Click on photos to enlarge.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Amanda Browder

Is it a quilt, or a tapestry, or a conceptual art installation?
When does a handicraft become art rather than merely a utilitarian fabrication? For centuries quilts have been admired for their skilled workmanship and the fact, of course, they can keep us warm at night. They also add an attractive touch to a neatly made-up bed. In bygone days they served to make good use of scraps leftover as housewives sought not to waste usable material as they made clothing for themselves and their families. However, inexpensive garments imported from overseas where labor and textile costs for our clothes are miniscule as compared to even those sewn in the home; and, as more and more women found well-paying jobs in the American marketplace, the skills associated with sewing have largely fallen by the wayside. No sewing, no scraps, no more patchwork quilts. It's not quite that cut and dried, but insofar as art is concerned, it has only been during the past fifty years or so, once the utilitarian value of quilts began to fade, that quilters began to create original works of art on a par with virtually every style the history of painting encompasses.

Amanda Browder: no longer bedcoverings or wall hangings but more on the order of a sophisticated form of gift wrapping.
Cutting, sewing, fitting, unfurling.
Montana-born artist, Amanda Browder, has taken quilting to a whole new level. Technically, Amanda does not make quilts. Using hundreds of yards of donated fabric with bright colors and patterns, Browder and her volunteer teams stitch together enormous panels that resemble crazy quilts. The panels wrap around bell towers, sheath elevated walkways, and drape from gables and eaves to give passersby a new ex-perience of familiar buildings. Her work occupies a state somewhere in between "soft sculpture" and orchestrated public object installation with a studio affinity for abstraction and minimalism. Quilts have long had a close relationship with ab-stract art--all quilts, even those which grace king-size beds in the master bedroom. Sometimes this relationship is overt; at other times, as with the old-fashioned scrap-laden quilts, the abstract qualities are somewhat hidden, or even acci-dental.
 
Spectral Locus (2016), Amanda Browder, Richmond/Ferry Church, Buffalo, New York.
Amanda is fascinated by the transformative nature of materials, and how the combination of the familiar creates abstract relationships about place. This relational objectivity generates an open-ended narrative, ambiguous situations defined by the choice of materials with a healthy dose of work ethic. Central to the psychedelic experience, she is drawn to reinventing Pop-Art colors by exploring shifts in scale and sculptural perceptions. Browder received her B.A. in studio arts as well as two master’s degrees in sculpture and installation art. She is now based in Brooklyn and frequently travels to create new works. She was recently awarded an opportunity with the prestigious ArtPrize organization in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The multi-part work, titled Kaleidoscopic, captured the attention of passersby at locations around Grand Rapids.
 
Kaleidoscopic by Amanda Browder, Grand Rapids Community Center

Amanda Browder’s Future Phenomena
is presented by North Brooklyn Public
Art Coalition.
Amanda's overarching goal is to engage individuals and groups in the mystery of creation. Volunteerism of local citizens and artists is a segue to creating familiarity in contemporary art as well as the individual nature of the neighborhood itself. From material collection to construction and exhibition, Browder hopes to encourage community volunteers to participate in ways that require collaboration and conversation involving city, community, architecture and art. An example of this synergetic force can be found in Amanda's Future Phenomena (right). This large-scale, fabric public art sculpture was temporarily affixed to the façade of an apartment building in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where its psychedelic spectacle of bright colors and flowing shapes were a representation of a group effort in a local community.

Amanda's volunteer assistants learn new skills as they work together as a team.
Amanda's "public sewings" usually elicit yards
and yards of unused material for her displays.
Browder supports herself with her artistic endeavors having saved up enough money for a year in order to become a full time artist. She is often ap-proached by institutions to create draped buildings. For each of these commissions Browder receives financial support and a liaison to the community. Browder has exhi-bited at the University of Ala-bama at Birmingham, Nuit Blanche Public Art Festival, Mobinale, Prague; Allegra La-Viola Gallery, NYC; Nakao-chiai Gallery, Tokyo; White Columns, NYC; and No Long-er Empty, Brooklyn. Browder's first large-scale computer-generated digital patterning debut was her project "At Night We Light Up" for the Indianapolis Power & Light Building, unveiled in June of 2016. part of a free interactive light festival hosted by the Central Indiana Community Foundation.
Pelham Art Center, Pelham, New York, 2014, Amanda Browder
Amanda Browder's textile art collaborations accommodate architectural interventions in situ. Using tissue centrifuges for viva and motile couplers, the panels do not contain clothes, alloys, pin and gutters for the passage of a single expanse of familial bits. The changing nature of the materials and the manners of the combination of the family and the abstract relations never cease to amaze bystanders. This objectivity relates to almost all outer space, and of ambiguous situations defined by the choice of materials. At the expense of psychedelic excellence, she is about to reinvent Pop-Art couplets by exploring the changes in sculpture and sculptural perceptions.

