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Franz Marc – Spirit Animals

franz marc

Franz Marc was a German Expressionist, who created many artworks featuring nature and animals, and was a co-founder and an active member of the German art group, “Der Blaue Reiter”, or “The Blue Rider”.

Franz-Marc

Background

Franz Marc was born on 8th February. 1880 in Munich, Germany.  Dubbed “The Little Philosopher” by his family, Franz was by nature shy and especially sensitive, like many artists.

His younger days were spent within the free spiritedness of a highly creative and liberal-minded family. His father was a landscape painter, and his mother was a homemaker and socially liberal Calvinist.

Despite his father being an artist himself, he didn’t suppose Franz would make a great artist, and so this dismissive air made Franz depressed, and yet he still entered the Munich Academy to learn art.

After a couple of years in the fine arts program, rather dejected by the academy’s limitations on artists like himself, Franz decided to travel to Paris, which was the art center of the world at that time.

He spent his days visiting local art museums, and had absorbed the nuances of classical painting partly by viewing their works, but also by copying the old masters he was surrounded by.

august macke portrait

Influence of Paris

The influence of other artists had a very huge impact on Franz Marc.  Encountering the artworks of both Gaugin and Van Gogh, Marc took their work to heart and realized that his love of nature might be a way to express himself artistically, as these two artists had done.

For example, speaking of influence, his work called “Cats on a Red Cloth”, which was created around 1909-1910, was strongly influenced by Van Gogh as you might notice.  Still, the color scheme adheres to the tones of reality, seeing Marc not yet venturing off into the realms of experimentation he would soon explore.

cats on a red cloth

With this painting in particular, vibrant brush strokes and vivid colors occupy the viewer’s eye and give a feeling of two cats enjoying a typical feline day in the life, very similar to the Van Gogh in its exploration of things you might see around you, but depicted differently than you’ve ever seen them before, with that slight jolt of experimental abstraction.

They say emulation is a form of flattery, but it takes a special artist to move beyond mere stylistic copying, which Franz certainly did before too long. This might be said to have been inevitable, as by now Marc had developed a very personal theory of symbolic color theory, which began to inform his work.

A couple of years later, Franz Marc met another famous painter, a well-known person in the art world – expressionist Wassily Kandinsky.

wassily kandinsky

Their unity and friendship combined into an active working relationship with the artist group called “New Artist’s Association” and the creation of the “Der Blaue Reiter”, or “The Blue Rider”. The name was inspired by both artists’ affinity for blue color, with Kandinsky liking the idea of a horse rider, and Marc being partial to horses.

The Blue Rider was a way for artists to escape what more formal institutions of the time were doing which was to gravitate closer to colors and shapes which matched reality.  Too many “should’s” for Marc.  With the onset of photography, realism was becoming more and more inescapable in art and the idea of a prismatic love of all colors and shapes seemed to clash with harsh reality of the time, going into the first World War.

It was around this time that Franz Marc created one of his best known paintings, “The Blue Horse”, in 1911, which combined primary colors and a touch of cubism.  It also symbolized Marc’s combining his love of nature, animals, personalized color theory, and abstraction into what would become his signature style of painting.

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Love of Animals

Franz Marc had a special view on painting animals, mostly home animals as horses or dogs. One of his most known paintings is called “Dog Lying In The Snow”, based on his sheep dog, Russi.

dog lying down in the snow

In the painting itself, a light yellow-colored dog is peacefully lying on the ground with his eyes closed – it gives a calm impression to viewers and looks rather unassuming at first glance

But. when you start to look more carefully, the shape of the dog gives a more vibrant image because the painter gave to this dog a few cubistic characteristics, which puts the dog in a timeless setting.

Furthermore, he used two primarily colors blue and yellow and the third – green –  which you can get by mixing the two, creating a palette that is unique and unusual.  According to Victoria Robson, who is a Curator European Art, both the composition and these colors symbolize the idea of a harmonious unity, whereby the animal, the colors, the lines, and the landscape all become one.

In fact, harmony of colors and a vision of animals being seen as the spiritual creatures they are became fundamental to all his work at this time.  Second to his love of horses and his dog Russi, Marc loved to depict deer, which he looked after.

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It has been said that Franz Marc considered animals to be more spiritual than humans. An interesting take, and surely many might agree with this, as humans are seen as deceitful and greedy, and animals are seen as innocent.  Therefore, to align himself with the innocence of animals, Marc stopped painting anything but animals from 1911 onward.

There is one painting you may know called “Yellow Cow”, created in 1911.  The title represents painting fairly accurately, as it it intrigues the viewer with a wide spectrum of vivid colors and bright emotions, portraying a cow as perhaps never before, galloping through a vividly but somewhat fantastically colored landscape.

yellow cow

According to David Wistow, an Exhibition planner at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Franz Marc believed that yellow color represents feminine energy and blue the masculine, in accordance with his personal views on color theory.

It so happened that the artist was newly married around the time he created this painting, therefore art historians are guessing that this painting illustrates an unusual, but exciting perspective on married life, which combines the yellow of the feminine and the blue of the masculine.

Since Marc had decided to live in the Alps, he criticized everything that was related to city lifestyle: corruption, pollution, and materialism, he had chosen to show a side of nature in his work and connect himself to a spirituality which to him had far more meaning.

marc_landscape_foothills_alps

In 1915, in Marc’s letter to his wife, he wrote that his idea is to paint animals, not the way he sees them, but rather the way they really are and coexist with nature, or even to represent their place in the whole world.

By populating his artwork with various animals, he hoped somehow to connect his spirit to theirs, and theirs to ours.  It’s a good theory, and who can say what mysteries lie within the brushstrokes of a painting, particular a Franz Marc painting.

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It is also known that when he was growing up, he liked to spend his free time walking with his dog. In his young days, he worked with horses and loved deer and he kept deer himself. Therefore, it’s not exaggerating to say that Franz Marc can be strongly considered as one of the best expressionists dealing with the theme of animals that ever lived, as he did his best to represent their souls in his works so that humanity could always remember that the planet is not solely about them.

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Grace Hartigan – Fast Train

grace hartigan young

While Grace Hartigan started her art career later than many of her counterparts, her impact on the abstract expressionist genre was not diminished by this.

Hartigan was born and raised in Newark, New Jersey. Born in 1922, She was the eldest of four, which meant that she was not afforded the privilege of attending post-secondary, but she trained in mechanical drafting in the 1940s and studied with painter Isaac Lane Muse.

grace hartigan in studio

At 17, she married her first husband, who encouraged her to pursue art. She would divorce him in 1947 and get married three more times.

Hartigan moved to New York as she became serious about painting, and joined the likes of Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, and Jackson Pollock. Pollock became a mentor to Hartigan, and by the late 50s, she was named “the most celebrated of the young American women painters” by Life magazine.

Hartigan lived to be 86, as she passed away in 2008 of liver failure. She left behind an incredible legacy of impressive artwork and being an iconic woman in the abstract expressionist genre. 

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“I cannot expect even my own art to provide all the answers – only to hope it keeps asking the right questions.”

Her Work

Grace Hartigan is known for her bold experimentation, gestural brush strokes, and emotional works. Her work suggests a sense of urgency.

Early works have an organic and curvilinear form, and older paintings have more distinct figures, symbols, and mythological references. The structures and figures in her work are emotional vehicles, and they’re painted in an expressionist manner.

grace hartigan work 

In 1950, her career began when a painting of hers was selected for the “New Talent” show at the Kootz Gallery by Meyer Schapiro and Clement Greenberg. The show led to her first solo exhibition at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery.

