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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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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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The Iconic Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock has had a tremendous impact on the art world during his tumultuous 44 years of life. The youngest of five, Jackson grew up to be an influential pioneer in the abstract expressionism movement.

Jackson Pollock struggled in his life with addiction, and he had a volatile personality, coupled with a need for reclusion.

He married artist Lee Krasner in 1945, who ultimately became a massive influence on his career and his work.

jackson pollock lee krasner

Pollock died in 1956 at the age of 44 in an alcohol-related car accident. He was honored after his death with a memorial exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Tate in London.

Pollock was well known for his techniques used in his most famous works. Pouring and splashing paint onto a large surface, called action painting and the drip technique, allowed for his work to be viewed from any angle.

He used his whole body to create his work and incorporated a dancing style into his work. His work was met with divided responses from the critics, which was loved by some and hated by others.

One of his paintings, called Number 17A, was sold for $200 million USD in 2016 to a private seller.

Number 17A

“It doesn’t make much difference how the paint is put on as long as something has been said. Technique is just a means of arriving at a statement.” – Jackson Pollock

Influences

In 1929, he studied in New York at the Student’s League under Thomas Hart Brenton.

During his time there, he worked with the regionalist and surrealist styles. He was influenced by Mexican muralist work by painters like Digo Rivera. In 1939 during a Picasso exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, it inspired Pollock to change his style.

pollock the she wolf

Jackson Pollock had some notable influences in his work. Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso, and Thomas Hart Benton were among the most significant, but Ukrainian-American artist Janet Sobel was a direct influence on his technique development. He has admitted that her work made an impression on him.

His Work

Pollock used sticks, basting syringes, hardened brushes, and other random items as applicators for household paints. He suggested that his use of these paints were a natural part of his growth in a time of need, rather than using typical artist paints.

Jackson Pollock is thought to have coined the action painting style. His style allowed him to create immediate art, without regard for small details or time-consuming techniques. He broke boundaries by applying paint to the canvas from all directions.

Here is some old footage of Pollock doing painting in his “action” style.

“My painting does not come from the easel. I prefer to tack the unstretched canvas to the hard wall or the floor. I need the resistance of a hard surface. On the floor, I am more at ease. I feel nearer, more part of the painting, since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting.

I continue to get further away from the usual painter’s tools such as easel, palette, brushes, etc. I prefer sticks, trowels, knives and dripping fluid paint or a heavy impasto with sand, broken glass or other foreign matter added.

When I am in my painting, I’m not aware of what I’m doing. It is only after a sort of ‘get acquainted’ period that I see what I have been about. I have no fear of making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise, there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well.” — Jackson Pollock, My Painting, 1956

the accountant painting pollock

The technique he used to create his drip paintings helped steer the direction of American art in a new direction and was one of the most individual styles of the century.

His style was a large piece of the abstract expressionist pie; his creations evoked emotion, demonstrated mood, and expression while giving a sneak peek into the mind of the creator.

Another technique Pollock used was the All-over Method. There is no real emphasis in the piece, and the canvas is covered corner to corner.

When he reached a super-stardom level, he abandoned his signature style, and this era produced paintings darker in nature. They’re referred to as his black pourings, and they were not well received by the masses.

pollock dark paintings

Pollock was giving his work traditional names until eventually, he decided to number them because they were more neutral than conventional titles. He didn’t want to influence his viewer’s opinion of his work in any way.

His work has been both highly criticized and adored by many. Over the years, his paintings have been the subject of various debates trying to deem his paintings as iconic or meaningless.

His Legacy

Jackson Pollock quickly rose to fame, but he continued to question the relevance of his artwork, and the height of his career peaked in the early 1950s.

Jackson Pollock is still known as an innovator in the art community in the abstract expressionism movement. He has inspired countless artists to abandon boundaries and take risks.

jackson_pollock

Artists like Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, and Arshile Gorky, Pollock’s style, and fame helped draw attention to these artists at this time.

He single-handedly changed the trajectory of a whole genre of art during his lifetime, and his premature death cemented his legendary status. His paintings still sell for millions of dollars, and he is still tremendously influential to artists who are still finding their signature style.

The home that Pollock shared with his wife Lee is now a museum. People travel from all over the world to see Pollock’s studio, where the floor still looks like one of his many creations. This is a place that helped bring a new style of art into popularity.

“The strangeness will wear off and I think we will discover the deeper meanings in modern art.” – Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock Videos

Sources:

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

https://www.jackson-pollock.org

https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/jackson-pollock-quotes

https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/a-23-2005-10-15-voa2-83123777/123976.html

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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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The Bauhaus

The Bauhaus, a German art and design school, was one of the most significant and influential modernist art schools, one of whose approach to understanding art’s relationship to technology and society and its teaching methods had a major impact in United States and Europe, long after it closed.

The motivation behind the origination of the Bauhaus lay in anxieties about the soullessness of manufacturing in the 19th century, and in fears about art’s loss of purpose in industrial society. Emerged in the mid-1920’s, the Bauhaus was shaped by the late 19th and early 20th movements and trends, which had sought to level the distinction between applied and fine arts and to reunite manufacturing and creativity.
 
This fact is reflected in the sentimental romantic medievalism of the school’s early years, but in the mid 1920s the medievalism gave way to a stress on uniting art and industrial design; it was ultimately proved to be its most important and original achievement.

In 1919, Walter Gropius, an architect and demobilized World War I officer was appointed director of The Art and Crafts School in the city of Weimar. He renamed school to Bauhaus, a unique, memorable name, which is the transliteration for building house, and according to the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, it stands for an eagerness to experiment, creativity, openness, a close link to industrial practice and inter-nationality.

