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Friday, February 7, 2014

Christopher Wool and The Girl with the Pearl Earring

I felt  awakened and refreshed by the provocative, challenging of aesthetics in Christopher Wool's painting  exhibit that was at the Guggenheim last month.  

Wool's images of the banal, held up for observation, yet displayed in painterly fashion, on canvas, continue to provoke consternation.  Ah, a desired outcome?  He seems to ridicule the presumption of art: of form, order, and quality yet I am very engaged.  By lifting up un-precious patterns and even defacing them, as in the blue spray paint here, he challenges elitist notions of what is good.  But the arrangement still satisfies on an aesthetic level.

 His "gray paintings"series pushes the viewer to encounter the process of making a painting, and makes the undoing of it just as accessible.  Does one destroy while one is creating?  Where do destruction and creation meet?

In this next one, Wool spoofs the audience and the artworld. Below is "Blue Fool", which plays with letter graphics, posing the question, "Who is the fool?" Me?  Him?  The art market? Us all? The fool has perspective on the culture he jests at!

The Guggenheim's rotunda was just big enough to hold Wool's 40 year retrospective. It provoked thought while bearing witness to this man's long engagement with the very practice and career he, at the same time, continues to question. 

Within the same week I saw "The Girl with the Pearl Earring" by Vermeer, 1665-1667 which was shown at the Frick Museum in New York.

Just as captivating as Wool's work but in a totally different way!

She is so soft, soft, soft.   Is there a look of foreboding or regret?   What has happened or may happen to her?  Her expression is haunting.  Her mouth is soft and open with the hint of teeth or gums.  So visceral.

Her turban is soft cobalt while the decoration on it is more aqua.  The pearl echoes the very defined white of her left eye. During restoration it was discovered that a transparent green layer is present over the dark underpainting.  Is this part of what makes her skin so appealing? 

To the right, behind the pearl earring, her head disappears in dark shadow, and her back does the same as it transitions from the soft bronze of the back her robe.