Tuesday, November 16, 2010

New art and it's Assimilation into Institutions

These past few weeks I have been studying net.art. Here is an article that I wrote discussing whether or not net.art ought to be curated. If you read my earlier post about the Guggenheim's show "Youtube Play" you may remember that I do not think net.art is conceptually strong when placed in an institution. Accessibility at the price of authenticity is inappropriate curatorial practice.

For those who still may not fully grasp what net.art is here is a snippet from my article:

"A common mistake made discussing net.art is assuming all images and video posted to the Internet qualify. Because the Mona Lisa, along with the rest of the Louvre’s collection, are posted online does not make it net.art. The second common mistake made is believing works that deal with the internet as its subject fulfills the requirement of being net.art. Nonetheless, net.art is posted online and its subject often is a discussion of the internet. Specifically net.art’s main strengths include its immateriality, 'interactivity, connectivity, variability… and the participatory and time-based nature of the works.' Credited as being one of the first net.art pieces My Boyfriend Came Back From the War, 1996, by Olia Lialina, provides an example of how a piece, beyond just being posted to the internet, effectively uses the aforementioned strengths."

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Compassionate Objectivity? A Postcolonial Question

I am currently reading excerpts from Five Centuries of British Painting: From Holbein to Hodgkin by Andrew Wilton for Dr. Magleby's 18th C. Grand Tour seminar. In a caption on page 84 for George Stubbs' painting, A Cheetah and Stag with Two Indians, 1765, the author states: "The men are painted with the compassionate objectivity that Stubbs brought to all of his subjects."

As we discussed postcolonial theory in ARTHC 300 on Thursday, and I have been reading a lot of postcolonial theory for a paper I am writing, this statement really made me think. Is it even possible for a white, upper middle class, male, British painter in the 18th C. to objectively portray men from India? In any time period how can someone so ingrained with a Western mentality ever portray men from India with objectivity? Why is his objectivity "compassionate?" To me, there is something even problematic about the use of the word "compassionate" ....

I am really curious - what does everyone else think? Is it possible for an artist with a Western perspective to portray those outside of that perspective objectively?

Personally, I think the portrayal is definitely not one of the most problematic depictions of the East by a European artist, however, I really think it is impossible for any one to portray another culture, or people from that culture, objectively - and I certainly think that Stubbs' painting is not an objective portrayal.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Good bye, Golden Age

Last week my little sister called to tell me she had sent me an article clipping from the Wall Street Journal. She had zoned in the piece it because it was about art, but knew nothing about the content of the article. When I got the letter and opened it up, I found a review of the Palmer Museum's (at Penn State University) show "Taxing Visions: Financial Episodes in Late Nineteenth-Century American Art." You can read the review here. This was SO apropos (for both my own studies and the WSJ).

I am currently in a transatlantic art seminar in which we have been studying the work of Golden Age artists like Whistler and Sargent. There is copious literature about high price bidding wars, artistic speculation, and tariffs on French paintings. However, as this article reminds us, it was a period in which millionaires were both made and broken.

The show, review, and my recent research has clued me into a recent trend of historians, critics, and curators looking at art as it interacts with economic markets. Influenced by Marxist theory, this new art history at times (as in the Palmer exhibit) highlight conspicuous absences, but it also views art in terms of the culture of commodity trading. (For an example see Laura Meixner's "Gambling with Bread"
Monet, Speculation, and the Marketplace available here; be forewarned, Meixner deals with a considerable amount of stock market jargon.) I find it fascinating the way in which scholarship is responding to contemporary crises. I know that art never operates outside of its cultural context, but this is the first time I remember it being so overt. Also, this is the first time I have been knowledgeable enough to recognize the subsequent change in scholarship. I wonder if the increasing interest in less traditional mediums (like graffiti art and video) is also being fanned by the decrease in funding for traditional forms?

