Friday, November 29, 2013

Through the Eyes of a Dead Artist

It's funny that we often think of artists as geniuses who are somehow vindicated during their own lifetimes. In striking contrast, this is not always the case. Some artists never get to realize the impact that they have on history. They die frustrated, their unsold paintings haunting them as they fade into (what they believe to be) relative obscurity. It is only years later that art collectors and historians give their work significance, sparking interest in the paintings of a dead man. Probably one of the most famous examples of this is Vincent Van Gogh, who was a virtual failure in life. In this touching clip from the British show Doctor Who, Vincent is allowed the chance to hear a docent speak about the lasting impact that "Vincent Van Gogh" has had on painting.

Here's the link to the youtube video: Doctor Who Van Gogh Scene

"They wouldn't know good art if it hit them in the face."

Earlier in the blog, I talked about Banksy's modifications to a humble thrift shop painting, and how that had an effect on its value. Needless to say, with a personality like Banksy's there were bound to be more incidents during the time he spent in New York City. This time, he set-up shop outside Central Park and tried to sell some of his paintings. In the end, the artist who normally auctions off his work for millions only managed to sell a eight pieces for about $420 (generally at
$60 per painting). Banksy explicitly stated that this was simply a one-time stunt, yet the number of Banksy counterfeits sold has gone up dramatically since then. What does this say about how we view art? Do we really only care about the brand behind the piece and not the actual work itself?

Banksy's Central Park Stand

Here's the link to the actual story:

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Shadow Figures

I thought this was really cool how they made shadow figures pretty much out of trash. So I wanted to share it with you all and see what you guys thought about it. Do you all think it is art?

What is Art?

After hearing multiple theories of what we can consider art. I still ask myself where the qualification begins and when do we exclude certain aspects. I found a video which you will find at the top of this page. This man, in an attempt to explain art, seems to take views from Coomeraswamy, Scharfstein and others and create a view of art I like to relate to. Let me know what you think.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Looking for Art in all the Wrong Places

     One thing that has continued to puzzle me about art is the question of how much does a work's history and social setting influence how we view the work.  What I mean is, will a masterpiece still be considered a masterpiece if it is taken out of the museum and shown to an audience who has no knowledge of the piece or the artistic tradition from which it comes.  This is important to me because I wonder if some artists have become famous not because of their own merits, but because a lot of under-educated art collectors have championed them.
     There is an interesting way to test the effects of showing art to an unknowing audience.  In the following video a New York contemporary artist, I am not familiar with his work but apparently he has quite the following, attempts to sell some of his art on the street.  These paintings that, in the right circles, would fetch a handsome sum, here bring in just a few hundred dollars.

     The interesting thing is that after the video was released, a "fake Banksy" sold fakes in the same spot and completely sold out.  In this case the celebrity of the stunt made fake paintings very valuable.

     I think we can clearly see that the works' fame is definitely what is driving the sale.  This sort of experiment was conducted a few years back in Washington DC where a world famous violinist went into the subway to play some of Bach's most difficult pieces on a antique violin worth several million dollars.  He did not even make the kind of money from tips that a normal busker would.  Take a look for you self and tell me what you think.  Is all fine art the construct of a pretentious "in-crowd?"  (For the record I love the arts, and Bach.)


Art is just a way of expression, right? Anyone who is creatively insightful is considered an artist. I think that poets and writers are all artists in their own way. Because they express their feelings in a creative fashion, while viewing world in different lights. Poets have made the way we feel universal, becasue seeing the written word is sometimes easier than attempting to interpret a painting. Sometimes "letting the art speak for itself" is impossible, and poetry makes it easier. It stands out on its own, and tells the aidience what it is meant to say. The only interpreting that needs to be done is understanding what the writing means to the audince.

In a lot of countries writing is a sacred art. If you can write beautifully and with expression then you are considered a genius. Yet, here in the U.S. writers are unsupported quite often. They are not given the proper attention becasue writing is not condidered a fine art.

