The Alpha Seer understanding true art

February 15, 2011

THE ONLY WAY to view Cezanne’s painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Filed under: Uncategorized — MASTER BEN LAU @ 8:18 am

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Ben Lau <alphaseer@gmail.com>
Date: Mon, Feb 14, 2011 at 9:24 PM
Subject: Fwd: Cezanne
To: Ben Lau <alphaseer@gmail.com>


Thus has the great master Knox Martin spoken…!

(Referring to the forwarded Knox Martin e-mail at the second half of this post.)

Cezanne is such a holy man, a true hero,– yet illiterates everywhere in the world have cheapened him unto a type of commercial bargain that whosoever can mutter a line of gibberish and subsequently get it published somewhere may walk away with a piece of him, believing that no one under the holy sky is watching,–or even can, as far as our good intuition goes, fully acknowledge that as an act of shameless looting.

ADMIT IT:

Cezanne has not been admired so far out of an ounce of my own understanding in art, but rather because of my own fear,– a morbid fear that my neighbor will laugh himself into hysteria, beginning to treat me like a bunny face dummy should I fail to align or attune my own share of admiration for one who had consistently and unremittingly attracted such universal awe– for reasons beyond all pale,– probably even for no obvious reason at all…!

I wonder how many here in this room ( i.e. the group that the Alpha Seer regularly corresponds with) would look at our Cezanne painting here, and with total candidness, admit to having no understanding of it at all?

Let splendid truth be told,–and by the Alpha Seer’s estimation through his uncanny scanning across all light obstructing things,– perhaps not even 10% in this vastly enlightened hall, so filled indeed to the beam with such extremely smart folks,– can legitimately claim to have even an ounce of understanding for our Cezanne here!

Without having fully consulted the Yin and Yang apparatus in composition as expounded in previous chapters on this website, www.thealphaseer.com, the Alpha Seer will have to doubt that any person in the world, however smart he/she is, can legitimately claim to have successfully taken on The Card Players by Cezanne!

To the effect that my observation is correct, one must admit this: art can be a very difficult subject indeed,– made even more so, just as a mysterious book being misleadingly camouflaged with a straightforward and easy cover to trick the uninitiated into believing it as a simple or even simplistic matter for the mind.

Had folks flocked to see the Knox Martin show purely for its own merit,( alas, more than 800 counted in a single evening!) –not just because the man had once taught at Yale, known to be a genius (the Alpha Seer had repeatedly said so,) nor had his works not been collected in major museums everywhere in this country, nor because he had taught at the renowned, historic, and privileged Art Students League and so forth, I would simply open my arms and proclaim that the Alpha Seer may now retire into the peaceful seclusion of universal enlightenment without guilty of being indifferent to the predicaments of his fellow men,…– but the situation is unfortunately a more complicated one.

On the other hand, art can also be such a simple thing, a thing of such pure unalloyed poetry and beauty,– yet have we so barbarically, and mechanically turned it into such twisted notions and irrelevant ugliness!

All because of what?

E    G    O        !

And consider the following question:

HOW MANY HERE WILL NOT, FROM NOW ON, LOOK AT A CEZANNE DIFFERENTLY,– AND PROBABLY WITH A DIFFERENT KIND OF AWE,–THE AWE THAT HAS ARISEN FROM THE BOTTOM OF ONES HEART, FOR THE ENORMOUS GENIUS OF A GREAT MASTER? –INDEED TO EXPERIENCE THE AWE OUT OF TRUE UNDERSTANDING, RATHER THAN BECOMING FEARFUL OUT OF HERD INSTINCTS?

MAKE THIS YOUR RESOLUTION THEN:

UNTIL I HAVE FULLY UNDERSTOOD THE ART OF PAUL CEZANNE, HOW HIS ART HAS BEEN PASSED ONTO THE NEXT GENERATIONS OF SUPER-CREATORS SUCH AS MATISSE AND PICASSO, THEN GORKY, DE KOONING, ELIAS GOLDBERG, KNOX MARTIN AND BEN LAU, I CANNOT POSSIBLY THINK OF MYSELF AS AN ENLIGHTENED BEING IN THE WORLD, OF HAVING THE SUBLIME GIFT, –OF THE SEEING OF BEAUTY AND POETRY.

INDEED, WITHOUT SUCH UNDERSTANDING,–I.E. THE SUBLIME UNDERSTANDING OF BEAUTY AND POETRY, YOU REMAIN MERELY AS ONE OF THE HERD, MY FRIEND,–OF THE CATTLE SOCIETY!

DON’T BELIEVE ME?

JUST ASK THIS:

CAN ONE REALLY BE CALLED HUMAN WITHOUT BEING ENLIGHTENED?


———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Knox <knox@nyc.rr.com>
Date: Mon, Feb 14, 2011 at 4:47 PM
Subject: Re: Cezanne
To: David Kramer <dhkramer@verizon.net>

THROW UP MY HANDS !!!  NO CLUE  !  WHAT IS TALKED ABOUT IS
SHEER GOBBLEDYGOOK !  THE PAINTING IS DESTROYED BY CRIMINALS———-HOW TRULY BEAUTIFUL THIS PAINTING IS !
IT IS SAD THAT CEZANNE IS IN THE HANDS OF PORNOGRAPHERS WHO PRETEND TO KNOW!  ART IS KILLED, A HOT DOG IS OFFERED —-NO ONE KNOWS !!!  POP ART,POST MODERNISM IS HOT DOG THAT ATE THE WORLD!!!!!!!!                              KNOX
—– Original Message —–
To: Knox
Sent: Monday, February 14, 2011 1:35 PM
Subject: Cezanne
ART REVIEW

Workers at Rest: Smoking and Playing Cards

By KAREN ROSENBERG
Published: February 10, 2011
Cézanne’s Card Players,” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, sounds like a show for our high-stakes moment. But the real appeal of this mini-blockbuster is its modest vision of a rural pastime, rendered with infinite patience. The big players who dominate the art world today would have a hard time identifying with Cézanne’s peasants and laborers: men quietly passing the time, happy enough with the hand that life has dealt them.
Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London
Metropolitan Museum of Art “Cézanne’s Card Players” features the artist’s family gardener and a farm worker.

