Great Moments in Art II

Works by Stephen Hansen

Show Dates:  November 4 – December 10, 2016

 

MEET THE ARTIST RECEPTIONS:
Friday, November 4, 4:00-8:00 PM & Saturday, November 5, 2:00-6:00 PM
1429 Iris Street, NW, Washington DC 20012-1409

Back by popular demand, we are excited and happy to present “Great Moments in Art, II”. For 38 years Zenith Gallery has represented Stephen Hansen and his painted papier Mache sculptures. We think of it is our public service to provide humor relief when and where needed. It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself an art connoisseur or someone who has never stepped foot into a gallery or museum, Stephen Hansen gets to the audience, and people love his work.

This show takes famous paintings by the masters and adds the Hansen touch. Stephen’s iconic comic figures are shown actually painting each great master’s work of art in each charming parody. In fact, Stephen not only creates the sculpture of his figure, engaging in the act of painting the masterpieces, he paints the copy of the painting each comic figure is creating. To be able to sculpt and paint with such talent and creativity and make you laugh, is a real gift and demonstrates extraordinary talent to boot! They say it is far harder to make people
laugh than make them cry. Come here and you will laugh so hard you will cry!
Hansen’s work has been shown worldwide over the past 40 years. His pieces are in the collections of Embassies around the world, as well as to be found in many museums, commercial buildings, airports and government buildings. Amongst which includes the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, here in Washington (and boy, do those folks really need a touch of humor!)

Broadway Boogie Woogie

Piet Mondrian, painter, theorist, and draughtsman, was an important contributor to the De Stijl (The Style) art movement. He created a non-representational form that he termed Neo-plasticism, which consisted of white ground, upon which was painted a grid of vertical and horizontal black lines and the three primary colors. Mondrian, and the artists of De Stijl, advocated pure abstraction and a pared down palette in order to express a utopian ideal of universal harmony in all of the arts. By using basic forms and colors, Mondrian believed that his vision of modern art would transcend divisions in culture and become a new common language based in the pure primary colors, flatness of forms, and dynamic tension in his canvases.

Mondrian escaped to New York from Europe in 1940 after the outbreak of World War II. He was fascinated by American jazz, particularly boogie-woogie, finding its syncopated beat, irreverent approach to melody, and improvisational aesthetic akin to what he called, in his own work, the “destruction of natural appearance; and construction through continuous opposition of pure means—dynamic rhythm.” In this painting, his penultimate, Mondrian replaced the black grid that had long governed his canvases with predominantly yellow lines that intersect at points marked by squares of blue, red, and light gray, to create paths across the canvas suggesting the city’s grid, the movement of traffic, and blinking electric lights, as well as the rhythms of jazz. Broadway Boogie Woogie not only alludes to life within the city, but also heralds New York’s developing role as the new center of modern art after World War II.

Mondrian’s art was not based on outside artistic influences or on typical techniques, but was instead his interpretation of deeply felt philosophical beliefs. He subscribed to two sets of philosophical beliefs; theosophy, a religious mysticism which sought to help humanity achieve perfection, and anthroposophy, which held that the spiritual world was directly accessible through the development of the inner self. His works were thus aimed at helping humanity through aesthetic beauty and breaking from representational forms of painting. Mondrian chose to distill his representations of the world to their basic vertical and horizontal elements, which represented the two essential opposing forces: the positive and the negative, the dynamic and the static, the masculine and the feminine. The dynamic balance of his compositions reflects what he saw as the universal balance of these forces.

Mondrian is recognized for the purity of his abstractions and methodical practice by which he arrived at them. He radically simplified the elements of his paintings to reflect what he saw as the spiritual order underlying the natural world, creating a clear, universal aesthetic language within his canvases. Mondrian reduced his shapes to lines and rectangles and his palette to fundamental basics pushing past references to the outside world toward pure abstraction. His use of asymmetrical balance and a simplified pictorial vocabulary were crucial in the development of modern art.

This painting was bought by the Brazilian sculptor Maria Martins for the price of $800 at the Valentine Gallery in New York City, after Martins and Mondrian both exhibited there in 1943. Martins later donated the painting to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

http://www.moma.org/collection/artist.php?artist_id=4057

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broadway_Boogie-Woogie

http://www.piet-mondrian.org/broadway-boogie-woogie.jsp

http://www.theartstory.org/artist-mondrian-piet.htm

Squares With Concentric Circles

Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, Germany

One of the pioneers of abstract modern art, Wassily Kandinsky explored the interrelation between color and form to convey profound spirituality and the depth of human emotion through a universal visual language of abstract forms and colors that transcended cultural and physical boundaries. He developed a pictorial language that only loosely related to the outside world, but expressed volumes about the artist’s inner experience.

Kandinsky’s work was exhibited throughout Europe from 1903 onwards, and often caused controversy among the public, the art critics, and his contemporaries. An active participant in several of the most influential and controversial art movements of the 20th century, Kandinsky is known for his innovative theories on nonfigurative art, set forth in his 1910 treatise Concerning the Spiritual In Art, considered the first theoretical foundation of abstraction.

To Kandinsky, colors on the painter’s palette evoke a double effect: a purely physical effect on the eye as well as a much deeper, spiritual effect causing a vibration of the soul or an “inner resonance.” There are obvious properties we can see when we look at an isolated color and let it act alone. One property is the warmth or coldness of the color. Warmth is a tendency towards yellow, and coldness a tendency towards blue. Yellow and blue combined for the first great dynamic contrast. Yellow has an eccentric movement and blue a concentric movement. A yellow surface seems to move closer to us, while a blue surface seems to move away. Yellow is a typically terrestrial color that can be painful and aggressive. Blue is a celestial color evoking a deep calm. The combination of blue and yellow yields immobility and calm, which is green.

Another property is the clarity or obscurity of the color. Clarity is a tendency towards white, and obscurity is a tendency towards black. White and black form the second great contrast, which is static. White is a deep absolute silence, full of possibility. Black is nothingness without possibility, an eternal silence without hope, and corresponds with death. Any color resonates strongly with its neighbors. The mixing of white and black leads to gray, which possesses no active force and whose tone is near that of green. Gray corresponds to immobility with hope. It tends to despair when it becomes dark, regaining hope when it lightens.

Red is a warm color, lively and agitated. It is forceful, a movement in itself. Mixed with black it becomes brown, a hard color. Mixed with yellow it gains in warmth, and becomes orange, which imparts an irradiating movement on its surroundings. When red is mixed with blue it moves away to become purple, which is a cool red. Red and green form the third great contrast and orange and purple the fourth. All these colors are present in Farbstudie.

For Kandinsky, music and color were inextricably tied to one another. So clear was this relationship that Kandinsky associated each note with an exact hue. The neurological phenomenon Kandinsky experienced is called synesthesia. It is a rare condition in which one sense concurrently triggers another sense. Kandinsky literally saw colors when he heard music, and heard music when he painted. The artist explored these sensations with unconventional color, line, shape, and texture to create a profound visual experience.

http://www.wassily-kandinsky.org/
http://www.wassilykandinsky.net/
http://www.wikiart.org/en/wassily-kandinsky/color-study-squares-with-concentric-circles-1913 http://www.theartstory.org/artist-kandinsky-wassily.htm#resources_header

Convergence Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock was an influential American painter and a major figure in the Abstract Expressionist movement. He was well known for his unique style of drip painting. During his lifetime, Pollock enjoyed considerable fame and notoriety, a major artist of his generation. Regarded as reclusive, he had a volatile personality, and struggled with alcoholism for most of his life. In 1945, he married the artist Lee Krasner, who became an important influence on his career and on his legacy.

Born in 1912 in Cody, Wyoming, Jackson Pollock moved to New York in 1930 to study at the Art Students League. The socially minded scenes depicted in his representational paintings of the 1930s gave way to more personal, symbolic iconography in the following decade, due partly to his interest in the Surrealist strategy of automatism (drawing, painting, or writing freely to unearth subconscious desires)—an interest shared by many artists associated with Abstract Expressionism—and his experiences with Jungian psychoanalysis. Exhibiting regularly throughout the mid-1940s in New York, Pollock relocated to East Hampton, Long Island in late 1945, a move that provided an opportunity to observe nature directly and to work at larger scales.

After the horrors of World War II, the mood in the United States turned artists away from traditional styles and themes and toward a search for new ways to express themselves. As Jackson Pollock said in 1951, “It seems to me that the modern painter cannot express his age, the airplane, the atom bomb, the radio, in the old forms of the Renaissance or any other past culture. Each age finds its own technique.”

 

In the late 1940s, Pollock began to experiment with the technique for which he is best known—drip painting. He placed the canvas on the floor, stating, “On the floor I am more at ease,” he said. “I feel nearer, more a part of the painting since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting.” His process became an illustration of critic Harold Rosenberg’s idea of the canvas as an arena in which the artist would perform, which is one of the reasons why Pollock’s method is also known as “action painting.” Usually titled numerically, so as to avoid any outside associations, these drip paintings comprise calligraphic, looping cords of color that animate and energize every inch of their compositions.
The result was a combination of spontaneity and control. At first, Pollock said, he worked on a painting without thinking. Then, “after a sort of ‘get acquainted’ period that I see what I have been about . . . I have no fears about making changes, destroying the image, etc. because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well.”

Pollock died at the age of 44 in an alcohol-related single-car accident when he was driving. In December 1956, several months after his death, Pollock was given a memorial retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City. A larger, more comprehensive exhibition of his work was held there in 1967. In 1998 and 1999, his work was honored with large-scale retrospective exhibitions at MoMA and at The Tate in London.

http://www.jackson-pollock.org/

 

http://www.moma.org/collection/artist.php?artist_id=4675

http://www.nga.gov/feature/pollock/

Crying Girl Roy Lichtenstein

Crying Girl was one of Lichtenstein’s first ventures into producing enamel-on-steel multiples of the comic-strip imagery he had first introduced in conventional hand-painted canvases. This innovative, industrial means of “mass production” was as ground-breaking as his distinctive subject matter. With other leading American Pop artists, Lichtenstein turned to popular culture and the worlds of commerce and advertising for attitudes and approaches as well as for content. Eliminating any trace of the individual artist’s hand in favor of reinforcing the notion of its mechanical origin, here Lichtenstein emphasized, in rigid dark outlines and the Ben-Day dots of printing, the primacy of the image itself – a sentimental, glamorized and equally “mechanical” idealization of the American girl.

Roy Lichtenstein was one of the first American Pop artists and he became a lightning rod for criticism of the movement. His early work ranged widely in style and subject matter, and displayed considerable understanding of modernist painting: Lichtenstein maintained that he was as interested in the abstract qualities of his images as he was in their subject matter. The mature Pop style he arrived at in 1961, which was inspired by comic strips, was greeted by accusations of banality, lack of originality, and, later, even copying. His high-impact, iconic images have since become synonymous with Pop art, and his method of creating images, which blended aspects of mechanical reproduction and drawing by hand, has become central to critics’ understanding of the significance of the movement.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Lichtenstein – cite_note-rlf-chronology-1in 1961, Lichtenstein began his first pop paintings using cartoon images and techniques derived from the appearance of commercial printing. This phase would continue to 1965.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Lichtenstein – cite_note-rlf-Hendrickson-14 His first work to feature the large-scale use of hard-edged figures and Ben-Day dots was Look Mickey (1961). In the same year he produced six other works with recognizable characters from gum wrappers and cartoons. Leo Castelli started displaying Lichtenstein’s work at his gallery in New York. Lichtenstein had his first one-man show at the Castelli gallery in 1962; the entire collection was bought by influential collectors before the show even opened.  Look Mickey set the tone for Lichtenstein’s career. This primary-color portrait of the cartoon mouse introduced his detached and deadpan style at a time when introspective Abstract Expressionism reigned. Mining material from advertisements, comics, and the everyday, Lichtenstein brought what was then a great taboo—commercial art—into the gallery. He stressed the artificiality of his images by painting them as though they’d come from a commercial press, with the flat, single-color Ben-Day dots of the newspaper meticulously rendered by hand using paint and stencils.

Lichtenstein is a figure of monumental importance in the recent history of art. His contribution—the still-potent collision of commercial sources and fine art—defined the enduring legacy of Pop Art. The idea of compositional unity was central to the artist’s thinking. Plastic values such as beauty and balance were of primary importance to Lichtenstein, and reliable formal tropes—outlines, halftone dots, and solid diagonals—were the building blocks of nearly all his compositions.
http://collection.mam.org/details.php?id=13085  http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/exhibitions/Lichtenstein/index
http://www.gagosian.com/artists/roy-lichtenstein
http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/roy-lichtenstein-1508

Earth and Green Mark Rothko

Mark Rothko was born Marcus Rothkowitz in Dvinsk, Russia (now Daugavpils, Latvia) in 1903, immigrated to the United States with his family in his youth, and they settled in Portland, OR. In the mid-20th century, he belonged to a circle of New York-based artists who became known as the Abstract Expressionists. His signature works, large-scale paintings of luminous colored rectangles, used simplified means to evoke emotional responses.

