Art is Motion - Prometheus Chained

Nicolas Sebastien Adam, Prometheus Chained, 1762
Boy howdy, wouldn't it suck to be this guy? Poor Prometheus here helped out humanity by givin' them fire, and Zeus turned around and chained him to a rock. That's a restraint against motion, dooming the dude to a sedentary life on a rock. We as human beings value freedom of movement so much that it defines the way we interact and live on just about every level.

Through body language, automobiles, dance, and travel we express our individuality with movement, geographically and otherwise. Even our penal system relies on the restriction of movement and related privileges by locking inmates in shared cells. Granted, we have to keep them somewhere, but  it certainly plays into the equation. Either way, the prisoners are damn lucky that they don't have the added unpleasantness of having their liver eaten by a giant bird day after day. Such is the cherry atop Prometheus' just desserts.

 Looking at this sculpture you can almost feel Prometheus' anguish as the giant eagle chows down on his liver, leading the titan to tug and pull at the chains that bind him, wearing the skin at his wrists raw and bloody while the wind blasts in his face and scatters the sheets behind his body. The violent movement of the wind to the right of the sculpture along with the pointed beak of the bird and Prometheus' right elbow all join together to force you off the cliff side, tumbling down, and down into the chasm below. It's all rather melodramatic, but that's how the gods play their game, and what gorgeous statuary it makes.

  • 12:00 AM

Art is Motion - Stag at Sharkey's

George Bellows, Stag at Sharkey's, 1909
We're at the halfway point now in our exploration of the motion of art. At this time I'd like to say that I struggled with the exact subject of this collection for a good long while. The idea came to me as I poured over the text book, preparing for a dreaded test that never reared its ugly head. As I studied up on my 20th century art, I spotted Bird in Space, and immediately began to plan out an elaborate series on Weightlessness. While that may have been a fun experiment, I felt increasingly limited by the specificity. Motion allows for so much more wiggle room.

Just for the sake of demonstration, let's bring gender into the discussion. What defines movements as inherently masculine or feminine? As cool as George Bellow's Stag at Sharkey's may be, it also happens to serve as a prime example of the distinction in society and art made between the two sexes. Up in the ring, two muscular ferocious men duke it out for glory as anxious gamblers and sports enthusiasts look on,  savoring every blow traded between the two men. The painting practically swings on it's mounting with the final collision between the unstoppable force, and the immovable object, their muscles tightened, their veins popping. It is no surprise that a painting depicting boxing in 1909 lacks a single woman in the mix. However, if the crowd and ring were peeled away, the gloves taken, and features removed from the remaining figures, the genderless forms would still appear to most to carry an air of masculinity.

The problem stems from an association with certain motions and poses with gender. Warrior paintings such as Antonio Canova's Theseus Fighting the Centaur and Stag at Sharkey's depict strong male characters lashing out violently, the beauty of the pieces lying in their brutality. If someone walked up to me and said, "Name the two baddest dudes you know from Art History," I'd immediately jump to those works, but just about anyone could come up with some heroic male figure. But replace "dudes" with "dudettes" and suddenly you've reached an impasse.

 You see, we associate females and art with Mona Lisa and The Birth of Venus, pretty faces that occasionally serve as centerpieces to the action about them. For this reason I hail the subverting force of works such as Munch's Death of Marat and Gentileschi's Judith and Holofernes, which place the power in the hands of the women, and challenge gender norms, as did the women they depict.

  • 12:00 AM

Art is Motion - Winged Victory of Samothrace

Winged Victory of Samothrace, 220 - 190 B.C.
What better way to segue out of a tragedy at sea, than with a statue commemorating a victory of the very same sort. But first, let's talk about intentions. Stay with me here: Let's say that Giacometti and Monet are each asked to paint the same woman. Both of these fine men have a penchant for creating motion in even the most stationary subjects, but the resulting images would likely have two entirely different  emotions behind them.

Monet's piece would likely inspire thoughts of summer afternoons and wind winding through the trees, while Giacometti's painting would leave viewers unsettled. It is not Giacometti's subject matter, but his violent and obsessive technique, that gives his sculptures and paintings such a haunting mystique. In the same way that a dog does not act as a static symbol for fidelity, motion  exists as an evolving motif of art, able to be explored through countless mediums and subjects and limited only by those who wield its awesome power.

Speaking of awesome power, I suppose you want to hear a bit about this statue commemorating that ancient Naval battle that I mentioned. As you may have noticed, this puppy dates way back to the GrecoRoman times, when the arts first began to blossom and togas weren't just for parties. Winged Victory of Samothrace stands proudly at the Louvre to this day, where art fans world wide can come and admire the beautiful handiwork of the ancient sculptors who will, sadly, never get the praise they deserve.

Every inch of the regal statue buzzes with energy, from the fabric that flows wispily in the salty breeze of the ancient Cretan Sea to the stock still legs and wings, poised and ready to launch the statue triumphantly into the air. The attention to detail in the piece remains absolutely astonishing, even by today's standards. Even in the clinging of the cloth to the figures stomach there is a clear movement, namely the stretching of the fabric as the victorious Nike twists and turns in a motion of pure ecstasy.  Not until Bernini would a sculptor again summon such a light and airy effect from the cold clutches of stone.

  • 12:00 AM

Art is Motion - Ship on Fire

J. M. William Turner, Fire Aboard a Ship, 1835
As we proceed to the next piece you may find yourself wondering "What's up with this kid's theme? Art is Motion? Does he mean Art in Motion? No, I don't. Art moves, lives, and breathes. If it's good art anyway. I can't say much for the stick figure renditions of class field-trips that may adorn some of your refrigerators. But I could be wrong about those, as well.

Even if the subject in a work appears motionless, there is movement hidden beneath the image, harkening back to the work's conception. The true artist breathes life and motion into the canvas with every brush stroke, whether the strokes be violent or gentle, rough or smooth, clashing or flowing. My objective here is to capture that concept through pieces that express motion through their subject - though remember, we just decided that that's not a requirement - and capture the beauty of movement in oil, bronze, and stone.