Back to the Palmer. The only issue I had with the review was the comment, "Fortunately, the exhibition itself is not depressing, for as the catalog notes, artists knew that their paintings could not be too "squalid," or they would not sell," which makes me wonder if the gravity of the crises is sometimes glossed over in an attempt not to be "depressing." Like it or not, there are victims and lessons to be learned. Although, I can also appreciate that being depressed serves no greater good, and that perhaps even those most adversely affected appreciate the infusion of hope.

The reviewer's final statement is the perfect response to these issues, the exhibit and current scholarship: "For its size—about 30 academically informed, narrative paintings and a few etchings, including one of beggars by Mr. Whistler—this exhibition covers a lot, indeed too much, ground. . . Perhaps that is because the show itself was the victim of the current recession. Originally, it was conceived as an exhibit of about 70 works, with a catalog—now about 75 pages—longer by 200 pages. Shrunken by the times, it's quirky and uneven, but it does remind viewers of this neglected genre of American art." What is your take? Do you see parallels between contemporary art/scholarship and 19th century/current economic situations? How can the turn of the last century inform our perceptions of the present?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Youtube "plays" the Guggenheim... by Spencer Twelmeyer

In New York this past week, on October 22, the Guggenheim held the first biennial for creative video. The event, "Youtube Play", was streamed live to an online audience and the Guggenheim itself acted as canvas for the projected videos to be viewed. The jurors for the show included such notables as Douglas Gordon, Shirin Neshat, Laurie Anderson and Nancy Spector. The 25 finalists selected can be found here.

These videos are pretty great but I question the concept/motivation of the Guggenheim on this one. Was this a corporate promotional event branding Youtube as a legitimate stage for fine art? If so, I think that this event was more for the establishment than it was for the artists. I am not denying how well the Guggenheim executed the event. It is because the event was so polished that I take issue with its authenticity. To hear more of this argument, the Guggenheim as marketing minded, read Tyler Green's article discussing "pay-for-play."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dishing it out (art criticism that is)... by Danielle Hurd

...and we're back! I apologize for our two week hiatus from art-related witticisms and criticisms. I have only one explanation to offer: midterms. But now that's over and it's back to business! Speaking of art criticism...

John Ruskin, famous art critic and writer of Modern Painters

In his article, "An Artistic Tradition in the Making: Looking at American Art in French Nineteenth-Century Criticism," Veerle Thielemans says, "Art criticism is a special genre. It requires audacity in the pronouncement of aesthetic judgements, original insight in the artist's particular project, a connoisseur's eye, and an interest in the environment in which the work was created. Good art criticism is also nourished by art historical knowledge." (The article proceeds to give an insightful critique of French-American art exchanges and expectations at the end of the 19th century. It is a great lens for understanding the development of American art, check it out!)

We (the AHA) want to reiterate that this blog is a place where we hope you (artists, art educators, art historians, and most importantly art enthusiasts) will feel free to discuss and critique what you are hearing in class, seeing in local museums and galleries, reading for research/pleasure, and noticing in art news. Be a critic!

This post, for example was inspired by my reading of Thielemans' essay for my Transnationalism seminar. As I thought about Thielemans' assertion I wondered: What is the role of art criticism in the current art market, and in our own art historical practice? All of us are critics to some degree; we are constantly making assessments about the artist we study, what is "worth" our attention and what is not (Renoir). However, it also seems that while many critics garner fame for their assessments, they also become the whipping boys of the larger art historical community. Vasari is revered, but also questioned; Ruskin saw the genius in Turner, but not in Whistler; Clement Greenberg and Michael Fried decided the direction of much of Modernism and Post-Modernism, but now their ideas are being fundamentally questioned; Rosalind Kraus had a big hit with David Smith and is one of the great Post-Modernist thinkers, but many of her "favorites" have failed to catch on.

