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The Dadaistic Life of Max Ernst

Painting is not for me either decorative amusement, or the plastic invention of felt reality; it must be every time: invention, discovery, revelation. – M. Ernst

Dadaism was a movement of the grotesque, absurdity, and an expression of the modern world meaninglessness. Not only paintings, sculptures, and poems artworks, but the life of artists was an artwork itself.

Max Ernst’s life wasn’t an exception.

Early life

Maximilian Maria Ernst was born in 1891 in Bruhl, Germany as the third of nine children in a strict middle-class Catholic family. His parents were devoted Christians who were raising their children to be religious, God-fearing and capable individuals.

His father was an amateur painter and he introduced painting to Max at an early age, which will further determine his life path.

Philosophy, psychology, and psychiatry were areas that first interested him, so he went to study it at the University of Bonn.

He was visiting asylums and got fascinated with the artwork of mentally ill people. But he abandoned this studies because he realized that he had more interests in the arts, claiming that his interests included anything connected to painting.


Love for Painting

His love for painting was the main reason he decided to dedicate his life to it.

In the earliest days of his painting career, he met works of the most famous artists of all time, such as Van Gogh, Gauguin, Monet, Cezzane and Picasso, who influenced Ernst’s further work.

His favorite themes were fantasy and dreams, and he adopted an ironic style that juxtaposed grotesque elements alongside Cubist and Expressionist motifs.


War and Dada

After finishing his studies, Ernst was forced to join the German Army in World War I as a part of the artillery unit, so he was directly exposed to the drama of warfare.

The war was ruinous for this young soldier, but inspiring for him as an artist. He became highly critical of western culture and these charged emotions directly fed into his vision of the world as irrational – an idea that became the basis of his artwork.

Memories of the war and his childhood helped him create absurd, but interesting scenes in his artworks. In 1918, after returning from the war, he took painting seriously.

With Jean Arp, a poet and an artist whom he met before having to go to war, he formed a group of Dada artists in Cologne.

They edited journals and created a scandal by organizing a Dada exhibit in a public restroom. More important are his collages and photomontages he started making in 1919.

His collages represent an important phase of Dadaist art.


Collages

He was using different materials in creating collages, such as illustrated catalogs, photographs of various animals, drawings etc, which resulted in creating somewhat futuristic images.

One of these compositions is Here everything is still floating (1920), a startlingly illogical composition made of cutout photographs of insects, fish and anatomical drawings ingeniously arranged to suggest the multiple identities of the things represented.

He approached descriptive expression with his collages. Besides that, a three-dimensional spatial perspective and dreaming illusionism of Giorgio de Chirico heavily influenced his work.

Adjustment to his take on Chirico’s style moved him away from Arp’s plain drawings and provided a transition that later became an illusionist branch of surrealist painting.

Arp’s and Ernst’s attempts to reach “beyond painting” – Arp with his low, painted and machine-cut reliefs, and Ernst with his collages – don’t represent an attempt of anti-art, as much as a response to feeling that the pre-war art was too hermetic and aesthetic.

Their work made a base for painting-poetry that lived through Dadaism and inspired quarter century of Surrealism.

Ernst’s unique masterpieces enabled him to create his own world of dreams and fantasy, which helped him to heal his personal issues and trauma.


Surrealism

In the 1920s, Surrealism occurred.

In 1922, Ernst moved to Paris where he became a founding member of the Surrealists, the group that gathered artists and writers whose work outgrew from the unconscious.

In 1923, Ernst finished his Men Shall Know Nothing of This, known as the first surrealist painting.

He was one of the first artists to apply The Interpretation of Dreams by Freud to investigate his deep psyche to explore the source of his own creativity.

In 1929, he started using techniques of decalcomania – transferring paint from one surface to another by pressing the two surfaces together, and frottage – pencil rubbings of the things such as wood grain, fabric or leaves, to stimulate the flow of imagery from his unconscious mind.

These techniques resulted with the accidental patterns and textures that made the artist contemplating free association to suggest images he subsequently used in a series of drawings (Histoire naturelle, 1926) as well in many paintings such as The Great Forest (1927) and The Temptation of St. Anthony (1945).

Ernst gained quite a reputation despite his strange style.


Also in 1929, he turned to collage again and created The Woman with 100 heads, which represents his first collage novel.

Not long after, he created the collage novels A Little Girl Dreams of Taking the Veil (1930) and A Week of Kindness (1934).

After 1934, his attention was oriented towards sculpture, where he was using improvised techniques just as he did in painting.

For example, Oedipus II (1934) was cast from a stack of precariously balanced wooden pails to form a belligerent-looking phallic image.


Moving to the United States

At the beginning of World War II, Ernst moved to the United States. There he joined his third wife Peggy Guggenheim, who helped him to break through American art scene, and his son, American painter Jimmy Ernst.

While living there, he concentrated on sculptures such as The King Playing with the Queen (1944), which shows the influence that African culture made on him.

He helped to form American art during the middle of the twentieth century, thanks to his ingenious and extraordinary ideas that were different from those of other artists of that time.

Ernst’s obvious denial of conventional styles and imageries in painting was what fascinated American artists.

New and innovative ways of painting interested young American artists, so this unique style of Ernst gained the attention of painters who became familiar with his work.

Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning playing chess with figures that are Ernst’s creation

Conclusion

In his later years, he divorced Guggenheim and married Dorothea Tanning, a surrealist painter who lived in Sedona, Arizona.

They were traveling to various places to learn more about different art techniques. The couple settled in France in 1953. A year after, Ernst received the Grand Prize at the Venice Biennale, a prestigious awards contest.

Max Ernst died in 1976, in Paris, only a day before his 85th birthday. His legacy lived on as he was inspiring artists throughout the world.

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The Superflat Art Movement And Its Purposeful Absence Of Depth

It can be seen that embedded in the apparently vivid Superflat works, with their total absence of depth, are a variety of cultural, political, social, and historical contexts concerning the relationships between high art and subculture, between Japan and America, between contemporary art and capitalism. If we place these contexts within brackets and pretend to ignore them, the strength of the high quality, super flat surface is most apparent, but the moment we summon up these contexts, the picture starts to hint at endless meanings. Smoothness and complication, beauty and high-functionality, Murakami imbues his paintings with unparalleled structure, a structure that resembles an incredibly carefully planned, highly-functional cyborg.

                               Minami, 2001.

Superflat

Superflat was launched in Tokyo, 2000, through the Superflat exhibition which was designed to travel globally. An elaborate, bilingual catalogue Super Flat was produced to accompany the exhibition which included Murakami’s “A Theory of Super Flat Japanese Art”.

It was the first in a trilogy of exhibitions curated by Murakami. According to the artist, the trilogy of Superflat exhibitions were constructed to provide a cultural and historical context for the new form of Superflat art that he was proposing, and which was specifically exported for Western audiences.

The theory of Super Flat art is a manifesto for Murakami’s concept of a new form of art emerging from the creative expressions produced in Manga (graphic novels), video games, anime (Japanese animation), fashion and graphic design.

In this theory Murakami identifies Superflat as a genealogy of aesthetics tendency in which contemporary Japanese culture has inherited a spirit of artistic innovation and creativity from the Edo period, 1600-1867.

The concept of a Superflat aesthetics lineage draws significantly on Japanese art historian Tsuji Nobuo’s Kisō no Keifu (Lineage of Eccentrics, 1970).

Nobuo identified a common disposition among six Edo artists to ‘the production of eccentric and fantastic images’, and also identified a tendency toward playfulness and eccentricity in contemporary forms of manga and anime.

Murakami extends Nobuo’s argument by presenting Superflat as an aesthetics that reinforces the two-dimensionality on the surface, a feature which he also recognizes in the paintings of the Edo Eccentrics (these include Iwasa Matabei, Kanō Sansetsu, Itō Jakuchū, Soga Shohaku, Nagasawa Rosetsu and Utagawa Kuniyoshi) and anime texts such as Galaxy Express 999.

The Superflat planar emphasis is achieved through a composition structure that directs the viewer’s gaze across the surface of the painting, rather than drawing it in through the conventions of Western linear perspective.

In addition, Superflat can also be used to describe the visual style of Murakami’s works.  In his own sculptures, paintings and other assorted productions Murakami appropriated the kawaii character icons and two-dimensional aesthetics of manga and anime and combines these with compositions and techniques derived from the traditions of Japanese painting.

Modern Art?  No, Modern Edo.

By connecting Edo forms of Japanese painting with the contemporary commercial expressions emerging in manga, anime, fashion, video-games and graphic design, Murakami presents Superflat as a merging of art and popular culture and a questioning of the culturally and socially constructed definition of art, especially in Japan.

In his own work, the artist reinforces this merging of art and commercial culture by producing sculptures, paintings, handbags, snack toys, key-chains, t-shirts, buttons, stickers and bandanas which are all based on the same Superflat iconography.

Murakami presents the production of his art as a business strategy and challenges the conventional avenues for the exhibition of art Japan.

Therefore, Superflat theory is also driven by a more politicized commentary on the modern institutions of bijutsu (fine art) in Japan.

Murakami rejects the modern institutions of kindai bijutsu (modern art) which he considers to be an incomplete importation of Western concepts and institutions of art since their adoption in the Meji period (1868-1912) as part of the process of modernization and westernization.

To Murakami, the innovation and originality of contemporary forms of commercial culture represents a continuation of the innovations introduced by the premodern eccentric artists.

Murakami argues that these qualities of creative invention and avant-garde spirit were excluded from the practices and institutions of bijutsu, and that it is the texts and practices of contemporary consumer culture that offer the re-emergence of what he considers to be authentic and original Japanese expression.

POKU

The concept of revolutionizing art was drawn from Murakami’s early aim to merge Pop Art with otaku production-consumption practices in order to create a new form of popular art, POKU.

Otaku refers to groups of manga and anime fun communities who are conventionally described as ‘hard-core’ and are prevalent throughout Japan.

While the aim of POKU was to market art in otaku cultural institutions, Murakami declared this project a failure and decided to focus on transforming the consumption of art in Japan and to bring a new form of art in Japan, although one that was still influenced by otaku culture, to Western art world.

Thus POKU was superseded by Superflat’s intention to harness the creative expressions being generated in the production-consumption of commercial culture more generally.

A critical component of this strategy is Murakami’s art studio/factory Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd., formerly known as Hiropon Factory; the studio produces Murakami’s works and associated products which are sold  through the studio website and stores, but also provides exhibition opportunities for emerging artists.

Western Invasion or Eastern Affirmation?

However, Murakami’s concept of Superflat art, and the artworks that represent it, attracted significant media and gallery attention leading to an important turning point in Murakami’s profile in Western contemporary art worlds.

The subsidiary politic in Superflat is the affirmation of its Japanese identity in an almost recalcitrant swipe at Western art. Murakami presents it as a type of post-Pop, an indigenous expression of Pop Art.

At the same time, Murakami acknowledges the transformations of Superflat expression under the influences of Western culture.

This position is even more complex because Murakami also explicitly emphasizes his strategy to successfully sell work in the United States and European art markets- around 70% of his paintings and sculptures are sold in these markets.

Therefore while a key aspect of his project is to affirm the Japanese identity of Superflat art, it is also self-consciously presented in the codes of Western art worlds and art markets.

At the same time, Murakami is using Western art markets, and the popular appeal of Japanese consumer culture both in and outside Japan, in order to propose alternatives to the institutions and practices of bijutsu in Japan.

