Something new. The Guggenheim Museum, known for a 7,000-work collection of 20th century art, has place more than 1100 examples by some 450 artists online. One of the standouts is Francis Bacon, who comes to mind because something he painted in 1953 that he might well have painted this March 13. That’s when Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires was chosen the 266th pope http://www.examiner.com/article/spirituality-and-modern-art of the Roman Catholic Church. .
Bergoglio took the name Pope Francis after St. Francis of Assisi who he has described as a "poor man, a simple man, as we would like a poor church, for the poor."
The Bacon work I’m thinking of is his “Study after Velasquez: Pope Innocence X” – a take on a 17th century figure passed through the 20th century experience. As if weighed down by the pressures of orthodoxy, Bacon’s pope sits on a throne of gold, looking caged with vertical brushwork approximating prison bars. Pope Francis, wanting the simple life, will surely feel caged by the elaborate trappings of his office.
If great art is the kind that transcends time, “Study after Velasquez: Pope Innocence X” fits the bill. A lot of Bacon’s works eclipse time in this way. He’s been dead for some 20 years, and, in a way, so has art—at least the kind that makes known our inwardness. Now we get gimmicky Damian Hirst, chopping up animals and distilling them in formaldehyde.
When is the art that speaks of more than the way things look going to prevail again?
In Bacon’s “One of Three Studies for a Crucifixion,” the splattered blood-reds—resembling shafts of light dropped by a morning sun—seem to paint a new day, the smooth background reds signaling the unspoiled air. All of which makes the crown of gloom over Bacon's work, by contrast, appear all the more wretched—like a bad traffic accident on a pretty day.
How important is Bacon? Think over how much art today reflects on the external world, on the voltaic and cybernetic—movies, magazines, television. And think over how shades of meaning get lost in the electronic glare. Conditioned by this exposure, too many artists work like photoelectric sorters, scrambling for new images as fast as video programs roll over, 20-plexes change their lineup and newsstands restack. Sealed off from the rich air of actual life, their images are sterile—like all things vacuum-packed.
In contrast, Bacon pictured people as if they were hit with force-ten storms, their anxiety choking them purple. His color is so loud that it comes across like hostility. Even the pigment looks racked.
He saw the change in art making coming. "Hardly anyone really feels about painting,” he said. But he continued to convey the modern experience of isolation. His pictures are a relief for mass-media-sore eyes. What you see is not what you get. What you get is beyond seeing: a state of mind—timeless and placeless.