Richard Diebenkorn, Untitled, 1969 by Les Ann Holland


Photo: © The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation, 2018.

Diebenkorn, Richard. Lithograph on paper, 24 1/4 in. x 18 13/16 in. (61.6 cm x 47.78 cm)

Collection SFMOMA

In the upper half of the vertical composition, we encounter a double curve, one black above the blue, points originating from the right-hand edge of the picture plane. Undulating downward, the curves connect before forming what appears to be a rectangle of ultramarine, just touching, though not all edges connect. A shape mimics the rectangle, a somewhat golden cadmium light. Just to the left of the intersection and below, pointing toward the curves and beyond, is the shard of an enlarged green line. Below this, a black pyramid directs toward the negative space, or is it the ground of, the channel which we would suppose leads us to the top of the picture plane? The channel directs us off of the right-hand edge. Following the black edge down the image and to the left, we discover a blue shape, the wedge of which serves to anchor a black cable receding into the space above us. Or, is it a line anchored to the aerial view of the tri-colored shapes and similar line weight of our curves above? It is clear that the blue shape is a different blue than the aforementioned ultramarine. The inquiry of color, however, is thus: is the original blue line the same as the cobalt or the ultramarine shapes? Does the umber below the blue line disappear? A quick read of the surface itself may answer the question of position. However, one question remains: what about the red underpinnings and the golden rectangle in the upper left-hand corner?

Lithograph on paper,
24 1/4 in. x 18 13/16 in. (61.6 cm x 47.78 cm) Collection SFMOMA

I Love the Whole World, Agnes Martin. by Les Ann Holland


© estate of Agnes Martin. Photo: © Tate, London 2018

Martin, Agnes. I Love the Whole World. Acrylic paint and graphite on canvas. Support: 1524 x 1524 mm frame: 1543 x 1543 mm. ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Photo: © Tate, London 2018


De Panne, Belgium, August 7, 1992, from Beach Portraits, 1992 by Les Ann Holland


We enter this fascinating image at the front third of the picture plane, where the figure is squarely anchored upon the ground behind also in front of it. Positioned about halfway into the first plane of the sand depicted in the foreground, the figure appears at first glance to be symmetrical. This is not the case. Tracking the feet upward through the spine, we see heels are somewhat parallel to knees. However, as we extend upward, through the hips, we notice the figure has most of its weight on its left leg. Further inquiry into the muscle tone there, or perhaps the angle of the light reveals the upper patella is more engaged, as is the hamstring above it. In fact, extending below the patella, the shin is taught, vertical. On the figure's left hand side, we see a slight angle from ankle to knee. We see also less muscle tone above the right knee. Hips are somewhat square. Before that, we see the hands, one on each side, with palms facing flat against the upper and outer thighs. Traveling up the form, we notice the variant on the stripes, which ripple downward then again upward. Four lines of ripples on the figure's left and three lines of ripples on the figure's right let us know that the figure is leaning to its left, more slack on this side. This is confirmed if we measure the angle from the solar plexus to the clavicle: from the waist above, the figure leans to its left, arms straight extending from the point of tension earlier located upon the thighs. It looks as though tension is rendered via the palms or wrists, as opposed to the fingers. Shoulders appear to be level, however, a shock of thick wavy hair obscures right shoulder from view. We can only imagine as we see the movement from the wind, sweeping from our right to left. Is the figure braced? How strong is the wind? Analyzing the lay of the fabric, we can see that, above the hips, there are no undulations originating at the right side, traveling left. Did the figure's body authenticate the shapes of its architecture? Standing upon the shore ergo the sea, the figure looks at the viewer. Is the figure aware of the ripples of the sea mirrored in the fabric of the swim costume? We see waves behind formed by lines of tide pulled in numinous force. Above the first, the second horizontal line peaks across the image's next rung of horizon. Miles to the third ascending are unknown. Marked by the white sail of one boat in addition to the shift of value which moves us back toward the figure mid-picture plane, the waves approach or grow from the center of the sea, which by natural law in its lesser depths become the shore. Does the sea embrace the figure, or, has the figure impressed itself upon the sea? 

