Thursday, January 9, 2014

Ancient Musings --- Day 2/363

Walk: Legion of Honor
Distance: 9 blocks is all and small home yoga practice

In the air and oft mentioned at today's lecture on Ancient Art (focus: the collection of the Legion of Honor) was the supposed 'full circle" from ancient forms to the modern art particularly of Brancusi, Modigliani, Moore and other sculptors of simplified forms.  This is a notion that confuses Ciwt. Not the visuals.  Certainly the abstract, elemental qualities are present in these art creations separated by thousands of years.  And certainly the best of them, ancient and modern, are emotionally stirring in their capturing of form and spirit.

But what seems facile when Ciwt encounters this notion is the suggestion that the ancient creators were superior all along, and finally the Western modern artists came to the understanding of their primal genius.  When she hears this ever so easy connection between the ancient and the new she immediately thinks a couple of things.

One is that, if she were given a chunk of marble and a very primitive tool and told to produce a likeness of her cat, it would most likely be very, very pared down, abstract.  But most importantly she thinks about how much development there has been in mind, (art) understanding, tools and techniques, well, realistically, Everything in, let's say, six millenniums/6,000 years.  Brancusi, for instance, was a man of wide ranging talents from science to poetry, song, violin playing.  His friends included the Parisian avant-garde  as well as artists and intellectuals from his native country, Romania.  Brilliant, educated, a man who had carved a working violin from scrap wood at age 18, and fashioned his own phonograph, utensils, tools,  he chose to seek essence in his sculptural work. So did Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani, Arp, so many more.  And, to Ciwt, this matter of modern consciousness and choice makes all the difference between the ancient fisherman/artisan and the modern artist.  That they all arrived at the same formal point goes to the essence of line and form.

Head from a figure of a woman, Spedos type, Early Cycladic (2700-2300 BC), Keros type, marble

La NĂ©gresse blonde (The Blond Negress)

Constantin Brancusi, La Negresse Blonde, 1926, marble with bronze  
   Above: Atelier Brancusi, Paris    Below:  Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco

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