Nov 19, 2010

ROBERT MOSKOWITZ, artist, Hard Ball III, 1993

I went to the Detroit Insitute of Arts yesterday, always a pleasant place for lunch and a stroll. But for the third time, one painting, more or less life-sized, has seized me and won't let go.

Is it just me, or is Robert Moskowitz's "Hard Ball III" especially weird and oddly effective? It seems simple, but I don't think it is.

I'm a baseball fan--lukewarm, but a fan. Also, I can fake enough understanding of art to mention Moskowitz's play with depth perception, the smudged background strokes, the hyper drama of this perspective (might it be considered a cheap shot or gimmick?), and I notice that the pitcher might not be in a baseball uniform, which is strange. I can allude dumbly to the impact of red on my cones and rods, or the sentimental and sensory associations of a baseball and childhood--the hundreds of idle tossings of a ball into an oiled leather mitt, never mind the actual playing with buddies or tossing with The Dad or The Son and Daughter and students.

But none of that is adequate to explain why no other work at the D.I.A. (or any museum?), not even the nekkid women, makes my head whirl on its axis the way this one has.

Am I trying to duck from the pitch? If so, how did Moskowitz achieve that much realism in a painting that's so hyper-realistic it transcends realism?

I just learned that Moskowitz, now 75, is a respected though under-recognized hybrid between minimalism and abstract expressionism, and "Hard Ball III" makes sense in that context as well.

Yes, that's all fine and good, but none of it explains the impact this picture has for me. Can anybody help? Some regulars here know their art. Is this picture any good? Is it unusually inventive? Is it outside the box, the way its ball almost is? Does it illustrate the mind and talent of a quasi-obscure genius? Is it a psychological, neurological sneak-attack?

Or does it all amount to just a quirky connection between my brain and those shapes? If so, is that what all artists, poets, musicians, and clog-dancers are after, just some quirky connection, which just might bowl over or decapitate some innocent stroller?

I suppose I shouldn't have to ask. Emily Dickinson said, famously, "If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. . . . Is there any other way?"

**

20 comments:

altadenahiker said...

Of course, I'm not the one to ask, which doesn't explain why I leave the first comment.

But while this picture doesn't connect to me, it does remind me of when, playing tennis, and not just a casual game (which I can't do anyway), but for something that means something, and it's a good day, the ball is as big as the moon, and you can't give it a bum strike, even if you tried.

You slap it down the line and it's untouchable. My favorite moment is the hit -- the connection. I don't even have to see where it goes, because I know. Maybe this artist's favorite moment is the moment before the hit -- knowing.

BANJO52 said...

Nice description! And you ARE one to ask. That ought to get responses going. Thanks, AH.

Brenda's Arizona said...

Different streaks for different freaks.
(That is what we'd say in high school when our friends liked something different than the crowd.)
I did wonder if you ducked looking at the ball coming to you. And did you find Hard Ball I or Hard Ball II?

Looked up DIA and wandered through their exhibits (online). I can understand your comment about the "quirky connection" - it does seem DIA has a lot to offer for connection points ("At the Front" connected to me).
Banjomyn, this is a nice day at the museum for us readers!

AH, Freud would have a field day with you!

Pasadena Adjacent said...

Not so easy when the shoes on the other foot eh? Now you understand why my comments are so long.

Moskowitz appears to be one of those artist that plays in the cracks between movements. And inventive in those cracks. Japer Johns comes to mind. Your photos are problematic so I went on flickr and discovered a less cropped image. Edges are important to Moskowitz. This is a quirky painting. The play between flat and dimension is interesting in the ball (think Alex Katz). The tension pushed on the edges of the canvas (the lower foot cut off at the toe/ the ball with just a slight bit of ground behind it). Black/gray/red/white if you want a strong graphic combo, you use that palate (soviet era constructivism)...and he's playing with narrative; maybe even conceptualism as language (action painting/baseball/Duchamp) maybe not

Andy Warhol started out that way too but Ivan Karp (big shot NY dealer) said nix the splattered paint and concentrate on the soup can; Pop Art. Think about it. Would we know Warhol if he didn't? Abstract expressionism was very macho; poor Lee Krasner and other pre feminist (Andy wouldn't have made it past the gate). Probably would have been relegated to a tenth generation "ab" man.