It is this tension and dialogue between the commodification of Superflat and the simultaneous challenge to existing forms of art production-consumption, through the merging of art and commercial culture, which makes the analysis of Superflat complex.

This complexity arises because the meanings of commodity, art and cultural identity are themselves contested concepts in contemporary culture, especially in the context of globalization.

Contemporary culture can be defined by the multidimensional relations that constitute the economic, cultural and political processes of contemporary globalizations.

Art, as a central mode of human ‘expressivity’, defines and shapes culture. As the interaction between social groups has become increasingly globalized, the meaning-making and expressivities associated with art have also become engaged through national and transnational gradients.

Murakami’s work and Superflat theory are significant as they expose the key debates in contemporary culture regarding the relationship between art and commodity which are part of broader debates on the meaning of art in relation to consumer capitalism and the production of art in the processes of contemporary globalization.

The formation of identity and expressive modes within a national genealogy becomes particularly problematic within a globalizing cultural sphere.

The articulation of a particular kind of ‘national identity’ in Murakami’s work problematizes the global-local compound and a cognition which celebrates hybridity and postmodern open identities.

The analysis of the concept and expression of Superflat demonstrates the potential for diverse interpretations which challenge and move away from Murakami’s own presentation and understanding.

Particularly, Murakami’s works and Superflat can be understood as expressions of the complex relations between cultural identity, art and commodity in the contemporary cultural context in which they are produced-consumed.

Trading Faces

The Japanese identity of Superflat is pretty complicated. Superflat echoes conventional constructions of a Japan/West binary which obscures the connections and power relation in this structure.

Secondly, while Murakami acknowledges the Western influences on the Superflat aesthetics, his simultaneous transposing of this hybrid identity into a reinforcement of a Japanese identity, characterized by cultural assimilation and hybridization, reinforces a unified national-cultural identity.

This identity is supported by the references between Superflat and already existing discursive constructions of Japanese culture and as flat.

Also, Superflat is part of ongoing trade relations and cross-fertilizations of visual culture forms between Japan and the West since the late nineteenth century.

These complex relationships demonstrate the need to locate Superflat in a global context and to critically interrogate Murakami’s concept and aesthetics.

Murakami’s work and Superflat art can be understood to articulate a postmodern aesthetics and conceptualization of art; the flattening of the distinction between commercial commodities and art and expressing the hybridizing effects of global cultural interactions.

The Superflat is terrain of contestation, making both the absence of hierarchical divisions between art and commercial culture and the presence of multiple structures demarcating the various social, political, cultural and historical contexts in which Superflat engages as it circulates globally.

This fluidity is often negated by the responses to Murakami’s work illustrated in the introductory quotes, which continue to affirm an art/commodity distinction: Murakami’s work is either defended as an aesthetic critique of the socio-cultural condition of commercial consumption or decried as a celebration of the lack of distinction between commercial production and art.

This simple dualism limits the understanding of Superflat and reveals the persistence, through debates, of the concepts autonomy, authenticity and aesthetic value in relation to definition of  cultural identity and art.

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Sava Šumanović – A Tragic Painter In A White Suit

Life is only one sad nothing. – S. Šumanović

Sava Šumanović’s life was brilliant, joyless, inspiring, sad, noble, tragic – all at once.

This artist was born in 1896 in Vinkovci (then in Austro-Hungary) as an only child in a respectable and wealthy family. When he was four years old, the family moved to Šid, a small town in West Serbia.

Sava’s father wanted for his only son to be a lawyer, but young Sava had different wishes. He had been fascinated by art since his school days. So, he resisted his father’s wish and went to Art Academy in Zagreb, instead of Law School.

He organized his first exhibition in 1918, at the very end of the studies. He earned great reviews and his popularity and influence had been gradually increasing since that moment. Symbolism and secession made a great impact on these paintings.

In 1920, he went to Paris, which is one of the most important points in his career. He spent six months there, painting and studying from French painter and teacher Andre Lhote, a cubist.

Rising Star

Lothe made a great impression on Sava, a young rising painter, who started to express himself through cubism and constructivism, just like his mentor.

Thanks to that, Šumanović became a pioneer of modernism in Serbian, Yugoslav painting. But introducing the Yugoslav audience to modernism wasn’t easy.

Namely, after returning from France, he organized an exhibition in Zagreb, but was deeply disappointed for criticisms being highly negative.

In his opinion, the problem for this outcome was the unadaptable Zagreb audience that wasn’t ready for anything new. He wasn’t an exception. He was rejected because he brought something new.

After coming back to Serbia, he started painting females and landscapes from around Šid. These motifs will dominate his paintings till the very end of his creation.

In 1925, he went to Paris one more time, but this time it wasn’t so bright and satisfying as it was when he first went there. He made some of his most famous paintings then – Drunken boat, inspired by famous Arthur Rimbaud’s poem with the same title, and Breakfast on Grass.

Struggle and Joy

Also, he participated in The Salon d’Automne (1926). Despite all that, he was coming across divided reviews, and those negative ones had a negative influence on his mental health.

His entire life in Paris in 1925 was a fierce struggle in himself, fighting against regret, against sentimentalism. Therefore, he painted pictures in a bright tone with a joyful coloration.

But it didn’t help – the real life was too damned, ugly and sad. Difficult working conditions, unsatisfying criticisms, a humiliating situation with a visa and a series of personal events made him psychically exhausted.

In order to get some rest, the painter returned to his homeland. In September 1928, he organized an exhibition in Belgrade which met excellent reception with the audience. 

Later that year he went to Paris, again. It was his last stay in The City of Light. Paintings Red carpet, Lying female act, Luxembourg park in Paris… But his health condition soon got worse, and in 1930 he came back to Belgrade for treatment.

Two years after rest cure he returned to beloved Šid, this time for forever.

Knowledge and Experience

That decade (1932 – 1942 after he came home till his tragic death) was the most active period of his artistic creation. This period is considered the most important phase of his work and is called Šid’s phase.

Sava came back as a mature artist, full of knowledge and experience. He had ideal working conditions there. He was completely dedicated to painting. He had realized that he could fulfill his highest aim, which was to come up with his own style.

He didn’t want to be a Cubist, or Symbolist, or Impressionist, or anything else, but himself. And he succeeded it, he named his style as I can and ken.

This painter spent a lot of time in nature, enjoying Srem landscape and finding inspiration and motifs for his future paintings.

He was always going for a walk at the same time, wearing a white suit and carrying an umbrella. He was carrying his umbrella even in Summer, to protect the white suit from mulberry stains.

During this decade, Šumanović painted over 600 paintings. The most significant are two cycles – Šidijanke (which means women from Šid) and Grape harvesters.

The first cycle was completely presented at the exhibition in Belgrade in 1939. Grape harvesters is considered the beginning of a new cycle that was interrupted by the tragic death of the painter.

Murder

He was murdered during World War II. He had just finished Grape harvesters when pro-fascist collaborators came and took him in the dawn, 28 August 1942.

Two days later, 30 August, Sava Šumanović and 120 people from Šid, were unknowingly convicted, tortured and shot and then buried in mass grave in Sremska Mitrovica.

His mother succeeded to save his paintings during the war.

She also succeeded in creating a gallery in one of the family houses and gave the works of her son to Šid town. Gallery Sava Šumanović was founded in 1952 and Savas’s paintings still live there.

Here is a video that talks about Sava Šumanović. Unfortunately, it is not in English.

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Takashi Murakami – Everything’s Melting

“In Japan, the line (between high and low) is less defined, both by the culture and by the post-war economic situation. Japanese people accept that art and commerce will be blended; and in fact, they are surprised by the rigid and pretentious Western hierarchy of ‘’high art’’. In the West, it certainly is dangerous to blend the two because people will throw all sorts of stones. But, that’s okay- I’m ready with my hard hat.” – Takashi Murakami

Murakami’s Early Life and Intro to Okatu

Born in Tokyo, Japan, in 1962, Takashi Murakami grew up in a household that placed a high value on art. His mother, who designed textiles and studies needlepoint, had a huge influence on his interest in the visual arts.

Equally, the omnipresence of devastation and the presence of the United States in Japan after the WWII had a tremendous influence on Murakami’s artistic evolution.

During his childhood, Japan created a national identity that revived traditional Japanese culture, and put huge pressure on its workforce to produce in order to compete with the West, both culturally and economically. 

The hybrid emphasis on traditional Japanese culture and Western influences was reflected in Murakami’ childhood activities; he developed an early appreciation of both modern European art and traditional Japanese culture.

Murakami engagement with the Japanese subculture of otaku – a large group of fanatical geeks obsessed with the fantasy worlds depicted in manga, comic books, and in anime, animated cartoons, and the concept of kawaii is pretty evident during his formative ages.

As a young artist Murakami immersed himself in this world and began to draw stylistic inspiration from it and presents to viewers from a distanced and cynical stance.

Early 1980’s to 1990’s Work

In the early 1980s, Murakami enrolled in Nihonga, a nineteenth century style of Japanese painting that combines Japanese subject matter with European painting technique at Tokyo National University of Fine Art and Music, where he stayed for master’s and doctoral degree (1988,1993).

Murakami’s early works reflect the realities with which he had grown up, exploring the post-war relationship between United States and Japan (Polyrhythm, 1991, Sea Breeze. 1992.)

These works demonstrate his early development of a playful and seemingly light style that refers to a more cynical stance.

In 1994, Takashi Murakami traveled to New York to participate in P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center’s International Studio Program on a fellowship from the ACC (Asian Cultural Council).

In New York, he was surrounded by the pressures of the gallery system and American art market.

In order to succeed in this world, he realized that he had to abandon his overly-intellectual Japanese preoccupations and to present a more simplified brand of himself and his art as typical Japanese. This was a radical breaking point for his career.

In this regard, he decided to re-engage with his Japanese identity and strengthen his work’s engagement with both the pop culture forms of manga and anime and the high art form of nihonga.

The Arrival of Mr. DOB

At that time, Murakami came up with the figure of Mr. DOB, a mouse-like creature with a round head and large, circular ears, based on a cartoon character originally created in Hong Kong.

Mr. DOB would go on to become the artist’s signature character across his diverse array of artistic media.

In the center of the triptych named 727 (1996) is Murakami’s avatar Mr DOB.

The maniacal smile of Mr DOB can be seen as Murakami’s laughing stance towards the art world, but also toward the West.

The title 727 is a reference to the Boeing American airplanes that flew over his childhood home, as a direct reference to the U.S. presence in post-war Japan; Murakami is so keen to both critique and explore in his art.

The stylized wave upon which Mr DOB sits is a reference to the 19th-century Japanese woodblock artist Hokusai, who was influential for future Japanese artists and manga comics alike due to his flattened compositions and bold colors.

The abstract background is reminiscent of a Japanese folding screen done in the nihonga style.

Fine Art?

Beginning in the mid-1990s, Murakami’s works were featured in solo exhibit at museums, galleries throughout Japan, United States and Europe.

Art critics were unsure what to make of these unusual creations; they are highly original, beautifully executed, visually appealing- but can they be considered fine art?

Some dismissed Murakami’s work, suggesting that they are lovely, but lack substance, but many others have applauded Murakami’s adventurous approach, especially his ability to bridge the worlds of high and low art and to create works that appeal to a broader audience than most fine art.

