Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round FOUR: Prud'hon v. Raphael!


Time for a Fourth Round match to kick off the month!  This one pits Prud'hon, who brings in a cumulative 25-8 voting record, against Raphael, who has a 25-8 voting record of his own.  Does that mean they are likely to tie?  Maybe!



Pierre-Paul Prud'hon
1758 - 1823
French
  • Drubbed Francesco Primaticcio in Round 1.
  • Beat Sir Henry Raeburn in Round 2.
  • Defeated Nicolas Poussin in Round 3 by a two-vote swing. YOUR VOTE COUNTS!








Raphael
1483 - 1520
Italian








Vote for the artist of your choice in the comments, or any other way that works for you. Commentary and links to additional work are welcome. Fourth-round matches are open for at least three months after posting.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Trying Again With The Trial


I read The Trial again.  I honestly didn’t think much of it the first time, but with anything that packs as much reputation as The Trial it only makes sense to give it a second shot.  Most of the classics, I’ve found, turn out to be pretty damn good.  Maybe I would have grown into Kafka!

The Trial, this time around, reminded me of another classic from a couple decades earlier: Richard Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra.  Both of the two works begin with a dramatic flourish that everybody knows: the big famous 2001 fanfare in the Strauss tone poem, and K’s arrest in Kafka’s book.  And afterwards, both pieces fade into a long series of murky, dark-hued passages that are a bit of a chore to get through.  Kafka at least has a pretty good second movement – er, chapter – in which K has to wend his way through tenement housing looking for the absurd court in the attic, an episode poised between nightmare logic and slapstick silliness.  It’s a tone that the remainder of the book tries to maintain, but without much success.

Living in Central Europe at the beginning of the twentieth century, Kafka would have been no stranger to the presence of secret police and occasionally dodgy legal proceedings.  Still, on second reading I think that it’s a bit literal to think of The Trial as being “about” totalitarian societies.  On this reading, it seemed pretty easy to construe the novel as being “about” the futility of human existence, when viewed in a grumpy mood. 

In this interpretation, Kafka creates a kind of twentieth century Pilgrim’s Progress, an analogy to everyman’s crisis of mortality or, if you like, the mid-life crisis.  At age 30, K is suddenly beset by an unsettling force that seems to doom him.  He spends chapter after chapter seeking solace in the various diversions and social institutions that are supposed to structure our lives: family, the rule of law, romantic adventure, professional life, and lastly (in most arrangements of the book, which Kafka didn’t really finish) religion.  Nothing really helps, and the relentless march towards his doom continues.  Sound familiar?  If not, wait until you turn 30!

In my first review, I mostly missed this angle, although I did speculate that Kafka’s “literary star must have risen with hand in hand existentialism, a philosophical movement perfectly attuned to his protagonists' alienated struggles against the absurd.…”  Now, the philosophy of existentialism and the experience of an extended mid-life crisis aren’t exactly the same thing, of course, but they’re certainly within hailing distance of each other.

Did The Trial grow on me on a second reading?  No, dang it, it did not.  I continue to find it a rather dull story, and as a document of its times I’m distracted by my knowledge that it was never finished and not published until well after the death of its author.  It is more of an interesting document of the times forty years later in which it became popular, but now we’ve left literature behind and have moved on to the history of intellectual trends.  That’s cool, and The Trial is arguably worth reading, but it doesn’t make the book more of a success either as a work of art or as an entertainment. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round Two: Sheeler v. Siberechts!

Charles Sheeler
1883 - 1965
American

Beat Cindy Sherman in in Round 1







Jan Siberechts
1627 - 1703
Dutch; worked in Britain

Defeated Walter Sickert in Round 1.






Vote for the artist of your choice in the comments, or any other way that works for you. Commentary and links to additional work are welcome. Polls open for at least one month past posting.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round Two: Serra v. Seurat!

Richard Serra
Born 1938 or 1939
American

Beat George Segal in Round 1.







Georges Seurat
1859 - 1891
French

Defeated Gino Severini in Round 1.






Vote for the artist of your choice in the comments, or any other way that works for you. Commentary and links to additional work are welcome. Polls open for at least one month past posting.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round One: Smith v. Snyders!

David Smith
1906 - 1965
American



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Frans Snyders
1579 - 1657
Dutch



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Vote for the artist of your choice! Votes go in the comments. Commentary and links to additional work are welcome. Polls open for at least one month past posting.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round Two: Schwitters v. van Scorel!

Kurt Schwitters
1887 - 1948
German

Beat fifteenth century German Martin Schongauer easily in Round 1.






Jan van Scorel
1495 - 1562
Dutch

Defeated Sebastiano del Piombo in Round 1.






Vote for the artist of your choice in the comments, or any other way that works for you. Commentary and links to additional work are welcome. Polls open for at least one month past posting.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Infinite Art Tournament, Round Two: Schiele v. Schnabel!

Egon Schiele
1890 - 1918
Austrian

Beat Christian Schad in Round 1.







Julian Schnabel
Born 1951
American

Defeated Karl Schmidt-Rottluff in Round 1.







Vote for the artist of your choice in the comments, or any other way that works for you. Commentary and links to additional work are welcome. Polls open for at least one month past posting.