Thoughts... opinions?

Destructive Art

I think that art that happens by accident is some of the best kind. It comes off as a suprise when you arn't sure what the end result will be. Take paint darts for example. The best part of the project is the excitement you get when the dart hits the balloon and paint explodes everywhere.

Another example could be when artists smash things into tiny pieces, or throw things and make them shatter. Destructive art could be used in many ways, but is it purposeful? What would critics say about art like this?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Art and Religion

Some cultures across the world do not involve humans or other living things in their religious paintings. One culture in particular is Islam. The purpose of this is to portray the meaning of the painting, and what it speaks about, rather than the physical form of it. The religious Islamic art portray geometrical designs as visions of certain things, instead.

I found this interesting because when it is compared to Catholic art, the human form is extremely prominent, because beauty is seen in humans. A lot of Catholic art portrays women surrounded by angels, or men on high pedestals, as a symbol of the standpoint of human nature.

This also says a lot about the parts of the society in general. American culture objectifies humans as greater parts of the world because of the "closeness to God," while Indian cultures sees themselves as lesser humans compared to animals and Holy objects (maybe statues for example.)

Natural vs. Artificial Beauty

  Cultures have changed drastically over thousands of years, and so has the expectations of beauty. Let's take the example of the picture below. In the 1800's women who were curvier, and wore more conservative clothing were admired and treasured. They wore very little makeup, considering it was a rarity and available exclusively to people who could afford it.

Now that society has evolved, so has our vision of what women should look like. The wealthier parts of America have become superficial, and have gained the expectation that women should be flawless. Women who are skinny, and small are ideal in some areas of the world. Nowadays, magazines for high end fashion objectify women to sell clothes to certain people. The idea is if the women associated with the product is beautiful, then whoever buys the product will be beautiful too.
The debate is the line that is being drawn between natural and artificial beauty. Are photo shopped women better because of the commercial purpose, or not? The problem is the standard this sets for young women seeking self esteem. When the ideal is what is on the cover of a magazine, then what impact does that halve on young girls? Then when society demands that natural beauty is better, it hurts the advertising market. Where can the line be drawn?  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Michael Phelps vs. Michelangelo

“World records for runners and painters are set in equally unequivocal media, for the runners in clock times, and for the artists in denomination if U.S. dollars and other currencies.” 377

As a runner and an artist I found this quote very interesting. The fame of a runner or athlete is not much different to the fame of an artist. Scharfstein talks about how the prices of particular pieces fluctuate as well as the times on the clock for the runners. However, in that particular time of an auction, the price is set. As well as if a runner runs a particular race, the time on that clock is final and cannot be changed.

I would have never thought about comparing a famous athlete with a famous artist. When we look at Michael Phelps versus Michelangelo we may see more things in common than we think. Both had to establish their work ethics and practice and perfect what goals they intended to accomplish. They had to establish themselves as well, they had to make a name for themselves and prove to others that they are worthy of the fame. For example, Michael Phelps and Michelangelo didn’t come out of nowhere and become famous painters or world record-breaking swimmers. Michael Phelps had to work hard and prove himself to his coaches and countless Olympic trials to get all those medals. Michelangelo had to work with other artists and learn how to become someone who could be a working artist. He had to do many apprenticeships and many projects before accomplishing his most famous commissioned works. Both of these extraordinary people had to work for their fame. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What's in a Price?

Hey fellow philosophy students! The British graffiti artist Banksy recently had a month-long (unofficial) residency in New York that attracted the attention of a lot of major media outlets. One such story that came out of the coverage (and believe me, there were a lot of news-worthy headlines from the duration of Banksy's trip to NYC) talked about a $50 thrift shop painting that Banksy modified. After Banksy had touched the art, it's value skyrocketed to somewhere around $310,000. We recently talked in class how just a piece of art's association with an artist that collector's deem worthy can increase it's inherent value. Granted, the funds from the painting are being donated to charity, but does the art really deserve that price tag? Is the name behind a piece more important than the actual art? I'm interested to hear everyone's thoughts, so feel free to respond below.