Rineke Dijkstra
Dutch, born 1959

"De Panne, Belgium, August 7, 1992," from Beach Portraits, 1992

Chromogenic print; from an edition of six with two artist's proofs
167 x 140 cm (65 3/4 x 55 in.), framed


Benjamin West Painting of the Shackamaxon Treaty of 1682 by Les Ann Holland


Following the branches and leaves of the tree into the heart of the horizon and situated in the right-hand fifth of the viewer's center, we see figures grouped around the base of this and other trees in the background. Adults face the foreground, while children face the tree. We see mostly unclothed adults on the right, elongated in a Mannerist style. In the mid fore-ground, a seated warrior, peacefully holding a weapon in his left hand, sits barefoot next to a man on his right, who wears only a neutral colored cloth at his base. A red sash with black pattern crosses his back from right shoulder to left. To the right, in the foreground, a child in shiny yellow fabric gestures to the red sash of the figure seated in front of him, with her or his head turned to the left, regarding a figure with long black hair wrapped in a blue patterned cloth. This figure holds a child, strapped to a board without mobility in its arms. Without the straps, would it slide off the picture plane? It seems, pictorially speaking, that the arm resting upon the infant is merely a symbolic gesture. We are then brought back into the picture plane via a red cloth, somewhat reflective, though not as reflective as the yellow next to it, which appears to be silk. At this point, we can either revisit the figures seated beyond the yellow or continue to the left of the foreground to encounter new forms also anchored on the earth, though not below the tree. We notice a man with his hand on the back of the warrior, corresponding to the back of the heart, just below the cervical spine. Figures in more elaborate headdress stand behind two figures dressed in pants and suits, dressed in bold colors mirroring the right-hand figures in the foreground, holding a hefty bolt of ivory colored cloth. Following the unfurling bolt of cloth to the right-hand side of the composition, we see yet more brightly colored fabric--green and more yellow. Why are some of the figures on the right wearing it while others are not? A triad of green is formed from the from the figure at center, traveling to the right, then back to the trees. We see to the left, architecture. With no markings visible, they are in the background and not so chromatic. Are they churches? Dwellings? Schools? What sort of activities occur in this reality? To the right of the buildings, we see, nestled below the trees, what appear to be tents. Fabric staked by poles. Following the horizon line to the left, we see more red, mimicked in the pattern of the headdress. Following these to the left, we see the only true black in the composition, located just above the heart of the horizon, mirrored from the other side. The negative space collapses here, creating a contrasted pattern within the composition: seven figures wear black hats. Two sit just in front of them, dressed in cloaks also. Similar to the figures in the right-hand foreground, these are brightly adorned and sitting upon trunks and wearing shoes. To the left is the sea. In the background, to the left, we see boats and a figure, possibly two, aggressively charging the ground to the right. This leads us back up the shore, up the facade of the left-most building, the height of which is mirrored in the trees to the left and to the right of the structures. Just below our original tree, maybe an elm, we finally rest upon the two heads of the elders in the background. One holds his hand to his mouth, while the other looks toward the numerous figures to his left. A man and a woman stand there, speaking. A child wears an (elongated) container of arrows on herxhis back, left and right arm poised above his solar plexus.|3

