Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Art for the Present Moment

Over the past year I have seen reproductions of Piranesi's "Imaginary Prisons" in at least three different places. Giovanni Piranesi produced this series of 14 ominous etchings in 1750, then reworked them and added two more for a second edition in 1761. The first series, less detailed and darker, is more popular now than the more detailed images of the second edition, and even more popular are the preliminary sketches (below). I have been musing on why these works seem to fit our current mood so well, or at least the moods of certain editors. I suppose the images connect to Steampunk with its fusion of the mechanical and the fantastic, to the dark tone of vampire stories and zombie plagues, and to the sense that government and industry are vast, out-of-control machines. We prefer them unfinished because we like our fantasies suggestive rather than complete, are more interested in the act of creation than the creation itself. Or so I muse.

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