Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Reconstructing Seurat

After making dozens of drawings and sketches to prepare himself, Georges Seurat painted Une Baignade, Asnières in 1884. This large summer landscape with figures was rejected by the Paris Salon as incomprehensibly Impressionistic. The artist was 24. Today the picture is a universal object of worship in London at the National Gallery.

In 2004 Michael Craig-Martin made Reconstructing Seurat (Orange) and Reconstructing Seurat (Purple). For this project, Craig-Martin  imported the splendid and jarring color-vocabulary of poster-maker Peter Max, a young artist (like Seurat, but eighty years later) who gained fame and fortune instantaneously (instead of scorn) but who is now only remembered as a footnote to the Sixties.

The postmodern rag bag often involves a trick like this, selecting recognizable elements from two distinct art-historic moments and then tossing them together to produce a more-or-less fresh-looking quilt.