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Max Beckmann- The Actors 1941

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What I want to show in my work is the idea which hides itself behind so-called reality. I am seeking for the bridge which leans from the visible to the invisible through reality. It may sound paradoxical, but it is in fact reality which forms the mystery of our existence.

–Max Beckmann

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For some reason, the work of Max Beckmann has never found its way to this blog. I have had an affinity with his work for many years. Part of that no doubt comes from the black linework that is present in much of his work as a result of his beginning his paintings on a black painted surface, which is something very familiar to my own process. This allowed his colors to expand off the surface, again something with which I can associate. This made his colors feel brighter and bolder, giving his work a look that separated itself from the bulk of other artists in the German Expressionist movement with which he is most often associated.

Max Beckmann- Self Portrait with Champagne Glass 1919

Beckmann was born in Leipzig, Germany in 1884 and from an early age showed a talent for painting. His first self portrait was painted at the age of 14. His self portraiture was an important aspect of his work as he painted at least 85 versions over the course of his life. Perhaps only Picasso and Rembrandt have documented themselves more.

Beckmann served as a medic during the First World War and the chaos and violence he experienced served to inspire his work for coming decade of the 1920’s. Working in Berlin in post-war Weimar Germany, Beckmann became a star, his work darkly documenting the existential doom that seems to mark Berlin of that time. But with the rise of Hitler, Beckmann’s light faded in Germany. He was a major target for Hitler’s wrath toward what he termed Degenerate Art and fled to Amsterdam in 1937. There, he desperately (and unsuccessfully) tried a number of times to get a visa to the USA.

But he survived the war and in 1948 emigrated to the USA. Over the course of the next three years, he taught painting at Washington University in St. Louis and the Brooklyn Museum. He died from a heart attack days after Christmas in 1950 on a Manhattan street corner as he was on his way to see one of his paintings at the Metropolitan Museum.

As I said, I have always felt drawn to his work. His words speak equally as powerfully to me. He often writes of his attempts to decipher the mystery of existence that is present in the mundane. I think I can understand that.

Hope you can take some time to look over his work a bit more.

Max Beckmann- Family Picture 1920

Max Beckmann- Still Life with Three Skulls 1945

Max Beckmann- Self Portrait with Trumpet 1938

Max Beckmann- The Night 1918-1919

Max Beckmann- The King 1938

Max Beckmann- Paris Society 1931

Max Beckmann- Before the Masked Ball 1922

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Just one of those days that calls for a Shel break. By that, I mean a few short poems from the late Shel Silverstein. They are often labeled as being for kids, most likely for their simplicity in their messaging and the cartoon-like quality of his line drawings. But there is wonderful wordplay and a layer of maturity in them that usually makes me smile as well as think just a bit. I think the best children’s works have that quality that gives them an appeal beyond the kids.

Take the two pieces at the bottom, Losing Pieces and Zebra Question. They both play with how we speak and how we see things. Simple, sure. But interesting and a just a bit thought provoking.

And I can sure use a little bit of Shel this morning. My head feels like it has hinges and someone has opened it, scooped out everything and left me little to work with.

Got to go find some good stuff to put in it.

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Not much to say today, feeling a little rundown. Looking for a spark in some way, something to get the engines running at higher rpm’s, but can’t find anything in the music I’ve been listening to this morning that does the job. So I’ll resign myself to just holding on until that livelier spirit comes again.

The song that seems to jibe best with that feeling is the old Creedence song, Long As I Can See the Light. Here’s a nice version from the late Ted Hawkins, a name most likely unknown to most of us. He was one of those incredibly gifted artists who was always just short of meeting Lady Luck. Oh, he saw her a few times but it was just in passing as she gave him a flirting glance.

Here in the States, he was primarily a street performer who was “found” a number of times by record producers who could never quite put it all together for him. He gained much more recognition headlining shows in Europe, moving at one point to the UK. He was deported back to USA and reverted to being simply a street busker. He finally achieved a bit of a breakthrough when Geffen Records signed him and produced what might have been his breakthrough record, The Next Hundred Years. I say might have been because Hawkins died from a stroke at the age of 58 in 1995, only months after the release of the album.