Now, I have to be honest here: This one isn't nearly as fun as the last. Those of you not fond of the macabre might as well scout ahead of the group, take a look at some of the other pieces chosen by my compatriots here on the blog. You won't regret it, they're top notch writers. For those of you still here, welcome to the twisted world of William Turner. Shipwrecks and ocean storms appear throughout Turner's work, so Fire Aboard a Ship doesn't particularly stand out among the crowd through its subject. Instead its merit lies within the chaotic, yet calculated movement of brushwork and color within the piece. I'd like to invite you to spend a minute or two with the painting before joining me again in the next paragraph.

Horrific, huh? Those purples, browns, and blacks, contorting, congealing, and cavorting about the flaming ship draw the viewer into the center of the painting where the helpless castaways struggle to stay aboard the vessel. But look closely. The movement of the waves and the ocean has taken away the form of the ship, leaving only a sea swell, vaguely resembling a craft which the people clammer to board, even as they become one with the unforgiving ocean. Through violent and methodic strokes, Turner transforms the sea into a living breathing amalgamation of merciless waves, dragging the ship and her children into the cold depths of the deep blue.

  • 12:00 AM

Art is Motion - Bird in Space

Constantin Brâncuşi, Bird in Space, 1923
Dear reader - assuming that anyone actually reads my posts - please join me on a little adventure that I like to call: Art is Motion. Now you may be thinking, "I don't know about this, Bill. It sounds like one of them public broadcasting shows where they paint the happy little trees." Fear not anonymous reader and Bill, for there will be no such tom foolery in the highbrow - questionable - art analysis to follow. So, without further adieu: Art is Motion #1 - Bird in Space by  Constantin Brâncuşi.

Just look at that sculpture. Beautiful. Empowering. Exciting. I chose this as my first piece for the show for one simple reason: I look at it and my heart starts racing. Sweat begins to bead on my forehead. I feel invigorated. I feel like I can take off into the sky.

Every chance that I get to spend time with the work - and even as I am writing this - I witness the same series of events: The Bird stands there, silent, refined, flawless. Then it moves, stretching out toward the sky. Then it  flies, up and away from the wooden base, out of the sterile backdrop, into the blue sky above. Then it floats endlessly, soaring through the stratosphere at thousands and thousands of miles per hour, but appearing motionless all the same, no backdrop to give the viewer reference.

But that's just me. To some I'm sure it's just some phallic statue that would tie together a modern art-deco living room quite nicely if placed gently upon the end table of a favorite love seat. But time and time again, love seats prove a tad less interesting than their name suggests, while space travel retains the title of "Pretty Much the Coolest Thing Ever."

  • 12:00 AM

Water Graves - Raft of Medusa

Water Graves 
Reflections on the Illusions of Drowning in Art
Curated by Taylor Schwartz

Théodore Géricault, The Raft of Medusa, 1818-1819
Gericault’s figures in The Raft of Medusa are drowning. Not in their subconscious or any other metaphorical substance as discussed in prior analyses, but physically drowning. I have examined many illusions of this type of death in my previous posts, but none have dealt with the tremulous fear of an actual drowning. Confronted with cannibalism, rotting flesh, and fading hope on a life-sized canvas, the viewer himself feels as if he is struggling to stay alive on the condemned Méduse. This canvas is not an illustration of a piece of literature, a mythological interpretation, or a projection of the creator’s fantastical mind. Gericault, after months of intense research, recreated the historic wreck of the frigate Méduse. All of a sudden, the viewer is forced to grasp that Gericault’s shipwreck hanging on a red wall in the Louvre, a monstrous amalgamation of rotting flesh and salty water, happened. Drowning, and in a more general sense, death, becomes instantly palpable, as the eye moves across dismembered limbs and green bodies up to a wind blown piece of fabric floating in a dark and shadowed sky.

I have seen many disturbing paintings as an Art History student, but for me, Gericault’s Raft of Medusa is perhaps the most unsettling. I assume my fear of it comes from my own diluted aquaphobia. Who else would focus an entire collection around drowning? This collection has allowed me to investigate the cruel, yet at times forgiving, nature of the sea, and how artists and fictitious characters entrap themselves in illusions of drowning. The ocean can be a marvelous place, but with beauty always comes sadness.

The arms of the ocean, so sweet and so cold. All this devotion I never knew at all. And the crashes are heaven, for a sinner released, let the arms of the ocean deliver me.

Never Let Me Go, Florence and the Machine
  • 12:00 AM

Water Graves - What the Water Gave Me

Water Graves 
Reflections on the Illusions of Drowning in Art
Curated by Taylor Schwartz

Frida Kahlo, What the Water Gave Me, 1938
"I am what the water gave me, a smoke-ring in a jar, the braided rope, my ladder-to-the-light, my shivering bird heartcaught." Pascale Petit, What the Water Gave Me: Poems After Frida Kahlo 

Frida Kahlo’s What the Water Gave Me renders simple child’s play in a bathtub into a grotesque scene with Bosch-esque miniature characters. Kahlo replaces toy boats and rubber ducks with skewered birds and nude women. The water supports floating memories of life and death, of love and loss, unable to stay permanently under the water. Images representing various periods of Kahlo’s past breech the surface and trap Kahlo in the tub. Every object appears solid and heavy, yet they all stay afloat—a volcano, a skyscraper, various flora and fauna. A miniature figure of Kahlo bobs in the middle of the tub, strangled by a tightrope connected to the other objects in the composition. Kahlo has become entrapped in the web of her subconscious, drowning under the weight of her own memories. This concept becomes more complex when we bring the Kahlo submerged in the bathtub back into the picture. These miniature bathtub scenes are projections of Kahlo’s mind. In this context, the image of Kahlo being strangled by her past becomes even more disturbing, as she is the one imagining this. This painting is ultimately an exorcism for the artist, a hope to escape from a haunting past by confining it to the canvas. Unlike Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, the undesirable experiences and memories once forced under the water have resurfaced, and the subject must encounter them again.

  • 12:00 AM

Water Graves - Landscape with the Fall of Icarus

Water Graves 
Reflections on the Illusions of Drowning in Art
Curated by Taylor Schwartz

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus,  1558
“Proud of his success, the foolish Icarus forsook his guide, rising upon his wings to touch the skies; but as he neared the scorching sun, its heat softened the fragrant wax that held his plumes; and heat increasing melted the soft wax—he waved his naked arms instead of wings, with no more feathers to sustain his flight. And as he called upon his father's name his voice was smothered in the dark blue sea, now called Icarian from the dead boy's name.” Metamorphoses, Ovid
In another of Ovid’s myths, Icarus, son of the craftsman Daedalus, is given a pair of wings made out of feathers, wax, and leather, given to him by his father as a method of escape from the island Crete. Ignoring the warning from his father, Icarus flew too close to the sun, eventually melting the wax and leading him to his death.

