Tuesday, December 23, 2014

JFK: The Opera?

Whereas European countries were once able to tap into their history for subjects for opera, America’s never succeeded in doing the same. That problem comes in part from the decline in opera as a popular, public art form, but also perhaps from the lack of operatically epic subjects to be found in American history. Now, composer David T. Little hopes to create a modern American opera with JFK, a 2-act, 2-hour opera focusing on the life of President John F. Kennedy, whose life and death became defining moments not only for the Baby Boom generation, but also, many would suggest, the hinge upon which all American history turns for the last half century. Set to premier in 2016, JFK as a work-in-progress already raises important questions about how opera (and art in general) can approach history. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "JFK: The Opera?"

Friday, December 19, 2014

Picturing Mary: Yesterday and Today

Christmas may be Jesus’ “birthday,” but, as any mother will tell you, his mother Mary really deserves the applause. Providing the humanity half to join with Christ’s divine side, Mary volunteered to play a part from the Incarnation to the Crucifixion to the Resurrection as everything from an active participant to an interested bystander, depending on your interpretation of Christian scripture. Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea, a new exhibition at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC, takes a closer look at how artists, especially women artists, depicted Mary in the more faithful past as well as how modern artists, especially women artists, still use Mary in the secular present. By making Mary the star of the show, Picturing Mary shines a light on how we see Mary reflects on how we see ourselves. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Picturing Mary: Yesterday and Today."

Monday, December 15, 2014

Hearing (and Feeling) the Contemporary Art of Allora & Calzadilla

Imagine standing in a bare room in which a small, 4-billion-year-old rock hangs from the ceiling by a thin wire as three vocalists whistle and breathe on it to make it swing. For some people, such a scenario might be the nightmare version of contemporary art run amok, so far “out there” that it’s never coming back. However, standing there and watching the piece, titled Lifespan, part of the new exhibition Allora & Calzadilla: Intervals, I couldn’t help but find myself mentally urging the rock to move, as perhaps others in the crowd were, too. The art of collaborators Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla encourages this kind of chain-reaction collaboration by making you first hear the work and then feel it in your mind and body. For those who think contemporary art’s lost in space, Allora and Calzadilla bring it back to Earth. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Hearing (and Feeling) the Contemporary Art of Allora & Calzadilla."

Monday, December 8, 2014

How to Speak Fluent "Museum"

The best way to learn any language is total immersion. If you live in a place long enough and open yourself up to the experience, then you’ll come away not just with a new tongue, but also with the flavor of the culture in which that language is expressed. For many people, art museums feel like a foreboding foreign nation with a language all its own. Frederick Wiseman’s new documentary, National Gallery, finally offers an immersion class in how to speak fluent “museum.” Wiseman’s 39th documentary, National Gallery takes you inside London’s National Gallery to eavesdrop on the docents leading tours, spy on the early morning floor waxers, look over the shoulders of conservators, and even join executive meetings behind closed doors all in the name of learning what really happens in an art museum and how the very voice of the modern museum is changing with the times. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "How to Speak Fluent 'Museum.'"

Should We Be Letting Machines See for Us?

Anyone who has seen James Cameron’s 1984 film The Terminator remembers “seeing” through the eyes of the killer android sent into the past as it scans its surroundings for clothes, weapons, and, eventually, its target. Beneath the fleshly form of the future “Governator” resided a robot skeleton sent from the future to eliminate the main human foe of the machines’ plan to rule the future. German filmmaker Harun Farocki would later call those pictures “operational images”—the machine-made and machine-used pictures of the world that threatened to supplant not just how people see, but people period. In the November 2014 issue of the journal e-flux, Trevor Paglen revisits Farocki’s now-decade-old work and updates it for today. Paglen raises interesting questions about the very nature of how machines see as well as whether we should be letting machines—from license plate readers at intersections to drones in combat zones—see for us. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Should We Be Letting Machines See for Us?"