Art criticism is a problematic practice, to say the least. Who is your favorite critic? Do you agree with Thielemans' assessment of what it takes to be a good critic? Do you feel that they reflect the skills we  cultivate as students of the arts?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bloch-ed by Camille Robb

The MOA will soon be featuring the long-awaited Carl Bloch exhibit entitled Carl Bloch: The Master’s Hand.  Opening November 12, 2010 on the museum’s main floor, this exhibit will literally bring viewers into Danish churches. Over ten years in the making, the show includes five magnificent altarpieces, a major accomplishment and gathering never before seen (in an all Bloch show). These altarpieces have not been reunited since their original placement in separate churches during the early 1800s. Alongside the altarpieces, are featured Bloch’s more humorous lithographs and etchings such as “The Roman Barber,” as well as more serious depictions of Jesus Christ. Dawn Pheysey, the curator of religious art, has traveled to Denmark and Sweden multiple times throughout these ten years to gain connections, establish trust, and create networks with European curators.

If Bloch seems unfamiliar to you, I am certain you have unknowingly seen his works in LDS Meeting Houses and as a main artist in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ new publication The Gospel Art BookUnderstanding the significance of Carl Bloch to the LDS community, I find myself extremely disappointed in the direction the MOA has chosen to take for the show's education. For this exhibition, it has been decided that the docent program of guided tours will not be effective. Rather, an iPad will be given to small groups of individuals as they enter the exhibit. On this iPad, small icons will represent each altarpiece and, when touched, will bring up information for viewers.

I am thoroughly discouraged by this effort to educate the community. I worry that viewers will be looking more at electronic devices than discovering the beautiful altarpieces for themselves. After ten years of work to get these works, the community will be more prone to gaze upon an iPad than the art. Learning opportunities, as I see it, will inevitably decrease as human interaction decreases.

What are your thoughts on this new implementation? Do you believe this way of educating the public will be effective?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

AHA Halloween Party

Flyer designed by Claire Smith

October 26, 2010, 8:00 - 9:30 pm. 255 UPC (on the corner of University and University). Costume contest (wear your best art related costume), games, food, etc. See you there!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Giacometti's Women by Emily Larsen

While in Venice this past Summer on an Art History study abroad, a few of us spent hours and hours soaking in the art at the Peggy Guggenheim museum. For the past three weeks we had been looking at the sculpture and architecture of Ancient Greece, monumental Roman ruins, Early Christian and Byzantine mosaics, and countless religious artworks of the Renaissance and Baroque periods ( I know, rough life ;) ) - needless to say, we were craving some 20th century visual culture! Towards the end of our stay at the Guggenheim we found ourselves in front of two startlingly different depictions of women by the 20th century Swiss sculptor, Alberto Giacometti. We stood in the gallery discussing the complexity of the two works, displayed just feet away from one another, with one of the gallery interns.

The first image, Woman with her Throat Cut, 1932, is a violent, abstracted depiction of the female form. The Peggy Guggenheim museum website states, from 1930 - 1933 Giacometti was making surrealist works that used anatomical representations to express subconscious fear and anger (partially due to his associations with André Masson and other surrealist artists). On her back, with no head to think with, this woman is weak. But although weak, and incompetent, she is still dangerous - a temptress, scorpion like - wild and vicious. She is the ultimate depiction of the femme fatale - abstracted, sexualized, and dangerous - but with no real intellectual threat, or ability. In my opinion (feel free to disagree), it is one of the most demeaning images of women in the art historical canon.

However, just four years after creating this gruesome, brutal image of a woman - he created Woman Walking, 1936 - a beautiful, elegant, elongated depiction of the female form. Her sexuality is not emphasized. She is not dangerous, or violent, or gruesome. In fact, Giacometti is hearkening back to early Greek Cycladic figures with their simplified, flat anatomy (as well as referencing Egyptian sculptures, and Archaic Kouros figures source). This is significant because women were extremely important in Ancient Aegean societies - both being worshiped, and as worshipers, carrying out the most important aspects of religious ceremonies.

What do you think caused this drastic change in Giacometti's visual representation of women? The intern at the museum recalled that between 1932 and 1936 Giacometti had met a girl and fallen in love.

