art theory

The Copulating Grasshopper: Salvador Dali and the Paranoiac-Critical Method

by
Daulton Dickey.

Salvador Dali swore he remembered life inside the womb. He called his recollections “intra-uterine” memories. Two images he claims to have seen inside the room later reminded him of eggs.

Eggs helped to define his style: imagine a timepiece as soft and flimsy as a fried egg. Imagine how’d it look if you laid this timepiece on a branch or on the edge of a table. Such perversions of reality led to his most famous painting, “The Persistence of Memory,” indebted to eggs—and Dali’s insistence that he could remember life inside the womb.

He made brilliant, always unexpected associations. Even if we bracket his wild claims—such as remembering the womb or biting off the head of a dead bat to shock a maid—we can discern a method to his singular vision. Dali himself explicitly tells us how to do it. (more…)

Manifesto of Surrealism (1924)

by
Andre Breton.

André_BretonSo strong is the belief in life, in what is most fragile in life – real life, I mean – that in the end this belief is lost. Man, that inveterate dreamer, daily more discontent with his destiny, has trouble assessing the objects he has been led to use, objects that his nonchalance has brought his way, or that he has earned through his own efforts, almost always through his own efforts, for he has agreed to work, at least he has not refused to try his luck (or what he calls his luck!). At this point he feels extremely modest: he knows what women he has had, what silly affairs he has been involved in; he is unimpressed by his wealth or his poverty, in this respect he is still a newborn babe and, as for the approval of his conscience, I confess that he does very nicely without it. If he still retains a certain lucidity, all he can do is turn back toward his childhood which, however his guides and mentors may have botched it, still strikes him as somehow charming. There, the absence of any known restrictions allows him the perspective of several lives lived at once; this illusion becomes firmly rooted within him; now he is only interested in the fleeting, the extreme facility of everything. Children set off each day without a worry in the world. Everything is near at hand, the worst material conditions are fine. The woods are white or black, one will never sleep. (more…)

Our Ten Most Popular Articles of the Year

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In a Psych Ward on Suicide Watch: A True Story

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#2

How Misogynists Think: Confessions of a Former Misogynist

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#3

Gustave Courbet and the Origin of the World

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Milo Moiré: Nudity and Anatomy as Performance Art

by
Daulton Dickey.

25158198_524605484573537_4740304437990877394_nSome say Swiss-born performance artist Milo Moiré is a provocateur without a point, a nudist more suitable for Instagram than the art world. Her critics have denounced her work as vacuous, devoid of meaning. As with much performance art, people ask if her work even qualifies as art. Is it pointless exhibitionism or is she trying to convey something meaningful?

Of course, we could ask that question about many performance artists, but in Milo Moiré’s case, it’s relevant. Another relevant question: how do her performances, and reactions to them, reflect the world in the second decade of the 21st century? (more…)

Banished From Language: Why the far right figure in Francis Bacon’s Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion is screaming

by
Justin Burnett.

bacon01After deciding to write this short piece on the twentieth century painter Francis Bacon, I promptly stopped by the local used bookstore (semi-famous for its relatively extensive “Art Books” section) to see if I could nab a hard copy of Bacon’s work in order avoid the hassle of switching back and forth between Google and Microsoft Word every time I wanted to consider a particular piece (a real hassle, as I’m sure you can imagine). The book I selected was Luigi Ficacci’s Bacon.

It’s a good little introductory overview, focusing primarily on eleven of Bacon’s most popular paintings while including reproductions of his “lesser” works interspersed throughout the text. Ficacci thankfully focuses on the art itself rather than Bacon’s biography, which, as Ficacci himself notes, is easily accessible elsewhere (there is, in fact, a fantastic BBC documentary on YouTube that amply discusses the more salient aspects of Bacon’s biography. It’s free and well-executed. You can watch it below. My purpose here, however, is not to follow or outline Ficacci’s analysis of Bacon’s work (although it is quite interesting and worthy of a read). Ficacci’s thoughts do, however, provide a good point of departure for my own analysis of Bacon’s painting.  (more…)

Perversion and the Arts, A Historical Overview

by
Daulton Dickey.

What is Perversion?

23658486_511437292557023_5569459546303324568_nWhen we hear the words “pervert” or “perversion,” we tend to think of them in terms of sexual deviancy. As with most words, “pervert” and “perversion” can convey a variety of senses. You can pervert meaning, for example. In this sense, you’re altering the meaning of a word or phrase to fit your agenda. Or you can pervert the system, changing it to achieve your goals.

Perversion as a concept isn’t limited to sex and sexuality. It can also mean actors or behavior outside cultural norms. We’ll focus on these two meanings of the word and how they’re sometimes, but not always, interconnected.

Institutional Control

You could argue that every art movement since the mid-to-late nineteenth century is either predicated on or incorporates some sense of perversion. If we use “perversion” is the sense of an unorthodox approach, then modern art is explicitly founded on it. Institutions dictated what constituted art—and they did so with an iron fist: you could only paint in a studio, not outdoors; you had to hide your brushstrokes; you could only depict historical or didactic scenes or imagery, and so on. Institutions dictated style and form and, to a degree, content. (more…)

Hans Bellmer and the Perversion of Form

by
Daulton Dickey.

img_3868Surrealism encompassed a variety of media and artists of all kinds, many of whom found a place in the Modern Art canon. Some artists, such as Dali and Magritte, produced imagery we still encounter. Melting clocks and apples obscuring faces represent the kind of imagery surrealists excelled at producing. It unsettled you, disoriented you, confused you.

Few surrealists managed to match Hans Bellmer in the ability to confound and disturb. His pieces simultaneously deconstruct and fetishize the human form, the sum of which stirs a sense of disquiet—and occasional eroticism—in the viewer. By perverting the human form, he managed to express his own tortured mind while allowing the viewers to glimpse something inside themselves—something perhaps not altogether pleasant. (more…)

A Brief Manifesto for the Practicing and Emerging Artist

by
D. Cay.

  1. Uproot cultural norms. If something is considered “common sense,” then you daultondickeyshould ridicule or satirize it.

 

  1. Target modesty and decency.

 

  1. Celebrate obscenity, vulgarity, and cruelty.

 

  1. Embrace chaos.

 

  1. Shun “traditional” or “standard” forms or structures. If you don’t want to challenge them too radically, at least tweak them with the aim of upsetting the reader’s, or spectator’s, equilibrium.

 

  1. Have a point. Art for art’s sake, or strange for strange’s sake, or offensive for offensive’s sake should be treated like television: it’s all right in moderation, but too much will rot your brain.

(more…)

Interview with Artist Graeme Jukes

by
Daulton Dickey.

Slope 01`08`17 a (1)I came across Graeme Jukes’s mixed media on Ello. The images immediately arrested me. Steeped in early 20th century avant-garde movements, especially the Dadaists, his art expressed a nightmarish yet strangely familiar quality—the kind of familiarity you intuit, unable to articulate.

Captivated by his imagery, I decided to ask him about his work, his inspirations, and his need to create.

Your work seems paradoxical in that it rejects aesthetics while establishing one—or, the very least, coherence; the illusion of one. Is this conscious on your part?

Rejecting aesthetics? Possibly rejecting conventional aesthetics but I think it is part of a well-established Dadaist aesthetic. I don`t really think about it that much, I do what feels natural and as such it is not a conscious decision on my part. Paradoxical is good, however—I like that.

How did you settle on collage and mixed media? 

Look To The Sky 30`01`15 aThat was largely accidental. I discovered collage back in the 1980s and decided to try my hand. I did thirteen collages and then abandoned the idea, turning to oil painting instead. These early collages are not on Ello.co but can be seen on my DeviantArt site

I gave up on art altogether in the 1990s, destroying most of my work. In 2012 I became seriously ill with cancer. That brush with mortality made me determined that if I survived I would start making art again. I was given the all clear early in 2014. Around the same time I discovered the collages I had done thirty years earlier, which had somehow survived the 90s immolation. Simultaneously there was a major exhibition of the work of Hannah Hoch at the Whitechapel Gallery. I was absolutely bowled over by the beauty and the absurdity of her collages so I decided to have another go myself. Initially the work had a retro-scifi-popart feel before turning darker and more dada. (more…)

The “Reality” of Literature and the Death of the Avant-Garde

by
Daulton Dickey.

(Note: This is a revision of a previously published edition.)

If literature were a person, it’d be in a vegetative state. Nothing new is said, nothing new is to be learned, nothing new is offered—the appearances might change but the forms remain the same.

A cliche persists in our culture that if you want to change the system you must first become part of the system. This is an illusion meant to persuade people to embrace the system; it’s designed to inculcate conformity.

Like our culture, literature itself is homogenized while taking on the appearance ofinarticulate_by_dustyantiques heterogeny.

In an image-obsessed culture, appearances are everything.

Another cliche with which we’re familiar warns us to refrain from judging a book by its cover. In reality, we should judge a book by its form. Form should supersede appearances. But in accordance with our species, a peculiar mammal with the cognitive ability to process and model information linearly, the form remains the same while the appearances change.

In an age of movies and television, video games and the internet, things must change. Literature cannot excel at telling linear stories the way visual media can; instead, literature should transcend the simulacrum and represent new and alternate ways to experience simulated or emulated realities.

And that is what literature does: it emulates or simulates realities. Contrary to early Wittgenstein, language does not picture reality; instead, it provides instructions for your brain to construct models. (more…)