In Bruegel’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, the farmer and plough seen in the foreground dominate the composition, a strange but effective choice on Bruegel’s part. The yellow-tinted light highlights the banks of the bay, drawing the eye away from the title character. It is only after the eye moves toward the right of the composition that the viewer sees Icarus. Well, part of Icarus. His flailing legs are the last to plummet into the cold green sea. Icarus will inevitably drown, a consequence brought about by his ignorance. But in a way, Icarus, in this depiction, has already drowned. He has drowned in the landscape of this chaotic composition, his existence forgotten. Such is the nature of the cruel sea.

His suffering will forever be ignored as the peasants of the foreground continue to wade through long days and short nights. In his poem, “Musee des Beaux-Arts,” W. H. Auden writes “In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away/Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,/But for him it was not an important failure” (14-17). It is a tendency for man to bury things he cannot withstand or cannot worry himself with. He buries them in work, play, and love. We all have memories, regrets, and losses condemned to the benthos of our subconscious. We just pray that they don’t resurface.

  • 12:00 AM

Water Graves - Eurydice

Water Graves 
Reflections on the Illusions of Drowning in Art
Curated by Taylor Schwartz

Eurydice, Valerie Morignat, 2009
“So Orpheus then received his wife; and Pluto told him he might now ascend from these Avernian vales up to the light, with his Eurydice; but, if he turned his eyes to look at her, the gift of her delivery would be lost. They picked their way in silence up a steep and gloomy path of darkness. There remained but little more to climb till they would touch earth's surface, when in fear he might again lose her, and anxious for another look at her, he turned his eyes so he could gaze upon her. Instantly she slipped away. He stretched out to her his despairing arms, eager to rescue her, or feel her form, but could hold nothing save the yielding air.” Metamorphoses, Ovid
Perhaps the most tragic of Ovid’s myth, the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice encapsulates the strength, devotion, and misfortune of young love. Determined to resurrect Eurydice from Hades, Orpheus played his most cathartic music to gain access to the underworld. Even the bloodless ghosts themselves wept. He was allowed to take his wife from the underworld under one condition—he could not turn around to look at her. Inevitably he did, and she died a second death.

In Valerie Morignat’s photograph, water is the medium by which Eurydice reenters Hades. The disturbed surface of the water shows that the photograph has captured Eurydice mere moments after Orpheus looked back. Morignat interprets the young bride’s second death as a drowning. Not only does the water engulf Eurydice’s body, but it also consumes any memory Orpheus had of his bride. In stage productions that include the retelling of this myth, such as Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses and Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice, on-stage water is used as a symbol of forgetfulness. In both productions, Orpheus is doused in water as memories of his beloved Eurydice gradually wash away—a baptism. In essence, this is what Morignat captures in her photograph. Orpheus, unseen, reaches for Eurydice as she sinks deeper and deeper into the water, her reflective porcelain flesh the only visible semblance of her existence.
  • 12:00 AM

Water Graves - Girl Drowning

Water Graves 
Reflections on the Illusions of Drowning in Art
Curated by Taylor Schwartz

Roy Lichtenstein, Drowning Girl, 1963

Roy Lichtenstein’s Drowning Girl is a tidal wave of clichés. Literally. Lichtenstein’s mastery comes from his ability to make an emotional scene feel impersonal and distant. In Lichtenstein’s panel, the subject seems to be drowning in her own tears, shouting “I’d rather sink than call Brad for help!” above the crashing waves. The death of the character is meant to be taken lightly, a mere vehicle for Lichtenstein’s dark humor. The clichés of heartbreak, young love, and old Hollywood damsels-in-distress are specialties of Lichtenstein’s, as one can deduce from this hyperemotional frame.

But in this scene, Lichtenstein subverts the conventional ‘victimized female’ complex and projects a feminist message. For the forlorn girl, enabling drowning declares her independence from her hurtful ex-lover, and in extension, from any semblance of male aid. What does this say about the ability of women to free themselves from their male counterparts? Must they resort to a premature death in order to escape? Well for Hamlet’s Ophelia (see previous post), it was the only option. Death meant escape, and drowning in a substance associated with femininity sends a message that is too clear. These women have drowned in their own stereotypes and stigmas, unable to livingly free themselves from their respective patriarchal cultures—sixteenth century England and mid-twentieth century suburbia. Lichtenstein’s usage of Ben-Day dots, typical in mass-produced images such as comic strips, gives the female character a certain universal quality. Anyone can be the Drowning Girl. So step back and ask yourself, “Doneed Brad?”

  • 12:00 AM

Water Graves - Ophelia

Water Graves 
Reflections on the Illusions of Drowning in Art
Curated by Taylor Schwartz

John Everett Millais, Ophelia, 1851
"There on the pendant boughs her coronet weeds
Clamb'ring to hang, an envious sliver broke,
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide,
And mermaid-like awhile they bore her up,
Which time she chanted snatches of old lauds,
As one incapable of her own distress
Or like a creature native and endued
Unto that element. But long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pulled the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death." 
HamletWilliam Shakespeare

Similar to Lemoyne’s Narcissus, Millais’ Ophelia depicts a subject haunted by demons of the mind. While Narcissus suffered from an insatiable love, Ophelia suffered from a fantastical love. It has been argued that Ophelia was not melancholic, but was afflicted with erotomania, a type of delusion in which the person affected truly believes that another person is in love with him or her. In Millais’ painting, Ophelia rests on the brink of drowning, mouth agape in the pleasure of the release that accompanies death. Millais’ Ophelia evokes comparison with Bernini’s St. Theresa in Ecstasy. In addition to her erotic facial expression, Ophelia lies in a position that is almost saint-like: arms elongated, palms upward toward the heavens. For Ophelia, the water is an escape—an escape from her inner demons and her harsh reality. She moans in pleasure for she has become unbound from her mortal body and the water is her source of delivery. She sinks into a garden of foliage, a free woman embracing purely feminine scenery. Drowning, in this work, is not a death. It is a rebirth, a passage from the waking world to one that is entirely Ophelia’s own.