In 1996, in order to produce his otaku– inspired sculpture, Murakami founded the Hiropon Factory, modelled on both Andy Warhol’s Factory, as well as on traditional Japanese art workshops- such as the ones that produced the woodblock prints from the Edo period.

At Hiropon Factory assistants trained in various areas of expertise collaborate under the artist’s supervision for large-scale, mass-market projects. In this period, the artist went on design a series of major sculptures inspired by otaku subculture including Miss ko² (1996-1997), Hiropon (1997), and My Lonesome Cowboy (1998).

Hiropon (1997) is a part of Murakami’s anime-inspired characters, which also include a masturbating sculpture of boy named My Lonesome Cowboy. 

The title itself alludes to the darker aspects of Japanese culture- hiropon is Japanese slang for the narcotic-crystal methamphetamine. This literal connection to the drug culture reveals artist’s examination of otaku subculture as an illicit form of entertainment.

This sexualized sculpture, with voluminous pink pig-tails and her tiny waist, has breasts that are so large that they burst out of her bikini top to spray a jet-stream of milk that encircles her figure.

Combining a shocking perversion and feminine cuteness this sculpture reflects Murakami’s deep engagement with otaku subculture and its pornographic underbelly known as ‘loli-com’, Lolita Complex, in which girlhood and innocence are paradoxically prized, as well as fetishized.

Kaikai Kiki Co.

In 2001, the Hiropon Factory evolved into Kaikai Kiki Co., a highly organized corporation settled in Tokyo and New York. Besides marketing and producing Murakami’s work, the corporation promotes new artists, organizes collaborative projects with individuals and companies in music, fashion and entertainment, operates art fairs, and develops animated films and videos.

The company represents a shift in the production of modern artwork where fine art and commerce are integrated, and where the artist’s physical hand in the making of the artwork no longer determines the financial value, but rather the symbolic value is created through the artist’s association with the art-commodities produced in his business-oriented factory.

In 2000, Murakami presented the theory of Superflat. The name refers both to the merging of art and commerce and the flattened compositions that lacked one point perspective of historical Japanese artistic movements, Nihonga, for instance. 

In his historic essay ‘A Theory of Super Flat Japanese Art’ he articulates desire to produce a uniquely Japanese art form that is directly related to the shadow cast by Japan’s trauma after the humiliating defeat of WWII.

Murakami explains the concept of superflatness as an original concept of Japanese, which has been completely westernized.

This theory swept across the contemporary art world, becoming a landmark movement in contemporary Japanese art, the latest major style to reach international recognition in the art-world, since the 1950s Japanese Gutai group.

Despite his art-historical and culturally-rich referents in his manifestos, art, essays, people are often immediately drawn to his work for its seeming superficiality and dazzling explosion of colors and characters.

Takashi Murakami’s projects have explored unconventional artistic media including music, fashion, public installations, films, animation. The shift between roles and disciplines reveals his ambition of redefining what a postmodern artist can be.

Mr. Pointy

In the fall of 2003, Murakami installed a public art display called Reversed Double Helix at the Rockefeller Center plaza in Midtown Manhattan.

The display featured two thirty-three-foot balloons, a number of jewel-colored mushroom sculptures that doubled as seats for visitors, and a twenty-three-foot tall sculpture of Murakami’s character Mr Pointy.

Sporting a large round head that comes to a point, multiple arms, and a brightly colored body, Mr. Pointy was described as the whimsical love child of Hello Kitty, a Buddha, and a portabello mushroom.

Two years earlier Murakami had startled and delighted commuters in Vanderbilt Hall, part of New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, with Wink (2001), a display of mushroom sculptures and huge helium-filled balloons hovering thirty feet off the floor- all of which were decorated with brightly colored eyes of all shapes and sizes as well as spirals and other designs.

This installation creates a paradoxical and ironic co-existence of the Japanese Neo-Pop and the formal elegance of the classical Beaux-Arts architecture of Grand Central Terminal.

Roberta Smith, an art critic, argues against this public project, suggesting that it was compromised by its inappropriate setting, a vast former waiting room bereft of its wood benches, which felt all wrong for contemporary art. Anyway, this strange cultural mash-up is exactly what Murakami intends.

Luis Vuitton Collaboration

In 2002, the artist began his long-term collaboration with the Luis Vuitton, the elite fashion brand. This collaboration made Murakami widely known for further blurring commercial boundaries, elevated his status to celebrity and raised economic value of his art to one that is highly prized among Western collectors.

One of Murakami’s design features The LV signature monogram in 97 different colors with his own signature jellyfish eyes repeated on white or black background.

Shortly following the launch of his line at Louis Vuitton, Murakami re-appropriated the same images printed onto bags into paintings meant for prestigious art institutions and collectors, blurring the distinction between commodity and art (Eye Love Superflat , 2006)

In Blue Flowers & Skulls, 2012, youth and death collide as smiling daisies and large-eyed skulls overwhelm the picture plane and bland together with the aid of the work’s blue color scheme.

The mix of cuteness and death are the artist’s way of engaging with the Japanese obsession with Kawaii, but also his way of critiquing it.

Everything is Transient

According to Murakami, Kawaii culture has become a living entity that pervades everything. With a population heedless of the cost of embracing immaturity, the nation is in the throes of a dilemma: a preoccupation with anti-aging may conquer not only the human heart, but also the body.

In that sense, the artist reveals a darker engagement with these juvenile flowers that takes its aim directly at contemporary society.

Throughout Western art history, the role of the skull has functioned as a memento mori, a reminder of one’s own eventual death; the Japanese Buddhist conception of Shogyo mujo is roughly translated as ‘everything is transient’.

Blue Flowers & Skulls is reflective of many of Murakami’s installations, paintings and sculptures in which smiling daisies and skulls repeat across his large oeuvre; in the obsessive repetition of these motifs his darker and more subversive themes are expanded and re-contextualized over and over to the point of visual exhaustion.

Murakami’s astronomical rise to fame in the contemporary art world has been met with both criticism and celebration.

He brings together Japanese pop culture referents with the Japan’s rich artistic legacy, effectively wiping out any distinction between high art and commodity.

Critics have mocked him as a sell-out and as playing into the art market’s increasing demands for trivial, easily consumable art from Japan.

Post-Nuclear : What Did You Expect Would Happen?

Murakami’s work must be understood as deeply critical to Western intervention.

He grew up in Japan that then faced heavy sanctions and a permanent U.S. military presence, and also was raised by parents who experienced the devastating nuclear bombings.

In his writings (differ wildly from his essays written in English) he reveals a deep cynicism toward the West, considering Japan’s contemporary obsession with youthful innocence, cuteness, violence and fetish are the product of U.S. intervention that began with the bomb.

In that sense, many believe that Murakami considers his thrusting of this art concept onto the U.S. through his elevation of it as high art as a form of some revenge.

Visit: http://www.takashimurakami.com/

Oh, and he has worked with the American provocateur himself, Mr. Kanye West.

Here’s an interesting interview video with Murakami that touches upon how he thinks about things.

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François-Auguste-René Rodin – Father of Modern Sculpture

In front of the model, I work with the same desire to copy the truth as if I were making a portrait; I do not correct nature, I incorporate myself into her; she leads me.
 
I can work only from a model. The sign of the human form fortifies and nourishes me.

François-Auguste-René Rodin’s story recalls the archetypical struggle of the modern artist.

He was born on November 12, 1840 in a poor area of Paris’s fifth arrondissement to Jean-Baptiste Rodin, an office clerk in the local police station and his second wife, Marie Cheffer.

Early Life

In 1854, he decided to pursue a career in the arts, attending the Ecole Speciale de Dessin et de Mathematiques which trained boys in the decorative arts.

Due to poor vision, Rodin was greatly distressed at a young age. Unaware of his imperfect eyesight, (he was nearsighted) a dejected Rodin found comfort in drawing, which allowed him to clearly see his progress as he practiced on drawing paper.

By age 14, Rodin had developed obvious skills as artist, and soon began taking formal art courses. While completing his studies, the aspiring young artist began to doubt himself, receiving little validation or encouragement from his instructors and fellow students.

After three years of studying sculpture and drawing, he applied to attend the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He was gravely disappointed when the school denied him admission.

While he passed the drawing competition, he failed three times in the sculpture competition; his pursuit of naturalism did not suit the school’s academic style.

After the third rejection, Rodin resigned himself, at the age of 19, to take job in plaster workshops to create architectural ornaments.

His career in the decorative arts working on public monuments provided him with a meager living for the next 20 years.

He continued to make sculptures, and by the mid-1860s he had completed what he would later describe as his first major work ‘’Mask of the Man With the Broken Nose’’ (1863-64).

The piece was rejected twice by the Paris Salon due to the realism of the portrait, which departed from classic notions of beauty and featured the face of a local handyman.

In 1866, Rodin met Rose Beuret, and she remained his lifetime companion despite his numerous affairs.

Around this time, Rodin found better fortune-filling commissions in the workshop of Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse, a commercial sculptor, but the steady work and increased income was disrupted by the Franco-Prussian War in 1870.

A fateful trip to Italy in 1875, with an eye on Michelangelo’s work further stirred Rodin’s inner artist, enlightening him to new kinds of possibilities, he returned to Paris inspired to create and design.

The Age of Bronze

In 1876, Rodin completed his piece ‘’The Vanquished’’, which he called ‘’The Age of Bronze’’, a life-size sculpture of a nude man clenching both of his fists, with his right hand hanging over his head.

A young officer was the model for this sculpture, which provided the first great ‘success de scandale’ of Rodin’s career. The composition and rough surface of the figure were unconventional by academic standards.

The subject also remained obscure- the title only vaguely suggesting classical art- and prompted confusion among critics; rather than clothe his image of man in respected symbolism, Rodin had presented a common man, naked.

The Salon accepted the work, but doubts were raised about its authenticity and many accused him of casting directly from the model’s body; the sculpture appeared so realistic that it was directly modeled from the body of the model.

The allegations were a testament to Rodin’s technical skills, though the suggestion that he had somehow cheated heartily offended the sculptor, who was able to disprove the claim with photographs of his model.

However, the work was validated when it was purchased by Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Fine Arts, Edmond Turquet. Turquet would then commission Rodin to create a monumental bronze doorway for a planned museum of the decorative arts.

The Gates of Hell

As Rodin entered his 40s in the fallowing decade, he was able to further establish his distinct artistic style with an acclaimed, but sometimes controversial list of works, eschewing academic formality for a vital suppleness of form.

In 1880, Rodin began working on ‘’The Gates of Hell’’ an intricate monument partly inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy and Charles Boudelaire’d Les Fleurs du Mal.

Rodin laboured on this project for over twenty years.

It is believed that Rodin chose to draw on Dante’s Inferno for the subject matter. The monument consisted of various sculpted figures, including the iconic ‘Thinker’(1880), ‘The Three Shades’(1886), ‘The Old Courtesan’(1887), and the posthumously discovered ‘Man with Serpent’(1887).
 
The Thinker is the most famous example.

Deriving from a figure at the top of the sculpture who gazes with melancholy over the hellish scenes bellow him, he represents Dante the author of the Divine Comedy; the figure also represents modern, secular man, strong in mind and body, but lonely and doubtful in the position he has created for himself as master of his own universe.

The Gates of Hell was a deliberate attempt to rival Lorenzo Ghiberti’s famous bronze doors for the Baptistery of Florence Cathedral, the Gates of Paradise (1425-52), the competition for which is often said to have initiated the Renaissance.

