Monthly Archives: November 2012

Call to Arms

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Jail, deportation and even exile will not prohibit a call to arms demanding art construction that represents the native people of Mexico. Abolish capitalism, create social equality and document it all with public murals, will dissolve the problems of the people. Inviting combat over art, or this point of view, may not be the norm in political movements, but Siqueiros would disagree with this notion. He attempted to balance transgression with artistry, but his, “…Artistic ventures were frequently “interrupted” by his political ones, Siqueiros himself believed the two were intricately intertwined” (1). Was his message understood or simply dismissed as political rhetoric will likely be theorized by art and political critics for years to come.

David Alfaro Siqueiros (birth name José de Jesús Alfaro Siqueiros) was born in 1896 in Camargo, Chihuahua, and died in 1974. His life was filled with political strikes, jail, fighting in the Mexican Revolution and Spanish Civil Wars and membership activities associated with the Communist Party. He studied art and architecture at the Franco-English College in Mexico City and was one of the founders of the Mexican Mural Movement. Siqueiros specialized enormous murals, easel and lithograph works that were socially driven, “Throughout his life, he espoused the ideal that art, by its nature, had to be political in order to carry any substance” (2). His painting techniques were executed with great minuteness; using an electric projector allowed him to trace images onto walls, to save time he sprayed lacquer paint from a paint gun and he methodically conformed images so they were visible from multiple angles.

In 1957, Siqueiros created From the Dictatorship of the Porfirio Diaz to the Revolution the People in Arms. Painted with acrylic paint on a plywood surfaces at an undocumented location, this mural consists of three separate sections. Combined, the images suggest the political atmospheres during the 1910 Mexican Revolution when Adolfo Lopez Mateos was president. He shifted policy in favor of imperialism, which supports unequal balances based on domination and subordination, creating anger and rebellion from all people.

Left side by Siqueiros, 1957
From the Dictatorship of the Porfirio Diaz to the Revolution the People in Arms

Left side of mural. This image shows the political leaders on the left side and the peasants with weapons on the right emerging as a united social force.

Center by Siqueiros, 1957
From the Dictatorship of the Porfirio Diaz to the Revolution the People in Arms

Center of mural. This image shows miners of Cananea are striking against William C. Green of the Green Consolidated Copper Company of American for independence and control over Mexico’s national flag.

Right side by Siqueiros, 1957
From the Dictatorship of the Porfirio Diaz to the Revolution the People in Arms

Right side of mural. In the center of this image, surrounded by supporting political puppets and their wealth, is Porfirio Diaz, the Mexican leader from 1876-1911.

I find the work of Siqueiros to be fantastic and obvious that every image is conveying a message or statement.  I think his paintings are reminiscent of the baroque period. He creates dramatic scenes with the manipulation of dark and light shadow and purposefully uses bold lines and heavy brush strokes. Emotion and vigor radiates from every sculptured form and elaborate detail; people are in conflict and history is being captured. The dynamic colors captivate my vision and the political message haunts my mind. Every piece created by Siqueiros is alive with intense flavor and I imagine no apologizes were ever uttered for his passion, action or art. Today, this mural can be found in the Hall of the Revolution, National History Museum, Chapultepec Castle, in Mexico City.

Work citation:

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Alfaro_Siqueiros
(2) http://www.abcgallery.com/S/siqueiros/siqueiros.html
(3) http://www.pslweb.org/liberationnews/news/10-09-30-art-revolution.html
(4) http://www.biography.com/people/david-alfaro-siqueiros-9485144
(5) http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/546485/David-Alfaro-Siqueiros

Throne of Weapons

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The tropical coastal plain beneath one of the world’s poorest countries is soiled with blood that eventually seeps into the Indian Ocean. About 1 million people died here, defending their home and rights. Rifles and bullets played a huge part in this destruction, but human spirit was not lost, “To take away instruments of death from the hands of young people and to give them an opportunity to develop a productive life” (1), is the present Mozambique enterprise, in Southern Africa. Optimism is a relatively new future after 16 years of civil war that left behind an estimated 70 million guns. It all began in 1505, when Mozambique was a Portuguese Colony and remained that way for 470 years. Then the people of Mozambique acquired independence in 1975 and within a decade, the National Government of Mozambique was threatened. Anti-government guerrillas opposed the new government and civil war broke out. In 1995, Mozambique became a member of the British Commonwealth and thankfully the war ended.

