Thursday, March 24, 2016

Four Drawings and Equivalents

Earlier I wrote about "equivalents" within a painting, talking about forms, but not relating them to life outside the painting.  Lately, I've been reading Robert Hughes's book The Shock of the New.  He takes the concept of "equivalents" to its deeper level.

In the chapter "The Landscape of Pleasure," he writes, "Throughout this chapter I have tried to suggest that the chief tradition within which a modernist art of pleasurable sensation has been made - an art which is rigorous and intelligent, rather than the mere evocation of agreeable feelings -  is that of Symbolism: a tradition of equivalents, whereby the word (in poetry) or the colour patch and linear edge (in painting) achieve, without necessarily describing it, a harmony and exactness parallel to the satisfactions of the world.  Within the somewhat privileged space that Symbolism demands, infinite finesse is possible but conflict is not eliminated.  The artist is free to investigate the domain of feeling, not as an Expressionist splurge - the imperious I swamping everything it touches - but as a structure of exacting nuances and tonic doubts.  Such paintings cannot, by their nature, be 'movement' art.  In front of a Diebenkorn... one hears neither the chant of surging millions nor even the chorus of a 'movement,' but a measured voice, quietly and tersely explaining why this light, this colour, this intrusion of a 30-degree angle into a glazed and modulated field might be valuable in the life of the mind and of feeling."

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