Rodin initially planned to split the composition into a series of panels, just as Ghiberti had done, but after looking at images of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment (1534-41), he opted for a more fluid arrangement of figures.

Although Rodin wished to exhibit the completed ‘Gates’ by the end of the decade, the project proved to be more time-consuming than originally anticipated and remained uncompleted.

The Kiss

The years during which Rodin worked on The Gates of Hell coincided with his relationship with Camille Claudel, a young sculptor who joined his studio as an assistant in 1884.

It proved a stormy romance beset by numerous quarrels, but it persisted until Camille’s madness brought it to a finish in 1898. During the years of passion, Rodin made several erotic sculptures of loving couples.
 
The most sensuous of these groups was the Kiss (1884).

The critics gave the sculpture the title, but Rodin originally called it Paolo and Francesca, after the story in Dante’s Divine Comedy about a young noblewoman who falls in love with her husband’s brother.
 
In the story, the couple is killed by the jealous husband, but Rodin focused instead in their loving embrace.

This erotic sculpture was made during the early years of Rodin’s relationship with Madame Claudel.

The Burghers of Calais

By 1899 Rodin had a large studio with several assistants. His work continued to elicit scandal and trouble. ‘The Burghers of Calais’’ a piece from 1889, is a public monument made of bronze portraying a moment during the Hundred Years’ War between France and England in 1347.

The piece includes six human statues, and depicts a war account during which six French citizens from Calais were ordered by monarch Edward III of England to abandon their home and surrender themselves—barefoot and bareheaded, wearing ropes around their necks and holding the keys to the town and the caste in their hands— to the king who was to order their execution thereafter.

‘The Burgers of Calais’ is a portrayal of the moment that the citizens exited the town; the group was later spared death due to the request of Queen Philippa.

The piece was nearly refused for its depiction of the city’s heroes as dejected victims. The figures are arranged all on one level, rejecting the pyramid composition typical of figure groups at the time.

The men look downtrodden, but determined. They are dressed in rags, and their hands and feet are expressively enlarged.

However, their awkward appearance did not suggest the heroic dimension that the town had envisioned, and the sculpture was accepted with some hesitation and compromise.

Monument to Balzac

Similarly, in 1881, Rodin was commissioned by the Society of Man of Letters to create a memorial for the poet Honore Balzac. Instead of taking 18 months to complete the work, Rodin became infatuated with the topic, and completed the commission in 7 years.

Rodin spent years reading Balzac’s poems, finding pictures of him and models who bore a resemblance to the heavy-set man.

Finally, he placed the proud head on top of a body swathed in a huge, shapeless robe and made a mound-like protrusion at his crotch as a reference to his virility.

The commission was ultimately rejected, and after much controversy Rodin decided to keep the sculpture for himself.

After the sculpture of Balzac, Rodin’s pace slowed down, but he had achieved financial success.

Several exhibitions around the turn of the century brought him worldwide renown; exhibitions in Belgium and Holland in 1899, his first retrospective in Paris in 1990, subsequent shows in Prague, Germany and New York.

Unbridled Sentimental Inventiveness

Around 1900, there was a pressing desire to find a new formal approach in sculpture.

The theories of the German sculptor Lehmbruck were symptomatic from this point of view. In his writings, he particularly condemned ‘unbridled sentimental inventiveness’, making explicit references to Rodin’s art.

In 1908, Rodin moved to the now-famous Hotel Biron, the most beautiful 18th– century Parisian mansions, which became his new studio and home of his affair with the Marquise and later Duchess, Claire de Choiseul.

She exercised great control over his life and the sale of his work for seven years, until she was accused of stealing a box of drawings.

Because of her scheming and that of other women around Rodin, friends encouraged him to marry Rose Beuret in January 1917. Rose died two weeks after the wedding, and Rodin passed away on November, 17 of that same year in Meudon, France.

Hotel Biron at Meudon

Before his death he bequeathed all of his sculptures, drawings and archives to the state of France to create a museum in the Hotel Biron at Meudon.

The Museum was opened in 1919; after several years of reconstruction, the museum was reopened in 2015 on November, 12, Rodin’s birthday.

By the time of his death, Rodin was linked to Michelangelo. His reputation as the father of modern sculpture remains unchanged; his many intimate drawings of his models have altered the nature of the traditional respect paid to this eminent artist.

Henri Matisse was influenced by the spontaneity of his drawings, while Cubists and Futurists were fascinated by his sense of motion and the fragmentation of his human forms.

While Rodin’s reputation declined in the decades following his death, his rebellion against academic standards and his vivid expression of the human form planted the seed for a new French sculpture.

To the generation of sculptors coming forward in the 1890s, faced with the conventions of Academic art and the death throes of Realism, Rodin seemed to be the one who had breathed new life into their art form.

The early works of Joseph Bernard, Brancusi, Picasso, Gaudier-Brzeska and Zadkine, all reflect Rodin’s undeniable influence.

We’ll leave you with this video documentary about Rodin.


 

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Kenzo Tange – Osaka’s Pride Shapes The World

” We live in a world where great incompatibles co-exist: the human scale and the superman scale, stability and mobility, permanence and change, identity and anonymity, comprehensibility and universality’’

Born in Osaka, Japan on September 4, 1913, Kenzo Tange was one of the foremost architects of the twenty century.

He was considered a genius for the buildings he designed throughout his prolific career. He designed more buildings in his lifetime than legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Background

Growing up in the small city of Imabari, on Shikoku Island, he became interested in architecture during high school, but he wasn’t the best math student, so he had to work extremely hard to get into a university.

In 1935, he was accepted to the University of Tokyo’s architecture department. Three years after, he got his first job under Kunio Maekawa, a well-known Japanese architect at that time, who had practiced with Le Corbusier in his Paris studio in the late 1920s.

Due to the World War II, his job did not last long, and, to avoid the draft, Tange had continued his postgraduate studies at Tokyo University and became an assistant professor at Tokyo University in 1946.

During his studies, he won an architectural contest, which earned him solid reputation at the university. He set up his own studio, through which such remarkable architects as Kisho Kurokawa, Arata Isozaki and Fumihiko Maki passed, learned, contributed and flourished.

Postwar Japanese Architecture

He had continued to teach at Tokyo University, becoming a full professor of urban engineering. He retired in 1974 as a professor emeritus, but continued to teach in United States at numerous illustrious colleges and universities.

Postwar architecture in Japan, while widely eclectic and international in scope, has seen its most dramatic achievements in contemporary interpretations of traditional forms.

In general, Japanese architects of the 20th century were fully conversant in Western style and active in developing a meaningful modern style appropriate to Japanese sites.

Before getting his first real break as an architect, Tange worked as an urban planner. In 1949, his first major commission came after he had won an architectural contest for the design of the Hiroshima.

The commission was symbolic: the replanning of the city of Hiroshima after its destruction by Little Boy, the atomic bomb dropped by the USAF B-29 Enola Gay on August 6, 1945.

At the heart of the Hiroshima, Tange helped design Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park, its peace centre (1950) and museum (1952), they are among his best known early works.

Peace Memorial Park, located at the epicenter of the atomic blast, contains a museum and monuments dedicated to those killed by the explosion.

The cenotaph for victims of the bombing is shaped like an enormous saddle, resembling the small clay saddles placed in ancient Japanese tombs; it contains a stone chest with a scroll listing the names of those killed.

Kenzo Tange designed the museum and cenotaph and two peace bridges at the park were sculpted by the American artist Isamu Noguchi.

The Peace center, raised on stilt-like, Le Corbusier-style columns, faced by a monument that combined ancient forms and the latest structural technology.

The fusion was a symbol of the new Japan; traditional Haniwa tomb and a concrete hyperbolic parabola resolutely looking to the future while proudly recalling the best of its pre-imperial past.

From here, Tange became an integral component in the rebuilding of Japan after the devastation of World War II.

As Le Corbusier long dreamed of rebuilding the centre of Paris, so Tange worked long and hard on a comprehensive and highly contentious, redesign of his country’s capital city.

In the years that followed, he designed an outstanding series of public buildings, including the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office (1957), the Shizuoka Convention Hall (1957), city halls at Kurayoshi (1957) and Kurashiki (1960) and the Kagawa prefectural offices( 1958), latter being considered a particularly fine examples of the blending modern and Japanese traditional architecture.

Most of these early structures were conventional rectangular forms using light steel frames.

Brutalism

Tange’s work during the 1960s took more boldly dramatic forms with the use of reinforced concrete and innovative engineering.

He launched Japanese architectural movement, Metabolist school or Metabolism, with his Boston Harbor Project design (1959), which included two gigantic A-frames hung with ‘shelving’ for homes and other buildings.

Led by Tange, Kikutake Kiyonori, Isozaki Arata and Kurosawa Kisho, the Metabolist focused on structures that combined high-tech imagery, Brutalism and megastructures as multifunctional complexes that verge on self-containment.

Their advocacy of such devices as artificial land platforms above cities, which grew out of a desire for economy of land use, revolutionized architectural thinking.

They believed that cities should be built to account for future changes. The solution was modular, prefabricated capsules that could be attached to the core of a main structure.

The Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo designed by Kisho Kurosawa is the perfect example of this very architectural style.

Tange’s plan for Tokyo from 1960 received worldwide attention. He presented a master plan for a floating city in Tokyo Bay at the 1960 World Design Conference; the plan was unlike anything architects had ever seen before.

In practice, it would have meant projecting the city out over the bay, using man-made islands connected by proliferation of bridges, and characterized not by buildings as such, but by eye-boggling concrete megastructures.

Although never realized on the scale Tange had intended, Tokyo, these great concrete concatenations were influential in Western Europe, especially in Britain, encouraging a generation of architects who preferred sheer scale and raw concrete, and were labeled ‘brutalists’ by the critic Reyner Banham.

For many of them, Tange Kenzo was the godfather of 1960’s Brutalism.

His most successful brutalist design, the Yamanashi press and broadcasting centre, was a samurai fortress brought into the late 20th century, as well as a modern concrete megastructure.

Although seems all off a piece, this was a determinedly indeterminate building in the sense that, theoretically at least, its 16 massive cylindrical towers, housing the centre’s services, could be greatly extended, while yawning gaps left between occupied floors could be filled in with future offices and studios as required.

Nowadays, these gaps have been filled in with roof gardens and terraces, adding to the enigmatic and unexpectedly romantic quality of this powerful design.

Yoyogi National Stadium

For the 1964 Olimpic Games in Tokyo, he designed the Yoyogi National Stadium; the two structures featured sweeping curved roofs and an asymmetrical, but balanced design that masterfully assimilated traditional technique.

The structures evoke early agricultural and Shintō architectural forms while retaining refreshing abstraction. Many lauded Tange for the surreal beauty of the stadium.

At the same time, he designed and built the Santa Maria Cathedral in Tokyo.

International Works

In the last half of his career, Tange designed plenty of buildings in Japan, and fulfilled important overseas commissions.

Outside Japan, Tange was overly modern; he was responsible for the design of some of the most notable buildings including embassies and university buildings in Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Iran, Algeria, the Kuwait International Airport, Supreme Court of Pakistan, Singapore’s National Library, Santa Maria Cathedral in Tokyo, Chicago’s American Medical Association Building, and the master plan for Skopje, the capital city of Macedonia.

In his later structures he built up combinations of smaller geometric forms into an irregular but functionally attentive whole.

Death and Influence

Kenzo Tange died of a heart ailment on March 22, 2005 in Tokyo.