Pelham Art Center draped.
In 2016, Ms. Browder received her first National Endowment for the Arts grant to work with the Albright Knox Museum to cover the Buffalo Public Library. She sheathed three historic buildings in Buffalo using hundreds of yards of donated fabric. The three buildings include 950 Broadway, the former Richmond Methodist Episcopal Church at Richmond Avenue and West Ferry Street and Albright-Knox’s Clifton Hall. The pieces were created from fabric collected and donated from all over the Buffalo area, sewn together by a collection of community volunteers. In April 2019 Browder installed "The Land of Hidden Gems" as the inaugural UNLV Transformation Fellow. In June 2019 Browder installed "City of Threads" at the Arlington Arts Center in Arlington, Virginia. In September 2019 she installed "Kaleidoscopic" in ArtPrize's "Project 1" in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It included draping a community center building, and covering four sky walks (top photo) located in downtown Grand Rapids.


Land of Hidden Gems - Amanda Browder from Shahab Zargari on Vimeo.




















 

Monday, November 4, 2019

Banksy

"Is Graffiti art or vandalism? That word has a lot of negative connotations and it alienates people, so no, I don't like to use the word 'art' at all." --Banksy

Banksy is an unknown artist who has become famous by being an unknown artist. His career has been marked by experimentation, risk, and a daring playfulness. His stencil-heavy motifs—of rats, cops, and kids with bal-loons—have simply become part of our shared cultural vocabulary, reproduced (and ripped off) with abandon. While it’s exceedingly difficult to narrow down a handful of works that define his aesthetic, I've highlighted below a selection of projects that have captured my jaded eye and the artist’s hugely influential practice.
 
Banksy is a master of site-specific graffiti.

“Become good at cheating and you never need to become good at anything else.”– Banksy

 
Despite the often-seriousness of his messaging, Banksy has a healthy sense of humor. (The devoutly anonymous artist’s webpage, for instance, includes a photo of someone —purportedly Banksy—being sketched by an outdoor portrait artist, while wearing a ski mask.) A 2013 pop-up in New York City found Banksy offering $60 original stencil paintings near Central Park. As was noted at the time, it wasn’t surprising that most people walked right on by, since Manhattan’s sidewalks are littered with dozens of people selling Banksy rip-offs. It’s helpful to consider this episode as a self-contained performance art in its own right, and a commentary on value, celebrity, and site-specific context. Banksy reprised the concept, in a very different form, in Venice in 2019. There, he (or someone acting on his behalf) set up a street stall to peddle a series of oil paintings depicting the sort of cruise ship that is helping to slowly sink the city.
 
Is this the anonymous graffiti artist? Banksy photo, Jamaica, 2004.

“People who get up early in the morning cause war, death and famine.” – Banksy

Banksy executed his first work in in the late-1980s. Since Banksy made his name with his trademark stencil-style 'guerrilla' art in public spaces--on walls in London, Brighton, Bristol, and even the west bank walls of Jerusalem--his works have sold for hundreds of thousands of pounds. He has dozens of celebrity collectors including Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and Christina Aguilera. After a year-long investigation by numerous journalists, London's Daily Mail named Banksy as Robin Gunningham. The search began with a photograph (above) taken in Jamaica showing a man in a blue shirt and jeans, with a hint of a smile on his face and a spray can at his feet. Taken in 2004, it was said to show Banksy at work. When the picture was published it appeared to be the first chink in the armor of anonymity with which the artist has shielded himself ever since his work began to attract the attention of the art world.
 
Irony permeates much of
Banksy's Graffiti

“There are four basic human needs; food, sleep, sex and revenge.” – Banksy

Robin Gunningham was born in Bristol, England, in 1973, at the same hospital where he later had surgery for a cleft palette. When Robin was nine, the family moved to a larger home on the same street. It was there he spent his formative years and became interested in graffiti. A neighbor, recalls Robin's parents moving onto the street as newlyweds and living there until 1998. They have since separated. In 1984, Robin, then 11, donned a black blazer, grey trousers and striped tie to attend the renowned Bristol Cathedral School, which currently charges fees of £9,240 a year. It's hard to imagine Banksy, the anti-authoritarian renegade, as a public schoolboy wandering around the 17th Century former monastery, with its upper and lower quadrangles and saying his prayers in the ancient cathedral.
 
"It's not a swipe at Disney." Disney might think otherwise.

"There's nothing more dangerous than someone who wants to make the world a better place."--Banksy

Local authorities, who routinely had Banksy's graffiti painted over a decade ago, now recognize the value of his work. The local North Somerset Council said it was behind "Dismaland", mindful of a show in nearby Bristol that attracted more than 300,000 fans from around the world in 2009. "Welcome to Dismaland" and "Enjoy" was all they would utter, competing with each other in levels of insincerity. While not quite "The happiest place on Earth," "Dismaland" generated a buzz in the resort of Westin-Super-Mare, England and a lot of excitement from locals and Banksy fans worldwide. Britain's newest theme park, "Dismaland," opened with a decrepit castle, a merry-go-round horse set to be cooked and model boats on a pool full of refugees, all courtesy of British street artist, Banksy. The "Bemusement Park" is tagged as "The UK's most disappointing new visitor attraction!" and features work by other artists including Damien Hirst. "It's not a swipe at Disney," Banksy claimed in a press release. "I banned any imagery of Mickey Mouse from the site. It's a showcase for the best line-up of artists I could imagine, apart from the two who turned me down."

