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Archive for the ‘Art & Artists’ Category

Jeanne-Claude, who collaborated with her husband, Christo, on dozens of environmental arts projects, notably the wrapping of the Pont Neuf in Paris and the Reichstag in Berlin, and the installation of 7,503 vinyl gates with saffron-colored nylon panels in Central Park, died Thursday in Manhattan, where she lived. She was 74.

“The cause was complications of a brain aneurysm, her family told The Associated Press.

Jeanne-Claude met her husband, Christo Javacheff, in Paris in 1958. At the time, Christo, a Bulgarian refugee, was already wrapping small objects. Three years later, they collaborated on their first work, a temporary installation on the Cologne docks that consisted of oil drums and rolls of industrial paper wrapped in tarpaulin.

“To avoid confusing dealers and the public, and to establish an artistic brand, they used only Christo’s name. In 1994 they retroactively applied the joint name ‘Christo and Jeanne-Claude’ to all outdoor works and large-scale temporary indoor installations. Indoor work was credited to Christo alone.” (cont’d @ NY Times)

Related: ‘The Gates, Central Park, New York, 1979-2005’ Christo and Jeanne-Claude

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cadaver-book“Visual explorations of how the human body works have had us riveted since before Leonardo da Vinci sketched the famous Vitruvian man sometime around 1487. That fascination is the focus of what may be one of the most gruesome coffee table books ever.

Dissection: Photographs of a Rite of Passage in American Medicine 1880-1930 contains hundreds of pictures of medical students posing with the cadavers they were learning to dissect.

“These photos were something of an underground genre, says author John Warner, a professor of medical history at Yale. You wouldn’t see one in a doctor’s waiting room, but they were taken and treasured, and sometimes even passed around as Christmas cards.” (more @ NPR) [Click image to enlarge]

Meanwhile, in Berlin:

A controversial German anatomy artist is facing protests over his latest plastination exhibition after unveiling a work showing two corpses having sexual intercourse.

Gunther von Hagens, whose latest exhibition, Cycle of Life, opens in Berlin tomorrow, has defended the exhibit saying that it combines the two greatest taboos of sex and death and is a lesson in biology, but is ‘not meant to be sexually stimulating’.

“The exhibition has drawn angry protests from a cross-party group of politicians as well as church representatives. They have called for the work to be withdrawn, saying it is pornographic and an insult to the dead. . . .

“Von Hagens developed the plastination method several years ago after discovering a method for preserving bodies by replacing their fat and water deposits with injections of silicon, which then harden.

“His popular exhibitions, which have travelled the world, have included corpses playing chess, high jumping, and horse riding. Others have shown a dead pregnant woman and foetuses at various stages of development.” (more @ Guardian.UK)

Related: Prof In Corpse Sex Plan

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sugarshack“Ernie Barnes, whose drawings and paintings of athletes, dancers and other figures in motion reflected his first career as a professional football player, died on Monday in Los Angeles. He was 70. . . .

“Mr. Barnes was an offensive lineman in the old American Football League, playing four seasons in the 1960s for the New York Titans, the San Diego Chargers and the Denver Broncos. He would often say later that even during his playing days, his heart was more in the painting and sketching he had been doing since he was a child.

“But the athletic experience clearly influenced his painterly vision. His work, which mostly depicts black people — Mr. Barnes was black — is kinetic and often vividly bright, though even in his black-and-white pencil drawings the strain of competing bodies is evident in the curves, stretches and muscular exertions of the figures.

“While his most famous painting, ‘Sugar Shack,’ a jubilant dancing scene that appeared on the cover of Marvin Gaye’s album ‘I Want You’ and was shown during the closing credits of the television situation comedy ‘Good Times,’ is not literally sports-related, it is nonetheless a characteristic work, with its vibrant tumble of bodies.” (more @ NY Times)

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“During the late Thirties, some of Britain’s most distinguished architects, artists, musicians, film-makers and others, many of them Jewish, arrived on our shores with their meagre belongings having escaped from the Nazi threat in continental Europe. Many of them made their homes here and went on to leave a lasting mark on our intellectual and cultural life. Britain reaped a rich reward for its tolerance. . . .

“Among them were two refugees from Vienna, Walter Neurath and Eva Feuchtwang. . . .

“They met in London during the war, fell in love, and in 1949, 60 years ago, they pooled their passions, and set up a new art publishing imprint that would straddle the Atlantic.

“They named it Thames & Hudson, after the rivers of London and New York, and their aim was to publish reasonably priced books on art, sculpture and architecture, in which words and pictures were integrated and accessible to all. They wanted their books to educate, inform and entertain as a ‘museum without walls’. . . .