The most significant and influential figure in post-war Japanese architecture, Tange was profoundly influenced by the work of Corbusier.

If Tange began by imitating the late-flowering, sculptural concrete designs of the Swiss-French genius, he gradually went on to create a body of internationally recognized work that was very much his own, fusing the very latest in structural daring with the traditional Japanese forms.

An often profound thinker and respected teacher in Japan, Canada, and the United States, Tange continued working until his last days, although he retired from practice in the 1990s, and imaging how architecture could be convincingly reconciled with the very latest communications and buildings technologies.

He had disliked the willful excesses of postmodern designs in the 1980s, and watched cautiously as a new wave of gratuitous bendy, twisty buildings sprouted from city skylines worldwide in the 1990s.

He was quietly optimistic considering these fashionable affectations to be no more than ‘transitional architectural expressions’, an accusation it would difficult to level at the Yamanashi press and broadcasting centre or the National Gymnasium, Tokyo.

Teacher, writer, urban planner and architect, he is revered not only for his own work but also for his influence on younger architects.

Tange’s constant adaptation of his building designs was praised by many, and he was awarded the Pritzker Prize in 1987. According to the Washington Post, the jury that chose him for the honor ‘’called him a leading theoretician of architecture’’.

 

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Impressionism – Paving the Way for Modern Art

As a first distinctly modern movement in painting, Impressionism emerged in Paris in 1860s, and the end developed chiefly in France during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Gustave Courbet and the Realist movement first confronted the official Parisian art establishment in the middle of the nineteenth century. The French were ruled by oppressive regime and much of the people were in the throes of poverty.

The art of that time concentrated on idealized nudes and glorious depiction of the nature, and other works of realism. Courbet though that art closed its eyes on realities of life.

In his protest, he financed a bold act, an exhibition of his work, right opposite the Universal Exposition in Paris of 1855, which led to the emergence of future artists.

Salon de Refusés

The same year, 1855, Salon de Refusés / Salon of the Refused was formed in order to allow the exhibition of works by artists who had previously been refused entrance to the official Parisian Salon, the annual, state-sponsored exhibition juried by members of the Académie des Beaux-Arts.

The 1863 Salon de Refusés exhibition caused a scandal, due to the unconventional styles and themes of works such as Manet’s Le déjouner sur l’herbe (1863).

The painting depicts the picnic of two fully clothed men and two nude women, defies the tradition of the idealized female subject of Neoclassicism in the positioning of the woman on the left who gazes frankly out at the viewer.

Édouard Manet

Édouard Manet was one of the first and most important innovators who emerged in the art scene in Paris.

By the late 1860s, Manet’s art reflected a new aesthetic – which was to be a guiding force in Impressionist work- in which the importance of the traditional subject matters was downgraded and attention was shifted to the artist’s manipulation of color, tone and texture as ends in themselves.

He incorporated an innovative, looser painting style and brighter palette focusing on images of everyday life, such as scenes in cafés, boudoirs and out in the street.

His anti-academic style and modern subject matters attracted the attention of the artists on the fringes and influenced a new type of painting that would diverge from the standards of the official salon.

Societé Anonyme des Artistes, Peintres, Sculpteures, Graveurs etc.

In 1874, a group of artists known as the “Societé Anonyme des Artistes, Peintres, Sculpteures, Graveurs etc.”/ the Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculptors, Engravers etc., mounted an alternative exhibition in Paris that would bring about radical break from artistic conventions and launch one of the most popular movement in the history of art.

All the artists had very limited success financially and had few works accepted in the salon exhibitions in Parisian art scene.

Displaying their works in a vacant former artist’s studio, outside the confines of the famous Salon, the Impressionists presented canvases depicting quiet landscapes, scenes of everyday life, full of loose, expressive brushwork to represent fleeting effects of atmosphere and light.
 
In that time, these paintings represented something akin to a revolution in the art world.

 

Radical Shifts

Eschewing both the subject matters and technique of their predecessors, the Impressionists demonstrated that contemporary life required a new language to represent the radical shifts taking place in Parisian society.

The critics responded with both awe and horror; conservative critics denounced the unfinished, sketch-like quality of their paintings, while more progressive ones welcomed their innovative depictions of modern life.

The movement gained its name after the hostile French critic Louise Leroy reviewing the first major exhibition of 1874, seized on the title of Monet’s painting Impression, Sunrise (1873), and accused the group of painting nothing but impressions.

The moniker was embraced by the group, but they also referred to themselves as the ‘’Independents’’, referring to the submissive principles of the Société des Artistes Indépendents’’ and the group’s efforts to detach itself from academic artistic conventions.

Age of the Impressionists

At that time, there were many ideas of what constituted modernity. Scientific thought was beginning to recognize that what the eye perceived and what the brain understood were two different things.

The Impressionists sought to capture the optical effects of light to convey the passage of time, changes in weather and shifts in atmosphere; a split second of life, a sensory effect of a scene – the impression, an ephemeral moment in time on canvas.
 
Their art did not necessarily rely on realistic depictions.

 

Monet

Probably the most celebrated of the Impressionists, Claude Monet, was renowned for his mastery of natural light, painted at different times of day in order to capture changing conditions.

He tended to paint simple impressions or subtle hints of his subjects using very soft brushstrokes and pure, unmixed colors to create a natural vibrating effect.

His ‘’wet on wet’ technique produced softer edges and blurred boundaries that merely suggested a three-dimensional plain, rather than depicting it realistically.

His Vetheuil in the Fog from 1879 is among his finest works, offering a subtle and distinct impression of a figural form. He applied his brush rather quickly to the canvas in order to capture the exact image he wanted before the sunlight shifted or faded away altogether.

This emphasis on the fleeting changes in the natural world was a central aspect of his oeuvre that captures the ephemerality of nature and preserves it within the picture plane.

Monet’s technique of painting outdoors, known as plein air painting, inherited from the landscape painters of the Barbizon School, was practiced widely among impressionists, leading to innovations in the representation of sunlight and the passage of time, which were two central motifs of Impressionism.

Degas

As a highly skilled draftsman and portraitist, Edgar Degas preferred indoor scenes of modern life such as musicians in an orchestra pit, people sitting in cafés, ballet dancers, delineating his forms with greater clarity using harder lines and thicker brush strokes.

L’Absinthe from 1876, by Degas represents a dour scene of two lonely individuals sitting in a café communicates a sense of isolation, even degradation, as they have nothing better to do in the middle of the day.

Degas heavily handled paint further communicates the emotional burden or intense boredom of his subjects. This painting, as well as his other works, alludes to the oppressive atmosphere of the city and the psychological ennui of its inhabitants.

Renoir

Other artists focused on the figure and the internal psychology of the individual.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir depicted the daily activities of individuals from his neighborhood of Montmartre and portrayed the social pastimes of Parisian life, emphasizing the emotional attributes of his subjects, using vibrant, saturated colors, light and loose brushwork to highlight the human form.

In Girl with a Hoop from 1885, Renoir developed a new style he dubbed ‘’aigre’’ (sour), in which he applied thick, elongated brushstrokes complemented by hard lines to portray the young girl in the foreground.

This painting evokes the distinctly carefree mood of much of his work; he focused on representation of leisure activities and female beauty, asserting his disregard for subjects of an overtly critical nature.

Morisot

Berthe Morisot was the first woman to exhibit with the Impressionists. She made rich compositions that highlighted the internal, personal sphere of feminine society, emphasizing the maternal bond between mother and child in her paintings.

Her work, “In a Park”, from 1874, Morisot combines the elements of figurations with representation of nature in this serene family portrait set in a bucolic garden.

In this quiet image of family life, she centered on the maternal bond between child and mother; her loose handling of pastels, a medium embraced by the Impressionists, and visible application of color and form were central characteristic of her oeuvre.

Together with Marie Bracquemond, Mary Cassatt, and Eva Gonzales, she was considered one of the four central female figures of the movement.

Cassatt

Mary Cassatt depicted a private sphere of the home, but also represented the woman in the public spaces of the newly modernized city.

Her work features a number of innovations, including reduction of three-dimensional space and the application of bright, even garish colors in her painting both of which heralded later developments in modern art.

In her work, “At the Opera” from 1880, she depicts the Palais Garnier of the Paris Opera, which was opened in 1875, and served as a focal point for the city’s social life.

The opera, as the painting demonstrates, was not only a site for culture and entertainment, but also for seeing and being seen. The woman’s binoculars are echoed in the man’s binoculars, across the concert hall, directed at her.

Read our in depth article, “Mary Cassatt – Famous Women Artists in History”

Caillebotte

The themes of urbanity are depicted in the work of Gustave Caillebotte, a later proponent of the movement, who focused on panoramic views of the city and the psychology of its citizens.

More realistic in style than other impressionists, Caillebotte’s images depict the artist’s reaction to the changing nature of modern society, showing a flaneur – an idler or lounger who roamed the public spaces of the city in order observe, yet remaining detached from the crowd, in his characteristic black coat and top hat, strolling through the open space of the boulevard while gazing at passersby.

“Paris Street, Rainy Day” from 1877, shows this tendency within his work, through the depiction of the typical urban scene; the panoramic view of the rain-drizzled boulevard presents the newly renovated metropolis, while the anonymous figures in the background emphasize the alienation of the individual within the city.

The painting centers on the apathetic gaze of the male figure, who epitomizes the cool detachment of the flaneur.

Also, his work, as well as the works by Pissaro, emphasized the geometrical arrangement of public space through the careful delineation of trees, buildings, and streets.

By applying crude brushstrokes and impressionistic streaks of color, they evoke the rapid tempo of modern life as a central facet of the late-nineteenth- century urban society.

Unravelling

The Impressionists proved to be a diverse group, but they came together regularly to discuss their work and exhibit. Between 1874 and 1886 the group collaborated on eight exhibitions while slowly beginning to unravel.

Many of the artists felt they had mastered the early, experimental styles that had won them attention and wanted to move on to explore other avenues. Others, anxious about the commercial failure of their works, changed course.

Although the last Impressionist exhibition was held in 1886, the movement remains one of the most popular in the history of Western art.

Considered by many to be the first avant-garde movement of the Modernism, Impressionism served as a springboard for many artistic movements of the twenty century.

Cézanne

If Manet bridged the gap between Realism and Impressionism, then Paul Cézanne was the first artist who bridged the gap between Impressionism and Post-Impressionism.

Cézanne learned much from Impressionist technique, but he evolved a more deliberate style of paint handling and a closer attention to the structure of the forms that his broad, repetitive brushstrokes depicted.

He wished to break down objects into their basic geometric constituents and depict their essential building blocks, and this experiment would prove to be highly influential for the development of Cubism and Fauvism.

Conclusion

As Philip Guston once described Abstract Expressionism as a latter-day ‘American Impressionism’; the surface quality, suggestion of light and ‘’all-over’’ treatment of form in Jackson Pollock’s work, all point to the work of Claude Monet.

Although there are many avant-garde movements that did not take stylistic inspiration from the Impressionists, the group’s rejection of an established, state-sponsored style served as a model for similarly independent exhibition groups throughout Europe during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, such as Wienna Secession or Die Brücke in Germany.

 

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My Top 10 Best Contemporary Photographers

Photography is about a single point of a moment. It’s like stopping time. As everything gets condensed in that forced instant. But if you keep creating these points, they form a line which reflects your life.