  • 12:00 AM

Water Graves - Narcissus Contemplating His Image Mirrored in the Water

Editor's Note: For their final project, the students in Modern Art History held an art fantasy draft of seven works. These works then become an exhibit based around a subject. Enjoy, as the posts should delight all through the summer. 

Water Graves 
Reflections on the Illusions of Drowning in Art
Curated by Taylor Schwartz

Narcissus Contemplating His Image Mirrored in the Water, Francois Lemoyne, 1725-1728
“Here Narcissus, tired of hunting and the heated noon, lay down, attracted by the peaceful solitudes and by the glassy spring. There as he stooped to quench his thirst another thirst increased. While he is drinking he beholds himself reflected in the mirrored pool—and loves; loves an imagined body which contains no substance, for he deems the mirrored shade a thing of life to love. He cannot move, for so he marvels at himself, and lies with countenance unchanged, as if indeed a statue carved of Parian marble.” Metamorphoses, Ovid 
In Narcissus Contemplating His Image Mirrored in the Water, Francois Lemoyne recounts one of Ovid’s most popular myths: that of Narcissus, his reflection, and the nymph Echo. We encounter Narcissus perched on a riverbank, lost in the reflection of his eyes. So moved by his own image, Narcissus becomes paralyzed like a statue, transfixed by the handsome specter in the water. His reflection is almost a siren, drawing the man closer and closer to the water with a sense-pleasing vision. In Lemoyne’s work, and in Ovid’s myth, Narcissus does not drown, but dies of the sadness that accompanies falling in impossible love.

As this collection is entitled Illusions of Drowning, we must clear the image of man plunging to the bottom of the ocean floor. Instead, let’s look at how Narcissus drowns in his own psyche. When he encounters his reflection, he loses all sense of reality. The world falls away as he falls deeper and deeper into his self-absorption—a metaphorical drowning. Lemoyne paints Narcissus’ gestures and fabric as to flow to the left of the composition, his downward glance at the mirrored river the only stationary and straight aspect of the painting. The background—moving trees, flowing fabrics, a swirling sky—resembles waves of water, yet the actual water in the painting is still and calm. This draws further attention to center of the composition, where Narcissus is rendered statuesque in the presence of his unwavering reflection. Forever doomed to an afterlife of insatiable desire, Narcissus still stares at his reflection in the waters of the river Styx.

  • 12:00 AM

City Square

Alberto Giacometti, City Square, 1948

"He carried the revolver in his belt at the front and wore his parka unzipped. The mummied dead everywhere. The flesh cloven along the bones, the ligaments dried to tug and taut as wires. Shriveled and drawn like latterday bogfolk, their faces of boiled sheeting, the yellowed palings of their teeth. They were discalced to a man like pilgrims of some common order for all their shoes were long since stolen." - The Road, Cormac McCarthy

Lost. Lonely. Fragile. Alberto Giacometti's figures have an aura of alien beauty. Like mirages in an endless desert, the shadow-people of Giacometti's City Square do not seem to be human, but rather resemble wraiths wondering a barren landscape. They evoke the deeper, darker essence of humanity. From the time that Giacometti first developed his mature style - the thin shadowy sculptures that most people associate with him - he became obsessed with capturing in an instant the world around him. Now whether this image of the world came from something that he saw in things, or whether he wished to capture the feeling that things gave him, even Giacometti did not know.

But one thing remains clear: In a world where once great cities lay in ruins from the war, and wanderers shuffled through the wreckage, Giacometti's wraiths wandered beside them. The Existentialist symbols of a world wracked by destruction remain even today, cast and trapped in a bronze tomb. Perhaps it is the sense that Giacometti's figures represent something supernatural, that the viewer is not quite alone when standing before works such as City Square, that haunts and captivates the imagination. Forever frozen in time, Giacometti's bronze ghosts stand as a testament to the power of sculpture. They are beautiful. They are horrifying.

  • 12:00 AM

Composition VII

Wassily Kandinsky, Composition VII, 1913
The world became increasingly chaotic. As Kandinsky settled down to paint Composition VII, argued by many to be his most important pre-Great War, a collision of social, cultural, and political ideologies occurred.

Composition VII, a complicated and tiring work, contains nods to the futurists, the fauvists, Picasso, and countless others. The shades of gray and black work into a mechanical representation of the world. This not only reflects the rapid industrialization of pre-war society, but also an interest in the futurists, a group of men obsessed with fire and machines. The color is undoubtedly a fauvist element. The pinks and purples contrast with the whites and yellows to create further chaos and lay a stark contrast. The Kandinsky lay within the shapes and the drawings. The main drawings in the painting sit in an oval shape dead center in the frame. Art historian Mark Harden argues that the oval operates as the center of a compositional hurricane.

As I thought about the "compositional hurricane," I became more and more angry with Harden. To suggest that the entire center of the painting can be boiled down to the eye of a storm is overly simplistic and frankly cheats Kandinsky of the recognition he deserves. After months of preparation, it took the painter a mere four days to create a painting that is arguably the most important pre-WWI painting of his time. The painting should not be reduced to the parts of a storm, unless it was as a prescient warning of the iron thunder that would become The Great War.

  • 12:00 AM


Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright, 1935
A building's success should not be dependent on its appearance but how well it fulfills its purpose. Anything that had no use or purpose was to be avoided. Frank Lloyd Wright’s philosophy on design came to be known as organic architecture, which incorporated functionalism, rationalism, and expressionism. While these theories simplified the overall design, Wright’s architecture took into account overall reaction that the building produced.

Wright thought that a house should express warmth, protection and seclusion. He believed that a home should be a shelter. Wright’s designs included details, like the obscure placement of entrances, to provide a sense of security.

Constructed in 1937, Fallingwater displayed the height of Frank Lloyd Wright’s organic architecture. The way it balances the environment with the structure, creates the harmony between nature and the dweller. Built over a waterfall, the use of cantilevering, the method of extending slabs or beams horizontally into space beyond the supporting post, creates the building’s gravity-defying affect. Wright believed that houses were not to be covered with vines and plants, but harmonize with their surroundings at a respectful distance. The building succeeds in creating an interior, which flows seamlessly outside. Fallingwater displays a buildings capability to enhance its surrounding setting.

