Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Andrea Mantegna; Andre


  1. Interesting analogical conjunction of perspectives, Curtis... but thinking back to the impression of being in the cool shady space of an Italian church c. fifty years ago and marveling over that Mantegna, I must admit that my first impression of this tandem set was to think that in the half millennium between Andrea and Andre, a lot of the life and soul seems to have drained out of the geometry (receding perspectives perhaps accidentally symbolic of other sorts of recession...?)

  2. Curtis,

    All day I've been trying to remember the image that is brought to mind by these you've posted.

    It finally came to me it is a scene from the Melville film Army of Shadows, in which French Resistance prisoners are running through a long tunnel like structure while being fired at by German machine gunners. We see them fleeing down the narrowing darkening corridor into a space much similar to that in the Andre.

    Astonishingly, for we expect them all to be mowed down, one of the fleeing men escapes and is rescued by his fellow Resistance members, including Simone Signoret.

    (We should all be so fortunate.)

  3. Hi again.

    I really like the recession/recession observation, but I think this also could be the beginning of a discussion about absolute quality in a work of art – what it might be and how we recognize and describe it.

    I can't remember the details about the first time I saw Mantegna's work, but I do recall that it immediately and permanently connected in an unforgettable way. I wanted there to be and to see the "next one" as soon as possible.

    With Carl Andre, I spent a lot of time working my way into what he was doing (something I ultimately found rewarding) in a way that I didn’t need to do with his contemporaries Robert Smithson and Richard Serra who, like Mantegna, I connected with immediately.

    Is it the “cold fish” thing? I don’t think so. Andre is kind of a cold fish, but I don’t think his work is provocative, heartless junk in the way that Damien Hirst’s is.

    All of these are visual and visceral observations, since I tend to be pretty poor on aesthetic theory (at least as it used to be expressed in Artforum, which I haven’t read lately) in the same way that I also consistently fall down in theology studies. (Confession: I was a comparatively unsuccessful Philosophy minor in college).

    Possibly my reactions are based on perceiving (or, rather, wanting to perceive), a “moral center” in an artist’s work – something that needn’t be religious in nature, but which goes beyond following systemic definitions in the service of completing an artwork. I mean, I find this moral center in Mondrian, for example, who stirs me in a way that Andre never could, and also in Malevich and certain other Russian Constructivist artists. It’s definitely not a cool/hot thing, since I like cool artists and hot artists, and it’s also definitely not a “sense of humor” thing , since most of the things I value a great deal and wish to be near make me laugh and I don’t think Mantegna is remotely funny.

    I apologize for these possibly random seeming observations, but I really appreciated your comment since I was very pleased and intrigued myself by the Mantegna/Andre pairing and hadn’t worked out all of the implications.

    I spent some time today reading the Henry Green interview in the Paris Review by Terry Southern and was again startled by the clarity and poetry of his observations. Following that with the Robert Bresson interview helped make this a very good day.

    If I can follow up by tracking down Army Shadows, this week will even be better. I agree wholeheartedly about Simone Signoret. I’ve always thought Yves Montand should have treated her more kindly, but as they always seem to say, it’s difficult to look into other people’s marriages.