CreditsDirector: Carlos Vilardebo Writers/Narration: André Parinaud: Carlos Vilardebo
Catalog number # 601
53 minutes Color
Age Range: 15 to Adult
Closed Captions and Interactive Transcript
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Well now. What is reality for the artist?
Opinion of the curator.
I'd like to say: Art is always an interpretation of Reality, you know. Experience. Opinion of the artists.
Truth as it is, as it is. The artist always makes vis-a-vis reality another reality.
There's the whole of reality; but there's only a personal perception of that reality.
Nevertheless, we can recognize, for example, in front of this painting that reality exists not in itself: reality depends on our point of view and how we approach reality.
Shall we ever know the real beyond appearance? Reality is the archetypal quest of every artist. For Courbet the lived experience needed to be represented in painting as a veritable document.
Whereas for a Renaissance man, the symbol, say, Botticelli's Birth of Venus, was a sign sufficient enough to express all the aspirations of an era. What about today? Man has enlarged his universe, until he finds himself reaching for the stars. But his own measure has not budged one whit.
Yet one is hard put to know it all, to comprehend everything to put one's finger right where it matters. Complexity of knowledge has brought about specialization not only in science and technology but also in the arts.
For example, the artists did not push beyond the measure of their space. The expressionists closeted themselves in the analysis of the feelings.
And the contemporary creator initiates the trial by art all over again by himself.
Reality. What simpler than the reality of a seat?/a chair? And yet, in this age when all is programmed, where even the unforeseen is foreseen, it is exactly this that one of the most current artists of our time, Joseph Kosuth is examining, demonstrating thereby our lack of knowledge concerning an object that we refer to as familiar. An essential category of artists finds its motivation in the certainty that our senses cannot realize the whole of reality and that only the unconscious allows the crossing over to the other side of the mirror, revealing the arch simplicity behind all complexity.
The surrealists, here, Hans Bellmer & Paul Delvaux, have paced dream, fantasy and sexuality high in priority in their exploration.
Expressionists, such as Max Beckmann, wanted to rip off the masks and liberate the violence in beings and in social forces.
The Naive painters frame the real to free it from its times. Camille Bombois does not look away from the world. To the contrary, her look is one of marvelous innocence, the look opulent bathers share before the painter or spectator astonishing candor which art today has lost.
The contemporary artist asks for confrontation. And the image he obtains is tangible. It states and does not narrate.
Trace. Antonio Recalcati not only gives a pictorial translation of man, but "prints" him directly on canvas. Prolongation of the known - the hand: his print for posterity.
Already, Yves Klein had tried this with feminine forms. But that was more a celebration with music al accompaniment. More an etherizing trace of blue nudity than the deep reality of a woman.
More mood indigo than plumbing a woman's depths. Recalcati's prints get closer to the marks left by the condemned in Nazi gas chambers.
On his own scale, Recalcati would bear witness to the sordidness around him: what we call life. Clothes, the incriminating evidence.
complete pleat chaos
And underneath it all, flesh, the more real because the less seen.
Man multiplied, the artist, tortured; prisoner.
Accent on suffering and solitude.
Vain theatrical act if the overshadowing mushroom negative were not filled with disintegrated human atoms from Hiroshima. Less tragic are the sleeping forms from the Vesuvian Apocalypse the last day of Pompeii.
Nearer a halt in time is American reality artist George Segal.
George Segal casts his friends, in quest of their quotidian.
But he passes over the inner form of the mold: too clean, too precise.
It is the outer guck, the white plaster sepulcher that contains the soul of his model: spirit, feeling, ideas, all the invisible qualities.
Too beautiful, too faithful a reality.
Seized, trapped inside a form, beyond surface appearance.
Who is what? Where is what? An Italian takes us away from a simple answer. Michelangelo Pistoletto captures through mirrors the living image and the frozen. Is the spectator within or without the work?
Exchange - duality of the so-called true and so-called false.
For where is the real image?
The position of contemporary art: the search for realism is a principle of creation, not a style. Principle where imagination and information confront each other endlessly.
The artists are going to grab all the images proposed by society.
First the object will polarize the new look. The object revealing the presence of reality, the artist's key to its secret treasures.
Thus Jean Pierre Raynaud (as seen through Jean-Olivier Hucleux's hyper-realistic portrait) creates psycho-objects. He starts a mental operation going that will link two objects, total strangers to each other. Trial as much for the brain as for the eye. That Reynaud sets up until you want to start anew in white emptiness.
Peter Klasen goes in search of stronger shocks. Cold plumbing against the warmth and roundness of flesh. Antagonism. The chrome locks and heavy mechanisms lead.
Klasen also to a form of asceticism:
The grids impose limitations upon reason.
