Saturday, February 26, 2011

Let the Little Children: How to Behave in a Museum

One of the unavoidable realities of going to look at art in a museum is the feeling that you the viewer are being viewed yourself—especially by your fellow patrons. In the current issue of Paper Monument: A Journal of Contemporary Art, Timothy Aubry muses on “How to Behave in an Art Museum.” Aubry wonders what the proper balance of informality and formality might be, and if the typical American is capable of finding that proper balance. As much as adults, especially parents, try to tether children in museums, maybe we have something to learn from how children see the art, see themselves, and behave. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Let the Little Children."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Full House: Cezanne’s Card Players at the Met

Paul Cézanne painted slowly. Very slowly. The fruit in his still lives would ripen and even rot as he worked. Hortense, first his mistress and later his wife, visibly suffers in his portraits of her (although some of that may be due to their difficult union). Cézanne’s father agree to pose only if he could read a newspaper, which the painter impishly changed from the conservative paper his father favored to a radical rag. Only Mont Sainte-Victoire provided the perfectly patient subject. But before Cézanne met his mountain, he looked outside his immediate family to the “extended” family of his father’s employees on their estate just outside Aix-en-Provence. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York brings together Cézanne’s paintings featuring his favorite setting for those workers—playing cards. Cézanne’s Card Players, which runs through May 8, 2011, brings the “full house” of this subject and invites us to join in the game of painting Cézanne played through these players. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Full House."

[Image: Paul Cézanne (French, Aix-en-Provence 1839–1906 Aix-en-Provence). The Card Players, 1890–1892. Oil on canvas. 25 3/4 x 32 1/4 in. (65.4 x 81.9 cm). Bequest of Stephen C. Clark, 1960. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.]

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Junk Man: Revolution, Complicity, and Art

In Death of the Liberal Class, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges argues that liberals have “conceded too much to the power elite.” In other words, traditional liberal institutions such as education, religion, labor, and the arts have stopped challenging corporate powers and, instead, joined them. It’s a powerful and often depressing argument, especially when Hedges probes fields usually condemned for their “liberal” and “revolutionary” tendencies, such as art. Hedges raises the old question of what is art in a different way, asking if art is creative expressions that free the mind, what do we call creative works that support the status quo? Junk, Hedges would most likely answer, giving some surprising examples of famous “junk men” in American art. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Junk Man."

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Room for Hope: The Art of G.B. Trudeau’s Doonesbury

“Satire works by inference,” cartoonist G.B. Trudeau says in Brian Walker’s new book Doonesbury and the Art of G.B. Trudeau. “What you condemn should reveal what you value, what you stand for. That’s why I don’t like categoric, 360-degree attacks. Scorched-earth artists leave no room for hope.” Since its debut on October 26, 1970, Doonesbury has attracted devotees as well as devoted critics with Trudeau’s heart-on-his-sleeve liberalism. Walker walks through the evolution of the Doonesbury, which began in 28 newspapers and now boasts 100 million daily readers, and gives not a biography of Trudeau but rather a biography of the life of the strip itself. Despite all the wars—cultural and shooting—of the past four decades, Trudeau never forgot to leave room for hope, and Walker’s affectionate tribute reminds us of that crowning achievement of his art. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Room for Hope."

[Many thanks to Yale University Press for providing me with a review copy of Doonesbury and the Art of G.B. Trudeau by Brian Walker.]