In her career, these stepping stones pushed her to refine her style, as she felt she was lacking distinction and relied too heavily on Abstract Expressionism.

Goya, Velázquez, and other Old Master painters inspired her, along with Henri Matisse and Paul Cézanne.

Many of her peers did not approve of her new direction, but ‘The Persian Jacket,’ a painting she completed in 1952, became a permanent fixture in the Museum of Modern Art.

grace-hartigan-the-persian-jacket

She used a Frank O’Hara poem to create a series of paintings in a collaborative effort with one of his friends. 

“I don’t see how you can create and not have the feeling that it is the most important, all-consuming thing.”

Other established museums followed suit. The Whitney Museum bought the 1954 ‘Grand Street Brides,’ the Museum of Modern Art bought the 1953 ‘River Bathers,’ which was influenced by Matisse.

In 1956, she began working on the ‘City Life’ painting series, which features interlocking colour planes that reflect her neighbourhood’s streets.

hartigan city life

Later that year, she would go on to be the only woman represented in the “Twelve Americans” exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.

In 1958, ‘The New American Painting’ exhibition included her work, and she was the youngest artist and only woman to be included; and the exhibition travelled around Europe.  

When she married her fourth husband, she moved to Baltimore in 1961. She initially regretted her move from the heart of the art scene in New York, so she tried to replicate her former studio in an abandoned factory.

Her 1957 work ‘Billboard’ was where she began to incorporate pop culture imagery into her work.

billboard

In the early 1960s, she was fascinated by Marilyn Monroe’s death and the Barbie doll launching into the mainstream. She drew upon these for her later works. 

She began teaching at the Hoffberger School of Painting in 1964, becoming a part-time professor for the graduate program at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

She was known among students for her relentless critiques. The following year, she would become the director of the school, and she encouraged expressivity over everything else. She was becoming ill as she was a recovering alcoholic and suffered from osteoarthritis, but she refused to retire.  

“Action/Precision: The New Direction in New York, 1955–60” and “The Figurative Fifties: New York Figurative Expressionism” were two major shows that exhibited her work in the 80s.

The last exhibition was titled “Hand-Painted Pop: American Art in Transition, 1955–62,” and it was held in LA, Chicago, and New York. 

“I feel that we are living a very fragmented life, the whole world — you too. So I perceive the world in fragments. It is somewhat like being on a very fast train and getting glimpses of things in strange scales as you pass by.

hartigan

A person can be very, very tiny. And a billboard can make a person very large. You see the corner of a house, or you see a bird fly by, and it’s all fragmented.

Somehow, in painting, I try to make some logic out of the world that has been given to me in chaos. I have a very pretentious idea that I want to make life, I want to make sense out of it. The fact that I am doomed to failure — that doesn’t deter me in the least.”

Her Legacy

Grace Hartigan was the recipient of numerous awards and honours over her lifetime. Six universities and colleges in Maryland and Pennsylvania chose Hartigan to be the recipient of honorary degrees.

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She was also awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Neuberger Museum in 2002 and the Governor’s Award in Baltimore, MA, in 2006.

Aside from her contributions to the American painting world, she was an incredible example of a fierce and independent female influence in art.

This era in art is often looked at by historians through a narrow and patriarchal lens, but she breaks through that lens. She was an extremely talented artist that demanded the attention away from her male counterparts.

She embraced the abstract expressionist movement while incorporating her own style, and it ensured her art remain relevant decades later, and it paved the way for future artists and the New Figuration and Neo-Expressionist movements. 

Sources: 

http://www.artnet.com/artists/grace-hartigan/

https://www.azquotes.com/author/23193-Grace_Hartigan

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Hartigan

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Grace-Hartigan

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Clyfford Still – Thrusts of Joy

Clyfford Still photo

Born in 1904, Clyfford Still would become one of the most influential and unique artists to come out of the abstract expressionist movement.

clyfford still

Clyfford Still would be unwavering in his commitment to his craft and refused to ‘sell-out’ or be swayed by money or fame.

Throughout his career and the evolution of his technique, he began with ideas and images that were recognizable and gradually became more abstract. His goal was for the viewer of his work to become lost in the art and create their own conclusions about the meaning and themes. 

“I never wanted color to be color. I never wanted texture to be texture, or images to become shapes. I wanted them all to fuse into a living spirit.”

ph-119 by clyfford still 1948

He was born in Grandin, North Dakota, but spent a lot of his childhood in Spokane, Washington, and Alberta, Canada.

Abstract expressionism is linked to New York and Eastern Coast but Still was entrenched in the earliest days of the movement on the West Coast, including Washington State and San Francisco. 

Clyfford Still was one of the initial abstract expressionists, and the generation of artists he belongs to is credited with developing a new and powerful approach to art.

Artists like Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Joan Mitchell, Barnett Newman, Grace Hartigan, Robert Motherwell, Lee Krasner, Norman Lewis, and Jackson Pollock were of the same generation immediately after World War II.

clyfford still artwork

These artists are all very different from another, but they all contribute to the abstract expressionism movement in impressive ways.

Between the abstract form, large scale, brushwork techniques, and other methods, the pieces that come from this time period handle heavy and universal issues about life, love, struggle, the human condition, and death. 

Still is considered by many as the most anti-traditional artist to come out of the abstract expressionists, and this trait is considered the groundwork for the movement.

clyfford still collection

Between 1938 and 1942, a major shift in Still’s style occurred, which was earlier than his contemporaries, who followed suit later in the 1940s. 

“I do not intend to oversimplify—in fact, I revel in the extra complex.”

Still obtained his Masters of Fine Arts degree in 1935 at Washington State College, and he became faculty there, taught at Richmond Professional Institute and Virginia Commonwealth University until 1945, and then visited New York.

He became associated with the Art of This Century and Betty Parsons galleries in New York, and he lived there for most of the 1950s, while the abstract expressionist movement was growing and peaking. 

lifeline

During this time, his reputation for being anti-traditional and critical of the art world flourished. He completed severed ties with all the commercial galleries he had been involved with by 1961 and decided to move to Maryland, placing himself as far away from the art establishment as he could. He stayed in Maryland with his wife, Patricia, until he passed away in 1980.

Just before his passing in 1979, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art organized the largest sampling of his work, and it was the largest by the organization to celebrate the work of a living artist.

Once he had passed, his work that was not in the public domain was immediately sealed off, which closed off access to one of the most incredible influences on the American art world of the 20th century. 

His work

Clyfford Still is considered one of the first color field painters. Unlike his peers Rothko or Newman, who’s pieces were organized in a simple manner, Still’s abstract works are focused on juxtaposing colors, surfaces, and forms.

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Rothko focused on nebulous rectangles and Newman on thin lines among colors, Still used jagged flashes, color being ‘torn’ from the work, and other irregular techniques.

Still applied his paint in a different way than Rothko and Newman, where they tended to use flat colors and thin paint, Still used a thick impasto, where brush and knife strokes are still visible, creating texture, depth, and variety.

His mature works involved forms of nature like foliage, caverns, lightness, and darkness. By the late 40s, his color field works became prominent, and he would continue to refine through the rest of his career.

His most famous works include 1957-D No. 1, which exhibits black, yellow, and white patches with small red patches. These four colors stay prominent throughout the rest of his work.

still

The peak of his abstract expressionism produced 302 paintings dating from 1944–1960, and 350 paintings dating from 1961–1979 were created during his time in Maryland. 

