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Errantry: Novak's Journal
...Words to cast/My feelings into sculpted thoughts/To make some wisdom last
Personal: First Impressions from the "Francis Bacon: Paintings from the 1950s" exhibition 
20th-Feb-2007 01:55 am
Milwaukee
I hit the Francis Bacon: Paintings from the 1950s exhibition at the Milwaukee Art Museum yesterday with Mom and Aunt Pat, who were in town over the weekend visiting Uncle Bill and Aunt Helen. I can't say that any of us were particularly taken with his imagery. Cognitively, I could appreciate where he stood in terms of artistic or intellectual history, in the sweeping despair regarding humanity after the horrors of the Second World War that you see expressed throughout the arts. European genocide seems to bring modernity's optimism regarding human "progress" to an end, with perhaps the noted exception of the Catholic Church and the shocking prophetic joy underlying Pope John XXIII's "We feel must disagree with these prophets of doom" articulated at the beginning of the Second Vatican Council in October of 1962, from just under the shadow of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

[Oops! Typos corrected!:] Bacon's exhibition, described here, does not share in that vision, and while one can come to some certain forms of positive portrayals of his friends modeling for him, this is perhaps too obscured by the distorted, even decaying forms in which he human figures seem trapped. All initial impressions, though. I'll likely go back at least once and try to spend more time with the paintings. My family clearly had entered into a kind of mute despair at how slowly I move through an art gallery, mute, at least, until Aunt Helen came back and teased me about it.
Comments 
20th-Feb-2007 02:06 pm (UTC)
I knew his work in science, but I knew nothing of his artistic work! :P
20th-Feb-2007 05:56 pm (UTC)
Yes, I was a bit taken aback at the name, too: I don't think I'd heard of this fellow before.
20th-Feb-2007 02:34 pm (UTC)
I used to be a janitor at the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth, which focused on Post-War modern art, and it depressed me because of that "sweeping despair" you describe. I have never seen any of Bacon's work before, but it fits in with the period.
20th-Feb-2007 05:59 pm (UTC)
Yes, and there's other things in that area of the Modern – the autobiographical turn, the discarding of representation – that also contributes to it having little appeal and little to say to me.
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