Girl with a Red Balloon, Banksy
"Mindless vandalism can take a bit of thought." --Banksy
 
A Banksy painting titled Girl with Red Balloon was being auctioned at Sotheby’s in London. The spray-painted and acrylic piece depicted a little girl (below, right)extending her arm out for a heart-shaped balloon, floating far beyond reach. The bid-ding climbed to $1.4-million, an amount that tied the artist’s own auction record from 2008. Finally, a hammer pounded to signify the end of the auction. Right then, the painting’s canvas began scrolling down-ward, seeming to pass through its elaborate gilded frame--and reappearing below in neat, vertical strips. Later, Sotheby’s would explain that a shredder was hidden inside the frame. The crowd began murmuring as they realized what was happening. The painting was “self-destructing” before their very eyes. The incident spurred questions about how Banksy had pulled it off and whether he had been at the auction in disguise. Sotheby’s did not publicize who purchased the piece. The next day, Banksy posted a video to Instagram (below) that showed footage of a shredding mechanism being built into a frame for, presumably, Girl with Red Balloon. Did he anticipate that the critics would claim that the work, in its partially shredded state, would climb in value to at least $2-million or that the purchaser would not object and would instead rejoice? Sotheby’s senior director Alex Branczik said in a statement that described the incident, "It appears we just got Banksy-ed.”

 



















 

Monday, October 28, 2019

Mouse Art

Painting Dinner, Lucia Heffernan
As I was editing the photos for this post, my wife passed by and asked, "Is that the best you can come up with to write on?" My wife hates mice. Most women do. It's not that she would hop up on a chair screaming "EEEEEKKK" as usually depicted in so many stereotypic cartoons. It's just the holes they make in food packaging in the pantry and the nibbling which comes as a result. I tried to explain that she should not be so upset, they are, after all, very small creatures and not likely to eat very much. She was notamused. Despite the painting above titled, Painting Dinner, by Lucia Heffernan, I'm not writing about mice who paint. However, I was surprised to realize the number of artists who paint mice. And, like legions of others who specialize in depicting animal art which I've covered, the range of styles, media, and techniques pretty much runs the gamut from Photorealism to Abstract Expressionism. Incidentally, I also noticed, counterintuitively, that female artists, (despite the stereotype) tend to paint mice more often than their male counterparts. I wonder how much they pay their models?
 
The Three Blind Mice (upper image) as originally depicted by Charles Folkard,
have come a long way as seen by the contemporary image just above.
In 1609, the famous children’s rhyme “Three Blind Mice” was published in London. The mice have since been featured in multiple cinematic movies and television shows throughout the year, one of the most famous being Shrek. The origin of the nursery rhyme has a somewhat disturbing story behind it. The three blind mice were three Protestant loyalists who were accused of plotting against Queen Mary I. The farmer’s wife refers to the queen who, along with her husband, King Philip of Spain, owned several large estates. Mice were no doubt a recurring problem. The three men were eventually burned at the stake.
 
Gypsy Mice, David Galchutt
There seems to be no written history of "mouse art" (not surprising, I guess). From "Three Blind Mice," on it's hard to say how much "mouse art" (if any) was created. In most of the images I could find from later centuries, the mice were forced to shared the spotlight with playful cats or kittens. California illustrator, David Galchutt's Gypsy Mice (above), though seeming to be from the 19th-century was actually painted quite recently. It wasn't until 1904 that British writer, Beatrix Potter once more popularized mice as a fitting subject for artists. That was the year in which her children's storybook The Tale Of Two Bad Mice, was published in England. The Mice Hear Simpkin Outside (below) underscores her talent as an illustrator as well as being a writer, natural scientist, and conservationist. From that point on, mice have become a staple of children's literature and fine art.
 
The Mice Hear Simpkin Outside, 1905, Beatrix Potter 
There were probably other notable mice during the intervening years, but in 1928 Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks first brought a lovable little mouse they called Mortimer to the silver screen in Steamboat Willie (bottom). It was one of the first animated cartoon to feature a soundtrack. Mortimer was an anthropomorphic mouse who typically wore red shorts, large yellow shoes, and white gloves, (later renamed Mickey Mouse). Mickey made his movie debut in a Disney short cartoon titled Plane Crazy, only later hitting his stride as Steamboat Willie. Since then, Mickey has gone on to star in over 130 films, including The Band Concert (1935), Brave Little Tailor (1938), and Fantasia in 1940. Mickey appeared primarily in short films, but also occasionally in feature-length films. Ten of Mickey's cartoons have been nominated for the Academy Awards as Best Animated Short Film, one of which, Lend a Paw, won the award in 1942. In 1978, Mickey became the first cartoon character to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
 