Sunday, November 30, 2014

How Peter Blume Painted His Personal Reality of Hope

On October 3, 1948, at 3:50 pm, Peter Blume finished his epic painting, years in the making, titled The Rock (shown above). “After a turbulent decade in which Peter Blume embarked on false starts, endured debilitating anxiety, experienced self-doubt, and found his faith in the creative process renewed,” Robert Cozzolino writes in the catalog to the new exhibition Peter Blume: Nature and Metamorphosis, finishing The Rock must have been a great relief. Blume recorded that date and time the way many record the
birth of their children, for The Rock was his precious baby, but completing it marked a rebirth of sorts for Blume as a different kind of artist. Shaped by political and artistic currents of the first half of the 20th century, Blume emerges as a difficult to categorize artist, but also as a fascinating visionary who struggled to paint a personal reality clinging to the foundation of hope. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "How Peter Blume Painted His Personal Reality of Hope."

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.'"

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."

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Does Art Need Religion?

Everyone knows there are two things you never bring up in conversation—politics and religion. In this secular age chock full of wars fought over one faith or another, many never want to hear about the role of religion in the world, unable to see any good within all that bad. But if you turn the conversation towards the safer topic of the arts, quite often you’ll hear someone long for the good old days, when great artists made great art rather than the poor efforts of contemporary art’s lesser talents. Is it possible that such Old Masters as Michelangelo were great because they lived in more religious times? Is the connection between great art and religious influence a correlation or just coincidence? Does art need religion? Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Does Art Need Religion?"

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Is Haruki Murakami the Thelonius Monk of Fiction?

From 1974 through 1981, Haruki Murakami ran a jazz club in Tokyo, Japan, and wondered what direction his life would run. After long soul searching, his life ran in the direction of becoming a novelist. He hasn’t stopped running since, producing 13 novels that not only have won international awards, but also have been translated into over 50 languages, thus making him the most well-known Japanese novelist in the world. His latest novel to be translated into English, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, adds to his oeuvre one more tale of dreamy, surreal, puzzling, yet oddly beautiful human existence. Despite his success, Murakami (shown above) still faces criticism for his writing style, which some see as overly simple and occasionally downright ugly—criticisms once aimed at the Murakami beloved bebop jazz, the style employed by the enigmatic, brilliant pianist Thelonious Monk. Is Haruki Murakami the Thelonius Monk of fiction? Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Is Haruki Murakami the Thelonius Monk of Fiction?"

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Was the Romantic Beethoven Really a “Radical Evolutionary”?

Of all the standard myths and accepted truths of the life and music of Ludwig van Beethoven, the idea of the “Romantic” Beethoven—the embodiment of Germanic sturm und drang and 19th century revolution—clings the most. In a massive new biography, Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph, Jan Swafford hopes to tear away that and many more myths to rediscover the real man and artist buried beneath. “Beethoven was not a Romantic, and he never called himself a revolutionary,” Swafford asserts. “He based much of what he did on tradition, models, and authorities, and he never intended to overthrow the past. He was an evolutionist more than a revolutionist. Call him a radical evolutionary, one with a unique voice.” Using his own unique voice as biographer of great composers, Swafford traces the life and art of Beethoven in eye-opening, rational detail and gives you a more human, more fascinating portrait of Beethoven the radical evolutionary than even the Beethoven the Romantic of legend. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Was the Romantic Beethoven Really a “Radical Evolutionary”?"

The Fight for Images of Ferguson

The flood of images of violence and unrest continues to flow from Ferguson, Missouri, in the wake of the shooting death of Michael Brown on August 9, 2014. (See one slide show here.) The promise of a “post-racial America” after the election of the first African-American President seems a cruel joke when watching scenes of mostly African-American citizens square off against mostly white police and government representatives. But aside from the story that these images tell is the story of the images themselves. According to The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), “Press freedom in the United States dramatically deteriorated in 2013.” A major part of that curtailed press freedom involves the primary medium of today’s information society—visual images. From arresting and threatening photojournalists to performance art specifically about picturing dead young, African-American men, the fight for images of Ferguson reveals more than we realize and more than many people want to acknowledge. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "The Fight for Images of Ferguson."

