Sunday, March 11, 2012

ONE LOVELY DRAWING, part 40

Artists who can't draw have become emboldened by the excuse that traditional drawing skills are less relevant today.  The focus of art has shifted, we are told, from visual appearance to intellectual concept, making the technical skills of yesterday obsolete. 

I've had fun making unkind remarks about this fashion trend, not only because I find the drawing so bad but because the "concepts" that supposedly justify this trade off frequently turn out to be mewling platitudes.  Any artist who claims, "I'm so smart I don't have to draw well" better have more convincing evidence than the pop psychology that pervades so much of today's drawing. 

But every once in a while, some artist gets it right.  They shed the straightjacket of representational drawing while still preserving the important elements: a sensitive, meaningful line, a deep appreciation for form, a strong sense for design and composition.  And they use their freedom from realism to infuse their work with a conceptual profundity that was never witnessed in the golden age of illustration.

Exhibit A is this excellent drawing by John Cuneo:
   

This is a small drawing, about 8 inches tall.  We can tell from Cuneo's subtle treatment of color and line that this picture will require genuine attention if we are to understand what the artist is up to: 

Strange, mismatched eyes give this face a distinctive character

Cuneo recognizes that if you are going to reinvent the human form, it can't just be because you're too lazy to learn anatomy.    Here is an artist who has made an emotional investment in his variations.

There are a thousand ways one might draw a doll with a loose, casual line but it is extremely difficult to achieve the kind of unnerving distortions that frighten us in voodoo dolls and African totem figures.

A hilarious masterpiece of dehumanization

Below, Cuneo adds another layer of horror:


Note how subtly the artist diminishes the distinction between men and dogs by putting a business shirt on the dog in the corner.  At the same time, in the same corner, we are reminded that dogs are slobbering beasts:


That wonderfully drawn "slobbering beast" visually echoes a slobbering human beast on the left:


But this drawing is no simple polemic.  The slothful dog under the table in the background adds a very different (and important) flavor, as does the falling cup of coffee (I love that shadow).

It would be a mistake to go on vivisecting this brilliant little drawing, speculating about symbolism or second guessing the artist's intentions.  I have no idea how much of this drawing is conscious and how much is intuitive.  Cuneo steadfastly refuses to explain any of his drawings, and for good reason.  They are better than that.  

For me, this drawing is the visual equivalent of a Pinter play or a Kafka short story, every bit as profound and smart and funny.   I think it is work of enduring value.

96 Comments:

Anonymous AJA said...

I love how well he distorts the human figure(big head, long arms). One could only do so if they have a profound understanding of the human figure.

3/11/2012 3:08 PM  
Blogger अर्जुन said...

"…a doll with a loose," HEAD!

3/11/2012 4:13 PM  
Blogger kenmeyerjr said...

Cuneo is one of the few artists who seem to be putting forth a 'naive' style that work for me (not, for example Gary Panter). I don't know if I can explain why...he just does.

3/11/2012 5:42 PM  
Blogger Donald Pittenger said...

I don't "get" Cuneo as much as you do, David. But with a little thought or rummaging I might find something I like that makes the same point.

Nevertheless, your contention about drawing is correct, in my opinion. Sometime, probably later this month, I'll be posting about Arthur Carles on my blog. One of the illustrations will be of a painting with Fauvist colors atop a pretty sound drawing. I think it works pretty well. So I contrast it with a Picasso with natural coloring and distorted drawing that, in my judgment, doesn't succeed (tho' it's famous). Conclusion: with sound drawing as a base, an artist can get away with quite a bit of not-so-representational stuff (colors, brushwork, outlining, whatever).

3/11/2012 6:33 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

I suppose I don't totally "get" the excitement over Cuneo either. I think most anyone can see that his drawing is clearly more sophisticated than say, that of a child or beginner, yet at the same time I don't know what can be objectively said about drawing that generally chooses to disregard comparative proportion, which I would consider to be the most challenging technical aspect of drawing (yet definitely not the ultimate measure of a drawing's worth). In my opinion all that can be objectively said is that it lies somewhere in between, and maybe such an expressive style is entirely fitting for drawing that is in the service of satire and humor. Maybe it's a subjective matter of feeling (not to mention political viewpoint) and that's where I'm missing the boat.

3/11/2012 9:07 PM  
Anonymous MORAN said...

IMO Cuneo is a genius. Thank you for helping explain his work. He works on a level all his own but he is the best at what he does.

3/11/2012 9:46 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

AJA-- Agreed.

अर्जुन-- I'd think a bisociative mind like yours would be right at home with Cuneo's nonlinear approach.

Kenmeyerjr-- I agree. I can't think of anybody better than Cuneo at this kind of work. I have no interest in Panter's work.

3/11/2012 10:31 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Donald Pittenger-- I'll look forward to your post about Arthur Carles. I assume, however, that "sound drawing" is not the only way to hang onto the artistic value you describe, and that if the colors/shapes/brushwork were sound, the drawing could be totally free and wild.

As for "getting" Cuneo, I see how he could be an acquired taste. This comment section might be a good forum for discussing what I perceive as his strengths. I will confess up front that I have a prejudice in favor of "smart" artists and I find Cuneo to be scary smart. This drawing does not illustrate someone else's message, it's just Cuneo musing on the relationship between guys and dolls (or more properly, between men and dogs). I find it trenchant, funny and horrifying. Can you think of another artist with "sound drawing" who could convey this kind of message?

Etc etc-- on the subject of what can be "objectively" said about anything in art, that's a tough one. I think we all have to find a place to pitch our tent somewhere on the road between Athens and Jerusalem, between the objective science / math of the experience and the subjective spirituality / mysticism of the experience. I believe we have a duty to try to get as close as we possibly can to Athens, but no closer.

On the subject of "comparative proportion," I think that if Cuneo drew this with the proportions of Ingres or Norman Rockwell, it would have defeated his whole purpose. (For example, when Moreau tried to paint Oedipus and the Sphinx in a realistic style, the half-animal, half-human sphinx just looked awkward and out of place. In an era where Ionesco writes about men turning into rhinoceri and Kafka writes about Gregor Samsa turning into vermin, we seem to need a looser comparative proportion to depict a higher reality. Cuneo has given us a whole fraternity of men with their doggish nature, and I think a more precise comparative proportion just would not do.

