Monthly Archives: May 2010

TED Talk on How Schools Kill Creativity

I came across this video of Sir Ken Robinson talking about schools and creativity.  I had seen this video a year or two ago in a class and kind of forgot about it but luckily found it again thanks to Courage 2 Create

This and many other great videos all free for the watching about a variety of topics can be found at: http://www.ted.com/

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Recent Updates to My “Pages” Tab

I added a new page that contains some useful art links–everything from some casual reading material to the latest in aesthetic philosophy for the uber-art-nerds (like myself).  Link is to the left, or, here: https://minervalmuse.wordpress.com/list-of-useful-art-links/

Still included are:

Have a Great Memorial Day

If you have the opportunity to do so, thank a veteran for their service because it is through the efforts of our men and women in the military that we can create art without prohibition.

Look back to a few examples of how creative efforts have been suppressed:

  •  Nazi Germany and the Degenrate Art show–included artists such as Kanidnsky, Paul Klee, and many others
  • The closure of the Bauhaus
  • Glance at the post about North Korean art to see what happens when art is purely in the service of the state
  • The art of Stalinist Russia
  •   ”       ”     ”   Communist China
  • and so forth….

Where creative efforts are suppressed the human spirit withers.

AoTW: Jean-Michel Basquiat

    

Jean-Michel Basquiat led a turbulent and tragically short life.  However, in his 27 years on this earth, he managed to become a superstar in the art world via his prolific efforts and innovative pioneering of neo-expressionism.  Basquiat has left an inspiring multifaceted legacy within the art world that should encourage any working artist who feels discouraged by the inevitable obstacles that pop up.  C’mon he was virtually homeless, sold t-shirts on the street and went on to become a household name for crying out loud–I’ll think about that next time I feel unmotivated because I’m bummed out that “nobody understands my work,” boohoo.  So, no excuses.      

   

He began his career very unconventionally by dropping out of school, crashing at friends’ places,  creating graffiti art, and participating in a number of other creative efforts which in a very winding manner led him to gain recognition within the local and ultimately international art community.  Although no guidance counselor certainly would recommended this manner in which to pursue a dream, it worked for him.     

His work was born on the streets of Manhattan and his early urban experiences shaped his subsequent work for the remainder of his career.  His work directly confronts the viewer via a cacophony of text, raw imagery, and politically charged statements that force the average Basquiat viewer/collector to consider statements about society that would otherwise remain below the surface.  Basquiat was quite aware of the fact that his average audience member would have very limited knowledge of the world he (Basquiat) travelled in and he worked to deliberately expose this ignorance.    One cannot look at a Basquiat without looking into himself to a certain degree.   

Untitled Skull. 1981

 

     

Although his work has a rawness to it, his draftsmanship and command of formal properties is very clear.  His oeuvre’s consistency, his voracious drive to create, and his impactful imagery propelled Basquiat to stardom by the time he was only 21 years old.   

Mona Lisa, 1983

 

No discussion of Basquiat cannot include at least a cursory consideration of Warhol.  My position is that Basquiat’s work stands on its own and Warhol’s involvement in all likelihood was largely self-serving.  The following video touches upon the relationship between Warhol and Basquiat:   

   

Judge for yourself.   

Basquiat’s work has generated a legacy within the art community that continues to this day.  The issues considered within his work are as relevant today as they were twenty years ago.  The brief spark that was Basquiat’s career continues to illuminate the darker corners of the art community and continue to compel the upper echelons of the art industry to consider just who the gallery spaces are for and who has access to them.   

A recent exhibit in Switzerland assembled perhaps the largest collection of Basquiat’s work in one place to date.  The link to the video below is a great catalog of this event and showcases a tremendous amount of Basquiat’s work:   

http://vernissage.tv/blog/2010/05/11/jean-michel-basquiat-retrospective-at-fondation-beyeler-interview-with-sam-keller/

“Edward Steichen–In High Fashion” Photography at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Currently on display at the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City is the fashion photography of Edward Steichen.  Now, I must admit, I’m not generally a fashion man and wouldn’t have thought twice about it but for the fact that the photographs are simply amazing.

From the museum’s website:

Edward Steichen—In High Fashion: The Condé Nast Years 1923-1937, will feature approximately 150 works by one of the twentieth century’s leading figures in photography, during his tenure as chief photographer for Condé Nast’s magazines, Vogue and Vanity Fair.

This exhibition is the first to give serious attention to the full range of Steichen’s fashion work, and includes an extensive selection of vintage prints from the Steichen archive at Condé Nast, many of which have never before been exhibited or published.

Included are Steichen’s iconic portraits of famous actors, actresses, painters, producers, athletes, playwrights, poets, dancers, journalists, singers and writers, in addition to numerous fashion photographs.

Steichen’s crisp, bold, modern style revolutionized fashion photography during the 1920s and 1930s, and greatly influenced his successors in the field, including Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, and Bruce Weber.

It’s worth checking out.