“Setting out to rebuild British culture Thames & Hudson has grown into a hugely successful company, and it remains one of Britain’s last family-held publishing dynasties.” (more @ Times Online)

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“On inauguration day, Tom Brokaw was moved to compare Barack Obama’s election to Czechoslovakia’s 1989 Velvet Revolution. At the eye of each storm, of course, was an icon who merged the political and the aesthetic–Václav Havel, the rock-star poet and prophet, and Barack Obama, the post-soul master of his own story. Both struck down eras of monocultural repression with their pens.

“Artists played a largely unheralded role in Obama’s victory. But they had been tugging the national unconscious forward for decades, from the multiculturalist avant-gardes of the 1970s and ’80s to the hip-hop rebels of the ’90s and 2000s, plying a fearless, sometimes even unruly kind of polyculturalism. By the final months of the election season, these artists had secured Obama as the waking image of change.

“Every moment of major social change requires a collective leap of imagination. Political transformation must be accompanied not just by spontaneous and organized expressions of unrest and risk but by an explosion of mass creativity. Little wonder that two of the most maligned jobs during the forty years after Richard Nixon’s 1968 election sealed the backlash of the ‘silent majority‘ were community organizer and artist.

“Obama was both. So why haven’t community organizers and artists been offered a greater role in the national recovery?” (cont’d @ The Nation)

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crumblastsupperRobert Crumb‘s cover for “The Last Supplement to the Whole Earth Catalog,” from Jeremy Barker’s collection of 100+ pop culture adaptations of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. (more @ Popped Culture,”; via Wired)

[Click image for a larger version of the R. Crumb cover.]

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The Crumpled Press, the brainchild of [Jordan] McIntyre and [Alexander] Bick, publishes work by new authors and sets previously unpublished, notable lectures and articles into proper books — hand-sewn — on culture, politics, self-reflection, and poetry. ‘It’s original, thought-provoking work that might otherwise be tossed aside,’ says Bick, who is pursuing a history PhD at Princeton. ‘Hence the name Crumpled Press.’ In the four years since the outfit’s birth, they’ve published nine titles — from a series of fictional voicemails placed on 9/11 to a meditation on Darwinian selection, sexuality, and fashion — priced from $5 to $25. . . . 

“Today the four editors work with each author to create a book’s artisanal feel, reproducing journal sketches or deliberating fonts, flyleaves, and covers, to savor the printed-page aesthetic in an era of digitized technology — including sites for e-books, such as Google Books or the Amazon Kindle. [Anthony] Grafton’s Codex in Crisis reflects on this very topic. Expanded from a 2007 New Yorker article, the book was first released in a limited edition of 250 copies, each hand-numbered with a letterpress cover and holding a fold-out color plate.” (more @ University of Chicago Magazine)

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Robert Delford Brown, a painter, sculptor, performance artist and avant-garde philosopher whose exuberantly provocative works challenged orthodoxies of both the art world and the world at large, usually with a big wink, was found dead on March 24 in the Cape Fear River in Wilmington, N.C. . . .

“A colleague of artists like Jim Dine, Claes Oldenburg and Nam June Paik, Mr. Brown was a central figure in the anarchic New York art scene of the early 1960s, a participant in — and instigator of — events-as-art known as “happenings.” He saw the potential for aesthetic pronouncement in virtually everything. His métier was willful preposterousness, and his work contained both anger and insouciance.

“His raw materials included buildings, pornographic photos and even meat carcasses.

“He often performed in the persona of a religious leader, but dressed in a clown suit with a red nose and antennas hung with ripe bananas. In the end his message to the world was that both spirited individualism and unimpeded creativity must triumph.” (more @ NY Times)

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levittHelen Levitt, a major photographer of the 20th century who caught fleeting moments of surpassing lyricism, mystery and quiet drama on the streets of her native New York, died in her sleep at her home in Manhattan on Sunday. She was 95. . . .

“Ms. Levitt captured instances of a cinematic and delightfully guileless form of street choreography that held at its heart, as William Butler Yeats put it, ‘the ceremony of innocence.’ A man handles garbage-can lids like an exuberant child imitating a master juggler. Even an inanimate object — a broken record — appears to skip and dance on an empty street as a child might, observed by a group of women’s dresses in a shop window.

“As marvelous as these images are, the masterpieces in Ms. Levitt’s oeuvre are her photographs of children living their zesty, improvised lives. A white girl and a black boy twirl in a dance of their own imagining. Four girls on a sidewalk turning to stare at five floating bubbles become contrapuntal musical notes in a lovely minor key.

“In Ms. Levitt’s best-known picture, three properly dressed children prepare to go trick-or-treating on Halloween 1939. Standing on the stoop outside their house, they are in almost metaphorical stages of readiness. The girl on the top step is putting on her mask; a boy near her, his mask in place, takes a graceful step down, while another boy, also masked, lounges on a lower step, coolly surveying the world.

