htm