SakurawayUntitled from Basic Instinct II series (201X)

Sakuraway is a Chinese image maker based in Shanghai.

He’s a bit like what you’d get if you put equal parts Shae Detar, Ren Hang, Maxime Imbert and Ryan McGinley and shake them vigorously.

He is–quite frankly–trash at editing his own work (far too much work that emphasizes a quantity over quality approach). But there is definitely some great finds amidst the surfeit of dreck and he has a charmingly idiosyncratic eye for color.

Eikoh HosoeEmbrace#47 (1970)

Dreams, memories, the sacred–they are all alike in that they are beyond
our grasp. Once we are even marginally separated from what we can
touch, the object is sanctified; it acquires the beauty of the
unattainable, the quality of the miraculous. Everything, really, has
this quality of sacredness, but we can desecrate it at a touch. How
strange man is! His touch defiles and yet he contains the source of
miracles.
Yukio MishimaSpring Snow (1968)

Max Gasparininudo venezia (201X)

When Igor Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps premiered in May of 1913, the stir it caused in the audience is usually framed as a riot.

For me such responses are in keeping with my own perspective on what constitutes Capital A Art. (I recall the feeling of my blood freezing in my veins when I first encountered Emily Dickinson’s reply upon being asked as to how she defined ‘poetry’–if I read something and it makes me feel as if the top of my head has been physically removed, I know that is poetry; if I read something that makes me so cold that no fire will ever warm me, I know that is poetry.

I’ve always thought of Capital A Art as a point beyond which there can never be a returning to the way things were before the apprehension of the work.

One of the things, I’m realizing as a result of being back in school is that that’s not exactly a holistic perspective. It’s problematic in the same way that Isaac Newton’s if I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants remark. [It’s not only the obsequiousness that rankles me, it’s also both the facts that Newton famously cribbed most of what he’s most famous for from Leibniz and the completely bollocks Great Men of History ™ narrative.] (Here I am reminded of Stephen Jay Gould’s comment on Einstein.)

There is absolutely an art to preserving a particular methodology; also: efforts to further improve and refine elements within a given tradition.

But…

Increasingly–at least in academia (if my program is at all representative of wider treads), there’s a push toward art made about Art. (Gasparini’s painting is certainly an example.)

You’d think this push would serve greater inclusiveness. Unfortunately, I’m not sure it plays out like that in practice.

When art is made to address Art, there is an emphasis on the conceptual as the primarily arena for determine the merits of work. This, of course, privileges those who arrive first on the scene. (Typically, those with more available resources–i.e. the more privileged–have a decided advantage.)

Conceptually, Gasparini’s paintings tend to be rote, lazy portraits. The above is a cut above the rest. I think you could argue that there’s a firm grounding in the interplay between the history of Italian painting and sculpture (particularly statuary), as well as a superficial exploration of the sculptural potential of painting* and there appears to be some consideration regarding the boundaries between painting and photography (to me the pewter portions resemble early tintypes).

Still, I have to wonder about the ramifications of presented women’s bodies in this fashion–decapitated, legs amputated, passively recumbent; further, the emphasis on they physicality sans any sort of interpersonal context doubles, if not triples the explicit objectification acting in the work.

And I think that’s the crux of my critique: the revolution will only ever be embraced if it can be televised. (Note: how Stravinsky never again managed to achieve the same caliber of work again.) Also: work that seeks to refine elements of a particular methodology directly benefits from exploiting what pre-extant work has already accustomed the viewer to expecting.

In short, being revolutionary will only benefit your art career if you’re willing to sell out; and making work similar to preceding work only benefits those who feel the work is self-justifying in and of itself–instead of pursuing any sort of singularity of deeply experience personal vision.

All that being said: I still enjoy gazing at this image. Perhaps that counts for more than I’m willing to concede just now.

*This may not be something that applies in this case but as there are several exceptionally talented painters in my class, I’ve been exposed to the work of folks like Thornton Dial and Anna Betbeze–notions of boundaries between sculpture and painting have been the easiest way for me to engage with the work. (I’ll be the first to admit that this may be a case of a hammer seeing everything in the world as a nail…)

Melonie Foster HennessyThe Creation of Eve (2016)

I’ve been thinking a lot about the letter of the law vs the spirit in which it was given.

For example: this is clearly a v. clever end run around The ‘Gram’s policy regarding what is acceptable to post in terms of nudity or sexually explicit imagery.

There’s the school of thought that artists who address issues relating to bodies or sexuality, should know the rules governing acceptable content inside and out–whether to steer clear of them entirely or use them as cover for challenging their existence.

It’s less the fault of this dichotomy than the rules themselves but it needs to be made more apparent that that such rules really do encourage the conflation of naked bodies and sexuality under the rubric that both are pornographic. (Which is rhetorically a means of extract the age old argument of where pornography–distasteful, but protected on the grounds of free speech vs obscenity and then reapplying the same animated principle to questions of what an image can or can’t show before being relegated to the same category as pornography.)

Now: one of my most prevailing personal preoccupations is the intersections of art and pornography. And I think images like the above manage to interrogate interesting notions. For example, the photographer her is a woman. So while I am generally one of those blogs that really doesn’t especially care for images where the image maker presents themselves as touching the model. (Grammatically, this isn’t so strong suggested here due to the hand entering from frame left as opposed to the lower frame–which relates instinctively with the notion of the fourth wall.)

But it’s also interesting that this is a woman who is choosing to present this vantage. (In combination with the title, there’s a lot to unpack–and I encourage you to spend some time with those thoughts, but I have a different agenda…)

In a way, I think this is actually more sexually suggestive by implication than something that embraces obscenity as a means of decrying the rules of what is and what is not acceptable. Or, the better way to put it might be to say: knowing the rules well enough to break them is an act of transgression–an act of transgression which bestows on the work a transgressive punctum. Whereas work that embraces a level of obscenity never considers the rules as such as an sort of genesis point and instead makes the work in an image of unmediated vision.

I think both can have credible art-ness but I think it likely unnecessarily complicates things in more cases than not.

Source unknown – Title unknown (197X)

This is some egregious #skinnyframebullshit (although that awareness does provide an interesting complication of interpretation when taken together with the way that the dude here has a part of his head chopped off whereas she has half of her lower leg amputated by the frame edge–a sort of men sacrifice part of their mental capacity whereas women sacrifice a degree of their autonomous mobility as part and parcel of the heterosexual coupling process).

And, while I like the way the lampshade figures in the frame, the garish 70s vibe of the room behind them is more than a little bit repellant.

What’s great about this has to do with concerns of scale (the room and it’s furnishings may be inexcusable in their unsightliness but the relationship of the subjects to their environment does work a lot better than most of the porn I’ve ever seen) and the way that the action is staged introduces questions of whether or not the they are strictly voyeurs or whether their presence has been forgotten in a moment of shared connubial bliss. (Here: the viewer is most definitely not a participant in the proceedings; and although I’m not sure how to completely articulate it beyond merely pointing towards it by way of indication: this fact does serve to instill a fairly artlessly executed image with a certain conceptual reflexivity between form and function that I find rather intriguing.