The most successful mouse of all time.
Mickey Mouse was not the only cute little rodent to "make it" as a movie star. After 1942, Paul Terry's Super Mouse made his film debut in a cartoon short titled The Mouse of Tomorrow. Like Mickey and hundreds of other Hollywood movie stars, once he became famous he changed his name. Super Mouse became Mighty Mouse. The character was conceived originally by Paul Terry. Created as a parody of Superman, he was renamed Mighty Mouse for The Wreck of the Hesperus (1944), after Paul Terry learned that another character named "Super Mouse" was to be published by Standard Comics. Mighty Mouse subsequently starred in 80 theatrical films between 1942 and 1961. These films appeared on American television from 1955 through 1967, every Saturday morning on the CBS television network. The character was twice revived, by Filmation Studios in 1979 and in 1987 by animation director Ralph Bakshi, who had worked at the Terrytoons studio during his early career. Mighty Mouse's superpowers included flight, super strength, and invulnerability. In some films he used X-ray vision and psychokinesis. He was also able to turn back time in The Johnstown Flood. Other cartoons showed him leaving a red contrail during flight that he manipulated like a band of solid, flexible matter, as in Krakatoa for example .
 
Paul Terry's Mighty Mouse. After 1945, dialog in many of his films
was sung by opera singers.
It's hard to say precisely how much Beatrix Potter, Walt Disney, and Paul Terry have had to do with the popularity of mice as subjects for other artists' creative efforts. About the time white mice became test creatures in scientific laboratories, they also became docile house pets, even for small children, and were therefore readily available as photographic models which then led to paintings such as the aptly named White Mouse (below) from Lydia's Wildlife Studio.
 
White Mouse, Lydia's Wildlife
At the same time, other artists have chosen the common field mouse as seen in Snack From the Garden, (below) by Jai Johnson.
 
Snack From the Garden, Jai Johnson
Other mouse painters have found the shy little creatures as an outlet for their more whimsical tendencies as seen in Soouris No. 15, (below) by Marina Dieul.
 
Soouris No. 15, Marina Dieul
Copyright, Jim Lane
This is the point at which I usually display one of my own mouse paintings. That's good since I have only one example, which I called Tom and Jerry (inspired yet another cartoon). It dates from my college days back in 1970.
 
 
 
 
 
Tom and Jerry, 1970,
Jim Lane

Living dangerously,
A Cat Peeping Through a Fence,
1966, Cornelis Saftleve
 
Mickey (Mortimer) Mouse makes his film debut as Steamboat Willie (1928)



























Monday, October 21, 2019

Edward D. Wood Jr.

Some of the worst films ever made--most written, directed, and produced by Ed Wood.
He even took on a starring role in one of them.
As a public school art instructor I considered the cinematic arts to be on a par with painting, drawing, art history, sculpture, and other creative art forms. Of course costs made it impossible to give students hands-on moviemaking experience, but like a course in literature, we studied the classics as appropriate to the ages of the students involved. Those included Gone With The Wind, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Ben-Hur, Bridge on the River Kwai, Fantasia, and a number of others too numerous to mention. Over the years, using this format, I've tended to concentrate on some of the greatest names in the film industry such as Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Wells, Walt Disney, Billy Wilder, Stanley Kubrick, David O. Selznick, Martin Scorsese, and again, a number of others too numerous to mention. Though quite varied in their talents and approaches to filmmaking, they were the best Hollywood has had to offer. Today, as a change of pace, let me highlight a man considered by virtually everyone in the business as the worst filmmaker in cinematic history--Ed Wood.
 

The resemblance is uncanny, but that's about all the two men ever shared in common.

If you've never heard of Ed Wood until now, believe me, you ain't missed much. And even if you are familiar with the work of Edward D. Wood, it's likely due to Tim Burton's sympathetic 1994 biopic starring a very close lookalike, Johnny Depp. The film received two Academy Awards. Ed Wood was an American filmmaker, actor, and author. In the 1950s, Wood directed several low-budget science fiction, crime and horror films, notably Glen or Glenda, Jail Bait, Bride of the Monster, Plan 9 from Outer Space, Night of the Ghouls and The Sinister Urge. In the 1960s and 1970s, he transitioned towards sexploitation and pornographic films, while also writing over eighty pulp crime, horror, and sex novels. Notable for their campy aesthetics, technical errors, unsophisticated special effects, ill-fitting stock footage, eccentric casts, idiosyncratic stories and non sequitur dialogue, Wood's films remained largely obscure until he was posthumously awarded a Golden Turkey Award for Worst Director of All Time in 1980, renewing public interest in his life and work.
 

Wood proved to be no better as
an actor than as a writer,
producer, or director.
Edward D. Wood Jr. might be termed the Will Rogers of filmmaking: He never directed a shot he didn't like. It takes a special weird genius to be voted the Worst Director of All Time, a title that Wood has earned by acclamation. He was so in love with every frame of every scene of every film he shot that he was blind to hilarious blunders, stumbling ineptitude, and acting so bad that it achieved a kind of grandeur. But badness alone would not have been enough to make him a legend; it was his love of film, sneaking through, that pushes him over the top. Wood's most famous films are Plan 9 from Outer Space (during which his star, Bela Lugosi, died and was replaced by a double with a cloak pulled over his face), and "Glen or Glenda" (left), in which Wood himself played the transvestite title roles. It was widely known even at the time that Wood himself was an enthusiastic transvestite,
 
Hacks are nothing new in Hollywood. Since the beginning of the film industry at the turn of the 20th century, thousands of untalented people have come to Los Angeles from all over America and abroad to try to make it big (as writers, producers, directors, actors, talent agents, singers, composers, musicians, artists, etc.) but who end up using, scamming and exploiting other people for money as well as using their creative ability (either self-taught or professional training), leading to the production of dull, bland, mediocre, unimaginative, inferior, trite work in the forlorn hope of attaining commercial success.
 