“A great free joy surges through me when I work… with tense slashes and a few thrusts the beautiful white fields receive their color and the work is finished in a few minutes.”

Legacy 

In 1972, Still was awarded the Award of Merit for Painting from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Skowhegan Medal for Painting in 1975.

The Clyfford Still Museum is located in Denver’s art district, and the building that houses the museum was specifically designed for Clyfford Still’s work and was developed by Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture.

clyfford still museum

Still is considered an integral part of the art community, and the museum’s collection represents around 95% of his creations, which is around 3,100 pieces.

The museum’s mission is to: “preserve, exhibit, study, and foster engagement with its unique collections; generate outstanding exhibitions, scholarly research, educational and other cross-disciplinary programs that broaden the definition of a “single-artist” museum; and be a gathering place for the exploration of innovation and individual artistic endeavour.”

In 2013, the Clyfford Still Museum Research Center was established and launched.

clyfford still research center

The center explores the abstract expressionist period in history, artwork as a whole, and how the painters worked. The programs offered include a fellowship program, research symposia, and cross-disciplinary scholarly publications. 

“These are not paintings in the usual sense; they are life and death merging in fearful union. As for me, they kindle a fire; through them, I breathe again, hold a golden cord, find my own revelation.”

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clyfford_Still

http://www.artnet.com/artists/clyfford-still/

https://www.artsy.net/artist/clyfford-still

https://news.artnet.com/art-world/clyfford-still-quotes-birthday-370748

https://clyffordstillmuseum.org

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Emil Nolde – Let’s Mingle!

emil nolde and naziism

Emil Nolde was a German-Danish Expressionist painter, known for his unbridled passion for a rather crude but compelling style of artwork that was labelled as “degenerate” by Hitler and the Nazis, whom Nolde admired and sought acceptance by.

But how could he gain acceptance back then, when the bulk of Nolde’s very expansive body of work seemed to take the sacred and make it profane, or reveal a vulgar side of humanity that was not ready to seen by common folk?  Did Nolde himself not see this?  Or was he too busy pushing boundaries in a time and place when this was less than appreciated?

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For some reason, Nolde believed he would be accepted and embraced by Germany, which he loved, but his reward for his creativity was to become an outcast.

Degenerate Artist

emil-nolde

Irony could be applied to Nolde in several ways through his life.  For one, he supported the 3rd Reich, but his painting style was seen as abhorrent by the persnickety political party.  Unrequited love, it seemed.

Second irony was that, while the Nazi’s hated his art for being primitive and unethical, they ironically somehow managed to give Nolde free promotion, by way of an 1937/38 “degenerate” art show which many German people saw. More on this show in a moment.

As with today’s so called “cancel culture”, which sees people emotionally react with extreme un-acceptance to anything that disagrees with their fickle sensibilities, the Nazi’s too felt it appropriate to suppress creative expression as they rose to power, deeming Nolde’s artwork morally questionable and highly objectionable.  In other words, they tried to have him censored, or “cancelled” as we call it in 2020.

What did the Nazi’s object to about Nolde’s work, you ask?  Well, for one thing, Nolde’s work displayed some wild tendencies, both in terms of brushstroke and subject matter, depicting provocative nudes moving in savage ways, as well as exploring the culture of other races.  This type of curiosity was the opposite of the Nazi’s worldview.  Nolde also made some sort of mockery of religion.

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So, in their particularly heinous way, the supremely pompous Nazi’s took all of the aforementioned wretched artwork, like that of Nolde’s, which they (the Nazis, with Goebbels being the spearhead of the movement) then placed in one show in Munich to show what unpatriotic, unacceptable art looks like.  This is the show I mentioned – the Degenerate Art Show.

Here is a video talking about the event.

By all accounts, Emil took all of this rejection in stride, as it never once prevented him from continuing to create.

Despite all challenges he faced through his life, what with being somewhat of an outcast in his homeland, Emil Nolde never stopped creating, becoming increasingly dynamic and bold with his artistic vision of the world.

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Background

Let’s go back to the beginning, when this future rabble rouser was born.

Emil Nolde was born on 7th August 1867 in Nolde, Germany. His real name was Emil Hansen, but he changed it to match the name of his home town at the Danish-German border in later years, when he became a more well-known artist.

nolde watercolor

He wasn’t interested in painting at first, but the boy’s attraction to art became clear in his teenage years.

At 17 years old, the young man started an apprenticeship as a wood sculptor and draftsman at the Sauermann furniture factory and wood-carving school in Flensburg.

As he got older, Emil worked as a woodcarver in furniture factories in Munich and Karlsruhe, where he also attended the school of applied arts and took figure-drawing classes.

His first experiences with painting led him to the Friedrich Fehr’s (pictured below) painting school and later to the Hölzel school in Dachau.

Friedrich Fehr’s painting school

In 1899, he traveled to Paris, where he attended the Académie Julian and undertook his own studies in the famous center of every young painter – the Louvre.

At the beginning of the 20th century, following his marriage with a Danish actress, Ada Vilstrup, the artist has changed his name officially from Hansen to Nolde.

Ada Vilstrup and emil nolde

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The couple was travelled together through Denmark and Germany, until their relocation in Berlin, which became their home.

Growing Hunger for Art

At the beginning of the 20th century, Emil Nolde became an active member of a rich cultural and social life in Germany.

nolde art

For a while, he participated in the art group named “Brücke” (The Bridges), during which he met a famous Expressionist, Norwegian Edward Munch, whose artworks Nolde admired.

Even though they didn’t become close friends, they followed each other careers as long as they lived.  Their work, after all, does share some similarities in its brazenness alone, you might say.  Both artists certainly knew their way around a tortured face.

emil-nolde-1

Ideas and Themes

Next to his active social life, Nolde was inspired to create artworks, which reflected various themes and ideas.

Since he was an Expressionist and had used many vivid colors in his works, one of the objects he enjoyed painting was flowers.

emil nolde flowers

Art historians have noted that Nolde was inspired by a Dutch master Vincent Van Gogh, who used many bright colors and had created his iconic sunflowers.  That said, Nolde was no slouch with flowers himself.

Next to these flowers, Nolde painted poppies and typical field flowers. His vibrant colors and dynamic brushes made them come alive.

In 1909, he started to create religious theme paintings – “Last Supper”, “Pentecost”, “Derision”, etc.  He did so in a way that confused some of his countrymen – were religious works supposed to look like this?  There was something odd about his depictions of religious scenes that did not sit well with the powers that be of that time.

nolde pentecost

This idea of religious paintings did not leave him, and he continued along with this theme for a couple of years, and during 1911-1912 he painted one of the most important artworks in his career – the nine-piece “Life of Christ”.

nolde life of christ

“I followed an irresistible desire to represent profound spirituality, religion, and tenderness without much intention, knowledge, or deliberation.” – Nolde had written in his memoir.  While this may have been his view of his own work, there was something unsettling about his work that would go on to rankle people.

That said, another theme that was important in Nolde‘s paintings was dance and dancers. He was amazed by this magnificent type of performing art, and loved to explore it in his work.

For instance, while spending his days in Berlin, Nolde was a frequent visitor at many theaters, circuses, cabarets, and cafes, where he had an opportunity to observe performers’ body movements and make his sketches.

