It Speaks to Me: Art That Inspires Art (essays by artists)
Jori Finkel, interviewer/editor
Prestel Publishing 2019
Finkel, an arts writer, tells us in the Introduction that she has a love-hate relationship with the wall labels in museums.
Most often they’re too dry, too detailed in retelling what the work is depicting, and not adding to our appreciation, the awe factor. That’s why she set out to interview 50 artists, from many genres, asking them to choose and discuss a work, building, even landscaping, at a public museum where others can view the subjects themselves.
Each essay faces a colour photograph of its subject. The result is a beautiful and inspiring coffee table book, one you’ll want to keep for yourself and give as a gift to an art lover.
This hardbound copy is a bit pricey, but worth it. I won’t be carrying this to a secondhand book shop to sell.
I’ll briefly mention a few of my favorite essays. These are not always my favourite pieces of art in the book, but the essays that most spoke to me. You’ll see the wide range of the book.
Marina Abramovic on Umberto Boccioni’s Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, a bronze statue not quite 44 inches (111.2 inches) high, at The Museum of Modern Art, New York
“This sculpture looks so abstract, almost Cubist, but it’s really a human figure walking, showing how you leave energy behind you as you move through space. It’s not very large, but at the same time you have a feeling of immensity.” The artist adds that her “own work in performance is also based on immateriality and energy."
Leonor Antunes on John Knight’s The Right to Be Lazy, site-specific and time-based landscape installation, Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin
It was fascinating that the artist chose an untrimmed, left to grow wild, round section of landscaping near the front entrance rather than a work inside the museum. Unlike the rest of the landscaping, which is very German, very tidy, this nature-made garden shows the effects of time.
Autunes regards it as “a manifesto written for artists, reminding us not to overproduce and fill the market with artwork. It’s a reminder of how we can do so much more with so little."
David Hockney on Edgar Degas’s The Rape of the Sabines (after Nicholas Poussin), oil on canvas, Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena
Personally, I’m a much bigger fan of Degas than of Poussin or of these epic scenes of violence, but how amazing it is to see such a convincing reproduction.
In the nineteenth century, it was customary for young artists to learn by first copying the masters of the past. Degas painted his copy on site in the Louvre, though Hockney points out that the Louvre had much smaller crowds back then.
If I saw someone copying this beautifully, I’d stand all day at his back watching.
While doing research for a book, Hockney’s team “made a transparency of the Degas version to overlay on top of a printout of the Poussin….and you could see that Degas got all the negative spaces in the composition exactly right.”
Hockney concluded that Degas must have kept moving his easel during the day to be perfect aligned with the part he was painting.
Alarie Tennille was born and raised in Portsmouth, Virginia, and graduated from the University of Virginia in the first class admitting women. For Alarie, looking at art is the surest way to inspire a poem, so she’s made The Ekphrastic Review home for four years. She hopes you’ll check out her poetry books on the Ekphrastic Book Shelf and visit her at alariepoet.com.
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