The life and times of The Antonino Museum (in English), and articles on art and beauty
We are sad to announce the disappearance of Rita Mendes da Silva, or Dona Rita as she was fondly known, Antonino's mother, on 13th December. As a brief tribute to this gutsy woman, both naive and old as the hills, she came from a time when the survival of her five children depended on her own strength and determination, working parched fields in blazing sun with implements we only see in museums. When her husband ran off, leaving the six of them in a one-room shack in the middle of nowhere (see the slideshow here), she upped her brood and took off after him, and, eventually, found the bugger in São Paulo.
Woman Working in the Wastelands is Antonino's 2002 homage to his mother.
Another painting of her, not yet on the site, is the one shown here, entitled A Fuga em Transporte Alternativo (English title: Flight on Wheels of Dust; French: Exode sans moyens), 2004.
After yet another drought and poor crop yield, it's up to the woman, again, to carry the entire family - children, parents, pets and all - to the next makeshift solution.
Difficult, because of the next post. But I am over the moon. Due to various reasons, the Antonino Museum moved forward not an inch in 2014. Almost zero. Alban (see his work at www.help.forgetdementia.net) came and photographed the paintings properly, but size limitations prevented us from posting them (they are all very large format images for free download, but need formatting and I have not had the time or program - coming soon!...).
And then we had visitors. First, I discovered that my old friend and colleague Kate Louette's toyboy Christophe is also a talented photographer (I have to say that cus he does kick-boxing too) and has taken some very sensual, moody, earthy shots of the museum building (see http://momentarylapseofvision.blogspot.fr/2014/11/antonino-museum.html) and then, without my realizing because the alert went to another email I have not been using a lot, on departing Kate became the first person to make a donation to the museum!
Absolutely gob-smacked, and uplifted!
So Antonino and I would like to thank her as our very first spontaneous donor and lifelong Friend of the Antonino Museum.
Thank you Kate!
For those of you who read Portuguese, here are a couple of articles that recently appeared on a Brazilan art blog, Vírus da Arte & Cia (Art Virus & Co). The first article talks about Antonino's history, and the second, about his concern with wild-animal trafficking.
From facebook, with shame. Who do I thank? Minh, I think.
I cannot remember the last time I was so moved by a portrait. For the first time, a photographer has succeeded in creating an image as moving as a painting. It is absolute perfection. The minor character, in terms of position, height and area, is immense, and the main character, gaze so intently fixed outside the frame, outside our comprehension, looking at death in mariage or war, for it's hard to tell what sex the person has, pales into the background. I presume it's a female for the similarity of dress, but cannot be sure. Perhaps a young boy?
But it's the mothers' eyes and face that wipe the floor: possession and absence, devotion and "me", love, fatalism, surrender. This is Abraham relinquishing the flesh of her flesh to the gods of ages, to barbarity, to life other and away from the infant lips that gnawed her paps. This is her blood, sucked away and splattered on the slaughter-stone of life, and she knows, stupid yet understanding, absolutely her, a rock: beautiful, a husk, diamond in a dung heap, an accident of existence through a mzungu lens, mesmerizing in her silent eloquence.
Over the years, there have been various suggestions about what really differentiates humans from animals for a long time it was thought it was speech or communication, and this is one area in which we do excel, but given the huge evidence of non-verbal animal communication and the realization that you don’t actually need words to communicate (for example, sign language), that particular argument doesn’t seem to be such a good bet any more.
One that does work, on the other hand, is that humans seem to be the only species that may consciously elect to decorate themselves in an indelible manner. It is also both an art form and a fashion. And sometimes an act of aggression or manifestation of really, really, extreme stupidity.
Here are some examples of the continuum (many borrowed from www.mugshot.com). There is a dividing-line between but, as often the case, not always easy to pin down.
A couple of weeks ago, Alban came round to make the most of the last days of summer and photograph the paintings. We were lucky, the weather was beautiful and stayed like that all day.
And we had to be fast: bats!
Given their particular manner of sleeping, wetting their bed is very disagreeable, so they do like many flying animals, they offload anight aflight. We already have a few dun dribbles on the wall suggesting that a quick change of direction generates the proper amount of centripetal force for a satisfying dump, which means: no way could we leave the paintings hanging all night long.
So up early with the stapler to stretch the canvases as best we could, leaving just enough time to race round taking them down as soon as photographed.
We now have an amazing set of color-corrected images to prepare for downloads and, at the end of a long day’s shoot, a couple of pix of yours truly, which I’m sure you’re desperate to see:
Just testing how EasyBlogforwards posts to facebook and, while I'm at it, having fun with Vigée-Le Burn's exquisitely painted stage-coach-setters. for a better view in largers format, just click on any image below:
Alban Maino has just delivered his photos, after touching them all up for color balance and smoothing out some of the blemishes. I'll be sorting through them and posting improved versions on line soon.
Many thanks for his dedication and professionalism!
In his copious free time, Alban works on sophrology-oriented films for patients suffering from Altzheimer's and similar diseases. For more information about Alban and his work and play, see:
Discovered on www.culture24.org.uk*: Red Hot, an exhibition on red-head men to bed not beat.
