15 October 2011

Sterility, mental and physical

I apologize to the readers of altarpiece for its state of disrepair. I have begun a Ph.D. program in philosophy, so I spend most of my time thinking about things that are not suitable for presentation here. I'll try to keep posting as I can, but really altarpiece-style posts will probably become more rare (if that's possible).

Yesterday I went to Pittsburgh's Andy Warhol Museum. Here is the only image I've been able to find online of my favorite piece there:

Andy Warhol - Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1984Jean-Michel Basquiat. Andy Warhol, 1984.

In reality it's about 8 feet tall. Each limb section has a different grain, a different texture. The color is reminiscent of x-ray images.

I was captivated by this, and stood looking at it for an embarrassingly long time, from different parts of the room. Basquiat's left arm in two positions gives the impression of a captured movement, is also reminiscent of da Vinci's Vitruvian Man. The pose is Michaelangelo's David.

The x-ray quality combined with the pasted together panels gives the impression of resurrection.

I asked myself whether I would have been so interested in the portrait if it hadn't been Basquiat. The head is the most awkwardly attached limb. The contrast is starker, the seam is more exact and thus more distracting. It's only the head the objects to its positioning. The tension between the head and the body reminds me of the tension between life and self. But it doesn't detract from the beauty of the human body, which doesn't seem to be the least bit disturbed by being cut up and put back together.

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