At the age of for­ty-six Mark Rothko broke with rep­re­sen­ta­tio­n­al paint­ing and turned to ab­s­trac­tion. From 1950 on he paint­ed float­ing, monochrome planes fo­cused sole­ly on the im­pact of col­or. Along with Bar­nett New­man he is one of the lead­ing ex­po­nents of Col­or Field Paint­ing of the 1950s. In this paint­ing two rec­tan­gles are ar­ranged par­al­lel to one another on a blue back­ground. Through their blurred and hazy con­tours the forms seem to float in a blue space and to al­most dis­ap­pear in it. As such, the dis­so­lu­tion of the chro­mat­ic struc­ture cre­ates a med­i­ta­tive, su­per­na­t­u­ral ef­fect.

Highly informed by Nietzsche, Greek mythology, and his Russian-Jewish heritage, Rothko’s art was profoundly imbued with emotional content that he articulated through a range of styles that evolved from figurative to abstract. Rothko’s early figurative work—including landscapes, still life’s, figure studies, and portraits—demonstrated an ability to blend Expressionism and Surrealism. His search for new forms of expression led to his Color Field paintings, which employed shimmering color to convey a sense of spirituality. Rothko maintained the social revolutionary ideas of his youth throughout his life. In particular he supported artists’ total freedom of expression, which he felt was compromised by the market. This belief often put him at odds with the art world establishment, leading him to publicly respond to critics, and occasionally refuse commissions, sales, and exhibitions.

In the spring of 1968, Rothko was diagnosed with a mild aortic aneurysm. Ignoring doctor’s orders, Rothko continued to drink and smoke heavily, avoided exercise, and maintained an unhealthy diet. Rothko’s marriage had become increasingly troubled. He and his wife Mell separated on New Year’s Day 1969, and he moved into his studio. On February 25, 1970, Oliver Steindecker, Rothko’s assistant, found the artist in his kitchen, lying dead on the floor in front of the sink, covered in blood. He had sliced his arms with a razor found lying at his side. The autopsy revealed that he had also overdosed on anti-depressants. He was sixty-six years old.

Shortly before his death, Rothko and his financial advisor, Bernard Reis, had created a foundation intended to fund “research and education” that would receive the bulk of Rothko’s work following his death. Reis later sold the paintings to the Marlborough Gallery at substantially reduced values, and then split the subsequent profits from sales to customers with gallery representatives. In 1971, Rothko’s children filed a lawsuit against Reis, Morton Levine, and Theodore Stamos, the executors of his estate, over the sham sales. The lawsuit continued for more than 10 years and became known as the Rothko Case. In 1975, the defendants were found liable for negligence and conflict of interest, were removed as executors of the Rothko estate by court order, and, along with Marlborough Gallery, were required to pay $9.2 million in damages to the estate, a fraction of the eventual value of the works.

https://www.guggenheim.org/artwork/artist/mark-rothko

http://www.museum-ludwig.de/en/collection/the-collection/best-of.html

Equestrienne (At the Cirque Fernando) Au cirque Fernando

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was of aristocratic ancestry, but opted to become an artist. Sickly from childhood, and dwarfish in stature, he was a fixture of the bawdy nightlife of Montmartre, rendering its stars and denizens with an honesty that was sometimes cruel. Influenced by Degas, as well as by artists in Gauguin’s circle, Lautrec staked out an aesthetic terrain between illustration and high art, producing a body of work that consolidated the reputation of bohemian Paris as a center of the sexual outlawry and adventurism.

Equestrienne (At the Cirque Fernando), a depiction of a performance at a permanent circus in Montmartre, was Lautrec’s first important painting, probably executed in haste for the fifth exhibition of Les Vingt, held in Brussels in February 1888. The work’s skewed perspective and cropped figures derive from the art of Degas and from Japanese prints, while the limited palette, spare composition and linear economy anticipate Lautrec’s well-known lithographic posters of the 1890’s.

The artist was also inspired by compositional aspects of Japanese prints and photography. For example, the center of the image is empty, and the picture is instead structured around the sweeping arc of the ring. This curve is repeated throughout the scene: in the powerful haunches of the horse, in the ring and gallery, and in the billowing trousers of a clown at the top of the picture. Lautrec was also influenced by Cloisonnism, a style based on medieval enameling techniques, using heavy dark outlines to bring out areas of flat colors, similar to Japanese wood block prints that used the same heavy outlining technique.

In Equestrienne (At the Circus Fernando) the subjects are not glamorous. The close-up view ironically removes the viewer from the spectacular nature of a circus performance and concentrates attention instead on the details of the performers’ interactions. The faces of the rider and ringmaster evoke a complex relationship based on power and tension. The artist’s tight lens also allows one to notice the garish color of the rider’s makeup and costumes as well as the stolid nature of the horse’s anatomy, playing against what is usually portrayed as glamorous and exciting. Instead, the tight focus on the ringmaster, rider, and horse, captures both their relationship and the sense of their being in motion. The large rump of the horse, its raised hind leg, in addition to the billowing skirt of the rider, suggest that the horse is moving at a fast clip around the ring. The few well-dressed spectators aren’t looking at the scantily dressed rider, but seem to gaze at some elements of the rehearsal outside of the painting’s space.

As a frequent visitor to the permanent Le Cirque Fernando in Montmartre, Henri knew the ringmaster he depicted, the Monsieur Loyal. It is thought his friend Suzanne Valadon, a painter, former circus performer, and artists’ model, modeled for the figure of the bareback rider. Equestrienne (At the Circus Fernando) was purchased by the owner of a soon-to- be-famous Montmartre nightclub, the Moulin Rouge, where it hung in the grand entrance hall.

Lautrec continued to paint and to incorporate new ideas into his work. He went on to become one of the most well-known visual chroniclers of Parisian life in the late 1800s. Sadly, his health never robust, he died from complications due to alcoholism and syphilis at his family estate in Malrome, just short of his 37th birthday.

http://www.artic.edu/aic/resources/resource/246

http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/citi/resources/Rsrc_001115.pdf

Figures and Dog in Front of the Sun Joan Miro

A contemporary of Picasso, Joan Miró was born in 1893 in Catalonia and moved to Paris in 1920, where he remained for the duration of the Spanish Civil War. He permanently relocated back to Spain in 1940. While in Paris, he became known for his paintings with a personal system of signs and symbols. Miró consistently exercised his personal freedom in his work which, in the face of political turmoil, was infused with tragedy and anger as much as joy and tenderness. Brilliantly inventive, the artist continually pushed the boundaries of art and embraced entirely new techniques and used new forms of media. His artistic career may be characterized as one of persistent experimentation and a lifelong flirtation with non-objectivity.
Miró signed the manifesto of the Surrealist movement in 1924, and the members of the group respected him for the way he portrayed the realm of unconscious experience. From the 1930s onwards, Miró expressed contempt for conventional painting methods as a way of supporting bourgeois society, and famously declared an “assassination of painting” in favor of upsetting the visual elements of established painting. In the ’40s, Miró lighted the path to abstract expressionism in America through his advocacy of automatism. Using this approach, the artist was freed from the methods of traditional picture-making through the intercession of the subconscious, which guided the brush in seemingly random directions. Despite this, Miró held on to certain representational referents, notably women, birds and stars.

Figures and Dog in Front of the Sun is comprised of a painterly ground, fine lines that stand out from it, and freely formed organic shapes. The lines and forms are done in deep shades of red, blue, black, green and yellow. They’ve been organized so that they look like the depiction of an imaginary figure. References to figurative art are evident in the figure outlined on a neutral background. The composition focuses on an essential figure of Miró’s symbolism: the woman, which refers to the link of human beings and their roots in the land. Miró used the color palette of the traditional whistles from Mallorca, siurells.

In joyful rebellion against conventional painting methods, Miro’s art exudes an uninhibited childlike freedom of expression. Drawing inspiration from 1920’s Paris’ counterculture, his art is filled with wonderful absurdity. Miro’s use of primary colors, neutral colored background, as well as organic shapes conveys a lively, energetic zest for life – a playground of the artist’s subconscious mind.

http://www.joan-miro.net/figures-and-dog-in-front-of-the-sun.jsp

http://www.mychandlerschools.org/cms/lib6/AZ01001175/Centricity/Domain/5123/Miro%20-%20Mar.Apr.pdf

http://www.the-athenaeum.org/art/detail.php?ID=233649

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/mar/20/joan-miro-life-ladder-escape-tate

George Washington (The Athenaeum Portrait) Gilbert Stuart

In 1794, with a letter of introduction from John Jay in hand, Gilbert Stuart went to Philadelphia to request sittings with George Washington. Painting his portrait was a shrewd business move, for depictions of Washington were in demand on both sides of the Atlantic. Stuart’s established technique for finding appropriate expressions and poses for his subjects was to engage them with lively banter. When he encountered Washington, however, he found the president to be a difficult subject. Stuart’s usual charm and repartee failed to enliven this reserved man. According to Washington’s grandson, George Washington Parke Custis, Stuart finally succeeded in engaging his subject by discussing horses, a favorite topic of the president, who was an accomplished equestrian.

All of Stuart’s portraits of Washington (about 100 in all) are based on one of the three life portraits. Washington first sat for Stuart in 1795, but the result of that early session, a portrait showing Washington facing right, is known only through replicas that are identified as the Vaughan type (named for the first owner of one of the replicas). That first portrait was so successful that Martha Washington commissioned Stuart to paint a pair of portraits of her and her husband for their Virginia home, Mount Vernon. She convinced the president to sit again because, according to artist Rembrandt Peale, she “wished a portrait for herself; he therefore consented on the express condition that when finished it should be hers.” Stuart began what would become his most reproduced image, a depiction of Washington facing left, now called the Athenaeum portrait for the Boston library that acquired it after Stuart’s death. Although he never finished the original itself, he used it throughout his career to make approximately seventy-five replicas. The image, carefully built up with contrasting flesh tones, is one of Stuart’s most accomplished portraits. This image served as the basis for the engraving of Washington on the one-dollar bill.

Stuart’s image of Washington has been considered very dramatic and forceful since the time it was painted. The artist depicted Washington with a distinct wide-jawed look, commenting that “When I painted him, he had just had a set of false teeth inserted, which accounts for the constrained expression so noticeable about the mouth and lower part of the face.” John Neal, an early-nineteenth-century writer and art critic, wrote: “Stuart says, and there is no fact more certain, that he [Washington] was a man of terrible passions; the sockets of his eyes; the breadth of his nose and nostrils; the deep broad expression of strength and solemnity upon his forehead, were all a proof of this. Though a better likeness of him were shown to us, we should reject it.”

http://npg.si.edu/object/npg_NPG.80.115

https://www.nga.gov/exhibitions/2005/stuart/philadelphia.shtm

http://www.npg.si.edu/exh/gw/athens.htm

http://www.gilbertstuartmuseum.org/gilbert-stuart/

Reproduction of Lascaux artworks in Lascaux

Lascaux (Lascaux Caves) is the setting of a complex of caves in southwestern France famous for its Paleolithic cave paintings. The caves are located near the village of Montignac, in the department of Dordogne. They contain some of the best-known Upper Paleolithic art. These paintings are estimated to be 17,300 years old. They primarily consist of images of large animals, most of which are known from fossil evidence to have lived in the area at the time. In 1979, Lascaux was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.

On 12 September 1940, the entrance to Lascaux Cave was discovered by 18-year-old Marcel Ravidat. Ravidat returned to the scene with three friends, Jacques Marsal, Georges Agnel, and Simon Coencas, and entered the cave via a long shaft. The teenagers discovered that the cave walls were covered with depictions of animals. The cave complex was opened to the public in 1948.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lascaux – cite_note-timeline_of_france-8 By 1955, the carbon dioxide, heat, humidity, and other contaminants produced by 1,200 visitors per day had visibly damaged the paintings and introduced lichen on the walls. The cave was closed to the public in 1963 to preserve the art. After the cave was closed, the paintings were restored to their original state and were monitored daily. Rooms in the cave include the Hall of the Bulls, the Passageway, the Shaft, the Nave, the Apse, and the Chamber of Felines.

The cave contains nearly 2,000 figures, which can be grouped into three main categories; animals, human figures and abstract signs. Most of the major images have been painted onto the walls using mineral pigments although some designs have also been incised into the stone. Of the animals, equines predominate [364]. There are 90 paintings of stags. Also represented are cattle, bison, felines, a bird, a bear, a rhinoceros, and a human. Among the most famous images are four huge, black bulls or aurochs in the Hall of the Bulls. One of the bulls is 17 feet (5.2 m) long – the largest animal discovered so far in cave art. Additionally, the bulls appear to be in motion. There are no images of reindeer, even though that was the principal source of food for the artists. A painting referred to as ‘The Crossed Bison’, found in the chamber called the Nave, is often held as an example of the skill of the Paleolithic cave painters

Since 1998, the cave has been beset with a fungus, variously blamed on a new air conditioning system that was installed in the caves, the use of high-powered lights, and the presence of too many visitors. As of 2008, the cave contained black mold which scientists were, and still are, trying to keep away from the paintings. In January 2008, authorities closed the cave for three months even to scientists and preservationists. A single individual was allowed to enter the cave for 20 minutes once a week to monitor climatic conditions. Now only a few scientific experts are allowed to work inside the cave, and just for a few days a month. The efforts to remove the mold have taken a toll, leaving dark patches and damaging the pigments on the walls.