Lady Luck is a fickle flirt, indeed.

But here’s his powerful version of the CCR classic. Enjoy.

The painting above is a new piece, Prodigal, that is included in the Little Gems show at the West End Gallery that opens this coming Friday, February 8.

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Just a bit chilly this morning. Another -9 or -10° beginning to the day. The only consolation comes in knowing that it could be worse, like it is for some folks out in the Midwest. Everything seems to take longer in the cold so it has me running a little late. Thought it might be a good morning to run a post from a few years  back concerning the photography(painting?) of Teun Hocks. Take a look and if you’re in the colder regions, stay warm

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I came across these photos by Dutch artist Teun Hocks  (b. 1947) which reminded me very much of the work of Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison, which I have featured here twice before.  Actually, it was on this same day last year that I last featured them– perhaps I am looking for an alternate reality on this date as opposed to trying to relive in some way that morning twelve years ago [this post originally ran on September 11, 2013].  The ParkeHarrisons create elaborate but real backdrops against which they photograph their Everyman in allegorical scenes– there is no digital manipulation.  It is more like the worlds created in the earliest days of cinema when what was seen had to made real in some way, even the most fantastic scenes.

Teun Hooks Untitled- Man on IceTeun Hocks works in very much the same vein except that he creates a painted backdrop against which he photographs himself as the sometimes comical but deadpan Everyman.   Think Buster Keaton here.  He then creates oversize  gelatin silver prints on which he paints in oils, treating his original photo as an underpainting.  The result is a beautiful image with a painterly feel that is  imbued with both humor and pathos.  You can’t but help feel some sort of connection with Hooks’ character as he faces a sometimes puzzling reality.  Don’t we all?

I’m showing just a handful of the work of this prolific artist here as well as a YouTube video showing a larger group.  Hope you’ll enjoy this on this day.

Teun Hocks

Teun Hocks Baggage

Teun Hocks Untitled-Man Sleeping with Weight

Teun Hocks CrossroadsTeun Hocks Prairie

Teun Hocks Music

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Was looking through some images of work from around 2006 and 2007 and came across this painting, The Middle Way. It really jumped out at me so thought I’d share it along with a blogpost from back in 2009 about a Henry Miller essay. The painting and the essay seem to fit together well.

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    From the very beginning almost I was deeply aware that there is no goal. I never hope to embrace the whole, but merely to give in each separate fragment, each work, the feeling of the whole as I go on, because I am digging deeper and deeper into life, digging deeper and deeper into past and future. With the endless burrowing a certitude develops which is greater than faith or belief. I become more and more indifferent to my fate, as a writer, and more and more certain of my destiny as man.

      – Henry Miller, Reflections on Writing

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This is a fragment of an essay, Reflections on Writing, from a book of essays, The Wisdom of the Heart, by Henry Miller, the great and controversial author. When I was young his books such as Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn were still being characterized as “smut” and many libraries didn’t have them on their shelves for fear the morality police would swoop in and raise a fuss. Probably many only know the existence and influence of his books from their use in a memorable Seinfeld episode, the one with Bookman the library cop whose hard-boiled dialogue still makes me hoot.

For me, I wasn’t so much attracted to his books by the raciness of the stories but rather by his way of speaking through his words and expressing views that I found at once to be compatible with my own. He observed and said the things that I  wished I could say with a voice and power I wished I possessed. I can pick up one of his books and open to a page anywhere in the book and read and be fascinated without knowing the context of what I’m reading, just from the sheer strength of his writing’s voice.

I see a lot of things in this particular essay that translate as well for painting or any other form of creation. It opens:

Writing, like life itself, is a voyage of discovery. The adventure is a metaphysical one: it is a way of approaching life indirectly, of acquiring a total rather than a partial view of the universe. The writer lives between the upper and lower worlds: he takes the path in order to eventually become that path himself.

Substituting artist for writer, I was immediately pulled in. The path he refers to is the path I often refer to in my paintings, the path we all walk and struggle along on, trying to find the middle way between these upper and lower worlds.