The climactic scene from Plan 9 from Outer Space.
The big man in the middle is Tor Johnson whom Wood used often in his films
Ed Wood as Glenda
Wood was an exceedingly complex person. He was born in 1924, in Poughkeepsie, NY, where he lived most of his childhood. He joined the US Marine Corps in 1943 at the height of World War II and was, by all accounts, an exemplary soldier, wounded in ferocious combat in the Pacific theater. He was habitually optimistic, even in the face of the bleak realities that would later consume him. His personality bonded him with a small clique of outcasts who eked out life on the far edges of the Hollywood fringe. After settling in Los Angeles in the late 1940s, Wood attempted to break into the film industry, initially without success, but in 1952 he landed the chance to direct a film based on the real-life Christine Jorgensen sex-change story, then a hot topic. The result, Glen or Glenda (above, right), gave a fascinating insight into Wood's own personality and shed light on his transvestism (an almost unthinkable subject for an early 1950s mainstream feature). Although devoutly heterosexual, Wood was an enthusiastic cross-dresser, with a particular fond-ness for angora. Moreover the film revealed the almost complete lack of talent that would mar all his subsequent films, his tendency to resort to stock footage of lightning during dramatic moments, laughable set design, and a near-incomprehensible performance by Bela Lugosi as a mad doctor whose presence is never adequately explained. The film deservedly flopped miserably but Wood, always upbeat, pressed ahead.

Some might consider Wood's sci-fi epic as being so bad it's good. It rates as a cult classic right up (down there with the 1960s smashed hit, The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.
Wood's 1955 film starring Bella Lugosi, Bride of the Monster (below), unbelievably, somehow managed to earn a small profit during its original release, undoubtedly more of a testament to how cheaply it was produced than its value as entertainment), and Wood only shot a few seconds of silent footage of Lugosi (doped and dazed, wandering around the front yard of his house) for "Plan 9" just days before the actor died in August 1956. What few reviews the film received were brutal. Typically undaunted, Wood soldiered on despite incoherent material and a microscopic budget, peopling it with his regular band of mostly inept actors. Given the level of dialog, budget and Wood's dismal directorial abilities, it's unlikely that better actors would have made much of a difference (lead actor Gregory Walcott made his debut in this film and went on to have a very respectable career as a character actor, but he was always embarrassed by his participation in this film)--in fact, it's the film's semi-official status as arguably the Worst Film Ever Made that gives it its substantial cult following. The film, financed by a local Baptist congregation led by Wood's landlord, reaches a plateau of ineptitude that tends to leave viewers open-mouthed, wondering what is it they just saw. "Plan 9" became, whether Wood realized it or not, his singular enduring legacy. Ironically, the rights to the film were retained by the church and it is unlikely that Wood ever received a dime from it. His epic bombed upon release in 1959 and remained largely forgotten for years to come.

The poster was far better than the movie.
Wood's main problem was that he saw himself as a producer-writer-director, when in fact he was spectacularly incompetent in all three capacities. Friends who knew Wood have described him as an eccentric, oddball hack who was far more interested in the work required in cobbling a film project together than in ever learning the craft of film making itself or in any type of realism. In an alternate universe, Wood might have been a competent producer if he had better industry connections and an even remotely competent director. Wood, however, likened himself to his idol, Orson Welles, and became a triple threat: bad producer, poor screenwriter, and God-awful director. All of his films exhibit illogical continuity, bizarre narratives, and give the distinct impression that a director's job was simply to expose the least amount of film possible due to crushing budget constraints. His 1959 magnum opus, Plan 9 from Outer Space features visible wires connected to pie-pan UFOs, actors knocking over cardboard "headstones", cars changing models and years during chase sequences, scenes exhibiting a disturbing lack of handgun safety and the ingenious use of shower curtains in airplane cockpits that have virtually no equipment are just a few of the trademarks of that Edward D. Wood Jr. production (as seen in the video clip at the bottom). When criticized for their innumerable flaws, Wood would cheerfully explain his interpretation of the suspension of disbelief. It's not so much that he made movies so badly without regard to realism--the amazing part is that he managed to get them made at all.





