Monday, November 24, 2014

William Glackens: Forgotten Father of American Modernism?

With a $20,000 check and instructions to bring back “some good paintings” from friend and financier Dr. Albert C. Barnes, American artist William Glackens set off for Paris in 1912 with carte blanche to buy the very best modern art he could find. Long a champion and connoisseur of European and American modernism, Glackens sent back to Barnes 33 works by now-renowned artists such as Paul Cézanne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent Van Gogh that helped shape the collection that eventually became The Barnes Foundation. Glackens, however, was much more than a buyer. Glackens early on bought into the ideas of European modernism and interpreted them for an American idiom, as can be seen in a new exhibition at The Barnes Foundation. William Glackens, the first comprehensive survey of this undeservedly neglected artist in almost half a century, makes a powerful case for William Glackens as the forgotten father of American modernism. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "William Glackens: Forgotten Father of American Modernism?"

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Steven Sebring and Coco Rocha’s Visual Manifesto of the Human Body

“Don’t just stand there, let’s get to it. Strike a pose, there’s nothing to it,” Madonna lied and “Vogue”-ed way back in 1990. Contrary to popular opinion, posing is hard work, made even harder by the requirement to look effortless. The reigning “Queen of Pose,” Canadian supermodel Coco Rocha has been clocked at 160 different poses per minute and viral videoed striking 50 poses in 30 seconds. When photographer Steven Sebring approached Rocha back in 2010 with the idea of a project involving one model striking a thousand different poses captured using Sebring’s revolutionary, 360-degree photographic technology, it seemed a match made in modeling heaven. Study of Pose: 1,000 Poses by Coco Rocha tests the limits of expression by the human form while capitalizing on the latest in technology to produce no less than a new manifesto on posing the human body as an object to be both admired and accepted for all its truth and beauty. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Steven Sebring and Coco Rocha’s Visual Manifesto of the Human Body."

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

How Prison Changed Egon Schiele’s Portraits for Better or Worse

Bürgerschreck! rang the accusations in German at Austrian painter Egon Schiele in April 1912. This “shocker of the bourgeois” found his home rifled by local constables searching for evidence of the immorality locals suspected of a man who lived with a woman not his wife and invited local children to pose for him. The constables brought over one hundred drawings as well as Schiele himself to the local jail, where he sat for 24 days until a court trial during which the judge flamboyantly burned one of Schiele’s “pornographic” portraits in front of the chastised artist before releasing him. That experience changed the rest of Schiele’s life and art. Egon Schiele: Portraits at the Neue Galerie in New York City centers on this turning point in Schiele’s portraits, which remain some of the most psychologically penetrating and sexual explicit portraits of the modern age. Schiele’s capacity to shock today’s audience may have declined as modern mores finally catch up to him, but the power of his portraits to captivate through their unconventionality, sensitivity, and empathy never gets old. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "How Prison Changed Egon Schiele’s Portraits for Better or Worse."

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

What’s Behind Frank Gehry’s Raised Middle Finger to Contemporary Architecture?

Architect Frank Gehry’s raised many controversial buildings over the years, but few as controversial as the middle finger he recently raised during a press conference in Spain. During a press conference for Gehry’s upcoming receipt of the Prince of Asturias Prize from the hands of Spain’s King Felipe VI, a journalist touched a nerve when he asked if Gehry’s buildings were just about public relations-grabbing spectacle. Gehry glowered and raised the one-finger salute in response, a clear, if vulgar (and not necessarily international) sign of his displeasure with the pejorative title of “starchitect” he’s been saddled with over the years. Gehry’s gesture captured the headlines, but it was his response to the next question at that press conference where he really expressed his concern not over his reputation, but rather over the purpose of contemporary architecture itself. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "What’s Behind Frank Gehry’s Raised Middle Finger to Contemporary Architecture?"

William Mortensen: The Anti-Christ of American Photography?

Photographer Ansel Adams, whose beautiful black and white landscapes full of mountains still grace both museum and office walls, called fellow photographer William Mortensen “the anti-Christ” for what he did to the art of photography. Mortensen inspired a great passion in his near-contemporary Adams thanks to the Pictorialism of his images, whose illusions and painterly gestures offered a devilish alternative to Adams’ “straight,” realistic photography. In the exhibition William Mortensen: American Grotesque, which runs through November 30, 2014 at Stephen Romano Gallery, Brooklyn, NY, Ansel Adams worst nightmare comes true, as his personal “anti-Christ” rises from the grave of unfair neglect to collect fresh converts to the eerie beauty of his decades-before-their-time artistry. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "William Mortensen: The Anti-Christ of American Photography?"

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Performance Art and Modern Political Protest

“War is simply a continuation of political intercourse, with the addition of other means,” Carl von Clausewitz wrote in his famous book on battle strategy, On War. Many misquote that saying more pithily as “War is politics by other means,” but the idea that politics plays out on different battlefields remains true. Several recent performance pieces responding to political issues in America make a case for performance art as politics by other means, too. From Dread Scott's performance On the Impossibility of Freedom in a Country Founded on Slavery and Genocide (shown above) tackling the long history and sad continuation of racism in America to Emma Sulkowicz’s Mattress Performance: Carry That Weight challenging America, especially American colleges, to address the issue of rape, performance artists are creating powerfully direct pieces that visualize and humanize sometimes faceless and forgotten issues. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Performance Art and Modern Political Protest."

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

How Paul Strand Photographed the “People’s History”

When Howard Zinn first published A People's History of the United States in 1980, he hoped to
start a “quiet revolution” in the way people viewed history. By giving voice to the voiceless relegated to the wings of history while major players dominated the stage, Zinn wrote history in a wholly new, revolutionary way. Just as Zinn gave those people a voice, photographer Paul Strand gave them a face, but more than 60 years before. Paul Strand: Master of Modern Photography at the Philadelphia Museum of Art traces the development of one of the founding fathers of modern photography in search of democratic ideals not just in his native America, but all around the world. Viewing the world through Strand’s lens will renew not just your faith in the power of art, but also your faith in the human spirit’s resilience regardless of time or place. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "How Paul Strand Photographed the 'People’s History.'"