Some of his well-known works of this period are “Wildly Dancing Children” (1909), “Dance Around the Golden Calf” (1910), and “Candle Dancers” (1912).

candle-dancers-1912

Living During Difficult Times

Many artists, who had worked during both World Wars, have been surrounded by uncertainty, poverty, and have been affected by different political regimes.

Since Nolde was living and working in Germany, his works were being watched by the Nazi Regime, as mentioned.

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And now we come full circle.

As I said, Emil Nolde did not take a neutral position during the Nazi Regime. Art historian Peter Selz in his book, dedicated to German painter, had described Nolde’s personal views as anti-French and anti-Jewish.

According to him, the artist had expected to play an important role in the early 1930s, when Nazis came to power, therefore he found the right environment to fulfill his opportunistic ideas.

Although he did get attention from the Nazi party at the beginning of their ruling period, the attention he wanted was not the attention he got, and  Nolde’s works were exhibited at the Degenerate Art Exhibition in Munich, in 1937.

To reiterate, Nolde was a very bold painter who loved color.  The Nazi agenda was not inclined to have emotions stirred that they did not fully oversee.  This is how Nolde had his falling out with the rising totalitarian force.

nolde flowers

After his works were confiscated by the party, Nolde fought to get them back and succeeded.

Even after his own experience showed that he could have not trust the Nazi regime, he still continued support for Germany to win World War II and did not give up his beliefs.

In 2019, Germany‘s Chancellor Angela Merkel removed two Emil Nolde‘s paintings from her office.

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Poor Emil, the Nazis didn’t like you because you were too provocative, and today’s politicians don’t like you because you liked the Nazis.  Can’t win, can you?

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At any rate, this symbolic gesture of having his artwork removed attracted a lot of media attention, and was quickly understood as a non-acceptance of the artist’s pro-Nazi beliefs from the past.  As I said at the beginning, Emil Nolde was an enigma – a proud nationalist who was rejected by his own countrymen for being seen as anti nationalist.  Oh the humanity!

Still, I hope you have enjoyed this little exploration of his life and work.

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Robert Rauschenberg – The Controversy of Being Yourself

Robert Rauschenberg was an influential, non-traditional American artist heavily influenced by the New York School, who were a group of artists, poets, musicians, and dancers who were reaching their peak popularity in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Robert was a progenitor of the pop art style, often mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Jackson Pollock for his revolutionary approach to modern art, mixing together styles of art such as print-making, collage, photography, and sculpture.

Robert Rauschenberg

Background

Robert Rauschenberg was born Milton Ernest Rauschenberg on October 22, 1925, in Porth Arthur town in Texas, USA.  He was one of two children (he had a sister named Janet) and he was raised in a Fundamentalist Christians household. 

Rauschenberg was dyslexic growing up.  That said, at the young age of 16, he went on to study Pharmacy at the University of Texas. Soon after, he served in the United States Navy, where he worked briefly as a mental hospital technician until his discharge in 1945.

Following that, in 1947, he enrolled into Kansas City Art Institute.  Shortly thereafter, he went to Paris, where he continued his studies at Academie Julian.

Thinking back on this decision, Rauschenberg would joke that it was 40 years too late, as this great city, known for its artistic flair, had changed greatly from the beginning of the 20th century when it was mecca for many famous painters.  Still, he made friends there, as well as his future wife and ex-wife, painter Susan Weil.

Rauschenberg's Canyon

In 1948, he returned to the USA, where he resumed his artistic studies at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, where he had the opportunity to be taught by the German artist Josef Albers, a founder of the Bauhaus, who tried to rid Rauschenberg of his experimental tendencies.  Thus, they clashed, and soon Rauschenberg became the pupil of John Cage, who better suited his experimental nature.

While in New York in 1949-1951, Rauschenberg encountered many contemporary artists who influenced him and vice versa, such as Vaclav Vytlacil, Morris Kantor, Knox Martin, and Cy Twombly.  While in New York, Rauschenberg had his first solo exhibition at the Betty Parsons Gallery and his popularity begin to grow exponentially.  This exhibition featured his “combines”, which combined painting and sculpture.

should love come first 1951

Robert Rauschenberg

Combines

Robert Rauschenberg invented a new term in the art world: “combine”. This fusion of sculpture and painting became his signature, as many of his works featured this new style which basically helped invent the term “pop art”, which has been mostly associated with Andy Warhol.

In this vernacular of this type of artwork, different kinds of materials can be used, such as newspaper clippings, paints squeezed directly from the tube or various wooden, metal, or plastic parts put together into one whole artwork.

rauschenberg 1954

According to art historians, Rauschenberg wanted to bring simple objects from daily life into the artwork, showing that artists and their works are part of the same world, they are the same regular human beings as non-artists, interacting with the same “stuff”.  This may have influenced Warhol to film people eating hamburgers – we don’t know.

Art critics and researchers tend to think that Rauschenberg gave a sort of cultural permission to creators to create whatever and how they want – a dangerous idea to be sure.

Artworks

Throughout his sixty active working years as an artist, Rauschenberg had created many works from all different kinds of materials, many of which challenged viewers as to what art is and is not, and what it may or may not include.

Once he said that he used to go out in New York streets looking for various objects which can be useful for his artworks. From pins to waterpipes – his work materials included a wide range of objects, newspapers, paint, pictures, and even stuffed animals.  Maybe even his own band-aids…one never knows with this fellow which might end up being sucked into the work.

rauschenberg

In his paintings or sculptures, Rauschenberg did not avoid using such American symbols as a national flag or public figures such as the former president of the United States, John F. Kennedy.  His work was, in its own way, controversial to some, just by including certain symbols and images.  Imagine Rauschenberg trying to work in the year 2020…would be tough, with Cancel Culture seemingly on the rise.

However, it should be said that the main objects in his works remained simple, mostly from the home surroundings such as furniture, car wheels, or simple beach umbrellas.  Ordinary everyday things.

Rauschenberg and Abstract Expressionism

Ever since Rauschenberg started to develop his artistic ideas and create his works, he was never quite sure of his end point, but he definitely knew who he does not want to be: an Abstract Expressionist.

He decided to be different and expand boundaries of art as it was popular at that time. No doubt it was brave to create works which cannot fit in any concept of art.

In 1953 Rauschenberg had created probably the most controversial of his works. He took one of the most popular artists in New York, a Willem de Kooning painting, and started to erase it.

erased a de kooning drawing

The process took two months and yet the drawing was not erased fully, Rauschenberg had achieved his goal. Later he described this act not as a negation, but as a celebration.

After long years of creating his artworks, at the age of 72, Rauschenberg shared that working and creating always gave him joy, a celebration of unity with everything, and being the least self-conscious he could be.

Although Rauschenberg’s artworks are controversial, he remained authentic and showed what real freedom in the art world looks like. Today his works are exhibited in the most popular modern art museums all over the world.

Videos about Robert Rauschenberg

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Climate Change-Themed Installation Art – A Brief Look

spiral jetty

Installation art is a type of modern artistic sculpture, that presents the idea of using three-dimensional things in some sort of thought-provoking way.

Art installations are mostly presented in art galleries, museums, but also sometimes in public spaces in cities as well as in nature.

The “cross-over” of installation art from the gallery space into the outside world, or the natural world, could be considered inevitable, although this by no means to say the results have been predictable.

Take for instance The “Spiral Jetty”, a well known installation art piece called an “earthwork”.

Created by Robert Smithson in 1970, Spiral Jetty, at a glance, might be mistaken for a natural phenomenon, if you happened to fly over it in a helicopter.

