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kottke.org posts about Peter Schjeldahl

The most divisive work in all of modern art: all-white paintings

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 13, 2018

Modern art museum patrons are often confounded by all-white paintings like those of Robert Ryman. Like, what the hell? It’s just a white painting? “I could do that.” In this video, Vox’s Dean Peterson talks with The Whitney’s assistant curator Elisabeth Sherman about how you might approach thinking about minimalist art.

The art critic Peter Schjeldahl, writing about a retrospective of Ryman’s work for the New Yorker, gets at what the artist is attempting to communicate with his work:

Always, Ryman invites contemplation of the light that falls on his paintings (which when I saw them, on a recent cloudy day, was glumly tender as it filtered through the Dia skylights) and of their formal relation to the rooms that contain them. There’s no savoring of style, just stark presentation. His work’s economy and quietness may be pleasing, but its chief attraction is philosophical. What is a painting? Are there values inherent in the medium’s fundamental givens — paint skin, support surface, wall — when they are denied traditional decorative and illustrative functions? Such questions absorb Ryman. Do they excite you? Your answer might betray how old you are.

And Ryman himself talked about why he uses white in an interview with Art21:

White has a tendency to make things visible. With white, you can see more of a nuance; you can see more. I’ve said before that, if you spill coffee on a white shirt, you can see the coffee very clearly. If you spill it on a dark shirt, you don’t see it as well. So, it wasn’t a matter of white, the color. I was not really interested in that. I started to cover up colors with white in the 1950s. It has only been recently, in 2004, that I did a series of white paintings in which I was actually painting the color white. Before that, I’d never really thought of white as being a color, in that sense.

A new Rembrandt, painted by data analysis

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 05, 2016

A group of organizations, including Microsoft and the Rembrandthuis museum, have collaborated to produce a new painting by Rembrandt. Or rather, “by” Rembrandt. The team wrote software that analyzed the Dutch master’s entire catalog of paintings and used the data to create a 3D-printed Rembrandt-esque painting.

We now had a digital file true to Rembrandt’s style in content, shapes, and lighting. But paintings aren’t just 2D — they have a remarkable three-dimensionality that comes from brushstrokes and layers of paint. To recreate this texture, we had to study 3D scans of Rembrandt’s paintings and analyze the intricate layers on top of the canvas.

I’d say they did pretty well:

Next Rembrandt

I wonder though, to what extent is this an averaged Rembrandt? According to the program, is there one canonical Rembrandt-esque eye and that’s it? Or can the program paint dozens of variations? After all, because he was (presumably) working with actual people, Rembrandt himself had hundreds or thousands of ways to paint, it wasn’t just the same sort of mouth over and over.

See also Loving Vincent and Alice in a Neural Networks Wonderland. (thx, lucas)

Update: Peter Schjeldahl, art critic for the New Yorker, weighs in on The Next Rembrandt.

In truth, the portrait wobbles at a second glance and crashes at a third. The sitter has a sparkle of personality but utterly lacks the personhood — the being-ness — that never eluded Rembrandt. He is an actor, acting.

He also calls it “fan fiction”.

24-hour webcam of Andy Warhol’s grave

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 12, 2013

The Andy Warhol museum has recently set up a webcam pointed 24/7 at Andy Warhol’s grave in a Pennsylvania cemetary. His gravestone is currently adorned with flowers, mylar balloons, and cans of Campbell’s Soup. Peter Schjeldahl wrote about the project for the New Yorker.

I have angled for reasons to snoot the webcam stunt. I can’t think of any. Along with more or less everybody else, I find it Warholian to the, well, life: watching the present habitation of a man who liked to watch. Warhol pioneered motion pictures of motionless subjects; and we have him to thank, or not, for prophesying reality television. His strictly beholding bent became, as it remains, a default setting of artistic and popular culture absolutely everywhere.

The live video feed includes sound, so I imagine it won’t be too long before some enterprising performance artists show up and do something entertaining.