Alec Soth's Archived Blog

January 15, 2007

Maira Kalman

Filed under: artists,painting — alecsothblog @ 12:58 am


I recently discussed an illustration by Maira Kalman, but until today was unfamiliar with her whimsical mash of photography, painting and poetry. I often dislike it when artists try to squish these things together on a single plane. Usually each medium is stripped of its power and the work collapses under the weight of so much effort. I guess it is Kalman’s light touch that makes the whole thing work. See her new series, Completely, on her NYTimes Blog.

November 30, 2006

Painting photography

Filed under: painting — alecsothblog @ 5:11 am

Robert Bechtle (via KQED)

Christian Patterson has an excellent post on the photorealist painter Robert Bechtle including this quote by Bechtle:

You can take photographs of something but you never possess it because it’s too fast…there’s something very intense about the experience of sitting down and having to look at it in the way that you do in order to make a drawing of it, or to make a painting of it.

Along with making me wish I were a painter, this quote got me to thinking (yet again) about the relationship between photography and painting. (Watch an excellent video on Bechtle and his mix of photographic and painterly techniques here).

Apparently a lot of people are thinking about the same thing. In the current issue of ArtReview, Martin Herbert has an essay called Spot the Difference, Are Contemporary Painting And Photography Simply Two Sides Of The Same Coin? The essay includes this quote from Luc Tuymans:

After seeing a film I try to figure out which single image is the one with which I can remember all of the moving images of the movie. Painting does the opposite; a good painting to me denounces its own size so that you are unable to remember it correctly. Thus it generates other images.

Himmler, 1997/98 by Luc Tuymans

Herbert questions whether or not this dialogue between painting and photography is good for either. “For now the liaison seems symbiotic,” he writes, before questioning “whether painting and photography will, in the near future, have anything constructive left to say to each other.”

One painter who has addressed this issue with humor is Alexi Worth:

Lenscap, 2006 by Alexi Worth

On ArtCritical, David Cohen writes of Worth:

As a critic and scholar, Mr. Worth has long been fascinated by the impact of photography on painting…A large black circle dominates “Lenscap” revealing a kind of amor vacuii; pinching finger tips confirm it to be the object of the title. In the right corner, deliciously rhyming with the cap and fingers, is a detail of Titian’s Adam and Eve from the Prado, the matriach’s finger’s surrounding the forbidden fruit. It is an elaborate allegory of painting’s fall from grace with the advent of photography, but its also a cutely observed contemporary museum moment. Part of his endeavor, as a practionner, seems to be to discover subjects that only painting can reach — photorealistically probing areas that, actually, can only be painted.

September 30, 2006

John Sonsini

Filed under: artists,painting,portraiture — alecsothblog @ 10:35 pm

Gabriel, 2002

I’m a big fan of Sonsini’s painting. For several years he painted the same model, Gabriel. In a 2000 interview in Art Connoisseur magazine, Sonsini describes how he rediscoverd painting:

Q: Your collaboration with Gabriel began with a camera, correct?

Sonsini: Yes, I was photographing Gabriel. We’d done, I think, six sessions at the time and then he was here one day and I was bored with photographing. I was thinking, “Well, what will we do today?” Then, I had an idea. The most absurd things in my mind came together that afternoon. One was painting from a live model, and the other, even more absurd, was to pull out the easel I bought for who-knows-what-reason a year before. So, to paint somebody in that manner felt like I had never painted before. It was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had in my studio.

AC: After all of these hours, how are you able to keep painting Gabriel?

Sonsini: I still find his image unreal. How many times can I paint that foot on the ground and every time I look at it, my feeling is, “Oh, good lord in heaven, that is a human foot, right there, right next to me.” I love that.

Sonsini later moved on to paint Latino day laborers. His process for finding subjects, always men, is an interesting mix of both erotic and political interests. You can read a couple of good articles on Sonsini in Art in America and LA Times. Click here to see more of his work.

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