Monday, August 11, 2014

Hearing and Seeing James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake Anew

“riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay,” begins James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, opening a torrent of words that has drowned many readers in confusion over Joyce’s modernist approach. A fresh new edition of Joyce’s 1939 novel edited by Danis Rose and John O’Hanlon and illustrated by John Vernon Lord throws a life preserver to readers by offering a more readable, more musical text accompanied by illustrations that capture the playful, multilayered, flowing spirit of the story. For anyone who has tried and failed to finish Finnegans Wake or for anyone too intimated to try, this new edition will have you hearing and seeing Joyce’s language more clearly than ever before. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Hearing and Seeing James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake Anew."

Are Liberals Killing Art?

In his recent New Republic article titled “Liberals Are Killing Art: How the Left became obsessed with ideology over beauty,” art critic Jed Perl makes a convoluted argument that liberalism now “find[s] the emotions unleashed by the arts—I mean all of the arts, from poetry to painting to dance—something of an embarrassment.” Embarrassed by emotions, liberals “who support a rational public policy—a social safety net, consistency and efficiency in foreign affairs, steps to reverse global warming—[are] reluctant to embrace art’s celebration of unfettered metaphor and mystery and magic.” Beginning with that quick hop, skip, and rhetorical leap from global warming to art appreciation, Perl stands up a series of liberal straw men to knock down in his overall accusation that liberals see art just as political (or politicizable) content at the expense of aesthetic pleasure. In resurrecting an old school argument from more than half a century ago, Perl asks if liberals are killing art, but ends up making readers ask if conservative critics are killing art instead. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Are Liberals Killing Art?"

Friday, August 1, 2014

Zen and the Art of Silent Movie Watching

Must mindfulness always mean meditation—eyes closed, mind clear, simply breathing, simply being? Dan Harris’ recent best seller 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Really Work—a True Story modestly proposed that just 5 minutes of meditation a day could go a long way towards making you more mindful and more happy, even if it’s just 10% happier. But even 5 minutes of meditation seems impossible for many people conditioned to be continually on the go or continually stimulated visually by one screen or another. After reading Harris’ book and David S. ShieldsStill: American Silent Motion Picture Photography (which I reviewed here)
close to one another, my new interest in mindfulness overlapped with my rekindled interest in silent film. If we can’t break our visual addiction but acknowledge the need for greater mindfulness, I thought, then maybe the different kind of visual storytelling of the silent film era might be the solution—a tale of Zen and the art of silent movie watching. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Zen and the Art of Silent Movie Watching."

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How Mickalene Thomas Breaks Up the Modernist Boys Club

When Pablo Picasso and other early modernists appropriated elements of so-called “primitive” African art for Cubist and proto-Cubist works such as 1907’s Les Demoiselles d'Avignon they perpetrated a kind of artistic colonialism similar to the economic colonialism that brought back African treasures to French museums and galleries in the first place. It was an exclusively European, almost exclusively male club that marginalized not just the African culture it emulated, but also the women that were often the subjects of their art. In Mickalene Thomas: Tête de Femme, African-American artist Mickalene Thomas breaks up the modernist boys club a century after its formation and takes aim at the lingering effects of its subtle misogyny and racism that continue in the visuals of our present-day culture. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "How Mickalene Thomas Breaks Up the Modernist Boys Club."

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Paul McCartney’s Seventies Struggle to Escape the Beatles

During the 1960s, four of the most famous people on Earth were collectively known as The Beatles. Most people struggle to deal with the post-fame life, but how do you live as an ex-Beatle? In Man on the Run: Paul McCartney in the 1970s, Tom Doyle asks that very question of the life of the “cute Beatle,” Paul McCartney. For McCartney, the 1970s “was an edgy, liberating, sometimes frightening period of his life that has largely been forgotten,” Doyle writes in no small part because beneath the myth of the “Bambi-eyed soft-rock balladeer, [Paul] was actually a far more counterculturally  leaning individual (albeit one overshadowed by the light-sucking John Lennon) than he was ever given credit for.” Thanks to years of exclusive interviews with McCartney and people close to him during this era, Doyle paints a far more interesting portrait of the writer of “Silly Love Songs” as an eccentric, experimental, and even inspirational artist whose partnership with wife Linda McCartney (shown above together with Paul) showed him how to escape the shadow of the Beatles and find a new life and career. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Paul McCartney’s Seventies Struggle to Escape the Beatles."

