I’ve been thinking a lot about aging recently – are my best years behind me? They very well could be! In the physical sciences such as mathematics or physics people seem to have made their important contribution in their early 20’s. Perhaps because they’re less contaminated by dogma at this stage in their career. In the biological sciences scientists are generally older, when they have had an opportunity to amass a broad and deep understanding of their field, when they make their most important contributions. What about in the arts?
It was interesting then, with this as a back drop, to see an exhibition of Jasper Johns recent work ‘Regrets’ at the MoMA. Unusually this wasn’t a career retrospective, or a themed retrospective as one might expect fitting for 83 year old Johns who is referred to as America’s greatest living artist but rather a new body of work completed in the last year. The work caused such excitement among the MoMA curators that they rushed the whole body of work into the museum for an exhibition in a matter of months. They tell the story here.
For an able description of the work check out this article on ArtSpace.
It is interesting to see how the work evolved and spiraled out from a single photograph. An approach that might not work for all of us but is worth having in mind when it comes to exploring options to extend and deepen a body of work.
I was familiar with Maira Kalman‘s work through the many New Yorker magazine covers that she’s done over the years. It wasn’t until I came across her a video describing her work recently that I connected the dots. It was fun to see that she had a blog for a while called ‘And the Pursuit of Happiness’ although it wasn’t through my dive into ‘what is happiness’ that I found her. Kalman has a unique painting style and her combination of words and images really works for me.
My intersection with Bill Brandt came by way of Michael Kenna. In a number of places I’d read that Michael Kenna was deeply influenced by Bill Brandt and yet when I looked up his work, much of what I found was nudes. Being very English and uncomfortable with all that nakedness, I left it at that. More recently I steeled myself for another look and found, in addition to the nudes, an eclectic collection of photographs from portraits to a look at society life to miners of the North of England to landscapes. It seems to me that Brandt’s later photographs became darker and more extreme in contrast, something that I assume he pushed in the darkroom. A good example of this is shown below:
For fun click here to see Michael Kenna’s rendition of this image.
Many of Brandt’s images can be found on his website under the licensing section. Well worth a look. Also worth a look if you’re in or around New York is the exhibition of Brandt’s work at the MOMA ‘Shadow and Light’ that runs until August 12.
To hear Brandt talk about his work check out this 1983 BBC interview: