Big Sky, Big Dreams, Big Art: Made In The USA – Episode Two

Having just watched the second episode of Waldemar Januszczak’s three part series on American art, I had to brush upon it. I do find his documentaries fascinating. I would learn much from him if he was my art teacher. In essence…he has been for the past 12 years or so.

He, Alastair Sooke, Andrew Graham-Dixon and also to some degree, Tim Marlow, have all helped me gain a better grasp of art and artists – but particularly Waldemar and Sooke. “It’s the way they tell ‘em” – to not quite paraphrase Irish comedian Frank Carson.

This week’s instalment found us talking about the cities – and in particular the artisitic pull of New York City… in it’s towering, skyscraping architecture, its people – in particular its refugees and immigrents, and in its underground, subversive culture.

Several artists I had not previously heard of were highlighted. One being George Bellows. I couldn’t help thinking of Jim (ah, is there a point in the day when I am not?) when Waldemar started to talk of Bellows. For Bellows (as you can see below) specialises in painting boxing.

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But the darkness, motion and abstraction within the boxers faces had me thinking of the depth and darkness of Francis Bacon. And so I also thought of David Lynch and of what I read last night what he’d said about Bacon, an artistic hero of Lynch’s, and wondered whether Lynch had seen Bellows’ work.

There were some “big guns” talked about too, of course…when talking of the immigrants to New York, Mondrian, Kandinski, Gorky (a tragic end to a life) and Mark Rothko were mentioned. Particular attention was given to Rothko.

A favourite of Jim’s that I know of (as he has brought him up several times in the past…sometimes in passing only) is Edward Hopper. He was also discussed…but not in as much depth as I’d have liked.

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Januszczak told of how, in his days as an illistrator, taking the L train to work, he’d look into the windows of the homes and offices along the tracks and observe the people inside. That one could deem it voyueristic, but his art transcended mere voyeurism.

And, that he was as much an enigma as the subjects within his art. I screengrabbed the description he shared that Hopper’s wife had given of him to share here…

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I found it strangely poetic.

Again, episode two was most enjoyable. It is a shame there is only one final instalment of the series. I have loved it so far.

You can catch episode two on iPlayer until Friday (June 29th) evening.

Big Sky, Big Dreams, Big Art: Made In The USA – BBC Four (And on iPlayer)

I love the documentaties produced by art historian Waldemar Januszczak. I have seen a number of great ones over the years. His latest on American art has so far not disappointed.

The revelation of episode one for me was the work of Thomas Hart Benton. The way he formed his work and what resulted. The completeion of pieces for strikingly epic murals. A student of his was none other than Jackson Pollock, an artist that really has never done anything for me. Well, Waldemar was doing his best to sell me the importance of Jackson Pollock…but I wasn’t buying it.

A fellow student at the Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles was Philip Guston and I was reminded of the impact his work had on me when seeing it as part of the “America: After The Fall” exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art last year.

This reminder of Guston’s work took place during Waldemar’s detour to Mexico City, in celebration of Diego Rivera’s masterpiece mural displays there at the Ministry of Education, in particular. Although overwhelmingly filled with Rivera murals, there are some displayed by Guston.

Discussed also in the prgramme was also landscape art, sand art discussed, as well petroglyphs and pictographs out in arid and desert landscapes, among other things.

All fascinating stuff.

You can catch episode one of Big Sky, Big Dreams, Big Art on iPlayer until Friday evening. Click on the image to view on iPlayer. (Yes, it’s not always all just about Simple Minds and Jim Kerr on this blog…I do have other interests, amazingly! Sometimes. Lol)

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