Sunday, January 04, 2009

Revisiting The Annunciation of Joseph

Otherwise known as "Hey Joe..."

It's been so long since I've talked about this painting that I'm not really sure where to start. Adding to the general confusion is the fact that, really, the whole thing is a disaster.

The only part I do like is the right side of the canvas with the yellow layer put down. Certainly the yellow comes at you like that kid on the Ravens: Ray Lewis. I mean, it's a jolt.

I'm going to step out of real-time and go back into the archives to see if I can find an actual example of what it used to look like. Remain calm. Talk among yourselves. If it's too much, drink a glass of water slowly.

Shit. I can't find an earlier photo of this painting. I did, however, find this:

Which, really, explains it all.

51 weeks ago I posted an entry titled "My man Gussie", which, in addition to all the requisite jokes about Gussie Fink-Nottle, spent a lot of time talking about the relationship between Hey Joe and the above--Klimt's famous "The Kiss." At least that's what I think it's called.

Also worth noting is this, culled from Moma's vast vault of Klimts:

I"m just throwing it in for you completists. It's a beauty, though, isn't it?

Before I started throwing paint on it a couple of days ago, "Hey Joe..." wasted (I'm thinking) a lot of energy on its lower half, defining his chest, his arm, the drape of his garment, the body of Gabriel (I'm assuming it's Gabriel. He was the one who visited Mary, so why not kill two birds with one stone?), etc. The net net was a lot of visual clutter.

This is what he looks like, presumably.

The Archangel Gabriel, that is. This is a 12th Century painting of the guy on a plank of wood. You can see it if you find yourself in Moscow.

Anyway, let's not get mired in too much detail. The point of the story is to suggest that the bottom half of the painting is still the place where all the problems lie. And maybe the answer is to make it more like the first Klimt. That is to say, just make everything other than the two faces and the Angel's hands completely abstract.

The whole idea of Klimt's coolest stuff is the notion that these realistic bits of body keep popping out of what otherwise might just seem like weirdly decorated abstract panels.

The long and the short of it? The next time you see "Hey Joe," everything below the Angel's forearm is going to look pretty much like what's happening at the top of the Angel's head. Except darker, to generate a sense of upward motion.

And then we'll be okay. Whew--who knew these religious paintings would be so tough? I'm never gonna get to the Vatican.

Huge relief, by the way.


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