Art is Communication

Art is a form of communication. Art, much like language, is a way to express ideas and and convey information to others. Art can express ideas that words won’t always cover. Art is a great way to share ideas that may not be able to be conveyed in other ways. Art is very unique and has the power to communicate across people and time.

 

I chose three artists and works from the early modern era that focus on abstraction. Abstraction distorts form and color while expressing an overarching idea. Abstraction deals with ideas rather than events.

composition-iv-1911

Wassily Kandinsky painted Composition IV, in 1911. This work has bright colors and curving figures with a castle on the hilltop. This painting represents the idea of an end all battle that would lead to peace. The battle is represented by the Cossacks, and then the peace is represented by the flowing figures. Rather than painting clear objects Kandinsky painted symbols to express a universal idea rather than a literal thought. Kandinsky focuses on the spiritual well being of people and that war will not prevail over man kind and the peace could be achieved.

dance-around-the-golden-calf-1910

Emil Nolde painted Dance Around the Golden Calf, in 1910. This piece is arguably his most famous painting. He, like Kandinsky, uses bright colors and forms for his subject matter. Nolde had a strong religious background that is reflected in this work. The subject matter is reminiscent of the Old Testament story of Moses’s people dancing around the golden calf that they constructed as an idol. The golden calf was meant to fulfill spiritual needs of the people. There are figures that look to be partially naked women dancing around the calf. Nolde’s expression in this painting is describing the pagan practices of man kind. The exuberant colors condemn the dancers as having pagan acts. Nolde’s painting can be interpreted as how humanity has not changed since the Old Testament times. People still turn to pagan ways and rely on selfish ambitions to fulfil themselves.

the-scream

Edvard Munch painted The Scream, in 1893. This is one of the most notable paintings in the abstraction era. This idea of Munch’s was based off of an experience he had in his life. It shows Munch’s experience of screaming on a walk shortly after losing two friends which can be seen in the background. The curving lines and swirling colors represent the state that his mind was in. He was in turmoil and pain.  The skull shaped head, elongated hands, wide eyes, flaring nostrils, and ovoid mouth bring out the the turmoil as well. There is a bridge, a shoreline, hills, a sky, two people in the background, and the foreground character. The screaming figure is connected to the natural realm. The cry of nature is synonymous with the cry of his own life. His expression appeals to the senses and emotions. Without using an abstraction form his painting would not be as powerful.

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The Clock (2010) by Christian Marclay is a 24-hour single channel montage made out of thousands of excerpted moments from television and cinema. The Clock shows the passage of time in a literal sense. It changes between a functional time keeper itself and a time distorter. The nature of the The Clock reminds us of the passing of time and how it cannot be stopped. It also demonstrates the abstract idea of the time continuum. Time is something that cannot be easily expressed. The expression art of The Clock is a way that we can appreciate the passage of time and the time that we have while we are alive.

andy-warhol-monument

The Andy Monument (2011) stands as a tribute to the passed away artist Andy Warhol. Andy Warhol was one of the most influential artists of the modern era. The Statue is placed in Union Square of New York City. It was the location of Andy Warhol’s Factory where he reinvented the conventional artist’s studio. This statue is a way to commemorate the late Andy Warhol and all that he did. Words can only say so much, but a monument will capture the spirit and memories of a person within a statue that will last a long time. An object representing an idea is one of the best ways to express ideas outside of using words.

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One of the more famous artworks of the past few years is Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds (2010). The exhibit consists of over 100 million tiny, handmade porcelain sunflower seeds. They fill the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern, an industrial building turned into a contemporary art space. The Sunflower seeds evoked a warm feeling for the artist who remembered sharing sunflower seeds as a treat among friends in his home in China. There are multiple interpretations of this work. Some see it as a critique on systems of production and the global economy. Others see it as a communist metaphor where Mao Zedong was seen as a sun and all the people as his seeds. However, Weiwei asserts that the sunflower seeds represent a symbol of camaraderie during difficult times and the beauty of simplicity in simple things. His exhibit goes far beyond the literal interpretations of sunflower seeds and conveys an important message to everyone in this world. This is something that is more impactful than simple words.