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Was There a Seventies "Sexplosion" in the Arts?

“Today, full frontal nudity is more common on cable TV than cigarette smoking is in office buildings,” writes Robert Hofler in Sexplosion: From Andy Warhol to A Clockwork Orange—How a Generation of Pop Rebels Broke All the Taboos, his fascinating study of how we got to this point. Hofler contends that the American “sexual revolution” of the 1960s ignited a “sexplosion” in the arts in the half decade ranging from 1968 through 1973. In those tumultuous five years, breaking sexual taboos evolved from the counterculture to the mainstream, inspiring a sexual counter-revolution as well that still holds sway over American culture. Artists have always pushed the envelope when it came to sex, but Hofler makes a strong case that the half decade between “The Summer of Love” and Roe v. Wade represents a “big bang” we’re still feeling the vibrations of.  Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Was There a Seventies "Sexplosion" in the Arts?"

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Can a Classic Museum Really Be Made Modern?

Every new cultural institution hopes for “The Bilbao Effect”—the economic boom the faltering, former industrial city of Bilbao, Spain, enjoyed after the 1997 rise of architect Frank Gehry’s game-changing design for the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum. But even old cultural institutions want some of that same magic. So, when Gehry came to see Barnett Newman’s The Stations of the Cross with artist friend Ellsworth Kelly at the Philadelphia Museum of Art back in 2006, the museum’s then director and CEO, Anne d’Harnoncourt, approached Gehry about “doing something special” there, too. However, instead of a new signature “Gehry” look, d’Harnoncourt requested “a quiet intervention”—an underground “Philadelphia Effect.” In Making a Classic Modern: Frank Gehry’s Master Plan for the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the PMA finally unveils their “master plan” for revitalizing their classic main building first opened in 1928 for the 21st century. The big question hanging over this whole decade-long, estimated half billion dollar project remains: can a classic museum really be made modern? Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Can a Classic Museum Really Be Made Modern?"

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Must We Take Jeff Koons Seriously Now?

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 auction price 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

How Cézanne Saw a World in an Apple

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 enter 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

Is Performance Art the New Religion?

According to a Pew Research study, if you count people 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

Is This the "Missing Link" of Shakespeare Studies?

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

A “Hoop Dreams” for Teen Homelessness?

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 The Homestretch 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

Wonder Woman: Feminist Icon, Feminist Failure, or Both?

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 “curioushistory,” 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

How Picasso Mythologized Love and War

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."

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Illuminating Walt Whitman’s Words with Pictures

It’s one of the great openings in all of American literature: “I celebrate myself, / And what I assume you shall assume, / For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.” So begins Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” the opening and central poem of Whitman’s life’s work, Leaves of Grass. Generations of readers—many enthralled, but many confused—have encountered the “Good Gray Poet” in classrooms, but Whitman’s the poet of wide open spaces from the wilderness to the cosmos. Allen Crawford’s new illustrated version of “Song of Myself,” titled Whitman Illuminated: Song of Myself, hopes to bring clarity to those struggling with the poem in the belief that “every atom belonging to” Whitman “as good” still remains to us, if only we can crack the poet’s code and rediscover the good he recognized in everyone through his fervent spiritual, poetic, and democratic ideals. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Illuminating Walt Whitman’s Words with Pictures."

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Does Opera Have a Weight Problem (But Just for Women)?

“It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.” American sport fans have heard that Wagnerian opera allusion countless times when one team seems hopelessly behind but with plenty of time to come back. Unfortunately, the stereotype of overweight opera singers, specifically women opera singers, reared its ugly head once again in an incident involving 27-year-old, Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Eerraught (shown above) singing the part of Octavian in Richard StraussDer Rosenkavalier at this year's Glyndebourne Festival Opera in England. Early reviews from several major British newspapers all focused on Eerraught’s physical appearance and how they felt her weight detracted from the quality of the performance. Witnessing this young singer face age-old stereotypes about body image, the opera world took arms against the critics to bring the curtain down once and for all on opera and modern society’s female-specific weight problem. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Does Opera Have a Weight Problem (But Just for Women)?"

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

An Exhibition About an Art Critic?

Nobody goes to a baseball game to watch the umpires, so why would someone go to a museum to see an exhibition dedicated to an art critic—one of those arbiters of taste who hopes to mediate but sometimes only muddles the interaction between artists and the public? England’s Tate Britain bets that the British public will come to watch the umpire in their new exhibition Kenneth Clark: Looking for Civilisation. Not just your average umpire, Sir Kenneth Clark (shown above) ruled over art criticism for decades, stretching from his becoming Director of the British National Gallery in 1933 at just 30 years of age all the way to his crowning achievement with the 13-part documentary Civilisation: A Personal View by Kenneth Clark in 1969. Although the main focus of the show is on Clark’s work in the 1930s and 1940s, by having the show’s title hark back to his highly personal broadcast of what was civilization and art, it raises the larger question of how this public servant served the public for well-intentioned good and possibly ill, as any critic can. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "An Exhibition About an Art Critic?"

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Kara Walker’s Sweet, Not So Subtle Revenge on Big Sugar

If you know the sexually and racially charged art of Kara Walker, you know one thing—she’s not subtle. Walker’s artistic oeuvre to date makes the title of her newest work, which is also her first large-scale public project, all the funnier—A Subtlety. Subtitled the Marvelous Sugar Baby for the 35-foot-high, 75-foot-long, sugar sphinx “Mammy” (shown above) at the heart of the exhibition, Walker’s “subtlety” show both alludes to the absurdly elaborate desserts (also known as “entremets”) the nobility of the past would stage for their guests as well as the subtle, unseen ways that the sugar we use to sweeten our lives still comes as the cost of the embitterment of lives of those living in third world countries. Adding to the symbolism, A Subtlety appears in the Domino Sugar Factory in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY, which was once the largest sugar refinery in the United States but which is now destined for the wrecking ball. In what might be the most significant (if not the physically largest) artistic statement of the year, Kara Walker’s A Subtlety enacts sweet, not so subtle revenge on big sugar of yesterday and calls us to examine the cruelty mixed into every sweet spoonful today. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Kara Walker’s Sweet, Not So Subtle Revenge on Big Sugar."

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Does America Need More Wa?

The 2011 Tōhoku, Japan, earthquake and tsunami killed thousands of people and damaged more than one million buildings, including the Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Plant. The initial crisis of rebuilding that region quickly became a question of how to rebuild, including how to rebuild the fractured spirit of the place. “This spirit and awareness of the importance of collective memory and the risk of losing that ‘capacity for making,’ which is an expression of social cohesion,” Rossella Menegazzo writes in the introduction to Wa: The Essence of Japanese Design turned Tōhoku into a center of design as “social interaction.” The fallout of that terrible crisis was a purposeful turning back to the idea of Wa, the Japanese cultural idea usually translated as “harmony” in English, and away from the more rational, individualist ideas of the West. Wa takes form in everything from a building to a chair to a kitchen knife. As American society faces its own ideological upheavals and tidal waves of unrest as political races begin to go nuclear, it’s worth asking: Does America need more Wa? Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Does America Need More Wa?"

Roz Chast’s Comic Take on Taking Care of Elderly Parents

“It was against my parents’ principles to talk about death,” Roz Chast writes in Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir. “Between their one-bad-thing-after-another lives and the Depression, World War II, and the Holocaust, in which they both lost family—it was amazing that they weren’t crazier than they were. Who could blame them for not wanting to talk about death?” In this, her first memoir, Chast talks and cartoons about death years after her parents’ deaths and the trip down that long road to that end, which starts slowly in her childhood but accelerates frenetically in those final years of emotional and physical dependence. Many of us will face the unavoidable realities surrounding aging and dying parents, but Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir offers, if not advice, at least sympathy from one who’s been there and survived with wit and compassion. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Roz Chast’s Comic Take on Taking Care of Elderly Parents."

