Sunday, June 29, 2008


Richard John Miller, age 85: sculptor, philosopher, bricoleur, decorated veteran (Distinguished Flying Cross), husband, great grandfather, 50 year resident of Hyde Park, teacher at the Art Academy of Cincinnati and Gephardt Art School. "It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing". Private celebration planned for end of July - former students may contact: Works may be seen here. Frequent quotes may be found here.

(note: there has been some confusion regarding which medals RJ received for his WWII service - since my mother and brother can't remember much about it - and RJ was always very cynical about the military. But my cousin Doug, a film maker and history buff, interviewed him extensively on videotape, and Doug reports that RJ won the Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster - meaning that he won it twice. As RJ explained it -- guys like him got that medal just for surviving so many missions. His plane was the B-24 - also known as the "Flying Coffin" - and, indeed, one website reports that 13,624 airmen died just in training flights. He dismissed the entire European air campaign as having no effect on the German war effort - but he was quite proud of his technical mastery of the Norden bombsite for which he was recognized as the "master bombardier" who flew in the lead plane so that his decisions could be seen by bombardiers in all the planes that followed him in formation)

(note: the above piece,
entitled "War Memorial",
depicts a Valkyrie about to carry
a fallen warrior up to Valhalla.)

And here's Ella
preachin' the gospel

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Day at the Museum

Sato Suiseki

The Art Institute is more closed than open
these days,
as the museum is just marking time
until the great re-invention
that will come next Spring
with the opening of the Modern Wing.

But, like clockwork,
there's always something new
in the Buckingham Print Gallery,
this time,
a show of prints that relate to flower arrangement.

I really liked the above design by Sato Suiseki (early 19th C.)
but I fear that his output was small.

And then there's Hokusai,
always crackling with energy
(and what better place for pinwheels
than in a garden)

But the star of the show,
as always,
for me,
is Utamaro.

I can just never get enough of him.
His designs seem to come from someplace
that none of the rest of us
get to visit.

And they really made the rest of the show
look pretty tired.

The display notes
speculated that the artist
had playfully super-imposed a planter
shaped like a ship
upon a screen depicting an ocean.

Ya think?

I don't know why the imagined lives of courtesans
held so much fascination for the Japanese and Chinese
men of that period.

It's almost as if they'd rather imagine their presence
than physically share it.

(me too)

Moving forward a hundred years,
we have Kenzo Okada (1902-1982)
who made it to the big time
when he moved to NYC in 1950
and began making abstract paintings.

Before then,
he had practiced 19th C. styles
of European figure painting,
and done some illustration.

In this interview from 1968, he tells how he got
bored and tired in postwar Japan,
so he came to New York for a change of scene,
and while there,
discovered that he was Japanese.

Unfortunately, I can't find any of his earlier,
figurative work on the internet.

But, yes, this painting from 1955
certainly feels very Japanese.

There seems to be such a love for balance, delicacy, mystery

-- as with ceramicists like this one

It may not be as radiantly beautiful as a really good screen
from earlier centuries,

but it compares well
the American abstract painters
living in NY at that time.

... like Michael Goldberg who gave this interview
about that time and place,

expressing his profound admiration for:

Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964)

"The depth of aestheticism in his paintings is unequaled."

I wouldn't go that far,
but considering the attention he gives to
designing with subtle differences of texture,
yes, he is quite an aesthete,

and it was a nice coincidence that I stumbled onto
this painting today.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Hopeless beyond Redemption

"Most of us think of modern Italian sculpture as
hopeless beyond redemption.
We recall the plastic jokes, the brazen indecencies,
the chiseled vulgarities
. . . . . we shudder at memories of the Campo Santa of Genoa
and of recent monuments all over Italy,
and we dismiss the subject."

"Biondi's Saturnalia epitomized cruelly. but not unjustly,
the trend of contemporary sculpture in Italy,
with all its misplaced effort and its incredible,
if not to say fiendish, dexterity."

"This disgustingly facile performance seemed to this writer
like a kind of 'wake' over the corpse of a once noble national art
which once produced the Augustus and later
the Saint George and the Moses;
which has long been dead but which men refuse to bury."

Some hard words from Loredo Taft,
lovingly quoted by Carptrash
my favorite "Scholar without portfolio"

(who seems to have finally tired of getting edited
by the school children of Wikipedia)

Meanwhile, these wonderful photos
have been lifted from this great blog

The piece was made in 1899,
and seems to have been controversial
ever since.

This copy in Buenos Aires was removed from public display
during a period of political repression,
but now has been re-installed in a botanical garden.

Which is just where it belongs!
(hopefully to become partially overgrown
with surrounding vegetation)

It's somewhere between great sculpture
and a theme-park display.

(like the sculpture-sex -park on Cheju Island)

(and I can see how it appealed to the animation artist
who took these photos.)