Check out the full-length movie It Came from Hollywood on YouTube for more of the worst Hollywood has had to offer.









































 

Monday, October 14, 2019

Women Who Changed Art History

A few of the most influential women in the history of art.
When we mention women and art history together, we usually think in terms of female painters, sculptors, or architects. Names such as Livania Fontana, Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun., Artemisia Gentileschi, Georgia O'Keeffe, Berthe Morisot, Frida Kahlo, Louise Nevelson, come to mind. These women, and many others I've written about in the past have, in their own individual work "changed" art history. Technically, the title above should probably read, "Women Who Changed the Course of Art History" but that seemed a little too long. In most cases, the women below were not artists. They were women who, by purchasing paintings and sculptures, became collectors and tastemakers, supporting artists’ careers, and--through portraiture--generated enduring images of themselves. In many instances, these women, by commissioning public buildings, churches, and museums created potent architectural spaces for preserving their legacies and that of their personal art collections. By developing world-class collections and creating major art museums, these women have truly shaped the course of art history. While my selection is by no means exhaustive, it highlight seven extraordinary female patrons spanning geographies and centuries who have changed the way we look at art.

The "First Lady of the Renaissance."
We could go back as far as the Egyptian queen Hatshepsut from around 1479–1458 B.C. as we look at some of the most influential women in the history of art. But I think a good starting point would be the Renaissance and the Marchioness of Mantua, Isabella d’Este. Sometimes referred to as the “First Lady of the Renaissance," she turned the city of Mantua into an important cultural center as an influential and beloved politician, art patron, and fashion icon. It's said that her husband, Francesco Gonzaga, Marquess of Mantua, became jealous of her popularity in the region. To escape his resentment, Isabella traveled to Rome. There she spent time in the influential circles of Pope Leo X (a prominent patron himself) and met artists such as Leonardo da Vinci (above), Raphael, Michelangelo, Titian, Pietro Perugino, Andrea Mantegna, Giovanni Bellini, and Giorgione. In these artists’ portraits of the patroness, Isabella appears as a pale and regal beauty with an exuberant taste in clothes. In an unusual move for the time, Isabella arranged her apartments as a kind of museum. The studiolo and grotta in the ducal palace became places for her to entertain nobles, dignitaries, and artists, and to show off the works that she had commissioned. In this way Isabella inserted herself into spaces traditionally allotted to men. After her husband died, Isabella became co-regent of Mantua with her son, Federigo II. Her people so admired her that they persuaded Federigo to reinstall his mother as their leader. Through her collecting and her noble background, Isabella established networks across Europe that furthered her influence.

Madame de Pompadour, 1756, Francois Boucher
In France, King Louis XV’s most famous mistress, Jeanne Antoinette Poisson—better known as Madame de Pompadour—commissioned so much artwork during her time in the court that 19th-century French writers began calling her the “godmother and queen of the Rococo.” Madame de Pompadour was actively engaged in her many portrait commissions, using them to show off her style, document her accomplishments, and enhance her power in the French court. Previous court mistresses favored allegorical representations of themselves. Madame de Pompadour’s portraits, on the other hand, reflect her glamorous, enlightened life, and are filled with objects and symbols that allude to her cultural and intellectual refinement. Paintings by artists such as François Boucher (above) and Maurice-Quentin de la Tour depict her in over-the-top gowns with ruffles and embroidered flowers indicating how she fashioned herself as a trendsetter surrounded by books, globes, classical statues, music instruments, and sheet music. So great was her cultural authority that long after her intimate affair with Louis XV was over, Madame de Pompadour continued to live at Versailles and wield influence in his court.

Portrait of Cathrine the Great, c. 1770, Fyodor Rokotov
Queen Catherine the Great of Russia used art patronage to elevate her country's standing and power in Europe. During her reign, the country expanded its borders to include around 200,000 square miles, becoming a dominant nation on the Continent. She seemed to prize quantity over quality, and viewed art collecting as a competition. After taking the throne in 1762, she quickly bought 225 paintings from a Berlin dealer that included work by Frans Hals and Rembrandt. Throughout her 34-year reign, Catherine gradually acquired entire private collections from around Europe to prove her superior wealth over other European rulers who might want them. Eventually, she amassed around 4,000 paintings. Many artists painted Catherine’s portrait. The French painter Élisabeth Vigée-Le Brun spent time in her court. In 1764, the empress turned the Baroque Winter Palace into an exhibition hall to showcase her collection. In 1852, the galleries opened to the public as the Hermitage Museum, which remains St. Petersburg’s most popular tourist attraction today and now contains over 3 million artworks. The Hermitage thus became an archetypal public institution that helped create a favorable image of Russia in the West.

Besides Picasso's cubistic portrait, Stein was also painted by numerous other groundbreaking artists such as Henri Matisse, though these works did not always mention her name.
Gertrude Stein was an American expatriate writer who hosted the avant-garde art world at her Paris salon. Through collecting art, she solidified her position among avant-garde artists in Paris, and founded a community that was supportive of both her experimental work and her lesbian lifestyle. In 1901, Stein had dropped out of Johns Hopkins Medical School and followed her aspiring-artist brother, Leo, to London and then to Paris. Through Leo, she began to acquaint herself with the bohemian artists living around the Montmartre neighborhood. In 1905, Stein met Pablo Picasso. He began to paint her portrait, which he finished the next year. It was a crucial step in the development of modernism: In the picture, Stein’s face adopts a flatness and mask-like quality that Picasso would soon push to the extreme in Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), the first Cubist painting. Stein’s patronage helped Picasso to continue painting throughout the early 1900s before he received international acclaim. She also collected work by Cézanne, Juan Gris, and Henri Matisse. Meanwhile, Stein produced her own groundbreaking body of literature, which grew to include such titles as Three Lives, Tender Buttons, and The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas.


