Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How Mickalene Thomas Breaks Up the Modernist Boys Club

When Pablo Picasso and other early modernists appropriated elements of so-called “primitive” African art for Cubist and proto-Cubist works such as 1907’s Les Demoiselles d'Avignon they perpetrated a kind of artistic colonialism similar to the economic colonialism that brought back African treasures to French museums and galleries in the first place. It was an exclusively European, almost exclusively male club that marginalized not just the African culture it emulated, but also the women that were often the subjects of their art. In Mickalene Thomas: Tête de Femme, African-American artist Mickalene Thomas breaks up the modernist boys club a century after its formation and takes aim at the lingering effects of its subtle misogyny and racism that continue in the visuals of our present-day culture. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "How Mickalene Thomas Breaks Up the Modernist Boys Club."

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Paul McCartney’s Seventies Struggle to Escape the Beatles

During the 1960s, four of the most famous people on Earth were collectively known as The Beatles. Most people struggle to deal with the post-fame life, but how do you live as an ex-Beatle? In Man on the Run: Paul McCartney in the 1970s, Tom Doyle asks that very question of the life of the “cute Beatle,” Paul McCartney. For McCartney, the 1970s “was an edgy, liberating, sometimes frightening period of his life that has largely been forgotten,” Doyle writes in no small part because beneath the myth of the “Bambi-eyed soft-rock balladeer, [Paul] was actually a far more counterculturally  leaning individual (albeit one overshadowed by the light-sucking John Lennon) than he was ever given credit for.” Thanks to years of exclusive interviews with McCartney and people close to him during this era, Doyle paints a far more interesting portrait of the writer of “Silly Love Songs” as an eccentric, experimental, and even inspirational artist whose partnership with wife Linda McCartney (shown above together with Paul) showed him how to escape the shadow of the Beatles and find a new life and career. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Paul McCartney’s Seventies Struggle to Escape the Beatles."

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Was There a Seventies "Sexplosion" in the Arts?

“Today, full frontal nudity is more common on cable TV than cigarette smoking is in office buildings,” writes Robert Hofler in Sexplosion: From Andy Warhol to A Clockwork Orange—How a Generation of Pop Rebels Broke All the Taboos, his fascinating study of how we got to this point. Hofler contends that the American “sexual revolution” of the 1960s ignited a “sexplosion” in the arts in the half decade ranging from 1968 through 1973. In those tumultuous five years, breaking sexual taboos evolved from the counterculture to the mainstream, inspiring a sexual counter-revolution as well that still holds sway over American culture. Artists have always pushed the envelope when it came to sex, but Hofler makes a strong case that the half decade between “The Summer of Love” and Roe v. Wade represents a “big bang” we’re still feeling the vibrations of.  Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Was There a Seventies "Sexplosion" in the Arts?"

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Can a Classic Museum Really Be Made Modern?

Every new cultural institution hopes for “The Bilbao Effect”—the economic boom the faltering, former industrial city of Bilbao, Spain, enjoyed after the 1997 rise of architect Frank Gehry’s game-changing design for the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum. But even old cultural institutions want some of that same magic. So, when Gehry came to see Barnett Newman’s The Stations of the Cross with artist friend Ellsworth Kelly at the Philadelphia Museum of Art back in 2006, the museum’s then director and CEO, Anne d’Harnoncourt, approached Gehry about “doing something special” there, too. However, instead of a new signature “Gehry” look, d’Harnoncourt requested “a quiet intervention”—an underground “Philadelphia Effect.” In Making a Classic Modern: Frank Gehry’s Master Plan for the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the PMA finally unveils their “master plan” for revitalizing their classic main building first opened in 1928 for the 21st century. The big question hanging over this whole decade-long, estimated half billion dollar project remains: can a classic museum really be made modern? Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Can a Classic Museum Really Be Made Modern?"

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Must We Take Jeff Koons Seriously Now?

Comedian Stephen Colbert called Jeff Koons “The world's most expensive birthday clown” when the artist famous for his giant balloon animals appeared on his show in 2012. A year later, one of Koons’ balloon dogs sold for $58.4 million, setting a record for the highest auction price paid for a work by a living artist, so Koons could laugh all the way to the bank. Disdained by critics but loved by buyers, Koons and his work have always struggled for critical acceptance, especially in New York City, Koons’ base of operations. Finally, the Whitney Museum of American Art presents Jeff Koons: A Retrospective, a museum-filling show featuring 150 objects dating from 1978 to what one curator says are “literally works finished last week.” Is this the official canonization of Jeff Koons into the pantheon of art history? Must we take Jeff Koons seriously now? Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Must We Take Jeff Koons Seriously Now?"

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

How Cézanne Saw a World in an Apple

Just as poet William Blake asks us “To see a world in a grain of sand” in his poem “Auguries of Innocence,” painter Paul Cézanne asks us to see the world in an apple in the many still lifes that span his long career. In The World Is an Apple: The Still Lifes of Paul Cézanne currently at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, PA, we’re invited to enter into the world of “the painter of apples” and come away with new eyes that see what Cézanne called the “ambient penetration” of all things, that living quality of even inanimate objects best captured in the still life, or as the French would say, “Nature morte,” literally and paradoxically “dead life.” Using one of the oldest of genres, Cézanne set the rules for the modern art that followed him while forging a naïve, simplistic persona the real philosopher in paint hid behind. After viewing The World Is an Apple, you’ll come away with a new appreciation not only of Cézanne the painter, but also of Cézanne the visionary who saw the whole world in even the simplest apple and wants you to, too. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "How Cézanne Saw a World in an Apple."

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Is Performance Art the New Religion?

According to a Pew Research study, if you count people who change from one type of Protestantism to another, “44% of American adults have either switched religious affiliation, moved from being unaffiliated with any religion to being affiliated with a particular faith, or dropped any connection to a specific religious tradition altogether.” This “very competitive religious marketplace” promises to only get more competitive, as percentages of young people either unaffiliated with a faith or totally unaffiliated being even higher. Why are these people taking their faith to the marketplace? What are they looking for? Is it some kind of different or higher experience? With the stir surrounding Marina Abramović’s current performance art piece, Marina Abramović: 512 Hours at the Serpentine Gallery in London, England, being described frequently as a “religious experience,” is it possible that performance art—the most often ridiculed, poorly understood, but perhaps most vibrant art form today—could be the new religion? Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Is Performance Art the New Religion?"