How Patrick Kelly Emancipated Fashion

“I’ll take American Fashion History for $500, Alex.” “The answer: This man was the first American to be admitted as a member of the Chambre syndicale du prêt-à-porter des couturiers et des créateurs de mode, the prestigious French fashion association, in 1988.” “Who is Patrick Kelly?” The question remains decades later. Who is Patrick Kelly, not only the first American to join the ranks of Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, and others, but an African-American man? Two new exhibitions at the Philadelphia Museum of ArtPatrick Kelly: Runway of Love and Gerlan Jeans ♥ Patrick Kelly—try to answer that question by recalling a tragically short, but groundbreaking career in fashion in which Kelly created artful fashion while challenging racial boundaries that still persist today. Arguing against those who see fashion as trivial, Patrick Kelly’s story shows how one man emancipated fashion through fun and love. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "How Patrick Kelly Emancipated Fashion."

Thursday, May 1, 2014

How Making Art Can Rebuild Broken Communities

"The broken places are my canvases,” Artist Lily Yeh says in the documentary The Barefoot Artist. “People’s stories are my pigments. People’s talents and imaginations are the instruments. I began to find my voice.” Since the 1980s, Yeh has taken her talents to places around the world broken by poverty or war and rebuilt those communities through the making of communal art. Through what eventually grew into the organization Barefoot Artists, Yeh “breathe[s] life, beauty, rhythm, and joy into th[ose] space[s]” that “beckon” to her as the “forgotten” homes of “traumatized people.” The directing team of Glenn Holsten and Daniel Traub (who is also Yeh’s son) have followed Yeh’s work since 1988 and provide an inspiring film that is sometimes painful in its honesty but always as hopeful as Yeh’s unyielding faith in the power of art to restore the individual spirit and rebuild shattered communities. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "How Making Art Can Rebuild Broken Communities."

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Andy Warhol, Digital Art Pioneer?

It all started with a video on YouTube. Sometime in 2011, artist Cory Arcangel watched a
video of Andy Warhol painting a digital portrait of singer Debbie Harry in 1985 on a Commodore Amiga 1000 as part of a promotional event for the computer’s release. What happened to that image and the others Warhol made on that computer nearly 30 years ago?, Arcangel wondered. When Arcangel traveled to Pittsburgh later that year for his upcoming exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art, he stopped off at the nearby Andy Warhol Museum and asked that very question of the curators. That YouTube video and Arcangel’s curiosity set off a chain of events that led to the recovery of those long-forgotten images from the depths of the digital archives and the tomb of obsolete technology. Compared to what artists such as Arcangel and others can do with modern computer technology today, Warhol’s images (such as his self-portrait, shown above) seem like quaint cave drawings. But there’s still something to be learned from looking at the first foray into a new medium for an already established artist such as Andy Warhol, who may now be seen perhaps as a digital art pioneer. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Andy Warhol, Digital Art Pioneer?"

Can Today’s Paparazzi Ever Recover “La Dolce Vita”?

Why are today’s paparazzi so terrible? The combative relationship between photojournalists and their celebrity subjects seems to have become an all-out war as photographers look to capture content not already provided by the stars themselves via social media. That forbidden photographic fruit takes the
form of either unguarded moments (the infamous “nip slips” and “upskirts”) or flagrant violations of privacy (helicopters over weddings, etc.), both of which lead to that quintessential paparazzi moment—the punch in the face. The Years of La Dolce Vita: The Birth of Celebrity Culture, which runs at the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art in London, UK, from April 30, 2014 through June 29, 2014, returns to the Italian roots of today’s paparazzi and raises the question of whether today’s photomedia can ever recover the grace and sweetness of those early days, the days of “La Dolce Vita.” Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Can Today's Paparazzi Ever Recover 'La Dolce Vita'?"

