Monday, February 14, 2011

"The Kiss" by Edvard Munch

This print reminds me of Brancusi's sculpture The Kiss. With their lips pressed together and arms around each other, the man and woman become a single form. In Brancusi's it is the eyes and overall symmetrical shape that cause the two to be viewed as one. Munch's is a bit more naturalistic; the man and woman maintain their unique sizes and shapes, but are visually joined when the black of their clothing and hair, and the grey of their faces run together creating a single shape. Munch's print is also more expressive in comparison to Brancusi's highly stylized, blockish forms. Here the man bends toward the woman and pulls her body into his embrace. Their arms curve in a lyrical sweep, where in Brancusi's figures the arms read more like inorganic bands fastened around the block. Through these characteristics, Brancusi's piece becomes more cerebral, a thought about or comment on the sort of kiss that shuts the couple off from the world, giving the two as close to a sense of oneness as separate beings such as we humans can reach. Brancusi's sculpture gets me to contemplate the role of physical love in romantic relationships. Munch's on the other hand causes me feel sentimental as I recall such kisses from my own personal history. Although perhaps the most profound difference between the two pieces is the couples' relationships to their environment. As sculptures of two figures joined by focusing in toward each other, Brancusi's Kiss separates them from the world. The sculptures become a sort of timeless monument. In contrast, Munch's couple is embedded in the grain of the space they occupy. At times when I look at this image, I see rain pouring down and the couple holding each other for some shelter and warmth. The streaks of grain move through them, making them transparent. Instead of a timeless monument, their kiss is a transient moment in time. Brancusi's figures are stylized so as to be universal, but the form of these two is simplified by the distance of personal memory.

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