Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Naked Truth About the Nude in Art

When you get down to the bare facts, there’s no genre of art older than that of the nude. The bare human figure—male and female, but more often female—commands attention as much as it makes us turn away in modesty or, worse, shame. The duality of that “truth” of the nude as well as our reaction to it is the slippery subject of Being Nude: The Skin of Images by Jean-Luc Nancy and Federico Ferrari (translated by Anne O’Byrne and Carlie Anglemire). Nancy and Ferrari argue for “something true right at the skin, skin as truth” as the exposing of flesh “reveals is that there is nothing to be revealed, or that there is nothing other than revelation itself, the revealing and what can be revealed, both at once.” At times a hard philosophical road to slog, Being Nude gives you a multidimensional, multimedia, multigenerational musing on the nude that may not lay all the facts perfectly bare, but will leave you looking at and thinking about the nude in a different way than ever before. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "The Naked Truth About the Nude in Art."

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Does Art Need Religion?

Everyone knows there are two things you never bring up in conversation—politics and religion. In this secular age chock full of wars fought over one faith or another, many never want to hear about the role of religion in the world, unable to see any good within all that bad. But if you turn the conversation towards the safer topic of the arts, quite often you’ll hear someone long for the good old days, when great artists made great art rather than the poor efforts of contemporary art’s lesser talents. Is it possible that such Old Masters as Michelangelo were great because they lived in more religious times? Is the connection between great art and religious influence a correlation or just coincidence? Does art need religion? Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Does Art Need Religion?"

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Is Haruki Murakami the Thelonius Monk of Fiction?

From 1974 through 1981, Haruki Murakami ran a jazz club in Tokyo, Japan, and wondered what direction his life would run. After long soul searching, his life ran in the direction of becoming a novelist. He hasn’t stopped running since, producing 13 novels that not only have won international awards, but also have been translated into over 50 languages, thus making him the most well-known Japanese novelist in the world. His latest novel to be translated into English, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, adds to his oeuvre one more tale of dreamy, surreal, puzzling, yet oddly beautiful human existence. Despite his success, Murakami (shown above) still faces criticism for his writing style, which some see as overly simple and occasionally downright ugly—criticisms once aimed at the Murakami beloved bebop jazz, the style employed by the enigmatic, brilliant pianist Thelonious Monk. Is Haruki Murakami the Thelonius Monk of fiction? Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Is Haruki Murakami the Thelonius Monk of Fiction?"

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Was the Romantic Beethoven Really a “Radical Evolutionary”?

Of all the standard myths and accepted truths of the life and music of Ludwig van Beethoven, the idea of the “Romantic” Beethoven—the embodiment of Germanic sturm und drang and 19th century revolution—clings the most. In a massive new biography, Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph, Jan Swafford hopes to tear away that and many more myths to rediscover the real man and artist buried beneath. “Beethoven was not a Romantic, and he never called himself a revolutionary,” Swafford asserts. “He based much of what he did on tradition, models, and authorities, and he never intended to overthrow the past. He was an evolutionist more than a revolutionist. Call him a radical evolutionary, one with a unique voice.” Using his own unique voice as biographer of great composers, Swafford traces the life and art of Beethoven in eye-opening, rational detail and gives you a more human, more fascinating portrait of Beethoven the radical evolutionary than even the Beethoven the Romantic of legend. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Was the Romantic Beethoven Really a “Radical Evolutionary”?"

The Fight for Images of Ferguson

The flood of images of violence and unrest continues to flow from Ferguson, Missouri, in the wake of the shooting death of Michael Brown on August 9, 2014. (See one slide show here.) The promise of a “post-racial America” after the election of the first African-American President seems a cruel joke when watching scenes of mostly African-American citizens square off against mostly white police and government representatives. But aside from the story that these images tell is the story of the images themselves. According to The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), “Press freedom in the United States dramatically deteriorated in 2013.” A major part of that curtailed press freedom involves the primary medium of today’s information society—visual images. From arresting and threatening photojournalists to performance art specifically about picturing dead young, African-American men, the fight for images of Ferguson reveals more than we realize and more than many people want to acknowledge. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "The Fight for Images of Ferguson."

Monday, August 11, 2014

Hearing and Seeing James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake Anew

“riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay,” begins James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, opening a torrent of words that has drowned many readers in confusion over Joyce’s modernist approach. A fresh new edition of Joyce’s 1939 novel edited by Danis Rose and John O’Hanlon and illustrated by John Vernon Lord throws a life preserver to readers by offering a more readable, more musical text accompanied by illustrations that capture the playful, multilayered, flowing spirit of the story. For anyone who has tried and failed to finish Finnegans Wake or for anyone too intimated to try, this new edition will have you hearing and seeing Joyce’s language more clearly than ever before. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Hearing and Seeing James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake Anew."

Are Liberals Killing Art?

In his recent New Republic article titled “Liberals Are Killing Art: How the Left became obsessed with ideology over beauty,” art critic Jed Perl makes a convoluted argument that liberalism now “find[s] the emotions unleashed by the arts—I mean all of the arts, from poetry to painting to dance—something of an embarrassment.” Embarrassed by emotions, liberals “who support a rational public policy—a social safety net, consistency and efficiency in foreign affairs, steps to reverse global warming—[are] reluctant to embrace art’s celebration of unfettered metaphor and mystery and magic.” Beginning with that quick hop, skip, and rhetorical leap from global warming to art appreciation, Perl stands up a series of liberal straw men to knock down in his overall accusation that liberals see art just as political (or politicizable) content at the expense of aesthetic pleasure. In resurrecting an old school argument from more than half a century ago, Perl asks if liberals are killing art, but ends up making readers ask if conservative critics are killing art instead. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Are Liberals Killing Art?"