Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Romantic Lie: Desire, Ennui, Anxiety

Marcel Antonio's new statement at the Yuchengco Museum, February 6-25, 2012

In July of 2010, I posted a blog essay on the art of Marcel Antonio titled “Blue Funk’d Stories: The Expanding Art of Marcel Antonio” and coined the phrase-tag Blue Funk Erotica for Antonio’s art. I described Blue Funk Erotica as 1) unsmiling faces-derived figurative drama (primarily portraiture, then), 2) replete of appropriations or art-historical quotes, 3) suggestive (but only suggestive) of a narrative, 4) quasi-rebellious towards rigid allusions and painting titles’ guidance, 5) unpainterly expressionist, 6) of an in-a-trance mood as against a happy one, and 7) conscriptive of the painting viewer as peeper. “This erotica should stay around and keep us entranced,” I wrote, “being not so much one that tickles the groin as the kind that promotes the understanding that every face, gesture, object, color, and shape is a secret sex object and clandestine true story waiting to be told.” But also debunking a previous simplistic tag on Antonio’s art as “narrative expressionist,” I wrote: “In Antonio’s case, his blue funkism's ‘de-expression’, or ‘dis-expression’ and narrative confusion through the mannerisms of narrative imagery and titling, seems to be a produce of a Russian Formalist narrative bent on ‘defamiliarizing’ images and shapes towards a higher enigma. Thus his refusal to ‘express’.”

    The abovementioned blog started a dialogue between Antonio’s art as well as intent (of unintent) and my reading, culminating in a late-2011 production of a collection titled “The Romantic Lie: Desire, Ennui, Anxiety” which shall be shown this coming February at the Yuchengco Museum.
    This title for Antonio’s new series does not so much signal a change in his art’s direction as clarify where my reading is right and where it needs to be tweaked. For instance, while I opt for a Barthesian “variety of narrative possibilities,” Antonio’s pragmatic knowledge of his audience allows/welcomes two basic approaches to his art.
The White Ribbon
    The one approach favors rigid symbolist readings, especially as Antonio is himself attracted to the “monumental” (Antonio’s term) figure common among utopian-art compositions (e.g., Wagnerian glorifications, classical idealism, Nazi art, Stalinist totalitarian art, socialist realism, etc.) and advertising art imagery or the various idealizations of soft porn.
    But, for the other approach, Antonio acknowledges that I am right about his own efforts to frustrate, so to speak, all symbolist and narrative approaches, via experimentation with juxtapositions/relations and eclectic allusions. These experimentation, appropriations, and art-history quotes result in a dehumanized atmosphere, involving such stuff as machine aesthetics (steampunk, etc.) and the usual facial expressions of ennui and boredom, all moving towards Antonio’s intended postmodernist multiplicity of meanings. But the final result on each single canvas is an invite to a pseudo-narrative half-aware of this pseudo-ness, welcoming while parodying the various cultural and moral significations possible to professional and popular semiotics.
Ars Poetica
    In this sense, Antonio’s art would be self-described as anxious about the unknown, desirous of knowledge as a matter of course but likewise celebrating the ennui of knowledge’s elusivity, even the charm of that ennui itself alone. Ennui as both springboard and object of desire, then, visually fulfilled or illustrated on an Antonio-esque drama field.
    A final stamp to this anti-narrative effort to “recover the sensation of life” (Victor Shklovsky) is the artist’s devotion to the coloration of Diego Velรกzquez (recreator of the classics) or Chagall (dreamy Chagall) as well as to the latent abstract geometrics beneath all his pseudo-narrative stagings.
    I shall join Antonio in this exhibit with fourteen new poems in the exhibition catalog. Antonio also invited me to fill a curved wall he refused to use with my own paintings as the show's guest paintings. For which wall I did three shaped canvases, for a collaborative five-painting project with Antonio as counter-instigated by me. [END]

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