Lascaux II, a replica of the Great Hall of the Bulls and the Painted Gallery, located 200 meters away from the original, was opened in 1983 so that visitors may view the painted scenes without harming the originals. Reproductions of other Lascaux artwork can be seen at the Centre of Prehistoric Art at Le Thot, France.

http://www.lascaux.culture.fr/?lng=en#/fr/02_00.xml

http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/lasc/hd_lasc.htm

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/85

Les Iris Vincent van Gogh


Vincent van Gogh
 was a major Post-Impressionist painter whose work had a far-reaching influence on 20th-century art. Van Gogh drew as a child but did not paint until his late twenties. He completed many of his best-known works during the last two years of his life. In just over a decade, he produced more than 2,100 artworks, including 860 oil paintings and more than 1,300 watercolors, drawings, sketches and prints.

Van Gogh was born to upper middle class parents and spent his early adulthood working for a firm of art dealers. He traveled between The Hague, London and Paris. He was deeply religious as a younger man and aspired to be a pastor. In 1879 he worked as a missionary in a mining region in Belgium, where he began to sketch people from the local community. In 1885 he painted The Potato Eaters, considered his first major work. His palette then consisted mainly of somber earth tones and showed no sign of the vivid coloration that distinguished his later paintings. In 1886, he moved to Paris and discovered the French Impressionists. Later, he moved to the south of France and was influenced by the strong sunlight he found there. His paintings grew brighter in color, and he developed the unique and highly recognizable style that became fully realized during his stay in Arles in 1888.

After years of anxiety and frequent bouts of mental illness, he died aged 37 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The extent to which his mental health affected his painting has been widely debated by art historians. Despite a widespread tendency to romanticize his ill health, modern critics see an artist deeply frustrated by the inactivity and incoherence wrought through illness. His late paintings show an artist at the height of his abilities, completely in control, and according to art critic Robert Hughes, “longing for concision and grace”.

Irises were painted while Vincent van Gogh was living at the asylum at Saint Paul-de-Mausole in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France, in the last year before his death. Working from nature in the asylum’s garden, each one of Van Gogh’s irises is unique. He carefully studied their movements and shapes to create a variety of curved silhouettes bounded by wavy, twisting, and curling lines. The painting’s first owner, French art critic Octave Mirbeau, one of Van Gogh’s earliest supporters, wrote: “How well he has understood the exquisite nature of flowers!” There is a lack of the high tension which is seen in his later works. Van Gogh called the painting “the lightning conductor for my illness,” because he felt that he could keep himself from going insane by continuing to paint. The painting was influenced by Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints, like many of his works and those by other artists of the time. The similarities occur with strong outlines, unusual angles, including close-up views, and also flattish local color, not modeled according to the fall of light.

Van Gogh considered this painting a study which is probably why there are no known drawings for it. Theo, Van Gogh’s brother, thought better of it and quickly submitted it to the annual exhibition of the Société des Artistes Indépendants in September 1889, together with Starry Night Over the Rhone. He wrote to Vincent of the exhibition: “(It) strikes the eye from afar. The Irises are a beautiful study full of air and life.”

http://www.wikiart.org/en/vincent-van-gogh/irises-1889

http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/826/vincent-van-gogh-irises-dutch-1889/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irises_(painting)

New York Movie Edward Hopper

In Hopper’s paintings, figures—usually women, and often alone—are seen undressing, reading, dining, gazing out windows, or simply lost in thought. When Hopper depicts more than one figure, viewers encounter ambiguous relationships fraught with tension. Conversation and movement are suspended, and there is the sense of having stumbled upon some sort of drama; Hopper, however, never divulges the narrative details.

Hopper’s compositions capture ordinary moments that few observers would stop to notice. For Hopper, real drama was found in the overlooked. He avoided signs of the noise and commotion of urban life, imbuing his portrayals of the city with a disquieting stillness. Hopper borrowed numerous theatrical devices and translated them to his canvases to create dramatic scenes. Strong light and high contrasts recall theatrical lighting as well as film-noir movies.

Hopper’s paintings invite endless interpretation and have been described as representations of loneliness, alienation, melancholy, or solitude. Hopper cast doubt on such readings, noting, “The loneliness thing is overdone.”  He offered several explanations for his paintings, “Great art is the outward expression of an inner life in the artist, and this inner life will result in his personal vision of the world.”

Hopper began New York Movie in December of 1938 after a protracted dry spell in his work. For unknown reasons, Hopper had unusual difficulty developing the work, resulting in 54 preliminary drawings, more studies for a single painting than any other in his career. He visited several movie theaters, including the Strand, Globe and Republican, before settling into a more extensive period of sketching at the Palace Theater on West Forty-Sixth Street (now the Lunt-Fontanne Theater).

Like most of his fellow Americans, Hopper was an avid moviegoer, and by the late 1930’s both movies and cinematic effects occasionally made their way into his paintings. New York Movie features an attractive usherette, absorbed in her own thoughts. Like many of Hopper’s paintings, it explores the melancholy and isolation that so many people experience while living in a city. The usherette was modeled after Hopper’s wife, fellow artist Jo Hopper, who also served as the model in the Nighthawks. The ensemble that Jo is wearing was based on the wide-legged jumpsuits actually worn by the Palace’s stylish female staff.

One of the more unexpected details is the vignette featured on the screen, which Hopper described as snowy mountaintops. The scene is thought to be taken from the 1937 blockbuster movie Lost Horizon, directed by Frank Capra. In the opening titles, the film poses the question, “In these days of wars and rumors of wars-haven’t you ever dreamed of a place where there was peace and security, where living was not a struggle but a lasting delight?” This quote from the Capra film seems an appropriate analogue to the isolation evoked in the painting itself.

http://www.edwardhopper.net/newyork-movie.jsp

http://www.nga.gov/exhibitions/2007/hopper/acloserlookb.shtm

http://www.artic.edu/blog/2016/06/23/work-week-new-york-movie

Still Life with Apples Paul Cezanne

Paul Cezanne was a Post-Impressionist painter who created the bridge between Impressionism and Cubism, and is said to be the artistic father of both Matisse and Picasso. Although he was dissuaded by his father at an early age to pursue his passions in painting, he left his hometown of Provence for Paris in 1861. It was there that he met Camille Pissarro, a popular Impressionist painter, who served as his mentor and guide. He began painting in the Impressionistic style, but later began to structurally order what he saw into simple planes of color. He also began to simplify the objects he painted into basic shapes.

Unlike many of the painters of his day, who focused on one or maybe two subject styles, Cezanne concentrated on still lifes, portraits, landscapes, and nude studies. He began slowly in Paris, as all of his submissions to the Paris Salon between the years of 1864 and 1869 were rejected. He finally successfully entered a submission into the Paris Salon in 1882, which was also his last. In 1895, there was an exhibition held of all of his own works, signifying his growing success as an artist, but that same year he moved back to his hometown of Provence, where he continued to work in isolation.

Cezanne was depicted as a rude, shy, angry man, given to bouts of depression, and later in his life he withdrew into his paintings, spending long periods of time a recluse, painting in solitude. Although his paintings were not well-received by the public, who supposedly reacted with hilarity, outrage and sarcasm, and laughed at his art, young artists held him in high esteem, and often sought after him. Cezanne’s legacy is that he developed the practice of fracturing forms, which most immediately influenced the development of cubism, and later the foundation of modern art.

Cézanne’s work demonstrates a mastery of design, color, composition and draftsmanship. His often repetitive, sensitive, and exploratory brushstrokes are highly characteristic and clearly recognizable. He used planes of color and brushstrokes that build up to form complex fields, both a direct expression of the sensations of the observing eye, and an abstraction of observed natures. In this painting, along with the apples and the lemon, an unusual object is shown: a small metal flowerpot, or can, with some wilted plant. In all probability the artist introduced into his still life another form, the cylinder, and another color, grey, setting off the pure tones of the apples and the lemon.

Apples were at the center of Cézanne’s attention for a number of reasons. Not only are they beautiful in color, but in comparison with other fruit they are more varied. The artist was attracted to the simplicity and completeness of their form. There was also a practical reason important to him: apples do not spoil quickly. With his prolonged work he had to take this quality into consideration. Yet it is not enough to cite the practical or artistically formal reasons for such a predilection. At some level the motivating factor for the use of the apples was the meaning hidden in them. The apple is a symbol of Venus and is associated with Eve. The passions that had from youth tormented Cézanne, a fear of women that was almost pathological, found expression in a number of his works.

http://www.arthermitage.org/Paul-Cezanne/Still-Life-with-Apples.html

http://www.wikiart.org/en/paul-cezanne

http://www.neh.gov/humanities/2015/januaryfebruary/feature/the-museumgoer

Sunflowers Tournesols

This is one of four paintings of sunflowers dating from August and September 1888. Van Gogh painted a total of twelve of these canvases, although the most commonly referred to are the seven he painted while in Arles in 1888-1889. The other five he had painted previously while in Paris in 1887. The flowers are built up with thick impasto that evokes the texture of the seed-heads.

Van Gogh was living in Paris and discovering the palette of the French Impressionists when he began painting the sunflowers. Around a year later, living alone and isolated in Arles, he produced the most extraordinary pictures of the sunflowers. Van Gogh embarked on these on Monday, August 20, temporarily forced to work indoors by a Mistral wind which, he complained, blew over his canvas and easel when he painted outdoors. By August 26, he had finished four sunflower pictures, which in itself is a token of the dangerous velocity at which he was moving at that point. The final one was the boldest of all, because it depicted yellow flowers in a yellow jug against a yellow wall, a symphony in ochres, golds and yellows.

The Sunflowers is one of the most popular paintings in the National Gallery and was also the picture that Van Gogh was most proud of. Looking back on his work of 1888, Van Gogh felt it was characterized by a “high yellow note”, by which he meant both the bright color and also the manic mental moods he had experienced while painting. It was painted during a rare period of excited optimism, while Van Gogh awaited the arrival of his hero, the avant-garde painter Paul Gauguin. The lonely and passionate Vincent had moved to Arles, in the South of France, where he dreamed of setting up a community of artists with Gauguin as its mentor. Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo in August 1888, “I am hard at it, painting with the enthusiasm of a Marseilles eating bouillabaisse, which won’t surprise you when you know that what I’m at is the painting of some sunflowers. If I carry out this idea there will be a dozen panels. So the whole thing will be a symphony in blue and yellow. I am working at it every morning from sunrise on, for the flowers fade so quickly. I am now on the fourth picture of sunflowers. This fourth one is a bunch of 14 flowers…it gives a singular effect.”

After the death of Vincent in 1890, followed by that of his brother Theo early the next year, almost all Van Gogh’s works and the bulk of his correspondence ended up in Amsterdam, in the possession of Theo’s widow, Jo Bonger. In 1923, Harold “Jim” Ede, then working at the National Gallery, Millbank (subsequently renamed the Tate Gallery) visited Bonger in Amsterdam. Ede saw many masterpieces in her apartment. He wrote to Bonger, “What touches me most directly are the golden sunflowers.”  He asked if she might sell the picture. She insisted the picture would always stay in the family. However, the next year, after further pleas, Bonger unexpectedly gave in. She had felt she could not bear to part with this painting, but in the end decided to make the sacrifice. She wrote, “No picture would represent Vincent in your famous Gallery in a more worthy manner than the Sunflowers. He himself, ‘le Peintre des Tournesols,’  ‘the Painter of Sunflowers’ as Gauguin had called him, would have liked it to be there.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-features/10592710/Van-Goghs-Sunflowers-the-story-behind-a-masterpiece.html

https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/vincent-van-gogh-sunflowers

http://www.vangoghgallery.com/painting/sunflowerindex.html

The Cow with a Subtle Nose Vache au nez subtil Jean Dubuffet


Jean Dubuffe
t was born on July 31, 1901, in Le Havre, France, into a middle-class family that distributed wine. Although he was well-educated, he came to reject his studies, preferring to educate himself by reading the work of Dr. Hans Prinzhorn, who drew comparisons between the art of asylum inmates and the artwork of children. Based on these observations, Prinzhorn stated that it was savagery, or base animal instinct, that lead to universal harmony, arguing that it was the primal instinct, not intellectual theory or analysis that connected all living things. This concept had a strong influence on Dubuffet’s later career.

Dubuffet disliked authority from a very early age. He left home at 17, failed to complete his art education, and wavered for many years between painting and working in his father’s wine business. He would later be a successful propagandist, gaining notoriety for his attacks on conformism and mainstream culture, which he described as “asphyxiating.” He was attracted to the art of children and the mentally ill, and did much to promote their work, collecting it and promulgating the notion of “Art Brut”. His early work was influenced by that of outsiders, but it was also shaped by the interests in materiality that preoccupied many post-war French artists associated with the Art Informel movement. In the early 1960s, he developed a radically new, graphic style, which he called “Hourloupe,” and would deploy it on many important public commissions, but he remains best known for the thick textured and gritty surfaces of his pictures from the 1940s and ’50s.

