June 5th, 2011
Pink Hercules, 2010, polymer emulsion on honeycomb panel
Graphics: Norman Illings & Bob Hawker
Hercules: Slayer of the Damned, 1988, Cygnus/Gremlin Graphics (Commodore 64 game)
Sir Peter Paul Rubens & Christoffel Jegher
Hercules Fighting Fury and Discord , c. 1633 -34 , woodcut
Hercules x 3 tonight. Been wanting to post on Feintuch for ages, so lets begin with him. The scale & drama: doesn’t it remind you of Goya’s giants? Or something out of a Jack Kirby panel? But here the titan’s worn out & ailing, deformed. Out of commission as he is, he’s still got a cudgel ready for you if you decide to take too much pity on his crutchy lumber. But even the cudgel looks frail, brittle and glassy, shamefully concealed by his child’s right arm. A complex figure, inspiring pity, wariness, admiration (for powering through the twist & warp of infirmity & age, for making his daily colossal ocean-striding rounds even though no one really believes in demigods anymore, least of all him). Maybe a harsh reading, but I sees what I sees. Very powerful work by Feintuch, check out all his stuff (link below) if you like this.
Next up’s a screenshot from a Commodore 64 game called “Hercules: Slayer of the Damned”. Anyone following this site knows I’m obsessed with 80s game graphics. This is my visual comfort food. But beyond mere nostalgia & childhood-memory warmfuzzies, I like this stuff because, at it’s best, it’s striking & bizarre, bluntly visceral with its flat colors & chunky pixels. Limitations of early graphics tech led to strange & haunting art that a) is consonant with what often happens when useful constraints are imposed upon artists; b) is to me sadly lost in our era of dazzling but tedious graphical mimesis. Okay, off da soapbox and back to the screenshot: Doesn’t that magenta, red & blue just scrape away at the eye? Especially when you work in Herc’s ochre and that demon’s cyan. Just as interesting to me is the stance Herc (the ostensible protagonist) takes: menacing, villainous, brutal, his face shadowy and black, looking more ruthless than the fearful gargoyle he’s ready to bludgeon. I like his cudgel too — comically engorged, looking more like a massive drumstick than a weapon.
Finally we have the Rubens & Jegher woodcut version of our hero in action. I didn’t realize that woodcuts formerly attributed to Rubens alone were actually the result of a collaboration between Rubens & Jegher. From metmuseum.org: “In the early 1630s, [Rubens] turned to woodcuts in close collaboration with Christoffel Jegher. Indeed, Jegher’s place in art history as the most important woodcutter of his time rests exclusively on the nine large single-page woodcuts that resulted from this collaboration.” Very neat stuff. Turning to the work at hand: THIS is fucking Hercules. Look at those eyes. He’s possessed, berserker-feverish, the Nemean lion hide coming back to life, feeding on his savage energy, sucking it through his skin. This piece is so kinetic, so coursing & dynamic that it feels barely contained by the framing (figuratively speaking). Look at the way the cherub (not sure if that’s one of the Furies?) is flung perpendicular to Herc’s cudgel and his raised shin, helping balance against the bottom half of the piece’s action (which tends toward the bottom right as Herc’s foot extends forward, and as Dischord is knocked out of view). There’s so much … don’t know how to put this… harmony of tension here: the lines of motion and force are tensely held and we’re nervously held in turn, but this effect is delivered in such a visually balanced and concise way that the tension is pleasurable, even voluptuous. A stunning work.
More of Feintuch’s art at robertfeintuch.com.
More about “Hercules: Slayer of the Damned” at lemon64.com, my favorite site for all things Commodore 64.
Great write-up about a 2008 National Gallery (D.C.) Baroque woodcut exhibit featuring the Rubens/Jegher team over at DC-based art site ARTifice.