Radical Steps Towards Modernism

The Bauhaus movement was considered a radical step towards modernism and its core objective was a radical concept: to re-imagine the material world to reflect the unity of all arts. During the 14 years of its existence, Bauhaus was operational in three separate locations in Germany: Weimar, 1919-1925, Dessau, 1925- 1932, and Berlin, 1932-33.

The Bauhaus had a unique curriculum, described by Gropius in the manner of a wheel diagram. The outer ring representing a six-month preliminary course- the vorkurs, which immersed the students, who came from a diverse range of educational and social backgrounds, in the study of materials, color theory and the formal relationships in preparation for more specialized studies; the two middle rings as two three-years courses, focused on problems related to form- the formlehre, and a practical workshop that emphasized functionalism and technical craft skills through simplified, geometric forms- the werklehre. Following their immersion in Bauhaus theory, students entered specialized workshops, including cabinetmaking, weaving, pottery, metalworking, wall painting, textilworking, and typography.
 
At the center of the wheel- curriculum were courses specialized in building construction that led students to seek necessity and practicality through technological reproduction, with an emphasis on workmanship and craft that was lost in manufacturing.
 
In addition, the general pedagogical approach was to eliminate competitive tendencies and to foster a sense of community and a personal creative potential.

Think Haus

The Gropius’s Bauhaus attracted the fabulously talented faculties, the creators of the school’s program. Many of the most talented designers of the twentieth century taught or studied there: Marcel Breuer in furniture, Bayer in graphics, Gropius and Mies van der Rohe in architecture, Anni Albers and Gunta Stӧlzl in textiles, Oskar Schlemmer in theater design, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy in film; the great artists, Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky were working alongside them.

There were social and political problems from the beginning. Women students protested against being confined to the ceramics workshop and weaving; the locals objected to the students’ bohemian habits, and more seriously, the Weimar Nazis saw the Bauhaus as a fertile ground for Bolshevism, despite Gropius’s ban on political activities.
 
Walter Gropius favored the rationalism of the Russian Constructivism and the emerging Modern movements, believed in integration of their principles into everyday life, by applying them to industrial products and buildings.

Move to Dessau

When the Nazis came to power in Weimar in 1925, Bauhaus moved to Dessau, the German industrial town. Gropius negotiated a deal to build a new school in Dessau. In this period, the Bauhaus enjoyed a few productive years there, those years was a manifesto for the new spirit of the Bauhaus.

Walter Gropius’s building complex for the Bauhaus, represented a landmark in functionalist design of the modern era; the design seems strongly unified from above, each element is divided from the next, but on the ground it unfolds a wonderful succession of changing perspectives.
 
The building consists of an asphalt tiled roof, steel framework and reinforced concrete bricks to reduce noise and to protect against the weather. A glass curtain wall, a feature that would become a typical of modernist architecture, allows in ample quantities of light.
 
Also, Gropius created three wings, arranged asymmetrically, in order to connect different workshops and dormitories within the school.

The cabinetmaking workshop was one of the most significant in the Bauhaus. This workshop studio reconceived the essence of furniture, seeking to dematerialize conventional forms such as chairs to their minimal existence.

The innovative use of materials and the sleek design in Marcel Breuer’s The Wassily Chair are typical of the groundbreaking developments in design that made the Bauhaus famous. Its components are arranged with a clarity that makes its structure immediately legible.
 
The designer constructed the chair using recently developed seamless-steel bent tubing that could endure physical tension without faltering. Although Wassily Kandinsky was interested in geometric abstraction at the time he was teaching at the Bauhaus, this piece came to be popularly associated with him decades later, and by accident when it was promoted as the Wassily Chair by an Italian manufacturer.

Studio Spaces and Instructors

The textile workshop, particularly under the direction of designer and weaver Gunta Stӧlzl, created abstract textiles which were used in Bauhaus environments. Students studies technical aspects of weaving, color theory and design. A head of the workshop, Stӧlzl encouraged experimentation with unorthodox materials such as fiberglass, metal, cellophane.
 
The architectural wall painting along with studio’s textiles decorated the interiors of Bauhaus buildings, providing polychromatic yet abstract visual interest to these somewhat sever spaces. While the weaving studio was primarily comprised for women, this was in part due to the fact that they were discouraged from participating in other areas.

Metalworking studio along with the cabinetmaking workshop was the most successful in developing design prototypes for mass production. In this studio were created modern items such as tableware and lightning fixtures; these objects were used in the Bauhaus campus itself.
 
Interestingly, Marianne Brandt was the first woman to attend the metalworking studio and replaced Maholy-Nagy as studio director in 1928. Many of her designs and works became iconic expressions of the Bauhaus aesthetic; her sculptural and geometric silver and ebony teapot, while never mass-produced reflects the Bauhaus emphasis on industrial forms and the influence of her mentor Maholy-Nagy.

Uniting the artist’s enthusiasm for material innovation and for the look of machines, the Light Prop/Light Space Modulator by Lazslo Moholy-Nagy (pictured above), 1930 is one of the most famous early examples of kinetic art.
 
It went on to be presented in many different ways: as a device for experimental theatre, as a freestanding immobile sculpture or as the protagonist of a short experimental film, in which it is shot from different vantage points.
 
The film captures the reflections and shadows created by the spinning sculpture, at times giving the impression of a functioning machine, a factory or even an urban landscape.

The typography studio, initially not a priority of the Bauhaus, became especially important under graphic designer Herbert Bayer. Many German designers attempted to encourage changes in national customs of printing during the 1920s. The most popular German typefaces, Hitherto, had been influenced by medieval script, and artists such as Herbert Bayer tried to supplant them with more classical designs.
 
