Sunday, August 21, 2011

Making Connections

In 1943, the Bignou Gallery in New York City pioneered a prophetic exhibit titled Ancient Chinese and Modern European Paintings.  Chinese paintings of many centuries past hung side by side with paintings by Cezanne, Demuth, Dufy, Glackens, Van Gogh, Goya, Gritchenko, Matisse, Modigliani, Pascin, Picasso, Renoir, Henri Rousseau, and others. 

I say “prophetic,” because the contributors to the catalogue, Dr. Hu Shih, Pearl S. Buck, Albert C. Barnes, and Violette de Mazia, demonstrated how artists speak to each other across time and place.

This is what making connections is all about.

In the previous post, you examined a 1975 painting by Edward L. Loper, Sr., and I showed you
how to identify the visual qualities he borrowed from the traditions and how to determine what he did to and with those ideas.  

My “connections” impressed some of you.  One reader said she admired how I “unified so many artists and schools of painting.”  While not easy, I now see connections relatively quickly because I have been looking at and studying works of art for a very long time. 

You can do it, too, with practice. 

Every time you see a work of art, every time you visit a museum or gallery, you are storing visual ideas.  If you study the traditions for visual information rather than historical, biographical, or illustrative information, you will amass the relevant background that helps you make the connections.

Let’s try the “Yes, But” analysis again.

Below you will see Table and Flowers, a painting Ed Loper completed in 2009.

Edward L. Loper, Sr., Table and Flowers, Oil on canvas, 2009, Collection of Janet and Edward L. Loper, Sr.

 What visual ideas did Ed Loper use to make this painting?  What is the resulting picture idea?

First, as always, look at the painting.

If you find it helpful, turn it upside down:

List what you see.

(Please make your list before you read any further).

Now compare your list to my list:

1.     Rich, glowing, hot colors organized into stripes and bands.

2.     The central unit, the table, tilted up and pushing across the picture space, sets the spatial theme for every color unit in the picture.

3.     The stripes and bands not only build the table, creating a large, elongated, oval-shaped mass that pushes across the picture like a surfboard, they also connect with the half-oval chair cushion, the three chair back slats, and the horizontal ridges of the cabinet.

4.     The candlestick, bowl of fruit, books, etc., balanced precariously, “ride” the “surf board.” The plant behind the table attaches to the still life objects like a busty, small-headed woman, her head thrown back, with arms akimbo and swirling skirt.

5.     The table’s central oval contrasts with the rectilinear pictures on the walls and stacked in the corner.  The vertical rhythms repeat in the chair back and legs, the windowpanes, the tree trunk, the lawn chair, the fence in the garden, the drapery folds, the candles on the cabinet and the candle on the table.  

6.     The horizontal rhythm of stripes and bands repeat in the cabinet, the chair back, and the windowpanes.

7.     All of these vertical, horizontal, and diagonal units move the eye through the spaces they help define: (a) look at the space between the single candle on the table and the candelabra on the cabinet; (b) look at the space created by the diagonal edge of the picture window and the vertical edge of the tablecloth; (c) look at the space created by the tree trunk and the stretcher of the canvas against the wall; (d) add to that space the vertical corner of the wall as it is interrupted by the forward leaning picture on the wall; (e) look how the green strip above the window and the green carpet on the floor of the patio connects with the cerulean stripes on the top and the sides of the table cloth.

8.     Now look at the rhythms of color: (a) the yellows outside the window connecting with the yellows in the tablecloth; (b) the red of the lamp above the window, the back of the lawn chair, the matt on the patio, the reds of the inside floor, the table cloth, the back wall, the pictures and their frames or stretches, the highlights on the chair, the candlesticks, the flowers, all draw the eye through the space.

9.     The cerulean and green rectilinear rhythms also connect with the greens on the wall and in the foliage of the plant.

10.  Thrusts and counterthrusts dramatically continue the beat: (a) the diagonal thrust of the table set against the vertical drapery edge and the contrasting push of the lower edge of the window; (b) the horizontal thrust of the cabinet edge along with the slats of the chair back and the chair seat, and the edges of the three hanging pictures, contrast with the books on the table, all set at different angles.

