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In response to the question “What is Avant Garde?”(graphics and text by A. Leon Miler)

January 18, 2012

“Avant Garde.” It has a nice ring to it. Sir Walter Ralegh, the 16th-17th century English poet, writer, explorer, while writing his “History of the World”, said “He who follows truth too closely at the heels might get kicked in the teeth…” so I’ll try not to get too close:
They say that Aphrodite washed up like a Barbie doll on a clam shell on a beach in Cyprus. I would suggest that what really happened was that an Egyptian teenaged guy was carving the proto-Barbie on a piece of wood, got bored, tossed it in the Nile, and watched it float downstream where it entered the sea and ultimately got washed up tangled in seaweed and clam shells on the Cyprus beach. A Greek sailor found it, and from there the story kind of got out of control.
Sandro Botticelli painted the definitive Aphrodite-Venus-Barbie. I did a painting of Sandro B.’s lady, only I dressed her up as a cafe waitress. I was just trying to make her respectable. I realized he must have used a man for the model, and worked hard to feminize the figure. I had to slim her way down to get her into that waitress uniform…
Effect or Affectation?
Rubens’ Venus would have capsized the clam shell. As good a painter as Rubens was, a lot of his rotund people ended up looking a wee bit silly. Manet must have been of somewhat the same opinion. When he painted “Olympia” he took away all the affectation and ended up not with a nude, but a naked lady. This shocked a lot of people at the time. They thought it was just a little vulgar. Maybe if he had dressed her up with just a small amount of affectation, just the slightest casting back of the eyes with moistened and slightly parted lips…
So was Manet being Avant Garde? Olympia certainly has more effect than affectation, and the painting has always been slightly amusing to me.
I wonder what would happen if you used a Mayan hieroglyphic motif to re-translate Olympia what the effect would be? It couldn’t be the end of the world.
Has there ever been a good Avant Garde greeting card?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Eva permalink
    January 18, 2012 6:51 pm

    This all sounds highly familiar…. Art class perhaps? Lol. 🙂

    • January 18, 2012 7:09 pm

      Good stories need constant revising and updating. I never thought of the Mayan twist before. I wonder if Barbie could be redone like the Mexican “Our Lady of Guadalupe”?

  2. Eva permalink
    January 18, 2012 8:12 pm

    Hmm… Sounds interesting. You should work on that one. 🙂

  3. January 19, 2012 4:21 pm

    Yeah, I’m totally feeling the Our Lady twist, but it might be just a little bit heretical to some.

  4. Andy Stenhouse permalink
    October 16, 2015 11:19 am

    Rubens’ Venus would have capsized the clam shell. LOL!

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