Monday, May 23, 2011

Born to Endless Night

Born to Endless Night
Paintings, Drawings, and Prints by William Blake Selected by John Frame
March 12, 2011-June 20, 2011
Works on Paper Room, Huntington Art Gallery

Huntington library boasts a large collection of William Blake's etchings and prints, a sample of which are on display in a new exhibit.These prints and drawings were put together by contemporary artist, John Frame. These selected works include illustrations of the Book of Job. These powerful etchings show a mastery of detail and ability to convey the power of God and the power of the human spirit in the face of tragedy. John Frame is greatly inspired by Blake's portrayal of the Human condition and quest to explain our frailty. It is this essence of Blake that John Frame explores.
The new Blake exhibit runs concurrent with an exhibit of Frames work. It is intriguing to experience an artist body of work displayed along side the artist which inspired him.

The door opens up and you are immediately engulfed in the world of Frame. It takes a moment to acclimate to the surroundings as the lights have been dimmed and the “stage” is lit. His pieces are odd puppet like creatures, meticulously crafted by the artist and his wife. The fine details of every object suggest his thought in the attention he has given to the carefully chosen objects. All his pieces hold an old world appeal as if handed down through the generations.

The meticulous nature of William Blake's work is mirrored in the work of John Frame.
The puppet creatures of his dioramas have perfect working parts down to the smallest 1 cm movable fingers. The eyes are made to portray realism. There is a sense that at any moment the tiny creatures would move when not on view.

Frame's work is a visual as well as sensory experience, the dimly lit room with the lighted figurines help to create this mood. It is as if you wander from sequence to sequence, in a dream like state, focusing and refocusing your vision.
The main “stage” displays an array of figures and tiny scenes taken from Frame’s own dream, in which he crafted the figures and world in which the creatures exist.
There is a definite foreground, middle ground, and background. The stage is mechanical, filled with clock works and metal trinkets and doll heads all specifically lit or unlit.
The works of William Blake hand chosen by John Frame, on view are a mere demonstration of the talents Blake possesses, as seen in his series of the Book of Job.
Frame writes, “He [William Blake] grappled always with the basic questions of human life. “Prayer is the study of art. Praise is the practice of art,” he said [Blake], and, pursuing this dictum, he fashioned a world that was wholly his own and yet reached beyond himself toward God.

The small engravings describe the scenes of Job’s life. It is in these scenes that the questions of man and his belief in the higher power of God as faced through tragedy are portrayed. The engravings contain text of bible which aids in the contemplation of the scene. The scenes are small yet captivating and draw you in towards your own contemplation. The engravings of the Book Of Job use only line quality to illustrate the scene. His use of line and tonal values are a clear distinction of an understanding of the engraving.

The Upright Man is Laughed to Scorn - Illustration 10 to the Book of Job Engravings

Then a Spirit Passed Before My Face the Hair on My Face Stood Up - 1825 llustration 9 to the Book of Job Engraving

Equally compelling were the small engravings of "Song of Innocence" and "The Sick Rose". These two plates were displayed side by side. They seemed to carry an air of innocence yet loaded with all the essence of the human soul. These works were illustrations that Blake and his wife hand colored for editions of books that he had written.

The Sick Rose
By William Blake 1757–1827

O Rose, thou art sick!
The invisible worm
That flies in the night,
In the howling storm,

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

T. Dana

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