I found my visit to the LACMA to be really fun and interesting to see different art pieces. My friends and I spent our time in the Ahmanson building in the Modern and Expressionist art exhibits. I saw a lot of Picassos and Pissarros, and I think the museum had a good diversity of artwork that I have never seen before. The work I saw that I felt connected with what we have learned in class was “Men and Women” (1969) by Pablo Picasso. Even though this work was done in a later period than what we’ve talked about in class this art piece still stays true to the Cubist principles we’ve talked about. The painting depicts a man and woman contrasted in white and black, and the painting semi-overtly shows the man penetrating the woman. Besides the sexual subject matter, the figures are still distorted as if seen from multiple perspectives. However, Picasso uses a lot of color in this painting opposed to earlier Cubist painting in which expression though color was avoided. The painting style looks more abstract than Cubist, but the underlying techniques still remain, as the painting is still ambiguously fragmented and over exaggerated. The LACMA had the biggest collection of Picasso paintings I’ve ever seen before, so it was interesting to see his creative process and how his art changed over time, especially after learning about him in class. “Men and Women” was displayed alongside the rest of the Picasso paintings, and the me that highlighted its difference in style compared to the other pieces due to his use of color and the way it was painted with heavy brushstrokes. This painting was also much larger than the other Cubist paintings so the eye was immediately drawn to it. Although this painting shows clearly a difference in Picasso’s painting style, the sexual subject matter and fragmented perspectives are very much in the conventional Picasso style. Going to the LACMA was a great experience in relation to the class because it allowed me to visualize the art we talk about in person, and having learned about the kinds of artwork I was looking at made it all the more interesting.
Albert Schoenberg’s musical score of Pierrot Lunaire executes music in a completely different way than other expressionist artists at the time. Compared to “impressionist” Claude Debussy, who although composed music made of dissonant and unexpected pitches managed to create sounds that are pleasing to the ear, Schoenberg abandons all notions of tonality in his atonal scores, and instead creates music that many find hard to listen to let alone understand. Debussy played with form and conventional harmonies, creating music that failed to completely resolve, however Schoenberg’s music has no structure, harmony, or tone that unites the music into a composed work. Franz Kafka, who was unintentionally affiliated with the expressionists due to themes of extreme states of feeling, wrote literature that has been described as “dissonant” in its disillusion with the physical world and its skepticism in the expression of extreme emotion. One can see similar themes in Schoenberg’s dissonant music, which rejects the emotion expressed through Giraud’s texts from which it is based. While Giraud’s poetry describes humorous situations of Pierrot the clown and mocks his misfortune, Schoenberg’s musical score feels increasingly over-exaggerated and sounds almost frightening to the ear. Schoenberg’s disregard to the emotion previously expressed in the text shows his rejection of artistic conventions and seeks to express emotion in its rawest, most unhinged form. In this sense, Schoenberg can be described as “expressionist” in his compositions because his music expresses the raw inner angst of art and focuses more on the expression shown through the way the music sounds over how pleasing it is. Atonality probably appealed to many composers like Schoenberg because it allowed them to experiment more with emotional states and inner expression over having to appeal to a mass audience, and in a sense atonality seems to free music and make it more about the individual than the audience to which it serves.
Like most of her poems, Gertrude Stein’s poem “A Red Stamp” featured in Tender Buttons (1914) is hard to grasp on first read, and even harder to grasp on the second. Steins poems change the traditional construction of poems so much that most of the time they are beyond conventional comprehension, “A Red Stamp” being no exception. The first confusing thing about this poem is that it has no mention of a Red Stamp anywhere in its content. It is almost as if Stein just sees an object lying close to her, then creates a poem based off of her train of thought at the time of seeing the object. Stein is known for the concept of “automatic writing,” in which one creates poems letting their mind and hand become one being instead of fully thinking out what is being written. This practice makes it so her poem is more a string of words that allow for little to no interpretation because it is already fully deconstructed. The poem seems to be posing a question, however nothing is really asked of the reader, leaving them confused and unsure of what they have just read. The second confusing aspect to her poem is the repetition of words and sounds such as “if” and “dust.” She strings similar sounding words together to create some sort of meaning, but together the words are hard to process: “…and even dust, if they dusty will dirt a surface that has no extreme grace…” (6). The way Stein uses repetition creates almost a hypnotic aspect to her poem, as if I was reading a spell or an enchantment. She uses diction that actually is quite lovely sound, there are a lot of “s” sounds that helps the poem flow like a hiss, however there is a sharp ending with the “ca” sound of “catalog.” Reading Steins poems is almost like reading into the human mind, and trying to understand the working of human thought. I think to attain pleasure from Stein’s poems one takes them on face value and move on. Poems like this are not up to interpretation because they simply are what they are, and since Stein focuses on sound more than sense, letting the poems stand alone is the most feasible way of making sense of them. Steins readers most likely did not know much about her or her poems, so this style of poetry could easily catch someone off guard. Yet I believe, even though her poems are more confusing than anything else, they do have creative merit through her way of writing them and letting her mind take the wheel.
