August 1, 2010 7:56 AM   Subscribe

Still Lifes
"Supposedly the still life came to the fore when religion and the state became replaced by the middle class. Do you know when that was. The world began to be run by people who just wanted a lot of shit. And would go anywhere to get it. The Dutch who invented our own dear New York and this is why it is this wayfull of people who want stuffthey were the stars of this moment, collecting shit from around the world and putting big piles of it on shelves, in boats, taking it somewhere else. And making paintings of it. And really this moment never ended. They would paint marketplaces, and the thing that's funny is that if you were a painter and you weren't being paid to paint someone rich you would just probably paint some stuff and sell it in the market and so the place where all this was happening of course got painted too—it's dizzying." (via dd)
posted by kliuless (30 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe it's just me... maybe I'm not smart enough to figure this out...

I'm getting more coffee and will come back and read the enlightened posts of those of you who ARE smart...
posted by HuronBob at 8:00 AM on August 1, 2010

I too am confused. I shall sit here to ponder and stroke my goatee in anticipation of other-user analysis. Hmmmmm.. *stroke*
posted by pyrex at 8:19 AM on August 1, 2010

The ever-helpful 'shit' and 'stuff' tags, excellent.
posted by robself at 8:21 AM on August 1, 2010 [4 favorites]

The via link to Andrew Sullivan's blog is to a 'photo portrait' of a person.

Below the photo: "From Vice magazine's "Still Lifes" series..."

So, the 'via' (and quote) is from this Vice magazine link.

BTW -- don't bogart that joint, my friend.
posted by ericb at 8:25 AM on August 1, 2010

But, damn, in the vein of egonysterical, I, too, am now 'clueless' about this FPP.
posted by ericb at 8:28 AM on August 1, 2010

I hope someone explains this presentation of links to periodicals before the post moves off the front page.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:33 AM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Meh. This is kind of B.S. Or, at least, it is not what I have heard about why the still life became popular from actual art history scholars. Of which the staff of Vice Magazine are not.

I know it's just because I'm a pedantic nerd, but random assholes expounding about shit they know fuck all about drives me insane.
posted by Sara C. at 8:33 AM on August 1, 2010 [5 favorites]

The decoupling of profits from employment is insane. On the face of it, companies are deliberately giving up growth, and it seems to be for political reasons, to punish politicians for putting in place regulation, even when it's clearly needed and desired by all parties. My favorite examples are the oil exploration companies that are closing up shop in the Gulf - instead of agreeing to evene a minimal amount of sensible and prudent regulation, they went insane. Left money on the fucking table, because they don't like Democrats.

This is a very dangerous thing to do, as it will lead to the end of free trade and the return of protectionism and/or heavily negotiated international trade agreements if the Dems manage to cling to power. I really can't think of any other way to combat the New Feudalism and protect the middle class, and it will completely gut the developing world. It will probably tank the US economy for a bit, too, but since employment never caught up from the last recession, most won't notice or care.

I mean, for christ's sake, 80% of the stock market is owned by 1% of Americans. That's not an investment opportunity, that's not a retirement plan, that's a sucker's game. It's 3-card-monte. You're going to be robbed, straight up. They have the power to rig the game, you don't have any power to prevent it. Something must be done.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:45 AM on August 1, 2010 [6 favorites]

I know it's just because I'm a pedantic nerd, but random assholes expounding about shit they know fuck all about drives me insane.

You must be insane a lot, then. Seriously, I'm with you--do you have any coping strategies to share? Because those people are EVERYWHERE.
posted by LooseFilter at 8:45 AM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

welcome to 200+ years of industrial revolution...the world is already full of shit. there is no need to make more shit and there is no need to buy more shit. now we just need to get off this shithole rock before a)we all die here or b)we become part of someone's handcrafted slave poulation, because guess what...that's all there is left to do: make slave populations.
posted by sexyrobot at 8:47 AM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Needs "all over the map" tag.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 8:53 AM on August 1, 2010

What Sara C. said. Even Wikipedia has better information on the history of still life. Or, you know, google, say, "Ancient Roman Still Life" or something. Gah. I've never seen Vice magazine, but boy is it annoying. (Art History minor here.)
posted by trip and a half at 8:57 AM on August 1, 2010

LooseFilter - it only really drives me crazy when I have a particular reason to care, when it's about a subject I'm interested in or said by someone I supposedly have respect for. Not that I have respect for Vice magazine. But ugh! Wikipedia explains Still Lifes better than this jackass!
posted by Sara C. at 9:11 AM on August 1, 2010

Um, you need to have an apple in order to paint it, sure. Or rather, you need access to an apple. Suppose I am a talented painter, why wouldn't a richer person pay me to paint their apple? Or we could levy taxes and plant orchards, so ordinary people would have apples to paint or, when not feeling creative, eat. Oh no, but we can't have that, can we! That would be socialism! Of course, this analogy assumes that the richest people have the most material possessions, which might be true, but also that the richest people control the art world, and there may be truth to that too in the sense that a wealthy person has more to spend on the most expensive art, but often the artists themselves are not too well off. So you might argue that if I, the talented painter, have one apple, I should better eat it than paint it, but then again I could just paint it and then eat it. A picture, after all, lasts longer. And then I could sell that painting, and then I could buy more apples! How do you like them?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 9:16 AM on August 1, 2010 [4 favorites]

posted by Devils Rancher at 9:26 AM on August 1, 2010

This is when I renew my appreciation for the phrase "tragically hip."
posted by thinkpiece at 9:29 AM on August 1, 2010

