Fine Art Criticism: John Whitney’s Catalogue (1961)

John Whitney was an American Animator during the mid-1900s. He created many animations and visual effects throughout his life.  His animations were created using a mechanism from a World War II M-5 Antiaircraft Gun Director.  His piece, Catalogue was a collection of all of the visual effects that he had created up to that point.

Catalogue consists of many forms that interchange into each other.  The shapes move in a way that is pleasing to the eye.  There is constant movement throughout the piece that conveys a soothing feeling for the viewer.  Each element seems to change into another element.  This pattern goes on throughout the piece and keeps the viewer wanting more.  The colors are another aesthetically pleasing part of the artwork.  They compliment the interesting shapes.  The colors he uses vary throughout the piece.  The majority of them are brighter, more neon colors, which causes the shapes to pop out of the dark backgrounds.  They also fade and transform into other colors.  This helps sell the soothing movement of the shapes.

Whitney’s work is amazing when you think of the time period that he created it in.  This stood out to me because Catalogue was finished in 1961 on analog equipment.  His work paved the way for the computer animation that is done in today’s digital age.  His work illustrates that something inventive and eye-catching could be done using low technical equipment.  It proves that the equipment isn’t what makes a good artist. It is the artist them self that makes the work beautiful and worth looking at.  This piece stood out to me because Whitney created the device that he used to create his real piece of artwork.  Not only is the finished product a piece of artwork, but the machine he created it on is one as well.


Gaze Theories: Cindy Sherman’s Doll Clothes (1975)

In Cindy Sherman’s 1975 short, Doll Clothes, she takes a humorous and imaginative approach as she shows what a doll must go through to find clothes.   The scene resembles a child’s play book of a doll and doll clothes.  The doll is on the left side in a plastic pouch, while the clothes are on the right in their own plastic pouches.  The doll wakes up when the book is open and is frantic to find out that she is not wearing any clothes.  She comes out of her pouch, crosses to the other side of the book, and begins to try to find something to wear.    Even with her discomfort, she still takes the time to try to find the right outfit that will make her look the best.

What Sherman is cleverly doing in this short film is illustrating the idea that we are said to encounter when we go to the cinema.  This idea is the idea that we are watching, or “gazing” at something that we shouldn’t be gazing at.  The viewer is put into a male gaze.  The doll in the scene doesn’t know that we are watching her, but the camera fixates on her.  The doll hasn’t given her consent to the viewer, making the audience voyeurs as she tries to find some clothes.  It gets even worse at the end as a spectator in the room undresses her again after she had reached her goal.  The culprit again puts her back in her plastic pouch as the viewer remains watching.

The piece has a bit of comedy as the doll tries to accomplish her goal.  The doll not being real gives the piece a speck of unreality with is much needed.  The viewer can’t relate because the doll is not a three dimensional being.  This adds to the humor and lets the piece become a form of entertainment.

Film Criticism: Samuel Beckett’s Play

Samuel Beckett’s “Play” is a one act play that centers on a love triangle.  The three main characters each narrate their account of the events that have taken place.  In the film version, the characters are incased in giant urns.  They are immobile and surrounded by other people in the exact situation.  The camera pans to each character as they are talking.  This replaces the spotlight that was in the original play and it serves to bring attention to the character who is speaking.

What stood out most was how fast the actors were reciting their lines.  There was a lot that the viewer might not be able to comprehend, but it gave a rhythm to the piece.  It was almost like a monotone song that these characters were singing.  A song of their despair and their torture at being kept in those urns for eternity.  They aren’t free to move about, not even to

lift a hand.  They are confined in those urns to reflect on their thoughts and their past.  As an artistic piece of work, it did its job.  The visuals brought the viewer into the world that these characters were living in.  The whole set was mysterious and disturbing as many other urns surrounded the three main characters.  Like all great works of art the film was very unusual.  It is not something someone sees often. 

As a film, I just didn’t get it.  Maybe it was the fast language, or the lack of expression on the actor’s faces that brought me out of the story.  I need to understand the story and connect with it to really “get it.”    The story was hard to connect with, not just the fast speech, but the story itself.  The piece seemed more like a piece of artwork than a film.