 

Works Cited:

“Ai Weiwei, Kui Hua Zi (Sunflower Seeds) (Article).” Khan Academy, 2017, http://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ap-art-history/global-contemporary/a/sseeds-ai-weiwei.

“Christian Marclay-The Clock | MoMA.” The Museum of Modern Art, 2017, http://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/1308.

“Emil Nolde Biography, Art, and Analysis of Works.” The Art Story, 2017, http://www.theartstory.org/artist-nolde-emil-artworks.htm.

Fund, Public Art. “The Andy Monument.” Public Art Fund, 3 Mar. 2011, http://www.publicartfund.org/view/exhibitions/5847_the_andy_monument.

“The Scream, 1893 by Edvard Munch.” Edvard Munch, Edvard Munch Organization , 2011, http://www.edvardmunch.org/the-scream.jsp.

“Wassily Kandinsky Biography, Art, and Analysis of Works.” The Art Story, 2017, http://www.theartstory.org/artist-kandinsky-wassily-artworks.htm#pnt_4.

Australian Aboriginal Art

Aboriginal art is art that comes from the indigenous people of Australia. Aboriginal art is some of the oldest known art in the world dating back more than 30,000 years ago. There are many different mediums of aboriginal art. The most popular of artwork can consist of rock paintings, rock engravings, dot paintings, wood bark painting, and wood carvings. Many rock paintings actually used forms of charcoal, clay, and natural dies to mark on stone walls. These depictions were usually of a historical or important event such as a successful hunt or an encounter with other tribes. Rock engravings are similar to rock paintings in subject matter but rather than coloring the surface of a rock face, indigenous people would carve out the stone. Dot paintings are the most popular traditional artwork in Australia. Dot paintings are made up of lots of dots and sometimes curving lines to form shapes. Yellows are used to represent the sun, brown for soil, red for dessert sand, and white for clouds and the sky. Other colors like blue and green are used to depict specific animals, plants, and people. While most of these paintings now are done on canvas many of the original traditional pieces were found done on wood. Authentic wood bark paintings are deemed highly valuable and can fetch a high dollar at auctions. Most paintings depict dessert landscapes of the back country outback with native animals and plants. There is also a very symbolic aspect of aboriginal art. Symbols used in some paintings were meant to convey rituals, foods, customs, spiritual encounters, constellations, and ceremonies. Symbols showed the presence of different objects that existed around them. Aboriginal tribes didn’t have their own written language so written communication was done through pictures and symbols. Art served both as beautiful creations and communication.

uluru

Danny Eastwood, a descendent of the Ngemba Tribe, painted Uluru. I was not able to find a date of creation but it is on display at the Karlangu Aboriginal Art Centre in Sydney, Australia. The title comes from the indigenous name for the large rock formation pictured. This is a sacred place for many aboriginal tribes as it connects them directly to the spiritual world and creation. Depicted is a great sunshine peeking out behind the rock, two kangaroos crossing the outback, and desert sand and grass. The painting is a contemporary rendition of traditional style. While this painting does not convey a story it does have traditional value with the spiritual subject matter.

Clifford-Possum-Tjapaltjarri-Warlugulong

The Dreamtime is an area of artwork that focuses on ancient stories and symbols that pertain to the world’s creation. Dreamtime stories, or dreamings, have been passed down through countless generations and are still being depicted today as they were tens of thousands of years ago. As previously mentioned before, dot paintings are very common in aboriginal cultures. Dots were used to hide secret information from white explorers who would be able to see and interfere with their sacred knowledge. The dots obscured the symbols in a way that wasn’t recognizable. This has since morphed into a classical style typified by artworks from the Pintupi tribe. Warlugulong is a painting done by Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri in 1977. It is an acrylic on canvas and is the highest earning contemporary painting of any aboriginal art. He used the traditional dot style for this work. It sold at auction for $2.4 million. It depicts nine distinct dreaming symbols. The dreamings are separated by footprints. The most centrally focused on dreaming is of an ancient ancestral being named Lungkata who started the first bushfire. All the dreamings represent ancestral stories about events, people, and geographical locations.