It’s a good essay and one I recommend for anyone who creates in any form and struggles with the meaning of their work beyond its surface. For anyone seeking that path…

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Been a fan of Albert Pinkham Ryder for a long time now and realized this morning that I had not mentioned him here in over ten years. Here’s a post from back in 2009 with a few added images and a quote that fits his work and his influence very well.

Albert Pinkham Ryder– The Race Track/ Death on a Pale Horse

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It is the first vision that counts. The artist has only to remain true to his dream and it will possess his work in such a manner that it will resemble the work of no other… for no two visions are alike, and those who reach the heights have all toiled up steep mountains by a different route. To each has been revealed a different panorama.

–Albert Pinkham Ryder
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I have always been affected by the dark, moody compositions of the the American painter Albert Pinkham Ryder, a somewhat under-appreciated painter who worked in the late 1800’s/ early 1900’s, dying in 1917 at the age of 70.

Though he has sometimes been called the American Van Gogh, Ryder is probably not as well known as he should be mainly because of the manner in which he painted. He had little regard for working in a fashion that would insure the longevity of his work and as a result, most of his pieces are heavily cracked and fragile. Many have not survived.

Albert Pinkham Ryder– Toilers of the Sea

Even so, when I have seen his work in person I am always filled with a sense of excitement, as though I’ve stumbled upon a hidden treasure. There’s also a feeling of knowing this person and feeling their essence. It’s as though I feel something in my own being that parallels his in some way. I hesitate to say this because I do not know in any fashion the man or his personality. But what is seen in his work is something I can truly identify with in some manner beyond appreciation.

His work has the feel of a visionary. I see real poetry and soul in his work, something which, to my mind, is lacking in much work that is produced. I can’t describe how I see that– it’s more just a matter of sensing it. To me, Ryder seems to be trying to communicate something vaporous and indefinable, something beyond the senses, something beyond words.

Again, the feel of a visionary.

There is much to find in the way of inspiration in his work.

Albert Pinkham Ryder-Jonah 1895

Albert Pinkham Ryder- Moonlight 1887

Albert Pinkham Ryder- Moonlit Cove 1885

Albert Pinkham Ryder- Spirit of Autumn

Albert Pinkham Ryder- The Barnyard 1874

Albert Pinkham Ryder- The Old Mill By Moonlight

Albert Pinkham Ryder- The Flying Dutchman

 

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Been working on a few new small pieces for the upcoming Little Gems show at the West End Gallery, which opens February 8. As I’ve noted here before, the annual Little Gems show has special meaning for me. It was the first show in which I ever participated and served as a springboard to a career as an artist that I never anticipated. Without that first show, I have no idea what I might otherwise be doing at this time. Pretty sure it wouldn’t be writing this blog.

I usually try out some new things for this show or at least try to show some small oddities, pieces with themes or looks that may not find their way into my regular visual vocabulary. Such is the piece at the top, a 6″ by 6″ painting on panel that is called Midnight Rider, based on and using the lyrics from the classic Allman Brothers song from 1970. Little piece of trivia: This was the A side of a single with another classic, Whipping Post, as the B side.

I really enjoy working on these sort of pieces. It’s a different mindset from my normal painting and it has the effect of cleansing the palate. Or maybe it’s palette in this case. These pieces have been fun and freeing. How they fit into my regular body of work, I can’t say. Guess it doesn’t really matter because even though I will show these pieces, they are actually done mainly for myself.

For this Sunday morning music, the song is–surprise,surprise!- Midnight Rider. I am showing two versions. The first is from the late Sharon Jones and her Dap-Kings. It was produced for a Lincoln Mercury ad but that doesn’t take away from the strength of the performance. The second is from a performance from the also now-deceased Gregg Allman on the Cher variety TV show in 1975. It features a vintage dance performance from Cher, the kind of thing that was a regularly seen on the variety shows of that time. You don’t see much of this kind of stuff anymore– maybe for good reason. But it’s fun, in a weird kind of way.

Take a look and enjoy your Sunday.

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