Emerging from tragedy was an organization that facilitates exchange of weapons previously used by combatants for household, farming and construction tools; it is known as the Transformaçaõ de Armas em Enxadas (Transforming Arms into Tools). Promoting utopia, this organization commissioned an artist to contrive a symbol of human strength and monument to the victims of the Mozambique Civil War. Artist Cristovao Canhavato received this honor and was supplied with a variety of decommissioned weapons for a sculpture, “I wasn’t affected directly by the Civil War, but I have two relatives who lost their legs…” (2). Born in 1966 in Zavala, Mozambique, Canhavato was trained in technical engineering construction, but eventually changed course. He attended the Núcleo de Arte in Maputo, a multi-arts and culture organization and began creating art under the name Kester.

Throne of Weapons, by Kester, 2001

Throne of Weapons is a chair sculptured out of guns and was designed by Kester in 2001 in Maputo, Mozambique. In African tradition, a chair or stool signifies power and progression of a king or chief. They are also considered spiritual, “They were understood to be the seat of the owner’s soul and when not in use were leaned against a wall so that other souls passing by would not settle on it” (3). Kester’s creation is a compilation of weaponry and functionality. The seat is a mixture of rifles collected from Poland and Czechoslovakia. Capable of selective firing at a rate of 600 rounds a minute is the Russian designed AKM assault rifle functioning as side leg supports. Displayed between the front legs is the Soviet designed PPS submachine gun that was intended as a low-cost personal defense weapon. The arm rests are Russian designed AK47’s capable of providing submachine firepower with rifle accuracy. Symbolizing a church is the backrest of the chair. To accomplish this, Heckler and Koch G3 German manufactured battle rifles were used along with their curved aluminum ammunition magazines. These selective-fire automatic weapons are rare and expensive. Also on the backrest top right rifle butt is an anomaly explained by Kester, “I didn’t carve the smile, it’s part of the rifle butt . . . the screw holes, and the marks left from where the strap was attached to the gun. I wanted to just use the gun as it was, not change it. So I chose the guns and the weapons that had the most expression” (2).

I find the Throne of Weapons to be a fascinating, heart retching and contradictive sculpture. When I first examined this piece, I thought the chair was made of wood; the rusty appearance of the steel and aluminum weapon metal, definitely fooled me. I thought the chair exuded a gothic quality with its connected curves of the magazine clips and symbolism of an historical event. I feel tremendous grief and glory when I examine the complex layers of meaning and symbolism embedded in this piece. As I learned about the weapons used in the sculpture, I discovered the intended purpose of each gun parallels the symbolism of the African stool. Recycling barbaric symbols of death convinces me that the people of Mozambique have ideal morals and forgiveness not common in today’s society. This memorable sculpture currently can be found on display at in a British Museum.

The artist enjoying his work.

Work citation:

(1) http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/aoa/t/throne_of_weapons.aspx
(2) http://kofiannanfoundation.org/newsroom/news/2010/10/%E2%80%9C-history-world-100-objects%E2%80%9D-%E2%80%93-episode-98
(3) http://www.hamillgallery.com/EXHIBITIONS/AfricanStools.html
(4) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13890416
(5) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heckler_%26_Koch_G3
(6) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AKM
(7) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PPSh-43
(8) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AK-47

How to get a girl into bed

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Put away your notepad and pencil, you will not be picking up tips on how to get a girl into bed. Don’t be disappointed because I will be exploring another phenomenon that is just as stimulating. Why are contemporary artists fascinated with capturing images of girls in bed? Let me titillate your imagination further and present the idea of three female contemporary artists photographing their bodies in bed. I am prepared to show you this reality, but it may not be what you expect. Art critics have suggested all three artists desire a shift in how woman are portrayed, but only you can decide if this mission was accomplished or a disaster.

All art occurring after World War II is considered contemporary or post-modern art. New York was shifting as the new art center of the world and designs are more socially mindful than any previous era. “Contemporary art can sometimes seem at odds with a public that does not feel that art and its institutions share its values” (1). In painting, conventional techniques are used along with geometric shapes and hard-edges. Architects eliminate historical reference and created minimalist structures that were functional. Sculptors could create art out of everyday materials and skill was optional. During this period, artists had unlimited freedom to create outside of the box and were no longer tethered to tradition.

