How To Look At a Painting

A Sixty Minute Walk Around “de Kooning — A Retrospective ”

  1. Make light of it.

    ‘‘ When we observe a picture for any length of time, even the most serious picture, we have to turn it into a caricature in order to bear it…We cannot endure a state of admiration for long, and we perish if we do not break it off in time, he said. I have all my life been far from being an admirer, admiration is alien to me, as there are no miracles, admiration has always been alien to me and nothing repels me more than observing people in the act of admiration, people infected with some admiration. You enter a church and the people there admire, you enter a museum and the people admire. You go to a concert and the people admire, that is distasteful. People enter every church and every museum as though with a rucksack full of admiration, and for that reason they always have that revolting stooping way of walking which they all have in churches and museum., he said. ’’

  2. Imagine that all the paintings are fakes except for one unidentified as such.

    This might take quite a bit of effort. The paintings are in a major museum and it is unlikely that any of them are fakes. But the question to ask is how does the knowledge that these are or are not fakes affect the way they are perceived? The aspect of the painting changes according to an assumption of authenticity.

    “But those are the work of Priam Farll. Of that I assure you.”

    If two pictures are exactly alike, if there is no discernable difference between them, what does it matter if one canvas were marked by Rembrandt and the other by some modern faker? “the aesthetic properties aof a picture include not only those found by looking at it but also those that determine how it is looked at”. “I contemplate a face, and then suddenly notice its likeness to another. I see that it has not changed: and yet I see it differently. I call this experience, ‘noticing an aspect’.” “For connoisseurs and archaeologists alike, style is an aspect”

    This isn’t about value, frequent news stories about forgeries generally pivot around a notion of price, dishonesty and class (rogues and cads). How does a change in aspect of the painting affect the viewing experience?

  3. Imagine that you are going to take home one of the paintings

    Living with an art object affords more experiences or at least different experiences than viewing one in a museum or public space. There are variations on this: looking at a painting The factory in the sixties. When anyone was in town the’d go visit Andy, pick up a painting and carry it out with them, under their arm.

    What it means to live with a piece can have several interpretations in different media: the experience of viewing, reading or listening must be repeated, the experience must be repeatable at will this means that you have unrestricted access to the piece. A church nearby, a digital file, ownership of a painting)

  4. View the paintings from different angles

    If you have a little knowledge of painting in this fashion (and I suspect many people do) you can a) stand back shut one eye and block out parts of the painting with your hands to see how removing bits of it affect the balance of the painting. b) Another way to look at them is to stand at just the right distance from the painting and some bits will recede, some advance (EXAMPLE HERE) Kenneth Clark, Denis Pelli on Chuck Close c) Wave your arms around and you’ll sense how human are the proportions and gestures of the painting. d) creep up close to the painting and standing to one side of the painting look at the sides and look at the surface obliquely

    e) stride forward to within a couple of feet of the painting and face it head on. f) steadily and slowly advance, then with cocked head retreat, pause, thrust your groin asymmetrically forward lean back a little, dip you head and narrow your eyes. I’ve been perfecting this technique ever since I saw Brice Marden look at Pollock’s like this.,

  5. Group the paintings into categories

    De Kooning curated his own body of work. very clearly defined periods of work, set out in series like ‘projects’, this order was followed, so there were no curatorial surprises but perhaps other categories are available after all: The paintings might be sorted into four categories: doors rivers parkways beavches The women series are all ‘doors’ in some way

  6. Taste the paintings

    The pervasive vapors of turpentine. He diluted oil and enamel paint with water by using an electric whisk. This lengthened the distance a brushstroke could travel while remaining wet and fairly loaded with paint. cooking oils he added to extend the wetness and workability of paints

  7. Compare the paintings to other artists who use similar squishy or sketchy techniques

    Jean Dubuffet Leon Kossoff Chaim Soutine Gerhard Richter (EXAMPLES HERE)

  8. Study the different ‘aspects’ of the paintings

    DEFINITION OF ‘ASPECT’ FROM POLIYANI. Take the paintings from around the time the ‘Montauk’ series were painted. Do you see figures? the catalog essay by…..identifies eyes, lips, feet. In particular legs in this series:

  9. Think of cartoons

    Krazy Kat Bugs Bunny- distortions Cartoons (EXAMPLES HERE)

Category: Art


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