  • 12:00 AM

The Armory Show

The Armory Show
The Armory Show of 1913, officially known as the International Exhibition of Modern Art was the first large exhibition of such works in America. The exhibition challenged and changed attitudes towards art. The show altered all history and all the past styles and works that had been done. It was the starting point of a massive art movement and changed the foundation of art institutions all over the world, especially America. The event went from February 17 to March 15th and on the opening night had an outstanding audience of 4,000 guests to view its amazing collection of paintings and sculptures from over 300 artists.

The show was held in the 69th Regiment Armory  in New York City and was an absolute public explosion. It was criticized by the public and the press as a circus of freaks and clowns. The main organizers of the show were Walt Kuhn, Arthur B. Davies and Walter Pach, who also had created the Association of American painters and sculptors. At the time the National Academy of Design was the power house of all art that mattered, and they were not happy with the idea of change. They were scared of the evolution the show was trying to awaken and felt threatened that they are trying to change everything that they had represented and done. They opposed a new possibility of freedom in art. Critics harassed the show with multiple critical articles. They continuously bombarded the artists and the show itself. However, since the work was impressive, and it reinforced the styles of cubism, fauvism, post-impressionism and symbolism. It also fostered ideas about the working class, cultural relativism, primitivism and Native American culture in art.

While the Armory Show did not significantly influence the styles greatly of the painters themselves, it brought modern art to the attention of a greater public, inspire collectors and patrons, and helped create a larger American art market in which galleries could survive.

  • 12:00 AM

Robert Demeritt, Rest in Peace

Robert Demeritt, longtime teacher of History and Chinese at the Barstow School, passed yesterday in his sleep. And our hurt can be tempered by doing what Bob always did: investigate, contemplate, write, and share.

Intelligent, humorous and stubborn, Bob taught with skill, precision, and passion. With trademark bow tie and a wit that could polish puns, Bob made the act of learning fun. He also possessed that rarest of traits - the ability to listen. 

I said goodbye to Bob on Saturday afternoon. I told him thank you, I asked if he was ready to go. I told him I didn't have any bad jokes. He smiled at me. We held hands. I had wanted to share a passage with him, but the situation didn't really call for it, as he began to drift in and out of light sleep. The passage comes from Cormac McCarthy's
All the Pretty Horses, as the headstrong, but honest John Grady Cole heads off into the sunset. McCarthy writes: 

"The desert he rode was red and red the dust he raised, the small dust that powdered the legs of the horse he rode, the horse he led. In the evening a wind came up and reddened all the sky before him. There were few cattle in that country because it was a barren country indeed yet at evening he came upon a solitary bull rolling in the dust against the bloodred sunset like an animal in sacrificial torment. The bloodred dust blew down out of the sun.  He touched the horse with his heels and rode on.  He rode with the sun coppering his face and the red wind blowing out of the west across the evening land and the small desert birds flew chattering among the dry bracken and horse and rider and horse passed on and their long shadows passed in tandem like a single being.  Passed and paled into the darkening land, the world to come."

That imagery of the red turning black reminded me of the paintings of Mark Rothko, especially his 1964 work Black, Red over Black on Red. Rothko's canvases got progressively larger as he grew older. Rothko certainly knew that, from an art historical perspective, that gigantic canvases tended to be read as "grandiose and pompous." But Rothko went big because he "desired to be intimate and human." He continued, "To paint a small picture is to place yourself outside your experience. However you paint the larger picture, you are in it."

Robert Demeritt, too, painted his life on a large canvas. I am proud to call Bob my friend. I am lucky that he taught me how to be a better teacher, that he showed me how to stay hungry, that he modeled what it meant to be a professional. I miss working with him, talking literature with him, and clinking glasses with him; I  also understand his absolutely fundamental importance to the Barstow School. 

Barstow will miss you, Robert, but what you crafted there lives on. I will miss you, Robert, but your impact on me lives on. 

It goes back to The Bard, again, Robert. "Goodnight, sweet prince. And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest." 

  • 9:13 PM

The Eiffel Tower

Robert Delaunay, The Eiffel Tower, 1911
Robert Delaunay, born in Paris, knew at an early age that he wanted to become an artist. Following his dreams, he was influenced by the “city of painters” which was where he adopted his renowned style of abstract forms and unusual combinations of color that closely relates to Paul Gauguin and Wassily Kandinsky. Delaunay found his biggest love in Orphist paintings. He loved to paint well recognized abstract forms, such as the Eiffel Tower, accompanied by “trippy” combinations of color. Experimenting with colors, angels, depth, and tone was the love that he found in painting.

Delaunay fell in love (and later married) a Russian painter named Sonia Terk. Through out their pre-marriage relationship, the couple did not paint together. Only when they were married that Robert Delaunay and Sonia Delaunay became a painting duo. Her style was almost a complete opposite of Robert's, as seen in the main black and white portraits that were currently being painted. But through the years and shared experiences with her husband, her artistic painting style slowly transformed to be identical to Robert's Orphist style of painting.

One of Robert Delaunay's most famous series is the Eiffel Tower Series. Delaunay worked diligently to complete over six paintings of the Eiffel Tower. The interesting thing about these paintings is the fact that they are all unique in their own way. After each one he completed, he strived to make the next one ever more appealing. The way that this was done was through color harmonies and the angel in which the spectator of the painting views the abstract figure, the Eiffel Tower, and can recognize it as an entirely different work, but by the same artist with the same style.

The Eiffel Tower, painted in 1911, is one of the most appealing works that Delaunay completed. The extreme color combinations are not present in this painting which makes it seem all the more mellow and relaxed. Accompanying the different choice in color harmony than usual, Delaunay painted the buildings to both sides of the renowned monument to sway and flow with the deformed tower itself. But at the same time, the free flowing buildings, while looking like they can be easily manipulated in soft wind, produce a comfortable amount of depth with almost no effort. The “trippy” style that Delaunay has evolved over the course of his artistic career has truly made it entertaining to view his work for long periods of time, something that not all artists have.