His design employs a minimal, sans-serf typeface. Instead of having two alphabets, the uppercase and the lowercase, Bayer reduced the typeface to only lowercase letters, believing that the uppercase was redundant, since the distinction between lower and upper case conveyed no phonetic difference.

In 1923, a first poster was made for the school that intrigued others to notice the unique design and typeset. The main focus in designing was the effective visual communication with vibrant colors, a balanced layout, harmony, geometric shapes, strong bars, bold and universal type.
 
It was conceived as both an artistic expression and an empirical means of communication with visual clarity stressed above all. Bauhaus typography became connected to advertising and corporate identity. Since then, his typeface has become synonymous with the Bauhaus.

 

Serving Color

The piece Dissolving /Vanishing, 1951 is part of Josef Albers’s famous series Homage to the Square, described by his own words as ‘platters to serve color’. He began working on this series in 1949 and worked on it until his death in 1976.
 
This very piece demonstrates his systematic approach to investigating the optical effects of colors; he explored how colors change depending on their placement within the composition. Although the series was created several years after the Bauhaus movement, the work is typical of the experimental, modernist approach to color and form that underpinned Bauhaus teaching.
 
Teachers in the school believed that colors and forms could be reduced to essentials and analyzed as separate components; that analysis would yield understanding about the character and effects of these components, and that understanding would result in better design.

However, with Nazism in the ascent, political pressure mounted and in 1928, Walter Gropius was worn down by his work and by increasing battles with the school critics, and he stood down. Both of his successors Meyer and van der Rohe, spent their directorships mired in political strife.

Germany’s Loss of Influencers

By 1928, Meyer, a head of the architecture department was an active communist who incorporated his Marxist ideals through classroom programs and student organizations. However, the school continued to build in strength but criticism of Meyer’s Marxism grew, and eventually, in 1930, he was dismissed as director.
 
After local election brought the Nazis to power in 1932, the Bauhaus school in Dessau was closed.

The same year, 1932, the school moved to Berlin, under the new direction of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. He struggled with far poorer resources and a faculty that had lost some of its brightest stars; he tried to remove politics from the school’s ethos, but after the Nazis came to power in 1933, the school was closed indefinitely.

During the turbulent and dangerous years of World War II, many of the key figures of the Bauhaus emigrated to the United States, where their work and their teaching philosophies influenced generation of young designers and architects.

In 1934, Walter Gropius left Germany, and in 1937 he arrived in the United States to become professor of architecture at Harvard University. He also helped fellow Bauhaüslers to find teaching jobs in America.
 
Together, they imbued generations of Americans with Bauhaus principles, while Gropius imprinted the technocratic vision of its mid- 1920s heyday on design history.

The Bauhaus effectively levelled the old hierarchy of the arts, placing crafts on par with fine arts such as painting and sculpture, paving the path for many of the ideas that have inspired artists in the late twenty century.

 

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Yayoi Kusama – Polka Dot Madness

Yayoi Kusama’s work has transcended two of the most important art movements of the second half of the 20th century: minimalism and pop art. Plagued by mental illness as a child, and thoroughly abused by a callous mother, the young artist persevered by using her hallucinations and personal obsessions as fodder for prolific artistic output in various disciplines.
 
This has informed a lifelong commitment to creativity at all costs, despite the artist’s birth into a traditional female-effacing Japanese culture, and her career’s coming of age in the male dominated New York art scene.

Her extraordinary career spans paintings, performances, room-size presentations, literary works, outdoor installations, sculpture, fashion, films, design, and intervention within existing architectural structures, which allude at once to a microscopic and macroscopic universe.

Early Life

Yayoi Kusama was born on March, 22, 1929 in Matsumoto, Japan, as the youngest of four children in a wealthy family. However, her childhood was less than idyllic or perfect. Her parents were the product of a loveless, arranged marriage.
 
Her father, emasculated by the fact that he had to take his wife’s surname as a condition of marrying into the wealthy family, spent most of his time away from home, womanizing, leaving his angry wife to physically abuse and emotionally torment her youngest child.
 
She would often send her daughter to spy on her father’s sexual exploits.

When Kusama began to see vivid hallucinations at the age of 10, her way of coping with the bizarre phenomena was to paint what she saw. She says that art became her way to express her mental disease.
 
For Kusama, art-making became a fundamental survival mechanism; it was her sole tool for making sense of a world in which she dwelt on the periphery of normative experience, and as a result, became the very thing that allowed her to assimilate successfully into society.

Disobeying her mother (who wanted her to simply be an obedient housewife) Kusama studied art in Masumoto and Kyoto. She had little formal training, studying art only briefly, 1948-49, at the Kyoto City Specialist School of Art.
 
At that time, there was a movement to reject the influences of Western culture in Japan, so Kusama was forced to only study Nihonga, which consisted of creating paintings using 1000-year-old traditional Japanese techniques and materials.

Move To United States

The conservative Japanese culture, and her abusive mother proved too much for Kusama, and 1957, she moved to the United States, settling in New York in the following year. Before she left, Kusama’s mother handed her some money and told her to never set foot in her house again.
 
In response, Kusama destroyed hundreds of her works.

In the United States, Kusama was free to explore her artistic expressions that were censored while living in Japan. With the help of artist Georgia O’ Keeffe, who Kusama had started a friendship with while still in Japan, she was able to secure exhibitions and also some sales, leading to interest in her work right from the start.
 
Also, there was a fascination with the foreign artist herself, and she struck up a deep relationship with her fellow artist Donald Judd and the middle-aged assemblage artist Joseph Cornell, who was also infatuated with Kusama, often writing her love letters and sketching her in the nude.
 
Because of her anxiety and fear of sex, both relationships, while very close, were strictly platonic. Kusama and Cornell developed such a close bond (allegedly, he shared her sexual aversion and hated sex) that when he died in 1972, she began creating collages to honor his work and cope with his passing.