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Why the Birth of Shakespeare Is the Birth of Modern Art

April 23, 2014, marks the 450th birthday of William Shakespeare, one of the greatest writers of all time and an inescapable influence not just on literature, but also on every form of culture since the 19th century. Although the canon of plays was more or less established with the publication of The First Folio in 1623, Shakespeare had to wait for larger acclaim until the Romantic era of the 1800s, when critics such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge and August Wilhelm Schlegel first spread the Gospel of Will which would soon blossom into full bardolatry. In many ways, the Romantic era never ended and we are the “last” Romantics, full of ideas of individuality, imagination, and even love that would be totally foreign to the classical world. Even those who accept that the Romantic era’s over see it as a Post-Romantic era, a time defined by what it can no longer be.  This Romantic or Post-Romantic world gave birth to Modern art.  So, by an almost Biblical series of begats, you can say that the birth of Shakespeare is the birth of Modern art, the birth of how we see the world within and the world without today. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Why the Birth of Shakespeare Is the Birth of Modern Art."

Thursday, April 17, 2014

How Neurocomic Gets Into Your Head

The two “go to” occupations for conveying the idea of genius are usually “rocket scientist” and “brain surgeon.” Only the best minds pursue the mysteries of the outer space beyond our atmosphere or the inner space between our ears. We all have brains, but getting our brains to understand themselves seems something reserved only for the eggiest of eggheads. Two neuroscientists, Drs. Hana Roš and Matteo Farinella, have teamed up to create the educational and entertaining graphic novel Neurocomic. By turning neurons into trees, the depths of memory into caves, and the mind’s self-deceptiveness into a haunted castle, Roš and Farinella take you on a visual and verbal rollercoaster ride into your own brain in hopes of bringing the non-brain surgeons of the world closer to cutting through all the scientific jargon and considering the big questions of brain versus mind, how we remember, and how we become who we are. A mind trip in every sense of the word, Neurocomic gets into your head to get you into your own head. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "How Neurocomic Gets Into Your Head."

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Stephen Colbert and the End of "Stephen Colbert"

On October 17th, 2005, comedian Stephen Colbert introduced the persona “Stephen Colbert” on the first episode of The Colbert Report by also introducing to the world the concept of “Truthiness.” That bit (the full video’s here) not only resulted in “truthiness” becoming Merriam-Webster’s 2006 Word of the Year, but also introduced the “truthiness” of performance art to a mainstream American audience. What began as a broad caricature of a Bill O’Reilly-esque conservative TV pundit evolved over 9 years into a multidimensional character with elements of the real wit, charm, warmth, and unyielding mental sharpness of the real man. With news that Colbert will be leaving The Colbert Report at the end of 2014 to replace David Letterman as the host of the Late Show on CBS in 2015 comes great sadness on seeing “Stephen Colbert” the character come to an end, but we’ll still have the rest of the year to celebrate, appreciate, and understand what Stephen Colbert the performance artist truly accomplished. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Stephen Colbert and the End of 'Stephen Colbert.'"

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Documenting China’s Fake Case Against Ai Weiwei

“You criticize them too much. If this was 1957 they would have killed you already,” Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s worried mother tells him in a new documentary titled Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case, which documents the Chinese government’s fabricated charges of tax evasion against the Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd, a business registered not in his but in his wife’s name, although the charges are leveled against Ai. “It’s a fake case,” Ai explains.  “It’s a fake case about a Fake Company.  But the Fake Company is a real company and the fake case is a real case, but it’s fake, it’s fabricated.” In this up-is-down world, Danish filmmaker Andreas Johnsen captures the very real day-to-day dangers the artist and those close to him face from a Chinese government that fears Ai’s online influence with a young generation of plugged-in Chinese capable of considering widespread cultural change. More than any documentary on Ai Weiwei so far, Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case depicts accurately what it is to be an artist struggling bravely against political oppression and the personal cost of that fight. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Documenting China’s Fake Case Against Ai Weiwei."

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Why Does George W. Bush Paint (and Why Do We Look)?

When former President George W. Bush’s self-portraits in the shower and tub slipped into public sight a year ago, the general critical approaches either commented on the amateur quality of the work, on the obvious symbolism of cleansing (if you were a critic and thought he had something to cleanse himself of), or on both. Bush allegedly took up painting less than a year before the revelations, making him the most viewed
art rookie of modern times. Now, in a new exhibition at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum titled The Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy, Bush puts his artwork out there for comment on his own terms. The art’s still amateurish, but the content—portraits of “41” and “43,” as the Bushes refer to themselves, as well as other world leaders—cries out for commentary beyond the brushwork. Why “W.” paints remains a bit of a mystery that he hasn’t fully cleared up. But why we look says as much about his legacy as it does about our continuing struggle to come to grips with it. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Why Does George W. Bush Paint (and Why Do We Look)?"