Isabella Stewart Gardner, 1888. John Singer Sargent
In lieu of heirs to her linen and finance fortune, Isabella Stewart Gardner gave birth to a museum that brought European masterpieces to her beloved hometown of Boston. Throughout her life, she’d take inspiration from her travels; Venice’s Palazzo Barbaro inspired the architecture of her museum. Following the death of her father in 1891, Gardner inherited around $1.7 million (over $45 million today). She was already a collector of rare books and manuscripts, but with this influx of cash, she turned her attention and funds towards European art. Later that year, she outbid the Louvre and London’s National Gallery to purchase Johannes Vermeer’s The Concert (1663–66), asserting her taste and wealth at an elite, international level. From 1899 to 1901, Gardner oversaw the construction of her museum, which featured quarters on the fourth floor that served as her own home. After her husband died, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum was Gardner’s comfort and family for the remaining years of her life. Her collection grew to include such masterpieces as a self-portrait by Rembrand and Titian’s Rape of Europa (1562), Gardner was also a patron to American expat portraitist John Singer Sargent (above). Gardner expanded beyond European painting, as well, purchasing Asian and Islamic art, which, in an unusual move, she displayed side-by-side with Western works.
Portrait of A'Lelia Walker
During the early decades of the 20th-century,A’Lelia Walker’s Harlem townhouse and her ritzy, white stucco palace in Irvington, New York, became legendary meeting places for figures of the Harlem Renaissance. Walker’s mother, Madam C.J. Walker, became the first self-made female millionaire by expertly marketing and distributing “The Walker System,” her line of hair care products for black women. In 1913, A’Lelia pursuaded her mother to purchase two townhouses on West 136th Street in uptown Manhattan. They hired New York State’s first licensed African-American architect, Vertner Woodson Tandy, to renovate the properties into a single living-workingddddddddd space amenable to both business and entertaining. Tandy also constructed their Irvington home, Villa Lewaro, in 1918. Walker's Harlem apartment was known as the Dark Tower. There she hosted soirées where writers and musicians such as Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Countee Cullen could freely mingle. She adored the company of lesbians and gay men thus her parties had a distinctly gay ambiance serving as safe spaces for the gay culture of her time. Elegant homosexuals such as Edward Perry, Edna Thomas, Harold Jackman, and Caska Bonds were her closest friends. Walker’s parties created a sense of community crucial to the work of many African-American artists in her day.
 
Edith Halpert at the Downtown Gallery, in a photograph for Life magazine in 1952. She is joined by some of the new American artists she was promoting that year: Charles Oscar, Robert Knipschild, Jonah Kinigstein, Wallace Reiss, Carroll Cloar, and Herbert Katzman.
Russian-American Edith Halpert was the founder of the Downtown Gallery in New York City. Her groundbreaking mid-century gallery turned exhibitions into political platforms. The Russian-Jewish immigrant moved to New York with her family around 1906. Through gallery-hopping and courses at the National Academy of Design, she developed an early appreciation for art. In 1926, Halpert opened the Downtown Gallery in what was then the bohemian Greenwich Village. She was devoted to supporting living American artists and exhibited work by Stuart Davis the first major gallery show by an Afro-American artist in New York. She debuted Lawrence’s “Migration Series” (1940–41) and took aggressive steps to sell the work. Her hard-driving strategies worked, as Halpert placed Lawrence’s entire series in elite East Coast institutions including the Museum of Modern Art and the Phillips Collection with each acquiring half. After the U.S. instituted a policy of Japanese internment during World War II, Halpert showed the work of Japanese-born artist Yasuo Kuniyoshi in protest.
 
The many eras of art history
Art patronage connects aesthetic taste with money and power. Art can also serve diplomacy when collectors host a political fundraiser in rooms filled with work by marginalized artists or when they give a world leader a portrait of themselves as a gift, they signal specific values and ambitions. For hundreds of years, patriarchal societies around the world have excluded women from traditional leadership roles. Nonetheless, these seven women, as patrons of the arts, were able to exert soft power in creative ways. These women were drawn to the intellectual and philosophical opportunities that art provided in eras when they had limited access to higher education. Down through art's many eras, dozens of male artists owe their careers to these farsighted ladies.
 




































 

Monday, October 7, 2019

The NEW Greek Architecture

Daring Greek Minimalist home by architect, Pavlos Chatziangelidis
located in the outskirt hills of Athens.
When we speak of Greek architecture we picture the Parthenon, crowning the brink of the Acropolis in Athens, or the neighboring Erechtheum with its sculpted maidens supporting the roof of the temple, or perhaps the largely intact ancient temple of Neptune with its stately Doric columns at Paestum (which is not actually in Greece, but in Italy) Yet if you should travel to Athens, Greece, you would find few if any modern-day structures built in the classic Greek style. Innovative architectural design seems to run in the Greek lifeblood as surely as baklava, olives, or feta cheese. However the manifestations of today's Greek architectural looks nothing at all like the imitation Greek styles we see everywhere in cities around the world except in Greece. It would surprise many to realize that contemporary Greek architects have embraced (of all things) Minimalism.
 
