Monday, September 12, 2016

Canvas 9.12.16

If you're anything like me, you don't know the first thing about modern art. And if you do, it's because you've read Having a Coke with You a billion and one times, and, no matter how hard you try to tell yourself you're not, you're a hopeless romantic. 

So naturally, you look up every single art piece mentioned in the poem just to see what the brilliant Frank O'Hara was talking about when he mentioned going to the Frick to see the Polish Rider, or Marino Marini's poor choice of the rider verses the horse. 

Polish Rider, Rembrandt
You look at the fine painting of this Polish man atop his noble steed, and admit that the thing looks pretty damn realistic. You can see beauty in the detail of the landscape and even the color scheme chosen for the scene. Well, at least that's enough to distract you from asking what the point of painting a man on a horse could be. Right on, Rembrandt.  

No wonder O'Hara took back his previous pickup line. 

Now that you're all caught up on your 17th century art and are basically an expert on art history, you decide you're ready to look up Marino Marini's Horse and Rider to give it a critical analysis, (although no one asked you to) and you find this: 

Horse and Rider, Marini
And you're like:

That's quite a transition O'Hara. 

Thinking about all the strikingly different yet innately similar aspects of these works, I realize how important it is for people who don't often observe different forms of art (literature, film, sculpture, painting, etc.) to look into the context these works were formed in. Now many of us intellectuals are like duh, but believe it or not, it's harder to do if you're not sitting in an art history course.  

It turns out that these were a pair of highly contested works for a number of reasons: although Rembrandt is listed as the painter, that has long since been in question. And the figure in the painting can't be figured out either which apparently really bugs most art critics. The ambiguity of the landscape and the sketchy color scheme got loads of Europeans all riled up trying to claim him as a warrior for their own cause. Typical, I suppose. 
It's also possible that the Marini piece was a commentary on the instability of Europe even after World War II. 

In the end, it'll be your obsession with something else (like my obsession with Frank O'Hara) that may lead you to something you've never looked at before. And don't be intimidated by the ambiguity of most modern art. You may not be a pro, but start with context; that'll always lead you somewhere. 

Oh and one more thing: although you've just realized that the art pieces O'Hara mentioned in the poem don't actually have anything to do with romance and that he may have been getting at a higher point regarding art that you don't get, ignore it. Relish in the unbelievably icky aspects of the poem, and in your self satisfaction. 

Don't worry, once you get back to your elective English class and are the only English major in the room, you'll sound like a genius again. 


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