I am fortunate to live in a vibrant neighbor, the Arts District of Los Angeles.
This neighborhood may well be the center of Los Angeles’ Renaissance, for like 15th-16th century Florence, my neighborhood is rich with public work. On a recent jog through town I confronted a familiar face plastered upon a derelict wall, St Therese , lifted directly from Bernini’s masterpiece, translated from divine marble to street-worthy stencil.
I wasn’t sure what to think, I was pleased that this anonymous artist found her beautiful face as inspiring as I have ; but I am concerned that there is a lack of reverence that great art is due. We seem to live in a time and place where all imagry is up for grabs, to be clipped and pasted to suit the creator’s taste and imagination. My experience with fellow students, is a dis-regard for the source, what matters is the aesthetic appeal. This saddens and worries me, what is the relevance of great art when it is as desirable and as ephemeral as an image from advertising.
Damn you Mr. Warhol
I am concerned our cultural experience will become increasingly less rich and less rewarding. This isn’t a new argument of course, Nicholas Poussin famously complained that “Caravaggio had come into the world to destroy painting”. Poussin’s opposition to Caravaggio’s “street” art is understandable considering Poussin’s belief that “…the first requirement, which is the basis for all others, is that the subject should be great, such as battles, heroic actions and divine matters…”; Caravaggio’s saints with dirty feet would certainly have conflicted with Poussin’s directive to “disregard anything that is vulgar…” (source:Alain Merot Nicolas Poussin).
Los Angeles is in enthralled with this image of spontaneous street expression, MOCA is enjoying popular attendance with its blockbuster exhibition Art in the Streets. This enthusiasm for uninhibited (illegal ?) expression can be found elsewhere as well, Pasadena Museum of California Art has jumped on the “street” bandwagon with its current exhibition Street Cred: Graffiti Art from Concrete to Canvas ; recently there was an event downtown in which skateboarding youth were quite literally given the streets, Wild in the Streets.
As I sit and type this I am aware of how curmudgeonly conservative I appear. I am conservative, but I do not believe that restricts my appreciation of public work with visual merit; my concern is that the traditions I most admire will be lost in a cloud of aerosol .
That said lets look at pretty pictures.
7th and Mateo, Los Angeles
Work by Nomadé is difficult to not admire and enjoy, I run by examples quite frequently, particularly around the corner from my home at 7th and Mateo. The work is pasted up and requires regular maintenance, which often translate into another arresting (no pun intended) image.
7th & Mateo
This short clip is marvelous at demonstrating the creation, as you will see, studio preparation is an important part of the process.
More work by Nomadé can be found at this link.
But for all of that robust masculine expression created by Nomadé, I must of course confess an allegiance to that monarchist traitor, Jacques Louise David .
I prefer David’s beefcake to Nomadé’s.
The Intervention of the Sabine Women
oil on canvas
Can I be blamed for preferring the above to this,
I have been “crushing “on David’s noble soldiers since I was a boy, his paintings have continued to give me great joy. A joy and satisfaction that I doubt a paste-up will be able to sustain.
Although “street” art often requires extensive preparation, this attention to detail pales to the fifteen years David devoted to his monumental Leonidas at Thermopylae. David strove for the “ideal beauty” the Academy and subject demanded.
Poussin may well have chided David for defying his decree that an artist must “…make every effort to avoid getting lost in minute detail, so as not to detract from the dignity of the story”, for David made many sketches reworking the composition time and again. The painting has been criticized as over-worked, but again, I am merely infatuated with the virile splendor and painterly virtuosity.
oil on canvas
I have been in love with the soldier on Leonide’s left for decades, the timelessness of love and art.
For a higher quality image of the painting follow this Encyclopedia Britannica link .
The following are some of the examples of David’s attention to detail, both source links offer very interesting insight into David’s process, well worth a peek.
black chalk, squared in black chalk
I will end this Academic love fest with just two more images ,because I can never be satisfied with less.
I appreciate your indulgence.
Musée royaux des Beaux Arts de Belgique
I appreciate the opportunity to rant, until next time, take care.