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."