It was, however, intentionally formed, and is located in an area of Utah, still there to this day.

Unlike Spiral Jetty, which has been there for decades, installation artworks created outside, particularly nature-based installations like this one, are made to last for a temporary period, and disperse at some point either by manmade design to do so, or naturally.

Installation artworks also sometimes can be movable, transferred from one place to another, although generally they are not as easy to move around as regular canvas-based artworks.

Because of their somewhat unlimited potential in terms of scope, the popularity of installation art featured outdoors, has only increased.

As the modern artist has taken to focusing their creative endeavours on the possibilities of what can happen when art goes “outside”, new and intriguing innuendos begin to bubble up from the wellspring of the human mind.

Modern Installation Art Origins – In (Very) Brief

Art installations, in the form that we understand them today, started to become part of modern art between the 1960’s and 1970’s. One of the first installations was created by artist Yves Klein and called “The Void”.

It took place at Iris Clert Gallery in Paris, 1958. This installation was unique at that time because of its minimalistic idiom.

As it happened, the gallery’s outside was painted in the vivid blue color (the specific tone was invented by the author Klein himself, who is often associated with the color blue, oddly enough), an entrance was decorated by fancy same-blue-colored drapes.

Meanwhile, inside of the gallery was empty – Klein removed all things, except one display case and painted it plain white color just before the posh opening.

Here is a video showing the nature of “The Void” by Yves Klein, from 1958.

Klein was known for many unusual installation and even “living” artworks, such as his “living paintbrushes”.

Installation art, overall, is generally thought of as 3-dimensional art, or in other words, art that exists on “interactive” plane of reality we are all familiar with, as 3-d types ourselves.

Other famous installation artists through history have included Joseph Beuys, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Nam June Paik, and Larry Bell.  But today as we continue, we will not be focusing on these intrepid individuals.

As it happens, here now we are going to look at some specifically “climate change” related artists and their works, which you might consider an informal branch of installation art.

This type of artwork reflects on what it means for our human race to exist as we plunge deeper into an increasingly complex industrial world, which has been evolving for centuries now and seems to have reached an impasse in some cities of the world, like New Delhi.

Climate Change Installation Artworks

Climate change, as an idea, fear (sometimes referred to as the “climate crisis”), and as much politicized “buzz word” (in some cases as the media likes to hijack these things to their own ends), is essentially, when you strip away the political posturing and mania, a noble and legitimate concern that has arisen in the past 50 years and which has only gotten increasingly more concerning for people that care about our planet, many of them artists who are especially sensitive to such things.

Climate change demonstration in London

Climate change has inevitably become the topic of many impactful artworks throughout the world, with new movements having been created, and important discussions influenced. All of this artistic ingenuity has brought this topic to new levels of creative output.

Artists all over the globe, who wanted to create artworks, wanted to not only address this issue, but also do their part towards figuring out how to potentially solve this problem, and make others think and act regarding their circumstances.

Sometimes cooperating with designers, architects, and scientists, climate-based creators also wish to how important it is to be open, work together, and find the best solutions possible.

Here are some famous installation artworks focused on climate change you may wish to investigate further.

Lines

This installation, called “Lines” was created in 2019, in the small Scottish town surrounded by water – North Uist.

The concept “belongs” (ownership of installed art like this becomes more nebulous) to the Finnish artists Pekka Niittyvirta and Timo Aho, who put white lights in straight lines on two buildings and a fence as a mark, indicating how high the water might rise if sea level will continue to rise in the future, according to the official calculations of scientists.

This project pushes society, and especially, the local community of the North Uist, to discuss what kind of impact does the climate change makes to their town and all other towns, which are in a similar geographical position, surrounded by water.

Ice Watch

Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson is known for his interest and artworks related to climate change issues. His studio creates exhibitions and art installations for many popular art galleries and museums around the globe.

One of his projects, named “Ice Watch” was presented in London, outside the Tate Modern building at the end of 2018.

 

Olafur extracted 30 blocks of glacial ice from the waters in Greenland and placed them in public spaces across London, where they had been left for natural melting.

The main idea was to show how the environment influences climate change. According to the author, he wanted to bring pieces of Greenland’s nature to humans, who could have touch and feel those huge pieces of ice, because of the physical contact, the understanding of the issue is “naturally” (pun intended) more effective.

Ice Floor

Wayne Binitie, a London based artist, currently a Ph.D. candidate at the Royal College of Art, together with the British Antarctic Survey, created an installation called “Ice Floor”, which took place from 25th November 2019 to 14 February 2020 in Arup, London.

The key to this artwork was in the small pieces of ice, which dated thousands of years old.

The idea here is similar to Eliasson’s, but here the main focus is with the sound, which is released from the pieces of ice cores, during its melting.

This sound is symbolizing the past, or, in other words – what the past can tell about climate change today.

What is unique in this project, that the ice has been extracted from the arctic pole by using a unique scientific method.

British Antarctic Survey scientists collaborated with Wayne Binitie, by providing him main ice materials and were fascinated about the artist’s idea.

Therefore, this is a great example of artists and scientists working hand in hand together for a common purpose.

Waterlicht

Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde had created an art installation named “Waterlicht” at Columbia University in 2019.

The artist used light installation made by LEDs to show viewers how it would feel like to be under the 10 feet of water.

It is clear why Roosegaarde has taken a view of water as a key target of his installation: one-fourth of his home country, the Netherlands, is below sea level, therefore rising sea level can damage a large part of the country in the near future, if it continues unchecked.

According to the artist, the viewer can feel how vulnerable life is while living below sea level. Using his artwork, he wanted to spread a clear message to the world – people should be aware of the rising sea level.

Climate change is a sensitive topic these days, but it should be brought up during the public discussions and art is a great way to create those discussions.


Please comment below and let us know what you think.  Have you seen or made any great installation artworks, focused on climate change.

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Joan Mitchell – To Define A Feeling

Joan-Mitchell-1

A massive part of the second generation of abstract expressionists, Joan Mitchell was a bold and innovative artist who had a powerful impact and continues to inspire artists today. Most of her career was in France, but she was a large part of the American movement.

Born in Chicago in 1925, to a dermatologist and poet, Joan was an athletic child, and her determination and competitive nature were foundational in her artwork as well. She was known to approach her work as if it were a competitive sport.

joan mitchell artist young

She became one of the paramount figures in American abstract expressionism and one of the few female artists in the movement.

“Abstract is not a style. I simply want to make a surface work.”

Her Work

In the 1950s, Mitchell really developed as an artist, and her signature style became more defined. She had an uncanny ability to infuse her work with emotion.

In her own words regarding her work, she said, “That particular thing I want can’t be verbalized. . . . I’m trying for something more specific than movies of my everyday life: To define a feeling.” Layered fields of colour and counterposed lines that seem rhythmic in nature are aspects of her signature style.

Her process was not spontaneous or impulsive. She relied heavily on her memories and emotions to create, utilizing both freedom and restraint simultaneously.

Joan-Mitchell

“Sometimes, I don’t know exactly what I want [with a painting]. I check it out, recheck it for days or weeks. Sometimes there is more to do on it. Sometimes I am afraid of ruining what I have. Sometimes I am lazy, I don’t finish it, or I don’t push it far enough. Sometimes I think it’s a painting.”

