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Posts Tagged ‘Alfred Kubin’

Horrific Practices

December 2, 2014 | by

Two centuries after the Marquis de Sade, a French exhibition traces his influence. 

The Marquis de Sade died two hundred years ago today, on December 2, 1814. To mark the bicentennial, Annie Le Brun, a French academic and writer, has curated a sprawling show in the Marquis de Sade’s name at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. The exhibition, “Attaquer le soleil” (“Attacking the Sun”), takes its name from a snippet in The 120 Days of Sodom, and it traces “the revolution of representation” occasioned by Sade’s unbridled lasciviousness: how his ideas about desire and violence seeped into the cultural zeitgeist and into some of the most seminal art created during and after his lifetime.

It seems tenuous, at first, to link Sade to a whole host of artistic traditions—traditions that didn’t necessarily need his help to see society as a holding cell, for teeming vices, impulses, and cruelties, all barely contained by etiquette. During a conference introducing the exhibition, Le Brun clarified her premise: “We didn’t try to illustrate Sade—on the contrary, the propos of Sade illuminates the violence that exists deep within at the moment of mythological, historical, religious painting … everything that Sade addresses was there before, and will of course continue after.” What Sade tapped into, and what’s elevated in the exhibition, is what Le Brun calls the “exaltation of passions” and the “vertigo of excess”—mixed, of course, with “flagrant atheism.” Read More »

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In Extremis

April 10, 2014 | by

Alfred Kubin was an Austrian artist and, to hazard a guess, a fairly tortured soul. Today is his birthday, and as a peg it’ll have to suffice, though I don’t imagine he was the type to put on a party hat. He was known to live in a small castle in Zwickledt, and his biography includes a nervous breakdown and a suicide attempt—the latter on his mother’s grave. His early drawings, shown here, often feature monsters, deformities, disfigurements, human bodies in decay—a grim phantasmagoria of the bleak, the macabre, and the merely unsettling, with a palette that tends toward soot. What keeps me looking at it is some element of detachment in his style, as if a savage disembowelment by a fantastical creature were no big thing; we’re not accustomed to seeing the brutal without the lurid. As Christopher Brockhaus notes, “these drawings revealed Kubin’s abiding interest in the macabre. Thematically they were related to Symbolism, as shown by the ink drawing The Spider (c. 1900–01; Vienna, Albertina), which depicts a grotesque woman-spider at the center of a web in which copulating couples are ensnared. This reflects the common Symbolist notion of the woman as temptress and destroyer.” Not surprisingly, Kubin admired Schopenhauer. Read More »

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