Thursday, July 20, 2017

Happy Birthday, Andrew Wyeth!

I am in Christina's world.
The painter Andrew Wyeth would have been 100 years old this week.

Critics are finally starting to appreciate his genius, Nic Rowan writes. I've always appreciated him, because, unlike my experience with most of the rest of what passes for art these days, i have a shot at understanding his paintings.
Unlike the abstract expressionists, Wyeth’s work endures because he portrayed his subjects naturally, interlocked in a dance between chaos and order, always on the brink of both, in an upward struggle toward clarity. 
“I want my impulsiveness, my chaos to have meaning. I want the primitive effect when you bring abstraction and the real together,” Wyeth said. “People like Franz Kline and Jackson Pollock and de Kooning sometimes do get amazing qualities that give me a kick in the tail to really let go. But I think a painting is undigested if you leave it in the state of just chaos. I like that first, wild impulse to be there, underneath, but pulled back into clarity.” 
For Wyeth, pulling chaos back into clarity meant painting the commonplace—a boy running down a hill, a boat discarded in a hayloft, the river behind his house—in a way that would both appeal and mystify his viewers. Part of the reason why “Christina’s World” continues to draw crowds at MoMA (even though the museum has tucked it away behind an escalator) is that although each blade of grass is painted in excruciating detail, Anna Christina Olson’s crippled presence on the hill seems out of place. She’s all alone, turned away from the viewer and straining toward the house for some unknowable reason.
Wyeth, Rowan writes, quickly became (and has remained) one of the most popular and divisive American artists: beloved by hoi polloi but loathed by cognoscenti.

I guess I'm among the former. Did you know: In Greek, hoi polloi means simply "the many." (Even though hoi itself means "the," in English we almost always say "the hoi polloi".) It comes originally from the famous Funeral Oration by Pericles, where it was actually used in a positive way. Today it's generally used by people who think of themselves as superior.

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