When I was asked to come up with a topic for this Sunday’s “Entropy List” I first tried not to default to my favorite topic, visual art. Inspired by “Not My Job” on The NPR radio show “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me,” where a person known for one thing gets quizzed on another, (like Stewart Copeland, drummer for the Police, getting quizzed on “real” Police Tactics), I wanted to come up with something not related to “my job” as an artist.
But on second thought, since many of the editors and contributors of Entropy are more involved with the literary arts than the visual, asking for 3 favorite artworks felt akin to “Not Your Job.” It’s been fun this week to receive all of these responses. Tacked to the end are a few of my fav artworks too.
1) “Untitled” (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) (1991) by Felix Gonzalez-Torres
2) Gibbet (1993-94) by Cady Noland
And fun fact: Gibbet is actually functional, though I’m not sure what the “look but don’t touch” policy is on that.
3) Anything by Nicolas de Staël. This is representative but you kind of have to see them in person.
For some reason this seems impossible to narrow down, so I’m giving myself the further constraint of (canonical) paintings that have most affected me as an individual.
1) Bedroom in Arles (1888) by Vincent van Gogh
I have a strange, intense, emotional relationship with Van Gogh. He’s probably the artist that has stayed with me the longest, and was also one of my mother’s favorite painters. Something about his paintings, especially this one, throws upon me an excess of sadness and emotional turmoil. It’s hard for me to look at this painting for too long without getting teary-eyed. Something about the perspective, the thick and heavy residue of emotion implicit in the painting, the feeling of missing my mother.
2) Haystacks (Sunset) (1891) by Claude Monet
I sort of love all the haystack, wheatstack, grainstack, etc. paintings. The way color and light are depicted in these is sort of awe-inspiring.
3) Europe After the Rain II (1940-42) by Max Ernst
There’s something about this ravaged, apocalyptic landscape that I also find immensely complex and beautiful.
1) A Painting That Is Its Own Documentation (1966-68) by John Baldessari
2) Matter in the Form of a Foot (1965) by Antoni Tàpies
3) Untitled (Painting) (c. 2011) by Tauba Auerbach
Most days, Philip Guston is my favorite painter, i.e., the visual artist I most admire. I consider myself a student of all of his work, and first came to it via his famous “Abstract Impressionist” canvases of the 50s. But, as I get older, I find the deceptive crudity and sorrowful satire of his work from the late 60s and 70s increasingly meaningful. In these paintings, Guston elaborates (or obsesses over) a vision that cost him prestige, friends, many of the so-called benefits of being a big deal New York art scene artist.
So, three of my favorite late Philip Gustons:
1) The Studio (1969). Portrait of the Artist as a Mickey Mouse Terrorist.
2) Monument (1976). These aren’t Van Gogh’s peasant shoes in all their Heideggerian aura; more like a palimpsest of the 20th Century’s mass murders.
3) Deluge (1975). “I should like to paint like a man who has never seen a painting, but this man – myself – lives in a museum.”
1) Insertions Into Ideological Circuits 2: Bank Note Project (1970) by Cildo Meireles
2) Cosmic Thing (2002) by Damián Ortega
3) Empirical Construction, Istanbul (2004) by Julie Mehretu
1) The Nostalgia of the Infinite (c. 1911) by Giorgio de Chirico
2) El Coloso (c. 1818-1825) by Francisco Goya
3) Painting from Kagemusha (1980) by Akira Kurosawa
1) Lotus Season by Nguyễn Văn Cường
I saw this painting in the Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Art. Nguyễn Văn Cường had a bunch of paintings there, but I keyed in on one in particular, which reminded me of a woman whom I was in love with and which I wrote a whole epistolary flash-fiction piece about, though it never saw the light. I took a (surreptitious) picture of the painting and somehow ended up with it as my Disqus avatar, but I have no idea where the picture has gone and can find barely anything about the artist online.
2) When I was decorating my basement room in Boulder, Colorado, about two years ago, I bought a used book of photographs of rituals around the world and cut it up and taped the best photos to my wall. One of them is a picture of a dark-skinned woman, nude, stoically undergoing a ritual scarring of the abdomen. I can’t find the details of the book online for the life of me, nor the details of the photo, but the picture has attracted and haunted me since I put it up.
3) Las Meninas (1656) by Diego Velázquez
Seeing Velázquez’s “Las Meninas” in real life was pretty trippy too.
Peter Tieryas-Angela Xu
1) from Final Fantasy I-IX by Yoshitaka Amano
2) Follow Your Dreams (2010) by Banksy
Anything by Banksy
3) The Coronation of Napoleon (1805-07) by Jacques-Louis David at the Louvre.
1) Le Therapéute by René Magritte.
Actually, the pictural language of Magritte is fascinating in his every work, but this one blows me away everytime I see it. It has even some – therapeutical – moments. Magic. Just magic.
2) The Virgin Mary Chastising the Baby Jesus before Three Witnesses: André Breton, Paul Éluard and the Artist, 1926 by Max Ernst.
I recall my childhood, just at the beginning of puberty I was roaming around hills and parks near my house. In one bush I found some art magazines, thrown away. Foreign magazines. A taste of forbiddenness in the midst of Soviet landscapes. I opened one magazine and found immediately this picture. I was flabbergasted. I closed the magazine again. And now I’m writing a dissertation about the Avant-garde.
3) BCCI-ICIC & FAB, 1972-91 4th Version (1996–2000) by Mark Lombardi
An awesome mix of research, narrative exploration and visualisation of dark connections between the criminal world and international governments. The final version is gone. Lombardi “commited suicide” shortly before his exhibition, short after his previous version of this work was “accidentally” destroyed. His gallerist was observed by FBI all the time before and after. Nobody knows anything. Keep moving, you have no business to be here. Well, folks, Lombardi is a hero. We need more people like Lombardi, to visualise the whole mess going on in our world.
1) Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting (1638-9) by Artemesia Gentileschi
Limiting myself to three favorite artworks feels impossible (I’m tempted to update this portion of the post on a weekly basis). Gentileschi’s painting is significant for what it represents to me as an artist, who when I was first beginning my practice sought and found few historic female role models in the visual arts. Finally in the 20th and 21st centuries I have many more woman to choose from, but in the 14th-19th centuries of canonized art, there is a dearth. This particular painting is unusual for its time primarily due to its subject matter and authorship — a woman actively engaged in the creative act of painting painted by a woman. And in the title Gentileschi chose, she’s staking claim on being the very embodiment of painting itself, in a time when women were not even admitted into artistic academies.
2) Olympia (2005) by Lynn Hershman Leeson
The description from Leeson’s website: “a custom sex doll created to resemble Manet’s Olympia” from the Found Object Series. Need I say more?
3) Cloaque.org (ongoing) by many contemporary digital artists (full list here)
Catalyzed by Carlos Saez and Claudia Mate, cloaque.org is a never-ending Tumblr-based artwork, one long column of “digital compost,” comprised of the works of digital artists from around the world. I think of Cloaque as a digital update to the Surrealist Exquisite Corpse game, where words and/or images were collectively assembled on paper.