Although I spent most of my time in the Japanese Art Pavilion due to its reflective and calming atmosphere, the work that I connected with most in regards to our class was Metropolis II by Chris Burden. The work is a kinetic sculpture depicting a scaled, fast-paced modern city with miniature cars, 18 roadways, buildings, and trains. His idea is that “The noise, the continuous flow of the trains, and the speeding toy cars produce in the a viewer the stress of livening in a… 21st century city”. I always believe that the best pieces of art (in whatever medium) are those that evoke real life emotions. I find this piece to be associated with the Expressionist movement, due to its ability to evoke a real emotional experience. Although Expressionism is meant not to capture the external world, I feel that this piece is a very dramatic version of our own world, cars do not really speed at the 240 scaled miles per hour, freeways are not that closely interwoven, especially around buildings, and there isn’t 100k cars so close together in real life. However, being in the room and actually viewing the object for yourself is necessary because in just a picture of the piece you cannot hear the cars, your eyes cant race in an attempt to follow just one car, and you do not feel bigger than life from an image. Being in that room sincerely evoked a sense of stress and angst from my heart and mind due to the loud noises, cramped room, and the always-prevalent thought of “what if a car flips off the edge or causes a crash?” In the same gallery, oddly juxtaposed with Metropolis II, a piece making you feel like a Giant, is a piece in the next room that was a large mountain, Grand Canyon-esque steel construction which made the viewer feel insignificantly small and surrounded. Both pieces fill the observer with a sense of angst.
Schoenberg’s music, although very unique and experimental, has some elements in Impressionism and Early Abstraction. Impressionist music is created so that clear structure is subordinate to harmonic effects. Schoenberg’s pieces lack traditional form for the sake of the beauty in atonality. Early Abstraction has no clear representation – Schoenberg’s music does not reflect the poems by Giraud and the only representation is through the lyrics. Giraud’s Pierrot Lunaire is light and comedic while Schoenberg’s presentation of the poem evokes a heavy sense of anxiety and a confused mental state. The music is very disconnected from the poem, for example, one of the stories is about Pierrot playing the viola and although there is a viola in Schoenberg’s ensemble, it is scarcely (if at all) used in that piece. I believe it is fair to call his work “expressionist” because it truly does bring out the inner mental state (usually angst – I feel a lot of angst listening to the music) and seeks that initial reaction from the listeners in the audience due to the lack of connection to the stories. Atonality’s appeal, in my opinion, seems to be that it is experimental, new, and different. There may be a beauty to it, yet most listeners ears are trained and accustom to Western music’s form.
p 57 of the Eliot packet…
The Hollow Men (1925) by T.S. Eliot seems to be a very spacey and ambiguous comment on the human condition. The first two lines of the poem are epigraphs: “Mistah Kurtz – he dead” and “A penny for the Old Guy”. Since I am familiar with only the first: Eliot chose Kurtz due to the fact that he is a “hollow” being, representing the empty nature of man, consumed by the brutishness of the jungle.
The first stanza begins with “We are the hollow men, / We are the stuffed men.”. Although this a contradiction, we learned that they are stuffed with straw, an insignificant filler absent any real worth. Specifically the head is stuffed with straw, representing the mind being filled with absurd ideas and thoughts. They lean together and their “dried voices” whisper together, showing the conformity of man, and if everyone acts the same then there is no uniqueness or free spirit.
In part IV it begins by saying the hollow men have “no eyes here”, showing a lack of hope – of soullessness. However, in the next stanza, there is hope in the eyes “reappear[ing]/as a perpetual star” – and that is the only hope.
In conclusion, Eliot is describing the hopeless men, who are empty and lacking anything real in almost a dazed depression. Only until there is only a hint of hope to strive for, the hollow men conform together in a meaningless existence.
In Advance of the Broken Arm (1915) simply is an average shovel – a readymade item absent any modifications by the artist, yet by Dada standards it is art. This shovel is the quintessential piece of Dada art because it defies every aspect of bourgeois art. The shovel has no artistic effort, there is nothing different about the piece from any ordinary shovel, and it means nothing. Perhaps the only artistic aspect of the shovel is the title, which foresees a future of a broken shaft. This portrayal of art completely undermines the effort and skill of practically any other art movement we have studied, or the bourgeoisie had encountered at the time, causing anger and resentment. However, this is exactly what a Dada artist would want to occur – to force people to question the role of the artist, the purpose of art, and the artistic norms of the time. I find no contradiction between this art piece and the Dada manifesto which supports “nothingness” as art, which is exactly what this piece is. Although I am all for rebelling against societal norms through artistic means, finding admiration in similar pioneers such as Jim Morrison, yet the Dada movement to means seems pointless and simply created to seek attention through chaos, stress, and vexation.
The object I found most interesting in Special Collections was the first edition of Dubliners by James Joyce, published in 1914. This attraction is mostly due to my natural affinity for first-edition anything – when I buy records I prefer first-editions, not necessarily to play, but rather to transport me back into that time period as something my parents or the artist would own, advancing my appreciation for the music. A major component of my senior-year English class was based around Dubliners, in which several stories intrigued me due to Joyce’s writing style. Reading from a book with a cover elaborately decorated and with a few illustrations scattered here and there, it was quite interesting to see such a simple first edition, with a plain red cover and a simple “Dubliners” written at the top in gold lettering. With such a simple edition, I could see the images Joyce was attempting to provoke in his stories being solely up to the reader’s imagination, rather than supplementing it with illustration as in later editions. As with the example of the records, holding this first-edition gave off a very heavy feeling and brought me back to 1914, establishing a stronger connection to Joyce’s masterpiece.
When looking at Boy with Pipe (1905), my mind immediately pictures (although this is 55 years earlier) walking into a tent made of Arabian-style fabric to find a young boy filling the space with hash smoke from his pipe in the flower-child 60’s. Beyond that personal image, my immediate reaction is Picasso’s step away from the stylistic norm of painting portraits: the boy body is cut off by the bottom of the canvas in a peculiar location, the symmetry of his face is far from perfect, and his angelic wings and crown are made of flowers. This painting is at the beginning of Picasso’s “Rose Period” (1905-6), which is very clearly expressed through the floral headband and wings as well as the background color. Upon closer inspection I notice the pipe is awkwardly being held, the color green is used as a shadow on the boy’s outfit, and there seems to be something cutoff at the top of the canvas. Much like the impressionists, Picasso’s brushstrokes are clearly visible in the background of the painting. His use of light, although dull, is still expressed through green on the boy’s sleeve and the shadow on his face so there isn’t an absence of light, just a different perception than that of impressionists.
Armand Guillaumin’s Sunset at Ivry (1873), depicts a simple image of the sun setting behind a distant city. Closely associated with the Impressionist movement, Guillaumin chose to paint the sunset at a peculiar angle: the actual fading sun is eclipsed by two tall and dark trees. It was very uncommon for impressionist painters to use black in their color scheme, yet they did intend on perfecting the different shades of light within a setting. The painting is mainly composed of short brushstrokes that fade into one another, especially visible in the upper part of the sky. His transition from blue to green to orange and to dark orange creates the illusion of a passage of time – another form of movement. Physical movement is effectively expressed in the smoke rising from the smokestacks in the distant city, flowing against the direction of the sun. Perhaps this was intended to present the conflict between nature and industrialism at the time.