3/12/2012 12:01 AM  
Blogger Joss said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3/12/2012 3:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Add me to the "Cuneo is a genius" team.

JSL

3/12/2012 9:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about the xkcd web comic?

Don Cox

3/12/2012 12:26 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

I think we all have to find a place to pitch our tent somewhere on the road between Athens and Jerusalem

David,
Now that you mention it, I suppose my problem with caricature is largely analogical. I think anyone can make accurate or interesting observations of details, but it's the putting together of details to form principles, and principles to form a coherent and systematic philosophical viewpoint that is the work of the mature person. Likewise with caricature drawing, I think most anyone focused primarily on interesting details alone can succeed; it is after all a lower level of artistic perception. But comparative proportion and then formal considerations represent the successive steps of complexity and reward that climax at a high point which merits the highest praise in my opinion. It is at that high point that art and philosophy merge, and philosophy proper just might be the most intriguing spot to pitch a tent between Athens and Jerusalem.

3/12/2012 4:37 PM  
Anonymous Alistair said...

Are there any interviews with Cuneo? How did he learn to draw like this?

3/12/2012 4:40 PM  
Blogger Matthew Adams said...

Alistair,

He was born that way...

3/12/2012 6:46 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Cuneo's stuff is great fun! I share the admiration of his work. I think the bottom line with exaggerated comic art is that, if it works for you, its good. Just like a joke works for you or doesn't. Either some recognizable truth is hidden beneath the funny, or not.

And now for an unwanted diversion...

etc. etc.

Mind posting up some of your caricatures? If they're so easy, and you're such an expert...

Seems to me, as usual, you don't bloody well know what you are spouting on about.

Caricatures are damn difficult. And, to my mind, one of the sure signs that an artist has talent is the quality of his caricatures.

This idea that merely a collection of details will make the caricature, is so stupid as to defy belief that anyone could think it. Without the idea behind the relations of the parts, one has nothing. This goes for all art composition... and putting together a decent caricature is an act of composition. It expresses something about the subject..

And having an absurdist view of life is a perfectly legitimate POV, especially given how comic we human beings can be in the midst of our pretensions.

Maybe I'm just no good at caricature, so I only think it's hard based on my limited abilities. But I'm willing to show something to demonstrate how hard I find it. Here's five bad tries I made at arriving at a strong selection of telling facial forms and a proper arrangement of them of a certain well known figure...

On the sixth try, I seemed to pull it together for one passable likeness...

Possibly, in response, you will want to post some demonstration of just how easy you find caricaturing...?

3/12/2012 7:26 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Mind posting up some of your caricatures?

Yo Kevs! I have no idea where my elementary school notebooks are.

Caricatures are damn difficult

And that's why they're in demand, like, even at carnivals?

3/12/2012 7:53 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

MORAN and JSL--I'm glad you share my affection for Cuneo's work. You rarely get a chance to see it up close this way, and I think that makes a difference.

Etc etc-- I agree with you about the importance of "comparative proportion," provided that you don't simply mean "Is that hand too large for that body?" but rather, "should that theme have greater or lesser emphasis in order to make this picture a cohesive, effective whole?" For example, should that woman peering around the corner into the boys' club be larger or smaller to make the point? Does that bright red dress give her too much prominence against that field of subdued colors, or is it the only way to connect her to those dolls? Does the dog wearing a shirt in the corner make the point sufficiently, or do I need to be more heavy handed?

Those are the kinds of "comparative proportion" decisions that are fitting concerns for a serious artist. But if you think it matters whether the laws of perspective have been properly applied to the men sitting around that table, you've lost me.

3/12/2012 11:38 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Etc. etc.

As usual, you're all bluff. You've got nothing to back your words up. Nothing but a stack of art books by your bed, too much time on your hands, and a chip on your shoulder.

But you know that. (And so does everybody else.)

So why the pretense at expertise? At some point, long ago, even the most generous readers of this blog have concluded that you're just some dude with an ego problem. Let the charade rest already.

3/12/2012 11:40 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

At some point, long ago, even the most generous readers of this blog have concluded that you're just some dude with an ego problem.

Gosh, Kev; if all that's true then surely only a fool would waste time reading and responding to my comments. Aren't you insulting yourself there?

3/13/2012 12:23 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

etc, etc...

Just give us a link to your excellent caricatures. (It would be so pleasant to have you demonstrate your knowledge, for once, rather than proclaim it.)

3/13/2012 12:15 PM  
Blogger Joss said...

Kev and Etc. you may not be accomplished caricaturists but you make great caricatures yourselves when you work together!

Dave, I love that we didn't have to look at the "bad"stuff, but links are there if we choose to be visually punished instead of rewarded for taking a closer look.

I keep seeing Blitt drawings (New Yorker) and getting excited, thinking at a glance it's a Cuneo. I find them elementary, superficial, empty next to this. Then I'm pondering, just why that is, and how to verbalize it? I think you're doing a terrific job towards that end.

Cuneo strikes me as deeply interested in the formal poetry, the lines, energy, of his subject.
We get the crumbs of his frantic act of loving these things.

Etc., a lot of caricature strikes me as cheap also which is what makes Cuneo noteworthy, as he pours in some humanity. Your comparison of the merits of realism(?) with caricature brings to mind
Classical music vs.pop or dare I say fine Art vs. Illus. Spend time appreciating any field of accomplishments and you start to see the greats by contrast to their colleagues if their talent doesn't grab you from hello.
If caricature is just not your thing I can appreciate that. Perhaps what you are lacking is a sense of humor, humility.

3/13/2012 12:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, I'd rather hear your analysis of one of Cuneo's erotic drawings from his book. How do you interpret those?

3/13/2012 12:55 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Yes, Joss. The bad ones are bad. Sorry about your eyes. I probably was a bit too zealous in making that point. ;)

And yes, when one argues with a loon, it will be hard to tell the difference. All in fun, though.

3/13/2012 4:51 PM  
Blogger 0... said...

Liked all the posted arts...

3/13/2012 5:15 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Spend time appreciating any field of accomplishments

Joss,
As a teenager I played lead guitar in a rock band and later took classical violin lessons; thanks for the advice, but I don't need it.

