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Alexis Rochas: Making + Meaning (August 11, 2011)54:46

Alexis Rochas lectures on the body in space in European painting from the 13th to the 17th century to an audience of Making + Meaning participants. Rochas presents images of paintings by Giotto, characterizing them as an exploration of relationships in space. Rochas points out how architectural elements represented in the paintings do not describe possible buildings, but organize and compartmentalize narrative and compositional elements. He presents additional examples in which Giotto uses objects to define space and to define relationships between figures. Rochas discusses the role of flatness in Giotto’s work and the effect of stylized abstraction. Rochas discusses the representation of figure, architecture and landscape in the paintings of Piero della Francesca, Andrea Mantegna and Raphael. He discusses Piero della Francisca in terms of a shift from intuition to geometry, and the integration of architectural elements. He discusses how Andrea Mantegna used perspective to open up space and compositional techniques to collapse depth. Raphael integrated complex arrangements of fully rounded figures in carefully defined space. Rochas concludes with a discussion of the representation of figure, architecture, and space in paintings by Tintoretto, Rubens and Caravaggio. He credits Tintoretto with creating a new emphasis on body and posture as crucial compositional elements, especially in works where collections of foreshortened figures, seemingly liberated from gravity, define expressive spatial forms. The great accomplishment of Rubens, according to Rochas, was animating part to whole relationships, particularly details of musculature as elements of complex compositions. Caravaggio, in contrast, collapses perspective and eliminates background to focus intensely on his figures, using light and mass as the primary elements of his work.

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