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Why Judy Chicago Still Fights for Feminist Art at 75

Chicago native Judy Cohen Gerowitz became Judy Chicago in 1970 for many reasons. One was to throw off her father’s and husband’s names and the male dominance behind that practice. Another, as shown in the now famous Jerry McMillan photo announcing her breakout exhibition at California State University, Fullerton, was to prove her willingness to fight for her rights, as shown by her donning boxing gloves, entering a ring, and staring down the camera with a pugilist’s “eye of the tiger.” Nearly half a century later, Judy Chicago’s still fighting in the public arena for hers and every woman’s rights to equality both of artistic expression and full expression of their humanity. Set to celebrate her 75th birthday this July, Judy Chicago (shown above) finds herself the subject of numerous retrospective shows.  But never one to rest on her laurels, Chicago also comes out swinging with not one but two books that not only look back at her achievements as an artist and educator, but also point forward to how the feminist fight rages on and what winning the next rounds and, ultimately, the battle for equality will involve. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Why Judy Chicago Still Fights for Feminist Art at 75."

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Is an Artist’s Studio a Window into Their Soul?

If the eyes are the windows of the soul, can the windows of an artist’s studio—the vistas they viewed daily for inspiration—offer a glimpse into their soul? In anticipation of the upcoming exhibition Andrew Wyeth: Looking Out, Looking In, set to open at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, on May 4th, the NGA and the Brandywine Conservancy and Museum of Art teamed up to give the press a crash course on the deceptively realist and deceptively difficult artist Andrew Wyeth. The NGA show hopes to open a new window on the appreciation of Wyeth by focusing on the theme of windows in his work, which they believe will breathe fresh air into studies of an artist whose decades-long reclusiveness before his death in 2009 seems to have shuttered public affection and understanding of the man, his art, and the landscape that shaped both. The specific case of Andy and the Brandywine region outside his window raises a more general question, however, of whether we can understand an artist better not just by looking at their art, but also by seeing what they saw—looking out their window to look into and through their imagination. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Is an Artist’s Studio a Window into Their Soul?"

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Jasper Johns and Art History in the Making

“Regrets, I’ve had a few,” Frank Sinatra warbled in “My Way,” before adding wistfully, “But, then again, too few to mention.” Sinatra sang that song at the end of a long, successful career as a titan turning back and surveying the long road behind him and the shorter one ahead. A similar kind of retrospection turns the Museum of Modern Art in New York City’s new exhibition Jasper Johns: Regrets, which runs through September 1, 2014, into a survey of art history in the making. Not only is the show about canonical artist Jasper Johns’ latest additions to art history, but also about the history of making art, of taking different raw materials and media and entering the process of creating art. For a relatively small show on a tightly targeted subject, Jasper Johns: Regrets hits the mark beautifully and raises a triumphant flag signaling that art and art history aren’t dead just yet. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Jasper Johns and Art History in the Making."

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Sad, Strange History of “Degenerate Art”

“Crazy at any price!” read a sign above the modern art masterpieces at the Nazi-sponsored Entartete Kunst (“Degenerate Art,” in English) exhibition in Munich, Germany, in 1937. The fevered brainchild of art-obsessed Adolf Hitler, Entartete Kunst aimed at showing not only what “Jewish” and “Bolshevik” art looked like, but also arguing how the degeneracy of those artists and their work threatened the spiritual health of the German people, the “master race” Hitler believed would rule the world, with him as their leader. The Neue Galerie in New York City revisits that sad moment in modern art history with the exhibition Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937, which runs through June 30, 2014. The exhibition gathers together many of the “crazy” works labeled as degenerate, holds them up against examples of the Hitler-approved German art, and takes us down the long, strange road that led up to that Munich show. The result is a sad, strange history that will leave you shaking your head at the past, but will also make you wonder if it could happen, again, here and now. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "The Sad, Strange History of 'Degenerate Art.'"