Dubuffet was launched to success with a series of exhibitions that opposed the prevailing mood of post-war Paris and consequently sparked enormous scandal. While the public looked for a redemptive art and a restoration of old values, Dubuffet confronted them with childlike images that satirized the conventional genres of high art. And while the public looked for beauty, he gave them pictures with coarse textures and drab colors, which critics likened to dirt and excrement. The emphasis on texture and materiality in Dubuffet’s paintings might be read as an insistence on the real. In the aftermath of the war, it represented an appeal to acknowledge humanity’s failings and begin again from the ground – literally the soil – up.

Dubuffet’s heady experience in the country and rejection of art education is evident in The Cow with a Subtle Nose. The heavily textured surface depicts a cow, rendered in the child-like innocence of patients held in psychological facilities. The uninhibited, savage approach to the canvas exemplifies the concepts of what Dubuffet termed Art Brut. The image seems entirely unschooled in the traditions of landscape. It is thus at odds with the notions of ‘high art’, and approaches art making from the direction of artistic purity uninfluenced by cultural advancement.

http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york/collections/collection-online/artists/bios/996

http://www.moma.org/collection/works/79420

http://www.theartstory.org/artist-dubuffet-jean.htm

http://www.dubuffetfondation.com/expositions-tour.php?quelle_exposition=223&lang=en

The Creation of Adam Creazione di Adamo


The Creation of Adam
 is a fresco painting by Michelangelo, forming part of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted circa 1511–1512. It illustrates the Biblical creation narrative from the Book of Genesis in which God breathes life into Adam, the first man. The fresco is part of a complex iconographic scheme and is chronologically the fourth in the series of panels depicting episodes from Genesis. It is the most well-known of the Sistine Chapel fresco panels, and its fame as a piece of art is rivaled only by the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.

Michelangelo began painting The Creation of Adam, commencing the west half of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, in October 1511. After a fourteen-month break from painting, he had been able to see the first half of the ceiling from the ground and realized his method had to be slightly altered. Because the ceiling of the chapel is over sixty-five feet above the floor, the earlier figures were difficult to see. On this second half, the figures would become taller and the compositions would be less complex, making them easier to see from the ground. With his main ally, Pope Julius II, going in and out of failing health, Michelangelo knew that he would have to work faster to ensure that he would be able to finish the fresco. In fact, the entire scene of God creating Adam took less than three weeks to complete.

God is depicted as an elderly, white-bearded man wrapped in a swirling cloak while Adam is completely nude. God’s right arm is outstretched to impart the spark of life from His own finger into that of Adam, whose left arm is extended in a pose mirroring God’s, a reminder that man is created in the image and likeness of God. Adam’s finger and God’s finger are not touching, giving the impression that God, the giver of life, is reaching out to Adam who has yet to receive it; they are not on the same level as would be two humans shaking hands.

Many hypotheses have been formulated regarding the identity and meaning of the figures around God. The person protected by God’s left arm might be Eve due to the figure’s feminine appearance, but was also suggested to be Virgin Mary, Sophia, the personified human soul, or an angel of feminine build.

The Creation of Adam is generally thought to depict the excerpt “God created man in His own image, in the image of God he created him” (Gen 1:27). The inspiration for Michelangelo’s treatment of the subject may have come from a medieval hymn called Veni Creator Spiritus, which asks the ‘finger of the paternal right hand’ (digitus paternae dexterae) to give the faithful speech.

The image of the near-touching hands of God and Adam has become iconic of humanity and has been reproduced in countless imitations and parodies. Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper and Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam are the most replicated religious paintings of all time.

http://www.michelangelo-gallery.com/creation-of-adam.aspx

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Creation_of_Adam

The Eiffel Tower La tour Eiffel

Georges-Pierre Seurat was one of the most famous Post-Impressionist painters of the 1880s in France. The short-lived, shy, reclusive artist is noted for his invention of the colorist technique known as Pointillism, a form of Divisionism. In so doing, he pioneered the new style of Neo-Impressionism. As a response to Claude Monet’s Impressionism, Neo-Impressionism lasted only a few short years (1886-1891), but, thanks to Seurat and his contemporary Paul Signac, it had a major influence on Italian Divisionism, and on several other styles of Post-Impressionist painting, notably the Synthetism/Cloisonism of Paul Gauguin; the Expressionism of Vincent Van Gogh; and the Fauvism of Henri Matisse.

Born in Paris, to a wealthy family, he first studied drawing with the sculptor Justin Lequien at night school and was accepted into the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1878. After two years, he completed a year of service in the military and then returned to Paris. He moved into his own studio and spent the next two years mastering the technique of black and white drawing.

Seurat was fascinated by a range of scientific ideas about color, form, and expression. He believed that lines tending in certain directions, and colors of a particular warmth or coolness, could have particular expressive effects. He also pursued the discovery that contrasting or complementary colors can optically mix to yield far more vivid tones that can be achieved by mixing paint alone. He called the technique he developed ‘chromo-luminism’, though it is better known as Divisionism (the characteristic style in Neo-Impressionist painting defined by the separation of colors into individual patches which interacted optically), or Pointillism (a technique of painting in which small, distinct dots of color are applied in patterns to form an image, that were crucial to achieve the flickering effects of his surfaces).

Seurat’s innovations derived from new quasi-scientific theories about color and expression, yet the graceful beauty of his work is explained by the influence of very different sources. Initially, he believed that great modern art would show contemporary life in ways similar to classical art, except that it would use technologically informed techniques. Later he grew more interested in Gothic art and popular posters, and the influence of these on his work make it some of the first modern art to make use of such unconventional sources for expression. His success quickly propelled him to the forefront of the Parisian avant-garde. His triumph was short-lived, as after barely a decade of mature work he died at the age of only 31.

Seurat was inspired by a desire to abandon Impressionism’s preoccupation with the fleeting moment, and instead to render what he regarded as the essential and unchanging in life. Nevertheless, he borrowed many of his approaches from Impressionism, from his love of modern subject matter and scenes of urban leisure, to his desire to avoid depicting only the ‘local’, or apparent, color of depicted objects, and instead to try to capture all the colors that interacted to produce their appearance.

http://www.wikiart.org/en/georges-seurat/the-eiffel-tower-1889

http://www.the-athenaeum.org/art/list.php?m=a&s=tu&aid=115

http://www.theartstory.org/artist-seurat-georges.htm

The Lovers - Les Amants René Magritte

 

René François Ghislain Magritte was born at Lessines, and studied at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Brussels from 1916-18. Magritte settled in Brussels and made his living for a time by designing wallpaper and drawing fashion advertisements. He became very friendly with poets and writers who shared his interest in evoking mystery and were later the founders of the Belgian Surrealist group. Magritte turned away from his early CubistFuturist experiments in 1925. He began to explore ways of creating a poetic, disturbing effect by depicting recognizable objects in alien settings, by startling juxtapositions or combinations of objects, by inversions of scale and so on. His first one-man exhibition was at the Galerie Le Centaure, Brussels in 1927. Afterwards Magritte lived from 1927-30 at Perreux-sur-Marne, a suburb of Paris, where he met Miró, Arp, Tanguy, Dali, Buñuel, Eluard and Breton. In 1930 he returned to Brussels, where he spent the rest of his life. He died in Brussels in 1967.

Frustrated desires are a common theme in Magritte’s work. In The Lovers, a barrier of fabric prevents the intimate embrace between two lovers, transforming an act of passion into one of isolation and frustration. Some have interpreted his work as a depiction of the inability to fully unveil the true nature of even our most intimate companions. Enshrouded faces were a common motif in Magritte’s art. The artist was 14 when his mother committed suicide by drowning. He witnessed her body being fished from the water, her wet nightgown wrapped around her face. Some have speculated that this trauma inspired a series of works in which Magritte obscured his subject’s faces. Magritte disagreed with such interpretations, denying any relation between his paintings and his mother’s death.

Magritte’s earliest paintings, which date from about 1915, were Impressionistic in style. From 1916 to 1918, he studied at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, but found the instruction uninspiring. The paintings he produced during the years 1918–1924 were influenced by Futurism and by the figurative Cubism of Metzinger. In 1922, Magritte married Georgette Berger, whom he had met as a child in 1913. In 1920, Magritte served in the Belgian infantry in the Flemish town of Beverlo. From 1922–23, he worked as a draughtsman in a wallpaper factory, and was a poster and advertisement designer until 1926, when a contract with Galerie ‘Le Centaure’ in Brussels made it possible for him to paint full-time. In 1926, Magritte produced his first surreal painting, The Lost Jockey, and held his first exhibition in Brussels in 1927. Critics heaped abuse on the exhibition. Depressed by the failure, he moved to Paris where he became friends with André Breton, and became involved in the Surrealist group. The illusionistic, dream-like quality is characteristic of Magritte’s version of Surrealism. He became a leading member of the movement after leaving his native Belgium in 1927 for Paris, where he stayed for three years. Galerie ‘Le Centaure’ closed at the end of 1929, ending Magritte’s contract income. Having made little impact in Paris, Magritte returned to Brussels in 1930 and resumed working in advertising. He and his brother Paul formed an agency which earned him a living wage.
With his highly cerebral Surrealist imagery, René Magritte breathed new life into seemingly conventional subject matter. He painted everyday objects out of context, in juxtapositions forcing the viewer to reconsider things normally taken for granted.

http://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/rene-magritte-the-lovers-le-perreux-sur-marne-1928

http://www.musee-magritte-museum.be/Typo3/index.php?id=10

http://www.moma.org/collection/artist.php?artist_id=3692

The Tropics 1907 Henri Rousseau

Henri Rousseau became a full-time artist at the age of forty-nine, after retiring from his post at the Paris customs office – a job that prompted his famous nickname, “Le Douanier,” “the toll collector.” Although an admirer of academic artists such as William-Adolphe Bouguereau and Jean-Leon Gerome, the self-taught Rousseau became the archetypal naïve artist. Rousseau remarked that Jean-Léon Gérôme had advised him: “If I have kept my naivety, it is because Monsieur Gérôme always told me I should keep it.” His amateurish technique and unusual compositions provoked the derision of contemporary critics, while earning the respect and admiration of modern artists like Picasso and Kandinsky for revealing “the new possibilities of simplicity.” Rousseau’s best-known works are lush jungle scenes, inspired not by any firsthand experiences of such locales, but by frequent trips to the Paris gardens and zoo.

Rousseau was a self-taught painter who harbored dreams of official approval. Although he never achieved recognition from the French academy, he was embraced by early 20th-century avant-garde artists, including Picasso and the Surrealists, for his departures from conventional style, which included broad, flat planes of color, stylized line, and fantastic landscapes. While he painted exotic locales, Rousseau never left France. His jungles are the dreams of a city dweller, constructed from visits to the botanical gardens, the Paris zoo, and colonial expositions, and culled from prints and reproductions.

One of the most striking aspects of Rousseau’s style is the flattening of his subjects. Whether he was echoing his Impressionist contemporaries, who were concerned with surface, or simply following his own vision, the artist’s jungle paintings lack solidity, as if they were representations of theatrical décor, the gigantic leaves and petals minimally contoured so as to create the effect of overlapping cutouts. Moreover, his creatures seem deliberately subdued by a deadpan treatment that identifies each more as outline than as a tactile form.

Although he had ambitions to become a famous academic painter, Rousseau instead became the virtual opposite: the quintessential “naïve” artist. Largely self-taught, Rousseau developed a style that evidenced his lack of academic training, with its absence of correct proportions, one-point perspective, and use of sharp, often unnatural colors. Such features resulted in a body of work imbued with a sense of mystery and eccentricity. The untutored and idiosyncratic character of Rousseau’s art was derided by many early viewers of his work. Yet this quality resonated with modern artists who saw in Rousseau’s work a model for the sincerity and directness to which they aspired in their own work.

Influenced by a combination of “high” and “low” sources – academic sculpture, postcards, tabloid illustrations, and trips to the Paris public zoo and gardens – Rousseau created modern, unconventional renderings of traditional genres such as landscape, portraiture, and allegory. The fantastic, often outrageous, imagery that resulted from these hybrid influences was celebrated by the Surrealists, whose art valued surprising juxtapositions and dream-like moods characteristic of Rousseau’s work.

https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2005/nov/01/1

http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/henri-rousseau/henri-rousseau-jungles-paris-room-guide

Three Musicians Pablo Picasso

Three Musicians is the title of two similar collage and oil paintings by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. They were both completed in 1921 and exemplify the Synthetic Cubist style. One version is currently owned by the Museum of Modern Art New York City; the other is found in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The three figures in this painting resemble characters from the Commedia dell’Arte tradition. This Italian theater form began in the 16th century and was still being used in the early 20th century. Its hallmark was to feature well-known stock characters, who were usually masked. The blue and white clarinet player on the left is Pierrot, a naive clown who is always falling in love and getting his heart broken. His love interests often prefer the handsome trickster Harlequin, seen here in the center wearing the red and yellow colors of the Spanish flag and playing a guitar. As a suave, intelligent servant, Harlequin’s character stands in stark contrast with the melancholic clown. On the right is a singing monk. Although there is not a specific monk character in Commedia dell’Arte, they were often included in these theater performances. Sometimes the stock characters would wear the brown robes of a monk as a disguise. If you look carefully, you can see one more figure in the painting; a dog sprawled underneath Pierrot’s chair. Although its face is hidden, you can see parts of its body peeking out from behind the musicians’ legs and its shadow on the wall behind the musicians.

