The painting above is titled “Untitled Improvisation III”, by Wassily Kandinsky. We looked at the painting in class when we were discussing abstractionism. In person, while I don’t remember the experience perfectly because it was a few days ago, it is interesting. It is an unusual feeling seeing something in person that is well known, which is a common opinion. I remember the frame was interesting. It was white, had a border, then a recessed part between the border and the painting, making it 3 dimensional almost. Compared to other works in the gallery, it was separate. A lot of the art was either featuring realistic things, or realistic, but this is abstraction, so it stood out, not being about anything realistic. It relates to our class because it is modernist, and was “new” because it was not realistic, as we learned. It was in a room of mostly paintings, but with a few sculptures in the center. On the wall, it looks interesting, because it is so abstract, but is on the wall like another realistic painting. It is like a series of paintings I saw in my hometown, Santa Cruz, where there were paintings in the style of Renaissance paintings, but with current subjects, like a person in a hoodie.
Schoenberg’s piece about Pierrot playing viola seems to fit well. The poem is comical almost, we were laughing about it in class, but it also seems to be about someone who is paranoid, and the music sounds paranoid. Pierrot ends by “playing the bow,” (Giraud) “on Cassander’s pate,’’ (Giraud), when he was perhaps self-conscious about his “oversized bow for his viola,” (Giraud). The music sounds self-conscious. The music does not sound comical though, except for maybe the faces the singer makes, which are a bit weird.
The piece about Pierrot and the moon is also comical, as we laughed about it too in class, because it is about a man who does not know that “the light on his… coat,” (Giraud) is not “plaster,” (Giraud, conversation in class for what the poem was about). Someone like this is paranoid, and the music conveys this feeling of paranoia like the other piece.
Overall, Schoenberg seemed to accurately portray the paranoid Pierrot in the poems. The paranoia in the music seems to be accurate of how Pierrot is self conscious.
I remember when we listened to one of the pieces in class, the cellist “plucks some of the strings” (Giraud, in class talk about pizzicato, the YouTube video of the poem) instead of using the bow, which made me laugh.
This poem has a nice image of an independent woman apparently going somewhere. The confusion or almost disapproval of Nancy by her aunts implies that Nancy is a bit like “Anne of Green Gables”, doing things that were weird, or in this poem “modern”. I watched the miniseries in middle school, and the setting in the poem reminded me of it. I imagine New England green, likely because much of the miniseries of “AoGG” is green.
The last stanza of the poem is odd. It seems about something different. It mentions two men, and describes them as “The army of unalterable law”. It is possible that the two men are somehow associated with the aunts who are looking at Nancy.
I do not really understand why it says Nancy “broke them (the hills)”. It seems like an odd word to use to describe Nancy and the hills.
“Bicycle Wheel” (1913) is a sculpture by Marcel Duchamp of a bike wheel mounted through a stool (Johnson). It looks unnatural, and silly, but that is exactly what dada seems to be about. It doesn’t matter if it seems silly, because it “does not mean anything” (Manifesto, 1918). The idea of a bike wheel and a chair being in the same piece of art could be analyzed to mean something about how bikes are really just mobile chairs, but that isn’t the purpose. Again, it “does not mean anything” (Manifesto). The Manifesto was descriptive of many ideas of dadaism, but overall it seemed to describe dadaism as attempting to “fight the system”, and “question everything”, both vague ideas. The “nihilist” way of thinking that we learned about in class is present, and seems to not be able to find happiness in some current ways of life, like the criticism of “logic” and “morals” (11-12). I understand how dada sometimes came from WWI, “and after life was considered meaningless” (paraphrase from All Quiet on the Western Front), as I learned from All Quiet on the Western Front, and like we discussed in class, so “taking limits away from art in dada”, as two of my high school teachers told me, makes sense. According to Wikipedia, Tzara was not in the war, but “opposed it”.
“In the back of the real” by Allen Ginsberg is a short poem of three stanzas and 24 lines, 25 including the title as a line. The book it is a part of, Howl, was written in 1955 (Wikipedia). Given the context it was written in, 1950s America (indicated by San Jose as a location in the poem), an industrial period of American history, the subject makes sense. The subject is “A flower”, and it is called the “flower of industry”, described as a “tough spikey ugly flower”. This could be a criticism of America’s increasing consumerism, or greed of businesses.
In terms of place, assuming the “railroad yard in San Jose” is referring to San Jose, CA, I can imagine the setting described. I see a hot train station, likely a combination of my experiences of train stations from various places, and my past of the heat of the South Bay Area. I can see a dead flower on the ground. However, the poem flower seems to be merely an “ugly flower”, that wants to be something better: “with the form of the great yellow Rose in your brain!”, which again, seems to show a feeling of disdain for American consumerism or business.
Sources: After finding info I was looking for on the publication date of Howl on Google, it listed the wikipedia page on Howl as the source. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howl
“Portrait of Ambroise Vollard” (1910) is a painting by Pablo Picasso from Picasso’s Analytic Cubism period (lecture). I noticed how the forehead of the person in the painting seems long, like a gorilla’s. The person’s head also seems to be outlined in white, which might mean they have white hair. I looked at it a bit closer, and I noticed how there seems to be an outline of a jacket on the right side, and maybe a shirt in the middle indicating that the person in the painting is wearing a suit. The person’s face seems neutral, not really emotional. Compared to the impressionists, Picasso’s painting seems similarly “messy”, like the negative review about impressionism claiming how it was just “…dirtying three-quarters of a canvas,” (Emile Cardon). However, I do not dislike the “messiness”, but rather noticed how it appears “messy” like an impressionist’s painting. It also seems to be unnatural in color in certain areas which is another similarity to impressionism, or at least to the definition that we learned, like the person’s face is unnaturally red on one side, but implies how Picasso was “analyzing,” (use of period name) the person’s face, or how the chin is a purple red. (Note: Professor Johnson drew attention to the chin in the lecture, which influenced the last sentence.)
“The Woods at Marly” by Camille Pissarro shows a scene on a path in a forest. Pissarro uses mostly greens, yellows, and brownish reds, which convey a fall setting. The leaves are not green, but yellow, the path has dead brown leaves on it. The workers in the painting seem to be collecting wood, as one seems to be holding a bundle of logs or sticks. The painting itself makes you feel surrounded, and enclosed, despite being outside, because the trees connect above you. It doesn’t feel warm, but it’s not too cold, which you can tell from the clothing the workers are wearing, which isn’t too heavy. The painting has a lot of depth to it, because the trees feel layered, covering things behind them.
The workers appear to not be men, although this is not definite. The path is painted at an angle, or the path curves, which makes it feel like there is more forest on the right than the left. The path is dead, but the sides of the path show a less dead color, which means that the path is walked on a lot, it reminds me of “The Road Less Traveled” by Robert Frost.