The story of Chicago and its hinterland is one of the wildest histories of socio-economic growth you will encounter. In our time perhaps only comparable with the rapid growth of the Chinese economy and population. The story of Chicago is perhaps also the most revealing story to understand the American Dream and American Exceptionalism on one hand and the depravity of American capitalism on the other hand.
In 1830, Chicago barely did exist, but in the minds of a few so-called boosters or land speculators and a dozen early settlers. In 1840, Chicago had grown over 500% and counted a little over 4,000 settlers. Fifty years later, Chicago boasted over a million citizens and in the 1890 census had become the second largest city in the United States, after New York City. It was selected as the site for the World’s Columbian Exhibit in 1893 that commemorated the arrival of Columbus in the continent 400 years earlier, and surpassed in grandeur even the World’s Fair or Exposition Universelle of 1889 in Paris. The Chicago Exhibit became the site of the original Ferris Wheel that outdid the Eiffel Tower. Chicago had become the beginning and end station for all rail road routes in the United States, had centered the meat packing industry and the agricultural industry, but also had become the crime capital and witness to deplorable labor circumstances and exploitation. Read more of this article »
Anne Dunn’s paintings seem to explore the middle zones: Between being and not being, between beauty and decay.
Fruit and Swallow(1956) depicts bright sliced fruit beside a dead blue swallow. Vines After Rain (1959) explores a half seen landscape, abstracted, colourful and suggestive of movement. Spring 6 (1964) shares this sense of energy and movement: Lines of blue, greens, and reds, burst up through a wall of yellow. It feels almost like a still shot from Len Lye’s ‘Kaleidoscope‘.
One of my favorite garage punk songs by English artists is the Headcoats’ ‘Art or Arse’ with Billy Childish (from Tracey Emin). With a little stretch of mind, it raises the question of all times, ‘What is Art?’. One proposition to investigate this question is to look at the neural activity during an aesthetic experience. One of the two opponents at the ‘Can neuroscience help us understand art?’ debate at NYU’s Casa Italiana, Gabrielle Starr, studied the brain activity. One of her findings is a peak activity of the occidental lobe or visual processing and the striatum or reward system of the brain. Her opponent in the debate was Alva Noe , a philosopher who spoke out against the presumption that neuroscience can help us understand the true value of art. Read more of this article »
Throughout history, western images of the Islamic world have been subject to moulding and re-framing. ‘The orient’ is positioned either as the vibrant other: that strange and exotic world so unlike our own, or as an anchor, affirming the validity of established western cultures and ways of seeing. As Edward Said noted in the introduction to his book ‘Orientalism’:
“The Orient was almost a European invention, and had been since antiquity ‘a place of romance, exotic beings, haunting memories and landscapes, remarkable experiences. “
The rooting of this ‘oriental invention’ can be seen in the work of 18th century painter Jean-Etienne Liotard who, alongside his exquisite depictions of families (notably his own) and noble family life, documented the lives and fashions of the people he encountered during his travels in the east, and painted portraits of English society figures in ‘oriental’ dress.
Liotard lived a peripatetic existence. Born in the republic of Geneva, and having become not only a highly skilled draughtsman but an expert in beautifully detailed portraiture, he went on to seek fame and fortune throughout the capitals of Europe. His travels, moving from one commission to the next, took him from Paris, Rome, and London through to Amsterdam and Vienna. He also spent 4 years in Constantinople, where he travelled as a documentary artist, detailing the clothes and cultures of the people he encountered.
In his documentary work Liotard displayed a flair not only for brilliantly fine detail, but for an almost photographic ability to capture emotion and narrative.
Two exhibition works particularly stand out in this regard: one of a dwarf, depicted in middle aged and lost in thought, and the second of two Turkish musicians.
These drawings also show off Leotard’s skill with red and black pencil, a technique which carries over to his later ‘court portraits’ depicting European royalty. One of a young Marie-Antoinette is especially striking. But regardless of subject matter, this two colour approach lends a magical and highly stylised quality to his work: subjects appear as floating bright against a stark white background, details are drawn out with similar effect to Man Ray’s 20th century ‘Rayograph’ photographic experiments.
Humour, or at least playfulness, too, is a key feature of Liotard’s work. Self portraits depict him as smiling toothily towards the viewer, directing their attention away with pointed finger towards other works nearby.
There is a sense of comedy in the natural and candid way that he depicts his sitters. He allows them a wry grin and a knowing look, but he also refuses to beautify their flaws. The result is wall after wall of horrific women and puffily gout ridden men all painted with expert skill and attention. It becomes a constant delight to stumble now upon the portrait of a smirking woman, now on the startled and ruddy face of teenager on the verge of inheritance, and now upon the ageing, bloated aristocrat. It is not entirely clear to me how he came to get away with this trick. Perhaps was a much sought after signature, or perhaps (less likely) it was a secret in-joke only he was aware of. Either way, it is difficult to image the artist at work without a smile on his his face.