What are your other thoughts about these sculptures? Do you find Woman with her Throat Cut as problematic and misogynistic as I do? How would you compare Giacometti's more well-known sculptures of women walking with these two earlier works? Why do you think Peggy Guggenheim would have collected these works?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Blasting the Canon by Danielle Hurd

The majority of readers probably do not know the origin of this blog and it's name. So let me tell you:

It was originally conceived by a few members of the AHA during the department field trip to Los Angeles last Winter semester. At the time LACMA was hosting a Renoir retrospective. The exhibit focused on the last three decades of the artist's career and was co-curated by LACMA and the d'Orsay. LACMA is a Wonderful museum and I loved their facilities and collections. However, I HATE Renoir. I am sorry if he is your favorite painter and that offends you. You are entitled to your opinion, but I have my reasons (see below). So, as I strolled the gallery halls I shared my (strong) feelings with a few others of the group and we realized we all hated Renoir and couldn't understand why he was even a part of the canon any more. Thus The Canon was born as a place to laud those artists we felt were underrated and rail against those artists we hated.

Now The Canon is meant to be a forum for all members of AHA and beyond to give their insights on art, but in the spirit of the initial purpose of the blog I offer:

Top 5 Reasons to Kick Renoir out of the Canon:

5. He went turncoat on the Impressionists. Boo!

4. Speaking of the Impressionists, he blatantly copied Monet, who was a MUCH better artist.

3. He was horrible at painting figures, faces, and really any other part of the body (see above). Not that being able to paint a figure is the only mark of artistic merit, but for someone who devoted so much time to it, you would think he'd be better.

2. His works serve better for mass poster reproductions to be hung on the walls of teenage girls than they do for academic research.

1. THE most important! He was a misogynist pig who said things like: “I consider women who are authors, lawyers and politicians are monsters," and "When I've painted a woman's bottom so that I want to touch it, then [the painting] is finished," along with many other choice phrases which I won't quote here, but you can find in Anna Chave's "New Encounters with Les Demoiselles D'Avignon."Anna Chave, now there is someone I can get behind. She rocks, no matter what Renoir has to say about lady authors.

Like I said, this is my opinion. Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know! Who would you add in or edit out if you were re-writing Gardners?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Has a "new age" of curating arrived? by Haddy Jarvis

In an article I read from the New York times it gives an account about the "New Guard" of curators.  Currently at the MoMA, as well as other museums across the country, the average age of the curators is drastically decreasing, and with this younger age of curators a younger audience is being attracted to the art museums.
"This is a generation who grew up entirely in the digital world and they are untroubled by distinctions of media.”
This younger group is thinking differently and not only do they organize the exhibits, they play a role in the fund-raising and advertising aspects for the museums.  These curators are thinking differently, they think through their ideas.  Its fresh and new, and they are beginning to think beyond the physical museum, reaching out for new ideas to engage their audiences.

Personally for me, this was an exciting and endearing article to read.  I am apart of this younger generation and will soon have the opportunity to contribute to the "new age" of musuem curating. 
What are your opinions on this younger age of curators and their far-fetched ideas for designing exhibits?  Are they taking it too far? And more importantly- is there a down side to the "New Guard?" 

link: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/18/arts/artsspecial/18NEXTGEN.html?_r=1&ref=artsspecial

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Original Gangster by David Marble

In 1983, a medical doctor published an article about Sandro Boticelli's painting Portrait of a Youth (c. 1482/85), arguing that the youth's hand gesture was an indication of juvenile arthritis. See the article here

But why would Boticelli depict a physical defect in the young man? It seems odd that Boticelli would so prominently portray such a crippling handicap in a portrait. The look on the young man's face is one of confidence and ability, and contradicts the idea that he has a debilitating physical defect. Had the young man actually had juvenile arthritis, it would make sense that Boticelli would portray him without his hands, as in his other famous Portrait of a Young Man (c. 1480-5).

Portraiture was generally used to aggrandize patrons, and associate them with a particular family, class, or group. In another work, Portrait of a Man with a Medal of Cosimo the Elder (c. 1474-5), the young man, similarly dressed, is holding a medallion with the profile of Cosimo de' Medici, identifying him with Medici family.

Couldn't the hand gesture of the young man in Boticelli's later painting similarly connect the youth to a certain family or group in 15th century Florentine culture? Is this the original "Westside" gang sign? Is this work the inspiration for the hand gesture that later inspired Tupac Shakur, Snoop Dogg, countless rappers, gang-bangers, and white kids across the West coast?