In this period, Kusama worked feverishly, embracing the hedonist, free-spirit hippie culture of the 1960’s, which also included patriarchy, protesting war and capitalist society. Combining these themes with her personal anxieties, she created deeply intimate art, but also spoke to the injustices of the times.

Watercolors

The first works she exhibited in New York were her watercolors. These first works on paper showed the artist breaking free from traditional Japanese artistic practices and she was thought as a child and embracing Western artistic influences, especially in regards to abstraction.
 
The piece named The Woman, from 1953, is one of these earlier abstract works. The watercolor depicts a singular biomorphic form with subtle dots in the center floating in a seemingly black abyss. The form is reminiscent of female genitalia with red spikes surrounding it.
 
The overall effect: bizarre and aggressive.

Infinity Net

Her early work in New York included what she called “infinity net” paintings. Those considered of thousands of tiny marks obsessively repeated across large canvases without regard for the edge of the canvas, as if they continued into infinity.
 
Kusama’s Infinity Net series marks the beginning of a radical shift in her work from the singular abstract, biomorphic forms she painted during her youth to the more obsessive, repetitive works that would define her career.
 
They also showcase the way she used art to process her mental illness.

No. F. from 1959, is one of Kusama’s first works from the celebrated series. From a distance, the painting looks monochromatic and delicate, but when viewed up close, the complexities of the canvas’s surface become apparent.
 
The bluish-gray underlay is almost completely obscured by small, white semi-circles, which consume the entire canvas and only allow the gray underlay to be visible in the form of tiny dots.

no. f

The organic arched shapes all curve in the same direction, creating an undulating net that would continue on indefinitely if not for the edge of the canvas. This endless repetition caused a kind of dizzy, empty hypnotic feeling; the hypnotic feeling is furthermore translated to the viewer as they are invited to the artist’s mind.

The Nets are both minimal and expressive, bridging the two opposing movements. For Kusama personally, her Infinity Nets have become central to her practice, and continue to influence her work.

Minimalism / Pop / Avante Guarde

Her paintings from that period anticipated the emerging Minimalist movement, but her work soon transitioned to Pop and Performance art. She became a central figure in the New York avant-garde.

Accumulation No.1, from 1962, is the first in Kusama’s iconic Accumulation series, in which she transforms found furniture into sexualized objects. This piece, consist of a single abandoned armchair painted white and covered with soft, stuffed phallic protrusions, while fringe encircles the base of the sculpture.

No longer limited by the pictorial plane of the two-dimensional canvas, the stuffed sculpture continues Kusama’s repetition compulsion in three-dimensional form. The piece is both humorous and aggressive and works to confront with Kusama’s sexual phobias.

You Know You’re A Great Artist When…

Critics didn’t know what to make of this innovative art, and very soon the struggling artist went from obscurity to notoriety; her fame rivalled that of some of the most famous Pop artists, and Kusama enjoyed the attention.

In the Sex Obsessions Food Obsession Macaroni Infinity Nets & Kusama from 1962, she splayed naked on one of her famous soft sculpture furniture pieces laden with phallic accumulations and surrounded with macaroni pasta which forms her familiar pattern of repetition.

By inserting herself into the piece- on top of an object that represents a manifestation of her sexual aversion, Kusama attempts to subvert her own discomfort, in effect, to conquer it. It is a visual juxtaposition of her direct confrontation of a lifelong sexual aversion with the recognition of her nude self as an unmistakable, even if unwilling, object of sexual desire.

Although she is slim and stylish, positioned amongst a groovy psychedelic scene with strong visual impact, the rendering of her signature polka dots across her skin reminds the viewer that she is most comfortable when allowed to be seen as an intrinsic part of the artwork.
 
This brave presentation of herself in physical dialogue with her fears positions Kusama as a participant in the Feminist art movement of the time and also foreshadows her work in the late 1960’s in which she would use her body and the body of others in public performances.

 

Happenings

Starting in 1967, Kusama made fewer art objects and began experimenting with the performance art of the moment, ‘’happenings’’. Her first Anatomic Explosion (on the Wall Street) took place on October, 15th, 1968, opposite the New York Stock Exchange.
 
The performance was in opposition of the Vietnam War and was prefaced by a press release that stated that the money made with this stock is enabling the war to continue. The work featured nude performers dancing to the rhythm of bongo drums, while Kusama painted blue dots on their naked bodies.
 
For Kusama, nudity represents love and peace and was used to counter the tragedies and horrors of war. After 15 minutes the police came, putting an end to the spectacle.

Growing up in militaristic Japan during the World War II led Kusama to vehemently oppose social injustice and war. Her absurdly theatrical happenings, which were always overly political, were an expression of this opposition.

Mental Exhaustion

Her artistic output during this 15-year period was prolific and diverse, experimenting with various mediums. Sometimes, she would work up to 50 hours without rest. Eventually, the workload coupled with a lack of financial security and Cornell’s death took its toll, and in 1973 she move back to Japan to seek treatment for her mental exhaustion and declining physical health.
 
She began focusing on her surreal writing and avant-garde clothing line.

In 1977, after being diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive neurosis, Kusama checked herself in to the Seiwa Mental Hospital and has been living and working there by choice ever since.

When Kusama moved back to Japan in the 1970’s, she was all but forgotten by the Western art world. In Japan, she was mostly known for her violence-soaked writings, but that changed in 1993 when she was invited to represent Japan at the 45th Venice Biennale.

Pumpkin

The piece named Pumpkin from 1992 is one of Kusama’s first forays into outdoor sculpture. The giant yellow pumpkin sculpture is painted with rows of black dots fanning out from large to small around the gourd.
 