Still, without bounds there could not be freedom.
Information & imagination - between them: confrontation, subversion, refusal, adhesion. Diversity in methods proving the difficulty of painters to corner the real.
Another way is drawing.
If you ask Gerard Titus-Carmel if the search for the real is the goal in his work, he'll say:
He does everything he can to avoid the trap old appearances. The reality of the work here is the drawing on paper. As far as I'm concerned, the question of image is a problem since I'm forced to say:
That, that' s not an image, what it really represents is a bit strange: sticks, bits of wood, splices. You draw it, but you can't deny there's an image somewhere; so then I say: right, there is an image somewhere.
But I'll also tell you it's not the image I'm interested in. It's the sort of movement. Albeit slightly adrift, of timeless time, no longer in existence, yet found again here in the drawing. That's what there is to draw. Not a piece of cloth or tape or wood, that's of no interest to me.
But to draw what I draw, what draws itself, and the way things get drawn.
That's why Titus Carmel chooses to work on objects without a use, of undefined function, in a time left open.
Only passing, only, passing.
And he makes these objects, conferring on them a reality all their own.
They have their own identity, huh... Of their matter, of their form and that of their status as reality and model. That's their reality. What can you say of a lemon? I don't know. That it's bitter, yellow.
No, it's a lemon.
Yes, and it's a whatchamacallit. It's a thing. That has as much reality to it as "lemon" in the final analysis I'm dealing with the real, as with a quantity of anything else
Yes, but you're a painter.
Drawer. Maybe that's the difference. There's a moment it comes and appears like a moment of manifestation. That's to say: when the paper, when the pencil, the eraser, the model, whereof speaking: if there's an image, there's a model (whether it be imaginary or real) Well now, when all these things come to have the humility and the evidence and the quiet force to be only what they are and to share a determined surface, let's call it a drawing and frame it.
This framed work is with reason the attempt at harmony undertaken by the artist in order to reduce the difference between the physical reality of an object and the same reality reimagined by the artist. The two are on the same stretch of beach. All of a sudden something happens. But not to one or the other, between the both of them. That's when it's time to see which is really the model of the other. Doesn't suddenly the drawing become model for the real? Moreover, in certain drawings I've seen the thing utilized to its very limit, which was... making the object putting it on the sheet of paper, copying it, recopying it until finally making a drawing of it. And this sort of slide, this slight drift between what is suddenly credible and less credible, picking up the object again, skinning it, laying it flat again and copying the drawing, reconstructing an object. And this object, placed like a brooch which would go underneath like a kind of sample, all in saying: that's exactly what we're talking about.
Measuring tension between two poles.
That's it. But in this tension there's something else. That's why this notion of realism or reality is so interesting, because the better (in quotes) the drawing is, the more tension the readier the field between the two poles, the livelier the energy load.
Velickovic. Here the electrical charge is violent because it is human.
Vladimir Velickovic. pursues force rupture, dynamizing it in movement: dog flesh, which he calls autoportraits. Opposing human contradictions: the give and take of aggression and violence. It's a painful awareness of the world these painters show. The look beyond form condemns and cries out.
Schultze & Kudo: anguish of nightmare proportions. And there are those who counter this sick vision with an unshakeable faith in life.
This woman is the basis of my theory of art. Wolf Vostell Is German. His work is committed to the social and political life of his country.
All his action is in seeking to understand the current meaning of life for modern man. I love car culture: concreting them. Tt's psychological. It shows how much we're stuck. The automobile and its culture is the happening for everybody in the Twentieth Century.
Vostell wants to see, and, above all, live, the contradictions good or bad, of his times. Okay, plane culture or train culture - it's all the same. They're part of the traffic phenomenon of the 20th Century. Paradoxically there's no anxiety here. On the contrary. A kind of sensual pleasure of movement activates Vostell's gestures. And this phenomenon, I transmit it as a principle to the human body as well. That is to say: when I put a woman in cement, it means the same thing. It doesn't mean I'm anti-woman, but the opposite: it means that concrete is a psychological blocking principle.
This is Europe.
On the other aide of the Atlantic is something else. Americans are people of the real. It's on their soil the realization was born, wanting to deepen the physical appearance of reality - and that alone. Hyperrealism - Hyper meaning above and beyond. Going beyond the real. Its perception is sharp, almost optical. Here imagination wants to be stifled. Thought also, if you get that far. Hyperrealists work using photos. But photography is not the theme. It's a source of data: its reproduction almost systematic. Let's take a look at two attitudes.
Chuck Close who plays with pictorial language but makes clear: "I'm not interested in humanist painting."
John de Andrea, who seeks lifelikeness but confirms: "Of the person, I only want to recreate the surface."
