Tag Archives: Modern art

Back to the 80’s

THE NEW WAVE

The 1980s New York Art scene gave rise to emerging young talent, such as the artists Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring and introduced musicians  Debra Harry (Blondie) and Madonna. Andy Warhol had created a niche that they were destined to populate. The concept of the artist as a brand and a superstar seduced the young and transported them from Graffiti Artists to Legends. The middle classes had left the town for a comfortable suburban life and the urban alleys and apartments became a playground for the creativily misunderstood. The video clip of Blondies ‘Rapture’ introduced the new players.

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Basquiat’s work reveals a tapestry of lines that go into the development of the image whereas Haring’s art, is the stripped back result. The NGV exhibition is currently showcasing both artists under the banner of ‘Crossing Lines’. It’s a journey back into our recent past. 

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Untitled 1982

In the early 80’s, Basquiat was surviving without an income and sourced materials from his environment. He took doors and whatever boards he could from condemned properties, to be his canvas. The palette is made up of house paint and oil pastels, this makes the work more intimate as the artists circumstance is apparent. The roughly stretched canvas suggest an artist more interested in the work than the presentation.

Both artists were acute to the prejudices hidden within the social fabric of the time. Haring and Basquiat were presented in the 1981 ‘Public Address’ exhibition hosted by Annina Nosei Gallery. The work ‘Irony of a Negro Policeman’ addressed the issues Basquiat struggled with; that police hurt Black Americans. The figure with anxious eyes and a clenched mouth highlights the inner turmoil. Using the word PAWN; he spells out his conviction.

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Irony of a Negro Policeman 1981
Haring once said;
Basquiat 'wielded his brush as a weapon, struggling against exploitation, consumer society. repression, racism and genocide'

In Haring’s ‘Malcom X’ 1988; he visually records the activists death within a red noose, likening it to a trophy killing.

Jean-Paul Basquiat rode in limousines because taxis wouldn’t stop for him. He lived the Art Star lifestyle within the dangerous backdrop of racial realities. Many of Basquaits works are untitled, allowing the imagery to speak volumes, like the artist. A man of few words, using Art, to describe his large emotions. He often used halo’s above his anatomic skulls as a reference to the deaths of martyrs.

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Untitled 1984

Both Basquiat and Haring considered themselves ‘Radiant Children’ entitled and indulgent. They crossed the line in decadence that would ultimately lead to their early demise.  Basquiat threw parties serving caviar and cocaine and at 27 died from an overdose. Haring lived an unrestrained party-life and eventually fell victim to Aids. They rose out of the tar of the City, like flowers in the cracked sidewalk and as the era faded away, the value of their work became currency.

FEATURE IMAGE

detail from Untitled (Pecho/Oreja)         82-83

 

GO ON THE NGV VIRTUAL TOUR of the exhibition.

 

Picasso, Stravinsky and Balanchine manufacturing tomorrow with Diaghilev

Amber Scott and Adam Bull
Amber Scott and Adam Bull

20:21

Symphony in Three Movements

In 1917, Pablo Picasso left (war effected) Paris and moved to Italy to join Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes where he would become close friends with Igor Stravinsky, a brilliant composer. Choreographer George Balanchine joined the company and was also regarded as a leader of his craft. It was a unique collaboration of Masters, each eager to explore  Modern motifs.

The Australian Ballet presented Symphony In Three Movements (1946) in 20:21, at The Art Centre Melbourne, recreating the collaboration between Stravinsky and Balanchine. It’s a ballet wedged between the classical and the contemporary. Eve Lawson has used cotton gloves to protect the integrity of the historic statement and gives the audience an opportunity to witness the Modern Wave in a digital world. Music Director and Chief Conductor Nicolette Fraillon recreates the rhythmic pulse.

Picasso entered Diaghilev’s Ballet a bohemian, a womaniser, and an abstract painter. He was regarded as a Master Artist due to his break-through work Les Demoiselles Davignon and enjoyed the patronage and support of Gertrude Stien.

Les Demoiselles Davignon
Les Demoiselles Davignon

He was admired by his avant-garde peers for leading the modern movement. Joining Diaghilev’s Ballet was an unexpected career move that alienated many of his contemporaries.

Diaghilev’s  led the Ballet Russes with brutal force and Picasso’s powerful personality had to submit to the expectations placed on him. He would be seen in suits during this period.

By the time that Picasso had freed himself from Diaghilev’s tyranny he was married, gentrified, a classical figurative artist and his peers were Russian Royalty, that had escaped civil war.