The pumpkin’s organic form and grand scale gives the work a cartoonish appearance, highlighting how strange the natural world appears in modern culture. Created in Japan, the work also reflects a shift in Kusama’s practice from her earlier aggressive and politically works to the more kitsch works that consume her art later in life.
 
The shift can be also attributed to the transition in Japanese culture from rigid and militaristic to a full on embrace of the ridiculous and tacky, as seen in the Hello Kitty cuteness in Kawai culture.

OCD Catharsis

Kusama’s art is fundamentally about obsession and the need, born of anxiety, to repeat certain acts in an attempt to free herself from that obsession. Since childhood, her art-making has been a private atavistic ritual, a necessary inducement to repetition that leads to catharsis.

Obliteration Room ( 2002-present) starts out as a blank canvas. Set up to resemble the interior of a domestic environment, the floor, walls, ceiling, furniture and little knick knacks are all painted sterile white.
 
Visitors to the room are handed a sheet of round stickers of various shapes and size determinate by Kusama, and invited to affix them to any surface in the room. The interactive installation was the first time Kusama moved away from creating passive environment to creating an environment in which its realization required participation from visitors.

Here’s a video showing Obliteration Room in action:


 

Hello Capitalism

In 2008, one of Kusama’s Infinity Nets, the same one once owned by Judd, set new art auction price records for a living female artist and led to collaboration with luxury fashion retailers like Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs.
 
Ironically, the woman whose art once protested capitalism and materialism, now fully embraces it.

Kusama began her Infinity Mirror Room series in the 1960’s, and so far has created twenty distinct rooms. They are culmination of her repetitive paintings, soft sculptures and installations into an immersive environment. The piece Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away from 2016, is her most recent iteration.

Each Infinity Mirror Room consists of a dark chamber-like space completely lined in mirrors. This particular room consists of small LED lights hung from the ceiling and flickering in a rhythmic pattern creating pulsing electronic polka dots.
 
The lights reflect off the mirrors in the intimate room creating the illusion of endless space; only one visitor at a time can experience the installation with the singular visitor becoming integral to the work, as his/or her body activates the environment once in the room.

Kusama’s far-reaching influence can be attributed to the fact that she has always been a step ahead of her time, with her art being at the forefront of many major artistic movements. Yet, her art-making process is so personal, and both a cure and a symptom of her mental illness; it does not fit into any of these defined movements.

Influence

More important than the impact her diverse work has on the art market is its influence on other artists and movements, which spans generations. Her work inspired Feminist artists, Pop artists like Andy Warhol, Performance artists like Yoko Ono, but also contemporary artists like Damien Hirst.

To this day, she represents herself as a lone wolf most comfortable with being known as independently avant-garde; her life is a poignant testament to the healing power of art and the study of human resilience.

Nowadays, Kusama reigns as one of the most unique and famous contemporary female artists, operating from her self-imposed home in a mental hospital.



 

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Modigliani and La Vie de Bohème

“With one eye you are looking at the outside world, while with the other you are looking within yourself.”

A participant in the Ecole de Paris, Modigliani modernized two of the enduring themes of art history: the nude and the portrait; his nudes and portraits- characterized by asymmetrical compositions, elongated figures and simple but monumental use of line- are among the most important portraits of the 20th century.

Amadeo Clemente Modigliani was born on July 12, 1884, into a household of faded luxury to Jewish parents, Flaminio and Eugenia, in Livorno, Italy. Shortly before his birth, the family businesses, had fallen onto hard times, forcing the Modiglianis to declare bankruptcy- his father squandered the family fortune and left.

Amadeo’s timely arrival may have resulted in the rescue of many valuable heirlooms; according to family legend, soldiers were forced to avoid Eugenia in childbirth as they came to repossess the furniture, in accordance with an old Italian custom that forbade the seizure of any possessions in the bed of a woman in labor.

His mother, Eugenia, an independent woman, went to work, which was nearly unheard of for a woman in Italian bourgeois families. She translated D’Annunzio for an American writer, opened an experimental school and instructed her children to read Henri Bergson and Nietzsche.
 
The atmosphere at home was religiously unobservant, liberal, and pluralistic.

 

Illnesses and The Fundamentals

In 1895, Amadeo contracted the first of several serious illnesses, typhoid, that he battled throughout childhood. His mother preferred an academic education for his son, but later acceded to his wishes to be an artist.
 
The following year, Amadeo gave up his regular schooling entirely to study with his drawing teacher Guglielmo Micheli, who instructed Modigliani in the fundamentals of the classical art.

After being diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1901, Modigliani recuperated in southern Italy, visiting museums in Rome, Naples, Florence and Venice. These visits familiarized him with classical Italian painting and sculpture, fueling his enthusiasm for the fine arts.
 
After the recuperation, he moved to Florence to study figure drawing at the Scuola Libera di Nudo.

Post-Impressionism in Italy and France

In Florence, intrigued by Manuel Ortiz de Zerate’s descriptions of Paris and the avant-garde, Amadeo decided to pursuit his ambitions there. But, encouraged by his mother to stay in Florence and restless for new opportunities, he moved to Venice and enrolled in the Scuola Libera di Nudo at the Istituto di Belli Arti, which he found overly traditional in its curriculum.
 
Growing increasingly dissatisfied with the art scene in Italy, with the mother’s blessing, Modigliani moved to Paris in 1909.

In Paris, he settled in an artist commune in the Montmartre and enrolled in de Académie Colaross. He threw himself feverishly into his work which by this time showed the influence of Post-Impressionism and painters such as Paul Cézanne and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Very soon, he was absorbed into the Bateau Lavoir circle, which included Max Jacob, Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, among other well-known art and literary figures.