De Andrea casts the most secret forms of his models, revealing the transparence peculiar to their skin, the silkiness of their hair.
But he makes one question the synthetic immobile nature of these creatures rather than their models.
Chuck Close uses the suggestive power of pictorial expression but the rift here has to do with proportion. Greatly blown up, the details are seen, otherwise than what they are.
Is a hair still a hair? (a beard a beard?)
By a kind of spontaneous specialization, the American hyper-realists give preference to a particular theme. Richard Mac Lean makes horse portraits.
Don EDDY cars.
Malcolm Morley leafs through the yellow pages and paints cities: Ralph Goings goes in for caravans. Richard Estes is fascinated by shop windows of the big city. And Robert Cottingham decrypts signs.
A hyperrealist painting is a reality comprised in another reality. Penetrate into one and you risk coming out by the other. Above all, it's a showdown of visions.
No matter how you try, you don't know where you are, do you, Mr. Jones? In Europe, especially Paris, the Hyperrealist vision is admirably served by Jean-Olivier Hucleux who paints the living territory of the dead: cemeteries. Here is where begin the intimations of the subject thought out at length. For that, Europeans have a tendency to aggrandize. Fragmented, isolated, assaulted, the detail is considered as a part of the whole and is what is observed.
Skins, textures, knits are the work strings of Gerard Schlosser. The detail of clothing in its oblivion of everyday banality gives Domenico Gnoli an opportunity for tranquil introspection
However, a corner of Europe, Spain, conserves an original authenticity. In fact, we have only to remember painters of the last century, who went with their paint boxes, easels, and canvases under their arm to work directly from real life. La Gran Via in Madrid is the choice work spot of Antonio Lopez Garcia. He has been coming here time after time each morning for many years.
Another necessity: familiarity with the light, with people, with the indefinable sources that go to create life's reality, be it citified even, and noisy.
Here: no more working from photos. Lopez Garcia says he draws and paints in the same timespan. For, as he places things, he looks and corrects. He keeps on correcting until he finds the right place. Because either it's done from life or from a photograph. If you do it from a photograph you imbue it with another interest. But in view of naturalness, it must be done totally from life.
The pictorial rhythm is very mysterious, very difficult to explain. This rhythm, maintained throughout the execution of the painting, is the secret link uniting the street to the painting. Rehabilitation of the painter's eye, having the task to discover in the painter's work as much as the spectator. For the realism of Lopez Garcia is sensual. On a house facade or naked back, the lack of optical definition offers all the same precise perception. No more analytic writing or dictated reading on a subject, still much more. All the possible joys or all the hurts received in these bundles of flesh are present, simply revealed as they are. There's a whole lifetime in the painting of these two bodies just as there's a whole quotidian going down the sink here.
Faithful unto themselves to the very end, these Spanish painters tie back to the tradition of the group. Next to Lopez Garcia work Isabel Quintanilla, Paco Lopez and others. They've all received the same academic education. Isabel Quintanilla has the modesty to cast her eyes on her familiar universe.
She mainly draws, as she says:
"Things present, things real, ordinary glasses, whatever ordinary everyday people buy. Because, if they break, you can. Vibrations of leaves and light. Natural insertion of the painted canvas in its natural setting.
The Chilean Claudio Bravo found his calling affirmed in Spain. He also appears to have discovered new truths as he follows in the footsteps of tradition.
Bravo excels in creating confusion between the real false and the false real. Thus, the most traditional procedures of the painter offer no obstacle that might impair artistic vision.
Or the stroke of a Cezanne or Van Gogh painting from life is ever the same that instigated all true revolutions in art.
There is another aspect to the quest for reality. He who, influenced by the surge of an epoch, would seize the momentum and dynamism of reality, must play with the time within the work, the time it takes for the eye to grasp the tale told. Narrative figuration seeks solely through its writing to achieve figured representation of the duration. At another period Meissonier, when he painted a battlefield, thought he had achieved the truth of reality by his faithfulness to detail. Then the camera inherited the mission of capturing frame by frame the sundry aspects of reality. But filmdom, Hollywood in particular, closeted itself in romantic narrative conventions. It avoided bringing in any expression ultramodern for fear of alienating its prime source of revenue: the box office.
And after, comes the comic strip
The comic strip: popular form of expression which has taken up the relay of modern times. Here's what the creator of Corto Maltese has to say about it: Hugo Pratt
The comic stripped was always shoved to one side by academe, considered by official cultural circles as something minor.
Minor: and yet its heroes, its spread throughout the world, it's vital contact with a hurried and harried public help to create a narrative cursory, allusive and nuanced, but also direct, precise and simple. The comic strip is a question of synthesis, it's dynamite for telling lots in little. It's a modern business
Since it is a modern business, painters are going to take over this language to formulate a critical and often political observation of current events.
