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.'"

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Have We Finally Found the Voice of the American Soldier of the Iraqi and Afghan Wars?

After wars end and soldiers come home, it usually takes a while for the war to “come home” to the consciousness of the American people at large. When did the reality of Vietnam really enter the American imagination: in 1975, with the Fall of Saigon, or in 1978, with the film Coming Home? This detachment’s increased as a slimmer and slimmer slice of the demographic learns the lessons of combat life first, second, or even third hand. As veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wars come home and try to find their place in America again, we still haven’t had that Coming Home moment artistically. Phil Klay’s Redeployment, a collection of twelve short stories by a former Marine who served in Iraq, may finally give the Iraq/Afghan vet a voice to be heard by the American imagination. With a brutally realistic eye yet a tender humanism fighting to survive, Klay’s fiction finally allows the American public to hear the voice of the veterans who don’t want or need your praise for their service, but rather long for your attention, understanding, and compassion. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Have We Finally Found the Voice of the American Soldier of the Iraqi and Afghan Wars?"

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Discovering Korea’s “Hermit Kingdom” Through Its Art

The Joseon Dynasty ruled over Korea for more than half a millennium, stretching from 1392, when horses were still the main means of travel, to 1910, the dawn of the age of flight. Overshadowed (and sometimes invaded) by neighboring China and Japan, Korea maintained its unique culture and arts until the late 19th century, when the West finally made inroads into what became known as the “hermit kingdom.” A new, unprecedented exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art titled Treasures from Korea: Arts and Culture of the Joseon Dynasty, 1392–1910 retells the story of that dynasty through more than 150 works, including many Korean national treasures that have never before left their native land. Walking among the remnants of people steeped in the simplicity of Neo-Confucianism yet still marked by the grandeur of kings, you feel yourself transported not just to a different place and time but to a whole new state of being. This rediscovery of Korea’s “hermit kingdom” through its art will bring you out of your own cultural shell. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Discovering Korea’s “Hermit Kingdom” Through Its Art."

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Italian Futurism: The Undead Art Movement?

When people say that an art movement or school “died out,” they usually don’t mean it literally. In the case of the Italian Futurists, however, you can specify the day the movement “died”—August 17, 1916, the day that artist Umberto Boccioni succumbed to injuries at the age of 33 after falling from a horse and getting trampled during Italian Army cavalry training for World War I. Boccioni exemplified the best parts of an art movement that celebrated modern technology aesthetically. His death registers today as another senseless death among millions during the “Great War.” In a different sense, however, Italian Futurism “lived on” for another three decades and one more world war in the person of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, the movement’s chief manifesto maker and warmonger. The Guggenheim Museum’s new exhibition Italian Futurism, 1909-1944: Reconstructing the Universe, which runs through September 1, 2014, resurrects the good, the bad, and the ugly truths of an art movement that died in the culture and wars of the past yet still lives on, zombie-like, in our modern ones. How did Italian Futurism become the undead art movement? Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Italian Futurism: The Undead Art Movement?"

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Can We Learn to See How Artists See?

We all dream of mastering a skill like a pro—to skate like an Olympian, sing like an Idol, or go to the hoop “like Mike.” What if we could learn to see how an artist sees? “It’s so important to move through the world with this kind of wonder,” artist Bo Bartlett says of putting on an artist’s eyes in SEE: An Art Road Trip. “It all passes so fast.” Directed by Bartlett with his wife and fellow artist Betsy Eby and filmmaker Glenn Holsten, SEE challenges and inspires us to see the world through an artist’s eyes not necessarily in hopes of making art but, more importantly, in hopes of our appreciating the beauty that rushes past us and our high-speed everyday lives. Part road trip, part art history lesson, and part existential drama, SEE at all times conveys a vision of a more aware, more visually activated life that most of us only dream of but can finally experience, if only fleetingly, through these pros’ eyes. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Can We Learn to See How Artists See?"

Was Louis Armstrong the First Great American Modernist?

“Master of Modernism and Creator of His Own Song Style” read the posters for Jazz trumpeter and singer Louis Armstrong when he appeared in Memphis, Tennessee in late 1931 at the end of a decade of development that saw him take the raw talent spawned in his hometown of New Orleans and spread it across all of America, bringing not just jazz, but modernism itself to both black and white audiences. In Louis Armstrong, Master of Modernism, musicologist and Duke University professor Thomas Brothers traces the trajectory of Armstrong’s rise against the backdrop of the racial and cultural divisions of early 20th century America. Brothers takes readers deep inside the art of Armstrong and dismisses both the myth of Louis’ naïve, unlearned talent and the criticism of Louis’ sellout to white tastes with the ease of the master hitting a high note. In Louis Armstrong, Master of Modernism, Louis Armstrong emerges not just as the founding father of jazz (and all American popular music that follows in its wake), but as the first true modernist of American art. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Was Louis Armstrong the First Great American Modernist?"