Just as Diaghilev had altered Picasso (temporarily) into a more conservative aspect of himself, Picasso’s presence was also influencing Diaghilev. The Russian Ballet had been marooned in Italy, unable to return home as they were regarded as Imperials, by the communists. The Modern Art movement was sweeping Europe at the time and these new influences inspired Diaghilev to move away from the traditions of ballet. He was also pro-communist.

The employment of the new Modern Masters which included Picasso as set and costume designer, Stravinsky as the score and later Balanchine as Choreographer enabled Diaghilev to create a new vision. It was not an easy transition for him, although he made great strides forward, he was never be able to fully shake off his roots, just as Picasso could never abandon his Bohemian ways.

‘The fact that neither Spain or Russia had undergone a Renaissance made their mutual understanding all the more instinctive’ JR

 

Stravinsky, by Picasso

Picasso and Stravinsky met and firmly bonded, it was a lifetime friendship. It is through this friendship that we learn more about the influences that drove the musical direction of Stravinsky. He created raw minimal pieces and reframed older compositions. Both of these artists drew from their environment in unexpected ways, Picasso could find character in a fork and Stravinsky found music in a scratching sound.

‘Stravinsky had at a stroke re-established himself as the most chic and brilliant modernist’ JR

Picasso left the ballet and embarked on his first marriage with one of the Russian dancers Olga Khokhlova. Stravinsky remained within the Diaghilev hub and teamed up with Balanchine. Stravinsky and Balanchine shared a vision that the music and the choreography should be equal parts that worked together.

Although Stravinsky had been able to work solidly through  WW1, it was not a safe place for him in WW2 ,so he had to refugee to America. His new country afforded him employment, but not on his terms.

The Stravinsky that had fooled about with Picasso had grown reserved in America. In Italy, he had sourced from popular culture and allowed himself moments of wild abandonment with the cream of Modern Art .

‘Very drunk Stravinsky raided the rooms upstairs and tossed pillows, bolsters and mattresses onto the heads of the guests below.The ensuing pillow fight kept the party going until three in the morning’JR

Despite the numerous set backs and forced immigrations, Stravinsky stayed one step ahead of destruction. In 1946, he was commission by  the Philharmonic Symphony Society of New York to compose Symphony in Three Movements. Balanchine created a ballet that would translate the music.

Balanchine’s Ballet is an eclectic blend of cultural references and popular trends. The 50’s were about to dawn and the Ballet showcases girls with long pony-tails in dancing gangs, exotic Asian influences, soldiers and clocks, all portrayed in leotards with no scene props. It is classically rich, within a sheer minimal exterior.

It is modern art, moving.

Scott and Bull photo by Justin Ridler

The Life of Picasso, The Triumpant Years 1917-1932,John Richardson 2010 Alfred a.Knopf

Sunday Reeds contribution to Melbourne Art

When Sunday Baillieu walked out of  Toorak and into the arms of emerging Australian Artists, she forsook society to dwell with bohemia. It’s not easy, to move from one class to another within a single generation. The artists may have regarded her as bourgeois but her old neighbours had labeled her a communist. She was an idealist, a task master, a romantic and art critic. Heide was her home and she welcomed artists to reside there. IMG_3335

Sunday and John Reed championed major artists such as Sidney Nolan, Charles Blackman, Mirka Mora, Joy Hester, John Perceval, Albert Tucker, Moya Dyring, Sam Atyeo and Mike Brown. They founded the Angry Penguins Literary magazine in an effort to evoke a response from the disinterested city.

The Reeds supported and bought emerging Melbourne and Australian art. They were overly possessive of the artists they supported but they took their task seriously. They flew the flag for Australian Art and they paid for it with Baillieu cash.

Today the twisted path Melbourne artists walk is barbed with opportunists and a sleepy audience.

Melbourne’s current Art culture is in crisis. Galleries charge artists to exhibit and the costs are high, few artists can afford to pay the weekly $1000 costs and then the 20-40% commission. For those that can afford to pay ,there is no guarantee of an effective marketing strategy. Most exhibitions draw other artists and few attract genuine patrons. At the end of a two-week exhibition the gallery stands to make profits  even if no purchases were made. The artist is broke.

Australian artists rely on the generous support of  philanthropist, collectors and galleys that do not charge their talent to exhibit.

Albert Tucker talks about his time with Sunday Reed at Hiede.