Max Gasparini – nudo 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.
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…)