  • 12:00 AM

Barcelona Chair

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe made his lasting mark on the furniture world with his creation of the Barcelona Chair in 1929. The long venerated chair derives its name from its original debut at the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona, a long awaited economic-boosting "exposition de talents" for Spain. Mies van der Rohe was undoubtedly most famous for his then directorship of Dessau's esteemed and progressive Bauhaus. Per Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius' teachings, Mies van der Rohe created a chair that would unequivocally emblematize Bauhaus furniture.
Mies van der Rohe, Barcelona Chair, 1929

So, how would one characterize the physical attributes of this groundbreaking chair, before it garnered its appeal? Simply, sleek, ergonomic, functional, and hopefully enduring - the enduring piece was more than realized. Taking a seat in this work of art, funny to actually put that in a sentence, you notice not only the comfort and intuitive design, but the minute details. Starting with the seating surface, Mies specified the incorporation of Spinneybeck leather, with each individual panel being hand-cut and hand-welted, not to mention the whole chair may only be cut from a single hide. The chair's stainless steal frame stands firmly as it is a single-piece construction, while also providing the ultimate durability. The designer then took the frame's construction a step further by requiring the steel be hand burnished to a mirror finish. The finishing touch comes by way of Mies van der Rohe's signature stamped into every piece crafted.

In the pretentious world of the furniture "who's who," Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Chair sits atop the metaphorical throne. As one fictional furniture aficionado, Asterios Polyp, would say he's not a "pseudo-someone," and by having a chair as esteemed as the Barcelona Chair one sets their tastes apart. As with most all things wonderful, one must have the means. A prospective buyer would need to cough up $7,740 for an exclusively manufactured piece according to the designer's specifications. Not to mention, this hefty price-tag doesn't include the chair's paired ottoman. Yet, pretentious aspirations aside, the chair really would make a room, as well as a considerable conversation piece.
  • 12:00 AM

Dada Cino

Raoul Hausmann, Dada Cino, 1920
"What we are celebrating is at once a buffoonery and a requiem mass..." - Hugo Ball

Anti-war, anti-bourgeoisie, anti-establishment...anti-practically anything, Dada emerged during WWI. Its medium? Everything. Starting in Zurich, Switzerland, the movement spread to Berlin, Paris, and New York. Dadaists played with language, music, and visual art. Manifestos were written, proclaiming the aims of the movement - and calling the Impressionists "puddingheads." 

Cut-and-paste collages became the primary medium for the Dadaists. However, the critique of consumerism and capitalist society was achieved through furniture and sculpture as well. Artists would dig through the trash for discarded cigarette boxes and unused pieces of wood. Even a bicycle wheel was used. They searched for something new, something that would capture the human spirit better than the previous generation's attempts.

Bored and frustrated with academic art, indignant at society's apathy towards the war, and in search of something so counterculture society would love to hate it, Dadaists approached art in an entirely different way than previous movements. They didn't care if their art was rejected or ridiculed. They preferred that over conforming to artistic norms. 

  • 12:00 AM


Edward Hopper, Gas, 1940
Wanderlust. It's a contagious disease that develops in the subconscious and spreads to your very soul. A few major symptoms include desperate yearning for adventure and heightened awareness of your surroundings. But how do you cure it? Only one solution remains apparent: trek from the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream water until you stumble across self-discovery.

It is this sentiment that Edward Hopper conveys in his iconic masterpiece, Gas. This composition from 1940 offers a glimpse into the Route 66 culture, which emerged around the same time that Hopper’s career gained traction in the art world. Everyday American life inspired the quiet artist immensely, as evidenced by his seemingly endless depictions of New England architecture and mundane city life. Considering his track record, Hopper’s choice to paint America’s burgeoning highway system seems odd at first, but then the work speaks for itself.

Among the happy-go-lucky families on vacation and the rushed business travelers hide sufferers of inherent loneliness: those who traverse the nation looking for answers, Jack Kerouac-style, or those who get lost in the shuffle. Hopper decidedly focuses on the latter. He identifies with the sole attendant who tends the three Mobilgas pumps. Empty pavement stretches out behind him, while a forest of ominous pines traps him in his little corner of the world. The attendant, much like Hopper, must remain a lonely witness to the never-ending stream of passersby, unsympathetic to the victims of wanderlust.
  • 12:00 AM


Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, Pablo Picasso, 1907
The cubism movement was led by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. In cubism objects are broken up, analyzed, and re-assembled in an abstracted form. They began to depict objects from multiple viewpoints instead of one viewpoint. The idea was that natural objects could be reduced and simplified to the forms of the cylinder, the sphere, and the cone and to move inside as well as outside of an object, below and above it, in and around it.

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon by Pablo Picasso, painted in 1907, really set the tone for the cubism movement. Being one of the first of its kind, Demoiselles, was controversial. It caused anger and disagreement among people, including Picasso's close friends. This particular work was influence by African tribal masks, which is obvious in the faces of the five women portrayed. Also, through the faces the different perspective points are evident.

Cubism evolved from paintings and works, like
Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, to more colorful and abstract forms of cubism. Cubism moved beyond single point perspective and broke humans and objects down to their most simple forms. 

  • 12:00 AM

Un Chien Andalou

              Un Chien Andalou (1929), Luis Bunuel & Salvador Dali
Watching Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog), a silent surrealist short film by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí will unquestionably leave you feeling disgusted, bewildered, and with a newfound understanding of surrealism. The film begins eerily with a man sharpening a straight razor on his balcony. The camera quickly cuts to a scene of the night sky with a bright full moon and ominous, singular, thin cloud. When the camera shifts back to the man, he is seen stretching a woman’s eyelids similar to when using eye drops. Another quick cut back to the night sky and the razor-thin cloud moves closer toward the moon. Suddenly the imagery clicks.

You brace yourself and pray you are wrong. It’s too late; the man slowly drags the razor blade across her iris, spilling the inner stuffing from inside the eyeball. Your stomach drops and you realize that only thirty seconds have passed. What an inconceivable way to begin a film, leaving the viewer horrified and repulsively intrigued! The scene ends abruptly and the text reads, “Eight years later.” The film promptly dives into another unrelated bizarre scene. This trend continues and the scenes following each other grow increasingly nonsensical over the course of fifteen minutes.

