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Italian Vermeer (Caravaggio)

Medium:Oil on canvas
Size inches:c. 32 x 28
Size cm:80 x 70
Location:Private Collection, Indianapolis, Indiana

Until now, many artists of our own time, including the Abstract Expressionists, have maintained that they drew upon their inner experiences for their own particular images. It was Hans Hoffman who urged students to express themselves in "pure" painting. Now, perhaps a new trend or direction may be appearing in contemporary painting and in it the painter either parodies wittily or sees through new eyes the images and subject matter of the masters of the past. (The) Deja-Vu exhibit (at The Dayton Art Institute), which boasts some big names in contemporary art -- Judy Chicago, David Hockney, Miriam Shapiro, Roy Lichtenstein, (Josef) Levi, Salvador Dali, George Deem -- reflects the unabashed manner in which today's painter refers to the past. ...(In) George Deem's "Italian Vermeer (Caravaggio)" ... Deem has managed to help himself to two Vermeers, two Caravaggios. The result is a fascinating Dutch interior with black and white tile floor, light streaming through leaded glass windows, all focusing on a young woman (sic) who has knocked over a chair and a water jug. On the fissured wall behind her hangs Caravaggio's "Entombment of Christ." ... The intensity of expression on the faces in Deem's painting is no less gripping than that depicted by artists of the turn of the 17th century. (Betty Dietz Krebs, "See it -- 'Deja Vu: Masterpieces Updated'," The Dayton Daily News, Dayton, Ohio, February 14, 1982)

The preposterous history proposed here is not simply a postmodern act of quoting the past. It is from the historical Baroque -- but recycled for today -- that this principle of quotation is quoted in the first place. If taken not as an academic but as an anthropological case, the attempts to enshrine the "Baroque" as a historically delimited period must be seen, in addition, as a violent oppression that turns mirrors out of balance and knocks over chairs, or worse (Italian Vermeer (Caravaggio), 1977). Attempts to make it universal, alternating with Classicism or not, just because "it happens" again today, are equally violent, suppressing the fact that we, too, are in history. (Mieke Bal,Quoting Caravaggio:Contemporary Art, Preposterous History, The University of Chicago Press, 1999. 267)

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