Here's the link to the article,

"The Banality of the Banality of Evil" (Banksy 2013)

The "graffitied" piece in its natural habitat

Pop Culture

   Society has changed drastically in the last few years, so has our culture. Pop art has become the new trend, and has changed our expectations of art completely. Music, specifically, has become a huge part of that expectation. One of my inspirations (no matter how many people laugh at me) is Lady Gaga. Her music has always had some underlying message that many people don't bother to notice. She is creatively disturbed in a sense, which I would assume Scharfstein would refer to her as a "genius" because she holds a certain view of things. She proves these views through her actions and art.

   Some people would protest this by claiming she auto tunes her voice, and doesn't actually sing. I would like to raise the question, that if VCDC can tune the keyboard and give it different sounds, isn't that relatively the same as changing someone's voice? In both cases you are tuning it to give it different sounds and evoke different emotions. So why is pop culture so roughly criticized, since it is being done in other parts of the world and looked at as beautiful?


     Supposedly, copying art ruins the aesthetic value. The more times it is duplicated, the more it ruins its authenticity. Right? Well take the example of movies that have been made based off of books. They recreate the entire book, using actors that resemble the characters almost exactly. Then they recreate the scenes and the plot, etc. to the point of complete copying (the good ones anyway).
     Now take the example of video games or plastic toys based off of comic books, or movies. Again, they recreate the characters, the scenes, or at least the concept. So if directors and producers can recreate things and make different versions of it, and it can be socially acceptable (sometimes), then what is the difference when other artists recreate paintings. Most of the time they do it to preserve something, or to interpret it differently. Same goes for when movies or video games are copied off of something else. The do it to preserve something or to recreate it. Like how the classic black and white movies are re-made into modern times. . .

Hunger Games Reviews

     With the new Hunger Games movie Catching Fire coming out this week, I thought it would be interesting to see what the official movie critics had to say about it. See, when I think of art, I picture a painting; I tend to be very narrow minded like that. But what I've come to realize is that art is in everything, even movies. Now, I am a big Hunger Games fan, so to think that movies nowadays are considered "art", is pretty exciting.
     New York Daily News says, "The good news is it comes very close, and does it without sacrificing its soul. Despite its sense of been-here-slayed-that, director Francis Lawrence expertly delivers thrills, ideas and spectacle." As of now, there haven't been many negative reviews reported on Metacritic, but then again the movie is not open to the public right now. My point is that it hasn't even been released to the whole world yet, so how can we base our judgments off of a few paid movie critics. I would like to place emphasis on the word "paid." Are these opinions biased? Who's to say they aren't? So then how can we base opinions off of someone else when we don't know them personally. I have a hard time with sites like this, because of the fact that I don't know if  I can trust these people. What makes them a reliable critic when they may have been obligated to say good or bad things?
     This is especially key when it comes to deciding to see a movie. I personally don't like to follow what critics say, because I like to form my own opinions first. I believe that everyone is entitled to that privilege, with the exception that they don't shove it down other people's throats. I have noticed that when serious critics get heated, this becomes an issue. Many people get so passionate about their points that innocent listeners or readers can often be scared into believing the review is accurate. So in a way, we have to use the review as a form of advice, not just a complete opinion.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Who is fit to criticize?

Critics are everywhere.

Every aspect of art is immersed in criticism. People make a living off of criticizing works of art.

Isn't criticism merely ones opinion? Why is it that some people get paid for their opinion while others do not?

In every criticism, no one critic can be purely objective.
The human element is always present in a critique, which always leaves a criticism open for bias.

The main thing about criticism to me is, why is one person worthy of telling others what is good or not?

I will say that critics, at least professional ones, seem to have more experience and knowledge of all of the works they've critiqued over time. This knowledge, expertise, and art wisdom cannot be ignored, but the overall criticism is still based off of one persons opinion formed by initial reactions, contemplations and even past experiences.