You try to make sense of the random scenes and search for some semblance of a plot, but alas, nothing. There is neither enough time nor context to comprehend the assumed symbolism embedded in each scene of the production. The film emerges as a compilation of several arbitrary scenes that cannot be understood through comparison or reason. Dalí and Buñuel, in fact, agreed that “no idea or image that might lend itself to a rational explanation of any kind would be accepted” when writing the script. Similar ideology influenced the Beatles in the creation of “I am the Walrus.” These artists reject notions of inherent symbolism that often diminish the significance of art and instead favor impulse reactions to their work. Un Chien Andalou suggests that surrealist works are perhaps not to be understood, only felt.
  • 12:00 AM

The Evil Genius of a King

Giorgio de Chirico, The Evil Genius of a King, 1915
SURREALISM, noun, masc. Pure psychic automatism by which it is intended to express either verbally or in writing, the true function of though. Thought dictated in the absence of all control exerted by reason, and outside all aesthetic or more preoccupations. (Encyclopedia) 

Andre Breton, the father of Surrealism, defined the movement as stated above. This was a break from the Dada movement, which didn’t contain art, but revolted against the senseless killing and barbarities of war. At this stage in 1924, here was no mention of painting or artwork associated with the literary movement. The experimentation with language free from conscious control bled over to include photography, cinema, and ultimately, painting. 

Art inspiration came from the works of Giorgio De Chirico, acknowledged as the founder of the surrealist aesthetic. The role of consciousness was minimized as shapes simplified, saturation deepened, and common sense was replaced by unconsciousness. His work, The Evil Genius of a King, contrasts the depictions of harmless children’s toys as well as alludes to the organs assembled on sacrificial alters of augurs in ancient Rome and Etruria.* In these works there are no definite interpretations, but rather emotions that are meant to be taken from the works.

The first group exhibition was held in Paris in 1925. Art displayed included the techniques of frottage and collage used by Max Ernst, the automatic drawings made by Andre Masson, and Man Ray’s rayographs. Shortly after, Miro, Picasso, Magritte, and Dali broke through the scene producing iconic juxtapositions of object, emotion, and unconsciousness. The success of surrealism lies on its lasting impact and revolution of the art community. 

*Merjian, Ara H.(2010). ‘Il faut méditerraniser la peinture’: Giorgio de Chirico’s Metaphysical Painting, Nietzsche, and the Obscurity of Light. California Italian Studies Journal, 1(1).

  • 12:00 AM

Charing Cross Bridge

Andre Derain, Charing Cross Bridge, 1906
Painted during his short trip to London in 1906, Andre Derain’s Charing Cross Bridge represents an example of a painting that captures the feeling of city life, while still heavily influenced by the artist’s expression. The painting was created during the peak of Fauvism, a short lived movement led by Henri Matisse and Andre Derain. The style of Fauvism went against all conventional methods of painting at the time, including abstract proportions, liberal use of color, and use of pointillism techniques.

Charing Cross Bridge features a glimpse of the south shores of the river Thames, with a brewery on the right and a train crossing a bridge in the center. Derain’s used contrasting colors to give the painting a noticeable pop. The left side of the river uses the orange-blue color scheme, the bulidings in the background are red-green, and the water on the right combines yellow and purple.

The influence of pointillism is obvious on the right half of the painting, evident by the short choppy brush strokes. This contrasts with the smoother brush strokes in the background. Despite the numerous contrasts, the painting still feels somewhat uniform, perhaps because of the indiscriminate use of color. The uniqueness of this take on urban life has made this work one of Andre Derain’s most famous.
  • 12:00 AM

Portrait of Jeanne Hebuterne

Amedeo Modigliani, Jeanne Hebuterne, 1918 
When one mentions an artist's name, his most popular work instantly pops into my head. Sargent? Madame X. Picasso? Guernica. Van Gogh? Starry Night. However some artists have more than one claim to fame. Or perhaps, the artist is one I dislike, and thus, my mind goes blank and my face fills with disdain. Modigliani, in my opinion, fell into the former category, until I took a closer look at the artist himself.

As a poor, Jewish, tuberculosis-ridden guy from Italy, Modigliani's life began as an uphill battle. After failing to hit it big in Paris, Modigliani turned to drugs and alcohol. He went from painting perfectly proportioned portraits to two-dimensional oval-faced ones, and as his absinthe consumption increased, so did the amount of light in his paintings. After doling out nearly all of his pale-faced portraits to his numerous bedmates, Modigliani died from tuberculosis without fame, fortune, or appreciation from the artistic community. But his life wasn't completely worthless, for not every young artist gets the opportunity to share drinks with Picasso or avoid fighting in the first World War.

Though his nudes sparked the most controversy, I choose not to remember Modigliani as a rebel, and I instead think of his most delicate painting of his final lover, Jeanne Hebuterne. This was one of the few portraits of his girlfriends that he didn't give away, and I feel it best displays Modigliani's artistic flair. The white, oval face and light surroundings are especially characteristic of his final years, and her simple hair and clothing allow Jeanne's beauty to speak for itself. Though plain, Modigliani's portrait of Jeanne Hebuterne, in my opinion, deserves the most admiration of any of his works.

  • 12:00 AM

Dynamism of a Soccer Player

Umberto Boccioni, Dynamism of a Soccer Player,  1913
Planes, trains, and automobiles. These, and any other moving machines, became the general themes of the Futurist movement. Dynamism of a Soccer Player by Umberto Boccioni is the ultimate collaboration between man and machine.

The brilliant colors and blurred movement of Dynamism clearly mirror the Futurist fascination with the movement of mechanisms and technology. Making something not traditionally beautiful into art was right up their alley. This barely recognizable "soccer player" looks like any tussle between team rivals, but the work captures every movement of the athlete in action. An arm, possibly a leg, thrown about creates the constant shift of the player, similar to that of any mechanism.

The controlled chaos of the game morphs into that of a well-oiled machine. The fast paced drive within the painting conveys the Futurists' interest of the fast-paced advancement of technology. Old and slow was obsolete. New and fast took over.

  • 12:00 AM

The Roman Slave Market

Jean-Leon Gerome, A Roman Slave Market ,1884 
 Jean-Léon Gérôme painting of The Roman Slave Market dates back to 1884. The painting at first seems more towards the sensual side, but it truly is just a demeaning act by perverted men. The gentlemen are technically purchasing a slave, but as seen from the facial features they are enjoying themselves more than usual. The gaze of males focuses on the woman from either side, making the event a cruel spectacle for the slave herself.