Mariko Mori, Love Hotel, 1994

Influenced as a fashion model and student at Bunka Fashion College and Chelsea College of Art and Design, Mariko Mori is a Japanese photographic and video artist.  Layering the placement of two abstract concepts near one other, is commonplace in her design work.  Mori frequently models for her own art, “I was trying to criticise consumerism through my work, so that’s how I started to use my own body” (2).  In Love Hotel, Mori is dressed as Tetsuwan Atomu (or Astro Boy) the main animated character in a Japanese television series designed for elementary boys.  Disguised under a school girl uniform, she possesses silver ears, hair, hands and feet like this animated character.  I am not a big fan of abstract conceptualization, but I do like the unpredictability of this piece.  Mori is unyielding to the pink round bed and appears to have zero intention of seducing her viewers.  I am not sure of her motives, but the random elements demand my attention.

Cindy Sherman is an American film director and photographer and, “has sought to raise challenging and important questions about the role and representation of women in society, the media and the nature of the creation of art” (3).  Her interest in visual arts began at Buffalo State College where she was educated in painting and photography.  Sherman likes to work alone and assumes all roles in her art from director to model.  She uses elaborate make-up and costumes to create a character and then poses them against meager backdrops.  Using Untitled in the name of her images allows the viewer to explore multiple interpretations behind her work.

Cindy Sherman, Untitled #93, 1983
(The Black Sheets)

Sherman describes, “In one of the centerfold pictures, which I call The Black Sheets for obvious reasons, I think of that character as having just woken up from a night on the town. She’s just gone to bed and the sun is waking her up and she’s got the worst hangover, and she’s about to pull the sheets over her head. Other people look at that and think she’s a rape victim” (4). The disheveled blond hair lying on the black sheets hints to me that this is the making of a centerfold in a provocative magazine. I think this image is effortless and has a tantalizing quality that may vary at any moment, which gains my enthusiasm for the piece.

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #33, 1979

In Untitled Film Still #33, Sherman designed this image to look like a 1940 classical Hollywood crime drama emphasizing cynical attitudes and sexual motivations. This image was taken at her boyfriend’s family beach house on Long Island, New York. I like this black and white image because it feels like the viewer has infiltrated a situation already in motion. There is a pause to the room and awkwardness to this woman. Why is her attention trapped off-screen? Like classic crime drama, this image is a cliffhanger and reveals no clues to my multitude of questions. This piece is one of sixty-nine images in the series.

Cindy Sherman, Untitled Film Still #11, 1997

In Untitled Film Still #11, Sherman offers another image reminiscent of film from the 1940 period. Hoping to portray an ordinary life in a realist plot, Sherman shot this image in her apartment and borrowed a friends doggy pillow, which is lying at the head of the bed. I think the décor of the bedroom and the woman’s clothing capture this era perfectly, but a despondent woman, was not achieved. Despite the tissues in her hand and the void look on her face, I still am not convinced. This staged image is unsatisfying and sterile and unfortunately doesn’t tickle my imagination.

Moving freely from art, film, photography, painting and writing is American artist Eleanor Antin. She designs art in which the concept involved takes precedence over traditional subject matter. Antin explains, “Conceptual art was opening up the possibility to cross mediums, cross genres, cross boundaries all over the place, to do something intelligent and fun, amusing, startling” (6). Creating interesting narrative and then transforming those details into art is the core to her creations.

Eleanor Antin, The Ballerina and the Poet, 1986

In this piece, Antin has created a fictional oddity named Eleanora Antinova, whose identity is a combination of historical fact and imagination. The character described by Antin, “…is a conflicted, African American ballerina who performed with the prestigious Russian Ballet Russe troupe in the 1920s. Eventually she fell from stardom during the Great Depression and supported herself as an actress in American soft porn films. The contradictions within this character are multi-faceted in that she is an African American modernist living before the civil rights movement and does not have the body of a conventional ballerina…” (5). I admire the complex detail behind this image, but I see a scene from a live stage play. Every prop, character and body position looks choreographed and artificial, which I don’t find glamorous. I have an appetite for some erratic behavior by the ballerina; has she considered quenching her thirst with the beer on the floor?

