Click on photos to enlarge.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Mati Klarwein

Artist and Model, 1059-60, Mati Klarewein (he must be nearsighted).                 
It's possible I'm getting to be a little jaded when it comes to looking at the painter's art. I mean, after all, when you are a painter, have taught painting and a lot of what there is to know about painting for as long as I have, not to mention writing about art, and particularly painting, daily now going on four years, I suppose that's to be expected. I go to major museums and look around. Even skipping over that art and those eras for which I have little or no interest, I probably average looking at any one painting no more than a few seconds. I inevitably come away suffering from art overdose. However (there's always the "however") once in a while the work of an artist hits me and, to use a trite expression, bowls me over. Sometimes it's on the walls of a museum but Internet art can have the same effect. Usually it's the work of a recent artist (recently alive or recently dead) which would explain my not being familiar with their work. That happened today as I was digging around for an artist to tell you about. His name is Mati Klarwein, and unless you're a Miles Davis fan, or some other brand of jazz (or psychedelic rock), you're probably never seen his work or even heard his name. Well, I'm here to tell you, you should do both--Mati Klarwein--remember that name.
Miles Davis, Bitches Brew,
Mati Klarwein
Greg Allman Laid Back,
Mati Klarwein

Visually, Klarwein's work, as they say, "knocks your eyes out," though I don't claim to understand a tenth of what I see on his canvases.  And it's not because he's an abstractionist, though there is that element in his work at times. No, I recognize most of what I see, I just don't identify with the relationshps and the juxtaposition of what I see...and there certainly is a LOT to see. I first noticed a number of African influences in his work, and since most of his album covers were for jazz artists or hard rockers I assumed him to be black. He was not. That will teach me not to stereotype. As is very often the case, a little personal background helps a lot, though it's not what I'd expected--more misplaced stereotyping.

Camouflage, 1985-87, Mati Klarwein
Still-life with Milk and Water, 1956, Mati Klarwein
Matias Klarwein was German, born in Hamburg in 1932. His mother was an opera singer, his father a Bauhaus architect. They're also Jewish--smart Jews with sense enough to get out of Germany while it was still possible, heading for the British mandate of Palestine with their two-year-old son in 1934. In 1948, when Israel became a nation, the family moved to Paris where their then sixteen-year-old son could study art at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and the Academie Julian. There he studied under Fernand Leger. Even though he was Jewish, Klarwein was sympathetic with the plight of the Palestinians back in his homeland. He even went to far as to give himself an Arab first name--Abdul. Following art school, he and a female companion traveled around the world, assimilating the art and culture wherever they went (which would explain my difficulty in stereotyping the artist by what I saw in his work).

The Schulte Family, 1989, Mati Klarwein--a surreal family outing to...I give up.
John F. Kennedy, 1964, Mati Klarwein.
Eventually, Klarwein settled in New York where he rubbed shoulders with recording artists such as Jimmy Hendrix and his "spiritual father," Salvador Dali. Though Klarwein wasn't exclusively a surrealist, the Dali influence is unmistakable in virtually all his work. Basically, Klarwein's paintings can be broken down into four categories--visionary, landscapes, portraits, and still-lifes. He combined the last two in his Artist and Model (top) from 1959-60. His still-lifes are straight forward, often nearly tromp l'oel (above, left) while his portraits range from funky to photographic. His landscapes tend toward the surreal. But it's his "visionary" work that seems most astounding and the most resistant even to analysis, much less understanding. One of his first such works, Flight to Egypt (below), from 1959-61 is nearly overwhelming--Dali on a rampage having overdoses on steroids.

Flight to Egypt, 1959-60, Mati Klarwein
Although probably best known for his album covers starting in the psychedelic 1970s, Klarwein also did a cover for Time magazine. In later years, the artist turned his attention more and more to landscapes and portraits, rendering images of such notables as Robert Graves, Noël Coward, Juliette Binoche, Richard Gere, Michael Douglas and Brigitte Bardot. He divided his time between homes in New York and Majorica where he died of cancer in 2002.

Topographical Error, 1983, Mati Klarwein. Love the title.


No comments:

Post a Comment