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Art = Absurdity = Provocation = Contemplation = Wisdom = Love

Posts Tagged ‘Paul Doran

Bruegel the Elder vs. Beatrice Joan Wilson Powell

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Tower of Babel

Brief Bio Part II – More Boring Stuff: (From Brief Bio I) While in New York my father, in the Navy Reserves, was called to active duty and sent to Taiwan and then Saigon. My mother, at the time, was a grad student at Columbia and writing her dissertation with perhaps six months of work to attain her Ph.D. She chose to postpone her degree and join my father in a decision that can be seen as a metaphor for much of her work. She never finished her dissertation.  My mother stayed in Taiwan, where she taught Mandarin at the Taipei International School.

Half-Castle

Competition: But how does having an “EBD” (Everything but dissertation) become a metaphor? Because my mother lacks the gene that drives successful artists to create until completion. In previous posts my mother has taken on Paul Doran, Helen Frankenthaler, and Clyfford Still, and her technique has handily defeated them. However, beating those three replicates an adult winning a tennis tournament against 8-year-olds. To paint better than Pollock or Rothko or Motherwell eludes the point. Their whole shtick depends on the shock value of not aspiring to the heights of technique. When it comes to abstract expressionism and similar disciplines, mental energy focuses on conceptual ambiguities that escape the interest of many, and thus comparing Beatrice Powell to them is, as I like to hammer redundantly and self-indulgently, comparing Apples to Orangutans. (Apples and orange are both round sweet fruit, they are similar, so why not compare apes to apes and fruit to fruit and find a new cliché?) I do not respond to Pollock & company, but I realize that many people do, thus the exorbitant pricetags of their work. And this pisses me off.

Anyway, I diverge and die…gress. I’m trying to pay homage to the greatest painters. How would my mother fair against, say, Pieter Bruegel the Elder?

Caricatures

Bruegel suffered to paint. His life was his art, it was not a hobby, a part time whim or fancy; art consumed him 100% of the time. He kept painting, seeking an illusive redemption. There is no romanticizing or exaggeration, in the 45 years or so that he lived, and by the less than 50 canvasses that remain of his work from the 16th Century, he became, without hyperbole, a master.

My mother, ah, my mother. Look at her two paintings sandwiched between the Bruegels. The “Half-Castle” illustrates her unfinished “finished” painting. “Caricatures” is a hoot, but the white spaces remain. These watercolors show how she often loses the fire and hunger mid-painting.  My mother has not suffered to paint. She is happy. This can lead to complacency and, dare I say, laziness. She has had moments of dedication and hunger and study, especially in her youth, but as with her Ph.D., art was never that important too her. She chose family and happiness, and I love her for that. Who could blame her? I admire her talent, and yet, the artist in me wonders where she would be if she had been consumed more by art.

Dulle Griet

Paul Doran vs. Beatrice Joan Wilson Powell

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Brief Bio, Part I – The Boring Stuff: Beatrice Joan Wilson met David Powell at Cooper Union in the 50s. She graduated with a degree in Fine Art, and he in Civil Engineering. After graduation David Powell joined the US Navy and was sent to Guam. While living on Guam the Powells took a vacation to Japan, and while there Beatrice fell in love with Oriental art and language. After four years in Guam the Powells returned to New York City, David got a graduate degree at NYU and Beatrice went to  Columbia University to study Chinese language and Chinese art. Her painting above: New Diamond Restaurant.

Cooper Union has a credible program in the arts, its graduates include Jackson Pollock’s wife, Lee Krasner, as well as Eva Hesse and Milton Glaser. At Cooper Union Beatrice had an experimental and abstract expressionist phrase. These paintings are still on the wall of her house, as seen in the YouTube video below. This nonsense passed as she later pursued techinically difficult art over simple form. Previously, her art went head to head with abstractionists Helen Frankenthaler & Clyfford Still. This time she’s battling a different critter. Who? Paul Doran…look at his works to see where this is going. Let his works speak for themselves. Look right. Look below.

PAUL DORAN: Here’s what the critics say about Paul Doran: “PAUL DORAN’S small, gritty paintings remind one of Arthur Dove upon first view. Small and seemingly clumsy, like Dove’s early forays into abstraction, Doran seems to be channeling early modernism…blah-help-me-blah…” (I dread to imagine Arthur Dove)

Or:Paul Doran is most famous for a series of work that took a love of impasto effects to the level of extreme sport, burying the canvas in a rich heap of brashly swept oil-paint… ” (Brashly swept? Impasto effects? As they say in The Tube in London:  Shut up, you fucking cow!)

Don’t even try the “you don’t get art” defense: Okay, if you’re a Doran fan, you might be thinking,  “Ah hah, why respond to this idiot Caleb Powell. He’s dismissing before looking deeper. This ass just doesn’t understand art.” Fair enough. I’ll fire back: art’s my damned life.

When art critics champion dross the people who don’t understand art either turn off or ignore. The people who understand art are offended or sycophantic. Art becomes less important and accessible. Paul Doran’s existence is one of the many epitomes of this dynamic. Are there any Paul Doran admirers out there? Engage me, gaze at the two Dorans…I’ve given a first glance, a hard intuitive look, and a long meditation. Conclusion: Utter squeak.

VIDEO:  I give a tour of my parents’ house. Lots of books & art. Pictured is my mother at Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan, 1967 (a year before she gave birth to me).

Helen Frankenthaler vs. Beatrice Joan Wilson Powell

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This post has four pictures, two of them are painted by Helen Frankenthaler, an abstract expressionist who achieved no small amount of attention. She passed away on December 27, 2011. And here are two self-explanatory examples of her art, which I’ll call “Blue” & “Yellow.” Pleasant, indeed, but worthy of greatness? The paintings above and below are the work of one of her unknown contempories, Beatrice Joan Wilson Powell, aka Cove Loon, aka Mom. Frankenthaler achieved fame and attention, yet comes from a period that I simply do not get. She counts artists such as Jackson Pollock among her influences. This is problematic, Pollock is not great. Certainly, he is among the many of her contemporaries that have changed & influenced art, but I would argue that they have not advanced art. They’ve lowered the aesthetic bar, added elements that take away from pursuits of beauty and meaning and replaced them with simplicity. Often I think the art world has gone nuts, and rewarded people not on skill or talent or aesthetic but on random chance and marketing. Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Paul Doran, Arshile Gorky, Damien Hirst, Lee Krasner, Dale Malner, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still, Andy Warhol, et al somehow managed to replicate pop culture or fill a niche or fund bizarre projects as they spread globs of paint on canvas or as they manufactured junk into a visual display; their art is craft or promotion. Am I an unsophisticated lout who has no appreciation of art? That usually is a defense artistes wage against detractors, fair enough, but I have grown up amidst art, am familiar with the art historians, and think that for an artist to be great, one of the criteria is that they must have talent.

As far as Frankenthaler’s art, intuitively and with a further and deeper glance, I do not see why her paintings have value. Her art does not interest me, I pass it by and look for something else.

This brings me to my mother, and do not think I imply that she should be famous. Her talent is worthy of greatness, but her output, ambition, drive, complacency et al have hindered her overall body of work. She is exactly where she should be in the art world, someone who is appreciated by family and friends. Nevertheless, take a look at the art within this post. What would you rather have on your wall?

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