Thursday, January 30, 2014

Why Carrie Mae Weems Doesn’t Want Your “Black” Art Exhibitions (or Your Women’s Shows Either)

The annual rite of February’s African-American History Month in America feels more and more like a mixed blessing with each passing year. On one hand, setting aside time to learn the story of Jackie Robinson, for example, ensures that the story of the struggle won’t be forgotten. On the other hand, what does designating a specific month for African-American history say about the other months? Can we and should we really compartmentalize history in this way? Similarly, when well-intentioned museums stage group exhibitions for African-American and/or women artists, does the value of making up for past wrongs outweigh the continuation of using such categories? Artist Carrie Mae Weems, subject of the exhibition Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video, the first solo retrospective ever of an African-American woman artist at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City, believes that the time for racial- and/or gender-based shows is over. Why Carrie Mae Weems doesn’t want your “black” art exhibitions (or your women’s shows either) may help end the days of such curatorial practices and open up a new way of seeing not just these artists, but difference itself. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Why Carrie Mae Weems Doesn’t Want Your “Black” Art Exhibitions (or Your Women’s Shows Either)."

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

How Football Is Like a Modern Painting

As the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks prepare to meet this Sunday in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium, you’ll hear a lifetime’s worth of metaphors for football, many of which have already been catalogued and parodied in George Carlin’s classic routine “Football versus Baseball.” One metaphor you’re less likely to hear is how football is like a modern painting, but that’s a common metaphor in one of the most unusual, but most insightful sports books written about the game—Nicholas Dawidoff’s Collision Low Crossers: A Year Inside the Turbulent World of NFL Football. If you’re a fan of football or just a fan of interesting, quirky writing that gets at the creative artistry of any activity, including sports, Dawidoff’s Collision Low Crossers is the book for you. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "How Football Is Like a Modern Painting."

The Real Heroes and Villains in Comic Books

Good versus Evil will always be the stock and trade of storytelling, especially in comic books. The skill of separating good guys from bad comes early to readers, with the occasional antihero appearing as an interesting change of pace. Behind scenes of these imaginative creations, however, many of their flesh and blood creators fight a never-ending, just slightly less Manichean battle for truth, justice, and an equitable share of the profits denied to them by the corporate comic publishers. In Comic Book Babylon, Clifford Meth chronicles the struggles of comic book creators of the past fighting against Marvel Comics and DC Comics for royalties and, just as importantly, recognition. In the midst of this often life-and-death struggle for aging artists, Meth separates the angels from the demons and uncovers the dirty realities behind the comics’ fantasy industry. Meth’s raucous, passionate, no-holds-barred style will leave you looking at comics and the corporate giants they’ve spawned with new eyes. Forget Superman. Forget Doctor Doom. Here are the real heroes and villains in comic books. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "The Real Heroes and Villains in Comic Books."

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Are Our Minds Wired to Enjoy Cubism?

When Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque first brought Cubism onto the modern art scene in the first decade of the 20th century, the initialreviews were mixed. Like-minded artists and art lovers embraced Cubism as a startling new way of seeing breaking violently with the representational art of the past. Many others, however, saw only madness and perhaps a little fraud in these images taking everyday objects and representing them from every angle simultaneously. Preferences for modernism or classicism certainly played a big role in responses. But what if we could wipe away those preferences? Would an unprejudiced viewer accept and maybe even enjoy Cubist paintings? A team of researchers recently tackled that question by testing whether art novices shown a series of Cubist works expressed a liking for the works and if detectablility—whether or not the viewer could visually reverse engineer the image back to its everyday source—played a role. Their results not only suggest that Cubism can be enjoyed by the novice, but that more difficult (but not too difficult) works to untangle tickle the pleasure zones of the mind. Are our minds wired to enjoy Cubism? Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Are Our Minds Wired to Enjoy Cubism?"

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Can Franz von Stuck Bring the Idea of the “Big” Artist Back?

“I am big,” Gloria Swanson’s fading film star Norma Desmond says in Sunset Boulevard. “It’s the pictures that got small.” Have we lost the “big” artist, the artist who tackled the big ideas of truth and life whose name stood on the tip of everyone’s tongue regardless of class or nationality? Franz von Stuck, known in the late 19th century as Munich’s “painter prince,” belonged to the highest rank of artistic royalty at the time, yet today his name’s as faded as that of most silent film stars. If we’ve lost not just such “big” artists of the past, but also the capacity to allow such “big” artists in the future, what have we also lost in the exchange of big pictures for small? On the 150th anniversary of von Stuck’s birth and the 120th anniversary of his American debut, the Frye Art Museum in Seattle, Washington, presents the exhibition Franz von Stuck (which runs through February 2, 2014), which recreates not just von Stuck’s art, but also the culturally charged atmosphere that powered the Gesamtkunstwerk—the total work of art that captures the total human condition.  Can Franz von Stuck bring the idea of the “big” artist back? Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Can Franz von Stuck Bring the Idea of the 'Big' Artist Back?"

Thursday, January 9, 2014

How Chaplin’s Tramp Tramps on a Century Later

Baggy pants. A cane. A bowler hat. A mustache. These are the unlikely visual ingredients of one of the most important fictional characters of the last century around the world. A century ago, way back in 1914, Charles Chaplin’s “Little Tramp” made his first appearance on motion picture screens. Although more recent generations don’t remember the Tramp at all (or only by a series of 1980s IBM commercials featuring an impersonator), Chaplin’s character set the stage for so many other characterizations in media today that it’s almost like he’s peeking from around the virtual corner. Thanks to this centennial, Chaplin’s Little Tramp might finally come out into the spotlight once more and remind us of the romantic, poetic humanity that made him so popular in his time and allowed his legacy to tramp on today. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "How Chaplin’s Tramp Tramps on a Century Later."

Can Glamour Save Your Soul?

It’s not easy to take glamour seriously. From the supermarket magazine rack glossy promising “5 Easy, Non-Stalkerish Ways to Show a Guy You’re Into Him” to the never-ending, slow motion train wreck of today’s rich and fabulous, “glamour” isn’t as glamorous as it used to be. Coming to glamour’s rescue is Virginia Postrel’s The Power of Glamour: Longing and the Art of Visual Persuasion. Postrel not only saves glamour from charges of frivolity and superficiality, but also champions glamour as a powerful nonverbal rhetorical path to a better life. “By binding image and desire, glamour gives us pleasure, even as it heightens our yearning,” Postrel claims. “It leads us to feel that the life we dream of exists, and to desire it even more.” Glamour shows us the stuff of dreams so we can dream of better stuff—in our lives and in our world. When this old world starts getting you down, can glamour save your soul? Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Can Glamour Save Your Soul?"

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Have We Finally Found the "Lost" Shakespeare?

When William Shakespeare’s friends and fellow actors and authors published his collected plays in 1623, 7 years after the Bard shuffled off this mortal coil, that book, now known as the First Folio, established what was and was not to be officially “Shakespeare.” Yet, as with any other great artist, Shakespeare left us wanting more. The search for “lost” Shakespeare has spanned centuries, spilling plenty of critical ink along the way. William Shakespeare & Others: Collaborative Plays, edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen, uses the latest computer technology paired with old school critical connoisseurship not to end the debate once and for all, but to cooly lay out all the arguments free of the heat of Bardology beside the very texts in question. If there truly is “lost” Shakespeare waiting to be found, it awaits somewhere in these pages. And if these works be the stuff of Shakespeare, play on. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Have We Finally Found the 'Lost' Shakespeare?"