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With his series of “Card Players,” Cézanne reclaimed — and transformed — an activity from 17th-century genre painting. He dispensed with the sermonizing implicit in most earlier images of card playing, replacing sloppy-drunk gamblers with sober, stone-faced tradesmen. Yet he stopped short of portraiture, keeping his subjects — who were also his employees — at a socially appropriate distance.

“Today everything is changing, but not for me,” Cézanne said. “I live in my hometown, and I rediscover the past in the faces of people my age.” He found at least two such faces close at hand, on his family’s estate outside Aix-en-Provence: those of the gardener Paulin Paulet and the farm worker Père Alexandre.

At the Met these rugged characters appear again and again in the paintings and in numerous individual figure studies. Yet we never really get to know them; they remain “types,” as defined by their leisure activities —card playing, smoking — as they are by their métiers, their work.

In that sense the “Card Players,” which all date from the 1890s, romanticize agrarian Provençal culture and reaffirm centuries-old French social hierarchies. They’re the product of an isolated man in his 50s, living and working on his family estate hundreds of miles away from an uproarious Paris. But it’s impossible to ignore the paintings’ overtures to Modernism: their patchy surfaces, compressed spaces and figurative liberties, which have moved Léger and Jeff Wall, among others, to pay tribute.

“Cézanne’s Card Players” was organized by the Met in conjunction with the Courtauld Gallery in London, where it appeared last fall. The Met’s version of the show has fewer major works, even without accounting for the absence of “The Smoker,” from theHermitage in St. Petersburg; a recent legal dispute has prevented that painting from traveling to the United States. Two important versions of the “Card Players”— the Barnes Foundation’s large one, which never travels, and a smaller canvas from a private collection — are here only in reproduction. But the Met’s incomplete deck is still deeply engrossing.

The Met curator Gary Tinterow has fleshed out the show with a small gallery of works from the museum’s collection that typify the card-playing and smoking genres. These include 17th-century Dutch and Flemish etchings of jolly taverngoers, politically incisive 19th-century cartoons by Daumier, and Manet’s print of a philosophical-looking smoker.

The players in most of these works are prone to greed, lust or acts of violence — sometimes all three. An etching after Caravaggio’s “Cardsharps” carries an inscription from Horace: “That game indeed gives rise to restless strife and anger.”

Cézanne had clearly studied images like this one; he called his “Card Players” “souvenirs of the museums.” But he managed to separate the motif from its attendant morality.

Wine? In Cézanne’s paintings there’s sometimes a bottle on the table, but no glasses. Women? Not a one. And gambling? We don’t see any money changing hands. Nor do we have any sense of who’s winning or losing.

Much wall text is devoted to the curatorial parlor game of sequencing the paintings in the series; new research indicates that Cézanne worked on the four- and five-figure groupings first, then moved on to the two-player compositions.

More intriguing, to the nonexpert, is Cézanne’s way of shuffling the cards: making individual studies and then assembling them on canvas, in various permutations. This explains the curious lack of interaction between the players — “a kind of collective solitaire,” in the words of the critic Meyer Schapiro.

The alienation is most pronounced in the Barnes painting, but it’s apparent enough in the Met’s version. The table seems hardly big enough to accommodate the three broad-shouldered men, yet each is absorbed in his hand. A fourth, standing, waits his turn.

The mood is more intense, and the dynamic a bit less stable, in the two-player groupings on the opposite wall. (One hails from the Musée d’Orsay, the other from the Courtauld.) The peasants, seated on opposite sides of a table, mirror each other’s gestures; a wine bottle divides the scene neatly in half. But the scene, though exquisitely balanced, isn’t symmetrical; the table is slightly askew, and you can tell from the men’s shoulders — one pair thin and rounded, the other broad and square — that they would not be well matched in a fight.

The angular physique belongs to the gardener, Paulet, recognizable from several studies. The other man, with the pipe and the more Gallic profile, also appears on paper but hasn’t been conclusively identified. Both, along with Père Alexandre, return in a final and phenomenal gallery of single-figure paintings.

Here smoking, not card playing, is the main activity. You can almost smell the tobacco in “Man With a Pipe,” with its proto-Giacometti, nicotine-stained palette, and “The Smoker” (from the Kunsthalle Mannheim, the only one of three “Smokers” to have made the trip). Looking at the able-bodied yet vacant-eyed figure of Paulet, in the riveting “Smoker,” you sense that Cézanne needed his subjects to be as absorbed in their leisure as he was in his work.

It’s strange, then, that the young peasant in another standout painting — from a private collection — isn’t smoking or playing cards or doing anything at all. His eyes are downcast but expressive, shaded with anxiety or exhaustion. Here Cézanne comes close to portraiture. Otherwise, he is a master of the poker face.

“Cézanne’s Card Players” continues through May 8 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; (212) 535-7710, metmuseum.org.

A version of this review appeared in print on February 11, 2011, on page C28 of the New York edition.


THE ALPHA SEER

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