Talking to a colleague about the Dix exhibit has me thinking more about the medium of etching being ideal for the series on war. The process of etching utilizes an acid bath to create lines. The longer the plate sits in the bath, the darker the lines will appear when printed. The war series that Dix created depicts the corrosive and harsh effects that chemical warfare, used for the first time in this particularly devastating war, had on the people involved. So, as both a process, and for this subject matter, the medium was an ideal choice.
To further clarify what I stated in my last posting, the painting does not deliver the same sense of ‘eating away’. It relies predominantly on the actual visages and bodies depicted to convey the corruption of society, and the individual within a corrupt society. There is almost no sensuous quality to be found in the paint itself. Oil paint is a sensuous, almost voluptuous medium. Dix shies away from these inherent qualities, and his paintings suffer for it. They leave the viewer cold, while the etchings and drawings do not.
First and foremost, Dix is a powerfully expressive artist. Etching is the medium that most successfully expresses the suffering and cruelty he experienced firsthand during World War I. When he began to depict the superficiality of society after the horrors of the war, the painting medium did not do his imagination justice. Although a successful portraitist, his works in oil and tempera, perhaps handcuffed by the new objectivity, tend to be more mannered and less powerful than his graphic work. Although he ridiculed the academic style of painting, he seemed to absorb it, and most often, was not willing to experiment with, or subvert it, as he did with his drawings and etchings.
Before I was beaten over the head by the war etchings, I enjoyed eating at Cafe Sabarsky. The food was not overwhelming, but I savored my time there. The coffee was brilliant, and the surroundings, dignified.
My walk uptown from the Port Authority Bus Terminal allowed me time to enjoy the sounds of the city: cars and buses whooshing past, peoples’ exotic accents, and bits of conversations. Because it was fairly early, the city wasn’t quite alive yet, so I also had moments of silence when I could delight in a lovely breeze on my neck and face.
Perhaps due to the subject of Dix’s work, and the later, inevitable overcrowding I felt walking back to the Terminal, I was eager to return home. As Dix knew, the world is a lonely and corrupt place. Home and loved ones are sanctuaries. The bus ride home was not as warm and fuzzy as the ride in, when the driver stopped at the ticketing agency to allow new passengers to purchase their tickets for much less than they would have if bought directly from him: an everyday act of loving-kindness. Two drawings from my day: