Thursday, August 4, 2011

How Creation Happens, Cont'd

In the last post, I asked you to examine the following painting, My Father, the Bishop, by Edward L. Loper, Sr. Your responses indicated you did not find this a difficult process.

Edward L. Loper, Sr., My Father, the Bishop, 1975,

Oil on canvas, 48 x 36 inches, University of Delaware Collection
All of you described the subject facts as a black minister preaching in a pulpit surrounded by organ pipes, a stained glass window, and a floral piece.  The figure, set in relatively shallow space, has one arm leaning on a pulpit, the hand clutching the pages of a book, presumably the Bible.

The other arm points toward the upper left of the canvas. 
These two details reveal glowing colors organized into loosely applied, geometric shapes fractured into facets that express power, drama, and dynamic movement.

The total composition orchestrates two triangular units and three horizontal bands (see below):

The central, pyramidal unit provides stability for the slanted, leaning figure, while the upraised arm establishes an opposing cross and unsettles this balance.  The three parallel bands further stabilize this seeming unbalance.

Loper’s figure, while appearing massive, derives this massiveness from the Titian-like smallness of the head in contrast to the body.
Titian, Pietro Aretino, Oil on canvas, c. 1545, Galleria Palatina
But the power in the Loper does not derive, as it does in the Titian, from the figure’s bigness, solidity, structural color, and spatial depth, but rather from the dramatic sweep of contrasting intersecting angles and the animation of the geometric color units.

More like a karate performance than a ballet, Loper’s color units push and pull through the central volumes.  The triangular points of the organ pipes, massed like an army of pencils, lead to the figure.  A series of triangular bends lead to the elongated, pointed finger that, in effect, becomes another triangular unit, or an inverted organ pipe.  Each in and out movement down that arm and sleeve becomes a series of varied angular shapes, accelerating the beat of color units through the body to the pulpit and book. 

Within this secondary triangular unit, the clawed hand and bulging sleeve resemble a mound of poured cement, thick, weighty, and projecting forward, balancing the slanted figure with its small but densely solid head. 

That clawed and gnarled hand, derived from Goya’s dark period, grips the scrolled pages of the book like a vise. 

Francisco de Goya, Two Old Men Eating, 1819-1823, Prado
Because Loper maintains the known identity and the relative solidity of the subject facts, the cubistic underpinnings do not dislocate or reassemble the illustrative information.  Organ pipes are obviously organ pipes, but they are sliced and tilted to echo and balance the other units in the picture and to create another surface activity.  Unlike Picasso’s cubism, Loper establishes patterns to support and express the picture’s idea, not simply for their own decorative sake, and without flattening his color volumes.
Picasso, Woman in an Armchair, 1918, Barnes
The window and vase of flowers (left of the figure) unifies with light areas on the shawl, robe, and pulpit cloth.  They are angular and sharply contrasted with the larger, dark areas.  Impossible in nature, Loper manipulates light to reproduce on a smaller scale the active, geometric motif.

Loper's linear quality owes much to stained glass via Rouault. 

Rouault, The Old King, 1937, Carnegie Institute Museum
However, Loper’s dark lines do not just set off compartmentalized color units as they do in stained glass but, with the aid of the angular patterning, set up the rhythmic interplay of those units. The thick, dark outline contours the figure without entering into the substance of the color volume, reducing its solidity and three-dimensionality. Moreover, the line punches out the color area. These lines, along with the lines created by the meeting of two color areas and the color lines that emerge from under color units, establish a network of directional thrusts that radiate in a spokes of a wheel formation. This dynamic movement is in the orchestration of the color, not in the subject. It forces the eye to move from one faceted shape to another.

The livid, bluish-purple, somber, color has a polished, glossy quality in some places, like the sheen of a mosaic, particularly in the blacks.  In other places, it is crusty, and semi-opaque.  On the front of the robe, shawl, and the pulpit cloth, underneath colors show through, creating a sedimentary kind of layering.  These contrast with both the polished shiny color pieces and the gently chorded units of organ pipes and stained glass windows, creating an animated, kaleidoscopic color scheme.

Light also creates flickering effects as it hits, hugs contours, and wisps.  Derived from El Greco, but without El Greco’s sinewy twisted and elongated volumes, Loper’s light produces color harmonies like those found in ebony, sapphire, and amethyst jewels.  They unify with the fractured color patterns and the faceted geometric shapes and achieve an animated variegated ensemble.
El Greco, The Adoration of the Shepherds, Oil on canvas, c. 1612-14, Prado
Miss de Mazia described what I just said as the “Yes, But Analysis.”

Yes, Ed Loper uses ideas from other artists.  But, in each case, he modifies his borrowings by adapting them to his own needs.  He borrows Rouault’s heavy black outline, but Loper’s outline does not make a rigid, flattened, and set volume.  Instead, Loper creates animated, dynamic movement much as Daumier does in The Rebalds. 

Daumier, The Ribalds, Oil on canvas, 1848-49, Barnes
While Daumier expresses a forward, then backward motion, Loper expresses a flickering of smaller movements in and out, back and forth, or, as I called it, an animated kaleidoscopic movement.  While Daumier’s outline compartmentalizes each color unit for the purpose of his color theme, a dramatic penetration of dark into light, Loper’s outline enhances the power and drama of the total ensemble.

While El Greco expresses elongated, light, and twisted ribbons of dramatic color volumes creating an eerie glow and other worldly quality, Loper expresses solid, animated angular and powerful rhythms of rich, glowing, faceted, color volumes with a here and now immediacy. 

In the previous post, I said we measure creativeness by how much an artist gives back in interest to that which he borrows from other artists.  In the next post, I will examine a more recent painting by Edward Loper so you can see how his work changed as he felt the need to adapt other visual ideas.

1 comment:

  1. "Because Loper maintains the known identity and the relative solidity of the subject facts, the cubistic underpinnings do not dislocate or reassemble the illustrative information. Organ pipes are obviously organ pipes, but they are sliced and tilted to echo and balance the other units in the picture and to create another surface activity." AND THE RICHER FOR IT, IN MY THINKING, BECAUSE THE ARTIST'S INTENTION IS CLEAR - NO NEED FOR A LABEL - AS ON A TOTALLY ABSTRACT PAINTING - TO TELL YOU WHAT THE ARTIST THOUGHT HE WAS TRYING TO PAINT.