The previous year, Picasso had been hired to design costumes and sets for a ballet by Russian composer Igor Stravinsky called Pulcinella, which was based on a Commedia dell’Arte text from the 1700s. It is likely that the inspiration for Picasso’s use of Commedia dell’Arte characters in this painting came from this project.

Picasso also created this work as a tribute to two close friends. The Pierrot represents Guillaume Apollinaire, a poet who is considered a father of the Surrealist movement. Apollinaire was a World War I veteran who was wounded in battle and died of Spanish influenza in 1918, three years before this painting. The monk is a representation of Picasso’s former roommate, Max Jacob, another poet who had introduced Picasso and Apollinaire. Jacob had entered a Benedictine monastery earlier in the same year Three Musicians was painted. The Harlequin represents Picasso.

This work is an example of Synthetic Cubism, a movement created by Picasso and another artist named Georges Braque. It grew out of the more general trend of cubism, an avant-garde technique characterized by analyzing concrete objects, breaking them up, and then reassembling them in an abstract way. Objects are presented from different viewpoints, and the representation of these viewpoints is more important than a realistic representation of the subject itself. Synthetic cubism has these qualities as well, but was a simpler, more decorative, and flatter style than earlier cubist works.

http://study.com/academy/lesson/picassos-three-musicians-painting-analysis.html

http://www.arthistoryarchive.com/arthistory/cubism/Pablo-Picasso.html

http://www.pablopicasso.org/three-musicians.jsp

http://www.moma.org/collection/object.php?object_id=78630

Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge Claude Monet

Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge represents two of Monet’s greatest achievements: his gardens at Giverny and the paintings they inspired. In 1883 the artist moved to the country-town Giverny, near Paris but just across the border of Normandy. This was a time when he was enjoying increasing financial success as an artist, and he immediately began to redesign the property.

In 1893, Monet purchased an adjacent tract, which included a small brook, and transformed the site into an Asian-inspired oasis of cool greens, exotic plants, and calm waters, enhanced by a Japanese footbridge. The serial approach embodied in this work—one of about a dozen paintings in which Monet returned to the same view under differing weather and light conditions—was one of his great formal innovations. He was committed to painting directly from nature as much as possible and whenever weather permitted, sometimes working simultaneously on eight or more canvases a day. Monet’s project to capture ever-shifting atmospheric conditions came to be a hallmark of the Impressionist style.

In 1889 Monet painted a bridge that went over the pond in his garden. He revisited the subject many times. Throughout 1889 and 1890, Monet painted several canvases depicting the bridge and its surroundings. In each painting in the Japanese Footbridge series, a bridge is the focus of the composition. In most of these paintings, the bridge spans the entire width of the picture dividing the canvas in half. The color of the bridge varies in each depiction depending on the light in which it was painted. It is always an arched wooden bridge with a handrail mirroring the arched horizontal of the walking planks held up by a few vertical supports. In some, the bridge appears dark, showing the color of the dark wood in the shadows of the surrounding willow trees or under the shade of a passing cloud. In others, it is a vivid blue, purple, or pink reflecting the light in the atmosphere bouncing off the flowers along the banks of the pond. The top half of the painting shows what is behind the bridge, away from the viewer. The top is dominated by the leaning branches and leaves of the willow trees. It is almost entirely made up of shades of green occasionally with some blue or yellow. On the bottom of the paintings Monet shows his pond. Later in his life the Water Lilies would become among his most well-known paintings. Like the bridge, the color of the water, lilies, and other flowers change. In some they are a deep red or orange. In others they are a vibrant green, soft blue, or highlighted with pinks.
Like Monet’s other series of paintings, the subject matter, in this case the actual bridge, is not what makes these the important works that they are. Monet did something very new at Giverny. Instead of painting the beauty of nature as it is, he made nature into what he wanted and then painted it. His paintings of his gardens, including the Japanese Footbridge, are paintings showing how he sculpted nature. Monet meticulously cultivated the garden to his specifications. He brought in a craftsman to construct the bridge, traded plants to get the best rare varieties he could find, and diverted a stream to supply his pond with water. His garden at Giverny would provide the inspiration for what would become his biggest influence on the art world.

http://www.cmonetgallery.com/monet-japanese-bridge.aspx

http://artmuseum.princeton.edu/fr/collections/objects/31852

Woman with Yellow Hair Femme aux cheveux jaunes Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso met Marie-Thérèse Walter, the subject of this portrait, in 1927 when she was 17 years old. They began an intense love affair, but concealed it from the public for many years as she was a teenager and the artist was married. By 1931, Marie-Thérèse’s fecund, voluptuous body and blond tresses were explicitly referenced in works such as Woman with Yellow Hair. Marie-Thérèse became a muse and constant subject for Picasso. He portrayed her reading, gazing into a mirror, and sleeping, the most intimate of depictions. A single, curved line delineating Marie-Thérèse’s profile became an emblem and appears in numerous sculptures, prints, and paintings. Woman with Yellow Hair is rendered in a sweeping, graceful, curvilinear style that is a radical departure from his earlier portrayals of women. This painting of graceful repose is not so much a portrait of Marie-Thérèse the person, as it is Picasso’s abstract, poetic homage to his young muse.

Although painted nearly 20 years after the artist’s initial experimentation with Cubism, Picasso’s simplification of Marie-Thérèse’s voluptuous figure into primary shapes can be traced back to that painterly technique. The undulating lines, rounded organic shapes, and saturated hues attest to the artist’s appreciation of contemporary developments in painting such as Surrealism. As an honorary member of the Surrealists, Picasso was influenced by their investigation into dreams as a portal to the subconscious, and the bright, playful colors he has chosen for this portrait may represent dream imagery.
Marie-Thérèse’s potent mix of physical attractiveness and sexual naivety had an intoxicating effect on Picasso, and his rapturous desire for her brought about a number of images that are among the most sought after of his long career. Picasso continued to create familiar and tranquil images of Marie-Thérèse until the end of the decade even though Dora Maar had gradually replaced her. In Picasso’s paintings, Marie-Thérèse appears as blonde, sunny, and bright, in contrast to his darker portrayal of Dora Maar, whom Picasso painted as the tortured “weeping woman“.

Picasso’s relationship with Marie-Thérèse was kept from his first wife Olga until Olga was told of Marie’s pregnancy. Picasso and Olga later separated, although they remained married until she died in 1955, so Olga would not receive half of Picasso’s wealth. Marie-Thérèse and Picasso had a daughter, Maya (Maria de la Concepcion) in 1935. When Picasso started to fall in love with Dora Maar in 1936, a year after Maya was born, Marie-Thérèse understandably became jealous. Fifty years after their first meeting, Marie-Thérèse took her own life. She died by hanging herself in 1977, four years after Picasso’s death.

https://www.guggenheim.org/arts-curriculum/topic/pablo-picasso-woman-with-yellow-hair

http://www.sapergalleries.com/PicassoWomen.html

http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york/education/school-educator-programs/teacher-resources/arts-curriculum-online?view=item&catid=716&id=11

 

 

The Benefits Of Arts Education

The Benefits Of Arts Education13

 

Zenith Community Arts Foundation (ZCAF)

Harnessing the Transformative Power of Art to Benefit the Greater Washington DC Community Since 2000

 

Benefits Of Arts EducationDid you know that Zenith Gallery founder Margery Goldberg also founded a nonprofit? Founded in 2000, Zenith Community Arts Foundation (ZCAF) is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, committed to arts advocacy, arts education, and public art, as well as using art and creativity to enrich the Greater Washington DC/ Baltimore/ Virginia region, with an emphasis on our local community.  Based in the Shepherd Park neighborhood of Ward 4, ZCAF achieves our goals by fostering alliances between area artists, businesses, other non-profits, & government agencies.  ZCAF’s current focus is on developing an arts education program for area teenagers. This program has been dubbed “Hands’ on Workshops” or HOW.

 

ZCAF’s Hands’ On Workshops (HOW) Mission Statement is:

 

Benefits Of Arts EducationIn a world inundated with a bewildering array of messages and meanings, an arts education also helps young people explore, understand, accept, and use ambiguity and subjectivity. In art as in life, there is often no clear or “right” answer to questions that are nonetheless worth pursuing (“Should the trees in this painting be a little darker shade of green?”). Such nuanced thinking is in high demand on the job site, and employers value an employee who is capable of understanding ‘why’ beyond simply, robotically following instructions and completing tasks mindlessly. Such workers are valued for their ability to communicate, to learn, and to problem-solve.

 

At the same time, the arts bring excitement and exhilaration to the learning process. Study and competence reinforce each other; students become increasingly interested in learning, add new dimensions to what they already know, and enhance their expectations for learning even more. The joy of learning becomes real, tangible, powerful. Students who enjoy learning will remain in school, continue their educations, and organically apply their love of learning to all facets of their life: personal, social, career, and community interactions.  Arts education facilitates successful hiring; long-term, gainful employment and promotion in one’s career.

 

Students of the Arts…

 

understand the human experience, both past, and present, which facilities empathy;

 

learn respect for others – including adapting to and respecting other ways of thinking and doing;

 

experience an increased sense of belonging or attachment to a community –

 

Community-based art programs such as those offered by ZCAF and other non-profits help introduce your child to new people and new experiences. This attachment encourages our youth to engage in social and creative activities while feeling part of a larger community. Through these connections, the student will learn about trust and develop healthy interpersonal skills and friendships.

 

experience a sense of pride –

 

When a person puts his heart and soul into an art project—and spends hours working on it, cultivating it, and making it beautiful—he or she will feel an enormous sense of accomplishment when it’s complete.

 

gain an understanding of the business side of art (sales, marketing, promotions, formal critiques, etc.);

 

problem-solve, in a creative fashion, often with tight deadlines and/or budgetary restraints;

 

make decisions in situations where there are no standard answers;

 

analyze nonverbal communication (such as road signs, maps, and facial gestures);

 

appreciate the human-made and the natural world, leading to a more holistic, healthier lifestyle;

 

make informed judgments about cultural products and issues; and

 

communicate their thoughts and feelings – art making facilitates healthy self-expression.

 

A tremendous benefit of arts education is giving children a way to express themselves, especially in a classroom setting. When students are working towards a common goal, they appreciate that their “voice” and interests are heard and understood by others. This joint effort creates a sense of secure acceptance that is critical to their self-esteem.

 

ZCAF’s Hands’ On Workshop (HOW)  – Alignment with National Standards for Visual Arts

 

Benefits Of Arts EducationZCAF’s Hands’ On Workshop (HOW) Program features an innovative, comprehensive, culturally sensitive curriculum, reviewed and endorsed by Mr. Nathan Diamond, Director of the Arts Curriculum/Office of Teaching and Learning, for District of Columbia Public Schools.

 

ZCAF’s curriculum has been aligned with the legislation known as The National Standards for Visual Arts Education (below), which Congress adopted in the early 1990s, and updated in the early 2000s. The six “Content Standards” relate to what is being learned. The eleven “Core Standards” relate to the four-part structure of the creative process, as understood by art educators: Creating, Presenting/Producing, Responding, and Connecting. These National Art Education Standards are the recognized benchmarks for arts education for all citizens and are appropriate benchmarks for any arts program, public or private, nationwide.
To learn more about these standards, please visit: http://www.nationalartsstandards.org/

 

 

The Six National Content Standards for Visual Arts Education

 

 

Content Standard #1: Understand and apply media, techniques, and processes to art making and design

 

Content Standard # 2: Use and gain knowledge of structures and functions

 

Content Standard #3: Choose and evaluate a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas

 

Content Standard #4: Understand the visual arts in relation to history and cultures

Content Standard #5: Reflect upon & assess the characteristics & merits of their work & work of others

 

Content Standard #6: Make connections between other academic subjects: Science, Technology,

Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), music, history, social studies, English, etc.)

 

The Eleven National Core Standards for Visual Arts Education

 

CREATING STANDARDS

Creating is defined as Conceiving and developing new artistic ideas and work.

 

Standard #1.   Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.

 

Standard #2.   Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.

 

Standard #3.   Refine and complete artistic work.

 

PRESENTING & PRODUCING STANDARDS

Presenting and Producing is defined as:

Presenting (applies to the fine arts, architecture, and design fields) – Interpreting and sharing artistic work.
Producing (applies to media art such as animation, film, TV, & video) – Realizing & presenting artistic ideas & work.

 

Standard #4.                Analyze, interpret and select artistic work for presentation.

 

Standard #5. Develop and refine artistic work for presentation.

 

Standard #6.                Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work.

 

RESPONDING

Responding is defined as Understanding and evaluating how the arts convey meaning.

 

Standard #7.         Perceive and analyze artistic work.

 

Standard #8.         Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work.

 

Standard #9.         Apply criteria to evaluate artistic work.

 

CONNECTING

Connecting is defined as Relating artistic ideas and work with personal meaning and external context.

 

Standard #10.                Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make art.

 

Standard #11.               Relate art with societal, cultural and historical context to deepen understanding.