David,
Do you believe Cuneo is free of any artistic deficiencies?

3/13/2012 9:00 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Alistair-- As far as i can tell, Cuneo only gives interviews with the encouragement of hot coals or bamboo shoots. He did talk once on the great "Escape From Illustration Island" series, http://escapefromillustrationisland.com/2011/03/23/efii-podcast-episode-75-john-cuneo/

Matthew Adams-- I suspect you're right.

Kev Ferrara-- Yes, I think "great fun" is at the heart of it. Whatever else is going on in these complex pictures, there is a wicked sense of humor underneath it all.

3/13/2012 10:47 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Joss-- There seems to be a number of talented illustrators working in this same loose style today but I must confess that Cuneo is my favorite.

Anonymous-- I think we'll add Cuneo's erotic work to the list of subjects for the last post on this blog.

Etc, etc-- I don't think any artist is free of artistic deficiencies. In fact, I don't even know how I would begin to calculate such a thing. It probably makes more sense to say that I find Cuneo's gaping artistic flaws and eccentricities are to my taste: interesting, intense and illuminating.

3/13/2012 11:16 PM  
Blogger Joss said...

But Kev I do enjoy your show, I appreciate you sharing your drawings too and enjoyed them. if that's what your apologizing for.

The "bad stuff" I was referring to was in this post which started with a bunch of links embedded in the text, "Artists who can't draw", "unkind remarks", "mewling platitudes", As there was no image visible when I first opened the post, I feared all images to follow would only be the stuff Dave rails against (which I pretty much agree with at least aesthetically).

Of course I agree it is very interesting and instructive to examine what doesn't work, and those posts can be engaging, particularly the comments after.

But Dave's sharing and deciphering what makes the lovely ones work is most rewarding for me. That's just a reflection of my mood. Sometimes I just want to be uplifted...a little violin.

Etc.- I didn't intend that as advice. Instead as an observation shared. To restate--Perhaps you don't see the finer points of Cuneo because you are not disposed to wallowing in the "crass" field of professional caricature. I am not advising you to start.

Its pretty clear that you could give a shit, but (lacking good sense, I persist) having spent time looking at your profile(no longer up) and one of your photostreams a year or so back I find your interests impressive and intriguing if lacking fun. Maybe I'm confusing you with someone else. Aren't you the one in Long Island City?

Dave Said "....I find Cuneo's gaping artistic flaws and eccentricities are to my taste: interesting, intense and illuminating."

For my money you nailed it with that response.
The real "art" is in the cracks, what we're able to gracefully, humbly let go. That is of course, only if we have something of worth to begin with.

3/14/2012 3:18 AM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

a strong sense for design and composition

David,
I'm not that familar with his work other than your blog and Google searches. As far as composition goes, all I see is a very perfunctory sense; perhaps he has exhibited a strong sense elsewhere but I have not seen it.

3/14/2012 7:35 AM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Perhaps you don't see the finer points of Cuneo because you are not disposed to wallowing in the "crass" field of professional caricature

Joss,
If the blog post had left Cuneo in the context of professional caricature (where he belongs) and evaluated him from that perspective, I would not have crashed the party. Problem is it did not.

3/14/2012 8:16 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Etc, etc wrote: "As far as composition goes, all I see is a very perfunctory sense"

I think you raise an excellent issue, and one that merits the attention of the genuine artists in the crowd.

I would agree that if you compare Cuneo's compositions with those of the formally trained painters of yesteryear, focusing on the design of negative space and other traditional measures, Cuneo's compositions can seem "perfunctory." Cuneo is clearly no Dean Cornwell or Frank Brangwyn. He doesn't have Bernie Fuchs' god-given gift for designing the look of a page.

I think Cuneo's composition holds together well enough so that it can be "read" very effectively. If you consider the complex web of psychological relationships taking place in the picture, that is no easy feat.

But more importantly, I think it would be antithetical for Cuneo to arrange his compositions in the classical tradition. In fact, it would be virtually impossible to achieve that kind of demented, naive, art brut effect with a composition consciously arranged along traditional lines. That kind of composition would project an aura of order and stability (and subliminally, civilization) that I don't think Cuneo wants.

So how can I conclude Cuneo has a "strong sense of design and composition?" If we don't view a successful composition as "combining forms and space to produce a harmonious whole," but instead we say that the meaning of Cuneo's pictures require a different approach, a composition with some unsettling, "random" dissonance (just as great composers of the 20th century such as Stravinsky or Britten added dissonance and enharmonics to the pleasant harmonies of previous generations) then we start to come up with a different standard for measuring a successful composition.

Personally, I like the way that Cuneo's elements sometimes dribble off the edge of the picture-- that great snippet of jagged teeth in the corner, that man carrying the coffee cup amputated at an awkward point, the dog looking off the page in the foreground... that's not the way composition was taught in the Royal Academy, but I think these decentralized components are important contributors to the effect of the picture.

3/14/2012 11:20 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

etc, etc...

You consistently assume that the principles of composition, insofar as you understand them, reached their greatest heights in the artwork you prefer. And therefore, you further assume, artwork that does not seem to have the characteristics of the art you prefer, must not have good composition.

What you fail to understand is that the artwork you prefer only demonstrates one part of the total compositional possibilities available to the artist.

Why do you, time and time again, mistake your preferences for principles?

Composing for comic effect is just as difficult as composing for any other effect. People who think the anarchic proliferations of a Mort Drucker or Jack Davis are easy have never tried to get that same quality in their own work.

You of all people should appreciate just how difficult it is to communicate any quality of humor at all.

3/14/2012 11:30 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Exactly, David.

3/14/2012 11:32 AM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

I would agree that if you compare Cuneo's compositions with those of the formally trained painters of yesteryear, focusing on the design of negative space and other traditional measures, Cuneo's compositions can seem "perfunctory." Cuneo is clearly no Dean Cornwell or Frank Brangwyn. He doesn't have Bernie Fuchs' god-given gift for designing the look of a page.

David,
Ok. Now we are getting somewhere. Since a caricaturist is not weighed down by and does not have to struggle with the issues of traditional composition and comparable accuracy of proportion (and those are titanic struggles), the chances increase exponentially that an experienced caricaturist may cultivate some unique, je ne sais quoi quality to their work; would you agree with that?

