JF Ptak Science Books Post 2146
What happened to art in the period before Impressionism that was made by people who needed glasses and didn't or couldn't wear them? The answer is obvious because, I think, nothing quite like that exists in galleries or public collections: people who painted but had poor vision were probably/simply told that they couldn't paint. If a far-sighted person without corrective specs attempted to paint a sunset over a forest, and painted it exactly as they saw it, and were doing this in 1787, there work undoubtedly would have been rejected as utterly failing in realism. On the other hand, the result of their work may have been beautiful collections of forms and colors capturing the essence of the forest and the sunset, but they would have been 50 years shy of the JMW Turner time, and 70 years or whatever shy of the Impressionists.
A person with poor or disturbed vision who tried to paint during this time would have been roundly scooted out of the palace of correct painting, though they could have been inspirations to generations of Barnett Newmans and Jasper Johns and Clyfford Stills and Wassily Kandinskys.
All this said, does something like Edvard Munch's The Voice (1893) start to look a little "different" if you imagine a far-sighted artist at work without their glasses?
Or a vision-impaired person producing Les Alpilles (1890) instead of a visionary Van Gogh?
Or a macular degenerating issue producing a painting like Georgia Okeefe's Light Coming on the Plains III (1917)?
Or a half-blind artist painting Matisse's The Open Window, Collioure (1905), simply painting exactly what they saw?
I don't think of revolutionary artworks in terms of their common ophthalmologic varieties--I just wanted to make a point about what happened to all of that artwork that was no doubt produced by people with impaired vision before the Impressionists and Fauves and non-representational artists came into being. I wonder if those who received J.M.W. Turner (as with, say, Rain, Steam, Speed--the Great Western Railway, 1844) so badly so early on in his career and so early in the History of Disappearing Details wondered whether he had a visual issue, or not?
And in a way, similar to the probably non-existent vision-challenged art of the past is the Robot art of the future--or at least the robot art of what was described by P.K. Hoenich in his article "Robot-Art, the Hopeful Monster" that appeared in two part in the unlikely journal Cybernetica in 1963 and 1964. It was with high hopes that I started reading this article wanting the author to address robots-making-art in the future. After all, my friend George Widener, who is a fabulously gifted artist, directs some of his fantastically involved calculating/numerical artworks to the interests of his robot-collectors of the future--given this case, why (if the robots are collecting) wouldn't they also produce art themselves? And why, if given the legions and multitudes of robots of the future couldn't they produce every recorded piece of art that has ever existed and then insinuate development and trends and institution and all of the other gifts of the singularity and produce all of the works of art that will ever be produced?
Well, Hoenich turns out to be describing "robots" of a very different sort, whether he uses the term "monster" in his title or not. He was broadly addressing a style of art that is produced by externally-controlled structures (mostly), and his particular brand was a mobile-like device with art bits whose movement was powered by the wind...and also used found spectra and sunlight. It was not what I was hoping for, the vision of robots-at-the-easels/keyboard/whatever remaining unfulfilled.
Still it was an interesting read, mostly in laying Hoenich in a continuum of similar artists whose "robots" were the wind (as for example with a Calder) or Nicolas Schoeffer (with spectacular luminodynamics) or Mohly-Nagy (with a combo of light and movement) or Arp (with chance painting) and maybe even Pollock. I guess even Duchamp could be included in a category like this if you considered his work to be governed by selective, found chance, a sort of choice-chance, for his Readymades.
So in a way these artworks were made by "robots" insofar as they were produced by not-exactly the artist but with external assistance.
"Squinting with Art" perhaps could have been the title of this post--squinting at your landscape to see it with semi-non-representational vision, and squinting at the titles of other works to make their possibility more appealing to what you 'd like to see.