 

 

Anticipated Outcomes –The Benefits of Arts Education:

Pro-Social Development & Academic Achievement

Benefits Of Arts Education

The purported benefits of arts education have been documented in hundreds of studies. For example, Harvard’s Project Zero recently analyzed 188 reports related just to academic improvement stemming from enrollment in arts education programs.

 

The measured outcomes generally fall into one of two categories: pro-social development (life skills are also known as ‘soft skills’) and academic achievement.

 

Some of the indicators of pro-social development include:

 

Benefits Of Arts Education

  • Better discipline
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Reduced truancy
  • Better relations with adults
  • More hope for the future
  • Increased motivation
  • More positive peer associations
  • Less interest in drugs
  • More resistant to peer pressure
  • Reduced criminal activities

 

Measures of academic achievement include:

 

  • Improved math ability
  • Improved reading comprehension
  • Improved language skills
  • Increased interest in social studies
  • Improved spatial-temporal reasoning
  • Higher high school graduation ratesBenefits Of Arts Education

 

The most complete and well-designed analysis of arts education to date comes from the YouthARTS

Development Project, a collaboration of the U.S. Department of Justice, National Endowment for the

Arts, Americans for the Arts, and local governmental and nonprofit entities in three cities. The study

encompassed arts-based prevention and intervention programs in Atlanta, San Antonio, and

Portland, Oregon that share a common focus on reducing the risk factors for antisocial behavior (e.g.

social alienation, early school failure) and increasing the protective factors that help youths stay out of

trouble (e.g. positive peer associations, communications skills). Ultimately, these outcomes were

expected to result in reduced delinquent and criminal behavior.  The detailed evaluation reports of the

YouthARTS program was published in November 2000 and suggested the programs had a variety of

positive impacts on youth attitudes and behaviors.

 

In respect to criminal activity, highlights include:

 

In Portland, only 22 percent of the arts program participants had a new court referral

compared to 47 percent of the comparison youth. The level and type of offense committed during the program period were less severe than prior offenses.

 

In Atlanta, despite the fact that the arts program participants had, on average, more court

referrals than the other groups at the start of the program (7.1, vs. 6.9 (San Antonio) and 2.2 (Portal) referrals, respectively, they had, on average, fewer court referrals during the program period than the comparison group (1.3 and 2.0 respectively). Moreover, a smaller proportion of the art participants committed new offenses during the program period than the control group (50 percent vs. 78.6 percent).

 

In San Antonio, where the program focused on pre-adolescents (10 to 12 years of age), only 3.5% of participants committed a delinquent offense in the 22 months following program completion.

 

Anticipated Outcomes –The Benefits of Arts Education: Careers in the Arts Benefits Of Arts Education

 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Graphic Designers earnings average out to just over $42,000 a year (graph 1 – top) based on 2005 statistical analysis (see graphics) of job postings found on three websites which track salaries. This is thousands of dollars per year more than the median salary for all American workers.

 

According to the BLS, from 2008-2018, the field of graphic design will grow by almost 37,000 jobs (graph 2 – bottom), or 13%, higher by 5% than the overall expected civilian workforce growth of 8.2%. As of 2008, there were about 286,100 working graphic designers, a large majority of which had chosen to further their education through higher education.

Benefits Of Arts EducationIn doing this research, it should be noted that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) focused on a few areas of expected growth within the field of graphic arts: Internet advertising and marketing, mobile phone and other young electronic media, and Web sites for a growing range of products and services. This will be tempered by the continuing decline of print media like newspapers and magazines.

 

Benefits Of Arts EducationThis is representative of a broad shift away from traditional pen-and-paper design towards digital design. As such, ZCAF’s lesson plans delve into new media such as animation and digital media design.  Students will get the chance to work with an animator, and discuss new media careers such as Video Game Designer. When ZCAF instructors teach about color, we include a discussion of film and theater light coloration techniques and the way light is ‘mixed’ on computer monitor screens and with computer printers. Information that most teenagers will not get in a traditional high school art classroom, because there simply is not enough time to expose students to some much detail in typical HS art programs.

 

However, as ZCAF knows, designers will be expected to be comfortable working in a wide range of formats and media, with those workers comfortable in both print and digital graphic design having the best opportunities. Therefore, ZCAF provides our students with a curriculum that focuses on a comprehensive overview of skills and medium. We know that to be competitive, it is imperative that new media and graphic designers also learn how to ‘draw’ using traditional techniques and materials. ZCAF is committed to keeping DC’s young adults in school so that they are eligible to pursue whatever form of higher education or career advancement they find best suits their aptitudes. Our program will help DC area teenagers see school and learning as both enjoyable in its own right, and beneficial in that it offers them skills and information that will help them navigate the world regardless of their future career path – in short, we will show our students the connection between academic skills and ‘soft skills,’ such as punctuality and healthy self-expression, so that they can be better equipped to engage as productive, well-developed, and capable 21st century citizens.

 

ZCAF’s Hands’ on Workshops will be a Partnership Between…

 

  • ZCAF Administrators & DCPS School-based Administrators
  • ZCAF’s Artist-Educators and Certified DC Public School Art Teachers
  • ZCAF & DCPS Students, Parents, and Guardians
  • ZCAF & DCPS – Out-of-School-Time Programming
  • ZCAF & DCPS- Arts/Teaching & Learning Office

 

What will students be learning in ZCAF’s Hands’ On Workshops and how will they learn it?

 

Benefits Of Arts EducationZCAF’s HOW program is designed to provides area youth ages 13-26 with a fun and supportive atmosphere that reinforces classroom teaching, infusing academic and career-focused information within the context of a project-based arts education program that focuses on the needs of various learning styles – all with the focus on bridging the ‘achievement gap’ inner city young adults confront. At the same time, our program is not just fun and games or ‘babysitting.’ We will be asking a lot of our participants.

 

HOW students will:

 

  • Write, proofread, edit, and refine Artist’s Statements;
  • Present their writing & art to the group (public speaking);
  • Receive feedback from peers and provide feedback to peers;
  • Work in a team at times, work independently at other times;
  • Problem-solve and complete tasks within a deadline;
  • Meet specific project guidelines and follow instructions; and
  • Work with finite resources: limited time and specific materials

 

Benefits Of Arts EducationHOW students will be learning, practicing, and refining the kinds of skills and tasks that most people encounter on the job site. For example, HOW students will collaborate on the design and installation of their own art exhibit. This type of collaboration is translatable to many career-based activities, such as: working as a team in the operating room performing a surgery, performance in a musical ensemble, work in the military, and working in a large retail establishment.

 

ZCAF’s HOW offers a low staff-to-student ratio of 1 staff for every 10 students. Our Teaching Team will be able to mentor and nurture students, in a relationship not unlike an athletic coach and their team. ZCAF’s Teaching Team will be able to provide one-on-one assistance with college applications, job applications, and the development of student’s art portfolio.Benefits Of Arts Education

If you would like to kindly make a tax-deductible donation, or to volunteer to help ZCAF in providing quality visual arts programming – with an emphasis on life and job skills – for DC Public High School Students, please contact: Ms. Ella Dorsey, Administrative Director or Ms. Margery Goldberg, Executive Director. We can be reached at: zcaf@zcaf.org or by calling: 202-783-8005. ZCAF offices are open Tuesday-Friday, noon-6:00 pm.

 

 

Full Circle: The New Year – Comin’ Back ‘Round!

 

Zenith Gallery has begun the New Year with a new exhibit “Full Circle.” The show will be on display at our location at 1111 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20004. The show dates are January 13th – April 30th. The show features the work of two artists who work in different materials but who both utilize the motif of the circle (sometimes in two dimensions, sometimes in three). In contemplating this motif, we realized that the symbolism of this shape is quite appropriate for a show ushering in the New Year.

 

Zenith has put together a synopsis of some of the more intriguing uses of the circle motif in art, architecture, and culture. Circles are used in art to pull the viewer into the piece. Landscape paintings will use circles to make the viewer feel that they are in the landscape. Other symbols will use circles to include the viewers. A cross with a circle around it will include the viewer in the power of the cross. The cross is sacred and divine and the circle is used to make the viewer feel the same way. Circles unite people, and make people feel whole. The shape of the circle has been used as a symbol since the beginning of time. The circle can represent the power of the female, a symbol for a goddess, and the sun. It can represent infinity, being complete, and being whole.

Circles in Spiritual Practice

 

Religions that focus on the earth at their center and many pagan religions see the circle as a symbol of the female. The circle can symbolize Mother Earth. It represents the spirit of feminine energy and a space that is sacred. The circle will symbolize being closed in and boundaries. It represents cycles. It can represent the womb. It symbolizes being complete. It is a symbol of revolution, of being centered and mobile. It is a symbol of forever. It symbolizes the ongoing energy found in nature. It symbolizes the way the universe includes everything.

 

The meaning of the circle as a symbol is universal, although how it is interpreted will vary from culture to culture. It is seen as a divine sign, sacred to several cultures. For example, quite a few Native American tribes saw the circle as a powerful symbol. The Sioux, one of these tribes, saw the circle as the sun, and as the moon, and themselves as the children of the moon. They therefore used the circle as an abstract symbol, meant to represent their tribe, when painting their shields, their horses, and their teepees – the closest approximation would be the use by Americans of the colors red, white, and blue to represent our nationality and our political affiliation. The ancient Celts used the circle for protection. They believed neither enemy nor evil could cross the boundary. Celtics saw the circle as a symbol of space and the universe.  The ancient Chinese use the circle to symbolize heaven, and a square to symbolize earth. Chinese art has used squares inside of circles. They used the square inside the circle to represent heaven and earth being united. The yin yang symbol is made up of circles. It will represent the two sides of balance.

 

In 1947, a fashion designer by the name of Elsa Schiaparelli introduced the color hot pink to western fashion, and by extension Western culture. She called the shade Shocking Pink, though today the color is more well-known as “magenta.” Like many artists who use color and form to create works of art that display abstract forms in a rhythmic pattern, Zenith artist Carol Schepps is also clearly inspired by how colors such as shocking pink and screaming yellow bounce off one another, yet you can sense through Spiritual Artwork the titles she gives her work that she is also celebrating the sun, Mother Earth, and the beauty of natural phenomena.

 

Carol Schepps
“Brilliant Suns Series: Luminous Suns”
Hand Dyed and Commercial Cotton, Machine Stitched Tapestry 52” x 39”
On display at: Zenith’s “1111 Sculpture Space”
1111 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20004

 

 

In Zen Buddhism, an ensō is a circle that is hand-drawn in one or two uninhibited brushstrokes to express a moment, which the mind is free to let the body create only when the mind has achieved, through meditation, a state wherein one’s thoughts can best be described as ‘nothingness.’ The ensō symbolizes absolute enlightenment, strength, elegance, the universe, and mu (the void). It is characterized by a minimalist aesthetic born of Japanese design sensibilities.   This spiritual practice of drawing ensō or writing Japanese calligraphy for self-realization is called hitsuzendō (way of the brush). Some artists draw ensō with an opening in the circle, while others close the circle.

 

Ensō exemplifies the various dimensions of the Japanese wabi-sabi perspective and aesthetic: Fukinsei (asymmetry, irregularity), kanso (simplicity), koko (basic; weathered), shizen (without pretense; natural), yugen (subtly profound grace), datsuzoku (freedom), and seijaku (tranquility). Wabi-sabi, although difficult to clearly define, essentially embraces the beauty that is found in natural objects and natural materials, and endorses the artist’s use of imperfection, as it more closely resembles the natural world – a world comprised of uneven surfaces, organic forms, and rough edges.

 

Art Pieces

Ensō by Kanjuro Shibata

Black and Red Ink on Rice Paper

Circa: 2000

 

Now let’s look at another piece of work from this recent Zenith Show “Full Circle.” Here is a sculpture by artist Len Harris, titled “Still a Chance.” The repeating circle within circle motif here is interesting for several reasons. First, because as it is repeating its’ self over and over, it puts one in mind of electrons spinning around within an atom – as well as the orbits of the planets in our solar system around the sun. The piece is wonderfully crafted, and you get the sense of a real mastery of engineering – in fact, it may come as little surprise to learn that Len Harris formally worked as an engineer at NASA. Having said this, another component of this sculpture that is worth noting is the subtle way it embraces the wabi-sabi aesthetic in tandem with the superlative craftsmanship – not one of those ‘circles’ is perfectly round. Finally, we want to remark on how much we enjoy the use of light and dark tones in the wood, which gives the piece a sense of being illuminated from within and adds to it’s visual appeal.

 

Spiritual Artwork

Len Harris

“Still a Chance”
Wood 27” x 29” x 26”

On display at Zenith’s “1111 Sculpture Space

1111 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington DC 20004

 

 

Circles in Modern Abstract Artworks

 

The creator of the first modern abstract paintings, Wassily Kandinsky was an influential Russian painter and art theorist. In his youth, he studied law and economics at the University of Moscow. He was 30 years old when he began to study art, at the University of Munich. He was not immediately accepted into the school as an art student, and so in the meantime he began learning art independently, gaining artistic insight from Monet’s Haystacks and Richard Wagner’s musical composition Lohengrin. The devotion to inner beauty remained a central theme in his art. Let’s look at one piece by Kandinsky, Circles in a Circle, to delve a bit further into his artistic process and his use of the circle motif:

 

Artwork

 

Wassily Kandinsky
“Circles in a Circle”
Circa: 1923
Oil on Canvas
Philadelphia Museum of Art

 

 

Circles in a Circle demonstrates Wassily Kandinsky’s distinctive style from the early 1920s, a period of time when he began teaching at the Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany, and subsequently moved away from a spontaneous painting style and towards a more geometric composition. In this work, a thick black circle surrounds twenty-six overlapping circles of varying sizes and colors, many of them intersected by straight black lines. In a letter of 1931, he described Circles in a Circle as “the first picture of mine to bring the theme of circles to the foreground.” Two strobes of blue and yellow extending from the top corners cross toward the center of the piece, changing the colors of the circles where they overlap. Although Circles in a Circle is distinctly different from Kandinsky’s paintings of the beginning years of the twentieth century, it reflects his continued belief that certain colors and shapes signify emotions that can be codified and combined into a whole, reflecting the harmony of the cosmos. For Kandinsky, the circle, the most elementary of forms, had symbolic, cosmic significance. In fact, he once famously wrote that: “the circle is the synthesis of the greatest oppositions. It combines the concentric and the exocentric in a single form, and in balance.”

 

Great Moments in Art: Whimsical Works by Stephen Hansen

Zenith Gallery’s newest exhibit, “Great Moments in Art: Works by Stephen Hansen,” is on display December 4-January 30, at our Iris Street location. This collection of whimsical parodies was created by one of our most endearing, enduring artists – Stephen Hansen. Hansen has been represented by Zenith for almost our entire 37-year history, and has developed a host of devoted followers, both within the area and around the world. In fact, Hansen’s work has been shown worldwide over the past 40 years. His work has featured in the collections of Embassies around the world, as well as many museums, commercial buildings, airports, and government buildings, including the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, right here in Washington, DC.

 

Hansen’s newest body of work is a nod to both the formal practice and study of Art Appreciation, and his viewer’s knowledge of both individual great works of art and the seminal Art Movements that define Western Art History: cave paintings, Cubism, Abstract Expressionism, The Italian Renaissance, The Northern Renaissance, Realism, Surrealism, Post Impressionism, Pointillism, Pop Art and so forth.

 

Art Appreciation is the knowledge and understanding of the universal and timeless qualities that identify all great art. The more you appreciate and understand the art of different eras, movements, styles and techniques, the better you can develop, evaluate and improve your own artwork.

 

Art Movements are the collective titles that are given to artworks, which share the same artistic ideas, style, technical approach or time frame. They provide Art Historians, Art Educators, Art Critics, and Art Theorists a means of grouping together artists of a common period, style or technique, so that they may be more easily understood and discussed. Art Critics or Historians usually name Art Movements retrospectively, and their titles are often witty references to the artist’s own comments about their work, or sarcastic nicknames pulled from a bad review.

 

These pieces are clearly “Hansens,” but they also delve into new territory for the artist, in that he has revealed his remarkable ability to replication a wide array of painterly techniques and styles. Each of these new works features his trademark painted papier-mâché figures, but this time they are taking center stage in all their three dimensional glory, mounted on paintings done in acrylic on canvas, mounted on wood panels.

 

What are these little guys doing? They are painters, wearing white caps and white painters’ scrubs, painting these great works of art. In so doing, they are making a rather clever statement about what it means to ‘paint’ a painting. In the artist’s own words: “This project started with a ‘Rothko,’ and the notion that one’s life work might have been accomplished one brilliant weekend with a roller. What if artwork really was, well? … Work, and paintings were done by painters? It had never occurred to me, until I became involved in this project, to pretend to be someone else for a few days. It is a bit like a holiday, though I would recommend Gauguin over van Gogh.” 

 

In essence, Hansen’s achievement has been to create a group of artwork that playfully parodies a Brief History of Art in the Western World. Incidentally, the Supreme Court has ruled that a parody is not a copy – and thus, Hansen is not committing copyright infringement. Just in case you were wondering.) What we at Zenith enjoy is that he does so, while poking fun at himself – at maybe at each famous artist (just a little bit) not to mention anyone else who loves the original works he has replicated. His respect and admiration for each great work of art clearly comes through in his careful scrutinizing of each piece. Hansen is dissecting each work of art, distilling it down to its most notable and charming elements. In so doing, his pieces manage to tease, entertain, educate, and amaze. No small achievement!

The Following Examples of Hansen’s Great Works of Art and

Their Respective Art Movements are in (roughly) Chronological Order:

 

The Cave Paintings of Lascaux, France

Cave Painting 1

 

Cave Painting Two

Hansen’s Homage to the Prehistoric Artists

The Italian/Southern Renaissance

Sandro Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus”

Sandro Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus”

 

Hansen’s Homage to Botticelli

Hansen’s Homage to Botticelli

 

The Northern Renaissance

Johannes Vermeer’s “The Girl with The Pearl Earring”

Johannes Vermeer’s “The Girl with The Pearl Earring”

Hansen’s Homage to Vermeer

Hansen’s Homage to Vermeer

 

Unknown (After Rembrandt) "The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp"

Unknown (After Rembrandt) “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp”

Hansen’s Homage to the artist

Hansen’s Homage to the artist

 

Post-Impressionism

Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night”

Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night”

Hansen’s Homage to van Gogh

Hansen’s Homage to van Gogh

 

Pointillism

Georges Seurat’s ”Un dimanche Après-midi à l’Ile de la Grande Jatte” (A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte)

Georges Seurat’s ”Un dimanche Après-midi à l’Ile de la Grande Jatte”
(A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte)

Hansen’s Homage to Seurat

Hansen’s Homage to Seurat

 

Cubism

Pablo Picasso’s “Woman with Hat (Olga)”

Pablo Picasso’s “Woman with Hat (Olga)”

Hansen’s Homage to Picasso

Hansen’s Homage to Picasso

 

Surrealism

Salvador Dali’s “Persistence of Memory”

Salvador Dali’s “Persistence of Memory”

Hansen’s Homage to Dali (Notice the melting paintbrush?)

Hansen’s Homage to Dali (Notice the melting paintbrush?)

 

Neo-Plasticism

Pieter Cornelis “Piet” Mondrian’s “Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow”

Pieter Cornelis “Piet” Mondrian’s
“Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow”

Hansen’s Homage to Mondrian

Hansen’s Homage to Mondrian

 

Abstract Expressionism

Jackson Pollack’s Untitled (Also known as “Drip and Splash”)

Jackson Pollack’s Untitled
(Also known as “Drip and Splash”)

Hansen’s Homage to Pollack

Hansen’s Homage to Pollack

 

Pop Art

Roy Lichtenstein’s “Thinking of Him”

Roy Lichtenstein’s “Thinking of Him”

Hansen’s Homage to Lichtenstein (Notice how the painter in Hansen’s homage is thinking of her, while she is Thinking Of Him”?)

Hansen’s Homage to Lichtenstein
(Notice how the painter in Hansen’s homage is thinking of her, while she is Thinking Of Him”?)

Stars & Stripes: Zenith Salutes the Flag!

Vex…a what? The study of flags is known as vexillology, from the Latin word vexillum, meaning flag or banner. A flag is a piece of fabric (most often rectangular or quadrilateral) with a distinctive design that is used as a symbol, as a signaling device, or as decoration. The first flags were used to assist military co-ordination on battlefields, and flags have since evolved into a general tool for rudimentary signaling and identification, especially in environments where communication is similarly challenging (such as the maritime environment where semaphore is used.) National flags are potent patriotic symbols with varied wide-ranging interpretations, often including strong military associations due to their original and ongoing military uses. Flags are also used in messaging, advertising, or for other decorative purposes.

 

Let’s discuss the development of the design of some flags we’ve been seeing a lot of recently. In fact, let’s get deep into three of the strongest statements flags are making these days. Let’s talk about the Rainbow Pride Flag, the Black Standard Flag being flown by Jihadists, and the Confederate Flag. Then, let’s look at how three Zenith Gallery artists are turning messages of terror, homophobia, racism, and despair UPSIDE down – as they incorporate flags into works of art promoting racial harmony, embracing racial identity, affirming and supporting marriage equality, and finally, making a profound statement about the preciousness of survival in the face of adversary and the enduring nature of American democracy.

 

From Wikipedia: “The LGBT community has adopted certain symbols for self-identification which demonstrate unity, pride, shared values, and allegiance to one another. LGBTQ symbols communicate ideas, concepts, and identity both within their communities and to mainstream culture. The two most-recognized international LGBTQ symbols are the pink triangle and the rainbow flag. The pink triangle, employed by the Nazis in World War II as a badge of shame, was re-appropriated but retained negative connotations. The rainbow flag was created to be a more organic and natural replacement without any negativity attached to it.”

 

Stars & StripesThis summer, Zenith Gallery chooses to celebrate the spirit of the American ideals of democracy, self-expression, justice, truth, social freedom, personal freedom, and true equality. That is to say, our most recent exhibit celebrates and explores the American people and American society that we aspire towards, if not always perfectly achieving. We’re doing this by presenting a two-site exhibit “Stars and Stripes: Zenith Salutes the Flag!” This two-site show features over 20 different artist’s depictions and interpretations of the American flag, in over 60 works of art. This intriguing exhibit was conceived in tandem with the release of the book “Stars and Stripes: The American Flag in Contemporary Art” by E. Ashley Rooney and Stephanie Standish, published by Schiffer Publishing Company. Both our two-site show and this book focus on celebrating how artists have incorporated the colors and symbols in the American flag within their own art, to convey various themes and to play off other motifs and designs.

 

Rainbow Pride Flag

A street sign in Philadelphia, incorporating the modern version of the rainbow pride flag.

Flags and Marriage Equality

The recent Supreme Court ruling on the legality of gay weddings is being celebrated across the country, and Zenith could not be more thrilled. To represent the pride and excitement they feel, Americans are ‘waving’ the Rainbow Pride flag. This   iconic symbol of gay pride is showing up all over social media, on the evening news, on coffee mugs, and even in attire. You may recall that the original emblem adapted by the Gay Pride movement to represent LGBT culture was the pink triangle? You may also recall that the Nazi party used a pink triangle to label ‘sexual deviants,’ just as the Jews were labeled with a gold star.   The evolution from pink triangle to rainbow is interesting, and when you think about it, also makes perfect sense. From Wikipedia: “The LGBT community has adopted certain symbols for self-identification which demonstrate unity, pride, shared values, and allegiance to one another. LGBTQ symbols communicate ideas, concepts, and identity both within their communities and to mainstream culture. The two most-recognized international LGBTQ symbols are the pink triangle and the rainbow flag. The pink triangle, employed by the Nazis in World War II as a badge of shame, was re-appropriated but retained negative connotations. The rainbow flag was created to be a more organic and natural replacement without any negativity attached to it.” Gilbert Baker designed the original, eight-stripe version of the rainbow pride flag in 1978. In late 1978, a seven-stripe version was developed due to a shortage of hot pink fabric at the factories producing the new flag. In 1979, a six-color version was developed, so that the flag would have an even number of stripes and therefore look better when hung vertically on lampposts. In this version, indigo is interchangeable with royal blue. This is the version that has been popular ever since.

 

FlagZenith Artist Jennifer Wagner created the mosaic piece “Pride (See Yourself, Be Yourself)” in celebration of the recent Supreme Court decision to legalize LGBT marriage nationwide. Her work was made with a team of youths, some of who identify as transgender, some of whom identify as gay or lesbian. The spirit of working in collaboration to celebrate this profoundly impactful legal decision energized Wagner. To paraphrase Wagner’s explanation of the creation of this piece: ‘how could we not do it? When my team and I heard about the Supreme Court decision, with tears in our eyes, we conceived of a piece that spoke to the struggles and the challenges that led up to the moment when the justices said YES.’ The wording on the piece are as important as her incorporation of the rainbow flag motif:

 

“This flag is for those who had to hide,
For those who cried,
And for those who died.
See yourself, Be yourself.”

 

Flags and Terrorism

TerrorismThe “Black Standard” Islamic State flag being flown by the terrorist organization ISIS also comes to mind as a flag that is ‘front and center’ in recent days. The Islamic State flag (aka “Black Standard” or “Black Banner” has existed long before ISIS was established.

 

In fact, there have been multiple versions of this flag throughout history. Its earliest incarnation can be traced to the advent of Islam in 7th century C.E., where Muhammad allegedly spread his teachings under the Black Standard. He adopted this banner custom from the ancient Romans, who conquered the world under the Aquila, or eagle, banner. Mohammed may have even adopted the eagle name, as early accounts of his conquest cite that he referred to his banner as “the banner of the eagle” also. As various sects of Islam developed throughout the coming centuries, the Black Standard began to stand for various eschatological ideologies. Today it is mostly identified with extremist Sunnism and Jihadism. Islamic tradition states that the Quraysh had a black liwā’ and a white-and-black rāya, and thus the origin of the colors and the symbolic meaning behind them. They represent the Quraysh, a holy text that in turn represents the words of Allah. The Pashtun tradition of using a version of The Black Standard with a white shahada (Islamic creed) inscription as a military ensign, dates back to the 18th-century. It is this version of The Black Standard that was adopted by the Taliban, and thus by Al-Qaeda, in the 1990s. This usage was adopted by the global Jihadism movement in the early 2000s, and in the 2010s by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).