“‘At the peak of Helen’s form,’ John Szarkowski, former director of the photography department at the Museum of Modern Art, once said, ‘there was no one better.'” (more @ NY Times)

Related

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“This month, a 33-year-old Belgian artist has started a project called I Got a Postcard, where people leave self-addressed stamped postcards that encourage the people who find them to personalize and mail them.

“Two weeks ago, he left his first 100 cards in 10 locations in New York City — including a library, airport, theater and bus — and waited for them to return. The cards read: ‘Dear finder, personalize this postcard and then return it to me. Be as original and artistic as possible and your creation will be submitted to igotapostcard.blogspot.com.’

“The artist, Renaud Dehareng (the artist name of Jason Burns), says he was inspired by PostSecret. And Postsecret itself was inspired by Found magazine.” (more @ NY Times)

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kissingercartoon“The Kissinger image [left] (by David Levine) is one of 320 illustrations – by 142 of the world’s most acclaimed contemporary artists – that The New York Times itself originally commissioned for its Op-Ed Pages, but then got cold feet about running, and eventually paid more than $1 million in ‘kill fees’ to hide from public view (sometimes for as long as 38 years).

“What didn’t the Times want you to see?

“Can you imagine illustrations so ‘blasphemous,’ so ‘politically embarrassing,’ so sexually ‘over the line’ that The New York Times gladly paid a fortune just to protect your delicate eyes from being exposed to them?

“You’ll find hundreds of such allegedly ‘not-fit-to-print’ illustrations – together with the bizarre and often ludicrous reasons for suppressing them – in a sly and deliciously funny new book called All The Art That’s Fit to Print (And Some That Wasn’t), by Jerelle Kraus, former Art Editor of the Times Op-Ed and Editorial Pages, who reluctantly quit her ‘dream job’ at the Times after 13 years in order to publish it. . . .

“Unfortunately, if you’re looking for more information about this book — don’t expect to consult a review in The New York Times. You won’t find one. For years the Times tried to discourage Ms Kraus from publishing this book, but now that it’s out, the Times is spitefully refusing even to acknowledge its existence, let alone actually review it. Since the Times‘ Book Section is a bible of the publishing world, not being noticed in its pages can often destroy a book’s chances of attracting a large audience.

“Which may be the the Times’s purpose — a publicity blackout might make the book quietly disappear.” (more @ AlterNet)

[Then there’s the New York Post, which had no problem running the Obama-as-stimulus-writing-monkey cartoon just last month. Seems to me both papers need to redraw their standards.]

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“While Times Square is not known for star gazing — the celestial kind, that is — and few people would normally venture onto a pitch-black ball field in Inwood to see the constellations, two unrelated, if not unlikely, projects hope to turn the city’s night eyes skyward.

Jason Kendall, an amateur astronomer, and Katja Aglert, a Swedish installation artist, want to turn out the lights in different parts of Manhattan and, weather permitting, illuminate the night sky. . . .

“Mr. Kendall and Ms. Aglert, 38 — who do not know each other — face daunting challenges to realize their visions.

“He must persuade the city’s parks department to darken Inwood’s Dyckman Fields, which run north for about 15 blocks from Dyckman Street, on April 3 and April 4.

“She has to persuade landlords and billboard owners in Times Square to cut their lights for one minute sometime this spring. . . .

“On the nights in April that Mr. Kendall wants Dyckman Fields darkened, the moon will rise early, and astronomy enthusiasts around the world are signifying the occurrence to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first recorded use of a telescope. . . .

“Ms. Aglert, who was awarded $21,000 from the Swedish government and given office space by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council to pursue her project, faces fewer government hurdles than Mr. Kendall. Since she is not proposing to turn off traffic signals, street lamps and other city lights, she does not need official approval, though the Buildings Department said she had to submit a proposal.” (more @ NY Times)

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PD*27420284“Professor Stanley Wells, Chairman of The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and one of the world’s leading experts on Shakespearean studies, today announced the discovery of a portrait of William Shakespeare, which he believes is almost certainly the only authentic image of Shakespeare made from life.

“The newly discovered picture has descended for centuries in the same family, the Cobbes. It hung in their Irish home, under another identification, until the 1980s, when it was inherited by Alec Cobbe who was a co-heir of the Cobbe estate and whose heirlooms were transferred into a trust. In 2006 Alec Cobbe visited the National Portrait Gallery exhibition ‘Searching for Shakespeare’ where he saw a painting that now hangs in the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington. It had been accepted as a life portrait of Shakespeare until some 70 years ago, but fell from grace when it was found to have been altered. Mr Cobbe immediately realised that this was a copy of the painting in his family collection. . . .