While in prison, Tupac extensively read the writings of Niccolo Machiavelli. Several editions of The Prince have Boticelli's painting as the cover artwork.

Tupac was so inspired by Machiavell's writings he later used "Makaveli" as a pseudonym for his last album. Perhaps Tupac saw this hand gesture as a representation of the Machiavellian ideals that inspired him.

I haven't found any information on the exact origins of the modern "westside" sign. I first saw this connection during ArtHC 202 freshman year in 2006 as I explored Gardner's Art Through the Ages. I thought it was humorous and sent the image to some family and friends, but was again reminded of it with all the current discussions of hip-hop culture and art history. Apparently, I'm not the only one to make the connection, as I just saw on another blog this image of Snoop Dogg mimicking Boticelli's young man's confident look and hand gesture.

From Florence to the inner-mountain West, let's give it up for the West Side...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Power? by Alicia Harris

Reading Foucault's Panopticism, I have been thinking a lot about power.

First off, I want you to watch this video. On a side note, I think that there's a lot of fascinating intersections happening between hip-hop culture and art historical theoretical practice right now (more on that here, here, or here).

On with the video:

Thanks, Kanye. Now let's dissect.

Foucault does a lot of work to explore how power itself serves to homogenize individuals and mediocratize society. Kanye seems to feel a degree of injustice at this. He explains:
I just needed time alone, with my own thoughts
Got treasures in my mind but couldn’t open up my own vault
My childlike creativity, purity and honesty
Is honestly being prodded by these grown thoughts
Reality is catchin’ up with me
Takin’ my inner child, I’m fighting for it, custody

But Kanye. KANYE! Who holds the power in this video? What is that power. He stands alone, with his ostentatious all-red skinny jeans and leather jacket, and with his Mr. T bling. He is alone, with his Ceasar crown of laurels, among all of those scantily clad women, who are utterly homogenized and same-ified. The normalizing judgment is at an all-time high here. They have become a writhing mass of super- sexualized nothingness. He is as controlling of power as they come, the assumed male gaze, once again, is taking its expected position.

Foucault counters and explains:
The body of the king, with its strange material and physical presence, with the force that he himself deploys or transmits to some few others, is at the opposite extreme of this new physics of power represented by panopticism; the domain of panopticism is, on the contrary, that whole lower region, that region of irregular bodies, with their details, their multiple movements, their heterogeneous forces, their spatial relations; what are required are mechanisms that analyse distributions, gaps, series, combinations, and which use instruments that render visible, record, differentiate and compare: a physics of a relational and multiple power, which has its maximum intensity not in the person of the king, but in the bodies that can be individualized by these relations.

Many interesting things are happening with race in this video. In the foreground, one black and one white woman wrassle about at 1:45. I think there are interesting things Kanye is trying to say here about race, but maybe he is forgetting gender...

My questions are these:
-Is everything really all about power?
- Does power and our relationship to it produce our reality? To what degree?
-What are the power systems that you operate within? School? Church? Gender roles? Race? What else?
-How much power do we have as individuals in our various systems?
-Can we live deliberately enough to subvert a system, or is that systematic in and of itself?
-How does this inform art historical practice? What power do you hold?

After all,
No one man should have all that power
The clock’s tickin’, I just count the hours
Stop trippin’, I’m trippin’ off the power

As Foucault says, the power might not be directed at you, but the fear of it keeps you in check- keeps the ladies fighting (sometimes literally) for attention.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

We, the audience by Danielle Hurd

I love getting art recommendations from non-art history majors. I find it fascinating to see what people who don't study art all day really like. One such culturally savvy friend recently directed me to this article. It is a review of the (I think) fabulous Marian Abramovic installation that took place in the MOMA in the spring. Check it out, it's a quick read and a great overview of her work.

My questions are threefold: 1) Do you like the piece? 2) What would you have done if you had been face-to-face with Marina? 3) Are there any recent exhibitions/installations/events that you would have loved to see but just didn't have the $$ for?