Searching for an innovative style that could compete with those practiced by Parisian avant-garde, Amadeo Modigliani concentrated on painting. In this period, his work shows a high regard for the Post-Impressionists. Head of a Woman Wearing a Hat, from 1907, makes use of a curvilinear style, as a characteristic of Art Nouveau, but also, reveals the influence of Henri de Toulouse- Lautrec in the tilt of the woman shoulders and expressive face, revealing Modigliani’s early interest in representing psychological states.

In 1906, exhibition of three paintings at the Laura Wylda Gallery failed to generate any interest in his work. Frustration with his lack of success led Modigliani to abuse alcohol and drugs, further exacerbating his health problems.
 
But, his meeting with Paul Alexandre, a young physician, in 1907, who became his close friend and much-needed patron of his work, gave Modigliani a renewed sense of accomplishment and a steady source of work.

The piece named Jewess from 1908, a one of the Alexandre ‘s favorite works by artist is a thickly painted canvas influenced by German Expressionist and Paul Cézanne. Although wearing a composed expression, the stark whiteness of the sitter’s face contrasts harshly with her dark apparel, giving the composition and inner tension and suggesting strong emotions lying beneath the surface.
 
The painting’s melancholic overtones have invited comparison with the work of Pablo Picasso’s Blue Period. This piece is also one of the few Jewish-themed works by Modigliani, who was of Sephardic Jewish descent and publically embraced his Jewish identity.

Modigliani’s Sculptures

Trying to refocus his attention on sculpture, Modigliani looked to Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi, who he met in 1909. Although Modigliani is best known as a painter, he focused on sculpture early on in his career, and, some scholars have argued, may have regarded his true calling as that of sculptor.
 
The simple elegance of Brancusi’s forms made a strong impression on Modigliani and his style began to manifest itself in Modigliani’s work, as in the limestone Head, from 1910-12.

modigliani sculpture limestone head

In this piece, abstracted features and graceful contours suggests Brancusi’s influence, while elongated proportions, especially the swan-like neck, is reminiscent of ancient Egyptian busts, among the non-Western art forms that also influenced Modigliani’s work.
 
The subject’s elongated neck and nose, also slit-like eyes closely resemble the artist’s handling of these features in his nudes and portraits, suggesting the close connection between his work in sculpture and two-dimensional media.

The sculptures Modigliani created in 1909-1914, on which twenty-five carvings and one woodcut survive, were highly influential on his work as a painter, helping him arrive at the linear and abstracted vocabulary of his painting.

WW1

In 1914, the outbreak of World War I increased the difficulties of Modigliani’s life. Aleksandre and some of his other friends were at the front; his paintings did not sell; his delicate health was deteriorating because of his poverty, feverish work ethic and abuse of drugs and alcohol.
 
He was in the midst of a troubled affair with the South African poet Beatrice Hastings with whom he lived for two years (1914-1916). Beatrice Hastings became the subject of Modigliani’s several paintings and many of these portraits have an angelic quality that suggests a parallel between Dante’s own Beatrice and Hastings-an idea that likely appealed to Modigliani.
 
Soon after their separation, he fell seriously ill from alcoholism and malnourishment.

Modigliani returned entirely to painting about 1915, but his experience as a sculptor had fundamental consequences for his painting style. He reduced and almost eliminated chiaroscuro (the use of gradations of light and shadow to achieve the illusion of three-dimensionality), and he achieved a sense of solidity with strong contours and the richness of colors.

Modigliani’s Portraits

Modigliani was not a professional portraitist; for him the portrait was only occasion to isolate a figure as a kind of sculptural relief through firm and expressive contour drawing. He painted his friends, usually personalities of the Parisian artistic and literary world, but he also portrayed unknown people, including servants and models.
 
Modigliani’s portraiture achieves a unique combination of generalization and specificity. His portraits convey his subjects’ personalities, while his trademark stylization and use of recurring motifs-almond-shaped eyes and long necks- lends them uniformity. This part of his work also serves as a vital art historic record, comprising a gallery of major figures of the Ecole de Paris circle, to which he belonged following his move to Paris in 1906.

By this time, he had melded the influences of the Parisian avant-garde and arrived at his signature painting style, characterized by elegant linearity and the depiction of stylized, yet expressive figures. The best of these works give subtle glimpses into the personality of the sitter, such as the artist’s portrait of Jacques Lipchitz and his wife Berthe.
 
In this double-portrait from 1916, exemplifies Modigliani’s talent for eliciting the inner life of his subjects. Although his stylized method of painting presents two mask-like faces, they reveal subtle clues about the personality of each sitter; Berthe has an open, kindly face, conveyed by the brightness of the paint and downward tilting eyes, and Jacques, with his small, compressed features sloping inward, appears suspicious and calculating.

In the same year Modigliani began associating with the Polish poet and art dealer Leopold Zborowski, who arranged the artist’s first and only solo exhibition in his lifetime, at the Berthe Weill Gallery in December 1917.
 
Weill installed an attractive nude in the front window. Scandalized, the local police temporarily shut down the exhibition, but the unintended publicity resulted in better sales than usual for the habitually impoverished artist.

 

Jeanne Hebuterne

In 1917, Amadeo met Jeanne Hebuterne, a young art student and the two fell in love. When Modigliani entered into a relationship with Hebuterne, his close friend hoped that the serious young woman would inspire Modigliani to curb his excesses.
 
Hebuterne, however, loved the artist with a blind adoration that made no demands. There were no fundamental changes in his behavior, but Modigliani’s portraits of his young lover suggest the artist’s newfound sense of serenity and piece.

The Portrait of Jeanne Hebuterne, from 1918, less stylized than those in the artist’s earlier works, the sitter’s features, especially the sly, sideways gaze, suggests a psychological clarity that communicates Jeanne’s inner character.