Roman law regarded slaves as mere property. An item to be sold like any other product. Roman Slaves were subject to the will of their masters, against whom they had no protection or rights. The sellers would emphasize the features and benefits and any unique selling points. Slaves for sale would sometimes be made to standnaked on revolving stands so the buyers could see exactly what they were purchasing. If the slave was not nude, potential buyers could demand that they were stripped in order that a closer inspection might be made.

The painting is a powerful icon for women, especially today. It is proof that they have overcome the law of man and pushed through the limitations that have been put upon them since the beginning of civilization. The shadows in the background of the painting add a heavy weight to the crowd and make the viewers vision center on the woman and her white, reflective skin. The woman’s nudity and covering of her eyes adds to the innocence and allows her to be separate from of society. The painting balances out nicely its composition and lighting, and is cut with equal parts beauty and disgust.

  • 12:00 AM

The Henry Ford Hospital

Frida Kahlo, Henry Ford Hospital, 1932
  "I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality." At times, it seems that we have seen her reality in our own dreams. Floating fetuses, angelic monkeys, a passion as overpowering as the thick, textured colors used in her retablo-esque works. Frida Kahlo is by no means one-dimensional. Her experiences and ancestry inspire complex, multi-dimensional compositions. At times these pieces deter those who merely focus on her bizarre persona. But as we delve into her life and love, the line we see between Kahlo’s reality and fantasy blurs.

In one of her most touching works, Kahlo places her internal struggles and pain on display. Henry Ford Hospital, painted in 1932 after a residency in Detroit with Diego Rivera, is a comment on the mechanical nature of medicine, the fragility of the female form, and the pain that accompanies the loss of life. Trying to rein in six escaping, floating images, Kahlo rests on a hospital bed in the Henry Ford Hospital of Detroit. With bleak metal factory contraptions lining the horizon, Kahlo paints herself terminating her second attempt at conception in an unfamiliar land. The floating fetus represents her unborn, now dead, son.

Anchored by the heavy machinery in the bottom left and upper right corners, the fetus has undergone an unnatural, man-made process. The two anatomical images in the upper left and bottom right corners allude to Kahlo’s past. As a teenager, Kahlo was injured in a car accident, breaking her pelvis and puncturing her uterus, inhibiting her reproductive capability. The pelvis and uterus in Henry Ford Hospital represent the inescapable memories that Kahlo must carry. Finally, Kahlo paints the orchid given to her by Rivera in the lower half of the composition. However, she paints what was a fresh, turgid flower as flaccid and pale—perhaps a reference to her less-than-perfect marriage to the flower’s donor.

These images-within-an-image certainly mystify the painting and add a bizarre aurora, but in the context of the life and struggles of their creator, they seem as commonplace as red in a Rothko.

  • 12:00 AM

The Duel After the Masquerade

Jean-Leon Gerome, The Duel After the Masquerade, 1857
Duels have tickled the fancies of audiences through just about every medium. From Shakespeare's Hamlet to the well beloved film Princess Bride, deft displays of sword play have remained a popular highlight in many works of fiction. However, Jean-Leon Gerome refuses to romanticize the dance of blades in his 1857 work, The Duel After the Masquerade. Entirely ignoring the entertaining bits of the battle, Gerome depicts instead the bloody aftermath: Two mortally wounded men carried in the arms of their companions.

I must admit that my first reaction to this painting was, "Woah!" or perhaps "Wicked cool!" or some other interjection to a similar effect. After all, just the title is enough to get the crowd going: "A duel after a masquerade?" a first time viewer might say, "I can get on board with that." But upon further inspection lasting a whopping three seconds, it hits you: This painting is a total buzz kill. Where are the masks? Where are the flashy clothes? Where are the damsels to be won for God's sake? All we're given are two dead - or wounded - guys, one of which wore his costume from the ball to a sword fight.

Of course, this is the point. The misty greens and purples that cloud the background, the ghostly horse and carriage hidden among the trees, the blood-stained snow, and yes, maybe even the sheer awkwardsness of the white costume bring to light the grim reality of dueling. The two men let their pride get the best of them. They engaged in the classic equivalent of the bar fight, likely over an insult or a contested love. Either way, they've both lost their lives and the beauty of the evening's events has been lost along with them, leaving behind only a dark and dismal night of regret.

While  stabbing that jerk who called your threads lame may seem like the easiest solution to the problem, when it ruins an otherwise wonderful night of olden time bro-ventures, a duel just isn't worth the cost.

  • 12:00 AM

Self Portrait

Malevich, Self Portrait, 1933
 The Russian Revolution was winding down, and a new government emerged from within the rubble. The injustices that the people vocalized were temporarily quelled, and Russia put down their weapons of civil destruction to welcome the government’s new Stalinist regime. While the change in power placated Russia’s public, artists quickly realized that Russia’s acceptance of modern abstraction died with Lenin and Trotsky.

Stalin’s regime rejected modern art, condemning them as a type of “bourgeois” art that did nothing to represent contemporary society. As a result, many works of art were confiscated, and painters now had to follow a set of guidelines through which to paint their future works.

Kazimir Malevich, founder of the Suprematist movement, gained international recognition before he returned to Russia. While his return to St. Petersburg offered the artist a nostalgic feeling of comfort, the artist was quickly derided for his suprematist paintings, which often consisted of geometric shapes and fundamental colors.  Critics complained of the drab-ness of his paintings, arguing that a black square did nothing to represent the injustices of society or knowledge gained from his travels.

The Stalinist government confiscated Malevich’s works, offering the artist only a blank canvas and small black book of “artistic guidelines” that they recommended him to follow. As a result, Malevich’s Self Portrait of 1933 followed all of Russia’s guidelines.  To the perusing eye, the audience would catch no hint of the artist’s rebellion.  The Russian government accepted the painting and displayed it at their next convention.

It was not until the Stalinist regime collapsed, however, that the government noticed the small-superimposed image of a black and white box located at the bottom right corner of the portrait. Malevich had autographed his portrait, the same portrait that Stalin had previously deemed “acceptable” and “respectable in all forms,” with the embodiment of anti-Stalinism. The black and white box was a  Suprematist logo.

  • 12:00 AM