So heres a treat. This is the brilliant curator/educator/athlete Kirk Varnedoe on Charlie Rose. I had the good fortune to see him lecture on an exhibition connected to MOCA LA. I wasn't aware that he was fighting off cancer. He was dead within a years time. Sad.

Please watch; I think you'll get a lot out of this lecture. Rose did several interviews with him.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

Not so easy when the shoes on the other foot eh? Now you understand why my comments are so long.

Moskowitz appears to be one of those artist that plays in the cracks between movements. And inventive in those cracks. Japer Johns comes to mind. Your photos are problematic so I went on flickr and discovered a less cropped image. Edges are important to Moskowitz. This is a quirky painting. The play between flat and dimension is interesting in the ball (think Alex Katz). The tension pushed on the edges of the canvas (the lower foot cut off at the toe/ the ball with just a slight bit of ground behind it). Black/gray/red/white if you want a strong graphic combo, you use that palate (soviet era constructivism)...and he's playing with narrative; maybe even conceptualism as language (action painting/baseball/Duchamp) maybe not

http://www.flickr.com/photos/8563910@N08/4314454238/

Andy Warhol started out that way too but Ivan Karp (big shot NY dealer) said nix the splattered paint and concentrate on the soup can; Pop Art. Think about it. Would we know Warhol if he didn't? Abstract expressionism was very macho; poor Lee Krasner and other pre feminist (Andy wouldn't have made it past the gate). Probably would have been relegated to a tenth generation "ab" man.

So heres a treat. This is the brilliant curator/educator/athlete on Charlie Rose. I had the good fortune to see him lecture on an exhibition connected to MOCA LA. I wasn't aware that he was fighting off cancer. He was dead within a years time. Sad.

Please watch; I think you'll get a lot out of this lecture. Rose did several interviews with him.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-9175994205278892248#

(I would have linked but blogger is being a pill)

Pasadena Adjacent said...

Not so easy when the shoes on the other foot eh? Now you understand why my comments are so long.

Moskowitz appears to be one of those artist that plays in the cracks between movements. And inventive in those cracks. Japer Johns comes to mind. Your photos are problematic so I went on flickr and discovered a less cropped image. Edges are important to Moskowitz. This is a quirky painting. The play between flat and dimension is interesting in the ball (think Alex Katz). The tension pushed on the edges of the canvas (the lower foot cut off at the toe/ the ball with just a slight bit of ground behind it). Black/gray/red/white if you want a strong graphic combo, you use that palate (soviet era constructivism)...and he's playing with narrative; maybe even conceptualism as language (action painting/baseball/Duchamp) maybe not

(Blogger is giving me grief so my comment is in two parts)

Pasadena Adjacent said...

part 2

Andy Warhol started out that way too but Ivan Karp (big shot NY dealer) said nix the splattered paint and concentrate on the soup can; Pop Art. Think about it. Would we know Warhol if he didn't? Abstract expressionism was very macho; poor Lee Krasner and other pre feminist (Andy wouldn't have made it past the gate). Probably would have been relegated to a tenth generation "ab" man.

So heres a treat. This is the brilliant curator/educator/athlete Kirk Varnadoe on Charlie Rose. I had the good fortune to see him lecture on an exhibition connected to MOCA LA. I wasn't aware that he was fighting off cancer. He was dead within a years time. Sad.

Please watch; I think you'll get a lot out of this lecture. Rose did several interviews with him.

BANJO52 said...

AH, I esp. like your last sentence, and I think it has potential for arenas other than sport. I've read that Keats liked the "Potential Image"--e.g., the lovers on the urn, ABOUT to kiss, not kissing. For him, that didn't reek of transience and mortality the way climactic action did.