P.S. My answers are as follows: 1) Yes, obviously. 2) I think I would have sat done and gotten up pretty quickly because: I am not that patient, I still have problems sitting still, and I would want to give others a turn. I would probably just say "thank you" and leave. 3) I kick myself everyday that I didn't do an impromptu fly-away to see Christo and Jeanne-Claude's The Gates. Next time.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Driven to Abstraction... by Danielle Hurd (inspired by Tasha Hinton)

One of our readers, Tasha, let us know about a great post she had written about abstract art. You can read the post here: http://tashamazing.blogspot.com/2010/02/abstract-art.html.

In the post Tasha talks about her "conversion" to abstract art and the still negative attitudes of many to the genre. Everyone has heard the refrain, "My kid could make that!" while visiting the Modern/Contemporary wing of their favorite museum. This brings about my question: Can/will abstraction ever be whole-heartedly accepted by the public? Will the average museum goer ever fall in love with Pollock the way that Greenberg won over the artistic establishment in the 1950's?

Perhaps I am a pessimist, but I tend to doubt it. As evidence I submit my favorite abstract work, El Lissitzky's Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge.

A propaganda piece rallying the Communists (the red wedge) to aggression against the Capitalists (the white circle), this litho always made me laugh a little bit. WHY? Because it is so idealistic! With its accompanying title it is a remarkable effective image but I wonder if, without the labeling and without the explanatory title, if it would have been effective. Perhaps more so than many abstract pieces. The sharp RED (such a symbolic color) wedge does seem to do a great violence to the bloated, passive circle. But could it ever be as didactic as this:

Of course this is more mundane, less intellectual, but it exactly models appropriate behavior and is thus highly relatable. (I love propaganda posters, by the way. Visual Culture studies are fascinating! But that is a topic for another post.)

My point: the concept of making an abstract visual language which would communicate with the masses, the way the Soviet artists hoped to do, seems like a long shot. Unless, perhaps, the Russians are infinitely better at critical thinking than the American public, I can never foresee abstraction being as efficient a visual language as naturalism. It would seem this pessimism won out both in the USSR, who switched to a more traditional style (as seen above), and in the US, which favored more traditional imagery in later propaganda campaigns like those surrounding WWII (see http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/587915).

So, if abstraction failed as propaganda, can it succeed as art? Will visual literacy ever develop to the point that El Lizzitsky's experiment could really succeed?

P.S. Every other Friday I go teach art at a two-room schoolhouse in Vernon, UT (pop. 242-ish). Last week I filled manilla envelopes full of images of famous paintings and let the children choose the ones they wanted to talk about in front of the class. They picked almost all of the landscapes, animalia, and the abstract pieces, leaving the Renaissance and 19th C. history paintings and portraiture behind. Who would have guessed?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Web Work Reconsidered by Spencer Twelmeyer

ArtForum's Rachel Greene published an article titled "Web Work" in 2000 in which she discusses the major players in "net.art" (http://artforum.com/archive/id=465). Here is what I understand as net.art: not the aesthetic manifestation of the idea but the ideas themselves, similar to conceptual art. Greene describes it as the discourse, exchange, links and emails. So when does net.art stop being art and start being just another online discussion or blog? The answer art historians and critics always give is: "It's the Intent."

But, what is the intent of these net.artists? Greene refers to many artists also as hackers and reports their desire to remain "independent of bureaucracy" and "activists." Anarchist convictions are best represented by Heath Bunting founder of Irational.org. In 1994 he created the work "Kings Cross Phone-In." This webpage listed the phone numbers for the phone booths of London's Kings Cross train station. The site invited people to call these numbers intending to break up the monotonous days of commuters.

Most net.art pieces attempt playfulness yet many maintain an abrasive tone. Greene notes that in 1999 the tide turned for net.art, "as net.artists were seemingly empowered by their sense of pending popularity and relevance." Her forecast was dead on. If you are wondering how artists have continued to use the Internet just recall Valentine for Perfect Strangers by Ben Coolney, a piece that recently was shown at the MOA. I just wonder what's next.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Happy Birthday Louise Nevelson by Emily Larsen

Louise Nevelson, Sky Cathedral, 1958

Louise Nevelson was born on September 23, 1899. What are your thoughts or opinions on one of America's most important female artists?