That being said, criticism will be different for every person because these factors will always be different. I personally believe critique should stay at a personal level. If a piece is beautiful to you, or has some sort of meaning, then let it be beautiful and meaningful. Don't attempt to force your views on other people and get angry when they can't see what you see. Even more so, don't let the opinion of "professional" critics change what a piece means to you.

The only critic in my life is myself, if i enjoy something, that's for me and no one else can change it.

Agree? Disagree? let me know :)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Video Games are Art

I’ve never really been interested in video games until recently. I use to think that they were a waste of time and didn’t do anyone any good. Lately though, I’ve been obsessed with playing the video game Halo along with other games and I’ve wondered whether people thought they were art or not. The idea that some people consider it art is relatable to myself. I personally believe that all video games are, in some way or another, art. However, there have been debates on whether or not people should consider video games a work of art. They might argue that games shouldn’t be art if, in the same sense, magazines and other similar objects have alike qualities such as visual elements and because they have such elements does not make it art. I would argue that the characters, the story, and everything else that people had to put thought into is considered art. Someone is expressing their ideas in the same way that an artist would; only difference is that the person expresses it through a video game instead of on paper. Just because someone else doesn’t like it, doesn’t mean that it’s not art.  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

What does it take to be a Genius?

Geniuses have been around for an extremely long time now, however, it is difficult to say what exactly classifies someone as being a genius. For example, many directors and authors nowadays are writing/directing things that have already happened in the past; only problem with that is that it’s not original. In my opinion, I think something has to be original in order for that creator to be considered a genius. This word is basically used as a guide for life. As Coomaraswamy put it, it’s a “guiding spirit.” Some will thrive to be one because it’s the best that a person can be even if everyone doesn’t reach that level. In others words, we all have the aspect of becoming a genius, but only the ones who have experienced intellectual people before or have been in front of their work of art can become one. Therefore it could be possible that writers and directors these days have genius, but they aren’t geniuses.

Andy Warhol's Wigs

I found this a while back and thought it was an interesting piece.  It certainly allows us to look past Warhol's carefully created image.

Philosophy or Art?

"One of two things is usually lacking in what we call philosophy of art: either the philosophy or the art"

  Friedrich von Schlegel (1772-1829)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


There came a time in the play RED where the artist Mark Rothko and his assistant, Ken, get into a (heated) discussion over what the color red means to each of them.  I thought I would do a similar stream of consciousness post.

red lipstick
red roses
red blood
red apples
RED by Taylor Swift
Red for AIDS
red pen - marks on a page
red hair
red cheeks from the cold
red ball
red light - brake lights
red tape
red paint
red fire
red fire extinguisher
red fire hydrant
red truck
red ambulance
Red Hands - caught red-handed
Red October
red faced
Red Room
The End - "and I'll I saw was red."
What does red make you think of?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

JR and the universal aesthetic

"The human face and figure have been of widespread importance in visual art- notwithstanding the Islamic tradition against representing humans, which has often been defied by Muslims, whether artists or those who commission them."

One of the most famous contemporary street artists is a man who calls himself JR.  He is a parisian artist who went from finding an abandoned camera in a Parisian subway to pasting portraits of people all over the world.  I was aware of his projects and thought his concepts extremely intriguing, however I was unfamiliar with the scope and the specifics of his work.  He currently has a show at the Contemporary Art Center downtown, and I encourage anyone to go, but through his work with people and the reactionary aspect of his work, JR utilizes the principle above to draw people together across cultures, time, and space through art.

A project that has relevance to his goal is a project that was called Face2Face.  In this project, JR sought to speak out against the violence and hatred between Palestinians and Israeli people.  In this project JR took portraits of Palestinians and pasted them next to pictures of Israeli's with the same professions, and then he challenged people to try and distinguish which ones were Palestinians and which were Israeli.  What gave this project even more power was that it was illegally pasted on a security wall in Israel and JR put up dozens of portraits without getting caught.