Her paintings often covered multiple canvases and were quite expansive. She was heavily influenced by van Gogh, even paying homage to his “Wheatfield with Crows” piece with her own work called No Birds. Her subject matter’s primary influence was landscape, and she worked on unprimed canvas using violent brushwork.

joan mitchell

During the early 1960s, she moved away from the bright colours that made up her previous works and started using dark colours for a more sombre tone in her compositions. She has compared the emotions that she felt having an impact on her work as poetry.

Shortly after she was comfortable in her style, her work was exhibited in the Ninth Street Show in 1951. Alongside the work of Jackson Pollock, Hans Hofmann, and Willem de Kooning, who were her mentors.

de Kooning and Franz Kline admired her work. She had her first solo exhibition at the New Gallery in 1952. In 1957, her methodology was featured in ARTnews.

At the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, NY, she staged her first major exhibition in 1972. In 1988, her first retrospective exhibition was held, and it featured 54 of her paintings that were produced from 1951 to 1987.

joan-mitchell-tilleul-1978-trivium-art-history.600x0

During the 80s and 90s, her health began to fail as she was diagnosed with advanced oral cancer, and it was recommended that she have her jaw removed.

Upon treatment from a doctor who gave her a second opinion, it left her jaw immobile, and she became anxious and depressed. She was advised to quit smoking, which she did successfully, but continued to drink to excess. During this time, her artwork shifted in a different direction.

Her post-cancer works reflected the psychological change she endured while battling the diseases. She created six Between paintings, as well as Faded Air I, Faded Air II, the A Few Days cycle, the Before, Again cycle and the Then, Last Time group of four paintings.

joan mitchell last paintings

In the last years of her life, she revisited sunflowers as her primary subject matter, painting Sunflowers, which depicted the flowers in various stages of decomposition. She then developed hip dysplasia and underwent hip replacement surgery. During her recovery, she began dabbling in watercolour painting, which was called the River cycle.

As a huge fan of Matisse, even saying that if she could paint like him, she would be in heaven, in 1992, she flew from Paris to New York for his exhibition, and while she was there, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. She returned to Paris on October 22nd, and she passed away on October 30th in the morning.

In 2019, her work was included at the Katonah Museum of Art in the Sparkling Amazons: Abstract Expressionist Women of the 9th St. Show in Westchester County, NY. It ran until January 2020.

ninth street women

Legacy

In 1993, the Joan Mitchell Foundation was established. It’s a not-for-profit that awards stipends and grants for aspiring painters, collectives, and sculptors.

Some of the recipients in the past have included Sarah Morris, Mark Dion, and Akio Takamori. The Joan Mitchell Foundation is also one of the sponsors of the Artist-in-Residence Program at the Joan Mitchell Centre in New Orleans.

Joan Mitchell was a commercially successful artist, as her earnings between 1960 and 1962 were around $30,000, which was impressive for a woman painter during that time.

In 2007, Ste. Hilaire, 1957 sold from the Art Institute of Chicago for $3.8 million.

Ste. Hilaire, 1957

In 2012, an untitled 1971 painting sold for $7 million at an auction at Christie’s Paris, and her work was among the most expensive works by any woman painter sold by auction.

Through 2013, Mitchell’s work has brought in over $230 million in sales. Another untitled work from 1960 has sold for $11.9 million, which stole the title of her highest selling work. In 2018, nine more paintings were expected to sell for around $70 million at Art Basel, the world’s largest art fair.

Joan Mitchell has left quite an impression on the art industry, and although she spent many of her years in Paris, the North American market has a special place for Mitchell’s work. As a female artist in a time where many weren’t commercially successful, Mitchell paved the way for future women in art.

“I’m happy when I’m painting. I like it.”

Sources:
https://news.artnet.com/art-world/joan-mitchell-quotes-for-birthday-426788
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joan_Mitchell
https://www.moma.org/artists/4026

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Video Projection Mapping and its Persuasive Illusions

teamlab borderless tokyo official site mori building digital art

Video projection mapping is an illusory phenomenon created by digitally projecting a computer-manipulated image or images onto a surface (or many) via light and projection system.

This surface chosen to be projected upon can be a flat object, like a wall, either indoor or out, or any other type of surface, although the type of surface will affect the nature of the image.  The projection then changes the nature and meaning of the surface.

Many people might assume this technology might be fairly recent in its invention, dating to the time when cinema originated, but this is not quite so – it goes back much further.

As it happens, this type of visual art, closely related to cinema for obvious reasons, has been known of and practiced for centuries, with a magical effect that has not diminished over time.

forest projection mapping

Today it is not only alive with the help of new technologies designed to enhance its overall effect on the viewer, whatever that desired may be, but has reached new levels of ambition and power, where it can be used for a variety of purposes, across all strata, from advertising, to art advocating social change.

It could be said that projection mapping is among the largest and most impressive light displays next to fireworks that brings wonderment to people of all ages and beliefs, although it can also challenge beliefs as well.

But let’s go back to when video projection was born, with a creation known as a ‘magic lantern’…

magic lantern

The ‘Magic Lantern’

Before modern technology was created to assist with video projection, a magic lantern was built in 1659 by a Dutch scientist Christian Huygens, 200 years before photography was invented.

magic lantern, 1659

This device worked by using a concave mirror to direct light from a lamp onto a glass slide that had the picture (or more like a slide made of paper).

The light passed through the glass slide and projected the image on a screen using focusing lenses. Magic lanterns were one of the first image-projecting devices to gain popularity in the education and entertainment fields.

Here is a short video showing exactly how magic lanterns worked and look.

The First Slide Projectors

Similar devices to the magic lantern were created in later centuries, but the era of projectors, that we know them as now, started around the 1940’s, when the first computers began to be invented.

One of the earliest projectors which became popular during this more modern era was the now well-known slide projectors.

These projectors were used to project transparent photographic slides on the screen.

Projecteur_de_diapositives_Prestinox_début_des_années_1960

Light from a source such as an incandescent light bulb or limelight was directed onto the 35mm slides through a condensing lens by using reflectors.

The light passed through the slide onto a focusing lens that projected a large image on the screen. The slides contained family pictures or educational material. Slide projectors became common in educational institutions and private homes.

These days projectors are made to be more high definition. They can show a very high quality of pictures, no matter how large the surface is.

In fact, artists are still often asked to submit their artwork to galleries it the form of slides, so that curators can get a closer look at the finer details of the image, to determine whether it is suitable for a particular gallery’s setting.

photo-slides

Video Projection Mapping Today

Since modern times became the digital age, images and videos began to be very important not just in the art world, but in people‘s daily life as well. Up next, I want to show how successful ideas were developed by using video mapping.

wideshot-triangles-1-1

Indoor Projection Projects

When you imagine a video projection, most of the time immediately start to think about a classroom and or some big company‘s meeting room.

Despite how useful it is in those places, today various types of multimedia are used for creating a unique experience in way more different spaces.

Many galleries and museums are using video projections to create a more catchy and mesmerizing look of objects or tell interesting stories.

To make a bigger impression, creators cover the whole indoor space with video projection, including walls, floor, and ceiling. It makes people feel like they are a part of the game and they can feel the project even better.

img_cs_lightpool

Powerful Inspiring Illusions

The Mori Building Digital Art Museum – the first digital art museum in the world opened its doors in 2018, in Tokyo, Japan.

This museums provides us with proof of how digital art becomes more and more important in daily life and can be useful for creating attractive and involving content.

Indoor video projection became a great way to tell the story about famous bands or artists. One of those brands is probably the best-known drink in the world – Coca Cola, which created an exhibition to mark its 125th anniversary.