Eleanor Antin, RN, 1976

“Playing with clichéd feminine personae, Eleanor Antin in The Adventures of a Nurse manipulates cut-out paper dolls to tell the story of innocent Nurse Eleanor who meets one gorgeous, intriguing, and available man after another” (7).  Antin is the star and creator of this video and the image of the nurse on the bed is promotion.  The adventure proposed and devilish expression by nurse has me hooked and excited; the actual video is archaic and I have mental health concerns for the nurse.  I like the bizarre and simple elements of the image.  A nurse, bed and paper dolls is a group of words that I may never hear together again, and this alone, astounds me.  See a short clip of this video by clicking the address: http://www.vdb.org/titles/adventures-nurse

Work citation:

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contemporary_art

(2) http://prestigehongkong.com/2012/09/shape-shifter

(3) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cindy_Sherman

(4) http://www.pbs.org/art21/images/cindy-sherman/untitled-93-1981

(5) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eleanor_Antin

(6) http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/antin-eleanor

(7) http://www.vdb.org/titles/adventures-nurse

(8) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astro_Boy

Philosophy, Medicine and Jurisprudence

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This is not a joke.  How many words does one artist have to speak in order to enrage a University, clergy, art critics, Vienna, parliament and even Adolf Hitler?  Three: Philosophy, Medicine and Jurisprudence.  Would you believe me if I told you these three words generated art reviews consisting of pornography, disturbing and overtly sexual?  You should, because it is all true.  Inadvertently creating public outcry, Gustav Klimt painted these three masterpieces.  In the end, they would never decorate the ceiling of the Great Hall and Klimt willingly paid back his commission, “If you cannot please everyone with your deeds and your art, please a few. To please many is bad” (1).

Gustav Klimt was born in Baumgarten, Austria-Hungary in 1862 and died 1918.  One of seven children, he was brought up in relative poverty and financially supported his family during his life.  In his teens, he was awarded a scholarship to the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts.  He was schooled in architectural, academic and conservative painting and greatly admired Hans Makart who was considered a celebrity painter of academic history.  Acclaimed for his interior and theater decorating work, he won many award, pioneered artistic groups and achieved fame.  As interest sparked, he studied Japanese, Chinese, ancient Egyptian and Mycenaean art and was possibly influenced by monochrome photography, consisting of images in one shade of color with limited hues.  “He was also a highly accomplished and prolific draftsman. For drawings, Klimt preferred to work in black chalk and pencil, monochrome media which draw attention to the extreme refinement and intensity of his line” (2).  At the height of Klimt’s fame, he began to unfold his new radicle innate style.

Klimt was commissioned to decorate the Great Hall ceiling at the University of Vienna with three paintings.  He was instructed to present three black and white images of his paintings and was given complete freedom to illustrate complex characters, events and concepts.  It is unknown where these drawings were created, but Vienna is possible since Klimt lived the majority of his life there.

Philosophy by Klimt
1899-1907

Philosophy, the proposed theme was, “…triumph of light over darkness” (3).  This first mural was presented in 1900.  Klimt describes it as, “On the left a group of figures, the beginning of life, fruition, decay. On the right, the globe as mystery. Emerging below, a figure of light: knowledge” (4).  I see a diluted background with water bubbles and ripples.  Bereavement overtakes the crowd as they agonize with head in hands and open mouths.  Below, death creeps upward and is not intimidated by the scene.  Tragic subject matter is not my favorite, but I am impressed by the incredible detail and emotion captured in this drawing void of bright color.

Medicine by Klimt
1899-1907

Medicine, was the second painting presented in 1901.  Art critics state, “Klimt conveyed an ambiguous unity of life and death, with nothing to celebrate the role of medicine or the science of healing” (3).  I see the main focus of a healer or sorcerer who is bright and adorn with a type of caduceus, a staff with serpents that symbolizes medicine.  Men, women, children and death cascade behind this powerful woman, but she is not afraid.  She commands such power and I find her the most arousing element of the drawing.

Jurisprudence by Klimt
1899-1907

Jurisprudence, is described as “psycho-sexual” (3), referring to Freud’s theory on libido.  Three females representing truth, justice and law are circled around a condemned man and are represented as Eumenides, Greek gods of vengeance.  The females are chastising the man with the deadly entwine of an octopus.  The top mosaic section appears to be the three females watching themselves in action.  Below, the women appear uninterested or bored of their activity, unlike the male, who is clearly broken.  I find this piece quite confusing, but enjoy looking at the details and the mystery surrounding its meaning.

Photo manipulation is what I think when I see all three images.  Even though I know they are black and white sketches, I could easily suggest that these images have been edited in order to create deception and grandeur.  Layers of special effect, illusion and long exposure are also transparent, if only they were actually photographs.

To view larger images of Klimt’s three black and white drawings, click on link below and scroll down:

http://hoocher.com/Gustav_Klimt/Gustav_Klimt.htm

Work citation: 

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustav_Klimt

(2) http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artMakerDetails?maker=23283

(3) http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/?a=120339

(4) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klimt_University_of_Vienna_Ceiling_Paintings

(5) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monochrome