Hey, eyes up here people. Keep your mind out of the gutter. This past Wednesday the wifey and I went to the Cleveland Museum of Art once again. It has become a ritual. It is part of CMA’s wonderful series of lectures called—well I wrote it down but can’t find it—so we’re gonna just use the title: “CMA gets all curatory and stuff.” The lectures are done by the curators and afterwards you can chat with them by the actual exhibits. That is pretty cool in my book.
This week’s lecture was “She’s just Jenny from the block”*
Actually it was on The Color Woodcuts of Mabel Hewit and the craft of woodcuts and print making in general. Hewit was a little known Cleveland artist. The lecture was given by the Curator of Prints Jane Glaubinger, or as she’s known to her friends Janey from the block. (I can’t actually prove they call her that) You still with me Charlie Brown? Ah ha! You see what I did there? You know because Lucy would call him block head?*
Anyway she (Hewit not Lucy) created exuberantly colored, modernist woodcuts depicting diverse subjects.
*As I tried to form this post Jennifer Lopez ‘Jenny from the Block’ and Charlie Brown ‘Blockhead’ jokes kept trying to pop up and I resisted. I resisted until Carissa told me I had to use them. So blame her for that bad joke and other bad jokes that happen in the future.
Anyplacingtheblame it was a very interesting lecture (just like the last one) and of course I took copious amounts of notes. I scribbled about 3 pages of notes. Not one of them was serious—but hey did you really expect anything else?
The first thing I think we must deal with was the fact that she didn’t look like anyone other than you know her own self. That was an actual word for word note in my notebook. It was the very first one actually. Along with “man she’s not giving me anything to work with here” which I suppose meant I could not make
witty jokes about some character she looks like.
I love you Jonasz! (see link to first lecture)
I did seriously find Hewit to be very interesting and in the end wish the lecture spent more time on her (That’s what she said!) The history and story of the prints and woodcuts was cool and Jane (I can call her Jane because you know I sat in a dark room with her) explored the story and all its turns. You will not get that here. Oh I can’t refuse you when you give me those eyes:
Woodblock printing is a technique for printing text, images or patterns used widely throughout East Asia and originating in China in antiquity as a method of printing on textiles and later paper. As a method of printing on cloth, the earliest surviving examples from China date to before 220, and from Egypt to the 4th century.
Ukiyo-e is the best known type of Japanese woodblock art print. Most European uses of the technique on paper are covered by the art term woodcut, except for the block-books produced mainly in the fifteenth century. I better stop there or you’ll want to learn shit every post. Go watch sesame street if you want that. I’d like to take this opportunity to address the horrible situation that occurred early in the lecture. You may recall the last lecture there was a leopard stool? Well he showed up a few minutes into her talk and was not happy. I think he was drunk. This happened:
Just in case it isn’t clear (we know it isn’t that is a horribly painful “drawing”):
There is the Leopard stool (bottom left)
Screen with prints (middle)
Janey from the block at podium (Right)
She is saying “very Japanese” when the Leopard stool busts in and drunkenly yells “Bitch better not be tryin’ ta take my spot!”
It was very sad and kind of scary. It also may or not have happened. Anylamedrawing after composing herself (and Leopardy was pulled out) she explained how Japanamania hit Europe. From what I gather this was a lot like Hulkamania. People discovered prints from Japan (often used to wrap things being sent) and you know went wild. They ripped their shirts off and said “brother” a lot. Some may or may not have said their prayers and taken their vitamins. It was crazy brother!
A whole bunch of artists wrote letters to other people waxing poetic about the Japanese style and begging them to come to where they were to see it. Some artists started to incorporate the style and actual pieces into their art.
Van Gogh wrote letters praising them and in one he claimed they amused him. Uh that seems kind of douche baggy but I dig Vinnie so I’ll let it slide. I can call him Vinnie cus I was in a dark room when someone mentioned him. So this “being amused” by it can lead us to four conclusions.
1. He’s very easily amused.
2. Drug addict.
3. Or you know a great artist
4. All of the above.
Chime in if you like. They began using the style. There were close-ups, flat shapes with no shadow incorporated into the art of the time. A lot of the Japanese prints used what were essentially prostitutes in their prints.
Some of the same style was used but then the women went from prostitutes to elegant French woman. Which can only mean one thing: all French women are prostitutes. The craze took shape and eventually hit America. This was similar to Beatlemania minus the British accents and delusions of grandeur.
Dude I mean even Whistler (he’s cool cus his name is James) got into it. He was all ripping his bright yellow shirt off and slamming Andre the Giant. Oh damn I think I just mixed my metaphors. Whatever brother! He dug it too and well she went into a little bit about his time with it.
I gathered from this portion that Whistler in modern times would be one of the celebrities who make those Proactiv acne treatment commercials. He’d be the one like Katy Perry. You know where they’d make him call himself a “free spirit” and then talk into his shoe like it was a phone to prove it.
Part of the popularity of these woodcuts and prints was that they were small.
AH HA! See ladies small is good!
Yes anysize moving along. The prints often depicted mundane activity from their culture that here wow’d the people. They were relatively cheap to make and many of the artists (In the US) did all the work themselves. Artist took care of the stamping, rubbing and printing in a press. Cus we Americans Get r done!
We ended the lecture with a very special moment:
Janey from the block: It’s very Japanese”
Conky the Robot: “That’s the secret word”
You see when showing us works inspired by the Japanese style she often noted “this is very Japanese” and I couldn’t resist the joke.
I do urge you to get down to CMA and see the Mabel Hewit collection if you can. It is some neat stuff. This is my favorite one (I got this from the CMA website—please don’t sue me!):
It is a color woodcut; 27.7 × 30.3 cm. Her title is Sun Bathing. In my notebook I have this note for it: “Boy look at that BOOTY”
Some notes that were made but didn’t make it into the post:
Make a Matthew Perry—Friends Joke.
Oh she said Commodore Perry. Yay Great Lakes Beer!
Keep picturing the ghost in the courtroom scene in Ghostbusters II
Damn you Jonasz!
People who bought this stuff: Sir Money Bottom, Miss Gold Filled Purse and Mister Bag O’Money.
Sort of like a VCR.
They used a harmonious blend of light and dark—like a black and white cookie.
Did she just defame Whistler?