The Golden Wall, Hans Hofmann by Les Ann Holland


We enter the picture plane, not by entering it, but by hovering just outside of it. Anchoring at each corner, visually, we begin to feel the color, its stability is palpable. Yet, its not symmetrical. The right-hand edge is cadmium medium light (light) uninterrupted, therby defining its edge as ground. The left-hand edge anchors and houses the vertical green rectangle, its accompanying cadmium medium red line resting upon it and extending into the space to the right of it, another field of paint, a couple of values lighter and chromatically more yellow. We follow this down to a somewhat crooked mark which leads us literally into a small format square the same color as the green rectangle, with less edge but clearly related. Perhaps a detached representation of the interior? Its only delineated or crisp edge located at its base. Yet, it's a trick. For, if we read the edge of the paint itself, it is fuzzy. Figure becomes ground and ground becomes figure. Not complete yet with the anchor of the left-handed edge, we follow the blue horizontal rectangle leftwards into the time of the piece, discovering a nearly nonexistent--due to lack of value shift--brown small format rectangle connected to another sequence of shapes, again to the left, forming a staccato of even smaller yet divisions of the aforementioned crisp vs. fuzzy edge construct. Again, at once another trick, but not a trick. This tension sets the tempo for the read of the entire piece. We are then rewarded with a vast expanse or slab of cadmium itself, occupying almost half of the left-hand edge, one of three. Definitely the figure, upon which is stacked another figure (green) and above that, brushstrokes of color acting as one:figure and ground. Beginning at the upper left-hand corner of the painting, the top edge and left hand edge form a corner. We are guided in towards a blue rectangle reflecting a scale shift with mirrored proportion from the yellow below and to its left. The colors are pure, intact, unmitigated. Edges are formed by virtue of their position. What happens inside of the blue rectangle is curious, as it is the first time that we see a fuzzy edge or value shift contained within an edge, clearly protected. Just below, we have the most expressive passage of the picture, the small brushmarks of color mixing at times within themselves, stacked up and arranged horizontally, at least fifteen of them. This convergence is mimicked to the right of the composition in the yellow vertical dashes which reflect back to the yellow slab on the left-hand edge, consistently one color and value. One dash houses a small black dash, which hovers above an orange brushmark or rectangle: micro reflects the macro of the left-hand third. Hofmann introduces a new set of imagery to the lexicon of this work just below, by superimposing a blue rectangle on top of two yellow brushy fields. Not a bridge, as it is positioned above, on top of, the yellow in domination of, materially, speaking, stacked upon the two yellow fields and rendering the orange space between and their mirrored fuzzy edges inaccesible. Owning. Pictorially speaking, this flips the blue into our, the viewer's space. Blue becomes figure to the subordinate orange ground, which is subordinated object to cadmium seas surrounding. In this moment, we see the cadmium is actually the sea, upon which not only the yellow, but the blue now float, flipping us viewers into another plane, aerially speaking. The sea of cadmium becomes an almost square, located in the middle of the composition, becoming a rectangle. Not a slab, its weight is artuculated by brushmarks, anchored in by lighter and darker versions of itself. Separate, but whole, a part of the sea revealed and eclipsed by itself in its vertical and horizontal arrangements. This sea of cadmium sets the stage for what is the only diagonal of the piece, anchored above our orange square / rectangle. Marked by contrast of white, (no color) and black (includes all) its edge is clear. The question is, which anchors which. Side to side, or front to back. We recall the tension of the blue rectangle earlier floating and or dominating the yellow beneath. As they float into, above  and below the surface of one another, one thing we do know, is they are anchored to the sea of orange by the yellow brushmark below, which provides the opportunity and clarity to consider, is the brushmark, which once looked like a rectangle, now a line? Is the line now holding up the white form? Is the white form protecting the line? Sitting on top of it? And what exactly is the golden wall? Is it the yellow raft to the right, the yellow slab to the left, the yellow anchor above or the orange sea (or perhaps the pronouncement of itself in the middle where its color literally becomes more yellow) itself? Perhaps it is the yellow line/slab to the left of the middle of the piece. This anchors us back to the edge via the pink rectangle which breaks apart at its lower edge. A beautifully mysterious moment where we encounter the only circle on the field, truncated by the lower, grounded edge, which moves us to the right in the sequence of seven shapes unfolding in our passage to the lower right corner. It is the same color as every other corner, save the bottom of the corner of the leftmost golden wall, the only corner of which an object or figure occupies two edges of the picture plane. Unless of course, we consider the ground, or maybe the figure? of the sea of orange, which occupies three corners, or seven edges of the picture plane (including the bottom edge of a circle--how is this possible?) comprised of the corners, bringing us back to the sides of the painting itself, where we began. Ladies and gentleman: push and pull.

