It is time for me to return Art Talk to the library. There are so many interviews that I wished to quote in here or comment upon; Hartigan wasn’t really the best but obviously it was the timeliest…
-Save to observe that out of all the artists interviewed in this book, you might say that Eva Hesse “won.” Some of the artists in the book, we don’t even know who they are anymore (or at least I didn’t). You look at the work and think “why this?” Their work dosen't hold up very well - whereas many, many artists today have Eva Hesse lurking somewhere in their bones if not out front and center.
The interview to really speak to me was Audrey Flack’s – because she touched on a topic we had covered here – that of beauty and aesthetics, of pretty and of ugly.
Flack went way against the tide in painting realist in the 1950s - she was a forerunner of photorealism. That wasn’t easy – her Prof at Yale was Joseph Albers, who wanted her to make some version of “square” paintings. Eventually she refused any critique of her work from him at all and he respected her decision by not requiring her to take his courses.
She was also a rebel because when the Photorealism term was finally coined (as by Ivan Karp), it was associated with a cool, unemotional, technical approach - supposedly “masculine”- and this wasn’t her thing at all. She painted vibrant and intensely crying Madonnas and her mother’s vanity dresser, things which clearly had an intimate, very personal feel and content. Even when she painted cars and motorcycles, she did not paint them with the typical Photorealist detachment, nor wish to.
She was also painting realist works of the Kennedy assassination by 1964, all based on the photograph - way ahead of the curve. But as you can guess by now she is not this big feature in art history.
Previously here and here we talked about still life. It’s on my mind again as soon Katherine Ace will have a show at Froelick and we’re going to talk about it on KBOO. Audrey Flack discusses in Art Talk how her still lifes were seen in the 1960s, how the mere beauty of them could not be accepted. She referred to a big review she received in the Times about Jolie Madame (above):
…. (it) set up the pattern for interpretations. “Audrey Flack’s painting Jolie Madame is a wholly satisfying painting ‘in drag.’ It is gorgeous, decadent, opulent and jeweled. It is vulgar and risky: a gorgeous comment on the artificiality and absurdity of the good life. This painting is one of the most beautiful-ugly paintings I have ever seen." We should reexamine the current attitudes towards the concept of beauty and ugliness. I think we have been brainwashed into believing that beauty is a bad word and ugly is a terrific word. Cool is desirable while feeling and emotion are put down.
Not long ago Jacqueline Ehlis told me how dangerous beauty was, that people were afraid of it. I think there is something to this statement. What is interesting to me is that this interview with Flack took place in the 1970s, referring to the 60s, but is completely related to ones I have with all kinds of artists today.