Thursday, March 14, 2013

Zorn at the ISG

There's a new exhibit at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.  It brings together some of the museum's own Zorn paintings and etchings, as well as a few on loan.

Aannndddd -- it's pretty spectacular.

There are a number of strong pieces, some different handlings of paint from different periods in his career (and different whims of the moment).  His etchings are fantastic (and there are dozens more upstairs in the permanent collection.  The exhibit is modestly sized, but even a cheapskate like myself felt it well worth the $15 admission fee.

There are a lot of pieces worth seeing, and worth discussing, but the crowning piece is the one the museum is using in their promotions, and on the cover of the guidebook.

"The Omnibus" is partnered with another, slightly earlier painting of more or less the same composition also called "The Omnibus."  The first is an incisive, workmanlike piece that when partnered with its second generation looks like an overly large sketch.  Strong and striking, but un-nuanced.

The second, is genius.  The colors need to be seen in person, and its a shame (and the loss of at least one sale to the museum gift shop) that the colors reproduced in the guidebook are handled poorly.   There's an amazing pop between the first two figures faces that is completely lost in every reproduction of this painting I've found.  Are you interested in "glow" in a painting?  Here it is, in a stripe of light that is such an arresting form you've got deal with it first before being able to really see the other, brilliant parts of this painting.

There's an amazing amount of implied detail, hands deftly rendered in a beautifully economy.  Evocative eyes brushed in, with a low level of detail and a low level of contrast that are more real and more striking for their restraint.

The beauty of the exhibit is the ability to look back and forth between the two versions.  The incredibly soft edges in the second, when held up against the crisp incisive edges of the first, are starkly contrasted.  If you want to understand the impact of edges, I can't think of a better place to start.

My friends and I got in as the museum opened Monday -- I was the first person in line at the ticket counter.  We briefly had the gallery to ourselves, but it filled up fast.  I was impressed and pleased at the notice the community is paying to this masterful painter.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Taking your time- finding the problem, not the solution

 Pink cites the research of celebrated social scientists Jacob Getzels
and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who in the 1960s recruited three dozen
fourth-year art students for an experiment. They brought the young
artists into a studio with two large tables. The first table displayed
27 eclectic objects that the school used in its drawing classes. The
students were instructed to select one or more objects, then arrange a
still life on the second table and draw it. What happened next reveals
an essential pattern about how creativity works:

The young artists approached their task in two distinct ways. Some
examined relatively few objects, outlined their idea swiftly, and
moved quickly to draw their still life. Others took their time. They
handled more objects, turned them this way and that, rearranged them
several times, and needed much longer to complete the drawing. As
Csikszentmihalyi saw it, the first group was trying to solve a
problem: How can I produce a good drawing? The second was trying to
find a problem: What good drawing can I produce?

As Csikszentmihalyi then assembled a group of art experts to evaluate
the resulting works, he found that the problem-finders' drawings had
been ranked much higher in creativity than the problem-solvers'. Ten
years later, the researchers tracked down these art students, who at
that point were working for a living, and found that about half had
left the art world, while the other half had gone on to become
professional artists. That latter group was composed almost entirely
of problem-finders. Another decade later, the researchers checked in
again and discovered that the problem-finders were "significantly more
successful – by the standards of the artistic community – than their
peers." Getzels concluded: