Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Why the Birth of Shakespeare Is the Birth of Modern Art

April 23, 2014, marks the 450th birthday of William Shakespeare, one of the greatest writers of all time and an inescapable influence not just on literature, but also on every form of culture since the 19th century. Although the canon of plays was more or less established with the publication of The First Folio in 1623, Shakespeare had to wait for larger acclaim until the Romantic era of the 1800s, when critics such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge and August Wilhelm Schlegel first spread the Gospel of Will which would soon blossom into full bardolatry. In many ways, the Romantic era never ended and we are the “last” Romantics, full of ideas of individuality, imagination, and even love that would be totally foreign to the classical world. Even those who accept that the Romantic era’s over see it as a Post-Romantic era, a time defined by what it can no longer be.  This Romantic or Post-Romantic world gave birth to Modern art.  So, by an almost Biblical series of begats, you can say that the birth of Shakespeare is the birth of Modern art, the birth of how we see the world within and the world without today. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Why the Birth of Shakespeare Is the Birth of Modern Art."

Thursday, April 17, 2014

How Neurocomic Gets Into Your Head

The two “go to” occupations for conveying the idea of genius are usually “rocket scientist” and “brain surgeon.” Only the best minds pursue the mysteries of the outer space beyond our atmosphere or the inner space between our ears. We all have brains, but getting our brains to understand themselves seems something reserved only for the eggiest of eggheads. Two neuroscientists, Drs. Hana Roš and Matteo Farinella, have teamed up to create the educational and entertaining graphic novel Neurocomic. By turning neurons into trees, the depths of memory into caves, and the mind’s self-deceptiveness into a haunted castle, Roš and Farinella take you on a visual and verbal rollercoaster ride into your own brain in hopes of bringing the non-brain surgeons of the world closer to cutting through all the scientific jargon and considering the big questions of brain versus mind, how we remember, and how we become who we are. A mind trip in every sense of the word, Neurocomic gets into your head to get you into your own head. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "How Neurocomic Gets Into Your Head."

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Stephen Colbert and the End of "Stephen Colbert"

On October 17th, 2005, comedian Stephen Colbert introduced the persona “Stephen Colbert” on the first episode of The Colbert Report by also introducing to the world the concept of “Truthiness.” That bit (the full video’s here) not only resulted in “truthiness” becoming Merriam-Webster’s 2006 Word of the Year, but also introduced the “truthiness” of performance art to a mainstream American audience. What began as a broad caricature of a Bill O’Reilly-esque conservative TV pundit evolved over 9 years into a multidimensional character with elements of the real wit, charm, warmth, and unyielding mental sharpness of the real man. With news that Colbert will be leaving The Colbert Report at the end of 2014 to replace David Letterman as the host of the Late Show on CBS in 2015 comes great sadness on seeing “Stephen Colbert” the character come to an end, but we’ll still have the rest of the year to celebrate, appreciate, and understand what Stephen Colbert the performance artist truly accomplished. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Stephen Colbert and the End of 'Stephen Colbert.'"

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Documenting China’s Fake Case Against Ai Weiwei

“You criticize them too much. If this was 1957 they would have killed you already,” Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s worried mother tells him in a new documentary titled Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case, which documents the Chinese government’s fabricated charges of tax evasion against the Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd, a business registered not in his but in his wife’s name, although the charges are leveled against Ai. “It’s a fake case,” Ai explains.  “It’s a fake case about a Fake Company.  But the Fake Company is a real company and the fake case is a real case, but it’s fake, it’s fabricated.” In this up-is-down world, Danish filmmaker Andreas Johnsen captures the very real day-to-day dangers the artist and those close to him face from a Chinese government that fears Ai’s online influence with a young generation of plugged-in Chinese capable of considering widespread cultural change. More than any documentary on Ai Weiwei so far, Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case depicts accurately what it is to be an artist struggling bravely against political oppression and the personal cost of that fight. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Documenting China’s Fake Case Against Ai Weiwei."

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Why Does George W. Bush Paint (and Why Do We Look)?

When former President George W. Bush’s self-portraits in the shower and tub slipped into public sight a year ago, the general critical approaches either commented on the amateur quality of the work, on the obvious symbolism of cleansing (if you were a critic and thought he had something to cleanse himself of), or on both. Bush allegedly took up painting less than a year before the revelations, making him the most viewed
art rookie of modern times. Now, in a new exhibition at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum titled The Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy, Bush puts his artwork out there for comment on his own terms. The art’s still amateurish, but the content—portraits of “41” and “43,” as the Bushes refer to themselves, as well as other world leaders—cries out for commentary beyond the brushwork. Why “W.” paints remains a bit of a mystery that he hasn’t fully cleared up. But why we look says as much about his legacy as it does about our continuing struggle to come to grips with it. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Why Does George W. Bush Paint (and Why Do We Look)?"

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Why Judy Chicago Still Fights for Feminist Art at 75

Chicago native Judy Cohen Gerowitz became Judy Chicago in 1970 for many reasons. One was to throw off her father’s and husband’s names and the male dominance behind that practice. Another, as shown in the now famous Jerry McMillan photo announcing her breakout exhibition at California State University, Fullerton, was to prove her willingness to fight for her rights, as shown by her donning boxing gloves, entering a ring, and staring down the camera with a pugilist’s “eye of the tiger.” Nearly half a century later, Judy Chicago’s still fighting in the public arena for hers and every woman’s rights to equality both of artistic expression and full expression of their humanity. Set to celebrate her 75th birthday this July, Judy Chicago (shown above) finds herself the subject of numerous retrospective shows.  But never one to rest on her laurels, Chicago also comes out swinging with not one but two books that not only look back at her achievements as an artist and educator, but also point forward to how the feminist fight rages on and what winning the next rounds and, ultimately, the battle for equality will involve. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Why Judy Chicago Still Fights for Feminist Art at 75."

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Is an Artist’s Studio a Window into Their Soul?

If the eyes are the windows of the soul, can the windows of an artist’s studio—the vistas they viewed daily for inspiration—offer a glimpse into their soul? In anticipation of the upcoming exhibition Andrew Wyeth: Looking Out, Looking In, set to open at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, on May 4th, the NGA and the Brandywine Conservancy and Museum of Art teamed up to give the press a crash course on the deceptively realist and deceptively difficult artist Andrew Wyeth. The NGA show hopes to open a new window on the appreciation of Wyeth by focusing on the theme of windows in his work, which they believe will breathe fresh air into studies of an artist whose decades-long reclusiveness before his death in 2009 seems to have shuttered public affection and understanding of the man, his art, and the landscape that shaped both. The specific case of Andy and the Brandywine region outside his window raises a more general question, however, of whether we can understand an artist better not just by looking at their art, but also by seeing what they saw—looking out their window to look into and through their imagination. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Is an Artist’s Studio a Window into Their Soul?"