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Unlike many books on painting that usually talk about art or painters, James Elkins’ compelling and original work focuses on alchemy, for like the alchemist, the painter seeks to transform and be transformed by the medium. In What Painting Is, James Elkins communicates the experience of painting beyond the traditional vocabulary of art history. Alchemy provides a magical language to explore what it is a painter really does in her or his studio - the smells, the mess, the struggle to control the uncontrollable, the special knowledge only painters hold of how colours will mix, and how they will look. Written from the perspective of a painter-turned-art historian, What Painting Is is like nothing you have ever read about art.
Comprising examples of artwork and a series of essays, this collection examines and assesses the current status of painting within global contemporary art. It sheds light on fine art as it is understood as a facet of a global culture and society dominated by Northern European and US power and history.
The startling conclusion of The Late Paintings of Vel?uez is that Diego Vel?uez painted two of his most famous works, The Spinners and Las Meninas, as theoretically informed manifestos of painterly brushwork. As a pair, Giles Knox argues, the two paintings form a learned retort to the prevailing critical disdain for the painterly. Knox presents a Vel?uez who was much more aware of the art theory of his era than previously acknowledged, leading him to reinterpret Las Meninas and The Spinners as representing together a polemically charged celebration of the "handedness" of painting. Knox removes Vel?uez from his Iberian isolation and seeks to recover his highly self-conscious attempt to carve out a place for himself within the history of European painting as a whole. The Late Paintings of Vel?uez presents an artist who, like Annibale Carracci, Poussin, Rembrandt, and Vermeer was not only aware of contemporary theoretical writings on art, but also able to translate that knowledge and understanding into a distinctive and personal theory of painting. In Las Meninas and The Spinners, Vel?uez propounded this theory with paint, not words. Knox's rethinking of the dynamic relationship between text and image presents a case, not of writing influencing painting, or vice versa, but of the two realms being inextricably bound together. Painterly brushwork presented a challenge to writers on art not just because it was connected too intimately with the base actions of the hand; it was also devilishly hard to describe. By reading Vel?uez's painterly performance as text, Knox deciphers how Vel?uez was able to craft theoretical arguments more compelling and more vivid than any written counterparts.
How do we perdure when we and everything around us are caught up in incessant change? But the course of this change does not seem to be haphazard and we may seek the modalities of its Logos in the transformations in which it occurs. The classic term "Metamorphosis" focuses upon the proportions between the transformed and the retained, the principles of sameness and otherness. Applied to life and its becoming, metamorphosis pinpoints the proportions between the vital and the aesthetic significance of life. Where could this metaphysical in-between territory come better to light than in the Fine Arts? In this collection are investigated the various proportions between the vital significance of the constructivism of life and a specifically human contribution made by the creative imagination to the transformatory search for beauty and aesthetic values. Papers by: Lawrence Kimmel, Mark L. Brack, Sheryl Tucker de Vazquez, William Roberts, Jadwiga Smith, Victor Gerald Rivas, Max Statkiewicz, Matti Itkonen, George R. Tibbetts, Linda Stratford, Jorella Andrews, Ingeborg M. Rocker, Stephen J. Goldberg, Leah Durner, Donnalee Dox, Catherine Schear, Samantha Henriette Krukowski, Gary Maciag, Kelly Dennis, Wanda Strukus, Magda Romanska, Patricia Trutty-Coohill, Ellen Burns, Tessa Morrison, Sabine Coelsch-Foisner, Gary Backhaus, Daniel M. Unger, Howard Pearce.
A prominent abstract painter, through the use of illustrations, draws a parallel between the sixteenth-century crisis in figurative painting and the current pivotal status of abstract art

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