Brenda, I haven't found out about the other Hard Balls. I don’t know why he called this one Three, but I haven’t done any real research either. I’ll try to join you at DIA website. Is “On the Front” a Civil War painting? If so, I think I remember it.

Glad you got something out of this. I took about 8,000 pics, so maybe I’ll do this a few times, scattered. I’ve always wondered if people get tired of poems, and it’s easier to be quick (if not deep) when it’s pictures.

PA, the shoe sure is on the other foot. Thanks for your knowledgeable input. I want to look up constructivism and conceptualism—never heard the terms before. Would you like to comment on them? I haven’t gotten to the Rose interview yet, but I will. Also, I like the lingo, “play between flat and dimension.” I think I get it, but I didn’t have the language. And I’d never have considered red, gray, black, white as a particular palate. So much to learn . . .

BANJO52 said...

Brenda and PA, just checked. Yes, I remember "At the Friend" and like it.
PA, I see what you mean about the edges at Flicker's version. Do you think Moskowitz is going for the illusion of action bursting out of the frame?

Jean Spitzer said...

I think you're right about not having to ask.

There are certainly more things that you can see and appreciate with some education or a knowledgeable tour guide, but no amount of that can replace the visceral reaction.

Jean Spitzer said...

A question. Have you thought about turning off the approval for comments? It would make conversation more conversational.

BANJO52 said...

Jean, thanks. I didn't know I had it on. I'll look into it. What is it supposed to accomplish, by the way?

Pierre said...

I'm not an intellectual observer of art. If it grabs me on an emotional level and gives a good feel from colors, textures and or subject, I will probably like it.
"Hard Ball" could be a magazine advertismemt. It leaves me flat. Put "Joe's Sports Bar" on the ball and it would do for a tavern sign.
I think it's effective for that.

My 2 cents.

Thanks for stopping by and your kind words.

Susan Campisi said...

I like the way the ball pops out at you. Maybe it's gimmicky but I think it has energy.

It's odd how the guy throwing the ball looks so sinister, like a thief or some other criminal or subversive character. Do you think the artist is making some social commentary? Maybe the guy is throwing the ball through a house window; maybe the only way out of the ghetto is through the fantasy of baseball.

Disclaimer: I don't know anything about art. I'm just rambling.

Brenda's Arizona said...

PA - now I remember why I liked Charlie Rose's interviews (except for the constant interrupting). And the Flickr photo is a good perspective. OUCH, I want to say!

BANJO52 said...

Pierre and Susan, welcome back. I think you two need to engage in a lengthy, animated dialogue. I wait with bated (baited?) breath.

And Susan, I'd hardly call that a ramble, esp. after what I posted, knowing little or nothing about art. "Energy" seems a good word, by the way. And "social commentary"--I see your point. I definitely think it's about more than baseball; whether I hear it being as political as "social commentary," I'm not sure.

I kind of wish I knew enough to say that our views are either full of pumpkins or they actually say something worthwhile, if not in the right lingo for saying it. I've heard that kind of comment a lot from students; as PA says, now the shoe's on the other foot.

BANJO52 said...

Pierre, fascinating to consider the painting as a tavern sign. I do see why you respond this way; I got a lot of that from students when we talked about Raymond Carver's stories or poems. For a mode that's more realistic than abstract, I'd guess minimalism always risks that "so what?" response from an audience, and one site did say Moskowitz had one foot into minimalism. In liking the piece, Susan and I are in the minority here, it seems.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

I like Hard Ball ; )

Pierre said...

Minimalism for me is all head and no heart. It obviously appeals to deep thinkers and those who create it must be. I have a hard time understanding it. I guess I'm not smart enough.

BANJO52 said...

Pierre, I'm pretty sure you're plenty smart. A lot of people feel that way about minimalism, and I see why--it takes big chances and is probably more hit or miss than other styles, even for those who like some of it. I've often heard the comment, "I like the impressionists." I've never heard, "I like the minimalists." Also, it's very different from your own work, which I think is very good.

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