Sunday, October 12, 2008


I'm reading Art in our Times, by Peter Selz, right now. I'm pretty much an art moron, but I try. I own quite a few art books and every once in awhile will bury myself in one and try to learn a little bit. I've read quite a few on more historical art and architecture but hadn't really concentrated on one that focuses on the 20th century like this one does.

A couple of the entries amused me either because of their topical relevance or because the art presented there seemed to speak to me. The first of these was a passage talking about the architecture of the Pentagon:

"During the early 1940's, the world's largest office building, the Pentagon, was erected across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., in an area commonly known as "Hell's Bottom." According to esoteric lore, when a pentagon or pentagram is drawn on the ground with its chief point toward the south, it can be used for black magic and destructive purposes, and, indeed, the War Department's structure faces south."

Ahh ... it all makes sense now. I guess that Dick Cheney was probably too young to have had any part in that?

The other entries I like for a couple of reasons -- they're dark and skewer the Church a bit. They're paintings by Francis Bacon (the British painter) based on Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1650). That's Velazquez's original on the left below:

Velazquez, considering the time in which he lived, and that the Pope viewed his portrait favorably, was not trying to cast a negative light upon the Church at all.

With Bacon, it's more ambiguous. His alteration to the original seems to express agony and pain. It's as though the Pope is screaming. Bacon didn't say that he had any problem with the Church or the Popes, but he did over 40 variations of the Pope and definitely seemed to have some kind of feeling. And it wasn't pleasant.

One of the other variants shows the Pope between sides of beef. I couldn't even begin to guess what that means, but I like the fact that Bacon doesn't consider the subject matter to be above parody or criticism -- a sacred "cow", as it were.

Bacon reminds me of another 20th Century artist I like, Marshall Arisman, and even of David Fincher, the director of Se7en, in his choice of colors and subject matter.

1 comment:

Laura said...

Wow... I never knew that about the Pentagon. It's hard to imagine that the designers didn't know that lore. If they did - it's scary that they did it on purpose. if they didn't, then it's fuckin hilarious.