Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Benois – The Italian Comedy

May 22, 2008

Painting by Alexander Benois, Russian of French descent, in 1906. Not really sure what this painting means or anything, there’s just this huge and awesome sense of foreboding I get whenever I see it. I like the sense of depth in the painting…there are figures at three different levels. Part of the allure is that it’s hard to tell what’s going on. Is the man in the background attacking the woman? When I see him, he makes me think that he’s conjuring or performing some kind of black incantation. At the same time, it’s not exactly certain that the two characters are even interacting. It’s also easy to quickly dismiss the female character. It’s interesting that she seems to explicitly be an object, to be acted upon, in contrast to the male figures. The two characters in the middle ground are pretty similar. They both seem to be sitting back on their heels, simultaneously like gentleman aloof from the violence and jackals waiting for the killing to happen. Especially the man in the white suit, his posture is amazing, its full of tension; you can feel him pushing backwards while wanting to be drawn in. And finally, you have the harlequin type guy in the foreground. When I saw this, my immediate comparison was to Seurat’s “Circus” (1891), where a clown-type figure in the foreground sets the stage, so to speak, on the action of the painting. His checkered clothing is also suggestive of a matador, and looking quickly at the painting, you might easily see the middle-ground black suited man as a cape that the harlequin is waving. That last part is probably not true, but it makes sense if its referencing the killing that’s going on in the background. The Harlequin’s pose is just ridiculous, it’s impossible for someone to stand like that unless they’re in the process of moving. So basically I have no idea.

Malevich – Red Cavalry Riding

May 22, 2008

Painting is by Kazimir Malevich, from 1928-1932. Malevich was Russian, the cavalry depicted probably refers to the Red Army. Malevich was at the forefront of the Communist movement in Russia but was one of the early communist idealists, and when Stalin came to power, he was persecuted pretty badly. No one really knows what Malevich thought of Stalinist Russia, but paintings from this period tend to project loneliness, of distant images that are too far to reach. The obvious comparison is to “Red House”, dating from around the same time; he uses the same sort of muted color scheme in that painting. There is just this immense and endless sky above the riders, it seems to stretch all the way up to space. Not sure what the meaning of the striped foreground is, but it’s something that appears in almost all of his late pieces. As far as the cavalry figures, you could probably draw some sort of comparison to earlier suprematist pieces like “Suprematism with Eight Red Triangles”, and a lot of Malevich’s late compositions have some sort of synthesis of his earlier Suprematism. The cavalry seem indomitable and incapable of having their progress slowed. I think Malevich generally portrays these figures in a positive light. The time when the White Army was being vanquished was for him the glory days of the movement, and the red cavalry marching to battle represent that. I think there is a small element of nostalgia for the old imagery of Cossack warriors marching across the steppes; it seems like nostalgia always creeps into the works of Russian modernist painters. At this point, Malevich still feels proud these riders, but he knows that he does not belong; he is an outsider.