11.  Ovals echo other ovals: look at the candlestick holder on the table, the blue-green bowls on the cabinet, the flowerpot, the flowers in the flowerpot, the fluted fruit bowl on the table revealing rounded, glowing, ovals of solid, saturated color that echo the bulging rounded color volumes of the plant.

12.  All this (and I suspect you found other details I missed) conspire to produce not just a picture of a dining room, but a series of luminous, sparkling, fiery, geometric, solid, color units that push and pull through relatively deep, color-in-light space.

That color-in-light spatial atmosphere sets the color key.  Compare the fiery atmosphere in the Loper painting with the cool, powdery atmosphere is Seurat’s The Models:

Seurat, The Models, 1886-88, Barnes

In Loper’s painting, the atmosphere smolders like a summer mid-day in the tropics.  In Seurat’s painting, the atmosphere looks cool and moonlit. 

This “heat” derives from Renoir via Bonnard.  Compare the following two pictures:

Renoir, Bather, c. 1917-18, PMA

Bonnard,Garden, c. 1937, Musée du Petit Palais
You can see the “rose” suffusion in the Renoir along with rippling, soft, flowing and glowing color chords orchestrated into light, structural volumes.  Bonnard converts the “warmth” into decorative strips of flattened areas of uniform hot color contrasted with cooler blues to create an ensemble with a surface sparkle rather than a glow from within.

However, if you now compare this Bonnard to the Loper, you will see a closer relationship:

Bonnard, Bowl and Basket of Fruits, 1944, Private Collection
In this picture, Bonnard uses ovals of saturated reds, oranges, and yellows set in shallow space to produce an ensemble of globular, structurally solid volumes moving across a flat spatial plane.

Now study these two pictures:

Renoir, Terrace at Cagnes, c. 1905-06, Bridgestone Museum of Art, Tokyo


Bonnard, Peaches and Grapes on a Red Tablecloth, 1943, Private Collection

Notice again how Bonnard achieves color drama by reducing, not increasing, color chording.  He achieves luminosity via contrasts rather than via small dabs of juxtaposed colors.

Loper’s luminosity results from dabs of intense, juxtaposed color along with layering of color on color in order to build structurally solid color volumes that lure, beguile, and captivate the eye. 

Lynn Luft, a reader of this blog, says it this way: “Mr. Loper paints in a very complex style, using more than one type of stroke, but the effect for me is like a symphony from the Romantic period or even a later Russian composition.  The different methods flow together with a definite reason that he has incorporated after years of study and painting.  There is an immediate continuing sense of underlying forceful rhythm in his lines and spaces, but he has purposefully inserted melodic interludes of colors everywhere and accentuated the junctures very carefully to send our eyes to other areas of the painting, which will often repeat his theme with variations, some cool or quiet and others warm and intense.  When the whole work is absorbed from a distance, it becomes the fourth movement of later Beethoven or Tchaikovsky, almost thundering its message.” 

Lynn eloquently summarizes what I just said.

I’d like you to try to use the “Yes, But” tool.

I know it is late August, and you are relaxing and not wanting to think too hard, but please do the following exercise. 

Send me your response, and I will reward you with a 2002 calendar of Ed Loper’s paintings.  I know you can’t use an old calendar, but I also know you will find the 12 reproductions of Loper paintings worth framing or studying and enjoying. This edition also includes Ed Loper quotes describing his philosophy, teaching, and appreciation of art.

Loper, Houses and Hotel, 2000, Private Collection


Cezanne, Chateau Noir, 1904-06, MoMA
Compare and contrast these two pictures.  What visual ideas does Loper borrow from Cézanne?  What new visual ideas does Loper invent to pay back his loan with his interest? 

Click here to submit your response. 

In the next post, I will continue to explore Ed Loper’s visual inventions by focusing on his color-in-light atmosphere--his remarkable late work adaptation of Venetian glow via Renoir.                

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