Personally, I love Nevelson's work. I think it is beautiful and interesting - and forces me to look closely at it. There are so many details and nuances in her work, that I keep coming back to look again and again.

In high school, when I first learned about Nevelson, I had no idea she was a woman. I thought of her as "Louis Nevelson," because my teacher never mentioned her gender. I was somewhat surprised when I found out Nevelson was in fact, a woman. Do you think gender plays a significant part in Nevelson's art? Why or why not?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Wide Open Spaces - What did you think? by Emily Larsen

James Swinnerton, Agatha’s Needle (El Capitan), 1939, oil on canvas, 40” x 29-7/8”, BYU Museum of Art Collection

What is your opinion of the BYU MOA's newest exhibition Wide Open Spaces?

I though the paintings were beautiful and worked well together. I especially liked the exhibition design and am excited to go back and see it again!

If your thoughts about the exhibition (or any other exhibition) are longer than a comment - submit a post of your critique to the canon2010@gmail.com!

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Season of Shame? Tyler Green calling out LACMA & Art Institute of Chicago by Emily Larsen

In a blog post earlier today, Tyler Green, author of Artinfo's Modern Art Notes, criticized the LA County Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago for putting forth exhibitions focused solely on the collections of some of their donors. You can find the post here.

What do you think of his accusations?

Personally, I do not know if I feel as strongly about the issue as Green does, but, I do know that I appreciate thesis driven exhibitions, which explore new ideas, themes, or patterns that have previously been ignored much more so than a show that is simply a display of one person's (or couple's) personal taste.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Vasari Invented the Renaissance by Alicia Harris

Marcel Duchamp, L.H.O.O.Q. 1919

Who is it that establishes what we study as students of the history of art? I have been reading Vasari lately, attempting to come to terms with my deep-rooted distaste for the Renaissance (that is fodder for an entirely different discussion). I am left wondering what it is that makes Vasari such an unmatched authority on all things “Renaissance”. How is it that this man became the single authority on the subject? Were not many of the artists about whom he wrote his close associates and friends? Perhaps if I kept a log on the lives of my artist friends, with all of my invested biases and personal preferences coupled with my admittedly limited scope, I could become the “Vasari” of the early 21st century. Would I be able to insist that my friends were entirely removed from the actual system from which they came?As Vasari did when he venerate Michalangelo to the point of idolatry? Could I suggest that they are entirely removed from the system, which produced them? Could I deny their context?
My contention is this: without Vasari's writings, we would have no time period to reference as the Renaissance. The specific names of artists, like the unknown artisans of the Dark Ages, would have continued as unfamiliar iterations of random artistry or craft. Can we, as scholars in the 21st century, trust the ideas of one person as a source upon which we base a study of an entire era of history? Don’t we require more than one source in our own contemporary practice? How can we persist in heralding the Renaissance as the pinnacle of the history of art when it is (quite possible) an a-contextual fabrication from the mind of Vasari?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Aspiring For More

Jared Latimer who currently runs one of Utah's more ambitious Art centers, the CUAC, said that "Utah doesn't have a critical voice in the whole state." This blog seeks to provide such a voice. The students of the Art History Department are here to serve. We seek to share with you, the reader, what we love and what we disagree with in our field. We will inform you about exhibitions in the surrounding region including exhibitions at BYU's Museum of Art, student shows and symposiums, as well as what our department is researching. This being a blog implies that we hope for participation and contributions from the online community. Remember this blog's soul purpose is to serve you as you seek to enrich your life through the visual arts.

Update: If you have written something you would like posted on the blog please email it to thecanon2010@gmail.com! We would love to post your submissions about any and all things art related - near and far, things on campus and in the larger art world. Exhibition critiques, new ideas, professional development, theory, interesting links - the sky is the limit!