Bradshaw_rock_paintings

The Bradshaw Rock Paintings is the name to describe one of two major traditional rock art in Australia. The art does not have a definitive age but dates back somewhere around 40,000 years ago (an approximation by archaeologists and rock reasearchers). The paintings were discovered by a shepherd named Joseph Bradshaw in 1891 while searching for pastoral lands in the northwest Kimberley region. The art consists primarily of human figures ornamented with accessories such as bags and headdresses. This style of art is interesting because it greatly differs from the other styles found in that area. The origin of the painting is unknown.

 

Works Cited:

Griffiths, Ellie. “8 Must-Visit Aboriginal Art Galleries In Sydney.” Culture Trip, 25 July 2016, theculturetrip.com/pacific/australia/articles/8-must-visit-aboriginal-art-galleries-in-sydney/.

 

Linklater, Scott. “The Story of Aboriginal Art.” Artlandish Aboriginal Art Gallery, 2 Sept. 2017, http://www.aboriginal-art-australia.com/aboriginal-art-library/the-story-of-aboriginal-art/.

 

“The Australian Rock Art Archive .” Bradshaw Foundation, 2011, http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/bradshaws/.

 

“10 Facts About Aboriginal Art.” Kate Owen Gallery, 2017, http://www.kateowengallery.com/page/10-Facts-About-Aboriginal-Art.aspx.

Photorealism in America

I chose the mid modern era, specifically the photorealism style that came about in the late 1950s and 1960s. Photorealism is a style of painting that shows the hyper realistic details that one might see in a photograph but is actually painted. Photorealism often uses photographs for inspiration for a piece that is then transcribed onto a canvas. It was originally founded by a group of artists in America. Initially photorealism was a rejection of abstract expressionism which had taken a strong hold in American artwork. Photorealism does not strive to harbor intellectual meaning or subjective value to paintings like many abstract works had done. The subject matter of photorealism focused largely on American life and culture in its most ordinary forms. Common examples of this which I will discuss latter are automobiles, diners, and small towns. It is all about the classic Americana. Many later works focused on still life depictions of ordinary objects like gumball and pinball machines. Photorealism is still around today and is just as alive now as it was sixty years ago.

Ralph Goings is considered one of the original photorealist artists. He worked on pieces for forty-five years as he drew our attention to the ordinary and mundane everyday experience of American life.

ralphgoings2

In the first painting we see a classic diner scene. Two waitresses are in the back and two men are being served at the counter.  The second picture we see is a close up of a diner table. We can see salt and pepper shakers, a ketchup bottle, a glass of lemon water, and two men sitting in the background. Both of these depictions focus around the everyday task of eating food, often times eating out. These paintings are about light, about the way tings look in their environment and especially about how to paint them realistically. Shape, color, space are all used to depict realistic objects in realistic settings. In both the diner and the table we can see glossy reflections of light in the glass and metal parts of the scene. Shading helps create shadows. These use of light and the mundane subject matter are what make these paintings so real and so applicable to everyday life. Both of these paintings could easily be placed in a restraint setting as wall décor. I could also see them set in a place like a nice car shop, garage, or man cave. Any area that breaths American culture could host these paintings. To me these works elicit happy emotions because I enjoy the beautiful aesthetics of the work and some of the subject matter. But mostly they aren’t painted to draw out emotions. They are painted to be real. So many people might say they draw out no emotions. Not happy or sad.

doneddy1

doneddy2

Don Eddy was another prominent painter in the photorealist movement. His earlier works consisted of the typical subject matter of mundane objects. Many of these objects focused on the transportation fad of the 1950s and 1960s when classic cars were first showing up. His paintings that I chose to look at both depict cars, specifically Volkswagen beetles. These paintings, like Ralph Goings’ works, show light reflections on the clear coat of the cars. We see them parked in lots with other vehicles and reflections of buildings and the surrounding area. Nothing is extra ordinary about these paintings except the fact that they look very realistic. The smooth curves and glassy finishes of the cars make the sunlight pop and bring out a blissful feeling. These paintings, like others of the era could be placed in a car collectors garage to show the appreciation for the artwork and the subject matter. Perhaps on a showroom floor in a car dealership. It would bring a touch of class and a touch of history with a side of aesthetic beauty.