3/14/2012 12:09 PM  
Blogger अर्जुन said...

Stravinsky! More like Erase Errata! (Talk about a distorted perspective.)

Oh …and a bit of violin.

3/14/2012 1:27 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

a bit of violin

Make mine a double.

3/14/2012 1:45 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Perspective and proportion are not titanic struggles. All they require is a bit of knowledge, a book or two, some hand-eye coordination and a ruler. And some time to refine a drawing.

Most traditional compositions are boring as all hell, just like most classical music pieces are boring beyond tolerance (which is why most classical music goes unheard).

You don't realize that the rules of composition are not what made the old masters masters. Or else every old painter who "knew the rules" would be a master. (Just like knowing the rules of tennis does not make one a superb athlete.)

The factor that most causes good compositions is TALENT! And talent will find its way toward a quality result no matter what the fashionable artistic schemata of the day might be.

Or to put it another way, there are principles of art-making that only talent knows.

3/14/2012 2:00 PM  
Anonymous AJA said...

"(which is why most classical music goes unheard)."

If you asked most Americans if they like Beethoven or Mozart, they would answer "no." That, good sir, is why most classical music goes unheard.

3/14/2012 3:49 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

The names don't matter.

But people do recognize Beethoven's 5th, or William Tell Overture, or Ride of Valkyries from their various appearances in popular culture. Whether it's Bugs Bunny, Apocalypse Now, or ShopRite Radio... the classical music that gets heard is "The Greatest Hits."

If I asked anybody popping in here to recollect a few bars of Beethoven's 7th, the odds that anybody will pipe up is practically nil. And that is because the 7th symphony simply isn't all that interesting in terms of melodic or sonic invention. It's for "completists only."

3/14/2012 5:02 PM  
Anonymous Lipov said...

Also, even if those Americans would provide the answer "yes", most classical music would still go unheard. Because most of it is generic and dull, most of it simply follows a template of the day. Only people who enjoy that template are the ones who can listen to most of classical music. Mozart on the other hand provides a value (creative, emotional, aesthetic) beyond a mere "classical style" and people who enjoy that, people who are searching for that value, do not need to listen to most of classical music. "Mozartness", that value, isnt tied down to a specific style, it's found throughout the creative musical works of any time and place. So, since modern society has their own template nowdays, I see no reason why most classical music shouldnt go unheard. Therefore your analogy AJA doesnt work.

3/14/2012 5:16 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Etc, etc wrote: "Since a caricaturist is not weighed down by and does not have to struggle with the issues of traditional composition and comparable accuracy of proportion"

I think I understand your point, and I appreciate that a caricaturist who puts a likeness center stage might not have to labor as hard over composition or accuracy or proportion. I think David Levine made that trade off in his caricatures, although his gallery work made it quite clear that he was capable of doing brilliant and accurate compositions when he wanted to. But I guess I would answer your question by disagreeing with your premise.

I do share Kev's view about "the difficulty of composing for comedic effect" but even putting that specialized talent aside, the great caricaturist
Mort Drucker has virtuoso control over perspective, accuracy of proportion, technical drawing, anatomy (see some of the examples at the link where goofy figures are drawn over controlled backgrounds) and yet deliberately chooses to twang the string a little harder. I don't think Drucker's status as a caricaturist frees him from the added responsibilities of strong composition. Of course, Drucker is doing something very different from Cuneo (and I would not classify Cuneo strictly as a caricaturist).

I think your point is true for a number of caricaturists (although perhaps not the ones I tend to favor).

3/14/2012 5:57 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

David,
I agree that Drucker was far better at composition than most all other caricaturists I have seen. The others not so much.

3/14/2012 6:56 PM  
Blogger अर्जुन said...

Kev,

The dubious perspective I questioned was the comparison to Stravinsky.

Through the D.A.'s posts I've come to appreciate what I have seen of Cuneo's, though I still don't consider him an artistic genius nor master draughtsman.

Beethoven ~ Sonata No. 14 in C Sharp Minor Op 27

""the classical music that gets heard is "The Greatest Hits."" ~ One of the best known was written by Charles Gounod, winner of the 1839 Prix de Rome (category: music composition), Funeral March of a Marionette.

What's in your recently played? (playlist)

p.s. 'Fawcett "Week"' still ongoing.

3/14/2012 7:29 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

AJA, Kev, अर्जुन, Lipov--

Kev said: "If I asked anybody popping in here to recollect a few bars of Beethoven's 7th, the odds that anybody will pipe up is practically nil. And that is because the 7th symphony simply isn't all that interesting in terms of melodic or sonic invention. It's for 'completists only.'"

Hey, you guys can say whatever you want about the musical taste of the American public; you can dis Mozart or Stravinsky or trash the classical template, but keep your cotton picking hands off my Beethoven. It is impossible to listen to the 7th Symphony in a darkened room without weeping like a school girl.

3/14/2012 9:27 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

It is impossible to listen to the 7th Symphony in a darkened room without weeping like a school girl.

Glorious indeed.

3/14/2012 10:47 PM  
Anonymous AJA said...

I can only speak of what I know. When I was in high school, my art teacher put on some Beethoven and most people wanted it changed to some other music. Later on in the year, he showed us this famous violin player playing(perhaps Mozart, but I'm not sure) in a train station and no one stopped to listen. He asked us if anyone liked the music and no one raised their hands. All I can say is that not many of the young folks would actively listen to classical music.

3/15/2012 7:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"All I can say is that not many of the young folks would actively listen to classical music."

Young folks miss out on a lot of good things. Civilization is so vast that it takes a long lifetime to get to know even a small part of the treasures that are on offer.

DC

3/15/2012 8:34 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

It is impossible to listen to the 7th Symphony in a darkened room without weeping like a school girl.

David,

It concerns me that you should be emotionally destabilized by such a humdrum collection of fop-worn arranging techniques. In order to protect your quavering psyche from similar shock, might I suggest you also avoid other potentially soul-shattering activities, such as standing in line, using paper towels, or baking pie.

अर्जुन

Lots of great finds on your blog this Fawcett week.