I found this show to speak very specifically on the universal aesthetic and how and what comprises of modern art today.  The link below directs you to JR's sight, and I encourage you to check him out.

From The Guardian

Modernist art haul, 'looted by Nazis', recovered by German police

Hitler Shows Off
German art – purged of modernism, impressionism and cubism – is shown off by Adolf Hitler and propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels (far left) in Berlin in 1939. Photograph: Bettmann/Corbis
About 1,500 modernist masterpieces – thought to have been looted by the Nazis – have been confiscated from the flat of an 80-year-old man from Munich, in what is being described as the biggest artistic find of the postwar era.
The artworks, which could be worth as much as €1bn (£860m), are said to include pieces by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, Paul Klee, Max Beckmann and Emil Nolde. They had been considered lost until now, according to a report in the German news weekly Focus.
The works, which would originally have been confiscated as "degenerate art" by the Nazis or taken from Jewish collectors in the 1930s and 1940s, had made their way into the hands of a German art collector, Hildebrand Gurlitt. When Gurlitt died, the artworks were passed down to his son, Cornelius – all without the knowledge of the authorities.
Gurlitt, who had not previously been on the radar of the police, attracted the attention of the customs authorities only after a random cash check during a train journey from Switzerland to Munich in 2010, according to Focus. Further police investigations led to a raid on Gurlitt's flat in Schwabing in spring 2011. Police discovered a vast collection of masterpieces by some of the world's greatest artists.
The artworks are thought to have been stored amid juice cartons and tins of food on homemade shelves in a darkened room. Since their seizure, they have been stored in a safe customs building outside Munich, where the art historian Meike Hoffmann, from Berlin university, has been assessing their precise origin and value. When contacted by the Guardian, Hoffmann said she was under an obligation to maintain secrecy and would not be able to comment on the Focus report until Monday.
According to Focus, Cornelius Gurlitt, described as a loner, may have kept himself in pocket over the years by occasionally selling the odd artwork. Several of the frames in the flat were empty. He is thought to have sold at least one picture – a painting called Lion Tamer by Beckmann – since his flat was first raided by the police. On 2 December 2011, the painting was sold for €864,000 at an auction house in Cologne.
At least 300 paintings in the collection are thought to belong to a body of about 16,000 works once declared "degenerate art". Others are suspected to have been owned by fleeing Jewish collectors who had to leave belongings behind.
One Matisse painting used to belong to a French art dealer, Paul Rosenberg, whose granddaughter is Anne Sinclair, the TV journalist who is also the ex-wife of the former managing director of the International Monetary Fund Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Rosenberg was renowned for representing Picasso, Georges Braque and Matisse.
Sinclair and her family have been campaigning for the return of looted Nazi treasures for years. "We are not willing to forget, or let it go," Marianne Rosenberg, another granddaughter, told the New York Times in April. "I think of it as a crusade."
Gwendolen Webster, an art historian who has spent time studying works from the Nazis' "degenerate art" collection, told the Guardian the significance of the find was "absolutely staggering for historians" but opened a legal can of worms.
One of the reasons why German customs may have been sitting on their find for such a long time is that they can expect a huge number of claims for restitution from around the world, with all the diplomatic difficulties that entails.
Descendants of Jewish collectors who were blackmailed or simply robbed of their works by the Nazis may now be able to legally claim ownership of some of the works in Munich.
The looted art trove may help to shed light on one of the more obscure chapters in Nazi Germany's history. Modernist art was banned soon after the Nazis came to power, on the ground that it was "un-German" or Jewish Bolshevist in nature.
From spring 1933 right up to the start of the war, exhibitions of the art toured the country, showcasing works that are now considered classics of expressionism, surrealism, cubism and Dada. Records of which artworks the authorities had looted from where are incomplete. "It was complete anarchy," says Webster.
Hildebrand Gurlitt, who had been a museum director in Zwickau until Hitler came to power, lost his post because he was half Jewish, but was later commissioned by the Nazis to sell works abroad. The discovered loot may show that Gurlitt in fact collected many of the artworks himself and managed to keep them throughout the war.
After the war, allied troops designated Gurlitt a victim of Nazi crimes. He reportedly said he had helped many Jewish Germans to fund their flight into exile, and that his entire art collection had been destroyed in the bombing of Dresden.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Link between Insanity and Creation