-Nobuyoshi Araki

Photography is a medium of contradictions. It is both ridiculously easily and almost impossibly difficult. Being able to see things is easy, as we need only open our eyes for stimuli to enter, but being able to capture a very specific and meaningful moment is the difficult part.

A good photo is comprised of many things, not only one must hit the shutter at the right moment in time, but the composition, color coordination, light and perspective play a significant role too.

A photographer is an editor of reality in trying to make sense of reality; he tries to distill the essence of his subject- a scene, feeling or persona, into a single, two-dimensional image.

The work of all photograph artists is about the nature of the photographic-the making of the images, rather than the taking of a photograph. As with much conceptual art, the process seems to be as important as the end result.

We’ve listed Top 10 Contemporary Photographers who are known for their passion, dedication and style. The photographers are randomly ordered and the order does not reflect any ranking among them.

Annie Leibovitz

The legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz is probably the most well-known and well-respected living American photographer.

Annie Leibovitz began her career as a photojournalist for Rolling Stone magazine in 1970, and was the first woman to be named chief photographer at Rolling Stone at her early age of 24.

In 1983, she joined the staff of Vanity Fair magazine and Vogue afterwards, where, over four decades, she has developed a large body of work- dramatic, quirky and iconic portraits of actors, musicians, athletes, writers, business and political figures, offering a collective portrait of contemporary art.

Her signature style is crisp, well lighted and perfectly tailored to these celebrity-fuelled times.

Visit Annie Leibovitz on Facebook

Leibovitz deliberately conceals her subjects behind concept and costume; celebrities become sculptures or theatrical players. Her interest is not in the unguarded moment, but the staged moment; not the inner life, but the outer life.

She has been designated a Living Legend by the U.S. Library of Congress and has received many honors including The American Society of Magazine Editors’ first Creative Excellence Award, the International Center of Photography’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the Centenary Medal of the Royal Photographic Society in London.

Read our full article on Annie Leibovitz here


Lee Jeffries

Jeffries is a self-taught and self-founded photographer based in Manchester, England. His striking series of black-and-white portraits of homeless women and men has surprised the insular photography world.

His subjects came from London, Paris, Los Angeles, Rome, New York and other urban areas whom he gets to know by living rough with them; the relationship between them enabling him to capture authenticity and intimacy in his portraits.

Jeffries takes close-up head shots on his subjects, capturing the emotional expression of those who are often invisible to a majority of the population. He uses light and shadow in a religious way, and his images have been described as ‘religious iconography’.

Visit Lee Jeffries’ official website here

Lee has also been on a mission to raise awareness of, and founds for, the homeless. He has published two acclaimed fund-raising books,

Homeless and Lost Angeles and donated thousands of pounds of his own money to help those he photographs.

He has taken the gold, silver and bronze titles in the annual Amateur Photographer magazine competition over the last three years, but despite the recent recognition his work continues to be self-funded.


Timothy Hogan

American photographer Timothy Hogan is award-wining photographer well-known for his lighting mastery, craftsmanship and uniquely precise still-life images.

Over twenty years he shoots for international brands and advertising agencies in the beverage, technology, beauty, fashion fragrance and design industries including Chanel, Calvin Klein, Budweiser, Target, Tommy Hilfiger, Visa among numerous other companies.

His photographs integrate his impeccable eye for design, the California lifestyle with his passion of surfing and exploration.

Visit Timothy’s official website here

Creative and inventive since childhood, Timothy’s history of taking things apart yields a unique ability to create elegant solutions to even the most complex image request.

His work can be dramatic and his images filled with a wealth of symbols and a vivid play of lighting and colors.

He keeps things creative but takes a craftsman’s approach to setting up the shoot; this, coupled with support from the best producers, retouchers and studios, allow Timothy to produce incredible results in photography in the high-pressure advertising world.

Hogan is one of two Hasselblad Ambassadors in the U.S. with work featured in Communication Arts, Graphics, Victor by Hasselblad and many other publications all over the world.


Réhahn

A French born photographer based in Hoi An, central Vietnam, Réhahn Croqueville is particularly known for his portraits of Vietnam, India and Cuba.

His passion for photographic art started a crescendo line after his first journeying to the northern regions of the Vietnam making his way down; he published his first book ‘Vietnam, Mosaic of Contrast in January 2014.

It aims to show Vietnam in a natural and spontaneous light. By capturing images of these exceptionally contrasting cultures of Vietnam, he has witnessed the complex diversity and fragility of some ethnic groups’ cultural heritage.

Collecting their traditional costumes and artifacts, he has built up the Precious Heritage Collection, which is now the core of the Art Gallery Museum in Hoi An, central Vietnam.

Réhahn was described as the photographer ‘who captures the soul of his models’; his photos is the random and natural moment, of which he captures when spending his time with his subjects.

Réhahn collaborates with BBC, Travel Live, Conde Nast Traveler, The Times, National Geographic, among others top media, on a regular basis for the purchase of his photos.

Visit Rehahn’s official website here

He is very active on social networks and today he is one of the most featured photographers of the last five years, having amassed a serious following.


Steve McCurry

Documentary photographer and storyteller Steve McCurry is one of the iconic figures in contemporary photography for almost forty years, best known for his evocative color photography.

His work spans conflicts, ancient traditions and contemporary culture from six continents and countless countries capturing the essence of human struggle and joy.

McCurry has covered many areas of civil and international conflict, including, Pakistan, Beirut, Cambodia, the Philippines, the Gulf War, the former Yugoslavia, Tibet and Afghanistan.

He focuses on the human consequences of war, not only showing what war impresses on the landscape, but rather, on the human face.

Visit Steve McCurry’s website here

His work has been featured in every major magazine in the world; a high point in McCurry’s career was the rediscovery of the previously unidentified Afghan refugee girl that many have described as the most recognizable photograph in the world today.

McCurry has received some of the most prestigious awards in the industry, including Robert Capa Gold Medal, four first prize awards from the World Press Photo contest, Olivier Rebbot Award, and a Centenary Medal for Lifetime Achievement from the Royal Photographic Society in London.

Read our full article, “Steve McCurry – Revealing The World’s True Colours


Jason M. Peterson

As the Chief Creative Officer for Havas North America Jason M. Peterson’s work in advertising impacted his photography enhancing his ability to tell a story through monochromatic imagery.

From stunning cityscapes to candid street photography Peterson aims to evoke emotion through his work. His work is moody, but crisp and clear. He works with shadows, lines and angles to draw out unique forms within composition.

His photographs, juxtaposing urban architecture with human silhouettes have a bold, graphic quality that is immediately recognizable.

Visit Jason Peterson’s Instagram here

The Chicago based photographer has been taking pictures for over 25 years, but recently started sharing his work widely; his alluring black and white photos have earned him an unparalleled 1 million followers on Instagram.


Joe McNally

Joe McNally is a long-time photojournalist and internationally acclaimed American photographer. Although the majority of his career has been spent shooting for magazines, such as National Geographic, Time or Sport Illustrated during the 90s, McNally served as Life magazine’s staff photographer, the first one in 23 years.

The photographer is known for his ability to produce technically and logistically complex assignments with expert use of light and color, but his charming demeanor, humor and confidence make him a sought-after choice from CEO’s to celebrities to commercial and magazine clients alike.

Visit Joe McNally’s official website here

He is one of the rare photographers who have bridged the world between advertising and photojournalism. One of McNally’s most notable projects, Faces of Ground Zero, has become known as one of the most significant responses to the tragedy at the World Trade Center.

McNally’s impressive marketing, advertising and promotional work has amassed the top-rated clients including FedEx, Adidas, Bogen, American Ballet Theatre, Nixon, Sony, General Electric, Epson, New York Stock Exchange, MetLife, Beijing Cultural Commission, and so on.


Boogie (Vladimir Milivojevich)

Serbian photographer Vladimir Milivojevich, well-known as Boogie, is considered as ’one of the most influential photographers of street culture in the new millennium’.

Since his first book “It’s All Good” published by PowerHouse in 2006, Boogie has been granting his audience with rare access into a world defined by poverty, violence and disarray. His pictures of heroin addicts and gang members were pretty shocking at times.

The streets of the world are his playground. Rarely romanticizing the origin of intent behind his work, Boogie’s intimate images offer a vivid portrait of metropolitan cities around the world.

From Belgrade to Brooklyn he is a dedicated documentarian of street culture; according his own world, he isn’t trying to change the world just document it honestly. He captures human fragility with sensitivity, while his straightforward compositions submerge us into the bleak reality of the time.

Visit boogie’s official website here

Boogie has also shot commercial work for various clients including Nike, Lee jeans, Puma, Element skateboards and HBO and his work was appeared in numerous publication from New York Times to even Playboy. He’s had six book published so far.


Tomasz Gudzowaty

Tomas Gudzowaty is a Polish documentary filmmaker, portrait and art photographer based in Warsaw who began his career with nature photography, and eventually turning to social documentary and sports photography.

For the past few years, Gudzowaty has resolved to focus on sport-related issues grounded in an idea of a long- standing project in which he aims to show dynamic images of people of all ages involved in sports.

Gudzowaty has made a name for himself documenting popular sports in far corners of the world, which depict a rare blend of modernity and tradition in global cultures.

Visit Tomasz’s official website here

He is particularly interested in atypical, non-commercial sports, outside the media mainstream such as sage yogis in India, amateur drag racers in Mexico, child polo players in Mongolia, Japanese sumo wrestler.

The Sport Features’s photographs series depicts a striking humanity, as if delving deep into each individual personality.

His works have been published in mainstream publications including The Guardian, Newsweek, Time, Photo, L’Equipe; he has exhibited worldwide and published several photo books.

As a multiple winner of the profession’s premier contests, he gained international recognition; some of these awards include Pictures of the Year, NPPA Best of Photojournalism and World Press Photo award.


Nobuyoshi Araki

If Araki is known for one thing in particular, then it his highly sexual and controversial black and white photography.

Throughout a prolific career, Tokyo-born photographer Nobuyoshi Araki has delved perhaps further that any other Japanese photographer into the themes surrounding death, sex, domination and Tokyo street scenes.

His work over a 48-year span has seen him publish more than 450 photobooks tackling a variety of subjects such as prostitution, sadomasochism, love and intimacy.

The ideas of submission, control and eroticism that are found in Kinbaku-bi, the Japanese art of rope-tying, make it the most alluring of subject matters for Araki, and the practice of depicting women in these positions has been an obsession of his throughout his career.

One of Japan’s most fearless photographers the 78-old’s skill behind the camera is still very much in demand.

His personal and sometimes voyeuristic photographs have sparked much controversy, but his graphics use of imagery has been an instrumental force in breaking taboos surrounding nudity in modern Japanese culture.

Visit Nobuyoshi Araki on Artsy

Born in Tokyo in 1940, Nobuyoshi Araki has been active in publishing, photography and filmmaking since his first solo exhibition in 1965 in Japan. Some 400 books about Araki and his work have been published to date, a testament to his prolific output and energy.

Read our full article on Nobuyoshi Araki

 

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Mersad Berber – The Famous Bosnian Artist and his Sacred Themes

Mersad Berber, one of the greatest and most distinctive Bosnian painters and graphic artists, was born on January, 1, 1940 in Bosanski Petrovac, a small town in western Bosnia in former Yugoslavia.

Few months after his birth, due to the large massacre in Petrovac in the 1940s, the Berber family arrived to Banja Luka as refugees to escape the fighting as the World War II spilled over into the Balkans.