There was a 90 square meter of 270-degree projection system created, in which the company presented a history of the brand and had a great opportunity to promote the brand itself.

The other example shows how new modern technologies can make the art world and paintings alive. A company called “Grande Exhibitions” created an exhibition based on experience, that combines Vincent Van Gogh‘s paintings and special music.

Artworks were projected on huge screens, which created an illusion of being in those artworks. This experience had received a lot of viewers’ attention, visited over 50 cities around the world, and became the most visited multi-sensory experience in the world.

Multimedia and new technologies had created more opportunities to spread various kind words, support, or even critique of the world.

One of the great examples of that is the light show, created by a Swiss artist, during which a video projection of message with the hashtag “hope”, words “thank you” in different languages and flags of many countries were projected on the famous Matterhorn mountain in Switzerland.

SWITZERLAND-HEALTH-VIRUS-ARTS

This action was spread through the media and social networks, meanwhile, the author said, that he wanted to show solidarity to people and inspire humans around the world, who are living under the complicated Covid-19 situation.

Video projection has been chosen to create an installation of a huge clock on the building where the government of the United Kingdom resides, so it could count how much time was left for the United Kingdom until leaving European Union on January 31, 2020.

Krzysztof Wodiczko

Some artists had chosen to create their works by using video mapping and Krzysztof Wodiczko is one of them.

This polish artist was born in 1943 in Warsaw, Poland. In later years, he moved to Toronto and New York, where had created around 80 various video projections in which covered his social, political, and art ideas.

Krzysztof Wodiczko

In 1984, when the Cold War was still happening, he projected arms race on the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch, where American and Soviet missiles were connected with a chain and a padlock.

Krzysztof’s idea was to show arms race between both countries, which lasted around four decades since WWII ended.

Next year, in 1985, Wodiczko made a video projection on the South Africa House in London. The event was controversial because the symbol and a flag of Nazis were projected on the building and it caused a diplomatic reaction of the Republic of South Africa because the main idea was to criticize Apartheid‘s policy in this country. With his projects, Krzysztof Wodiczko proved, what a powerful method can be a video projection.

Bigger screens, modern light systems, new computer software – the world is changing very fast, therefore it is exciting what the future of video projection will bring and how the new ideas gonna be realized.

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What is a Flashmob? History and Meaning Behind the Movement

Historically speaking, the word “mob” has been associated with acts of violence, or at the very least, social upheaval.

You’ve probably heard of an “angry mob” before, in reference to a group of angry people toting pitchforks and torches, usually motivated to march based on some socio-political injustice or another, perceived or real.

angry-mob-1-1

A “flashmob” is essentially a reclamation of the term “mob” by putting a much more positive spin on it in the form of performance art.

Generally speaking, a “flashmob” is a gathering of a certain number of people that takes place in a public space that happens seemingly mysteriously and lasts for ten minutes or perhaps less, with the intention of surprising, delighting, and sometimes confusing onlookers.

These gatherings came to be popular as the age of social media and smart technology grew, allowing for people to more easily connect, and more easily organize such a spontaneous and exciting event as a flashmob by way of Facebook group, or a flurry of texts.

history of the flashmob

During flashmobs, people dance, sing or just freeze in place, not moving for a couple of minutes.  As such, flash mobs do have some connection to the idea of musical theatre, in their exuberance and choreography.

This gives the general impression to anyone watching that these flash-mobbers showed up out of nowhere, almost like magic, and then disappear without any trace.

Flash mobs can be for artistic sake, for fun, or they can be for the purpose of advertising some event or product.  They can even be political.

Generally, however, flashmobs capture the spirit of fun in any populated location and change the whole atmosphere of that place, which may otherwise be mundane, into something exciting and unifying.

Here is an example of a flashmob in action.

History

Officially, the first known flashmob happened in 2003, when a senior editor of Harper’s Magazine – Bill Wasik – anonymously organized one in Manhattan, New York.

Here is Bill speaking on his idea of what flashmobs are all about.

That first Manhattan flashmob turned out to be a well-executed event, that attracted participants to come before any action occurred to a few different bars, located near the place where the flashmob occurred, where they got more information about what to do just before the start of an event.

Around 130 people spread through the Macy’s store by looking for a “love rug” for their suburban commune.

According to Wasik, he just wanted to create a type of social experiment that lampooned the next “hot new thing”, in a very American way of always looking for the next big event or cultural change.

As a result, flashmobs became a rather powerful for people in the US because the tradition of public space in the country was seeming to be lost, and, if nothing else, flashmobs expressed a way to reclaim public space, if only for a short time.  In some ways, this could seen as a “fight the power”, “stick it to the man”, anti-corporate move.

Here is a popular flashmob production that has made the rounds on Youtube – maybe you’ve seen this.

While this flashmob happened outside, and has been inspiring people since it was performed and uploaded, many flashmobs occur indoors.

As you know if you are from an urban area, cities are known for their many shopping malls, where modern consumer people spend their leisure time.  To some, this is fine, and acceptable, while others take some issue with the concept of malls in one way or another, with one major reason being that a mall is a “public space” that is not actually public, and very limited in terms of how one might express themselves there.  It is typically not a place to be “free”.

For example if you were to try to express yourself in that public space, you would realize very quickly how non-public that space actually is. In fact, it is completely corporate and under strict control.

inside a shopping center

Yet, at the same time as a mall is a very controlled place, it in and of itself has the perfect characteristics to become a stage for performers to perform in.  The only problem is that malls typically do not allow for performances of dancing and music to just suddenly appear.  This is where flashmobs come into play.

Back in 2003, Bill Wasik was interested in what you can and can not do in regular public spaces in this day and age. He organized eight flashmobs that summer and what was astonished to find that by the end of that summer, the idea of flashmobs spread not only through the whole country, but abroad too!

Bill Wasik’s initiative evolved into something that he couldn’t control anymore – the cat was out of the bag, so to speak! – and so then transformed him into an observer of subsequent flashmobs.

Flashmobs in Advertising

After that fateful summer of 2003, the idea of flashmobs via the internet has spread throughout the whole world, becoming a true viral sensation.

What began partly as a bit of a prank and partly as a social experiment in New York City had now become part of popular culture, and the idea was being related via the internet and word of mouth, becoming a “thing”, as it were.

From school performances to political protests to advertising and promotional events – flashmobs as a creative way to express people’s ideas have become popular all around the globe.

flashmob advertising

One of the main reasons why flashmobs become popular around the world is that they are unexpected and catchy. It affects the viewer in a positive way – he becomes not only an observer but also a participant too.

Because of the flashmob’s tendency to be quite memorable due to their surprising nature, they are a great way to promote something in advertising.

T-Mobile, a german communications company supported a flashmob that took place in Liverpool Street Station in 2009.

Suddenly people from the crowd started to dance to popular music hits by involving more and more people. It brought joy for people and was a unique way to promote a company’s brand.

 

Train stations are also very suitable places for flashmobs because they are spacious and always have an audience. Another huge flashmob was created the same year, 2009, this time in Antwerp, Belgium central station when 200 people danced according to legendary musical “The Sound of Music” song “Do Re Mi”. This performance succeeded and became very popular on the internet.

In 2013 April in a shopping mall of Breda, Netherlands the famous painting of Rembrandt The Night Watch was recreated of a theatrical action of people dressed in 17th-century clothes. The main idea was to announce that Rijksmuseum, a Dutch national museum in Amsterdam is reopening after 10 years of renovation.

