The Rising Arts Writers Program is an initiative created by The Arts Beacon to encourage, mentor, support and post writings by aspiring locals writers. With the intention of fostering critical responses to art and artists in the Valley, the RAW Program creates an opportunity for up and coming writers to comment on their own art scene using the platform of The Arts Beacon website while also being a valuable resource for local artists seeking insights into their practice.
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Phoenix Art Museum presents Michelangelo: Sacred and Profane, Masterpiece Drawings from the Casa Buonarroti, on view until March 27, 2016. Shown for the first time in the United States are twenty six of Michelangelo’s drawings on loan from his birthplace in Florence, Italy, the Casa Buonarroti. What makes this exhibition so rare is that each drawing survived in spite of Michelangelo burning a large quantity of drawings towards the end of his life. According to the noted Italian Renaissance biographer Giorgio Vasari, Michelangelo never intended for anyone to see his drawings “so that no one might see the labours he endured, and the ways he tried out his genius, so as to not appear anything but perfect.” Since Michelangelo did not intend for the public to see these drawings, a sense of process and technique behind his work is seen, humanizing the celebrated artist.
Many of Michelangelo’s drawings in the exhibition are in preparation for projects that never came to fruition. At just 37 years old, Michelangelo completed his acclaimed work on the Sistine Chapel and within a couple of years secured a commission to design the marble facade for the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Florence (above). Although the project eventually fell through, from 1516-1519, Michelangelo relentlessly worked on numerous designs. It is noticeable through each of his drawings that Michelangelo approached his work on the assumption that the monumental scale of his ideas was not relevant, and that all possibilities would be realized regardless of expense, labor, and time.
Michelangelo transitioned from the natural (profane) human form to one of classical idealized beauty (sacred), beginning in the 1530s. In Study for Christ in Limbo (left) he experiments with angles of Christ’s body, rejecting realistic body movements, instead opting for positions that show the celestial nature of Christ. Michelangelo also began softening his drawings with sanguine, a red chalk that he would layer under black. A study done for the sculpture in the Medici Chapel, Madonna and Child (right) benefits from his technique as the blurred edges of the Virgin Mary juxtapose against the harder and defined lines of christ. Paired with her facial expression, this drawing hints at an apprehensive Mary that is not as expressed in the realized sculpture in the Medici Chapel.
Michelangelo: Sacred and Profane feels quiet and intimate, an almost contradictory notion when considering the magnitude of Michelangelo’s influence and prestige within the history of art. Many of the drawings have multiple angles and perspectives, offering insight into the artist’s technical process. In order to preserve the delicate works on paper, low lighting is dispersed throughout the gallery, also dissolving the separation between the audience and the work, where the drawings invite an intimate encounter. Although Michelangelo did not intend for the public to see these drawings, they show that even in private he strove for perfection.