Grotesque

DEFINITION

Something having a fantastically distorted appearance. Also, a style of painting, sculpture, and ornamentation used in antiquity in which natural forms and distorted figures are intertwined in bizarre or fanciful combinations, consisting of representations of medallions, sphinxes, foliage, and imaginary creatures.The grotesque is a powerful aesthetic category that combines ugliness and ornament, the bizarre and the ridiculous, the excessive and the unreal. The term derives from grotteschi, the Italian term for grottos ? the ruins in which ornamental statues of monstrous figures were found in the 15th and 16th centuries. In the realm of the fantastic, the grotesque is a powerful weapon used in the revelation and denunciation of constructs. Interest in the grotesque lies at the heart of the the carnivalesque spirit ? that tendency toward abandoning self-restraint seen in nearly every culture. The Romantic era, with its interest in individualism, and in all those who before the Age of Revolution had been nameless and invisible, made the grotesque its indispensable adjunct."Grotesque" is the term used by Mikhail Bakhtin (Russian linguist and literary philosopher, 1895-1975), to reference bodily changes through eating, evacuation, and sex, and is used as a measuring device (1993).(pr. gro-TESK)Examples of the grotesque in the first sense: Roman, Vichy (Allier), 2nd century CE, Stooping Old Woman, bronze, height 9.2 cm, Louvre. Also see Roman art. Leonardo da Vinci (Italian, 1452-1519), Five grotesque heads, drawing on paper, Royal Library, Windsor, UK. These are just a few of the numerous very realistic pictures Leonardo produced of grotesque or monstrous human heads, known in Italian as "visi monstruosi." See Renaissance.Quote "The dream of reason produces monsters." Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828), Spanish painter and printmaker. See Romanticism and Spanish art. "... what is grotesque can also be beautiful, if viewed from the proper perspective. There's nothing really new or even strange about that concept . The grotesque is just a fuzzy catchall for what might also be called anticlassicism. It encompasses distortions of the body, hopped-up colors, cartooning, horror, the gothic, camp, burlesque ? all forms of envelope-pushing, convention-busting expressionism, with its implicit strain of dark comedy. It has been around forever. As John Ruskin once put it, 'the grotesque is, in almost all cases, composed of two elements, one ludicrous, the other fearful.' " Michael Kimmelman, contemporary American art critic, in "The Convention of Beastly Beauty," a review of an exhibition in Santa Fe, The New York Times, August 6, 2004. Reference Bakhtin, M. (1993). Rabelais and His World. Translated by H?l?ne Iswolsky. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Also see arabesque, expressionism, frisson, gargoyle, Gothic, Middle Ages, misericord, pain, and ugly.

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