For this session we focused on 3 paintings and five photographs in Poetry and Dream, Level Two West, Tate Modern, examing how the body was represented and the issues that emerged from thinking about these images. Previously we have been moving from general philosophical issues to specific illustrations; this week we reversed that and explored a range of questions that arise from consideration of specific works of art.
Key issues that emerged:
- The use of nudity as titillation under the guise of fine art (vs honest eroticism or pornography)
- The represented body as a catalyst to formal experiment (in line, pattern, texture, colour)
- Representation of the body as the body of an individual naked portraiture vs types)
- Relations of power - the extent to which the subject has relinquished power to the artist and how the artist uses that power
I've included some links for those who want to find out more about the particular works.
You can get a better sense of this artist's recurrent themes from the Paul Delvaux Museum website, (the museum that Simeon mentioned in our discussion)
Barkley L. Hendricks Family Jules: NNN (No Naked Niggahs) (1974) - not illustrated
See the video below for more context: it is about a retrospective of Hendricks' portraiture and includes comments by the artist. The emphasis on individuality in portraiture and the artist's connection with his subjects that emerges here is very relevant to the discussion we had in the gallery: 'He's representing her in terms of her attitude, her style..'
We also looked at five nudes by Manuel Alvarez Bravo (images unavailable from Tate) in Room 11, including his famous 'Good Reputation Sleeping' (1938) - click on the photograph's title on the MOMA site) You can read an interesting short essay about Bravo which explains how 'Good Reputation Sleeping' came to be made.
You might enjoy John Berger's musings on the female nude from Ways of Seeing (1972):