Do you have to be insane in order to create beautiful works of art? Scharfstein as well as others make a good case for this. Many great artists share many of the same traits. They were either insane, mentally ill, or living a degrading lifestyle. The question is, are these conditions the recipe for masterpiece, or is it just the lifestyle of a great artist that puts them through so much pain and mental instability. Plato believed that artists were bestowed with a divine madness, while Aristotle links creation and depression as critical parts of one another. Is it possibly a genetic trait? Studies done at Yale University suggest that creativity and psychosis are genetically linked. Geniuses, the study suggest, are a combination of both genetic traits where individuals are at a predisposition for high IQ and low LI, which is the ability to filter unnecessary stimuli. This brings up another interesting aspect.

What truly is the cause of genius?

  • Divinity
  • Human Talent
  • Insanity
  • Biological Predisposition
What do you guys think? Which one, or combination of theories is the source of genius?

Is art dead?

Scharfstein places an argument in his book about the originality of art. Because of western art and its influence on most other countries, art has undergone a change where everything seems related and not original. He quotes "everything that could be done with a brush has already been done" How is it that we overcome monotony? Are we starting to witness the end of art altogether?

Let me know what you believe! :)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

VCDC Album Review from All About Jazz

VCDC: Insult (2013)

By  Published: November 6, 2013
VCDC: InsultThe sophomore release of the Norwegian-American free improvisation quartet VCDC (following the self-titled album, Hispid, 2011) features the quartet as a highly inventive and playful unit. Clarinetist Frode Gjerstad, one of the forefathers of the Norwegian free jazz and free improvisation scene; cellistFred Lonberg-Holm, who in the last years collaborate regularly with Scandinavian musicians as Gjerstad on other projects or the Swedish-American quintet Seval; drummer Ståle Liavik Solberg and vocal artist Stine Janvin Motland, who work together as the duo MotSol—recorded two extended improvisations at the Galleri Sult in Stavanger, Gjerstad's hometown. 

Both improvisations are anarchistic and eccentric in its spirit. The only rules oblige careful listening to the other musicians uncompromising attempt to expand the sonic envelope with inventive nuances and unconventional usage of the instruments, and maintaining an arresting level of intensity. The parts where Motland sets the tone challenge the other players to accommodate with her imaginative vocalizations, full of humor, drama and emotion with a stunning range of voices. She has a unique approach of using her voice as an instrument, different from other fellow Norwegian vocal artists as Sidsel Endresen or Eldbjorg Raknes, at times closer to Maja S.K. Ratkje noisy, experimental employing of the voice as raw sound. Gjerstad uses extended breath techniques to answer her and to push further the sonic palette, while Lonberg-Holm and Solberg enrich the thick sonic stew with surprising colors, strange, subtle sounds and changing pulse. 

The two improvisations progress patiently. The second one in particular, "Sultan For Seitan," is more theatrical and uplifting. Motland begins with chirping and later ecstatic vocal utterances, Gjerstad joins with brief, poetic blows on the clarinet and unhurriedly the quartet even manages to articulate a fragile rhythmic outline through this chaotic interplay. This improvisation unfolds slowly as a detailed dadaist story, told as by four creative storytellers. 

Masterful and arresting.

Track Listing: Glutton For Insults; Sultan For Seitan.
Personnel: Fred Lonberg-Holm: cello, electronics; Frode Gjerstad: clarinet; Ståle Liavik Solberg: drums, percussion; Stine Janvin Motland: voice..
Record Label: FMR Records