List of Recent Posts

A list of relatively recent posts:

North Korean Art Exhibit in Venice

Propaganda Art from North Korea is being displayed in Venice’s MAK  (Museum für angewandte Kunstmuseum).   The show is called Flowers for Kim Il Sung and was prepared in cooperation with NK’s government.

Of all the things one might think of when  North Korea is mentioned, I have to admit that art was very low on the list particularly given the current circumstances surrounding the country.  Interestingly, when North Korean art was brought up, I immediately formed an idea in my head of what it might look like and, yes, it was right on. 

Totalitarian kitsch, I believe it’s called, or, if you prefer, Social Realism.  Yes, everyone looks happy and well fed as I’m sure everybody in North Korea certainly would like to be is.

It is also interesting, to me at least, that the very idea of North Korean art cannot be considered apart from the political authority of the nation.  For this reason, it is difficult to even consider the artwork of this country as anything other than a statement of or a reaffirmation of the power structure that propagated the work.  Thus, the pieces rapidly disintegrate into a cliché  exhibiting genre similar to every other socialist state that has managed to secure power.  

I suspect that an authentic snapshot of the North Korean social milieu can only be found by analyzing the work of those artists and thinkers who work outside the imprimatur of the state.  I imagine that there are some who toil quietly, hoping, much like Solzhenitsyn, that someday their work will find the light of day.   Until that day, beaming faces, full tummies, and the “worker’s paradise” will be displayed with gusto.

The BBC reported the original story which can be found here–they also have a video report of the event: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/europe/10134478.stm

Free Art Books

The site, http://www.archive.org/ has literally hundreds if not thousands of open source media available for download on any topic imaginable but since this blog is about art, well, I’m picking art books.

The following are a few that I find interesting but this list is by no means exhaustive.  Anything from how-to books to theory and original source documents of the artists themselves are available.

Plenty more at http://www.archive.org/

Food Art Shenanigans ala Terry Border

A random trip across the interwebz revealed Terry Border’s art.  His shameless manipulation of food is hilarious and possibly criminal.

 

You can see more of his work at: http://bentobjects.blogspot.com/

AoTW: Dennis Oppenheim

Device to Root Out Evil

 

As much as I read about art, I’m embarrassed to admit that I was not familiar with Oppenheim’s work until very recently.  This is especially ridiculous of me considering that he has been a working artist and well-known within the contemporary art scene since the mid 60s.  Ooops.  

The above image of the upside down church was my introduction to his work and I was immediately intrigued.  I was further pleased to discover that his body of work is extensive, multifaceted, and reflects an ability on the artist’s part to not fall into the trap of conforming to one’s predominant style as so often happens when an artist finds success in a particular genre.  

Much of Oppenheim’s early work is performance-based and focuses primarily upon the direct experience of the artist from which we the viewer can only experience the residue of the event–i.e. a photograph or a video.   

The interface between the temporal nature of the performance and the permanence of the recording method demonstrates, among other things, the rapport that exists between the experience and the tangible record.  Although the “artwork” is the direct experience, Oppenheim’s videos and photos inevitably and inadvertently become the body of work thereby challenging traditional means of artistic expression by emphasizing conceptualization/experience over tangible expression.  Old hat now but wild and crazy back then.  

Material Interchange, 1970

 

Reading Position for Second Degree Burn, 1970

 

 In addition to his performance work, Oppenheim completed a series of earthworks each with their own agenda.  The Cancelled Crop piece is one I find particularly interesting because it speaks to social systems in a very unique and impactful manner due to its sheer scale.  

Cancelled Crop, 1969

 

 From the Oppenheim website:  

In September the field was harvested in the form of an X. the grain was isolated in it’s raw state, further processing was withheld. The material is planted and cultivated for the sole purpose of withholding it from a product- oriented system. Isolating this grain from further processing (production of food stuffs) becomes like stopping raw pigment from becoming an illusionistic force on canvas.  

Much of Oppenheim’s recent works are sculptural and reflect his, what I would call, somewhat eclectic and sporadic style.  I don’t intend these adjectives to be construed as derogatory.  It is simply that the works do not tend to conform to a unified style other than that they are all equally different in manner and method.   

ELECTRIC KISS, 2009

 

PERFORMANCE PIECE, 2000

 

RAINING HALOS, 2008

 

There is a current of continuity to be found throughout Oppenheim’s work in that he has allowed himself the freedom to explore beyond the boundaries that many artists create for themselves.   To venture beyond these self-imposed constraints takes a tremendous amount of courage in an often fickle art scene in which any artist that eludes neat categorization will often languish in obscurity (Sigmar Polke, for instance).  For an artist to create not only art pieces but create and recreate his or her artistic identity via new stylistic and conceptual explorations is something I commend not only for the fact that most artists cannot do so but for the fact that even for those few who might, they lack the strength of will to follow their convictions.  

All of Oppenheim’s work may be found at:  

http://www.dennis-oppenheim.com/  

A good, but long, interview can be found at this address:  

http://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/oralhistories/transcripts/oppenh95.htm