Wednesday, June 25, 2014
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
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
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
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
According to a Pew Research study, if you
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?"
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Critics usually pose the greatest literary mystery of them all—the authorship question surrounding the works of William Shakespeare—as a “whodunit,” but it’s more of a “howdunit.” How could the small-town son of a glover develop into the world-renowned author of works not just of intricate verbal playfulness and deep psychological insight, but also of erudition seemingly beyond someone who never went to college? Since the 19th century, the “how” has been so improbable that critics have searched for a “who” who better fits the bill of the title of the Bard. Two antiquarian booksellers, George Koppelman and Daniel Wechsler, believe that they’ve found the “missing link” of Shakespeare studies in the form of an obscure, unusual, 1580 reference book called John Baret’s Alvearie (an old word for “beehive”) that they argue was owned and extensively annotated and used by Shakespeare himself. According to their theory in Shakespeare’s Beehive: An Annotated Elizabethan Dictionary Comes to Light, the Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon took the erudition he found in the pages of Baret’s work and imaginatively transformed it into his art. It’s a theory that sounds stranger than fiction, but if they’re right, they’ve made the greatest find in Shakespeare studies of the 21st century. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Is This the "Missing Link" of Shakespeare Studies?"
Monday, June 16, 2014
Twenty years ago one of the greatest documentaries ever made, Hoop Dreams, premiered. Hoop Dreams told the story of two Chicago
high school basketball
players hoping to take their talents to college and then to the pros,
all while fighting not just the long odds of the sports world, but also
poverty, crime, and unstable family situations. A new documentary titled
follows three Chicago high school teenagers dreaming not of the NBA but
of simply having someplace to call home. Two to three thousand homeless
youth sleep on the streets of Chicago each night, just a fraction of
the estimated 1.6 million homeless youth across the United States. Where
Hoop Dreams put a face on the reality of how American
athletics offers a slim chance to those few with the necessary skills
and determination, The Homestretch puts a face on the reality
of teen homelessness often “hidden” in plain sight, sometimes silently
sitting in high school classrooms unsuspected by classmates and
teachers. The Homestretch is a story of poverty, violence,
loneliness, and pain, but it is also a story of courage, perseverance,
compassion, and hope that may not offer the high-profile thrills of
basketball glory, but may raise public consciousness of a generation
we’re losing a little more each day. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "A “Hoop Dreams” for Teen Homelessness?"
Thursday, June 5, 2014
If you’re old enough to remember the 1970s, Lynda Carter playing the title character in the TV show Wonder Woman (shown above) from 1975 to 1979 remains what you think of when you hear the name of the heroine Wonder Woman. Sadly, one of the oldest (and one of the first female) superheroes seems stuck in time for these past 35 years. In Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine, comic book historian Tim Hanley looks back at the 1940s origins of the Amazonian as well as how the character has evolved in response to changes in American society since the 1950s. While some claim Wonder Woman as a feminist icon, others label her a feminist failure. After reading Hanley’s “curious
history,” you’ll find it harder to fall back on the easy labels and see that Wonder Woman’s a little bit of both. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Wonder Woman: Feminist Icon, Feminist Failure, or Both?"
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
After a trip to Italy in February 1917, Pablo Ruiz y Picasso decided to go back to basics in his art. Like so many other artists and pretty much the entire world, Picasso wanted to leave behind the Cubist style matching the modernist discord of World War I for a neoclassicm that emulated the harmonious artistry of the Ancient Romans and Greeks. Despite this turn towards the past, Picasso’s private and public present continually intruded, resulting in a mythologizing of his loves and wars. In the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s new
exhibition Picasso Prints: Myths, Minotaurs, and Muses, we see Picasso refashion ancient myths into personal alter egos from the 1920s through the 1950s as a way of dealing with events in his convoluted love life as well as the convoluted politics of his native Spain, specifically in the masterpiece of Guernica. In choosing the Minotaur—a
figure simultaneously of great violence and great sexual energy—as his
avatar, Picasso reinvented the game of classical symbolism and forged a
modern mode for mythology. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "How Picasso Mythologized Love and War."