What started as a social experiment later become an important tool to express social, political, and cultural ideas, and gave an opportunity to everyone who is interested to participate in this vital global movement.

Flashmob as a political act

Since flash mobs had spread through different countries, various initiatives took the idea and used it for their purposes.

In 2013 Members of the European Parliament together with an activist Eve Ensler initiated a flash mob, which was dedicated to ending violence against women. This particular flashmob encouraged others to organize flash mobs not only in Brussels but in other places too.

Another famous flashmob also appeared in 2015 in Kyiv, when a crowd of Ukrainian people together at the same moment fall down and lay on the ground for one minute.

The idea was to show how many people suffer and died during the Ukraine-Russia conflict. Both countries are still participating in the military actions against each other, so peaceful reflection of those events could send a very powerful message to the world.

In 2019, during the protests in Hong Kong, demonstrators used a flashmob technique – they popped in different locations in small groups because that allowed them to disappear quickly when police came to act against the protesters. They also made flashmobs during which they sang symbolic resistance songs.

Thank you for reading this article about flashmobs.  If you have seen or been a part of any flashmobs and you’d like to share your experience, please mention it in the comments below.

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What is Yarn Bombing? About the Guerrilla Knitting Art Movement

what is yarn bombing

What is Yarn Bombing?

Yarn bombing is part street art, part graffiti, and part activism, which combines the seemingly “cute” and comforting elements of knitting and crocheting, with the revolutionary and mild civil disobedience of graffiti / “tagging” of public objects, in order to make some sort of artistic statement.

Yarn bombing, aka “guerrilla knitting”, can be done to smaller, more innocuous objects like a water pipe or tree branch, highlighting them in some way and making you notice them (whereas you may not have before), or, on the other extreme, it can be done to big things like a bus or stairs, a statue, or even a tank!  Yarn bombing certainly draws attention!

The overall purpose of yarn bombing is to make a statement, by changing the way we look at things. But when did it start?  Let’s take a look!

yarn bombing tree

Magda Sayeg & the History of Yarn Bombing (Knitta Please)

Yarn bombing basically started in 2005 in Houston, USA, when a woman named Magda Sayeg created her first “yarn-bomb” artwork, inadvertently, when she put some knitting over her door knob.

Just a small gesture, but it got the ball (no pun intended) rolling, because people started to notice and give her positive feedback.

Magda would be the first to admit that she didn’t think that her one little knitted door handle would grow to become a movement, that would go on to change her life and be done throughout the world.

Magda Sayeg yarn bomb history

Visit Magda’s website here

Soon after, she started a group called Knitta Please which is a community of like-minded knitters who like the idea of beautifying public spaces.

But what made her do it in the first place?  The reason why Magda yarn-bombed her door handle was simple – she just wanted to put something warm and cozy-looking on a cold urban material that she sees every day.

When you think about it, this instinct is quite natural, but to some people, it’s a slightly weird idea. People can understand putting a cozy on a teapot, but a doorknob?  Why dress up your doorknob?  Well, why not!

Magda didn’t stop with her doorknob. She decided to go to the public space and wrap the stop sign near her house. No big deal, right?

Well, it caused a public reaction: people not only stopped by to look at it but also started to take pictures of this unique view that they saw.  Was this a joke?  Who would put yarn on a stop sign?

stop-sign

Peoples’ reactions to her new hobby influenced Magda to continue her work by placing her knitting over more and more things, and so the movement began.  Some people didn’t like this, but some did, and that was all it took to start the trend.

Little did the unsuspecting public know that there was a group forming, in the form of Knitta Please, where all the knitters have their own “handles”, based loosely on hip hop and graffiti culture. Names include: Knotorious N.I.T., SonOfaStitch, P-Knitty, PolyCotN, and AKrylik, to name a few.

yarnbomb-paris

The “bombs” began slowly.  A few poles, and then some trees, and a few other “normal” objects started to get this new “look”, providing them with a positive vibe that people maybe didn’t see before.

Knitta Please grew and grew, and together with Magda’s growing passion, her curiosity what else could be “bombed” grew as well.

They stuck to hip hop conventions, even putting knitted sneakers over telephone lines the way that gangs did it to express their dominance of a given territory, although the prevailing message in this case was a message of niceness, as opposed to aggression.

yarn bombing sneakers

The things these “guerrilla knitters” decided to “dress up” became bigger and bigger, with one big project being the wrapping of a whole bus in Mexico City.

This action gave way to another POV, a new perspective on yarn bombing, and changed her career further because she became known by her artwork to the other people.

Another interesting thing happened after the bus: according to Magda, yarn bombing had stopped belonging to only her, and it became a fully functional art movement across the world.

The more people saw wrapped up things in the public areas, the more started to repeat it by creating their own pieces in different places all around the world.

yarn bombing trees

Magda proved that there is no object in the public place, which cannot be yarn bombed. From a door handle at her home to statues, to tanks, to basically *anything*.

Her installations brought joy and gave life to the grey and cold urban environment and that showed that by using imagination, art can be created everywhere and from all kinds of materials.

The Movement Grows

Since the message of this new type of street art spread through the whole wide world, more and more artists tried to create new and exciting projects by using the yarn bombing technique.

Some of those artists became very well known, like London Kaye. (visit her website here: https://www.londonkaye.com/)

She started to knit when she was thirteen years old, but her perspective on knitting was pretty much traditional, till she saw one girl with a crocheted bag and thought “ohh, that’s cool!”  From there it became more or less an obsession.

London Kaye

After she put her knitted scarf on a tree for the first time, London got excited and realized that this could be the beginning of something new and important in her life.

She loves to watch people’s reactions to her work and these many positive feelings pushed her to keep creating even more.

The main tool she knits with is a needle printed by 3-D printer. According to Kaye, yarn is a great material for creating art because it is flexible, allowing for stretching and manipulation of shapes, which opens the door for lots of different possibilities.

Started with water pipes and trees, London had created many works for various companies.

She implemented an idea of a crocheted 25-foot-by-50-foot billboard for Miller Lite Beer in Times Square, New York.

Miller Lite Beer yarn bomb

Also, Kaye did some yarn bombing in one of the New York metro trains on Valentine’s day and people’s reaction was generally very friendly – they smiled, took pictures, and said compliments to the artist for her idea.

Kaye’s activities have in and of themselves, inspired many knitters to take up the needles and start knitting. She invited knitters from New York to bring various pieces of knittings, they could all create together.

As a result of this gesture, one big crochet was created and hung on one of the fences in the city. It showed that everyone can try to create something in unison and yarn bombing can help to bring the community together.

Yarn bombing as a political statement

Since the beginning of the yarn bombing, it has brought people together, but it is more than a happy-go-lucky movement.  There is a sense of activism around it.

One of the examples of “political” yarn-bombing is a tank in Dresden, Germany. This idea to do this controversial act was born for Kristina Kroemer, who is a political scientist and owns a fashion design store.

She was interested in Dresden’s history, the city was completely destroyed during WWII, so the war topic was always inseparable from the town. Her cause was, in a nutshell – good vs. evil.

So, she put her knitting on this tank, which was in front of the Military Museum. According to her, after this act, the tank looked rather innocent, almost harmless – creating an anti-military statement.

yarn bomb tank

Similar statements had been made about the war in Denmark, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand.

With all kinds of crocheted objects bringing joy and inspiration to people, yarn bombing has spread through many countries and inspired many meaningful movements.

Have you seen any yarn bombs lately?  Leave a comment below!

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