Friday, February 15, 2013

Pigeon Tower

This is were it all begins for me. The French 19th-century tradition of depicting vernacular architecture (Corot, etc.) gets infused with a formal otherness. Cézanne's, The Bellevue Pigeon Tower moves beyond the uncanny sensibility in Victor Hugo's ruined house drawings. It pushes a representational envelope, becomes biomorphized, formalized, geometricized. The Pigeon Tower opens the obvious door to Cubism and a less obvious door to Deleuze.

“Cézanne has achieved Spartan simplicity only by stripping away everything inessential from the secene and allowing abstract considerations completely to override the vagaries of nature. AsD. H. Lawerence observed in 1929: ‘Sometimes Cézanne builds up a landscape essentially out of omissions.’ The ruthless simplification of form evident in the Bellevue Pigeon Tower calls to mind the advice Cézanne gave to the young painter Emile Bernard in 1904: ‘treat nature by means of the cylinder, the sphere, the cone, everything brought into proper perspective so that each side of an object or a plane is directed towards a central point.’ Though this of-quoted statement has been seen as anticipating the advent of Cubism and abstract art, it is best understood as a prescription for reducing the imperfect forms of the natural world to essential shapes. Far from being a revolutionary idea, this was a standard method of creating order and harmony in painting. Long sanctioned by tradition and training, it was a method also advocated and practied by Poussin. (Verdi 1992, p. 147)

The fact that this work now resides in the Rust Belt (Cleveland Museum of Art) offers new possibilities of meaning-making.

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Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States