United States anti-war artist Leon Golub, London exhibition


This video from Chicago in the USA says about itself:

Leon Golub – Figuration and Monsters

15 July 2011

Artists Nick Cave, Leon Golub, Yun-Fei Ji, Kerry James Marshall, Ravinder Reddy, Clare Rojas, and Sylvia Sleigh talk about the human figure and artistic process in connection with their work on view in the Smart Museum of Art exhibition Go Figure. Learn more here.

By Christine Lindey in London, England:

Accusations from an atrocity exhibition

Saturday 11th April 2015

A retrospective of Leon Golub’s work is a disturbing indictment of US war crimes and torture, says CHRISTINE LINDEY

BORN in Chicago in 1922 to Lithuanian and Russian immigrants, Leon Golub (1922-2004) grew up in the shadow of WWI and the “great slump.”

His art studies were interrupted by military service in the second world war, from which he emerged to the unimaginable news of Buchenwald and Hiroshima. Whereas the dominant postwar US aesthetic ridiculed socially committed art and retreated into the inner worlds of Abstract Expressionism, Golub confronted the inhumanity of recent atrocities.

His deliberately inelegant provocations to genteel notions of art were underpinned by layered references to antiquity. After resuming his studies on a GI grant he painted monstrous hybrids and mutilated figures which emerge from roughly applied brush marks, an example being the larger than life size Colossal Torso II of 1959, whose shockingly charred and pitted flesh and truncated body evokes Hiroshima victims.

Yet the painting also refers to the fragmented colossuses of the late Roman empire, whose grandiose abuse of power Golub associated with that of 20th-century US imperialism.

The Vietnam war fully politicised him and in 1964 he became active in New York’s Artists and Writers Protest Group. Conflict became his subject and he searched for ways of making politically committed paintings relevant to modern times. Golub confronted the all-pervasive mass media’s visual language by working from published photographs and transforming these source images into unbearably emotive art by physically challenging the traditional processes and mediums of representational painting.

Working on unprimed, unevenly cut and unstretched canvases, Golub suspended the finished works loosely against the wall from grommets, so subverting the revered status of rectangularly framed paintings.

The figures in the large Gigantomachy series of the mid-1960s are based on contemporary sports photographs combined with images of the antique frieze at Pergamon which depicts the mythological battle between the Giants and Olympian Gods.

The unarmed, naked combatants are depicted on a roughly stained and blotched canvas in unpleasant combinations of purplish magenta, pink and white paint which Golub partially scraped off with a meat cleaver to deepen the impact of the combatants’ flayed flesh. The savagery of his processes paralleled his subjects’ indictment of warfare.

The Napalm and Vietnam War series which followed now referred to specific events and Golub attacked his canvases with greater savagery. With large chunks cut out of them, the scorched, scarred and splotched canvases mirror the violence of the depicted US army atrocities whose vileness are conveyed by deliberately awkward drawing, compositions and morose colour.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Golub produced his greatest works. These included the Mercenaries and Interrogators series — gigantic accusatory history paintings exposing US imperialist support of the odious counter-insurgency methods by Latin American dictatorships.

Intimidating, larger than life-size armed and uniformed soldiers and police are captured in acts of torture or military bravado as they loom over us.

Based on magazine photographs of mercenaries, the men in bright blue or green and buff uniforms are painted against flat undifferentiated red oxide or maroon backgrounds, so preventing distractions from the gruesome acts.

The men leer and grin grotesquely in awkward poses, as in a film still’s arrested motion, and their macho body language and callous expressions convey the dehumanising effects of alienation.

These paintings go beyond simple accusations of individual acts of cruelty. Like Goya’s Disasters of War they portray the perpetuators of brutal acts as desensitised products of inhumane governments whose purpose is to retain power for the powerful.

In his late paintings, Golub raged against the dystopia of urban decay, the horrors of ageing and impending death in graffiti influenced works, an example being Fuck Death of 1999.

His work is not for the faint-hearted. The visceral directness of his scenes of war and torture assault our gaze. Yet their rawness of expression is contradicted by the depth of meaning which percolates from his erudite understanding of art history, mass media and politics.

The paintings are intentionally difficult to look at and defy lengthy contemplation. In discussion with the artist Martha Rosler, Golub said: “Film passes through, painting sits on the wall. I take the fact that painting isn’t moving and I make it unendurable — you can’t sit in front of it. I myself have jumped at my own paintings.” Yet they burn with an honesty and directness which resonate long after seeing them because they cut to the core of political and social injustice.

Given the massive scale of Golub’s paintings and prolific output, a larger venue would have better suited this retrospective. The Serpentine Galleries’ exhibition over-represents his late works and omits loans from major public museums. But it does give very welcome exposure to this important artist and its display of four 1980s history paintings in the rotunda do him full justice as does the imaginative and beautifully produced catalogue. Recommended.

Leon Golub: Bite Your Tongue runs at Serpentine Galleries, Kensington Gardens, London W2 until May 17, opening times: serpentinegalleries.org. Free.

Surrealist painter Leonora Carrington, new book


This video says about itself:

7 May 2012

Leonora Carrington (born April 6, 1917 in Clayton Green, South Lancaster, Lancashire, England) is a British-born artist, a surrealist painter and while living in Mexico, a novelist.

Her father was a wealthy industrialist, her mother was Irish. She also had an Irish nanny, Mary Cavanaugh, who told her Gaelic tales. Leonora had three brothers. Places she lived as a child included a house called Crooksey Hall.

