Saturday, July 31, 2010

Close Examination: A Chuck Close Portrait on Film

“Chucky Fat Face,” artist Chuck Close admits to being called by fellow artist Richard Serra during their graduate school days together at Yale early on in the film Chuck Close, Marion Cajori’s lauded documentary now available on DVD for the first time from New Video. In Cajori’s film, we see Close full face—both while painting one of his signature self-portraits and through the eyes of his fellow artists and his family. It is this combination of intimate close examination and wide-angle perspective that makes Chuck Close not only an unforgettable study of an individual artist, but also a thought-provoking examination of twentieth-century art and how modern artists mentally approach their art. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Close Examination."

[Many thanks to New Video for providing me with a review copy of Chuck Close.]

Thursday, July 29, 2010

California Dreaming: Modern Architecture in Los Angeles

Los Angeles often feels like another planet to non-natives, from the confluence of cultures to the often unearthly architecture. In Architecture of the Sun: Los Angeles Modernism 1900-1970, Thomas S. Hines serves as our ambassador to this brave new world on the left coast that served as the perfect environment for international architectural styles to find room to grow in the United States. Hines, Professor Emeritus of History and Architecture at UCLA, where he teaches cultural, urban, and architectural history, sees L.A. as a prime “consumer and translator of modernist architectures developed elsewhere,” and, thus, “presents a seductive case study of the effect upon modernism of regional patterns and imperatives—and vice versa.” California dreaming in steel, glass, and stone thus continues the dreams of European modernists while simultaneously engaging the local flavors of the City of Angels. Hines’ voyage of discovery through the manmade landscape of Los Angeles is a strange, and stirring, trip. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "California Dreaming."

[Many thanks to Rizzoli to providing me with a review copy of Architecture of the Sun: Los Angeles Modernism 1900-1970 by Thomas S. Hines.]

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Don’t Stop Believing: Brian Fies’ Eternal Faith in Tomorrow

“There was a time when building the future was inspirational,” Brian Fies writes in his new graphic novel, Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow? “Ambitious. Romantic. Even enobling. I think it can again.” Fies, award-winning artist and author of Mom’s Cancer, turns back the clock to the optimistic days of the 1939 New York World’s Fair and traces how that optimism faded over the years, both in the father-son relationship at the heart of his story and in the relationship America itself had with the vision of the future it dangled tantalizingly out of its own reach. In a world seemingly hell bent on self-destruction, Fies offers a glimmer of old-fashioned hope based in the determination to keep on believing in the future, no matter what. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Don't Stop Believing."

[Many thanks to Abrams ComicArts for providing me with a review copy of Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow? by Brian Fies.]

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Dream Weaver: The Art of Brion Gysin

“Brion Gysin was a true subversive,” writes Laura Hoptman in Brion Gysin: Dream Machine, the text accompanying New York City’s New Museum’s exhibition of the same name. “Gay, stateless, polyglot, he had no family, no clique, no fixed profession, and, often, no fixed address. He claimed no religion, and no credo, save that we human beings were put on this earth with the ultimate goal of leaving it.” When Brion Gysin reached that ultimate goal in 1986, he left behind a tangled legacy—the natural consequence of the fluidity of his life and his creativity, both of which knew no borders. This first detailed study of Gysin’s life, art, and lasting influence, Brion Gysin: Dream Machine shows how he wove a life-long dream that many of today’s artists have merged with their own. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Dream Weaver."

[Image: Brion Gysin with Dreamachine at Musée des Art Décoratifs, Paris, 1962. © Harold Chapman/Topham/The Image Works]

[Many thanks to Merrell Publishing for providing me with a review copy of Brion Gysin: Dream Machine, the catalogue to the New Museum exhibition that runs through October 3, 2010.]

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Saving Grace: Seeing Eakins’ “The Gross Clinic” Anew at the PMA

“[The painting is] one of the most powerful, horrible and yet fascinating pictures that has been painted anywhere in this century,” wrote the New York Tribune in 1879 of then 31-year-old Thomas EakinsThe Gross Clinic. “But the more one praises it, the more one must condemn its admission to a gallery where men and women of weak nerves must be compelled to look at it. For not to look at it is impossible.” Eakins’ masterpiece suffered the indignity of a jury’s rejection at the 1876 Centennial in his native Philadelphia, but in An Eakins Masterpiece Restored: Seeing The Gross Clinic Anew at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, that injustice is posthumously corrected by bringing back Eakins’ original artistic intentions after nearly a century of conservationist interventions. The savage grace of The Gross Clinic returns in the PMA’s saving efforts to restore Eakins’ sense of tone and atmosphere. How this iconic image of the brutal ballet of science and art fell into a twisted tango of aesthetic missteps over time serves as a cautionary tale as well as a hopeful one in its new restoration.

[Image: Portrait of Dr. Samuel D. Gross (The Gross Clinic), 1875. (Post-conservation, 2010). Thomas Eakins, American, 1844 -1916. Oil on canvas, 8 feet x 6 feet 6 inches (243.8 x 198.1 cm). Philadelphia Museum of Art, Gift of the Alumni Association to Jefferson Medical College in 1878 and purchased by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2007 with the generous support of more than 3,500 donors, 2007.]

[Many thanks to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for the image above and inviting me to the press preview for An Eakins Masterpiece Restored: Seeing The Gross Clinic Anew, which runs through January 9, 2011.]