gusheinz2

heinze_greenReaper

Gus Heinz is a German born American photorealist painter. He has two main subject matters for his works. One is storefront window city scenes and the other is industrial machinery. The two paintings I have shown here are of a Union Pacific train and of a green farm implement. Many of his industrial machinery paintings focus on old, dilapidated equipment such as trains, farm equipment, and engines. His paintings focus less on light and reflections as the other two artists as the subject matter isn’t as flashy. The colors used are dull which create a sense of age. Nothing is too terribly exciting about rusty metal and old machine parts but Heinz captures the realism in these objects.

Works cited:

“GUS HEINZE.” Gus Heinze – Biography – Bernarducci Gallery, 2016, http://www.bernarduccigallery.com/artist/bio/index.php?aid=10.

Gallery, Matt Moores Nancy Hoffman. “Don Eddy.” Don Eddy | Nancy Hoffman Gallery, 2015, http://www.nancyhoffmangallery.com/donEddy.htm.

Mattia Viviani -. “American Photorealist Painter.” Ralph Goings, 2017, ralphlgoings.com/.

The Great War and the Transitioning Arts

A world war is just as it sounds, a war that involves the whole world. When an entire world gets pulled into a war it impacts all people in many different ways, including the arts. Shortly after the turn of the century World War 1, first known as the Great War, erupted between major powers of Europe. As alliances drew more countries in, the war spread throughout many nations, bringing devastation upon governments, families, infrastructure, and countries as a whole. It was one of the largest most collective world events up to its time. Many worlds during and after the war focused on the intense destruction and brutal savagery the the war brought. But not all art focused on the aftermath of the Great War. The Dada movement was founded on the idea that World War 1 was caused by the emphasis of reason and logic over emotions and humanity. This resulted in a wild and absurd sense of artwork. It was wild and irrational. It opposed all senses of traditional thinking. Dada artwork helped move the arts into a conceptual stage where the meaning or interpretation of a piece is more important than the medium. Surrealists and expressionist started to depict the world with all of its struggles and hardships.

Paths of Glory is a painting by Christopher Nevinson done in 1917 and placed in the Leicester Galleries that year. It is now on display at the Imperial War Museum in London, England. This painting was completed before the war was over. It takes on a realist style and depicts the hardships and brutality of war. Paths of Glory depicts two dead British soldiers laying facedown in a muddy battlefield ridden with barbed wire and debris. The painting is dark, drab, and lacking of color and energy but this was done for a reason. The painting was meant to capture the hardships of war, the cold realities of soldiers fighting and dying in the worst conditions. This is contrary to other romantic styles that idealize the beauty of war. While this painting was created without an abstract meaning or interpretation like many works during the modern era, it still falls into the category because of the time period and influence of the war waging on in Europe and Asia. The textures and colors are very realistic to the conditions. It can be taken for face value; war is harsh and people die. As previously mentioned this painting does not elicit feelings of happiness. The subject matter is somber and creates a heavy heart even for viewers who were not involved in or living during the war. In fact, it was considered to be so saddening that the original display was censored with brown paper covering the soldiers because the official censor of paintings and drawings in France decided it was too harsh and would hinder the moral of the nation for the war efforts. We see dead soldiers which brings about a mourning for their lives and their families who have lost a loved one. It also brings a bit of respect to one’s mind for the sacrifice that these men made. This piece, in my opinion, belongs best displayed somewhere for historical purposes such as a museum or memorial. A house, apartment, hotel, or any living quarters would not adhere well with the emotions of this work.