Fashion photographer Thomas Knights will be at The Gallery in Redchurch Street, (appropriately named), London, December 16-22 during Anti-Bullying week 2013 (see anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk) for a show that seems to be turning the heads of many a boyfan bloggerette...
A fascinating concept. Historically, or traditionally, being red-headed singled you out for being different, strange (interestingly, we specifically say redhead, but never blond-head or hazelnut ;o), and hence perhaps less desirable to the rest of the community, almost like an albino (another project?). And today, where "being different" is so highly prized, where hair-coloring is almost the norm, we still tend to think of them more as outliers rather than premium (like blonds). I wonder whether, like albinos who could be considered über-blonds but aren't, the issue lies not in the hair but in associated features, for example the more delicate skin and hence redder conjunctiva of the eyelids?
Either way, interesting theme, and I wish him well!
* Obsessive-compulsives and other geeks will understand why they need a good URL shortener: http://www.culture24.org.uk ... +Culture24%2Fart+%28Culture24%2FArt%29 ;o)
As I blog my way through thoughts on art, rather than raise people’s hackles by baseline arrogance, I intend to highlight examples of what I do and don't like, and justify it. This is personal and I’m asking nobody to subscribe.
I came across the Benches & Binoculars exhibition at the Walker Art Center on a hunt for a painting by Odd Nerdrum, White Brick. As I scrolled through the slideshow I found myself flicking with increasing impatience through a seemingly endless procession of dull shapes, colors and smudges, a rosary of tat.
What is it makes people think these paintings are art?
The collection does include some good work, but it also contains “things” with no discernible skill, talent or vision, not much message worth trying to fathom, and nothing visibly artistic at all. So why are they there? Are they, like a frame, intentionally uninteresting in order to highlight their neighbors?
A quick scan of the 90-odd paintings shows the greater proportion to be abstract, so why are the three paintings used to highlight the exhibition figurative? It is simply because they stand out on their own? “Where’s her hand?” “God he’s ugly.... Is that a photo?” and “That’s a nice blue!”
Ignoring these three, I’ll return to them in a later post, I want to quickly review the remaining five:
- Odd Nerdrum. I am not religious, far from it, but could be called “spiritual” at a pinch. This painting is, for me, a deeply moving metaphor of human existence. What stands out here, what literally shines, is the artist’s skill and talent in depicting the banal and infusing it with life. This, the humble brick, is more than a block of baked clay, it is the tiniest component part of the house we live in, as vital to the building and decisive in its future shape and structure as a cell is to the body. It becomes a molecule, an elementary particle, and in Nerdrum’s world of blood cold mythology, it glows warm and bright and full of hope and this, I feel, is one of the essences of art.
- George Luks. Breaker boys were kids, often as young as 8, whose job was to remove impurities from pieces of coal. These laborers worked 10 or more hours a day, sometimes in clouds of dust and sulfur, surrounded by dangerous, inefficient machinery. And he’s smoking. So, not very warm or bright or full of hope, but evocative and thought-provoking.
- Lyonel Feininger. Sort of. In a less depressing collection, I might not have noticed it.
- Howard Hodgkin. This is a joke. Pretty colors, but not art. Call it decoration.
- Philip Guston. Makes Hodgkin look like Rembrandt. Why did he actually bother?
I'm on the fence about this one and willing to give the artist the benefit of the doubt but, whenever I read the word "disturbing" in art criticism, I wonder... Without wishing to read too much either about or into them, I find many of Harma Heikens' sculptures very disturbing too. Some, such as Dreambrother, are extraordinary visions with multiple interpretations ranging from "fetus in a jar" to separation of self, others, like Dope, are plug violent and relatively pointless for adding almost nothing to the ongoing diatribe against Disney, and others yet again, The Virgin, for example, are shocking and saddening in their squeaky-clean picture of violated innocence. But this leads along a slippery path. As part of her "apocalyzing" vision of abandoned children left to their own devices, she sends out messages as much social, for their picture of the accepted unacceptable, as sexual, for representations of breasts and penises, no matter what the size, will titillate.
It bothers me in the same way as some of the Chapman brothers' more pedophilic work bothers me.
"Bothers you? Then you're the problem. All we're doing is creating intentionally-scandalous works depicting totally normal ten-year-olds superimposed with extravagant genitalia. It's art, don't you know."
And whereas films or even websites can be given ratings for audience suitablity, as long as it's "art" it's fine to thrust quasi-pornography into everyone's face.
This is an extremely tricky issue and perhaps we in the West prefer the sin of being too open to that of being too closed.
Anyone following issues of sexuality in the Muslim world will have heard of Shereen El Feki's book "Sex And The Citadel: Intimate Life In A Changing Arab World". I have only been following the changing front cover... ranging from the joky first (I think) version, through the literally or literarily pornographic to the beguiling calligraphy of the current edtion which demonstrates that, despite the rather tenuous logic whereby looking at an image of a human may be idolatrous while looking at the original is not, you do not need flagrant imagery to spell it out...