Background

Berber’s father had a hair salon for women in the centre of Banja Luka, and his mother was a gifted weaver, one of the greatest in Bosnia.

She worked in the tradition of Bosnian carpets, which have deep Anatolian roots, and she established school for carpet weavers at the end of her life.

The young Berber inherited his mother’s artistic talent; his skills as a draftsman became apparent from a young age- from his early adolescence he was producing remarkable drawings and painting on paper.

In 1959, Mersad Berber began his formal art education at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

According to his own word, he owed permanent gratitude to several of his professors; Bozidar Jakac, a classic of Slovenian graphic art, and Zoran Krizisnik, a brilliant curator and founder of the famous Ljubljana International Biennale.

Krizisnik included him in the Yugoslavian selection when he was a second year student, and his etching master Bozidar Jakac, with whom he learned etching privately, alongside his studies at the Academy.

In 1961, his works were exhibited at the Ljubljana Graphic Arts Biennale, one of the prestigious art events of the period, along with works by the leading graphic artists from all over the world.

Berber’s early drawing and prints demonstrated the influence of the academy in terms of technique, and, in the other hand, his interest in expressing cultural traditions using a modern visual expression in terms of subject matter.

He received the prestigious Prešern Award for his work.

Post Graduate

In 1963, the young artist started a postgraduate course in graphic arts in professor Rika Debeljak’s class. His choice of that very technique was to significantly mark his entire opus.

Since 1965 and his first solo exhibition at the City Gallery of Ljubljana, the career of this remarkable artist has been on sharp rise.

The artistic scene in former Yugoslavia, also in that of Tito’s successor Slobodan Milosevic, had been characterized not by anything resembling Soviet Socialist Realism but by a tepid adherence to middle-of-the-road modernist styles.

Very few artists managed to create reputations for themselves outside their own region. Berber’s success in breaking out of this situation was altogether exceptional.

In 1978, Berber received a teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts in Sarajevo, and set a a studio there. By that time, he had already achieved considerable international recognition, mainly as a graphic artist.

War

This comfortable existence and professional career was abruptly torn apart by the wars that broke out Yugoslavia in 1990’s, just over a decade after the death of Marshal Tito, who had held that region together.

During the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina 1992-1995, Berber’s house and studio were destroyed.

The Berber family escaped in Croatia on a UN transport plane. In order to rebuild his life, he created a new studio in Zagreb, and another one in Dubrovnik. However, memories of the war continued to haunt him, but provided material for his art.

A wide array of Berbers’s works range from the deep, opaque whites influenced by his travels to Bosnia’s fairy-tale landscapes to the dark and terrible pits of Srebrenica.

His inspiration mostly originates from the mystical world of Bosnia, its Ottoman past, and the tragic venture of its people.

Inspired by the masters of European fine arts from the Renaissance to Art Nouveau, with the artists such as Velazquez, Ingres or Klimt, as well as Yugoslavian painters Vlaho Bukovac and Gabrijel Jurkic, Berber’s work infuses intricate talent and expressive powers.

Berber’s work gives a good idea of the breadth of his cultural interests, but the frequent fragmentation of the images also makes it clear that these are the product of an extremely contemporary sensibility.

His paintings, etchings and prints include elegant female portraits, based on High Renaissance prototypes, with which he challenged the 16th century masters of the Venetian school; painting of horses which recall his love for the peasant life of the Bosnian countryside; paraphrases of Velazquez, which express his profound admiration for the great Spanish master.

Homage, Horses, and Suffering

Throughout his career, he made cycles of paintings which chronicle homages, events and dedications. His works are characterized by the intermingling of ancient motifs with a modern and contemporary commentary.

He employed a very wide variety of artistic techniques, from the most traditional to the most contemporary.

For instance, he made a couple of small animated films, and was fascinated by the possibilities offered by new techniques of digital printing, sometimes producing prints of enormous size.

In most of the Berber’s works, the central metaphor is the horse figure, a key symbolic animal which has many different representations and meanings in various cultures.

In Berber’s own words, this figure is not that of an impressive horse, it is a toiling packhorse from the mountains of Bosnia, having deep ties to all aspects of life, signifying hard labor and marriages, wars and funerals.

The expressive capacity of this horse, its suffering and its imperfect beauty represent the biography of Bosnian people.

Innovator, Cultural Historian

Berber is known for his mixed technique large canvases, but he differs from the European masters from whom he derived his inspiration by virtue of innovative approach to composition and his unique themes.

His paintings frequently do not deal with single image but with conjunctions of images, in some cases places side by side, but in others layered one on the top of the other.

He felt a strong allegiance to the values of Italian Renaissance art, because of its resemblance to the art of the Italian Pittura Colta movement, which derived from the later work of Giorgio de Chirico.

Yet, Berber’s paraphrases of elegant images of classical nudes, some of them are direct quotations from the work of David or Ingres, and of Renaissance portraits, were often interspersed with figures in old-fashioned Balkan dress.

His religious and literary references were also strong and complex. Some of his most impressive works offer directly Christian images, for instance the figure of Christ being taken from the Cross.

Others were inspired by the Sarajevo Haggadah, one of the most important Jewish medieval manuscripts in existence and now the chief treasure of the restored Sarajevo National Museum (Zemaljski Muzej).

In his work he reflects the full scale of the complexity of his country’s multi-layered cultural history as the pioneer of the generation of young graphic artists who opened up the local art scene to global trends.

Depicting Tragedy

Towards the close of his life, Mersad Berber made an impressive series devoted to the brutal massacre at Srebrenica, the genocide and the worst crime of the Balkan wars, in which over 8,000 Bosnian Muslims, mostly boys and men, were slaughtered by units from the Army of Republika Srpska, under the command of general Ratko Mladic.

The artist regarded the tragedy at Srebrenica as the “big, ancient, sacred theme of hymns” and laboured for years to depict it in his works, collecting forensic reports, newspaper photographs, video recordings, documents and books, and visiting Potocari and Srebrenica countless times.

These series became elegies not only for those who had died, but also for the death of multiculturalism, which had survived in the Balkans for centuries despite all ethnic and religious animosities.

Death

Mersad Berber died from heart attack on October 7, 2012 in his home in Zagreb.

Nearly forty years of his artistic activity Berber spent as a true Homo Universalis. As an excellent drawer and illustrator, Mersad Berber was occupied with graphic art, painting, graphic and poetic maps, tapestry, illustrations.

He also worked in theatre scenography, created movie posters for movies, such as those by Kusturica; his costume and scenography design came to life in theatres in Sarajevo, Zagreb, Ljubljana and Washington.

He exhibited all over the world, from London to Madrid, New York to Moscow, Jakarta and New Delhi, and received approximately 50 awards. Some scholars and experts consider him to be one of the greatest post-Classic artists in the world.

Ethical Identity

Today, Mersad Berber is one of the most famous graphic artists in the world, who was also included in the Tate Gallery Collection in 1984, makes the aesthetic and ethical identity of his homeland recognized to the million of people.

He deserved his celebrity reputation because he made heroic efforts to get with the history of the region he was born and lived in with his own personal relationship to that history.

With his unique talent that lets him forge connections between different cultures and tradition, and his intelligence that penetrates the depths of historical experience, Berber brought together styles spanning the range from antiquity to the contemporary era in a manner that was very much his own.

 

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Le Corbusier – The Picasso of Architecture and his Radiant Cities

Architecture is the masterly, correct and magnificent play of masses brought together in light. Our eyes are made to see forms in light; light and shade reveal these forms; cubes, cones, spheres, cylinders or pyramids are the great primary forms which light reveals to advantage; the image of these is distinct and tangible within us without ambiguity.
 
It is for this reason that these are beautiful forms, the most beautiful forms. Everybody is agreed to that, the child, the savage and the metaphysician.

A Swiss-born France architect, Le Corbusier, belonged to the first generation of the so-called International school of architecture. His designs combine the functionalism with of the modern movement with a bold, sculptural expressionism; highly polemical designer hailed from obscurity in the Swiss Jura Mountains to become the most influential architect and urban planner of the twentieth century.
 
His ideas about rationalized, immense, zoned and industrially-constructed cities, seduced, but also shocked a global audience, while they never come to fruition as a cohesive vision, his disciples put many of their pieces into place around the world during and after his life.

Background

Charles Édouard-Jeanneret was born on October, 6, in 1887, in the small industrial town La Chaux-de-Fonds, known for its renowned watchmaking industry, in the section of the Alps in Switzerland, just across the border from France.
 
His mother was a music teacher, and his father worked as watch engraver and enameller.

The parents encouraged their son to study decorative arts in the hope that he would also become an engraver of watchcases like his father. Accordingly, Jeanneret entered the Advanced Decorative Arts Course at the Art School in La Chaux-de-Fonds, in 1904, but he left the school at the age of 13.

The course on decoration there was taught by the painter Charles L’Eplattenier (pictured below). He would exert a strong influence on the young Jeanneret, whom he called ‘my master’ and later referred to him as his only teacher.
 
L’Eplattenier taught Jeanneret drawing, art history and a naturalist aesthetics of Art Nouveau, and he insisted that his pupil also study architecture, and he arranged for his first commissions working on local projects.

Travels

Starting in 1907, Jeanneret began his life’s extensive travels, first encountering classical architecture on a visit to Italy. In the following next years, he visited many European cities, including Paris, where he worked in the studio of architect Auguste Perret (1908-10); moved on to Berlin, between 1910 and 1911, where he worked in the office of Peter Behrens, the most important architect in Germany at that time.
 
Afterwards, Jeanneret embarked on a trip to Eastern Europe visiting cities: Prague, Athens, Istanbul, Budapest, Bucharest, and making extensive drawings that would later be compiled in his book Journey to the East (1966).

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These trips played a crucial role in Jeanneret’s education, providing him three major architectural discoveries; he witnessed and absorbed the importance of the contrast between large collective spaces and individual compartmentalized spaces, an observation that formed the basis for his vision of residential buildings, classic proportions via Renaissance architecture and geometric forms and the use of landscapes as an architectural tool.

L’Espirite Nouveau, Purism, Reinvention

Back to home in La Chaux-de-Fonds, he began to teach architecture, interior design, and began working on his own studies of reinforced concrete. Around 1914/15, he developed and applied for a patent for his ’Dom-ino’ House system of construction, which consisted of slab floors of concrete raised slightly above grade, supported on thin reinforced pillars set back from the edges, so as to free up the entire facade and the interior floor space.
 
It was a first step towards Le Corbusier’s new theory of modern architecture.

In 1917, at the age of 30, Jeanneret moved to Paris and opened his own studio. In this period, he met cubist painters Georges Braque, Picasso, Juan Gris and Amédée Ozenfant, who introduced him to sophisticated contemporary art.
 
With Ozenfant he developed a new movement in painting called Purism, which took its name from the purity of the geometric forms of objects depicted in their still-life works. The following year, the two exhibited their painting in Paris, accompanied by the manifesto Après le Cubisme, After Cubism, a critique of Cubism and Futurism.

As a artistic movement, Purism gained strength in 1920, with the launch of the magazine L’Esprit Nouveau, in whose first issue Jeanneret adopted his professional pseudonym Le Corbusier an alteration of his grandfather’s name, Lecorbesier, to reflect his belief that anyone could reinvent himself.
 
In addition, adopting a single name to represent oneself artistically was especially en vogue at the time, and Le Corbusier wanted to create a persona that could keep separate his critical writing from his work as architect and painter.
 