Transitioning to a more modernist style, A Battery Shelled by Percy Wyndham Lewis is an oil painting completed in 1919 in Great Britain. Lewis was a leading face in the avant garde that featured cubism and futurism influences seeking out innovative expressions. As a gunnery officer he was closely involved in the artillery strikes that claimed many lives during the Great War. He was primarily in charge of acting as a spotter for forward observation to determine the locations of artillery strikes. The subject of his painting was of a group of soldiers much like himself looking out with indifference over a sterile landscape of bunkers and trenches embodied with robotic looking stick figures. There are some smoke plums and debris highlighted in the background presumably effects of the artillery strikes. Wyndham strays far from the realist styles of the past by branching out into the abstract world. While the figures are recognizable as people and the landscape as a war zone the depictions are far from realistic and do not present the viewers with a historically correct picture. Instead the figures are distorted with strange lines and shapes composing the bodies of men and the landscape around them. This is arguably the beginning of the art turn into the Dada movement of experimentation and rejection of traditional styles. Here the size of the figures and the tones of the colors define space. The people are mechanical looking, not anatomically correct. The contrast between the more realistic looking officers and the machine looking soldiers below can arguably be meant to separate the two showing how the war created people to play more mechanical, less human roles in fighting. People were almost programmable and disposable. If one were to die, then another would replace him. Lewis was noted for creating this piece as a reflection on his time in the war where the interpretation of his painting was more meaningful than the medium itself. Lewis once said, “…it was a nightmare in reality, then only a distorting, defamiliarizing technique could render it truthfully-art would have to become untrue to be accurate.” His painting certainly achieved that. This piece like many war pieces should find itself somewhere in a museum. It is part of history in both historical subject matter and artistic style. This piece would best be placed on its own wall so that the focus is entirely on the piece and the subject matter and not on the surroundings. The piece is a good piece to think about, reflect over, and appreciate. It is neither happy nor sad but rather inquisitively indifferent as it makes you think about the meaning.

In congruence with Lewis’s work, Otto Dix created an ink-on-paper etching in 1924 titled Stormtroopers Advance Under Gas in Berlin, Germany. Much like Lewis’s work, Dix depicts warfare in a strikingly untraditional fashion. Rather than portraying war in the traditional heroic light like in the romantic era, Dix focuses on the physical cruelty of war in an unconventionally surreal manner. The painting shows several soldiers and their faces as they rush towards the foreground in gas masks holding gas grenades in had. The painting certainly depicts real events but not with realistic images. The shapes of the soldiers are slightly distorted in a ghost like fashion. The landscape is blended into the bodies of the soldiers like a mixed up soup. The focus makes the soldiers look like their entire life purpose is to bring poison gas to the enemy, as if they are programed to do so. The soldiers almost look dead as if they are advancing in a zombie like daze. Spattered throughout the foreground we can see light prints of barbed wire, broken trees, and smoke clouds. The lack of color used in this etching makes for an additionally dark feeling. It is as if death itself has taken over the paper. Dix’s work finds itself stuck somewhere in a futurist avant garde style where the surrealism is creeping into the subject matter but has not completely taken over. Some interpretation is left up to the viewer but the content is not highly arguable. The devastating reality of trench warfare disillusioned the contemporary society from their glorification of war and Dix captured just that in this piece, a depiction of a possible human apocalypse as the war destroyed human life and everything in its path. It is difficult to place this piece anywhere, certainly not in one’s home or personal space. The imagery is far too dark and nightmarish to be looked at regularly. The content is fairly graphic and not viewer friendly, for good reason. I think this would be best fit in a war memorial of sorts. A place that people can take time to fully digest the horrors of war.

 

Works Cited:

“British Art and Literature During WWI.” Khan Academy Humanities, Khan Academy, 2017, http://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-1010/wwi-dada/art-great-war/a/british-art-and-literature-during-wwi.

“First World War Affects American Artists!” WWI Online: First World War Affects American Artists!, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, 4 Jan. 2016, wwionline.org/articles/first-war-affects-american-artists/.

Harrington, Peter. “Artists, Percy Wyndham Lewis: ‘A Battery Shelled.’” HistoryNet, MHQ Magazine, 2016, http://www.historynet.com/artists-percy-wyndham-lewis-a-battery-shelled.htm.

Little, Allan. “The Faceless Men.” BBC News, BBC, 24 June 2014, http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-27903827.

Marissa Durkheim. “Dark Dreams: Painful Memories.” Blogspot, 10 May 2011, darkdarkdreams.blogspot.com/2011/05/stormtroops-advancing-under-gas.html.