Modigliani’s Nudes

In 1917, he began painting a series of about 30 large female nudes that, with their glowing colors and sensuous, rounded forms, are among his best works.

Modigliani’s nudes are often frank depictions of sensuality that frequently reference the traditional handling of this theme, but without the mythological context of their artistic precursors. For instance, The Standing Blonde Nude with Dropped Chemise, from 1917, suggests Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, a painting with which Modigliani was pretty familiar from his studies in Florence, through such features as the subject’s long blonde hair, tilted head and the figure’s contrapposto.
 
However, the classic composition is skillfully subverted and modernized. While Botticelli’s subject artfully covers her genitals with her flowing locks and smiles placidly, Modigliani’s sitter draws attention to this area with her dropped chemise and confronts the viewer with a slight smirk.

Tragic End for the Limestone Thief

In 1918, Hebuterne gave birth to a daughter and new familial responsibilities combined with his professional obligations to Zborowski, spurred Modigliani to increase productivity despite his fading health.

Yet, the artist’s health ultimately gave way, with Modigliani succumbing to tubercular meningitis and died on January, 24, 1920. The next day Hebuterne killed herself and their unborn child by jumping from a window.

Modigliani’s legacy is inextricably bound up with his tragic and bohemian life: his fragile health, which plagued him since childhood; his perpetual pennilessness and-most famously- his over-the-top, self-destructive lifestyle, which included sexual debauchery and overuse of alcohol and drugs.

The cliché is that he was never without his bow of hashish pills or a glass of absinthe. When he wasn’t nursing a café-crème and a hangover at la Rotonde, he was trading portrait sketches for a few centimes; or dancing naked with a woman at the Place Jean-Baptiste Clément at 3 in the morning; or picking fights; or swiping limestone from abandoned buildings for his sculptures because he was too poor to buy his materials.

He was a prototypical handsome, promiscuous, inebriated, pugnacious, misunderstood, tragically ill, vulnerable, gifted and short-lived examplar of la vie de bohème.

 

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Louise Bourgeois – Famous Women Artists In History

structures of existence the cells

“It is really the anger that makes me work’’ – LOUISE BOURGEOIS (1910-2010)

The French-born American artist, Louise Bourgeois was born in Paris, on Christmas day, 1911. She was one of the most influential sculptor of the 20th century. Her parents, Josephine and Louis, ran a tapestry gallery and lived in the famous and fashionable St Germain quarter in Paris, during the week; Bourgeois family also had a villa and workshop in the countryside where they spend their weekends restoring the antique tapestries.

Here is Louise peeling a tangerine and sharing a little anecdote about her family life to go along with it.


 

Growing Up

At the end of the World War I, during the global pandemic, Louise’s mother contracted influenza. During the course of the illness, her father handled the affairs, especially long-term one with his daughter’s governess, who resided with the family, which produced the tensions in the household.
 
It is thought this fear and the anger towards her father stayed with Louise Bourgeois, and became a motif within her works, almost all of them, created in New York where she lived after her marriage to art critic Robert Goldwater.

She often spoke of her early, emotionally conflicted family life as formative. Her affectionate and practical mother, who was an invalid, was a positive influence. Her domineering father and his marital infidelities instilled resentment and an insecurity that Louise never laid to rest.

For instance, her nightmarish tableau The Destruction of the Father, from 1974, holds an arrangement of beast-like bumps, phallic protuberances and biomorphic shapes in soft-looking latex that suggest the sacrificial evisceration of body, surrounded by big, crude mammillary forms.
 
After all, Ms Bourgeois has suggested as a tableau’s inspiration a fantasy from her childhood in which a pompous father, whose presence deadens the dinner hour night after night is pulled onto the table by other family members, gobbled up and dismembered.

 

The Destruction Of The Father – Louise Bourgeois

Education

Louise Bourgeois had a wide range of education. In the early 1930s, she studied philosophy and mathematics at the Sorbonne. In that time, she wrote her thesis on Emmanuel Kant and Blaise Pascal.

In 1932, she started studying art, after the death of her mother, enrolling in several schools and ateliers in the period in the 1930’s, including the Ecole de Beaux- Arts and Academie Julian, where she counted Fernand Léger, the brilliant interpreter of cubism, among her teachers. He taught her how to express human emotions with minimal use of line in the painting, and also, he recognized her interest in three-dimensional form, urged her to take up sculpture.

Her Paris apartment was on the Rue du Seine, in the same building as André Breton’s gallery Gradiva was, and where she was introduced to the Surrealists.

Louise Bourgeois in her studio

Adult Life

In 1938, Louise opened her own gallery in a sectioned-off area of her father’s tapestry showroom, and also began exhibit her own works at the Salon d’Automne. In that period of her life, she met her future husband, an American art historian and critic Robert Goldwater, noted for his pioneering work in the field then referred to as primitive art.

The married couple moved to New York that same year and Ms Bourgeois attended the Art Students League, where she studied painting with Vaclav Vytlacil and produced prints and sculptures.

Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Louise’s husband Mr. Goldwater introduced her to a many of New York artists, dealers and critics. She knew many of the European surrealists then arriving as refugees in New York, later dismissed them as ‘smart alecks’; the artists to whom she felt closest were the American painters who would come to be known as Abstract Expressionists.

In the late ‘40s and ‘50s Louise Bourgeois had a several solo exhibitions in various New Your gallery. Her first solo exhibition of paintings happened in New York, 1945, and four years later, in 1951, her first exhibition of sculptures at the Peridot Gallery- an installation of tall pole-like figures that she intended as abstract portraits of the family members and portraits.
 
At this time, she gave up painting for good.

Her husband received a Fulbright grant, so they return to France for several years in the early 1950s, during which time her father died. Louise began psychoanalysis in 1952, continuing on and off until 1985.