Click on any image to view
A “project” such as a STWTS is plain and simple drab, driven by unmerited self-importance. The ‘art’ itself is moderately competent pencil drawings, the stuff of beginner evening-classes. The social commentary is legitimate, but common-or-garden disgruntled feminism.
So why write about it?
I want to explore the decadence of art, why art has gone from sublimating the human experience to a self-indulgent parody of the reasons for art.
The first question in this particular case is: “Is the ‘art’ the vehicle for social comment, or vice versa?” If forced to choose between two sub-mediocrities, I'd say the latter. Yes, OK, it is ‘art’ as per the average understanding of the word, but tantamount here to putting your average Saturday-night karaoke singer on par with Callas. Looked at through less indulgent glasses, however, it is delusional self-belief, it has no spark, no life, not even a glimmer of that which makes people stop and look.
As to the social commentary: is it trite? Yes. Hackneyed? Yes. And although the content may be true, an issue of great importance, the soap-box oratory is simply sad.
What bothers me primarily is that it doesn't elevate. It simply adds to the noise and remains for local consumption. And despite the strong likelihood that some of the messages are plain wrong (for example: “My Outfit Is Not An Invitation” when all too very often it precisely is, but associated with the mistaken belief that presenting oneself in a provocatively sexual manner to desirable potential partners should not be construed as such to undesirable), the core premise is true: women do suffer harassment on a horrible scale worldwide; they are routine victims of catcalls, degrading comments, physical violence and worse - aggression that the usual suspect of “average Western male” would probably find hard to apprehend - but in terms of form, the posters are simply thuggish responses to thuggish attack. There is no subtlety, no intrigue, just the blunt instrument of the sadder fringe of feminism.
The anti-Christian in me will willingly acknowledge the immense influence of medieval cathedralists in dragging the populace out of the mud and, over time, out of Christianity: they did this by splendor, color, beauty and perhaps by pyrotechnics too, but by doing so raised consciousness above the mire of everyday discourse. Regrettably, STWTS simply picks up the mud and throws it back.
Click on any image to enlarge or start slideshow
Attempt at Human Cloning
Woman with a Hat
One painter who knows how to use colors and bring a subject to the front is Antonino. Another artist with the same talent is Grant DeVolson Wood who produced the now-iconic “American Gothic”. This world-famous painting with the farmer and daughter (actually Wood's dentist and sister) really focuses on the two characters rather than the painting in the whole, and you often get the same feeling with Antonino’s work, the big difference being the characters' surreal nature, but apart from that you find a similar sense of mystery making you wonder what the symbolism really means.
When it comes to color, Antonino always uses sharp colors with great contrast. Henri Matisse also worked with color; a simple glance at his work “Woman with a Hat” should be enough to convince you. The whole painting comes together because of the colors, with one major difference from Antonino who doesn’t mix his colors, using more or less different fields with the same color. As a technique, it helps to highlight the parts he wants to display and makes the painting “leap” out of its frame.
Comparing American Gothic to Attempt at Human Cloning, in both, the expanse of black frames the subject, creating a protestant totem in the one and a blaze of catholic or not very catholic creatures and creation in the other; in both, the "other half", the weaker side (or stronger according to perception), counterpoints the protagonist but nags quietly for attention; and while the woman's dress pattern is almost perfectly rectilinear and 2-dimensional, eradicating all signs of femininity and flattening the painting as a whole, the crude bulges, shading and perspective of Antonino provide a powerful 3-dimensional effect.
Between Matisse's Woman with a hat and Antonino, apart from the blue, the colors can be matched almost one to one, yet while Matisse showers a dispersed rectangular rainbow intended to stretch and scatter the eye to take in the painting as a whole, Antonino's sharper lines breaks the composition into discreet, serialized packets, with both achieving similar eye-roaming effects in opposite manners.
With a learning curve like a theme park, I'm going through the gamut of social media to see what works best for us. Facebook and Twitter first, coupled, aided and/or abetted by Hootsuite. Now testing Atom for feeds. All this on top of a new Surface with Windows 8, BitLocker encryption and maybe Prey... It's going to be a nerdy next few days...
Thanks for dropping in! Merci d'être venu nous voir ! Obrigado por visitar o nosso site!
Rather an odd title, I admit, given the exhibition space is 2.75 m above ground, but I'm sure you know what i mean...
We've been here for 2+ years now and the house is (almost) nearly ready enough to move into. Time now to start seriously on the museum. This is what it looked like yesterday morning:
This is what it looks like today:
Better, I'm sure you'll agree. But we're hardly the Guggenheim yet.
The more urgent issue remains the roof. It leaks. Along with this - since the original building was like an oversized greenhouse and 30 years of abandon, wind, rain and the occasional catapult had reduced its crystal-cathedral-like pristinity (can you say that?) to a terrifying maze of broken glass - we had to put some umbrellas up to keep the rain out. Even unfinished, the walls look good.
Krista had a good idea today. Instead of pulling all the (unusable) doors off, repair them, put in new glass and lock them closed then use that as a display unit. Why not a trompe-l'œil? We shall see.
Which now means that Bob can start filming soon...