The field trip to LACMA left me more or less unsatisfied, if I am going to be completely honest. Though the collection covers a wide breadth of works and boasts a fabulous campus, I found that much of what I wanted to see was either unavailable or required an upgrade payment. Fortunately I was able to visit the Guillermo del Toro exhibit, even if it required a little bit of lying. After becoming a “NEXGEN” member of the museum, I was granted free access to this exhibit, which was truly unique. The del Toro exhibit is intriguing because it allows patrons to see not only del Toro’s work, but his inspiration and roots. However, other than this exhibit, I felt a little let down. Nonetheless, I made the most of the time and enjoyed the visit itself, as Museum Row is quite gorgeous and the weather was flawless.
For this post, I chose to focus on the painting Bathers (1913) by German artist Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. This work, which is a moderately sized oil canvas (34 1/2 x 39 5/16 in.), can be found on the second floor of the Ahmanson Building. Though I saw many works that exuded modernism, I chose this painting because I felt as though it pertained to some of the recent class discussions on Primitivism and Exoticism. Bathers was hung in a part of the gallery that had other similar works, ranging from Cubism to Expressionism to Abstraction. Because most of these movements unfurled in similar eras, this painting fit right in. Aspects of this painting—such as the colors, the harsh outlines, and sparse background—remind me of Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, a work that seems to border Cubism and Primitivism. The bathers themselves, who are nude and assumably in the wild, evoke a sense of primal life, as there is no indication of modern lifestyle within the canvas. It was actually pretty special to be able to view works in this gallery that we have studied in this class, as well as works that I had viewed in my two art courses over the course of this semester.
The proliferation of music, especially of Western Classical, has always been contingent on it’s ability to remain with in a set of complex strictures. The rules of Classical music are many, ranging from the maintenance of common tones in the common practice style to the often complex avoidance of harmonic parallelism. “Good” Classical music–that is, music deemed “good” by the Western bourgeois–has traditionally been music that obeys the elaborate musical code of laws. For the most part, these rules are blindly followed because they are the guiding force for perfectly tonal music. However, it is not until composers like Arnold Schoenberg hit the scene that the entire law-abiding musical institution seems to collapse into a heap of nonsense statutes and ordinances, falling back on collective horror as a method for combating such “anarchy” (Huneker, handout). Though considered a lawless wild man of the musical frontier, Schoenberg simply chose to write and experience music sans convention, which is arguably a more enlightening way to participate in artful noisemaking. Atonality, in this way, is incredibly ideal, as it allows composers and audiences alike to experience the raw capabilities of music in ways that seem to evoke primal, visceral responses. The rules of Western Classical, from this perspective, are suffocating, limiting, and rather conservative. By introducing and semi-popularizing atonality and pantonality (at least making them known), composers like Schoenberg take music back to it’s intense, and at times violent, roots. Whether or not this type of music can be consumed by the general, Western-centric public does not discredit it’s power and revolutionary sound.
Post-perusing the packets of Stein and Eliot poems, I was drawn to the poem Peeled Pencil, Choke, by Gertrude Stein. This exceptionally short work, which can be found on page seventeen of the Tender Buttons edition handed out in class, is comprised of three monosyllabic words: “Rub her coke.” Though this phrase sounds more like some sort of ambiguous command than a poem, the words themselves come with their own unique connotations, which is what captured my attention. After seeing this poem for the first time, this simple clause became locked in my mind, and I could not stop thinking of those words. Sometimes they seemed to blend together to me, almost like “rubber coke,” or some similar variation. However, when really thinking of the individual words in the sentence, the pairing of “rub” and “her” stand out as almost sexual in nature, though having the word “coke” follow the charged duo almost seems to dispel any sense of sensuality whatsoever. This unique juxtaposition is what brought me back to Peeled Pencil, Choke so many times.
After having read the 1918 Manifesto and looked at this painting, by Dada artist Francis Picabia, I have begun to develop a quasi-understanding of Dadaism as a movement and lifestyle. This schematic-esque painting, which is similar to other works done by the artist, depicts a mechanical amalgamation that appears to function as one cohesive machine, despite being comprised of mostly unidentifiable objects. The room in which this “machine” of sorts is placed is just as confusing; the converging lines don’t quite line up, giving the space a wonky perspective that provides a visual challenge, almost like that of an optical illusion, though far more subtle. The machine, which reminds one of a Rube Goldberg contraption, defies functionality, as it’s purpose is not clearly visible. The title of the piece—Love Parade—lends no hands in the matter, either.
