Friday, April 08, 2011

An ODE to CONTRAST (verse 1)

Peripheral vision may be our greatest weapon against ignorance.  Your eyes don't need to stray more than an inch before they might bump into a view of reality that is startlingly different from your own:

Matter and antimatter coexist side by side in this catalog of classes from the Learning Annex
Of course, we can't always rely on our peripheral vision.  Sometimes we have to seek out contrasting views.   For example, if you were a young woman with artistic talent in the 1950s, you might find these types of ads quite persuasive:
Just look at my art director!

However, if you took the extra effort to check out what was going on in magazines for young men, you might discover that the same art schools were wooing your male counterparts with a very different set of promises:

Do you like Art?

This may explain why some people argue that the best way to avoid unhappiness is to wear blinders.  If you try to reconcile two conflicting extremes you'll only end up confused and frustrated.

But for me, I'd say that in art-- as in life-- contrast is one of your very best friends.  Elements of a picture, when set in opposition to each other, can heighten the effect of the whole.  The task of balancing opposing elements forces us to develop more complex and sensitive vocabularies, and to be alert for subtler shades of meaning.  With these enhanced vocabularies we can flesh out a more profound range of thoughts and feelings.  Contrast is the place where the enriching force is born.

By merely selecting locations between the top and the bottom of the musical scale, Beethoven composed great symphonies. By selecting places between the top and bottom of the value scale, artists compose great pictures. The aesthetic character of a line, for example, is determined by an artist's selections on the continuum between rough and smooth, or between delicate and bold.

This week will be my ode to contrast.  Each day I'll post a different example of contrast in picture making.  Let's see if we can have some fun.


अर्जुन said...

Ode to contrasts and their union.

larry said...

This week we learned that Mississippians like things homogeneous, but I agree, life, love, music and art are improved when contrast is introduced. Sounds like a fun week. Vive la contrast!

Stephen Worth said...

As they used to say on Laugh-In, Show me your ying and I'll show you my yang.

MORAN said...

I want to see a fight to the death between the dude who teaches how to have one night stands and the chick who teaches how to get married for life. Guns or knives.

David Apatoff said...

अर्जुन-- I am going to stop writing "how the heck did you come up with that" every time you comment with one of these videos from outer space, but you should just assume that I'm still thinking it. I was not familiar with Mia Doi Todd but I really like her song and her lyrics are pretty cool.

Larry-- Thanks for writing, I hope it will be a fun week if my day job cooperates.

David Apatoff said...

Stephen-- have you ever tried going back and watching those old Laugh In shows? They had their "moment" when they were leading the humor revolution, but viewing them in the 21st century you wonder what was so funny.

MORAN-- I won't wager on the outcome of that fight. I did find it funny that they put two such incompatible fantasies side by side in the Learning Annex catalog. You'd think readers would catch on that both dreams can't possibly be correct.

Anonymous said...

This proves men all go to art school for the same reason.