Peter de Francia 1921-2012

Peter de Francia 1921-2012

Postby CAP » Thu Jan 26, 2012 3:47 am

Serviceable obit is here.

De Francia mainly to be remembered as the London branch of the Renato Guttoso fan club in the 50s - i.e. left wing Expressionist looking for a convenient vehicle for topical political subjects. Who remembers Guttoso now? Guttoso a card carrying member of the Italian Communist Party, to be remembered for stretching a style best described as Post-Beckmann in the Post-War era (1946-1960) for being right on at all the big festivals and conferences.

All this stuff gets swept under the carpet now - steamrollered under the triumphalism of American abstraction and then Pop Art - but back then the left wing intelligentsia throughout Europe were not signing onto Amerikan corporate fascism without a fight. The likes of Richard Wollheim used to collect Guttoso, mainly for sentimental reasons - until the New Left veered off into semiotics and conceptualism. Then he had other fights to fight.

I used to confuse de Francia with Francis Frascina for some reason. Francia taught at St Martins, RCA, Goldsmiths. He was an insider, if not popular in the market - which by definition is right wing, no?

The reason I write here about him is to revisit the usual argument about 'political' art. The left famously dismiss abstraction as so much formalist decoration, a frivolous dallying or evasion of issues, but neglect to acknowledge that there is no content free of form anymore than there is form completely 'purified' of content - and that there is nothing to recommend some tired Expressionist re-tread as a suitable style for interpreting crucial political events of the day. Realism soon appeals to some thornier metaphysics, so no-one's in a hurry to go there. This is why we have the ugliness of Socialist Realism in all those war monuments throughout Western Europe as well as Russia. Nazi art is not that far from Russian Social Realism because basically they start from the same conservative positions in the 20s - the kind of 'Neo-Classicism' that Picasso tossed off a few years before in the interests of demonstrating his versatility - never entirely convincingly for me, incidentally. Socialist Realism gets pigeon-holed as a totalitarian tendency - but you don't have to look far around London or the US to find plenty of equivalents. It is first and foremost a conservative or academic style, wielded by politics on the left, right and centre, by people who see art only as an instrument for politics.

The counter argument to political art (of any complexion) essentially dismisses its stylistic basis. If you want art to speedily convey a message you end up with propaganda, not art at all. Under this argument politics and art are antithetical - art refuses to recognise the subject under its standard or predictable guise. Art is not subordinate to politics - it redefines issues, not along party lines but something much murkier and more subjective. Implicitly this grants art a social function that contests standard representation, or promotes an egalitarianism, necessary to democracy, although a hinderance to government or control.

De Francia moved on to more obscure allegories - as did Guttoso - but they could never really let go of their rickety figures piled around strident colour schemes - could never really invest the kind of formal or stylistic invention that would make their art truly subversive - truly compelling as art! Political art shifts its focus to Pop Art (naturally) in the 60s - there's all those French guys welding comic strip figures to socialist realism/propaganda (I'm not going to go and look up their names) and the Germans with their Capitalist Realism - which was a clever idea but a bit of a slow burn - you can't really see where it's leading until Richter and Polke's careers are some way down the track - but essentially they looked to highlight that 'realism' only really exists where it functions within the media as advertising or 'news'. The 'real' is already always for sale.

There are, of course many artists who reject painting altogether, in the interests of making some more effective political 'art' but that's the work of another post. ;)
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Re: Peter de Francia 1921-2012

Postby jasperjoffe » Thu Jan 26, 2012 1:29 pm

good post.

like this from the obit. will follow http://www.marxists.org/archive/lunachar/1918/self-education.htm.

"De Francia remained unrepentant in his political views. Asked recently what advice he would give to a young, politically-motivated artist, he replied: “To obtain and read carefully a certain number of texts written in the very early days of the Soviet Union, for example Lunacharsky on culture. Read them and simply question where and how things went wrong.” "
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Re: Peter de Francia 1921-2012

Postby CAP » Fri Jan 27, 2012 7:00 am

or Here - this is exactly the same link as JJ's - but for some reason the above one isn't accepted by Marxists.org, whereas the embedded link is.

Go figure. :shock:

ALSO:

There is a 90th Birthday Retrospective for de Francia @ James Hyman Fine Art, until Feb 5

And The Morning Star's obit (reasonable). :|
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Re: Peter de Francia 1921-2012

Postby CAP » Wed Mar 28, 2012 11:54 am

An interesting tribute to de Francia by Merlin James, surprisingly (who knew they cared?) in the New York online art magazine Art Critical. :?
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Re: Peter de Francia 1921-2012

Postby jasperjoffe » Wed Mar 28, 2012 1:44 pm

enjoyed that
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