Aside from what I usually listen to, I'm really enjoying what Pentatonix is doing with their arrangments... transforming under-written pop hits from Lady Gaga (Edge of Glory), Kanye West (Love Lockdown), Florence and the Machine (Dog Days) and Katy Perry (ET) into complex (yet still young/fun) avante-garde acapella music with a club/dubstep twist.

3/15/2012 8:57 AM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

You consistently assume that the principles of composition, insofar as you understand them, reached their greatest heights in the artwork you prefer.

And you consistently assume no one knows what you do not.

You of all people should appreciate just how difficult it is to communicate any quality of humor at all.

You mean my sense of humor falls flat with the LGBT community? Oh well.

3/15/2012 11:51 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

And you consistently assume no one knows what you do not.

I think I understand what you were trying to say here through the awkward construction.

I'm sure some other artists know what I know, and more than I know, or different stuff from what I know. But you... I'd need some proof from. Like a composition or two. (Oh, remember that day when you analyzed that Frankenstein picture in the most unsophisticated manner possible. That was a funny day for your ego claims, wasn't it?)

Your second comment is even more mysterious than the first. All I can gather is that there is some infighting between you and the rest of the LGBT community.

3/15/2012 1:32 PM  
Blogger Regina said...

I could also "...go on vivisecting this brilliant little drawing.." and be bubbling over each tiny line and shadow.
I don't like so much categorising and labeling art work. This "caricuture' drawing I would put next to Modigliani's and Chagall's graphic works.
Since you bring analogies with music, as musicians would say, Cuneo has a very special "touche"(touch).
And as Mies van de Rohe said:'God is in detail"

3/16/2012 1:44 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

AJA wrote: "All I can say is that not many of the young folks would actively listen to classical music."

I'm sure you're right. If young folks were left to their own devices they would never have reason to budge from short songs with pleasant harmonies. They would never have reason to stray from Maxfield Parrish to investigate the strange and less accessible goings on with John Cuneo. They would never abandon soft drinks for fine wine.

Perhaps if there weren't so many adults trying to flee the complexities and responsibilities of adulthood, more young folks would conclude that adult pleasures were worth the striving.

Kev Ferrara wrote, "... such a humdrum collection of fop-worn arranging techniques..."

Oh, please.

Regina wrote, "I don't like so much categorising and labeling art work."

Believe it or not, I agree with you. I may write a blog about art but my "scholasticism" is pretty much limited to trying to think through why I like some images and not others. It goes back to my point about Athens and Jerusalem, above-- you'll never make it all the way to Athens but if you're going to assert a standard, you have an affirmative obligation to be able to explain your position (for better or worse).

3/16/2012 5:18 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Young people have no idea as to how recycled their music is. James Brown was before my time, yet I've lost count how many times his stuff has been recycled during my lifetime. Nor do they have any idea as to how impressionable they are in regard to the influence of image in their music preferences; songwriters, producers, and studio musicians have been propping up pretty yet modestly talented acts at least as far back as The Wrecking Crew.

3/16/2012 10:45 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

"Or to put it another way, there are principles of art-making that only talent knows"

I don't know Kev, I think knowing what you want to say about something is the true driving force of art.   It is a much more difficult task to decipher the aesthetic  impulse.   Art has very little to do with eye hand coordination.

3/17/2012 12:36 AM  
Anonymous MORAN said...

Tom do you think Cuneo started this drawing knowing what he wanted to say? I bet a lot of it came to him as he drew and some of it was subconscious.

3/17/2012 7:52 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Tom,

I agree with you that a central idea tends to drive any good work of art. But I am also sure that Moran is correct when he points out that, by necessity, the specifics of how that something is said is worked out as things progress. And so many choices tend to be intuitive. And unless an artist spends considerable time analyzing what his gut has recommended to him, he will not realize just how much more clever and subtle talent is than whatever currently passes for "the rules of composition." (Armand Cabrera just wrote a good post recently on the rules of composition on his blog, Art and Influence.)

I think humorous work in particular requires more spontaneity in composition and execution than "sober" work. And, personally, I've found that it is much harder to keep up a humorous tone than a serious one. Particularly as humorous work tends to be line driven and line is so unforgiving. The moment you labor, or seem to be trying too hard, or get too intellectual, or lose focus, funny skips out from beneath the pen.

David,

You didn't like "Fop-Worn?" ;)

3/17/2012 9:56 AM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Armand Cabrera just wrote a good post recently on the rules of composition on his blog, Art and Influence.

As far as composition goes, some of his examples are every bit as perfunctory and dull as a caricaturist's.

3/17/2012 11:10 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

etc, etc....

I would say the first several have that "perfunctory" quality, seeming like sketches more than paintings, but the last two, by Sorolla and Zorn, are definitely composed. Don't forget that making a composition seem off-the-cuff can be a deliberate choice, and one that is not all that easy to pull off in one still wants to achieve effects (other than perfunctoriness) through the mechanism of the composition.

Your attempt to use "perfunctory" as a pejorative seems to ignore the great effort many great artists make to achieve a kind of effortless naturalness to their arrangements... the hiding of art by artfulness being the very opposite of "artless."

I'm sure if Armand, who knows his stuff, had spent a week (rather than a few hours) seeking out rule-breaking compositions he could have come up with many more classics to illustrate his point. The point is valid, nonetheless.

3/17/2012 11:34 AM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3/17/2012 12:12 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Kev,

Then what is the point, exactly? That those first few examples are as well composed as anything out there? Nonsense.


Cabrera knows that none of his readers dare breathe a word of criticism against Sargent, lest the collective gasp be followed by, "Oh yeah? Lets see your work." Sound familiar?

3/17/2012 12:51 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

The point is that a successful composition can break the rules, because "the rules" aren't really rules. They're ways to prevent gross errors by beginners and the untalented. They aren't actually engineering principles because they don't prompt the artist to deeper thoughts about composition.

In other words, composition is the way a communication is structured, and in order to communicate something, you need to have something to say, and in order to say something you have to have unique experience, unique personality, and the ability to think. And the ability to think is what, ultimately, allows you to structure what you think for maximum rhetorical effectiveness and personal expression. This ability to think does not come through the application of the kind of ready-made sound bites one tends to hear.