Comedy is also there in his ‘Oriental’ society portraits. Men appear slightly over-dressed, Women seem deliberately awkward in their foreign clothes.
This may be a mis-reading on my part but my feeling is that Liotard, when depicting the native people of the lands he travelled through, had a keener eye for the authenticity and reality of life than he allowed to trickle through into his European paintings. And I say this fully considering the theatrics at work in these portraits. Yes, the Turkish costume worn by the European girl or boy (often dressed in costumes Liotard himself has selected) speaks to a grander idea of their character and ambitions, but is there also the suggestion of an artist aware of the absurd and enjoying the playfulness of his situation? I like to think so.
Jean-Etienne Liotard at the Royal Academy of Art runs through to January 31, 2016
James Turrell’s latest light work is nothing less than a visual and spacial metamorphosis of the iconic spiral of the Guggenheim into a living set of Space Odyssey 2001 where the viewer is transcended up to the ovals above.
By blending the space into the art by his use of light, James Turrell (1943-present) equally absorbs the viewer, placing us immediately into the center of the installation. Aten Reign (2013) was especially designed for the rotunda of the Guggenheim. The inner space has been closed from the outer space by a soft white fabric along the full length of the spiraling gallery. The inner space has been carefully recreated and molded into a evenly shaped cone, while the original spiral effect of line and circle, has been projected onto the ceiling and flattened into a set of embedded oval hues. Around this inner cave of false shadows, runs the original spiral designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, but it has now become an empty row, a gallery of space itself, which has been revealed in its bare original beauty, and walking through it, gives you the feeling of walking through the exoskeleton of both Turrell’s and Wright’s parallel universes. Read more of this article »
At the Lincoln Center during the the New York Asian Film Festival 2012, Mr. Choi appeared as the leading guest of the festival speaking in Korean. Toward the end of Nameless Gangster, Mr. Choi sends his son to the US with the words ‘English makes you number 1’ and perhaps Mr. Choi is too big for Korea too. With his role in Nameless Gangster or The Golden Age of Crime he proves himself the leading actor transcending Korean cinema.
The director Jong-Bin Yoon is a fan of both Martin Scorsese and Mr. Choi, and the protagonist’s name Ik-hyun Choi (played by Mr. Choi) refers to Mr. Choi, according to the producer. Min-Sik Choi and Jung-Woo Ha (playing the role of Hyung-bae Choi) play two characters whose mind and muscle combine Read more of this article »
One day I will understand
that straight lines are necessary,
but optimism will quiet me
and I will conclude: this is not enough!
I will start burrowing in the garbage to become surer of my belief,
and right there I will find my childhood
and, overwhelmed with hope for despair,
Mania Grandioso will take me to the eighth floor,
where a blue-eyed Angel will make me feel deeply
the existence of The Eighth Day.
Afar, the large polite world of language
here, the wide serenity of things
in the ocean’s bottom where it lives
how could it be considered otherwise?
In this art in which it exalts
if the first to pick up the chisel
united in words the brilliance of the humble color
the trace of what was seen the wide serenity of things
one half is night the other half is deception Read more of this article »
Edward T. Hall, anthropologist and author of The Hidden Dimension (1966), first coined the term, “proxemics” in the early 1960s. The concept deals mainly with how people set up personal and social spaces and interpersonal distances. One of the interesting assumptions, of which humans have been well aware of for centuries, is that different cultures have different rules of keeping distances, that is, the distance between two or more individuals is culturally set. The violation of these spatial rules will put one in trouble. Thus, one can say that the American expression of stepping on one’s toes is probably connected more to distancing than to corporal punishment. In fact breaking established social norms for distancing could be interpreted as something far more serious.
Americans have been said to have closer distancing than, let’s say Germans, and yet, Latin Americans will consider Americans as people who maintain considerable more distance from each other. Apparently, it is this sense of cultural relativity that has attracted and intrigued anthropologists and psychologists to the study of proxemics.
It is most stimulating to observe Americans, and also the various strains of newly arrived Hispanics from Mexico, Dominican Republic, Cuba and Puerto Rico, in these space related close encounters. I, being Puerto Rican, was perturbed one day, after having recently arrived in the States from living in Puerto Rico. I was back again in the “land of the free” after thirteen years on the Island. I asked some fellow in a gasoline station for directions. I had lost my bearing in the drive from Orlando International Airport to Gainesville, Florida. When I posed my question, the person became quite startled and backed off a little. But I just moved towards him making no thought of why he acted the way he did. Read more of this article »