Totem, the painting on canvas by Adolph is a perfect example of the concept of primitivism. Adolph Gottlieb was an America artist who painted this totem in 1947. The over simplified figures in the boxes of this canvas represent the western way of thinking about African art. Many westerners had distorted views of Eastern art. Westerners view eastern art as primitive because it is more simple than the art that they are used to seeing. This idea of our art being more sophisticated than eastern art is entirely untrue. The sense of cultural superiority that western cultures have over eastern cultures comes from the fundamental difference in art. The art from the east is simple compared to the art in the west, This was not because the eastern artists were unable to make paintings as detailed as those in the west but because they did not want to. If we look into the past we see examples of art from Nigeria that are beautifully crafted and very realistic. This proves that eastern artists are fully able to create realistic art that is thought of as so western, they just chose not to. The sense of superiority that the west feels over the east manifests itself in ways other than just art. One of the reasons that the west found eastern art more barbaric may have been because the first encounters they had with eastern art was during colonization. Colonization was an attempt to westernize the nonwestern world. Many of these western cultures who colonized eastern countries and found there art already had a sense of cultural superiority as they were imposing their western culture upon others. Those who first discovered eastern art found art in a place that had to be helped by western powers because they are more primitive. This misconception happens all too frequently in art. Pieces that are simply painted are not always that way because a culture is less advanced, it is because that is how the artists choose to depict their art.
Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire looked to explorer the relationship between various tones. Schoenberg loves the blatant, almost brutal dissonance his song produces because it explorers a part of music not previously seen before. A member of the audience described the performance as “enharmonies that almost made the ears bleed, the eyes water, the scalp to freeze.” The audience as a whole disapproved this work. The atonality of this work leads to the general distain of this work by the Berlin public. This exploration of sound is similar to the art of Kazimir Malevich and various abstract painters. Kazimir Malevich’s White on White is a painting that is two white squares; the purpose of this painting is to explore how different colors interact with each other. While Malevich explores the way that different colors affect each other, Schoenberg explorers the way that different tones sound when put together. Schoenberg and composers who also explored with this dissonant music seemed to be searching for “the borderland between pain and pleasure,” which had not previously been explored. Although sporadically dissonant, Schoenberg looked to expand the way people listened to and created music. And although Schoenberg’s music is not what the future held as was believed by many critics. His music had a profound impact on music.
Aunt Helen, by T. S. Eliot, describes the death of Eliot’s Aunt Helen. Eliot describes the “silence at the end of her street.” Which refers to the emptiness that people felt without Miss Helen Slingsby. Eliot then tells the readers that the people of the town overcame Miss Slingsby’s death. Eliot makes the reference of time passing possibly to explain how people moved on after Miss Singsby’s death. We see the passage of time in “The Dresden clock continued ticking on the mantelpiece.” This implies that although the town initially felt empty without Helen Singsby, eventually as time passes, people begin to move on. Eliot tells how his aunt has four housemaids. Eliot expresses people’s ability to forget about Helen by describing a sexual act between two of Miss Slingsby’s housemaids. The footman is described “Holding the second housemaid on his knee,” while “the shutters were drawn.” Eliot uses this potentially to express the sadness he felt about the death of his Aunt. It’s possible that when his Aunt first died, Eliot felt a crippling loneliness. But as time passed, his Aunt became a figment of his memory.
Marcel Duchamp creates this work of art by drawing a mustache and goatee on a copy of the Mona Lisa. He also adds the letters L H O O and Q to the bottom of this copy. The letters on the bottom of this piece suggest that the Mona Lisa is “Hot in the arse.” This mocks, and makes sexual one of the most important works of art in history. Duchamp does this to mock the idea of “High art.” Many of the Dada artists, including Marcel Duchamp rejected the idea of high art. Duchamp didn’t like the idea that not all art is considered high art. High art is considered elevated and more beautiful and profound than the art that the artists in the Dada movement created. Duchamp looked to challenge the idea of what high art is. He believed that the art he created, no matter what it is should be high art. Many artists of the Dada movement used basic, or simplistic everyday objects to convey profound social and political messages. These artists looked to elevate their art form using basic materials to transcend their art into a high art form. By mocking the Mona Lisa, Duchamp shows the audience that the art that he and other Dada artists create are just as important as these classical pieces such as the Mona Lisa.
The etching is one of many in a book of etchings. The etching: Gray Black…San Bernardino Mountains is the 12th etching in the book. The etching reflects the artistic influence of much of the turn of the century art movements: etchings. Initially etchings were used for artists to distribute their message because of the minimal costs associated with mass-producing etchings. Eventually, etchings, such as the ones found in this book became high art praised in the art world. The artist uses wood block prints, which is only produced in black, white and grey. The contrast between the light and dark causes a dramatic etching of the tranquil wilderness. The dark trees in the middle of the etching sit on the white hill, creating a stark color contrast that pops off the page. The book was created to display this tremendous collection of etchings. These etchings are all off beautiful natural scenes through California with highlights in Big Sur and the San Bernardino mountains. Being able to visit special collections at Oxy was fantastic because I was able to truly see the beauty of these etchings. Often time’s photos do not do the actual piece of art justice. Being able to see the etchings in person allowed me to fully appreciate the contrast of colors on the page
Created in 1937, Picasso’s painting Guernica was created in protest to the bombing of Guernica by Nazi Germany at the command of the Spanish government as a part of a civil war. Picasso shows the death and suffering caused by the bombing in this work. The human figures are seen suffering immensely and the bodies are contorted and abstract. The pair of people on the leftmost side, at the feet of the bull embodies this. The woman holds the body of a dead man. Picasso shows the woman with a long, mutilated neck and open mouth as if she is shrieking in grief because of the death of a loved one. Picasso uses black, white, and grey in various chaotic patterns. This was done in order to display the chaos that the citizens in Guernica faced. Picasso uses overly dramatic contrast of black and white. In the background there are flaming buildings and broken walls displaying the chaos that was caused by a civil war. The gigantic light bulb in the room represents the sun as it illuminates the terrible scene facing Guernica. The person on the far right of the painting seems to be tormented, showing the world the agonizing conditions that the people of Spain had to live through during the civil war.
Edgar Degas’ painting L’absinthe shows a French couple abusing the alcoholic beverage absinthe. The over consumption of pure absinthe can cause dramatic hallucinations. Degas is able to capture the subject’s detachment from reality caused by absinthe in his painting style. Degas used harsh brush strokes to depict the harsh realities that people who abused absinthe faced. The man on the right side of the painting is shown in a pale, almost sickly color, which represents the negative effects, that absinthe has on the human body. Similarly, the woman in the painting is shown with tired, drooping eyes and a look that suggests complete detachment from reality. The hallucinations caused by the misuse of absinthe are responsible for the disjointed look on the woman’s face. The lonely pair seems to come to the bar to escape loneliness. Degas painted the absinthe in the painting in a putrid, repulsive color. The shadows that the couple makes on the wall create a stark contrast with the white wallpaper. Degas sets the characters in the painting off center, with a huge foreground. Degas, as well as many of the impressionists drew inspiration from Japanese woodblock prints. The flatness seen in Degas’ painting comes directly from the woodblock prints.