I don't see the need to get caught up in the quality of Armand's examples. The post is just a refresher for those who already understand, or just a prompt to thought for those who still believe in the sanctity of "the rules."

Howard Pyle once said that Sargent's work was beautiful but vacuous and would be forgotten in a century's time because it had no depth. Personally, as I continue to struggle to learn to paint, I find it hard to dismiss the elegance and poetry of Sargent's "mere surfaces" and "uncomposed compositions."

The only reason I keep on harping on seeing your work, and I'm assuming you are an artist, is because of how declarative you are of your expertise and superior taste. That you hide behind anonymity, so that you can judge others, while disallowing them to judge you, only further irritates and causes suspicion. At least Rob Howard had a few portraits online that showed he could handle paint and understood values, color harmony and classical drawing.

3/17/2012 1:29 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

They aren't actually engineering principles because they don't prompt the artist to deeper thoughts about composition

How then do you know it isn't just misinformation yet the real information does indeed exist somewhere? Have you really exhausted all possibilities? If not, then is a position of committed, absolute skepticism really a reasonable position?

3/17/2012 2:17 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

This issue is not just that better information does exist, it is the nature of the better information that is most critical to appreciate. And the nature of good information is, imo, that it offers basic aesthetic principles only, which can assist focus and creativity. It will not mandate or prohibit anything.

3/17/2012 3:42 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Hi Kev
"Howard Pyle once said that Sargent's work was beautiful but vacuous and would be forgotten in a century's time because it had no depth."

Wow, did Pyle really said that!?

Are the decisions that are made after the initial driving idea intuitive or are they really forced by the overriding conception of the initial idea?  

A strong emotion or idea immediately dictates compositional choice. How will
you  use your subject matter to express your idea so you can emphasis the feeling or thought you are trying to convey?

The specifics or details are actually controlled by the over riding idea. Delacroix remarked that the drawing or work of  art is determine from the first mark.

Isn't that the great intuition of perspective? An overriding unity is shared by all things.   You understand the relations of all things to each other, you play a chord instead of a note.

Hi Moran
 What I am saying in a way is, each choice we make becomes a restriction. Like steps in a dance or dominos.  Now words are cumbersome compared to art, so I will use a simple example.  If you were to draw a portrait in a three quarter view, you know where all the parts of the head will go.  The three quarter view has decided that.  If you are drawing a titled Viking boat at 20 degrees all the details of the boat are force, they have already been decided for you.  Once a decision is made are you going to follow through on it?

An idea can be an intuition , I am not saying there is a master mind who has everything absolutely planned before they start, but they don't  forget the reason for there impulse the initial idea will even help them out of a difficult problem if they can remember it.

  Bonnard said he never work before the motif because it was to easy to forget the initial impulse before the subject.

3/17/2012 5:31 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Hey Tom,

Here is the actual Pyle quote: Art that is built on technique cannot live for fashions in technique change. Sir Thomas Lawrence has little to interest us to-day yet in his own time his popularity was greater than is Sargent’s and a hundred years from now people will be wondering what we of the nineteenth & twentieth centuries found to admire in Sargent. While Holbein, for instance, is as much or more loved to-day than when he was living – hundreds of years ago – because his pictures portray simply and honestly the lineaments and character of the people of his time.

On your other point, I certainly agree that the idea of a picture will suggest certain solutions and help an artist reject others... just like chord changes can guide a musical improviser to play correct notes while riffing, avoiding off-tones. But I can't imagine that any given set of chord changes "dictate" the improvised melodies. And chord changes and scales in music are far more limiting than an overriding idea for a picture.

3/17/2012 8:38 PM  
Anonymous ScottLoar said...

Gee, after reading the comments here I'd almost forgotten this was a simple and direct illustration of men in packs as the coarse, carnal dogs the incidental but shocked lady discovers they are, but you guys pretty well shook all sense out of it.

3/18/2012 5:04 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

ScottLoar-- I agree that the comments have not followed a linear path. That's often the way with a dialectical process. But if you think this drawing is "simple and direct," you might want to go back and revisit some of those comments. (You can skip the ones about Beethoven). Does the lady really look "shocked" to you? Dismayed or thoughtful perhaps, but I think Cuneo is subtler than "shocked." And do all of the men look "coarse and carnal" to you? That man holding the doll looks very pleased with his toy and the power relationship he imagines. (Whether he really has that power relationship depends on what ensues, and is part of the ambiguity of the drawing). Heck, even the dogs aren't all "coarse and carnal," one is dressed like a business executive.

I don't want to belabor the point because I agree with you (and Regina above) that there is a risk of talking these things to death. But it is important to talk at least enough to make clear that Cuneo never takes the "simple, direct" way out. That's one of the differences between slapstick and art.

3/18/2012 6:05 AM  
Anonymous ScottLoar said...

Dear David,

No, I don't deny the technical complexity of the illustration and its characters, I commented broadly on the meaning; yes, the lady at a cocktail party, the modern gathering of civil society, chances around the corner and is shocked on seeing men undisturbed at play (especially as she is the object of their play), and a business suit cannot excuse the coarse carnality (I thought the juxtaposition especially effect, and you?), even if on a dog. They're all "dirty dogs", or you interpret it differently?

Slapstick and art? I don't confuse The Three Stooges with Charlie Chaplin, and I don't think this illustration slapstick, either in intent or execution.

Thanks for the explication on "the dialectical process", a good example of why I seldom comment here.

3/18/2012 8:42 AM  
Anonymous ScottLoar said...

Dear David,

No, I don't deny the technical complexity of the illustration and its characters, I commented broadly on the meaning; yes, the lady at a cocktail party, the modern gathering of civil society, chances around the corner and is shocked on seeing men undisturbed at play (especially as she is the object of their play), and a business suit cannot excuse the coarse carnality (I thought the juxtaposition especially effect, and you?), even if on a dog. They're all "dirty dogs", or you interpret it differently?

Slapstick and art? I don't confuse The Three Stooges with Charlie Chaplin, and I don't think this illustration slapstick, either in intent or execution.

Thanks for the explication on "the dialectical process", a good example of why I seldom comment here.

