Sat 4 Dec, 2004 12:47 pm
What influence on art had the graphic artist M.C. Escher?
He certainly made a lot of us in the late 60's and early 70's stare at his staircases and laugh at the brain tangles we were having at the time.
Is this homework? It's difficult to answer as when one thinks of the genre of Op Art, it's usually Vasarely, Albers or Anuzkiewitz. Actually, Duchamp was a pioneer in early Op Art. I'm not too sure Escher influenced any subsequent art.
I tend to agree with Lightwizard, that Escher may have had no direct, visible influence on other artists. His work is definitely visually arresting, and memorable, so I feel quite sure that artists know his work--but my hunch is that any transference to them is metaphorical. To my thinking, most successful Op Art creates subtle mood. Escher seems more interested in a virtuoso display of pulsing geometries rather than creation of atmosphere--though his work certainly has mood. The structure of Escher's work has long been an aesthetic pleasure for mathematicians and for physicists--and, to a degree, for philosophers. I admire Escher, but I find his work very tight; studying an Escher is, for me, like reveling in the intracacies of an especially brilliant piece of clockwork--say a Babbage differential engine! This mechanism of Escher's does have a soul, but it's muted by the extravagant cleverness of the structural technique. Any artist who might try to emulate Escher would have his hands full; to create a live art that is avowedly beyond-Escher, one would first need a very lengthy period of study to internalize Escher's extraordinary skill with structure and perspective. If an artist were simply to do a riff on Escher, the result would be obvious, painfully weak, and palely derivative. My guess is that the price of admission to far too high for another artist to make the commitment to evolving Escher's style to a further plane. In fact, there may be no further plane; Escher may have already said it all in his area of geometric endeavor. In fact, I tend to feel that Escher both opened and closed his subject. Another problem I see with a serious artist's taking off from Escher's work is that I am not at all sure that Escher's draftsmanship is genuinely art, rather than a brilliant subset of geometric craft. My guess is that, in terms of influence on artistic structure, Escher's works will likely remain as closed as the repeating (often circular) patterns in his designs. Escher's ambivalent directions and repetitions are, of course, metaphorically, in synch with quite a lot of post-WWI art, especially written art. Has anyone seen Escher's work displayed in a gallery? What was the effect on you? How was the lighting handled? Was there a synergy among the works, or did you see each one as a discrete exercise. I've never seen an exhibition, just lone pieces, so I am very curious about all this--and especially to know if you felt deep aesthetic resonance from the grouping.
Welcome, Miklos -- man, that's a titanic paragraph.
I don't have any icebergs for it but perhaps that Escher shows he is influenced more by artists like Magritte. Influences on Escher are probably more in Surealism than any other art movements of the past. I slightly disagree that the most successful Op Art creates a subtle mood as in Josef Albers, for example. The bulk of the works are visceral, explosively exciting to the eye with a kinetic burst of movement likely influenced by Kandinsky and Miro. They could appear experimental, exercises in art that would have the appearance of a first year design class in university art studies. The finest works are, however, effective imagery that stand on their own. I have a print by Vasarely, "Raura," in a colorway different from the original painting at MOMA. Its illusion of geometric colors thrusting out from the surface of the canvas defying the two dimensional surface is as absorbing as any masterpiece of the distant past and has a definite classic appearance now.
At any rate, Escher is difficult to categorize in any other movement but Op Art as nobody ever coined Illusionism as a movement (Surealism taking those honors).
Lightwizard, I would have bet the farm that Escher was influenced by the surrealists! It seems, however--after I researched and compared some sites on Escher--that he was far more interested in studying architecture than painting. His original career plan--to become a practicing architect--fell through, because he could not pass the high-school exit exams. He was very good at drawing, however, and his art teachers encouraged him to go into graphics. He traveled extensively in southern Europe, spending many years in Italy. Southern Italy held his favorite landscape and architecture. In 1936, on a return visit to the Alhambra, in Spain, he became fascinated with the tessellations in the tiling, making many sketches and noting that these particular examples of geometry were "the richest source of inspiration I have ever tapped." Although Escher seems to have been rather narrowly focused in his interests, he did find the philosophical concepts of paradox and impossibility attractive--and he particularly liked Penrose on these topics. After his first major exhibition, in the 1950's, mathematicians were totally captivated by his work--and, with their encouragement, he began to study maths, especially geometry and topology. This was Escher's first formal study of the discipline since he failed high school! Apparently, by his 50's, Escher could connect with maths, and he continued to play chess (that talent came as no surprise!). This information tends to support my first notion, that Escher inhabits his own category of graphic design--influenced by no particular artists or -isms--and your idea that, quite probably, he has not been a significant influence on other artists.
Thank you for correcting me on the qualities of successful Op Art. I, too, enjoy some of the explosive works--but mostly those with a long-lasting afterglow of textural resonance which keeps me coming back to admire them some more.
I agree with you that, by default, Escher belongs to Op Art--but he doesn't connect easily, in my mind, with any of the other artists in this genre. Perhaps, there is a specialty term that refers to non-CAD math-inspired art. But I am ignorant of it.
Escher seems to have influenced music videos more than anything else which now are almost all CGI effects. Constructivism is the closest designation I can come up with for non-CAD math-inspired art. It's is also heavily influenced by architecture. This seems more and more like a trick question if it is homework.