How do ya like them apples, sonny?
posted by Postroad at 9:35 AM on August 1, 2010

it only really drives me crazy when I have a particular reason to care

I'm with you there, Sara C., the very few times I've become genuinely pissed off when writing on MeFi tend to be in music threads. (Also, "Wikipedia explains ______ better than this!" should become a new standard insult to dumbassery like the Vice piece.)
posted by LooseFilter at 9:37 AM on August 1, 2010

...random assholes expounding about shit they know fuck all about drives me insane.

Exhibit A: Sarah Palin.
posted by ericb at 9:46 AM on August 1, 2010

Ways of Seeing does an excellent job linking the emergence of the middle class with shifts in art. Recommended for a lovely August Civic Holiday afternoon.
Basically, it says a lot of what has become fine art began life as prominent displays of the owners'/commissioners' pimp'd-outedness.
posted by Casimir at 10:00 AM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

Something tells me no one here clicked or read any of the 16 links, since virtually none of them have anything to do with art or art history whatsoever. But I did learn that GM is expanding in China.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 10:13 AM on August 1, 2010

HP got it... this post seems to be links to random articles with no connection... I'm still waiting for someone to explain how all of these are related or why this is even a post...
posted by HuronBob at 10:18 AM on August 1, 2010

It's about the destruction of the middle class, and the misapprehensions of what the middle class is and does, through ignorance or deliberate slander. Pretty clear for me, actually.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:41 AM on August 1, 2010

A still life is a difficult kind of art to appreciate, because it doesn't show any dramatic event, or depict any attractive people, or show any startling subject, or tell you about a famous historical event, or necessarily have any religious or spiritual significance.

One thing to look for in a classical still life is texture. Painting a variety of realistic textures, like the subtle reflections of light on the scales of a fish, is a difficult technical exercise. Artists used it to display their skill, and collectors used that skill to display their taste.

Another thing to look for is the composition: with a still life, an artist has almost an absolute freedom to control the form and colours exactly the way he or she wants.

In one sense then, a still life is a highly elitist form of art. If you don't know what you're looking for, if you haven't looked at other still lives, it's hard to appreciate it.

Historically, after Protestantism reduced the demand for religious art in the Low Countries, a lot of the artists started producing still lives and domestic subjects for a commercial bourgeoisie and middle-class patrons instead.

Therefore, Vice Magazine and the poster seem to think that still life art is a good metaphor for out-of-control capitalism.

However, you could also see still lives from another angle, as a part of a democratization of art. A painter doesn't need to hire models for them, and the paintings are generally small, so they're relatively cheap to make. A buyer doesn't need a huge hall to display a still life, you can put one up on the wall of a house. The subjects are generally modest: they're not displays of wealth like the clothing and jewellery in a classical portrait. While still lives didn't necessarily bring art to the masses, they at least helped bring it down from the upper class to the middle class.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 10:43 AM on August 1, 2010

Ok...Theo... explain the last two links to me...'cuz I still don't get this..
posted by HuronBob at 11:12 AM on August 1, 2010

Actually, I'm baffled as to what the last two links have to do with anything.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:24 PM on August 1, 2010

Late to the party but just here to note that the text of the FPP, if you didn't click through, is from the first link, and was written by Eileen Myles, who, while not being "staff of Vice Magazine," is also not an "actual art history scholar": she's a poet. From Wikipedia:
Bust Magazine calls Myles "the rock star of modern poetry" and Holland Cotter in The New York Times describes her as "a cult figure to a generation of post-punk female writer-performers."
She's not a random idiot but she's also not someone who makes it her business to make complete "sense" in the standard non-poetic way when she writes, because she's a poet. If you read the full linked piece which is basically a stream of her consciousness, you'll see that the excerpt in the FPP is actually misleadingly coherent.

Personal story: what I believe was the "launch" of her book The Importance of Being Iceland took place at the space I run in Toronto, although it may have just been a launch. Okay there is no real story, I'm just proud of that, because I think she's a good writer if not the most solid art historian.
posted by skwt at 11:12 PM on August 1, 2010

I don't care if somebody famous wrote it, it's still dumb.

I would also question wtf Eileen Myles is doing writing for fucking Vice magazine.
posted by Sara C. at 5:41 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

it's about "communication" (or lack thereof ;) and how we live in this world. that is all!

I'm baffled as to what the last two links have to do with anything

what are the first two links examples of?
posted by kliuless at 5:43 AM on August 2, 2010

Annabel Mehran has taken scores of photos of her friend and muse, folk singer Joanna Newsom.

I liked David Lynch's, as usual.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:04 AM on August 2, 2010

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