japonisme: no beauty's ever free I

21 August 2012

no beauty's ever free I

maybe some people get it at a younger age, but i'm turning sixty-five next month, and this somehow seems the appropriate age to realize some things. i suppose one might call it 'the duality of things,' or not. but the realization, of course, brings delight and melancholy in equal parts.

we have looked at the development of plakatstil, with its german outgrowth of hand-written posters, and that style as an outgrowth of both japanese calligraphy, and a long tradition of hand-lettering in german posters. here we begin to see how that style jumped the ocean and was perfectly suited for the new industry of railway posters. (and we've also looked at the changing needs of travel.)

some wonderful artists emerged at this moment in time. see extensive, full-color coverage in zega & gruber's "travel by train." sam hyde harris's posters are so amazing (see next post as well) that i have a very difficult time keeping it in my head that they were created over 80 years ago! they are so fresh, and beautiful to me; harris just jumped into the middle of my favorites list right next to maurice logan.

numerous other emerging artists included are maynard dixon, winold reiss, and w h bull, whom we have looked at before, and louis treviso, for example, whom we have not, and numerous others are featured in luxurious color; wish i could find online images on all of them. but in studying their work it becomes obvious from whence come their roots.

the romance of the railroads is born in these posters, created to ensure wanderlust, a greener grass on the other side of the railroad tracks. for unparalleled beautiful vistas, for the opportunities of self-reinvention, try a train.

so where's the dark side?, you are wondering. you mentioned melancholy? indeed i did. i've mentioned it before. the baton of art and design is handed on, the baton raised comes down again, always, generation after generation. martin lermann-steglitz, like so many of his contemporaries, was lost to the camps, lost permanently, finally declared dead in 1962.

there's nothing one can learn that finds one only delighted, there is no inside without an outside, no yin sans yang. i felt for many years that happiness required the vanquishing of the dark side and now i know that place has never existed. krishna, vishnu and shiva braided inevitably together, inseparable. there's no way to love the world fully without an open heart, which bars nothing.

in the next post, we'll hold these wonderful rail posters up to the light. what do you think we will see?

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Blogger Nancy Ewart said...

I can relate to your melancholy, both on age (I'm 67) and the baton of art, which, in my humble opinion is not passed on in the younger generation. OK - huge generalization but I went to preview the Barry McGee exhibit at the Berkeley Art Museum yesterday. Talk about a load of ptooi- graffiti art, "found art for installations" (ie, used spray paint cans), video screens blaring out loud nonsense, and more. I've posted a very critical response on my Face book page but will restrain myself for my examiner column. However, that wasn't the worst - because I was critical, I was told I was whining, was obnoxious, offensive and full of hate. Guess I stepped on some hipster toes but when I look at the art in this blog - and the art I love vs the art that's supposed to be the coolest around - well, it does not make me happy. Sorry if this is a rant. I didn't expect to like McGee's work as I've seen a lot of it around - SF urban hipster spray can stuff. But I didn't expect to be called names and insulted because I don't like his work. I am afraid that I see McGee as the dark side but I can't see opening my heart to his work (or that of Shephard Fairey or Cindy Sherman, to name two) will deepen my heart because there is just not any "there there" for me.

24 August, 2012 17:54  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

glad you feel comfortable saying what you think here, nancy. rant away.

just for clarity's sake, i want to make it clear that aging doesn't make me melancholy at all; in fact the particular melancholy i feel is actually an enrichment to my life.

to recognize the both sides of the whole round thing is freeing. i just thought this was a perfect age to get that.

24 August, 2012 18:44  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just looked up Barry McGee and doodled images of his work - to me this is just something like what we did as doodling, no one took it as art, and I still don't....they say to keep an open mind, well, isn't insulting you for not liking it being rather closed minded?!

24 August, 2012 23:00  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I must say that I agree with Nancy. I have to admit that many aspects of modernist art in general don't really appeal to me as much as the stuff that was produced at the beginning of the 20th century. I guess you might call that attitude conservative, but I just can't help it: a woodcut by Thiemann or Hasui can move my heart, a print by Miro doesn't. That's just the way it is.
The posters you show here are magnificent. And talking about the dark side: Whenever I see one of the stunning designs by Ludwig Hohlwein, I am reminded of the fact that Hohlwein also determined the aesthetic ideas during the darkest period of my country's history. So shame on him!, undisputed genius that he was.


28 August, 2012 10:33  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

indeed, klaus. there are so many writers and artists about whom i just know too much, now.

i have to admit, too, though, that while i treasure the works from this narrow window. i have to try to keep in mind that i am of (we are of) the generation that is *supposed* to love this stuff.

kids were always more _____ (fill in the blank) and art/music/etc. didn't used to be the senseless garbage we have nowadays.

28 August, 2012 11:29  

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hi, and thanks so much for stopping by. i spend all too much time thinking my own thoughts about this stuff, so please tell me yours. i thrive on the exchange!

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