Chatziangelidis' H3 bears virtually all the marks of modern Minimalism from pure, white, cantilevered, reinforced concrete to the use of the obligatory swimming pool in providing eye-catching reflections.  
Minimalism is, of course, not limited to the Greeks. In fact its roots date back at least as far as the 1950s and the groundbreaking designs of German architect Mies Van der Rohe, Eero Saarinen (of Finland), and the American Philip Johnson, all of whom were influenced to varying degrees by Frank Lloyd Wright. Yet Minimalism has come a long way from the days of Wright's Fallingwater or Johnson's glass house. Innovations in construction materials and techniques have propelled the "Bauhaus box" seen in the earliest Minimalist designs, to the glistening cantilevered masses seen in Chatziangelidis' (don't even try to pronounce that name) amazing H3 house near Athens (top). Rather than present another general overview of today's Minimalism I've chosen to highlight a single, outstanding example of the work from the Athens-based 314 Architecture Studio (above).
 
Viewed from virtually every angle, H3 consistently surprises and invites awe.
In reviewing dozens of other prime examples of Minimalist domestic architecture, this one stood apart from the others. For many Minimalism is not an easy style to admire. Minimalist works are often accused (albeit with some justification) of being cold, harsh, barren, simplistic, and just plain bland. H3 may embody some of those traits but the house also bears descriptive adjectives like daring, exciting, graceful, uncomplicated, and spirited while at the same time being of eco-friendly materials and bioclimatic in design (cool in the summer, warm in the winter). The design allows the sun to warm up cold places in the winter and in the summer months to cool down other places as ventilation blows the hot air out.
The concrete and stone bench by the pool reflects back the reversed
angles and masses of the house itself.
Taking a closer look we find all the hallmark traits of Minimalist housing design. Minimalist architects love reinforced concrete and structural steel. They are completely enamored with white (often white on white). They've never met an oblique angle they didn't like. Yet they are just as likely to warmly embrace biomorphic shapes and features (though H3 is notably lacking in this aspect). Minimalism governs the interior décor (or lack of it) right down to custom built Minimalist furnishings, art, and floor coverings. Forget curtains. For those seeking privacy, windows are sometimes outfitted with discretely hidden shutters or blinds. Very often though, as with H3, such niceties are eschewed in favor of unlimited scenic views or the breaking down of the walls separating interior and exterior environments.
 
Neat, clean, simple yet luxurious, convenient, and comfortable .
At 1,000 sq. meters (10,764 sq. feet) H3 is larger than most Minimalist homes. The house consists of three separate levels with a design objective to create a luxurious and ergonomic environment with clean lines and minimalist aesthetic. Located on a plot of 7000 sq, meters plot, the house was designed to give a sense of contact with the water element inspired by the owners' love for yachts. The contact of the house and the artificial ponds that surround it, create a cooling sensation. The water for the lakes and the pool comes from a well, while the water demand for irrigation comes from a tank in which rainwater is collected through a drainage system. (Greece has a fairly dry climate.)
The rectilinear pool juts first one way, then the other and is blessed by a much-needed extended roof span providing refuge from the hot Grecian sun.
A study of the H3 floor plans (even they are minimalist) brings to light what even the most dramatic photos fail to exhibit. The three levels are accessed by traditional stairs as well as a hydraulic elevator. The basement level (directly below) consists of a five-stall parking garage, a squash court, laundry, sauna, gym, and two guest suites (or possibly servants' quarters). The elevator is marked by a boxed "X."

 
The two "bars"( just abov)e mark the foundations of the pylons supporting the cantilevered sleeping area.
The ground level (below) features a spacious living room, dining area, and kitchen built over much of the pool (in blue). The outdoor area features a tremendous expanse of wooden deck (as opposed to barefoot-burning concrete). Unmarked rectangles are spaces reserved for utilities and storage (of all thing not lending themselves to Minimalism). Textured areas are grass.
The main entrance is via a stepping-stone footbridge crossing the pool
to an inviting outdoor foyer.
The upper level (below) consists of two singles bedrooms with individual bathrooms, and the master suite at the far end of the jutting concrete cantilever. A long corridor with one sloping wall runs the entire length of the bedroom wing.
 
The bedroom wing, though appearing to overhang the pool actually
provides shade for the pool deck below.

The use of geothermal energy saves energy for the cooling and heating systems. The rooms are covered with spiral that, in conjunction with the solar panels on the rear side of the plot, heat the pool water. Photovoltaic panels have been fitted at the rear side of the plot for the production of electric power. The architecture, the construction materials, and the tech-nologies employed, all contribute to the dynamic architecture of this exquisite example of contemporary Minimalism.
 
Though obviously 21st century in all design, and
construction aspects, one is tempted to consider
H3 to be of the 22nd century.

















------------------------------------------------

For more on this remarkable house go to:
https://architecturebeast.com/impressive-ultra-modern-house/