In this period, he focused primarily on painting and published his ideas on architecture and art in this very magazine.

Purism intended to represent objects as pure, simple forms stripped of detail, to provide a timeless quality to industrial subject matter. The painting Still Life with a Stack of Plates, from 1920, is one of the best examples of Purism, shows an ideological celebration of industrial civilization and exhibiting the ready-made lexicon of everyday life as an aesthetic discourse.

In this piece, Le Corbusier depicted the naked forms in paint, historically the format that promised to elevate its subject matter to a new level of respect worthy of discussion. The solidity and wholeness of the chosen objects, the composition that creates new form represents Purism’s faith in modernity and its commitment to moving civilization forward.
 
The pure forms comprise a critique of Futurism and Cubism, the movements that glorified the fragmentation or destruction of the objects, destruction of the world and the field of vision, akin to the modern destruction caused by World War I.

The years from 1922 to 1940 were as extremely rich in city planning projects in architecture. As was always to be the case with Le Corbusier, inbuilt projects, as soon as they were published, created as much stir as did the finished buildings.

In 1922, Le Corbusier formed a partnership with his cousin Pierre Jeanneret, which lasted until 1940. One of their first projects was a new studio for Ozenfant in Paris; it revealed Le Corbusier’s dedication to the new industrial aesthetic: using large expanses of glass set into reinforced concrete structure raised on point-support piers called pilotis, the roof employed a sawtooth configuration of skylights, like industrial buildings, as if to indicate that the studio was a factory for art.

The same year, at the Salon d’Automne Le Corbusier exhibited two projects that expressed his idea of social and public environment and contained the essence of all works of this period. The first project, Citrohan House, displays his conception of modern architecture; pillars supporting the structure, freeing the ground beneath the building, a roof-terrace, transformable into a garden and an essential part of the house, an open floor plan: a clear facade free of ornamentation, and windows in strips that affirm the independence of the structural frame.

maisson citrohan 19220 stuttgart germany le corbusier

The second project was his first urban scheme, the Contemporary City for Three Million Inhabitants, whose propositions were very shocking: cruciform-plan, a grid of sixty-story, naked glass-and-steel skyscrapers set amongst a web of highways and streets, surrounded by a low-rise complex of apartment buildings set within a park-like green space.
 
In the center a massive multilevel transit hub rose amongst the skyscrapers, with a landing strip for airplanes on the roof-a highly imaginative feature that probably was not workable.

In 1923, Le Corbusier published Vers une architecture/ Toward the Architecture, which consists of his collated and edited polemical articles from L’Espirite Nouveau magazine. The text lays out his principles of a modern architecture the essential precepts of what would become the so-called International Style.
 
Le Corbusier’s polemical articles proposed a new architecture that would satisfy the demands of industry, functionalism and the abiding concerns of architectural form, as defined over generations.

 

Five Points of a New Architecture

In this very book Le Corbusier termed the Five Points of a New Architecture; the foundation of the Five Points was the use of pilotis, which enabled the second point, the free plan, by allowing for maximum flexibility in floor space; as well as the third point, a free façade, since the point supports meant that there was no need for load-bearing exterior walls.
 
Le Corbusier preferred to blur the boundary between interior and exterior, so the fourth point of his system emphasized the use of ribbon windows, or a curtain wall; to highlight the building’s link to nature, a roof terrace constituted the fifth point.
 
The best illustrations of his system can be seen in the numerous villas he constructed around Paris in the 1920s.

In 1925s, Le Corbusier revealed these concepts for the general public in his own Espirit Nouveau pavilion at the world’s fair, the Exposition International des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris, that eventually produced the term Art Deco.

The pavilion functioned as a manifesto of Le Corbusier’s ideas and illustrated his belief that industry, through standardization required for mass-production, could create the buildings necessary for modern living. He aimed to show the radical transformation and structural liberties reinforced concrete and steel allow us to envisage in urban housing.
 
Also, he aimed to demonstrate that the comfortable and elegant units of habitation could be agglomerated in long, lofty blocks of villa-flats. Le Corbusier’s insistence on the utility of his model, thereby exposing the crass commercialization of the rest of the fair, no doubt contributed to the exposition’s directors’ attempts to cordon off his pavilion behind a barrier until an injunction from the Ministry of Culture lifted it.

By the late 1920s, Le Corbusier’s stature as one of the founders of the new architecture was secured.

In 1927, Le Corbusier took part in the competition set by the League of Nations for its design of its new centre in Geneva. His projects with its wall of insulating and heating glass, is one of the finest examples of functional analysis.
 
He proposed an office building for a political organization that was not a neoclassical temple,(for the first time anywhere), but corresponded in its structure and design to a strict analysis of function. This very plan was to become the prototype of all future United Nations buildings.
 
His project verily would have shared a first prize but was eliminated on the grounds of not having been drawn up in india ink as the rules of the competition specified. This disqualification, which was certainly the result of conspiracy on the part of conservative members of the jury, embittered Le Corbusier in his attitude toward official architectural circles.
 
However, the elimination of his project gave him needed publicity by identifying him with modern avant-garde architecture.

Radiant Cities

In this period, Le Corbusier began traveling as his services were in demand internationally. In 1929, he visited South America, lecturing in Argentina, Brazil and Urugvay. He also visited the Soviet Union and won the contract for the government office building, the Centrosoyuz, in Moscow, 1933, which would turn out to be his first and only building in USSR.

In 1935, Le Corbusier was invited back in Brazil at the behest of Lúcio Costa, an admirer, who with a team of architects had been given the commission to design the new Ministry of Education and Health in Rio de Janeiro.
 
Le Corbusier’s design took his Five Points to literally new heights as he led the design team to craft a skyscraper on pilotis whose massive curtain-wall facade was articulated by external brise-soleil, sunbreaker shades, due to the hot tropical climate.

During the 1930s Le Corbusier’s commissions in France began to decline (due to the Great Depression) but, he continued to write hoping to get his urban plans adopted by the governmental authorities. At the same time, his politics began to take a dangerous turn; an enthusiast of capitalism and the major industrialists, he flirted with Communism, beginning with his visit to the USSR, dropped much of his support for capitalism after the stock market crash in 1929.
 
Also, having fallen out of Stalin’s favor in the early 1930s due to the adoption of Socialist Realism in the Soviet Union, Le Corbusier began to sympathize Fascism. In his urban plans, particularly in the publication of Radiant City, from 1930, he described the cities he imagined as ruled by an ‘architect-dictator’.
 
In addition, Le Corbusier accepted invitation from Mussolini to lecture in Rome in 1934; in 1940, when Vichy regime came to power in France, he offered his services to Marshal Philippe Petain’s pro-Nazi government, but was rebuffed.
 
Eventually, he abandoned hopes of collaboration in 1942.

Around the final stage of World War II, Le Corbusier created the Modulor, a proportional system based on the Golden Section and scaled to the human figure. From 1945 onwards, all of his projects would be based on this system of proportions; the outline of a muscular man with his left hand arm raised above his head can be seen in most of his drawings or imprinted in the walls of windows of some of his iconic buildings.

Picasso of Architecture

Given the fact to which Western nations tried to erase all traces of Fascism after the war, it remains astonishing that Le Corbusier’s attempts at collaborations did not definitively sink his career. In addition, by the time the war ended, Le Corbusier had welded the attacks launched against him by representatives of traditional architecture into a myth, for the public, he had become the Picasso of architecture, and for architecture students, the symbol of modernity.

In 1945, Le Corbusier was given the chance to build the first large-scale housing block, the Unité d’Habitation, in Marseilles. The Unité, the first of several that Le Corbusier built around Europe in the 1940s and 1950s; its conception was a long time in making and can be traced back to the blocks of apartments he developed for his housing scheme of the 1930s.

The Unité represents the most complete realization of Corbusier’s idea of communal housing, very often described as a ‘city within a city. The 337 apartment units in the building are divided into 23 types in order to accommodate different family arrangements- from a bachelor to a family with eight children.
 
Halfway up the building, along the interior road of floors seven and eight, essential services are provided such as bakery, dairy, seafood shop, vegetable and fruit shop, butcher, drugstore, laundry, post office, cleaning service, hotel, restaurant etc.
 
In addition, on the 17
th floor, it can be found a nursery and a kindergarten; a ramp leads to the rooftop, which contains indoor and outdoor athletics facilities, swimming pool and a snack bar.

 

Notre-Damme-du-Haut

Le Corbusier’s buildings from his late period offered a more conscious homage to nature and exposed primordial materials; stone in combination with concrete. This rough aesthetic formed the basis of some of Corbusier’s most organic, sculptural works, as the chapel Notre-Damme-du-Haut (1950-55), near Ronchamp in eastern France.

Perched on atop o the hill, the church is atypical among Le Corbusier’s works. Its highly organic and sculptural forms use virtually no right angles and make no reference to his prismatic clarity. The inclined walls appear almost to be collapsing inwards under the weight of the massive brown concrete roof.
 
Only when the visitor enters the small and dark sanctuary, pierced by small shards of light, does he discover the thickness and solidity of these walls that firmly enfold the space, creating a solemn atmosphere with meditative tranquility.
 
The scholars and critics have traced Le Corbusier’s inspirations for this chapel to the Athenian Acropolis, Mediterranean sources, the Hebrew temple and Bronze Age crypts.

 

Chandigarh

In 1951, he was awarded the commission for designing a new provincial Indian capital of Chandigarh, which had to be created from a blank slate due to the territorial partitions between India and Pakistan.
 
For him, this job was the chance to show the Western powers what they had missed in refusing to implement his urban plans. For the next ten years, he was occupied with intensive work on this project.

Chandigarh was planned to house 300,000 inhabitants, spread over 47 numbered sectors organized on a grid; each sector consist of a self-sufficient unit with basic services, such as shops, health center, school, areas for worship and recreations.
 
As in his other projects, Le Corbusier prioritized the automobile connecting the sectors through wide boulevards. In order to confirm the modern ideas of efficiency and functionality, the city was zoned according to its different uses: a commercial center, residential buildings, university complex, recreation area, medical complex, and central park around a large artificial lake.

He also designed the famed Capitol Complex which included the Legislative Assembly, the High Court buildings, the Secretariat; it was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 2016.

Their impressive scale boldly displays the architect’s affinity for rough cast-concrete, punctuated by long rows of bays articulated by prominent brise-soleil to provide relief from the hot desert sun. Chandigarh’s success might be gauged from recent polls that reveal it to be the happiest city of India, most likely due to the calm and order resulting from its unique design.

Corbusier Death (Bon Voyage)

Le Corbusier died on August, 27, 1965 of an apparent heart attack while swimming in the Mediterranean. In spite of the many times in which the state had rejected his services, he was given a funeral in the courtyard of the Louvre on September, 1st 1965.

Le Corbusier’s six decade career reshaped cities from India to South America. He disseminated his ideas through his forty books and hundreds of published essays and worked on over four hundred architectural projects and the extensive practice established him as one of the most controversial and most influential artists of the twenty century.
 
However, many of his ideas were too utopian and idealistic to be put in practice, especially the ones reflecting his desire for a sort of order of society and extreme control.

Le Corbusier’s perspectives and interpretations of the world and its interaction with architecture often changed and remain difficult to trap down. Even today, his work continues to be studied, reinterpreted and criticized gaining new meanings over and over again, inspiring generations to come.