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.'"

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

How Turner Loved Painting, So He Set It Free

“If you love someone,” pop star Sting sang years ago, “set them free.” Sometimes the first rule of love is forgetting all the rules that constrain the object of one’s affection, while trusting that the beloved will return on their own. Nineteenth century British artist J.M.W. Turner knew all the rules of painting from the Old Master tradition, but once he reached his seventh decade and found himself an Old Master, he began cutting ties to the old rules of his beloved painting and set it (and himself) free. The results, on glorious display at the Tate Britain’s exhibition Late Turner: Painting Set Free, heralded new directions in art followed by the Impressionists and nearly every modern art movement to follow. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "How Turner Loved Painting, So He Set It Free."

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Is Indiana Jones Better as a Silent Movie?

It’s one of the most unforgettable opening acts of any 20th century film. In the midst of a dense jungle, a mercenary pulls a gun on the man paying the bills in the search for buried treasure, hoping to pull a double-cross now that the payoff is near. With the crack of a bullwhip, however, the disarmed man scurries off into the jungle. The hero turns and we see for the first time the sweaty, unshaven, handsome face of Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (shown above). Raiders, as fans now call it, remains one of the highest-grossing films ever, launched the Indiana Jones film franchise, and continues to rank among the greatest action-adventure films ever made. But could it be even better as a black and white, silent movie? Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Is Indiana Jones Better as a Silent Movie?"

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Ecstatic Abstract Explorer: Richard Pousette-Dart

“The extasy [sic] of abstract beauty,” artist Richard Pousette-Dart scrawled in 1981 in a notebook on a page across from a Georges Braque-looking abstract pencil drawing. Although included in Nina Leen’s iconic 1951 Life magazine photo “The Irascibles” that featured Abstract Expressionist heavyweights Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, and Barnett Newman, Pousette-Dart has always stood on the edges, as he does in the photo, of full identification with that group. The “X” factor that frees Pousette-Dart from that and other “-isms” is both his ecstatic spirituality and endless artistic exploration stretching across six decades of work. The new Philadelphia Museum of Art exhibition Full Circle: Works on Paper by Richard Pousette-Dart takes aim not at pinning down Pousette-Dart, but rather at targeting his insatiable drive to work through the ideas of modern art on paper by continually building them up before breaking them down again. You’ll think you’re touring a group show before realizing that it all came from one artist’s vision—an ecstatic celebration of Richard Pousette-Dart’s celebration of the making of art itself. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "The Ecstatic Abstract Explorer: Richard Pousette-Dart."

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Forget Da Vinci, Try Solving the Piero della Francesca Code

Fans of Dan Brown (and Tom Hanks) hoped to get an education in the Italian Renaissance along with their beach reading (and movie-going) of The Da Vinci Code. But they and those who think that Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Donatello are just Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are missing out on a Renaissance master of art and mathematics just as captivating and mysterious as Da Vinci—Piero della Francesca. In Piero della Francesca: Artist and Man, James R. Banker relies on newly discovered documents and years of study of the Renaissance to crack the “Piero Code.” You won’t run across the Knights Templar or unearth the Holy Grail in Banker’s biographical study, but you will come away with a real-life detective tale compellingly told and a greater understanding and appreciation of an artist whose art may look otherworldly but, as Banker suggests, grew directly from Piero’s hometown roots. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Forget Da Vinci, Try Solving the Piero della Francesca Code."

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Naked Truth About the Nude in Art

When you get down to the bare facts, there’s no genre of art older than that of the nude. The bare human figure—male and female, but more often female—commands attention as much as it makes us turn away in modesty or, worse, shame. The duality of that “truth” of the nude as well as our reaction to it is the slippery subject of Being Nude: The Skin of Images by Jean-Luc Nancy and Federico Ferrari (translated by Anne O’Byrne and Carlie Anglemire). Nancy and Ferrari argue for “something true right at the skin, skin as truth” as the exposing of flesh “reveals is that there is nothing to be revealed, or that there is nothing other than revelation itself, the revealing and what can be revealed, both at once.” At times a hard philosophical road to slog, Being Nude gives you a multidimensional, multimedia, multigenerational musing on the nude that may not lay all the facts perfectly bare, but will leave you looking at and thinking about the nude in a different way than ever before. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "The Naked Truth About the Nude in Art."