Tuesday, December 10, 2013
The last foreign military invasion of the United States (which included the burning of the White House) took place two centuries ago. Half a century ago, a different kind of British Invasion brought us the Beatles and the Stones. This year, America faces yet another foreign invasion on a small scale physically, but on a mammoth scale culturally. Through a once-in-a-lifetime alignment of the art world stars, 14 of the 36 paintings currently acknowledged to be painted by Johannes Vermeer, including the novel- and movie-inspiring Girl With Pearl Earring (detail shown above), are all within the reach of a train ride between a handful of East Coast museums. For American art lovers on a budget, the idea of Vermeers coming to them rather than the alternative might be an opportunity too good to miss. For international Vermeer followers, the bunching of masterpieces makes an American
vacation heaven and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor
the train to paradise. For American museums looking to boost attendance
numbers and revenue, the Vermeer invasion might be the cure for what
ills them. But is the Vermeer invasion too much of a good thing? Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Is the U.S.'s Vermeer Invasion Too Much of a Good Thing?"
Thursday, December 5, 2013
Any biographer writing about a familiar subject faces the same towering problem—how do I make this person seem new and modern? When writing about an artist such as Norman Rockwell, whose art acts for many as a visual time capsule of early and mid-20th century Americana, that issue becomes doubly difficult to surmount. In American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell, author Deborah Solomon re-evaluates not just Rockwell’s work, which has been unjustly dismissed as kitsch for too long, but also Rockwell himself and the motivations hidden in his art. Among those hidden clues to the man she finds in Rockwell’s paintings, Solomon unearths homoeroticism and a fascination with preadolescent boys that puts the artist in a wholly different light. Although Solomon never slaps the label of homosexual or pedophile on Norman Rockwell, she comes awfully darn close. Those innuendos have infuriated Rockwell’s descendants and raised larger questions about the dangers of modern biography. Has Norman Rockwell been outed? Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Has Norman Rockwell Been Outed?"
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Sometimes the toughest shadow to escape is one you cast over yourself. When artist Art Spiegelman began publishing Maus in 1980 in chapter form in the indie comics magazine Raw, which he co-founded with his wife Françoise Mouly, he couldn’t have guessed that his artistic journey into his family’s past and the Holocaust would lead to a Pulitzer
Prize in 1992. Spiegelman’s career stretched back to the 1960s (and Maus itself began in 1972 with a 3-page comic), but he never experienced the recognition that Maus could bring. In The Jewish Museum, New York’s new exhibition Art Spiegelman’s Co-Mix: A Retrospective, which runs through March 23, 2014, we see not only what led up to Maus, but also what’s led from it. Co-Mix is as much the story of the man who made Maus as the story of how a comic innovator and visionary escaped the snares of fame and made it out more creatively alive than ever. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "How Art Spiegelman Is More Than Just Maus."
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
We all love visual shorthand for our lives, whether it’s the Apple logo for technology or a flag for patriotism. Just as Thomas Nast’s version of Santa Claus endures as the quintessential Christmas image, Norman Rockwell’s classic painting of an
American family at Thanksgiving (detail shown above, full picture here)
has stood for seven decades as the single image most Americans
associate with turkey day. But few Americans know the full story behind
(or even the title of) Rockwell’s painting—the political and human
rights roots of the text Rockwell aimed at illustrating. As we plan to
sit down as a nation and give thanks, it’s important to remember what
Norman Rockwell’s Thanksgiving picture’s really about. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "What Norman Rockwell's Thanksgiving Picture's Really About."
Thursday, November 21, 2013
When we look at the sculpture of Auguste Rodin, we can’t help but feel what his figures feel. Every inch of those sculpted bodies “speaks” the language of passion, whether it be of joy, love, yearning, or anguish. In a recent study of Rodin’s The Gates of Hell, art historian Natasha Ruiz-Gómez of the University of Essex links the figures found on those monumental doors (such as Rodin’s Damned Woman; shown above) to images from the work of Jean-Martin Charcot, one of the founders of modern neurology and one of the fathers of the malady known as hysteria. When Rodin looked for a way to break away from the tired tropes of classical sculpture, Ruiz-Gómez suggests, he turned to modern medicine, especially Charcot’s work, which linked psychological and physical states in a way that showed Rodin how to make people see what others feel. By linking art and science, this study opens a new door into Rodin’s art as well as why that art still captures our imagination today. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "How Rodin Turned Early Neurology into Modern Sculpture."
This week we mark the loss half a century ago of President John F. Kennedy. For that generation, Kennedy’s death was the “where were you” moment. For our generation, the “where were you” moment is September 11th. In the middle of all that devastation, few knew that we “lost” JFK in that moment, too. Locked away in a safe in Five World Trade Center were 40,000 negatives of
photos of the Kennedy circle by photographer and family insider Jacques Lowe.
The trusted photographer of the Kennedys since the late 1950s, Lowe
captured many of the iconic pictures of JFK and Camelot in the making.
Thanks to the magic of modern technology, Lowe’s photographs have been
restored. Those photographs, many never before published, are now united
with Lowe’s recollections in The Kennedy Years: A Memoir.
Lowe’s words and pictures remind us of how Kennedy became our first
modern president in the sense of being the first to take full advantage
of the technologies of the day to project
a particular image to the public, both for personal political gain and
to inspire the nation. We’ll never be able to bring Kennedy himself back
to life, but Lowe’s images and recollections raise the Kennedy myth
from the dead and allow us to recover the best and the brightest of that
moment. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "How We Almost Lost JFK Twice."
Thursday, November 14, 2013
“I could erase an entire life,” thinks a pensive Adolf Hitler as he stares into his mirror in one of the many striking images from the
career of artist Raymond Pettibon.
In our time, when words mean little and images deceive, Pettibon
creates art that rewrites the meaning of words and images erased by
modern society by uniting them in fascinating ways that all share a
common, simmering anger. How words and pictures have been rent asunder,
and how art can undo that divorce, is the subject of a major monograph on the artist titled Raymond Pettibon.
A child of the late ‘60s, Pettibon found his groove in the late ‘70s
and early ‘80s, but his art and his message feel just as relevant and
important today. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "How Raymond Pettibon Puts Words, Pictures, and Anger Back Together."