If it ain’t Baroque, fix it!

Bear with me here. The Baroque movement is a combination of beauty and grotesque; high drama with intense focus on every element. It started under the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in Italy during the 1600s. A century later, during the late 1720s in France, Rococo was invented – was this a backhanded attempt at a war between the Romance languages and arts?

Meant to create imagery for those unable to read, Baroque set out to be a symbol of unity among the masses. In light of the most recent events in the US, a country that claims to want unity while ceaselessly coming up short, I can’t help but connect the two concepts. Actually, I probably very well could and should help it, but where’s the fun in that?

Peter Paul Rubens, The Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus, 1617/1618.
Oil on canvas, 224 x 210.5 cm.
Alte Pinakothek, Munich.

In my experience and observation of many citizens of the United States, Baroque is the furthest comparable movement to the way politics are viewed in this large and (once) globally influential country. The atmosphere is more in line with the Rococo style – flowery, jocular, and exhibiting blind faith in what comes out of the talking heads’ mouths. A citizen deeply entrenched in the Baroque-ness of the political scene knows each argument, from all sides, down to the most minute details. This citizen can make informed and intellectual decisions that may ultimately affect his/her whole country and the future.

Guido Reni, The Massacre of the Innocents, 1611/1612.
Oil on canvas, 268 x 170 cm.
Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna, Bologna.

The “Rococoans” (self-invented), those that follow the crowd and do as they are told – whether it’s their televisions, parents, friends, or spouses – are at a great risk of being forgotten, much in the same way that I feel the artistic movement hardly existed despite its strong push to overtake Baroque. Trying to make everyone happy for the sake of happiness is not the answer; to quote my favourite comedian: “Everything is amazing and nobody is happy.” (Louis C.K.)

Interestingly, Baroque is actually considered to be politically focused – grandiose, symmetrical, and strictly regulated. And I’ve said all of this to say: pay attention to the details, in art, in politics, in life. Ready? Go!

It’s easy to get lost in the details of life, but try and avoid that here – enjoy them, but also take a step back and see the whole image. Visit the Art Gallery of Alberta now through 6 January 2013 to see modern (and probably not political) Baroque art at its best: Misled by Nature: Contemporary Art and the Baroque. Don’t forget to appreciate the origins of Baroque in this colourfully illustrated ebook:Baroque Art by Victoria Charles and Klaus H. Carl.

 

-Le Lorrain Andrews

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