Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 08, 2003 2:19 pm 
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It's dangerous to make lists of favorites because favorites change. As a child I was first impressed by artists in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, especially Arp, We had a "color portfolio" called Art in Our Time (it cost $2.50): Cezanne, Renoir, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Bonnard, Picasso, Gris, Braque, again Picasso (in another style), Klee, De Chirico, Dali, Blume, Arp, Mondrian, Burchfield, Hopper, Grant Wood, Camille Bombois, John Kane, Orozco, and Winslow Homer. The Americans didn't impress me as much. They are all tattooed upon my brain. If I broke the list down to the essentials of that time for me, when I was ten, the ones left would be: Picasso, Gris, Braque, Klee, Dali, Arp, and Mondrian.

When I started painting I was most desirous of echoing the surrealists. Later it was the abstract expressionists who came along while I was a teenager, and lacked the courage to imitate them. Overall, I preferred the School of Paris. Since, I have gone back to earlier abstractionists, De Staël, the Bauhaus, the Constructivists, the early Russian modernists, such as Malevich. I had seen a painting called "Suprematism" by Malevich when I was about ten, at least in a reproduction, and I remembered it: white on white. Moholy Nagy and El Lissetsky came to mean a lot to me in the past decade, as did my discovery in a bookstore of the remarkable young German, Blinky Palermo, who died in his thirties in the early Seventies leaving behind a remarkable body of work and a cult following.

One name is missing here that is perhaps the most important: Matisse. Wouldn't you rather be looking at Matisse? In 1950 the Cone Collection came to the Baltimore Museum of art where my sister and I went to art classes and we wandered around looking at the Matisses there among the Cezannes and others. The Cone Collection is most of all a home to Matisse. With his sexist attitudes Matisse is still more human than anybody else, more gentle, and more mature. But I came to this knowledge much later. In my early teens, I was most fascinated by Dali, who was in some ways a bad influence, particularly for his megalomania and his reactionary ideas, which led me to a dead end. I had a teacher who showed me the beauties of grittier painting like Soutine's and Kokoshka's and Max Beckman's. But I was reading about De Kooning and Pollack and Kline. I didn't know where to go! So I went to college and majored in English.

What about all the artists who have come along since? All I can say is that they're fine, and I would be sorry if we didn't have Motherwell or Tapies or many others, so many that it would be meaningless or it would be a whole page of names, and some of them my friends'.

Some schools have meant more for themselves than for individual artists, such as the Russian Avant-Garde and the Metaphysical School. Indeed it is the nature of a school to absorb an artist into it, as even such giants as Braque and Picasso briefly became almost identical making cubist paintings. But that's an unusual case, since good artists are usually quite distinguishable from any others, but without any artificial effort at originality.

©Chris Knipp. Blog:

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