From beginning of the ‘60s, Ms Bourgeois started experimenting with rubber, plaster, latex, and enjoyed some professional success as a sculptor. But significant shift in her career came in 1966, when she was included in ‘’Eccentric Abstraction’’ at the Fischbach Gallery in New York, an exhibition organized by critic Lucy Lippard.

Ms Bourgeois’ long involvement in the nascent feminist movement, about which she had ambivalent, but passionate feelings, began at this time. In the following period, she made one of her many trips to the marble works in Pietrasanta and Carrara, Italy, and produced dozens of her great and major pieces over several years.

Her husband died in 1973, the same year she began teaching at various institution including Columbia University, New York Studio School and Yale, which awarded her an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts Degree in 1977.

In the same period, she became politically active as a socialist and feminist, and joined the Fight Censorship Group, which defended the use of sexual explicit imagery in art and made several of her own sexually explicit works related to the female body, such as Fillette, a large detached latex phallus, from 1968.

Fillette – Louise Bourgeois

That piece is one of her most famous work. It showcases her use of biomorphic imagery and her experiments with and distortions of both female and male anatomy to the point that they become indistinguishable.
 
In this work, the testicles can be read as breasts and the erect penis can be seen as a neck. The bizarre juxtaposition of the title, which means little girl in English, and the priapism
of the work suggests a girl metamorphosed into that threatens her- in one version, the piece hangs from a hook and thus references castration; in the second one, the piece is being carried.

 

Rise To Fame As An Artist

By the mid 1970s, with shifts in the art world trends, her reputation was steadily growing. Marking her prestige in the art world, Bourgeois had her first retrospective in 1982, at MoMA, which was the first given to a female artist at that institution.
 
That retrospective secured her place as an influential figure.

In the following decade, her reputation grew stronger in the context of the body-centered art of the ‘90s, with its emphasis on vulnerability, mortality and sexuality.

Ms Bourgeois’ sculptures, in stone, steel, wood and cast rubber, very often organic in form and sexually explicit, emotionally aggressive yet witty covered many stylistic bases. But generally, they shared a set of repeated themes centered on the human body and its need for nurture and protection in a frightening world.

louise bourgeois sculptures

Certainly, her personal style contributed to her mystique. Her series of ‘’Cells’’ from the early 1990s, the installation of old doors, windows, steel fencing and found objects, were meant to be evocations of her childhood, which she claimed as the psychic source of her art.
 
These are dioramic, standalone sculptural forms – plaster casts, drawings and texts, as well as the penises, breast-like bulges and spiders, all within the confines of cell-like structures, usually penned in by doors or steel cages.

The Cells is her autobiography, her personal therapy and her catharsis, and through them she was able to analyze and express her memories, anxiety and fear of abandonment and pain. She only named these piece Cells from 1991 onwards, which explains the inclusion of her earlier work that seemed to inspire or influence the series.
 
So, combined the discernible theme of self, domesticity and motherhood could explain why Ms Bourgeois has become synonymous with the feminist art movement, taking on an almost ambassadorial role. She was a strong feminist, but never called herself a female artist or a feminist artist.
 
It would be reductive to call her with these names; it wouldn’t be able to place her gender from looking at a lot of the work. It was simply autobiographical for she dealing with universal emotions such as rejection and jealousy and these are pre-gender.

 

Structures Of Existence: The Cells – Louise Bourgeois

Gender And Art

But, one of the main reasons that she found herself in feminist movement was the timing of her work. Just as she seemed to find her feet in the 1950s, the male dominated genre of abstract expressionism exploded, making stars of the male contemporaries such as Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock, and overshadowing her work.
 
Then, she began to rebel against patriarchy through her work. For instance, she thought that the surrealists made women the object of their work, whereas she was trying to make women the subject.

She was anxious, a trait she thought she inherited from her mother, and it is a continual thread through her work; she struggled with the burden of being mother, a wife and an artist.
 
She was also agoraphobic and often had insomnia, on occasions spending four consecutive days awake, by the end of which she would be in a manic state.

Being a woman making art about herself, it was probably unavoidable for the theme of gender to recur in Bourgeois’ work. It was her images of the body itself, fragmented, sensual but grotesque, and very often sexually ambiguous, that proved especially memorable.
 
In some cases, the body took the abstract form of an upright wooden pole, pierced by a few holes and stuck with nails; in others, it appeared as a pair of women’s hands realistically carved in marble and lying, palms open, on a massive stone base.

She transformed her experiences into a highly personal visual language through the use of mythological and archetypal imagery adopting a various objects, such as spirals, cages, spiders, medical tools, and sewn appendages to symbolize feminine beauty, psyche and psychological pain.

Number Seventy Two - Louise Bourgeois
Number Seventy Two – Louise Bourgeois

Louise Bourgeois often spoke of pain as a subject of her art, and fear- fear of the uncertainty of the future, fear of the grip of the past, of loss in the present.’’— The subject of pain is the business I am in…To give meaning and shape to frustration and suffering,… The existence of pain cannot be denied.
 
I propose no remedies or excuses.’’ It was her gift for universalizing her interior life, a complex spectrum of sensations that made her art so affecting.

Through the use of abstract form and a wide variety of media, she dealt with notions of universal balance, playfully juxtaposing materials conventionally considered female or male.

Conclusion

Louise Bourgeois gained fame only late in a long career, when her psychologically and abstract sculptures, prints and drawings had a galvanizing effect on the work of young artists, especially women.

Louise Bourgeois’ work always centered upon the reconstruction of memory, and in her 98 years, she produced an as astounding body of drawings, prints, books, sculptures and installations, which, nonetheless, has been the representative of both the tumultuous events of the 20th century in her life and in the world at large.

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