Dadaism, like this work by Picabia, defies identification. And like many Dadaist artworks, the name doesn’t help in codification—Dada. What is someone supposed to gather from a name like that? However, this is exactly what Dadaism intends to portray, which is very obviously stated in the Manifesto: “DADA DOES NOT MEAN ANYTHING.” Within the 1918 Manifesto, Tzara argues that this world is too vast to be comprehended and nominated. Therefore, my derived impression is that Dadaism is all about transcending petty classification and simply creating and expressing.
Both during and after the visit to Special Collections, I found myself repeatedly drawn to the elaborate, complex, and geometrical manuscripts of George Crumb’s Makrokosmos I & II. These pieces, written for amplified piano, are, in their own right, gorgeous pieces of musical art, though they present a massive visual challenge to any prospective performer. For this post, I selected two pieces of the manuscript: part one of Makrokosmos, Volume I, and The Magic Circle of Infinity.
I chose to include this portion of Makrokosmos in order to best show Crumb’s stunning manuscript independent of his concrete works. Despite being a fairly regular physical size, the sheer size of the grand stavesand notation is staggering; the manuscript often features single parts involving three staves in which two overlap to voice the bass and the independent third staff voices the right hand. In terms of technicality, the piece certainly does not pull any punches—septuplet 64th notes, trills, and dectuplet moving lines glare from the page, as if to say “I dare you.”
I also chose to include the circular manuscript, The Magic Circle of Infinity,
because it epitomizes the remarkable work of Crumb (as well as corresponds to my astrological sign). As a composer, Crumb very much wanted to challenge typical conventions of linear part writing, giving the musician something new to focus on, something to alter their viewpoint. Since sheet music is infrequently seen by audience members or listeners, Makrokosmos is almost entirely directed towards the performer, as it is up to them to decipher the ornate and mind-bending manuscript.
In reacting to this painting, what stood out to most was the general lack of color variety within the canvas. The painting, which features almost exclusively warm neutrals based in red pigment, depicts a seated Gertrude Stein draped in what seems to be heavy clothing—an engulfing coat of some sort with what appears to be a dress or blouse underneath—staring into the distance with her hands relaxing in her lap. The background provides close to no context, as it is merely a wash of color with some semblance of an implied pattern near the right. Due to the color scheme as well as the date provided, it is apparent that this work is from what is referred to as Picasso’s “Rose Period.” However, with this work being created at the very end of the period, it almost foreshadows the impending Cubist era that was in the near future for the artist. In comparing this painting to Picasso’s masterpiece of the following year, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, there is a clear repetition of facial structure/features between Stein and the two central women of Les Demoiselles. It could even be inferred that, due to the similarities in the noses, eyes, and eyebrows, Stein, or her portrait, may have served as inspiration for one or more of the women in the 1907 Cubist work. The portrait of Stein still maintains certain aspects of Impressionist, as she is surrounded by—and partially comprised of—visible brush strokes and unblended colors. Despite this, there is a clear departure from the need to create an impression of the surroundings, as the face of Stein is rather well rendered with appropriate value.
This painting, by Gustave Caillebotte, features a fair amount of realism while retaining stylistic qualities of Impressionism. Though not glaringly obvious, there are areas of the painting that have noticeable brush strokes: the shadow of the lamp post, the facade of the orange edifice on the far right, the shading on the cobblestone tiles. This not only keeps with the style of Impressionism, but helps to create the illusion of wet pavement/cobblestone. Since this painting is intended to depict a rainy day, the painter chose to use muted tones, painting within similar color families throughout the whole canvas. Pale neutrals and blues dominate the scene, with occasional pops of orange and green. The colors smartly portray a rainy day, mimicking the way the overcast sky alters the way light is perceived. Due to the subtle peachiness of the sky, it almost looks as though Caillebotte was attempting to show that there was sunlight behind the clouds. In terms of composition, the painting is rather simply structured and easy to follow. However, the image is bisected by the green lamp post and its shadow, which gives the illusion that the work is a diptych, which, in a way, removes the foreground subjects from those of the middle and background. By choosing to “divide” the image, the artist is seemingly highlighting the commonality of the foreground subjects, which is not unlike other work done by Caillebotte, who created common urban and household scenes with hints of realism (see also: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/af/G._Caillebotte_-_Jeune_homme_à_la_fenêtre.jpg). Overall, this work captures the essence of a rainy day on Paris Street because it accurately depicts the way light appears through clouds as well as features very commonplace subject matter.