When I watched the documentary film Antonio Gaudi by Hiroshi Teshigahara I actually cried. Teshigahara does a beautiful job of capturing something that a photograph alone does not do justice to. After watching this film I can honestly say that if all civilization were to crumble and some aliens uncover our remains and the only thing they find are the works of Antonio Gaudi, I can rest in peace. I absolutely adore his buildings.
There’s a certain emotionalism to his work. And this is the art behind it: Gaudi has an incredible sensibility. He knows how to evoke emotion through forms and shapes. He knows how to surprise the user/viewer. His architecture is artistic. This is because the buildings look as though they are alive. As if they are living creatures pretending to be buildings. You feel as if you are partaking in the life of a fantastical but still earthly creature.
And here is the science behind it: Gaudi borrows images, forms, patterns from nature. Images, forms, patterns that for millennia we have evolved to recognize. We respond to the snake patterns, the claws, the skeletal structures, the trunk forms, et cetera because it is our instinct to. An emotional response to such images is only natural; it is part of our survival tool kit.
And that is why I cried when I watched the film. His buildings, or rather his creatures, made me feel.
Wow! This brings back many memories. When I was little I was haunted by this sculpture. I begged my mother to take me too see it all the time and I made up so many songs about the lion of Lucerne. It wasn’t until later I read the quote by Mark Twain. I’d have to say this is probably the first piece of art that really moved me.
The Lion of Lucerne, by Bertel Thorvaldsen.
“The Lion of Lucerne, is a sculpture in Lucerne, Switzerland, designed by Bertel Thorvaldsen and hewn in 1820–21 by Lukas Ahorn. It commemorates the Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution, when revolutionaries stormed the Tuileries Palace in Paris, France. The American writer Mark Twain (1835–1910) praised the sculpture of a mortally-wounded lion as “the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world.”
No such thing as progress in art… At least that is my belief.
My cousin, the painting major, called me up today sounding very distressed about the way that art is taught in her classes. I’ve been in her shoes many times, distressed with my classes in landscape architecture. I’d have to say that taking a lot of courses in anthropology helped me gain perspective though. So here’s my little spiel…
Historical particularism is the proposition that cultures differ in form and composition resulting from their own unique sequence of changes in the past. It deviates from previous notions that all societies are on the same evolutionary path of progress from more primitive to more civilized. Thereby, biased 19th century social theorists believed that Western Society was at the pinnacle of social evolution. Clearly, this idea of unilineal evolution is obsolete. I’m sure most people don’t think that about society anymore. At least I hope not.
Yet, it always surprises me the way I hear people talk about art and other aspects of culture. There seems to be this idea that we are on this constant path of progress. And when we learn about it in art and architecture history it’s the same. The focus is primarily on Western art and they teach it as if one idea led to the next.
But when Thomas Hart Benton rebelled against abstraction, his famous abstract expressionist student, Jackson Pollock, said he rebelled against his teachers traditional methods. Where is the progress in that? And when Picasso first began to simplify and abstract form it was innovative at the time. But, it had been done before. In Asian, in Europe, everywhere. In fact, ever since people began drawing they have been simplifying form. Where is the progress in that?
Progress is a ridiculous notion. Perhaps, for the individual it is possible. For the society as a whole? Of course not. For art and other aspects of culture? Absolutely not!
Even when the art world is steeped in modernism and abstraction you still have wonderful figure paintings coming from other artists, you still have realism, and you’ll always have kitsch art. It’s because there are multiple trajectories and multiple little evolutions. Multiple art styles and schools of thought can exists simultaneously and none of them are actually progressive. I cannot agree more with Man Ray, “There is no progress in art, any more than there is progress in making love. There are simply different ways of doing it.”
And of course, when I say art I mean architecture too. ;)
Back on tumlbr after a long summer. Went to Yosemite National Park for part of it. It was beautiful as always!
A lovely tree on the UC Berkeley campus
Started reading From Bauhuas to Our House by Tom Wolfe. So far it is incessant ranting about modern architecture. So I guess I don’t hate modern architecture as much as I thought I had. At least Tom Wolf is much more passionate about hating it, it seems. This will be interesting.
Reading The Long Ships by Franz G. Bengtsson. It reads like typical historical fiction but it is still a very humorous book in a different sort of way. Love it!
One of the best movie posters ever: created by René FERRACCI.
“In the first half of Playtime, I direct the people to follow the architect’s guidelines. Everybody is filmed as if moving in straight lines and feeling prisoners of their surroundings. Modern architecture would like typists to sit straight, would like everyone to take themselves very seriously. In the first part of the film, the architecture plays a leading role but gradually, warmth, contact and friendship as well as the individual I defend, take over this international setting and then neon advertisements make their entrance and the world starts to swirl and it all ends up in a merry-go-round. There are no more straight angles at the end of the film.”