Oct 15, 2012

Firenze - "There you go again"

<<just realized that I never posted this!>>

Ronald Reagan famously used that phrase during his debate with then-President Carter when the latter portrayed America as weak and our prospects for the future diminished. 

After "Venus", I said the same upon rounding the corner and seeing Michelanglo's David (1502) from a distance. I've felt the same gut tingle two days in a row now. I never expected to be so taken by a piece of stone. That lump of marble is ready to jump off the damn pedestal it's so alive, and from every viewpoint too. What makes it so? The color of the marble, the finish, the detail, the pose all contribute. Even the scale, much larger than I expected but it's pedestal is just the right height so as to make the work approachable in spite of being about twice as large as life.  But it also has that effiable "something else" that separates a masterpiece from other work. I saw the other two David replicas in Florence and while great copies, they don't have the same power, that feeling that they're about to come alive. 

Gorgio Visari captured that feeling 500 years ago when he said "whoever has seen this work need not trouble to see any other work executed in sculpture, either in our own or in other times, by no matter what craftsman."

I've talked about power before, quoting Robert Erwin and his thoughts about what gives one painting power while a similar one falls flat. That ineffiable feeling of power is what I strive for in my work. It's my ultimate goal.  My reticence to show less than powerful work is one reason why my output is so low. Power is damn hard to achieve yet even getting a glimpse of it is one of the principal reasons that make the challenges of an artist's life so worthwhile. 

You may think power is loud and big, that unless you make 15' sculptures or 30-ton torqued steel ellipses you won't achieve it. But power can be subtle too. A waterfall is powerful but so is a deer. Hiroshi Sugimoto manages to capture the power of the sea with his "seascape" photographs by simply dividing the frame in half between sky and water. A powerful idea, expressed simply. 

David is a powerful idea expressed with an unmistakeable presence. In his face and in the gestures of his youthful body you see conviction and courage captured in stone. The sling he used to defeat Goliath is barely visible. What is visible is an idealistic portrait of some of the best aspects of humanity.

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