Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Art Saturday, Part II

We left off this narrative on an exquisitely beautiful afternoon in the Robert Irwin garden at the Getty. There was much more we could have done there, including the exhibition Luminous Paper: British Watercolors & Drawings which I would much like to have seen. Another time. We had already decided to extend our trip west--we do not often get out to this part of town these days--to see the Leon Kossoff show at LA Louver gallery in Venice. We were not disappointed. The British painter is now in his mid-80s, and there's something about the authority and maturity of age, a certain abandonment of all concerns and demands but those of the painting, an assurance that could care less about any aesthetic correctness that allows the artist perfect freedom to lay it all out on the canvas. Kossoff's palette is now remarkably subdued, but the brushwork is powerful and unhesitant; the familiar, heavily impasto'ed surfaces are in constant agitation, exciting to the eye and requiring the mind to participate in the creation of the image. There are landscapes here...


(all images are borrowed with acknowledgement from the galleries' websites)

... and portraits...


and images of cathedral facades...


... that call to mind those paintings Monet made of Rouen Cathedral. Kossoff's work reminds us of that traditional strain of British painters that resisted the grand sweep of American-led abstraction and retained its own values through the turbulent twentieth century. Wordsworth's words also come to mind: "emotion recollected in tranquillity."

There's something of that same masterful quality in the work of Robert Irwin--yes, the same Robert Irwin who designed that lovely garden at the Getty--at the relatively new and quietly spectacular L & M Arts gallery, also in Venice, a stone's throw from LA Louver. This gallery's current New York show, Dan Flavin, Three Works, featuring that pioneer of art employing colored neon tubes, is complemented here in their California branch by Robert Irwin, Way Out West...


... in which we find another artist of mature years working with a medium that has held his attention since his earliest years: light.


I found the work quite beautiful, functioning in somewhat the same way as the stained glass windows in those magnificent cathedrals; for lack of a better word, I'd want to talk about a kind of "spiritual" glow that requires some time to seep into the soul. The immediate impact of such upfront technology-dependent work can seem cold and affect-less, particularly coming straight from the hands-on emotionality of a Leon Kossoff painting. I like the Irwin work more in retrospect, oddly, than in their immediate presence. I find that they resonate more warmly in my memory.

That same evening, we bestirred ourselves late evening to hit the road once again--this time heading to nearby Echo Park where our daughter, now eight-and-a-half months pregnant, was scheduled to play a gig at Lot 1. She scarcely fit in behind her drums, but still managed a stirring performance with her boyfriend Ed and their band, the Pick-Up Sticks. So good to hear them play with such passion and, they too, with a growing sense of authority and ease. The pictures and videos I took with my I-Phone did not turn out well enough to show. Apologies!

1 comment:

offer waterman said...

Wow! What an interesting and wonderful post! The first self portrait drew me in and wouldn't let go for quite a long time. What a man and what a life! Thank you for sharing about him.
Offer Waterman & Co.