Jacques Monory works in photography but in a very filmic fashion
In my case, obviously, if there hadn't been photography and I'm a child of the cinema and not of the Louvre Museum. My oldest memories have to do with my painting and my desire. It's, well, for instance, Orson Welle's Citizen Kane.
Monory, what do you expect of others looking at your work?
That they tell me, I'm alive. Because, if others don't look at me, I'm dead. Oh, yes. Without others. Imagine yourself: tomorrow, walking down the street; and nobody sees you. I don't know if you could live out the week, you'd sell the farm beforehand.
And your act of painting is therefore an act... that makes you your first beneficiary?
Yes. For my survival and peace of mind. Absolutely.
The first beneficiary is really me.
EX: extract from a film by Jacques Monory. I created a method for myself but it was based on a feeling, a feeling that the world was really hostile. I had a very strong sensation that there was the world, and me. And, between it and myself, there was automatically a dialogue. If there hadn't been it would have been all over for me. But I had always considered it an enemy, even though I knew that, without it, I was nothing. The guy walking down the street he's like me. We're inextricably tied. It's impossible for me to live without him. I understood the link between the world and myself. When I started to do a series. On murders. So I imagined myself as the victim, then as the aggressor, by shooting bullets into mirrors. And I realized something, and I was a bit surprised, and that is: people perceived it very well and understood it perfectly: that it was themselves; that I was nothing special, that I wasn't an individual, an artist, something that didn't have to do with others, but that I was exactly like them. Only: I had the possibility to show it in pictures.
The attempt to apprehend the whole of contemporaneous time has been abandoned for the observation of the moment. Reality is cut up into fragments and these are the personal areas that Monory cares to describe.
And, anyway, the most personal of human beings, he'd still be so human and he'd look like everybody else. It has to be linked to a reality, a visual reality, because, obviously, there are all sorts of realities: abstract realities, mentally pure realities. But me, in my work, I have to be hooked up to an image reality.
Other painters, same procedure. Gilles Aillaud paints zoo cell enclosures where the animal can blend in with the color background. And we too melt in. Valerio Adami dismembers the image. He disassembles in order to recompose.
Telemaque edits images until they become a kind of rebus puzzle. It all has to do with the maze that is modern life. Botero, in the guise of all that is naive and candid, fiercely criticizes the bourgeois society of his country. Erro is an example of modern man obsessed by image: carscapes, foodscapes, everything touching modern life, sugarcoated . With the 60's, the protest years, politics becomes a new motif for the creative act. So it was for Gianni Spadari, Italian militant artist.
Yes, and I think we should begin a little earlier: my cultural background, as a figurative painter, began in the 60's. Back in the 60's I was doing figuration, narrative figuration; and I was interested in existential problems and in giving dramatic testimony to everyday existence. It was around '68 that my work began to evolve more directly in terms of reality. And my images became political images: political iconography. I began to look at photography, photography as mass media; and the repertory of the image. It's the usual repertory of mass media: television, documentaries, magazines.
Those are also the media of political action.
They are the media of political action. Far be it from me to think that through painting you can make a revolution. In the end you make people aware of social problems and after someone makes a revolution for it all. To the contrary, you can make people think about certain persons and about art in general. The noble image in art becomes in time the image of the masses It happens with mass media too. The goal is to communicate and it's the way of putting it all together that makes for communication.
We can also speak of montage because the work was made with several images and each image enters into relation with the others, until the painting gives a certain direction, as we say: line. The image is very contrasted. There's no more grey, there's only black and white. And I noticed that this technique was used by students to make posters. There was direct evidence, it became a signal.
Unequivocal. And after, comed the comic strip. But what happened to this political painting when, in the seventies, ideologies disbanded?
The Spanish Grupo Cronica answers with one of its paintings, Collective work or supreme political work, promoted to the rank of masterpiece: Picasso's Guernica cries out... in the void of an empty museum room.
So let us ask Gianni Spadari what has become of him 12 years after. I was a communist and I'm still a communist; and I said there was a break between a Communist who, as a human, promulgates a change in social reality and the artist who occupied himself with more individual, personal matters. And I said it was around '68 when those two moments: political and artistic commitment came together: cogeneration. Today, I'm faced anew with that separation.
Between the person ever interested in social change and the artist untouched by social problems.
So that's why I think I should find myself again.
Find the pleasure of life again. For, in that voluntary commitment, I sacrificed a part of myself. Today I no longer demand freedom to paint. Paint 30 greens, 20 different sky blues. How shall I say, the sea, the sun, the clouds, the rainbow. These are things I think of doing for the sheer joy.
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