“Up to now only two images have been accepted as authentic representations of what Shakespeare may have looked like. One is the engraving by Martin Droeshout published in the First Folio of 1623. The other is the portrait bust in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon; the monument is mentioned in the Folio and therefore must have been in place by 1623. Both are posthumous – Shakespeare died in 1616. The engraver, who was only in his teens when Shakespeare died, must have had a picture, until now unidentified, to work from. Professor Wells believes it to be the one he has revealed today and that it was done from life, in about 1610, when he was 46 years old.” 

The portrait will be on exhibit at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon beginning April 23 (which may be both the anniversary of his birth in 1564 and of his death in 1616). (via NY Times)

A video report on the painting’s discovery was featured on the CBS News “Early Show” and can be found here.

Related

UpdateShakespeare Unfound(ed)?

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nea“Unemployment rates are up among working artists and the artist workforce has contracted, according to new research from the National Endowment for the Arts.  Artists in a Year of Recession: Impact on Jobs in 2008 examines how the economic slowdown has affected the nation’s working artists.  The study looks at artist employment patterns during two spikes in the current recession – the fourth quarters of 2007 and 2008.  This downturn reflects larger economic declines: a Commerce Department report last week noted a 6.2 percent decrease in the gross domestic product in the last quarter of 2008.

“Among the findings:

  • Artists are unemployed at twice the rate of professional workers
  • Unemployment rates for artists have risen more rapidly than for U.S. workers as a whole
  • Artist unemployment rates would be even higher if not for the large number of artists leaving the workforce
  • Unemployment rose for most types of artist occupations
  • The job market for artists is unlikely to improve until long after the U.S. economy starts to recover” (via mediabistro)

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earthourIt’s been a good news/bad news year so far for Shepard Fairey, the “street artist” who created the iconic image of Barack Obama for the 2008 Presidential Election that recently entered the permanent collection of Presidential portraits in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

First, the good news:

Fairey has been chosen to create the artwork for this year’s “Earth Hour” campaign.

Scheduled for 8:30 PM on March 28th, “The lights out initiative, which began in Sydney in 2007 as a one-city environmental campaign, has evolved into a grassroots action that has captured the attention of the citizens of the world. In 2008, 371 cities across 35 countries turned their lights out in a united call for action on climate change.

Now, with almost two months still remaining before Earth Hour 2009, that number has already been eclipsed, with 377 cities across 74 countries now committed to turning off their lights for one hour.”

Now the bad news:

Last week, on the eve of the opening of a retrospective of his work at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, Fairey was arrested in Boston on graffiti-related charges – he is accused of defacing public property by posting stencils of the professional wrestler Andre the Giant and the word “Obey.”

fairleyartwork

And this past Monday, Fairey filed a lawsuit against The Associated Press – his lawyers are asking a federal judge to shield Fairey from copyright infringement claims in his use of the news photograph as the basis for his poster image of President Obama. “According to the suit, A.P. officials contacted Mr. Fairey’s studio late last month demanding payment for the use of the photo and a portion of any money he makes from it.”

Related

Update

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Felix Nussbaum, Le Réfugié (The Refugee), 1939

“Is there a Jewish art?” Harold Rosenberg asked at New York’s Jewish Museum in 1966. “They build a Jewish Museum, then ask: ‘Is there a Jewish art?’ Jews!”

(via Financial Times)

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Marfa, Texas, long a tourist destination for devotees of paranormal phenomena who journey to this remote desert outpost for a chance to experience the Marfa Lights, is still in many ways a typical small Texas town where languorous locals are animated by talk of high school football. But when I visited Marfa two years ago while en route to Odessa, Texas for a reunion of my wife’s family, the entire town seemed like a mirage: there, deep in the heart of George Bush country, were art and photography galleries, a public radio station serving “Far West Texas,” and a coffee shop, The Brown Recluse, providing customers with reading copies of such un-Bush publications as  “The Nation” and “The New York Review of Books” while serving some of the best fresh roasted coffee (organic and free trade) on either side of the Rio Grande. Marfa owes its current status as an art destination to the American painter and minimalist sculptor Donald Judd who moved to town in 1971 with hopes of realizing his art on a “grand scale.”

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obama-portrait“On Tuesday, as Barack Obama was being sworn into office, his portrait by the street artist Shepard Fairey — reproduced endlessly during the campaign until it became the defining image of the future president (it towered over a stage at one of the inaugural balls) — was on view at the National Portrait Gallery. A collaged poster of it had just entered the collection along with portraits by artists like Gilbert Stuart (George Washington), Norman Rockwell (Richard Nixon) and Elaine de Kooning (John Kennedy). . . . the portrait gallery’s decision is arguably the establishment’s most public embrace of a quintessentially anti-establishment brand of art.”

Outlaws at the Art Museum (and Not for a Heist) (via NY Times)

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