Tender Buttons (1914) p. 6
I think Kurt Schwitter’s musical performance “Usonate” (1922) is a prime example of the Dadaist philosophy and applying this philosophy to multiple artistic mediums. This sound-poetry looks and sounds like utter nonsense, but none-the-less it achieves the Dadaist idea of creating something that means nothing, yet still contradicts itself by creating nothing that means something. Something that interests me about Dada is how it requires no explanation, yet the artists put effort into creating detailed, often convoluted, explanations that do nothing more than add to the ambiguity of their art pieces. In Tristan Tzara’s 1918 Dada Manifesto, he enforces a belief that criticism is useless and that rational explanation does not apply to Dadaist art. Even though he states that evaluating these art pieces will not amount to anything, he inadvertently encourages criticism as a way of calling attention to the meaninglessness of their artwork. Likewise, Schwitter states that he will only accept criticism from those who truly put work into understanding his poetry, however it is impossible to pin down a certain meaning or universal conclusion to what his work means. When listening to “Usonate” there is no rhythm, no music, no melody, only nonsensical vocals that convey a sense of confidence and assurance that conflicts with its sheer ridiculousness. This sort of sound-poetry, in addition to its detailed explanation, begs for the criticism that Dadaism disregards. By creating an eternal cycle of contradiction, Dadaism allows itself to be eternally questioned by the public, while maintaining a belief in NOTHING. For me, Dada is not as much an art movement as it is a philosophical way of looking at the world and human nature. If everything amounts to nothing in the end, one has a sense of freedom that extends beyond that of art and applies to how one lives their life in relation to conventional outlooks on what is rational thinking.
The object that I found to be the most interesting in Special Collections was the Fantasia book by Deems Taylor from 1940. As one of the earliest Walt Disney films, Fantasia is still revered by many to be an outstanding example of early 2D animation cinema, and as one of the first movies to combine classical music with artistic animation, it still remains significant in media arts culture. Although Fantasia flopped at the time and caused Walt Disney Studios to lose a lot of money, Fantasia is now a Disney classic and stands out through its unique usage of animated characters to tell stories of the music that it was inspired by. The book itself is quite big, hardcover with fabric binding in black and white print. Interestingly enough, however, colored renderings of Fantasia concept art have been pasted in over the black and white lithography that give a new dimension to the illustrations of the book and draw the reader into the story. Musical scores of the corresponding scenes flow through the book so that one can visually understand the way the music and the artwork work together to create a modern cinematic experience for the time. If I had not seen the object in person, I would not have known that the colored images were pasted in nor have been able to feel how thick the pages were. I found this book particularly interesting to look at because, as an aspiring Disney artist, I draw a lot of inspiration from the Golden Age of Disney and the original conceptual artwork that focuses more on animation as an art form and not a money pit. Understanding the work put into making this book and seeing the original concept art is a great experience and I feel a greater appreciation for Fantasia after viewing the book in person.
Pablo Picasso’s famous painting “Guernica” (1937) uses a palette of black, grey, and white to depict the violence resulting from the bombing of Guernica, Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Looking at this painting, one can discern people dead or dying, along with expressions of horror and multiple sources of light. This was painted during Picasso’s surrealist period, in which the compositions of his painting become increasingly dream-like and he begins to incorporate social issues of the time into his artwork. At first glance, it is hard to understand what is going on in “Guernica.” Every part of the canvas has something going on; floating faces, wailing people, cows, horses, and limbs strewn about. Even though it is hard to fit these pieces of suffering together, I can understand the pain and anguish Picasso is trying to express using this method of painting. The chaotic composition stays true to how the actual bombings affected people in Spain, and I think the painting does a very good job of showing the pain people endured and allowing the viewer to sympathize with this horrifying event. I think the palette Picasso used also makes the suffering in the painting clear, as these colors distinctly stand out and contrast with each other invoking a sense of turmoil and loss. The colors also differ greatly from impressionism, which concentrated mainly on using multiple bright colors to convey a certain mood. Picasso also creates a mood with his colors, but these colors are much more concentrated and less care-free than those of impressionism. Moreover, while Impressionist art tries to capture a single moment almost like a photograph, Picasso captures multiple moments and scenes of death and destruction and piles them into one huge canvas, so the jagged angles and piles on bodies each hold their own stories and points of view like those who died in Guernica. I find this painting to be greatly upsetting, which means that Picasso did his job well in trying to incite social change, and I think “Guernica” captures the powerful images you can express in art using any style, because by invoking a particular mood one can create an art piece that transcends style and affect people beyond the realm of art.
This painting by Camille Pissarro titled “The Woods at Marly” depicts a scene of fall harvest in a small, colorful wood. This painting is dominated by elements of nature, including trees, leaves, bushes, and dirt, which contrast the small unidentifiable people walking amongst the trees. I’ve always liked impressionist art over other modern art forms because I feel like it creates a balance between classic work and modern work. “The Woods at Marly” is no exception to the fleeting beauty conveyed in impressionist work, but the portrayal of a fall forest transcends what impressionism is to me. The color-blending and hasty brush marks of the painting stay true to the impressionist outlook on painting, but I think it carries some attention to detail that is often overlooked in art of it’s kind. Since impressionism is supposed to capture “the impression” of a situation, I think Pissarro’s piece turns the commonplace fall harvest into a scene of idyllic serenity and nostalgia that is hard to understand in the Old Master’s artwork. Even the way the trees frame the pathway drawing the viewer’s eye through the canvas towards the bright green of the outer forest creates a sense of artistic depth in which one can travel through the painting’s subject into its core, which I think is what impressionist painters want the viewer to experience. Although the impressionist artwork was seen as a silly way of painting in its time, compared to the previous works of art the way feeling can be brought through, even in something as simple as some trees, is far more developed than any biblical masterpiece. I also enjoy how the short, irregular brushstrokes stay true to the multitude of leaf shapes one sees in real life, and how the colors blend together yet stand out so distinctly when one is up close to the painting. These elements give a more realistic impression onto the painting than any old masterpiece does, as wanting to create an image as accurately as possible does not express the gestures and idiosyncrasies that come from emotion over substance. I appreciate this painting all the more in the way that it creates a lasting impression in my mind, which I think captures the essence of the impressionistic goal.