japonisme: 5/15/11 - 5/22/11

21 May 2011

the style that dare not speak its name

one studies in order to learn new things but, as any researcher will tell you, you are more likely to come away far more aware of how much you don't know. what i thought i knew: 1. what items from the aesthetic movement looked like; 2. when the aesthetic movement was; and 3. who were its biggest names. i was right about the names.

as for the rest, i currently have over a foot of books, piled on top of each other, on my desk, about twenty-five windows open in my browser (don't you love it?), and if i'm getting a clue, it's only the sweet whisper of one.

what i thought aesthetic movement china looked like (in their japonisme) was almost like collages, little overlapping stamps on an international letter, with extraneous flowery or fan-shaped decorations, and probably a couple of birds. you could find it all, in fewer colors, in the lacquers from japan which were their inspiration.

okay, but there's the rub, and it gets complicated. yes, i could, i have, show you perfect examples. so let's see if i can say this in a comprehensible manner. well, first let's say that the images on the right are by christopher dresser, and on the left are examples from one of the series in the lambert-rousseau dinner- wear (see more here).

the images of japanese goods with which i could illustrate the correspondences may very well have been made after the works they were supposed to have inspired. seems i have not paid close enough attention to dates. even more convoluted are the facts that many of these very designers began visiting japan, not only to study, but to set up with artisans in japan to produce for export good which looked like they might have inspired the japonisme wares being sold in the west! bing insisted on it.

now, christopher dresser is definitely one of those names. and yes, his designs, particularly as seen in the plate to the right, match the image i had in my head for 'aesthetic.' so, though, do the images on the left, but those designers do not appear on my lists. but here's another problem. the chronology i've always understood of all this was that the aesthetic movement followed very quickly on the tails of the arrival of japanese goods in the west, the 1850s to the 1860s, yet all of these are from the late 1880s! why do you people keep coming here when i clearly know nothing!

granted, dresser was quick out the gate, getting very involved with learning about, and writing about, during the 1860s, but that ends up seeming less germinal to this discussion than to understand what the aesthetic movement really is; hint: those little fans are only an emblem, an honorarium, a fad.

whomever you credit with beginning the era, ruskin, morris, or a number of others competing for primogenitor status, what it boils down to, in my opinion, is yet a number of new faces with the real name of japonisme. (but don't tell the pre-raphaelites.)

i will grant you, it had a different name in every country where it occurred, accompanied by what were very distinguishable national differences. but whether it's the desire for handmade, simple goods, or a cult of nature, or a new understanding of space, line and color, it all began with one catalyst: japan.

Labels: , , , , ,

15 May 2011

can you feel his disease?


You love a woman and you wonder where she goes all night in some tricked-
out taxicab, with her high heels and her corset and her big, fat mouth.

You love how she only wears her glasses with you,
how thick
and cow-eyed she swears it’s only ever you
she wants to see.

You love her, you want her very ugly. If she is lovely big, you want her
scrawny. If she is perfect lithe, you want her ballooned, a cosmonaut.

How not to love her, her bouillabaisse, her orangina. When you took her
to the doctor the doctor said, “Wow, look at that!” and you were proud,

you asshole, you love and that’s how you are in love.
Any expert, observing
human bodies, can see how she’s exceptional, how she ruins us all.

But you really love this woman, how come no one can see this? Everyone must
become suddenly very clumsy
at recognizing beauty
if you are to keep her.

You don’t want to lose anything, at all, ever. You want her sex depilated, you
want everyone else not blind, but perhaps paralyzed,
from the eyes down.

You wonder where she goes all night. If she leaves you,
you will know
everything about love. If she’s leaving you now,
you already know it.

Brenda Shaughnessy

Brenda Shaughnessy,
“You Love, You Wonder”
Interior with Sudden Joy.
Copyright © 1999
by Brenda Shaughnessy.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

newer posts older posts