The Grotesque in Art and Popular Culture
If you are to write an essay centered around an art theory course with the theme of "the grotesque" and focuses on the concept of the grotesque, you can have Paper Masters write on the artists and art theory that pertains to the grotesque.
Some students have noticed that it seems from the readings that one of the most emphasized criterions of the grotesque was when a subject or object contained parts of it that were organic and animal all at the same time. It could be described as - chimeric- as one source (Kayser's "the grotesque") points out.
Work with the idea that the outgrowth of a form is the grotesque.
2 examples could be the following:
- A vine growing out of a very clean and solid rock. The vegetation would be the grotesque.
- A person is seen smiling, and then suddenly makes a distinct grimace, the folding and twisting of the skin of the face here would be the outgrowth.
It seems that the premise is 2 things- the outgrowth of an abnormality from a pure form, and any subversiveness from a mainstream notion or ideal.
The 3 art pieces which I will use as primary sources are a building of Antoni Gaudis- the growth in this image is relatively obvious, the deviations of Gaudis style for which he is known. (I will attach the photo, easily found on the net as well) and a proof sheet by photographer Diane Arbus, which contains the image of a boy in a park. One of the images is the subversive, out of the ordinary picture, and it is this one that is the famous image, the rest of the pictures on the proof sheet are seemingly normal shots of the boy, therefore, the odd one out, the grimace, is the growth.
The secondary sources are the following books:
The Grotesque in Art and Literature by Wolfgang Kayser,
The Sense of Order: A Study in the Psychology of Decorative Art (The Wrightsman Lectures, V. 9) (Paperback)by E.H. Gombrich
Adolf Loos- Ornament and Crime
Ornament: A Modern Perspective (Samuel and Althea Stroum Book) (Hardcover)by James Trilling
Becks-Malorny, Dr. Ulrike / punlisher: taschen
and any other additional sources that seem fitting.
Here is some writing done for this assignment so far:
The following reflections center around artists and individual pieces who have helped shape the realization a consciousness towards and have expanded my awareness for a certain strain of the notion of growth. Grotesque, a specific concept that embodies a large and divurse spectrum of visual art but is limited in its exact definition of what constitutes its existence. All of the ensuing works present aspects that illustrate an augmentation of a pure form, that is, they contain subject matter that is anomalous to what is considered a normal state of existence of the given subject. All of the images initially appear as out of the ordinary, possibly even freakish in that they obviously lie outside any perceptions of normal aspects of their existence, yet upon a more scrutinized look, remain in a standard setting which would be part of our standard association with typical and conventional forms of our understanding of reality and the everyday.
All of these images are unsettling in one form or another, in that the natural and customary form and character of the subject matter has been erratically deviated from its usual or accepted standard of appearance. This feature catches us off guard and disturbs us, in the same way any alteration of ones usual expectations does. An unexpected downpour of rain, the unpredictability of the stock market, even such a mundane situation as a friend showing up at your door unexcpectadly, all cause us fear and anxiety in that they twist our usual expectations of the established convention of the flow of life.
Equally important are the intricate details of what embodies such unassumed forms. Bastard forms on a pure surface. It is this feeling, a certain ambivalant sense of push as well as pull. At times disturbing, yet simultaneously comforting. It is anxiety and serenity, like a sickness working its toils within the confines of a sterile hospital, for it must be that much worse and retched to succomb to illness withing a palace of cleanliness.
Let me attempt to make sense a little more of this most concrete of abstract fluidities. What I speak of is architecture, an architecture of all sorts. The traditional sense, and the architecture of emotions, of mental states and memory, of forms both real and psychological.
What I speak of is a concept that exists within all realms, but for the purpose of this essay will focus in on two specific examples to act as a starting point for a broader discussion, A building of the Spanish Architect Gaudi, and the contact sheet of American photographer Diane Arbus.
Some time ago, I found myself in a hotel room that was at once bare yet somehow suffocating, it had a strange feeling and I wonder what it was, I looked around, and the room looked plain and usual enough: A bed with striped linen of a rough and coarse fabric, stretched so tight across the beds frame so as to look more like a painted table then a bed. Tattered, yet useful drapes, and brown lacquered empty drawers constructed this efficency box, just enough comfort to look like a room, while its walls undecorated enough to let the mind think for a bit that it is clean and quaint, rather than soiled silently and poor. But this was not enough to give a room that I already expected to be uncomfortable a retched tinge. But in fact, it was an odd piece of plastic dangling from the exhausted rotations and shakes of the 1970’s ceiling fan. At first it looked like fly paper, on closer inspection I realized that it had been tied to the delicate chain that turns the fan on upon its pull, presumambly installed by a very short person, whom after climbing on the bed could still not relieve himself of the summer heat, and had someone tie an extension on to the fans pull chain out of a plastic bag which was being used as the liner for the small waste basket. But this seemed too simplistic, and, the ambiguities of the piece of plastic seemed too noticeable to allow it to be realized so logical an appendage, it seemed to have a purpose all its own, as if to lend a functionable decoration to a clean room already seemingly constructed of gargabe and debris. We are left with an object of satirical ambivalance, at once an object of usefulness, it is aswell a piece of garbage . Regardless of the fact that it must either serve a purpose and negate the decorative construction of the hotel room, or serve asthetically as an ornament of decoration and not have anything to do with pragmatics, The only thing clear to the observer of this object, is that it is not part of the original, unadulterated state of the hotel rooms arrangement, it is infact, an augmentation of it.
There must be a clear thesis!