Educated by governesses, tutors and nuns, she was expelled from many schools for her rebellious behavior until her family sent her to Florence where she attended Mrs. Penrose’s Academy of Art. Her father was opposed to an artist’s career for her, but her mother encouraged her.

By Paul Simon in Britain:

Gripping tale of woman artist’s fights and flights

Thursday 19th March 2015

Leonora by Elena Poniatowska (Serpent’s Tail, £12.99)

RENOWNED Mexican novelist Elena Poniatowska has crafted a mightily expansive and breathlessly fictionalised biography — a “free approximation” as she terms it — of Surrealist painter Leonora Carrington, whose story is one of a constant but very individualised fight and flight rebellions against the expectations of her upper-class family.

Carrington died in 2011 and in this work, translated by Amanda Hopkinson, Poniatowska has ensured that the woman behind the paintings can be fully appreciated and understood.

The daughter of the owner of Imperial Chemical, Carrington was expelled from an endless number of educational institutions for insubordination but was still on the conveyor belt of presentation at court and a soulless marriage before fleeing to Paris and freedom.

There she took up with Max Ernst, Andre Breton, Peggy Guggenheim and others who made up the artistically fissiparous but financially astute Surrealists.

The book pivots around her love affair with the intoxicating, disloyal and rather weak Ernst as they escaped Paris for the south, before he was arrested as an alien in the weeks before France fell to the nazis.

There is a vivid description of the distraught and raging Carrington being smuggled out of the country and into Francoist Spain, where she suffered a breakdown and subsequent imprisonment and medical torture in a Santander asylum.

Well-connected friends helped her resume her life and painting, but without Ernst.

He’d been released and found a new love, firstly in New York and then in Mexico where Carrington spent the rest of her life, and where the author built up a long-term and observant friendship with her.

So this is first and foremost a book about one woman’s constant need for flight and exile in the face of circumstances beyond her control.

It is also a testament to her resistance to, and curious intoxication with, the controlling presence of men — her father, Ernst and her posh-boy patron Edward James included. Carrington emerges as a fragile but determined survivor, eclectically alighting on new ideas — everything from Jung to the Kabbalah but without really engaging in the material realities around her.

She was certainly vehemently anti-nazi when directly threatened but, as with most of the bitchy Surrealists, she failed to recognise the broader class struggles taking place whether in Spain in the 1930s or later in Mexico as the government brutally attacked protesters in the run-up to the 1968 Olympics.

Yet her utter need for freedom, gloriously expressed in her paintings, makes her a vital and influential artistic figure.

Rembrandt exhibition in Amsterdam, and also online


This Dutch video is about the ‘Late Rembrandt’ exhibition in Amsterdam; also visible on the Internet.

From the Rijksmuseum site in the Netherlands:

A once-in-a lifetime exhibition

Discover ‘Late Rembrandt’ online

The Rijksmuseum is holding a truly impressive retrospective of Rembrandt’s later works until 17 May 2015. Since everyone should have the chance to experience this, KPN, the main sponsor for the Rijksmuseum and this exhibition, is making it possible to discover this spectacular exhibition online – wherever and whenever you want. Join the guided tours given by Dutch celebrities.

Watch the online tours here.

Rembrandt, new Internet site


This video says about itself:

The complete life of the painter Rembrandt van Rijn

14 July 2014

A documentary which unlocks Rembrandt to a large public. Trough his documentary we travel for 53 minutes together with Rembrandt in a geographical reconstruction of his life. The documentary shows beautiful pictures of which Rembrandt has drawn his inspiration. A lot of the buildings from Rembrandt`s days still exist. Trough modern digital techniques we change, where possible, the current image into the painting that the artist has made for over 400 years ago or into old pictures of those times.

From the Rembench site in the Netherlands:

A Digital Workbench for Rembrandt Research

RemBench is an integrated online work environment that enables research about the life and works of Rembrandt van Rijn. We brought together four existing databases and disclosed them through one search interface. Our target groups are historians, art historians and other humanities scholars and students.

The four databases that have been integrated by RemBench are:

RemBench is funded as part of the CLARIN-NL programme and was developed by Huygens ING in collaboration with Radboud University Nijmegen and RKD. It is a demo application, intended to serve as an example of the possibilities of digitized historical data. The data reside in their original databases; RemBench provides access to them.

For any questions about RemBench, you can contact Suzan Verberne, s.verberne@let.ru.nl

For a short introduction to RemBench see this instructional video.

That video is here (scroll down).

There is also another video, this one:

That video says about itself:

12 June 2014

An example of a user interacting with RemBench, an integrated working environment for Rembrandt research.

2015, Year of Vincent van Gogh, and of the Badger


This video is about 2015, the Year of Vincent van Gogh.

Van Gogh the preacher? New show to explore artist’s life before painting: here.

2015 is not just the Year of Vincent van Gogh. And the Year of the Penny Bun for mycologists. And the Year of the Goat in the Chinese calendar (starting on 19 February).

The Dutch mammal society has made 2015 the Year of the Badger. Various activities are planned. Like counting badgers; a new book about badgers; telling young people about badgers; and promoting more tunnels under roads, preventing badgers and other animals from becoming roadkill.

This video from England is about wild badgers, filmed in south Lincolnshire woodland.

2014 had been the Year of the Red Squirrel in the Netherlands; a successful year.