3/18/2012 8:42 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

ScottLoar-- I hope you won't be so easily discouraged. Even as I typed the word "dialectic" I recognized that it was on today's lexicon of verboten words. But it was 6 am and too early to type out: "point/counterpoint between different extremes, where the extreme positions are interesting and worth reading in themselves, but which through a zigzag process might bring us closer to a better, more informed position." So I used the term more out of sloth than hubris.

As for the word "slapstick," I love the 3 Stooges. I only meant that it was not Cuneo's nature to use the broad humor of having the woman look "shocked." You notice that she is not wide eyed or open mouthed. She is not dropping her chardonnay. He is far too complex to use pie-in-the-face humor.

3/18/2012 9:22 AM  
Anonymous ScottLoar said...

The lady is arrested by the sight. There, "arrested" should do, with no taint of slapstick.

3/18/2012 9:40 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

I don't see this illustration as about carnality.

It seems more like a comment on a particularly male species of obliviousness. The men and dogs in the picture treat everything as mere inanimate material for manipulation at their pleasure, and every place they roam as their home. Their casual assumption of ownership and dominance makes her hospitality invisible, it is taken for granted as soon as it is offered... they are utterly indifferent to the girl's humanity/personhood, emotional life, or her emotional connection to her home.

The girl looks nonplussed.

I don't think I've ever seen this general idea expressed so poignantly or with such intelligence before. The Mad Magazine (Drucker) version is usually a bunch of rowdy slobs in filthy t-shirts playing cards, smoking cigars, spilling ashtrays, drinking beer and burping... With the lady of the house, in the next room, raising her eyes to the sky. The Mad moment isn't taken into the abstract realm through symbolism and distortion, as here.

3/18/2012 11:20 AM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Kev,
That's a really interesting quote from Pyle; thanks for sharing. I take it he wasn't that impressed with Sargent's bravura brushwork.

3/18/2012 8:39 PM  
Anonymous ScottLoar said...

The girl looks nonplussed? Puzzled? Baffled? Confounded? But the context is clearly given: Men as the dirty dogs they are. Surely you've heard the phrase before? Surely that's a well understood metaphor for carnality?

"(The men's) casual assumption of ownership and dominance makes her hospitality invisible, it is taken for granted as soon as it is offered..." Really, her home? Her hospitality? And I thought the scene the back room at a cocktail party as men - especially married men in their 30's and above - gravitate to one another as is their wont.

I think you're reading way, way too much in all this, just as the hackles of some rise at the very hint that this is anything but complex. Yeah, a good illustration uniquely executed, but if the message - and surely we can agree this illustration is satire? - fails to deliver the fault lies either in the author or the audience.

3/18/2012 11:26 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

etc, etc.

Yes, all the Brandywine artists were suspicious of too-slick technique which gave no evidence of deeper thought. There are a number of quotes by Pyle and Dunn to this effect. Even though many Brandywine trained artists became expert craftsmen (Pyle, NC Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, Dunn, Cornwell, Everett, Schaeffer, Tepper, Von Schmidt, etc.) they all always believed that craft should be at the service of, and harmonized to, a transcendent idea.

Scott,

You are assuming that Cuneo is going for the cliché. Why? He doesn't need to, first of all, because he's an original thinker. And secondly there's no indication in this drawing that carnality is the issue, or that the dogs portrayed are "dirty."

So it is you who is "reading too much" into this picture. You are assigning it symbolism it isn't exhibiting because, due to some Pavlovian conditioning I suppose, you think if dogs are being compared to men, that must mean carnality is the issue. You are heedlessly projecting the cliché onto a picture.

Give the artist some credit. Read the picture by its own lights, its own context.

3/18/2012 11:57 PM  
Anonymous ScottLoar said...

"(T)here's no indication in this drawing that carnality is the issue, or that the dogs portrayed are 'dirty.'"

Dogs and men together, mouthing and tearing apart the sexy lady in effigy as a piece of meat, slobbering over it, I can hear the grunts and growls ("Note how subtly the artist diminishes the distinction between men and dogs by putting a business shirt on the dog in the corner. At the same time, in the same corner, we are reminded that dogs are slobbering beasts") and yet carnality isn't there?

You and I don't see the same picture at all, and pronounce I'm projecting my cliches, a consequence of my Pavlovian conditioning. Rather hard to engage you in reasoning, eh? (That was a rhetorical question, please.)

3/19/2012 12:42 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Scott,

You aren't engaging in reason. You are engaging in confirmation bias.

All you need to do is look at the "play" put on the center of the table with the female dolls. There is nothing sexual going on. There is, however, something being said about control.

Just look at what the picture says. Not what you expect it to say.

3/19/2012 1:56 AM  
Anonymous MORAN said...

Kev,

that's a good point because Cuneo draws the sex column for Esquire and a lot of other drawings with nudity and sex but his drawings I've seen aren't sexy or carnal. They don't make me horny but they make me think.

3/19/2012 10:59 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

I agree with you, Moran.

Also, when Cuneo says something about carnal interest, generally he isn't coy about it. He may be witty as all heck, but he won't veil the subject itself.

3/19/2012 12:42 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

MORAN, Kev and Scott-- You raise an interesting distinction, one that hadn't occurred to me. I'm sure one reason Cuneo gets away with doing the most fearlessly explicit work around is that his work is never prurient. If an artist is going to draw genitals, intent becomes crucial. I have never seen anything pornographic from Cuneo. (There are plenty of other artists who handle that territory.)

3/20/2012 5:48 AM  
Anonymous ScottLoar said...

Carnality is not the same as "sexy" or pornography; look up the definition.

3/20/2012 11:07 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

ScottLoar-- I did not intend to fire another salvo in the debate over whether this illustration shows carnality. I think all sides have had ample opportunity to air their views. That's why I avoided the word "carnality" altogether.

Instead, my point was that the comments from you, MORAN and Kev caused me to realize that no matter how explicit his drawings my be, Cuneo's intentions are never to titillate us the way pornography does. He may have a secret stash of drawings designed to stir your loins, but everything I've seen by him stirs your brain or your sense of humor instead. And that one difference-- the underlying subjective intent of the drawing-- may be why he gets away with the explicit work he does.

3/21/2012 2:24 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

The only reason I keep on harping on seeing your work, and I'm assuming you are an artist, is because of how declarative you are of your expertise and superior taste. That you hide behind anonymity, so that you can judge others, while disallowing them to judge you, only further irritates and causes suspicion.

