Friday, August 21, 2015

Days of Infamy: August 21 and 22 and Major Art Heists

For art history, August 21 and 22 are the dates that will live in infamy, not December 7th (all apologies to FDR). In some strange nexus of negative karma stretching over nearly a century, three of the greatest art heists of all time took place on these dates: the theft of the Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (shown above) from the Louvre in Paris, France, on August 21, 1911; the theft of Goya’s Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London, England, on August 21, 1961; and the theft of Edvard Munch’s The Scream (shown above) and Madonna from the Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway, on August 22, 2004. Each story ends happily with the works returned safe and sound, but the stories behind each still bewilder and amaze. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Days of Infamy: August 21 and 22 and Major Art Heists."

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Electric Apostasy: The Day Bob Dylan Died

For the 1950s’ generation, “the day the music died” was February 3, 1959—the day when the plane carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and “The Big Bopper” crashed. For the 1960s generation, however, “the day the music died” was July 25, 1965—the day when Bob Dylan crashed the 1965 Newport Folk Festival stage with an electric guitar in front of him and rock band behind him to rip into a loud, raucous version of his new hit, “Like a Rolling Stone.” Bob Dylan the folk figure of the early ‘60s was dead. Bob Dylan the rock voice of the late ‘60s generation was born.  “For many people the story of Newport 1965 is simple,” author-musician Elijah Wald writes in Dylan Goes Electric: Newport, Seeger, Dylan, and the Night that Split the Sixties, “Bob Dylan was busy being born, and anyone who did not welcome the change was busy dying.” In Dylan Goes Electric, Wald tells an electrifying story of just how complex the true story of that moment was—a cultural crossroads now mired in mythology but even more fascinating and significant when told with clear eyes and an understanding of both sides of the divide Dylan stood across. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Electric Apostasy: The Day Bob Dylan Died."

Atomic Sublime: How Photography Shapes our View of Nuclear Warfare and Energy

The 70th anniversary of the dropping of atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will undoubtedly be accompanied by images of the “mushroom clouds” that rose over both cities. Terrible and sublime, these images burned themselves into the consciousness of “the greatest generation” and every generation since that’s lived with both the legacy of nuclear war and the reality of nuclear energy. A new exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario, titled Camera Atomica, looks deeply at the interrelated nature of photography and nuclear war and peace to come away with a fascinating glimpse of the calculatedly manufactured “atomic sublime” — the fascination with such terrible power at our command that simply won’t let us look away. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Atomic Sublime: How Photography Shapes our View of Nuclear Warfare and Energy."

A Beautiful Mind: Agnes Martin, Minimalism, and the Feminist Voice

“When I think of art, I think of beauty. Beauty is the mystery of life,minimalist artist Agnes Martin once explained. “It is not in the eye; it is in my mind. In our minds there is awareness of perfection.” In the first comprehensive survey of her art at the Tate Modern, in London, England, the exhibition Agnes Martin strives to guide viewers to that “awareness of perfection” Martin strove to embody in her minimalist, geometrically founded art. Rather than the cold, person-less brand of modernist minimalism, Martin’s work personifies the warm humanity of Buddhist editing down to essentials. At the same time, surveying Martin’s art and thinking allows us to revisit the feminist critiques of minimalism and shows how Martin’s stepping back from the bustle of the New York art scene freed her to find “a beautiful mind” — not just for women, but for everyone. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "A Beautiful Mind: Agnes Martin, Minimalism, and the Feminist Voice."

Between Two Worlds: The Unveiling of Yasuo Kuniyoshi

When the Whitney Museum of American Art decided to stage in 1948 their first exhibition of a living American artist, they chose someone who wasn’t even an American citizen, but only legally could become one just before his death. Painter Yasuo Kuniyoshi came to America as a teenager and immersed himself in American culture and art while rising to the top of his profession, all while facing discrimination based on his Japanese heritage. The exhibition The Artistic Journey of Yasuo Kuniyoshi, which runs through August 30, 2015, at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC, unveils an amazing story of an artist who lived between two worlds — East and West — while bridging them in his art that not only synthesized different traditions, but also mirrored the joys and cruelties of them. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Between Two Worlds: The Unveiling of Yasuo Kuniyoshi."

Crude Behavior: How Big Oil Tries to 'Artwash' Itself

As British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig spewed enough crude into the Gulf of Mexico to be seen from space in late April 2010, the Tate Britain saw fit to celebrate their long-standing sponsorship by BP at their annual summer party. While oil stuck to shorelines and wildlife, the black mark of ecological destruction failed to stick to BP, at least for that night. Artist-activists Mel Evans and Anna Feigenbaum and the Liberate Tate crew crashed that party with performance art protesting both the polluters and those who associated with them. Now, five years later, Evans revisits the relationship between “Big Oil” and “Big Art” in Artwash: Big Oil and the Arts. Evans accuses Big Oil of focusing more on cleaning up their image than their business’ collateral damage and charges cultural institutions that take Big Oil sponsorship money as accomplices to that crime. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Crude Behavior: How Big Oil Tries to 'Artwash' Itself."

Omnivore’s Dilemma: Rethinking John Singer Sargent

The standard line against painter John Singer Sargent goes like this: a very good painter of incredible technique, but little substance who flattered the rich and famous with decadently beautiful portraiture — a Victorian Andrea del Sarto of sorts whose reach rarely exceeded his considerable artistic grasp. A new exhibition of Sargent’s work and the accompanying catalogues argue that he was much more than a painter of pretty faces. Instead, the exhibition Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends and catalogues challenge us to see Sargent’s omnivorous mind, which swallowed up nascent modernist movements not just in painting, but also in literature, music, and theater. Sargent the omnivore’s dilemma thus lies in being too many things at once and tasking us to multitask with him. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Omnivore’s Dilemma: Rethinking John Singer Sargent."