 

In direct opposition to the message embraced by those who wave the Jihadism movement flag, Zenith Gallery artist Dalya Luttwak transformed the colors and shapes found within the design of the American flag into a profound, graceful, and powerful memorial for those who were lost on 9/11.

 

TowersIn her painted steel piece “Tribute to New York City,” Dalya evokes the skyscrapers and the rubble of the World Trade Center attack. Luttwak’s version of the attack…really, it’s a bit like seeing a very simplified model of the aftermath – is far more complex and intriguing than merely a few pieces of painted steel. Let’s look a little more closely at her work. First, color. She’s included the classic American flag palette of red, white and blue. Blue at the base is evocative of both the harbor and the sky (from out of which the planes flew), but it also could represent the holes in the ground and the blackened rubble. White horizontal and vertical planes can be seen to represent both the negative ‘empty’ space where the towers used to be, and also very simplified skyscrapers themselves. They are both ‘there’ and ‘not there.’ Being both ‘there’ and ‘not there’ is what a memorial speaks to, on the human level as well. Finally, red – red is so powerful. In our culture, red represents blood, pain, anger, and savage fury. In our culture, red also represents a different kind of passion – love. Luttwak has achieved a piece that upon closer examination incorporates the strong extreme sense of both loss and presence, passionate pain and passionate love. Perhaps she is suggesting we respond to the fury and the anger of the terrorists with love. Perhaps she is saying love will conquer all? After all, the red is ‘on top’ of the rubble. Whatever your final assessment, you can’t deny the piece is both elegant and eloquent. And, it’s extremely patriotic, but it does not ever feel jingoistic. Quite an achievement – and we are thrilled to showcase this work.

 

Flags and Racism

Lastly, but certainly not least, there is the infamous Confederate flag. This divisive image has been experiencing a surge in appearances due to recent events that can be added to the long, tangled, sad, and maddening history of slavery and the oppression in these United States. The history of the design of the Confederate flag is interesting. William Porcher Miles, the chairman of the Flag and Seal committee of the Confederate States of America (CSA) government, designed this flag. The now-popular variant of the Confederate flag was rejected as the national flag of the Confederate government in 1861. Instead, the Army of Northern Virginia, under General Robert E. Lee, adopted it as a battle flag. In fact, there were four successive national flag designs that served as the official national flags of the Confederate States of America (the “Confederate States” or the “Confederacy”) during its existence from 1861 to 1865. None of these are what is currently known as the “Confederate flag.”

 

Despite never having historically represented the CSA as a country, it is commonly referred to as “the Confederate Flag” and has become a widely recognized symbol of the American south and American southern culture. It is also known as the rebel flag or the Dixie flag. The “rebel flag” has therefore become synonymous with plantation culture, the white supremacy movement, conservative neo-separatist political beliefs that romanticize the Civil War era, as a symbol – the culture of slavery within the United States, and the systemic, widespread racist treatment of African Americans throughout our history, including present-day racism. Supporters of the flag claim they are celebrating Southern pride and Southern heritage. Several Southern states have incorporated the rebel flag in their state flag design. A 2011 Pew Research Center poll revealed that 30% of Americans have a “negative reaction” when “they see the Confederate flag displayed.”  According to the same poll, 9% of Americans have a positive reaction.

 

Here is a photo of an original “Stars and Bars” Flag of the Confederate States of America, captured by Union Army soldiers in Columbia, South Carolina in 1861. This is the first of four official national flag designs adapted by the Confederate States of America.

Here is a photo of an original “Stars and Bars” Flag of the Confederate States of America, captured by Union Army soldiers in Columbia, South Carolina in 1861. This is the first of four official national flag designs adapted by the Confederate States of America.

As a result of these varying perceptions, there have been a number of political controversies surrounding the use of the Confederate battle flag at sporting events, at Southern universities, and on public buildings. Southern historian Gordon Rhea further wrote in 2011 that: “It is no accident that Confederate symbols have been the mainstay of white supremacist organizations, from the Ku Klux Klan to the skinheads. The KKK did not appropriate the Confederate battle flag simply because it was pretty. They picked it because it was the flag of a nation dedicated to their ideals: “that the negro is not equal to the white man.” Ideals, incidentally, quoted straight from The Cornerstone Speech, also known as the Cornerstone Address, was an oration delivered by Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens at the Athenaeum in SavannahGeorgia, on March 21, 1861. The Confederate flag, we are told, represents heritage, not hate.

 

Here is a photo of the current state flag for the state of Mississippi, which incorporates the rebel flag in the upper left corner.

Here is a photo of the current state flag for the state of Mississippi, which incorporates the rebel flag in the upper left corner.

Why should we celebrate a heritage grounded in hate, a heritage whose self-avowed reason for existence was the exploitation and debasement of a sizeable segment of its population? In fact, we at Zenith Art Gallery REFUSE to participate in this disgusting sham, and we don’t believe it is about ‘heritage…’ unless by ‘heritage’ you mean the systemic abuse of thousands of humans within the horrific lifestyle that is, and was, slavery. We say “is” because we acknowledge that slavery still exists, both abroad and, to a limited extent, here–because, although it is no longer government sanctioned, there are still cases reported each year of individuals found enslaved within the United States.

 

The American FlagMessages and symbolic meanings conveyed in flags are often determined by cultural context. One of our artists, Curtis Woody, speaks to his own life experience, as an African American, and through his own lens, manages to express the universal voice of the African America – throughout our history – in the work “Freedom Isn’t Free.” Curtis uses a format he refers to as “quilt” paintings (collage) to incorporate images and text, along side bold graphics and subtle textures, creating a piece that is one part historic record, and one part artistic expression. The delicate lace he has printed over the black profile on the bottom segment reminds us of a person sitting in a parlor behind lace curtains. On the other hand, it also evokes for us the thousands of Africans, and African Americans forced to live lives in a state of illiteracy, anonymity, and oppression. After all, the person in profile lacks any defining features – they are anonymous. Whether this is by choice is indeterminate. Are they a rich white civilian who wishes to remain behind the lace curtains, outside reproach, blissfully ‘ignorant’ of what privilege they enjoy, and at what price? We don’t know.

 

 

 

 

Why People Make Art and Perform Artistic Acts

Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s talk about why people make art and perform artistic acts. One of the reasons people make art is to express their thoughts and feelings about what is going on in their world today. And, these days, with our 24/7 news feed, with social media running on hyper-drive, with phones that are almost secondarily considered phones and often primarily considered cameras, social secretaries, soap boxes, and day planners…well, let’s just simplify it – there is no shortage of inspiration for artists.

 

Let’s take a moment to consider some of the more upsetting, frightening stories of the times: the Charlie Hebdo attack on cartoonists and the subsequent attack on innocent Parisians in a Jewish grocery store, the abduction and torture of innocent young girls in Nigeria, death and destruction throughout the Middle East courtesy of ISIS, the recent Russian and Ukrainian territorial conflict in the Crimean peninsula, young Black men shot seemingly simply because they are – young, male, and Black, living in the United States, and in the wrong place at the wrong time. Guns, bombs, terrorism, and fear mongering abound.

 

Artists see and hear these stories, and they respond. They mirror what is going on, they reflect it back for their comrades to “see.” Their work is a reflection, in this way, of their times. Often, the most powerful work carries on, and becomes available for future generations to discover. Artwork offers future generations insight into how our society felt about the world we were living in, and people, places, and things in that world. That’s the power of art – it endears beyond the moment, preserving the feelings, ideas, and mood of that moment – a time capsule comprised of poetry, paintings, photographs, buildings, fashion, sculptures, dance, theatre, music, and so forth.

 

 

PicassoWarHere are two powerful examples of these phenomena. First, a painting by Pablo Picasso (above) and a photograph of the very event his painting depicts (right):

 

Of course, many of you already are familiar with this painting. It’s Guernica. It’s one of the most important works of art ever created, certainly one of the most powerful depictions of the atrocity of war ever conceived. Guernica is a portrayal of the aerial destruction of a Basque town by fascists during the Spanish Civil War. It’s also a groundbreaking work in that it does not limit its depiction of the war to a photo-realistic depiction, but rather includes the psychological and metaphysical aftermath. Around the world, images copied from and inspired by it have appeared on placards, fliers, and t-shirts. After the U.S. bloodbath in Fallujah in 2004, Pepe Escobar of the Asia Times wrote that “Fallujah is the new Guernica,” and journalists Jonathan Steele and Dahr Jamail referred to the siege as “Our Guernica.” In a 1945 interview, Picasso expressed the below sentiment. Later, Boeck and Sabartes include this quote in their biography “Picasso,” which was published by Harry N. Abrams in 1955.

 

What do you think an artist is? An imbecile who has nothing but eyes if he is a painter, or ears if he is a musician, or a lyre at every level of his heart if he is a poet, or nothing but muscles if he is a boxer? Quite the contrary, he is at the same time a political being, constantly aware of what goes on in the world, whether it be harrowing, bitter, or sweet, and he cannot help being shaped by it. How would it be possible not to take an interest in other people, and to withdraw into an ivory tower from participation in their existence? No, painting is not interior decoration. It is an instrument of war for attack and defense against the enemy.

 

Now, let’s take a look at “The Ascent of Man” by one of our artists, Reuben Neugass. This piece features ink on wooden panels. The overall dimensions are 12” x 40.” The connection the artist makes between instruments of war and profits is blunt, powerful, and profound.

indexPerhaps most telling is the last panel, which depicts an absence of anything – an utter void – nothingness. Let’s hope we learn from our mistakes before we reach this phase in our ‘ascent.’

 

Joy and SorrowHere’s another piece, by another one of our artists, to consider. The artist is Carol Newmyer. The piece is titled “Joy and Sorrow.” It’s a cast bronze piece, depicting the universal struggle for humanity to rise above our baser natures and achieve a transcendent state of peace and nirvana. One figure is reaching out enthusiastically and joyfully, ready to leap into action and embracing the possibilities. Their back is arched, their arms are spread wide, they are lifting their head up, kicking their leg out – it’s as open as a human can physically be, a jubilant stance. Meanwhile, the other figure in this piece is sorrowfully closed off. It is as if the artist is saying that being open brings joy, while being closed brings only sorrow. This is worth contemplating, when we consider how we could prevent any future terrorist attacks – in Paris, in New York City, at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, in Jerusalem, or elsewhere. Let’s take Carol’s advice and be open to what our world has to offer, and present ourselves as joyfully aware, rather than closed off and turned inwards.

 

Welcome

Hello and welcome to our new blog!  We are so glad you have joined us! If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact  Ms. Ella Dorsey, who is going to be spearheading this new endeavor.  She can be reached at: ella@zenithgallery.com.  In this blog, we hope you’ll find a range of resources and ideas to inspire you, provoke you, and possibly even transform you! Please consider sending the link for our blog to all your family, friends, business associates, and neighbors.

We welcome free-flowing discourse between…

the young and the young-at-heart,

the creator and the patron,

the artist who is just embarking on their career

and the seasoned professional,

and finally, the informed and the curious!

 

It is our intention to offer the following categories of content:

Meet Our Artist  

Each month, this page will feature a new artist, and will include a quick biography or resume, an artist’s statement, and examples of their art.  There will be a comments section, which will give our readers an opportunity for to connect with the artist, asking questions to learn more about what you find compelling. In this area, we offer our readers the chance to learn more about the artist’s process, their background, their themes, their medium, and their inspirations.

Something to Consider – Editorial  

Each month, this page will feature an editorial, relating the artistic process and art history to current events. The editorial will provide you with a bridge between the world of art and the world as a whole – topics might include: economics and finance, war and terrorism, social and cultural expectations for women, poverty and charity, politics and propaganda, environmentalism and recycling, or others.  We’ll include a comments section here, and may even be inspired by reader comments to respond in the next essay to what you think!

Resources & Tips for Artists  

Each month, Zenith Gallery will provide different resources, in the hopes of building an extensive menu for our artists. These will be archived, for easy reference from month to month.

Examples of resources might be –

  • “How To Frame Your Work for An Art Gallery”
  • “How to Price Your Work for an Art Gallery”
  • “How to Write an Artist’s Statement for a Potential Client and an Art Gallery”
  • “Sources for Free or Inexpensive Art Supplies”
  • “How to Label and Describe Your Work”

Opportunities for Artists  

Zenith Gallery will provide different opportunities for our artists, as part of our commitment to building and sustaining a supportive community of artists.  These will be archived, for easy reference from month to month.

Examples of opportunities might be –

  • “Upcoming Grants and Artist-in-Residence Programs”
  • “Upcoming Juried Show & Exhibit Opportunities”

Happy Birthday

  •  365 different artists: 365 days of art
  • See who shares your birthday!
  • Learn about a new artist each day!

Art in the News

  • Links to Current Art-Focused News and Events such as:
  • Museum Openings
  • Auctions
  • Stories about Thefts or Forgeries
  • Movies about Art
  • Famous Artists Who Have Passed Away etc.

 

Just for Fun

Whimsical, Cute, Fun, Silly Stuff – Jokes About Art, etc.