Kev,
Some brief points and I'll drop it as I'm not expecting this to go anywhere meaningful.

First of all, my taste is the result of analysis, years in the making, of the formal qualities of Western art from the Ancient Near East until now. That analysis has led me to humbly conclude that my own WASP culture, while I still highly regard and cherish it, has in general displayed a fairly low visual art IQ, while Italian culture for a prolonged period of time has displayed a very high visual art IQ (and I think there are many cultures and ethnicities that could use a strong dose of this medicine). The point is, it's really not about me.

Second, whenever someone on the internet makes an assertion about art (provided it is not someone attempting to devalue the role of skill apparent in all great art), there is the entirety of art history at one's disposal to evaluate the veracity of the assertion. I don't need to see their art.

Third, I'm sorry but I don't feel the least bit obligated to prove myself to you on your terms just because I make "declarations", as you call them, about art.

3/21/2012 2:29 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Etc, etc...

If you didn't care, you wouldn't have responded.

Michael Swofford once posted here, some time ago, and your opening conversational gambit was to call him, "to his face", a Schmid-wannabe. I don't think he's returned since.

This kind of rudeness has nothing whatsoever to do with scholarship. It is mere nastiness. And it didn't even make sense.

That introduction to your M.O. has been quite predictive of your future style, despite your occasional lapses into civility or humility. In many ways, great and small, in each engagement, you find ways to vomit your personal bitterness into a thought bubble. "The Grand Tradition of Art History Compels Me!" only floats these offenses so far, before the bluster of it dies down, and the bubble of sick bursts against the pavement.

The style of one's opinions says a lot about a man's character. It wouldn't kill you to have a little self-knowledge. It may even lead to a modicum of self-restraint. And you know what Thucydides says about self-restraint.

3/21/2012 6:39 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3/21/2012 8:46 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Michael Swofford once posted here, some time ago, and your opening conversational gambit was to call him, "to his face", a Schmid-wannabe. I don't think he's returned since.

He must have been left utterly nonplussed and mute by the power of my argumentation; he hasn't updated his own blog since February 2008.

3/21/2012 8:57 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Whether your comment was the direct cause of his departure or not, or whether it contributed to his disinterest in returning or not, is immaterial. The comment itself is the issue. And what it says about your character.

3/22/2012 12:22 AM  
Anonymous Lipov said...

But "I don't think he's returned since." implies that Etc, etc was the cause for his departure. Besides, Kev, you are capable of ignoring your own preaching here sometimes, if I mention Greenberg and Danto you will loose all sense of scholarship, civility and humility in a second. ;)

3/23/2012 10:24 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Greenberg is dead and Danto is busy writing The Transmogrification of Banality: A Postmodern Hermeneutics of Late Capitalist Non-Dialectical Aesthetic Absentia.

3/24/2012 12:20 AM  
Anonymous Lipov said...

There you go.

3/24/2012 12:31 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

I tried to be humorous about it, because I didn't think I needed to explain to you why your analogy doesn't fit. If you aren't being flippant, then it's simply a bad faith argument.

3/24/2012 11:06 AM  
Anonymous Lipov said...

I recognized funniness in your statement, maybe I should have add a smiley. But I do not know why my analogy doesnt fit tho, you called me a slave to carnival barkers, a member of bandwagon mentality, an intellectual sheep, etc. :)

3/25/2012 5:40 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

I googled that particular response, which was on the Jeff Jones obit. I thought that was a very reasoned, if passionate, address to you in response to what you had written.

Fyi, I didn't call you an intellectual sheep. I asked if you were an intellectual sheep. Because I was trying to make the point that you were parroting other thinkers' arguments without trying to refute them. The main argument being the implicit one... that academics like Danto, and their theories, are important to the arts.

Thus you proved to me you had fallen into their game, which I consider to be a kind of con game destructive to the visual arts. (I did compare you to a fish-in-the-boat in this regard, meaning that you had been caught in the cultural net that had been cast.)

Trying to break up this academic con ring is something I take very seriously. In taking their side of things, in agreeing with their self-assessment as important, you became a target of a harsher than normal post by me. (Just as if you were arguing that some Ponzi scheme was a good idea for gaining financial independence on a money management web site.)

But even so, what I wrote was not the same as ad hominem attack, because I took the time to explain why the analogies held. I was trying to wake you up to what you were doing.

The subtext of my bothering to write all that was that you, Lipov, are way too intelligent to be duped by the fan boys of academia, Danto being the current poster boy for the type. The pains I took to explain, I hope, prevented you from feeling you were simply dismissed out of hand.

Whether you've become more sensitive to being a carrier of academic theorist's memes since then, I don't know. But I wouldn't be surprised if you've become more critical of what you repeat.

3/25/2012 8:14 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

Lipov,
You probably should send Kev a thank you card. ;)

3/25/2012 11:13 PM  
Blogger Amarjeet Prasad said...

interested post.

Art exhibition
Art Gallery

4/02/2012 10:50 PM  
Anonymous Roger Reed said...

Once again, I'm late to the party, so late that no one is listening as they've staggered off, barely coherent. But the Cuneo remains standing, still witty even while the question of drawing hangs in the stale air.

First, an important distinction: there are those artists who cannot draw well, and their lack of skill interferes with their sense of humor. But one glance at a Cuneo, or a Burke (or many others) tells you that whatever is going on, its not a case of incompetent drawing.

Such artists develop a system of drawing deliberately wrongly, a set of mannerisms that heightens the point of view of the artist rather than weakens it.

George Booth's drawings -- simply bad, or does he perfectly convey the state of mind of the paranoid obsessive in the very rendering ability of each of his lines? That point of view is not going to look normal. Cuneo transports this viewer to a drunken realm... everything is off-kilter in an alcohol-induced way with attendant grotesqueries and ineptitudes. This is articulated even when it looks accidental. Not only can he draw, but he can draw with sprezzatura!

The limitation to this kind of drawing is that the point of view becomes fixed, like a comedian who can only work one line of schtick. In fact schtick is what we're all talking about, not drawing at all. People who see poor drawing in Cuneo would be apt to hear poor vocabulary in Chico Marx.

4/27/2012 10:36 PM  

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