Hans Hofmann
American, born Germany, 1880-1966
The Golden Wall, 1961

A Figure and Guernica: Guernica by Pablo Picasso. by Les Ann Holland

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A figure wearing black stands just left of center, arms crossed, with most of her weight upon her left leg, clearly contemplating the imagery stretching nearly eight times her width and twice her height before her. She regards the lower left quadrant of the composition, perhaps at the bottom figure positioned in profile (mostly) with mouth agape. It appears the head has been severed and lies next to an arm, also severed, which reaches (out of our view) across the width of her hips ending in a fist, grasping an incomplete sword, pointing toward the right. At this point in the read, we can either follow the sword toward the right half of the painting or continue back across the human form, across her left hip to view the left half of the painting. To her left is an arrow, which points and ends abruptly on a sandwich of planes just above it. We then follow this moment toward the where more forms are stacked, resembling a horse above and to her left, a bull and what looks to be a female form stricken with grief, holding a lifeless carcass, a white form housed inside the negative space and darkness of the bull's legs and hooves. Following the contour of her neck and chin upward, we again meet the bull, boxing her and her lifeless form into grey and black negative space behind it. We follow the bull's tail upwards and to the right, toward more negative space. We see, to the right of the bull, housed on a field of grey, a form in the shape of an eye, shining its light downward. Below it, we revisit the horse and its piercing tongue, more light forms on dark negative space, its body deconstructed with each piece rendered in a pattern of vertical dashes. Following the horse's neck, we see the apex of a triangle above and to its right, with a blank white mirror of the horse itself, located just to the right of it, the point of access another disembodied arm. This one, however, located in the upper half of the painting, seems to grasp an white vertical object, which we can begin to associate with the light to its left. In fact, in this quarter of the painting, we see the most light of the piece, shapes situated next to one another, separated by thin contours. All lines point upwards, with greys anchoring more forms below. The right-hand horse of light, faces and meets its counterpart in physical form at the precise center of the picture plane and pictorial space. Another form appears like a specter just above and to the right of our engaged (and oblivious to us) viewer. Unlike other severed limbs, which are indicated by black elipses in white outline, the head in profile just above her originates from above, from the top of a post, a diagonal projection or beacon, pointing us once again toward the center of the picture plane. It appears that this right half of the image houses an interior. There is one live figure in this half, running to the left, toward our original grieving form, yet anchored more closely to the foreground, mirroring the light filled form above it--to offer aid? Her right foot points down, connecting to the earth, indicating gravitas. Her right hip forms a 90 degree angle with the arch of her foot beginning to connect to the ground below. Her left arm stretches with palm facing up, indicating receptivity. Her right palm, fingers pointed downward, stares square into the space just between the front edge of the picture plane and where the viewer would stand, the most stable moment in the piece, other than a small white square which is mirrored above, indicating an opening or a window into the light, surrounded by darkness. Just below this square, we see another grieving form without legs, perhaps engulfed by a set of jaws below it. We follow the grief of the arms upwards, again, to the apex of light leading us back toward center, where, above our original deity of light, originating from the same opening in the ceiling, we rest upon a vertical pillar grasped by a fist and an arm, tonally leading us grey (right) to mid grey (middle) to white (left), vertically directing us back toward the eye, the lamp, the manufactured fixture or secondary source of light, which emanates no lasting light, save what it contains, its piercing triangles, which touch nothing. Following the base of the right half of the painting to its apex, we cognize or construct with our eye, a large format triangle, the pattern of the lamp inverted and enlarged. Occupying the center of the entire painting itself, it mirrors an inversion of the shards of manufactured light, similar to the original scale of our figure to the picture plane, at once the same shape, yet somehow larger than itself. For, as opposed to the contours which demarcate the shards of light, this large format pyramid is positioned by virtue of and within the greys of the negative space that surrounds it: edges are defined, not unlike the horse to its mirror, by the nonexistent spaces between the two, meeting at just half-way via, or, in the-time that it takes for the value(s) to shift: rigid planes become gradient by way of their edge.

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid

Guernica. OIL ON CANVAS. 349 CM × 776 CM. 1937




We enter the picture plane via a lifeless form on the lower left via his right arm, following the wrist through the shadow via the folds in the fabric on his white shirt. Though motionless, we can register a look of content on his profile, which points directly upward. We follow the path of his right pectoral, marked by nipple, leading the way to the white shirt, illuminated by the light of above. Extending beyond his torso and upwards via his left femur, we travel upward in the picture plane after asking, is he wearing pants? His left foot is without a blue boot to match his right foot. Traveling upward in the picture plane via a red band of fabric, we encounter blue, then naples yellow again in the folds of the gown of the female figure in the center. The three primary colors form a triad here in the center. The figure of the female in the center stands upon the bodies below her. A triangle. Red, yellow white, mirroring the form of the man, below. Regarded by a man situated just below her. A the apex of the triangle is her flag. The red, blue and white, which shines below, returning our gaze to the white shirt of the first fallen form. She stands barefoot, profile turned toward those following. Twisted at the waist, her form portends movement forward, flag post and weapon in left hand standing sentinel parallel to one another, providing her body with a container. Joined by youth dually armed with pistols, we see a city on the right-hand side of the picture plane, anchored just at the center. Her breasts stand bare as she stands upon the death below her. The sash of the young boy points to the earth. Guides us past the light in the fallen soldier's uniform, below her. Pointed toward the left. We see the left hand of another body pointed toward the left, mirroring the form on the lower left that ushers us in. 

EUGENE DELACROIX, LA LIBERTE GUIDANT LE PEUPLE: Oil on canvas, 1830. Height: 260 cm (102.3 in); Width: 325 cm (10.6 ft). Exhibited at Salon des artistes françaisLouvre PalaceParis, 1831. Current location: