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April 23, 2015 | Posted by | No Comments

What is Neoclassic Art?

Jean Antoine Theodore Giroust, The Harp Lesson (La leçon de harpe), 1791, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, Mrs. John B. O’Hara Fund

Sifting through the art news of the week, I stumbled across an article from Artfixdaily saying The Dallas Museum of Art announced its acquisition of The Harp Lesson by Jean Antoine Theodore Giroust. They described the painting Neoclassical. When I looked at the painting of three elegant women playing delicate music surrounded by vivid colors, I realized I didn’t know the difference between Classical and Neoclassical. So, I went to the best place I could think of for enlightenment: the Internet.

After Leonardo (Virgin of the Rocks) by Noe Badillo on

The big book of everything you need to know, or Encyclopaedia Britannica, says Classicism and Neoclassicism can be used interchangeably. Both terms describe art based on the art of Greece and Rome in a period before the middle ages. “Classicism refers either to the art produced in antiquity or to later art inspired by that of antiquity; Neoclassicism always refers to the art produced later but inspired by antiquity.”

Ballerina in brown by Pavel Kasparek on

According to Artcyclopedia, Neoclassicism is a mid-18th century to early-19th century genre of art. It’s an unemotional genre characterized as a revival of interest in classical art during the American and French revolutions. Around that time, Romanticism also emerged as a direct reaction to Neoclassicism. Artists were frequently influenced by both styles. The two styles were like ham and cheese; not the same, but darn good together.

Artists’ Model by Judith Harvey on

Neoclassical painters often painted somber colors, with clear, strong lines. According to Khan Academy, this was because Neoclassicism was a castoff of the Age of Enlightenment. “Scientific inquiry attracted more attention. Therefore, Neoclassicism continued the connection to the Classical tradition because it signified moderation and rational thinking but in a new and more politically-charged spirit (“neo” means “new,” or in the case of art, an existing style reiterated with a new twist.)”

So, Classic and Neoclassic are not completely separate. In fashion terms it’s women bringing back leggings and high-waisted jeans. In television, it’s How I Met Your Mother reinventing Friends. In literature, it’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (admittedly a weak comparison). This art form pays homage to the classical era and its inspirations while still adding new elements and derivations. Basically, Neoclassic is Classic’s, older, hipper friend.


April 21, 2015 | Posted by | No Comments

Wood Work

In many peoples’ minds, art is synonymous with paintings. Few think of sculpture when talking about art and even fewer think of wood. However, many beautiful and intricate pieces are made with wood. These sculptures from Zatista artists are vivid examples of this underappreciated medium.

Echinus by Cody Powell $2,220

This sculpture inspired by marine life was once a chunk of maple. It was textured and burned before being burnished with steel wool. This hyper-focused process is a form of expression the artist Cody Powell said, “comes from letting go of control and [having a] gut reaction to each new cut.”

Life Experiences no 17 by Rosemary Pierce $1,420

This abstract sculpture of painted wood is an example of a technique artist Rosemary Pierce calls “dripping” where she drips the paint and moves the piece back and forth to get an effect of the paint defying gravity. Pierce said, “This series is all about capturing a look at life experiences; appreciating the motion, complexity, unpredictability, and beauty of letting go and living fully.”

Bay Window by Betty McGeehan $1,600

Betty McGeehan’s sculpture uses color and geometric shapes to subvert the limitations of traditional painting. After working with bent wood and bamboo, she has moved to painted wood. McGeehan said she is breaking free of the subject matter of her earlier sculptures, “Using wood, the intersecting color and bold lines of this new work speak to the organic energy latent in all forms, regardless of time and space.”

BIRDBATH by Candace Knapp $2,700

Birdbath, made from laminated ash wood, is carved and stained into a graceful and smooth sculpture. Knapp says wood is suited for sculpture because it is a living material giving it a life of its own as a sculpture. This piece, Knapp said, “represents the shapes and graceful movements I have observed of the birds in my birdbath as the sun is setting.”

As the trees start to flower, and the environment refreshes with spring, think about the many avenues of art found in nature. Wood is an excellent medium for sculpture, but trees can be subjects for paintings, and their flowers, pressed and preserved, can be part of mixed media works. The possibilities, especially in the inspiring season of spring, are endless.

April 16, 2015 | Posted by | No Comments

Frida’s Love Letters

Frida Kahlo

Renowned and iconic Mexican artist Frida Kahlo’s secret letters to her lover Jose Bartoli are going up for auction next month.

Love letters written by Friday Kahlo and Jose Bartoli

According to Huffington Post, “Twenty five of these love letters, written between August of 1946 and November of 1949, are headed to auction on April 15 at Doyle New York. Including over 100 pages of correspondence, the letters were originally saved by Bartoli until his death in 1995, and were subsequently passed down in his family. Today, they are expected to fetch up to $120,000.

Kahlo wrote on August 29, 1946, “The atoms of my body are yours and they vibrate together so that we love each other. I want to live and be strong in order to love you with all the tenderness that you deserve, to give you everything that is good in me, so that you will not feel alone.”

Also from Huffington Post, ““The Frida Kahlo archive is remarkably important,” Rare Books Department Director Peter Costanzo explained in a statement to HuffPost. “Her letters to José Bartoli are entirely fresh and unpublished. They provide new information about one of the most important artists of the 20th century. It is an honor and a privilege to present this precious archive to the public. Its contents will surely further scholarship on Frida Kahlo and her works.”

Letter from Frida Kahlo to Jose Bartoli

Although I cannot read the letters written in Spanish (maybe you can?) they are beautiful to look at. I have always been drawn to artwork that incorporates writing or calligraphic elements. Some of these letters include sketches and drawings so I have to say that just looking at these letters pretty much sends me right over the moon. Pure beauty!


April 14, 2015 | Posted by | No Comments

The Art Newspaper’s Visitor Figures: The Highlights

The annual world-wide museum attendance survey, Visitor Figures, done by The Art Newspaper was released April 2nd showing the most popular museums and exhibits of the year. Here are just a few of the highlights:

Tang Yin: One of the Four Masters of Ming Dynasty

Taiwan’s National Palace Museum took the top three most popular exhibitions, Great Master of the Ming Dynasty: Tang Yin, The All Complete Qianlong: Emperor Gaozong, and Qianlong C.H.A.O.: New Media Art Exhibition. The Great Master of the Ming Dynasty: Tang Yin brought in an average of 12,861 daily visitors and 1,131,788 total for the most visited exhibit of the year. To compare, the first mention of an American exhibit was MoMA’s Magritte: the Mystery of the Ordinary at 17th with 6,131 visitors daily and 643,783 total. However, MoMA does bost 21 out of the 30 most visited shows in New York last year. Though the National Palace Museum had the top three exhibits, they did not make the top ten in overall museum attendance. The Louvre — basically the number one seed for the march madness enthusiasts — took the top spot as it has for seven years now (when the study was first conducted) with 9,260,000 visitors in 2014. But the upset in the lineup was the National Gallery with 6,416,724 surpassing the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 6,162,147.

The National Gallery in London. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe/Guardian

Authors of the online article for The Art Newspaper, Javier Pes and Emily Sharpe said, “The National Gallery in London had a good year, moving ahead of the much larger Met. Around 6.4 million visitors went to see the collection of Old and Modern Masters in London.” They also said October’s “Late Rembrandt” may have given the gallery a year-end boost. “Museums and galleries have become masters of the mega-blockbuster: big, once-in-a-lifetime exhibitions like Matisse at Tate Modern or Rembrandt at the National Gallery that become must-see attractions,” said Will Gompertz, arts editor for BBC. He explains that the major factors driving the positive progression of London museums — according to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions — comes down to three things: tourism, culture and education. “No institution is better at this than the British Museum, which attracts a large number of its domestic visits by offering well-packaged displays and exhibitions that tie-in directly to the school curriculum.”

An 1890 painting by Vincent Van Gogh entitled “Almond Blossoms.” Even if you have $100 million or so to spend on a famous painting, the original masterpieces of Vincent Van Gogh are not for sale. But for $35,000 you can purchase a three-dimensional reproduction. (Photo: Maurice Tromp)

One more takeaway from the study: Van Gogh can always draw a crowd hitting 15th in most visited exhibit in Paris’ Musee d’Orsay where his work was paired with the writing of poet and playwright, Antonin Artaud. The exhibit was the only showing for Paris that made it in the top 20 most popular exhibits.

April 9, 2015 | Posted by | No Comments

Bjork at MoMA

Jean Baptiste Mondino/Wellhart Ltd&One Little Indian

A lot has been said about the Bjork show at MoMA. Here’s an article from the Economist called, It’s Oh So Disappointing:

WHEN the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York announced it was devoting a mid-career retrospective to Bjork, an Icelandic singer, some critics pounced. The show is all part of MoMA’s “self-suicidal slide into a box-office-driven carnival”, complained Jerry Saltz in New York magazine. Others wondered why the museum was tarting itself up as a marketing vessel for a pop star with a new album coming out.

With the show now open, it would be nice to report that the museum has had the last laugh. As a subject, Bjork is indeed worthy of formal scrutiny. She has spent decades crafting music that transcends genres. Her compositions are full of surprises, mixing techno beats with string arrangements, layering bells, beeps and purrs of wildlife. An avid collaborator, she has worked with many film-makers, fashion designers, producers and other artists, reliably coaxing out some of their best work. Then there is that voice—high, strong, clear, sometimes girlish, always unmistakable. No one sounds like Bjork. With this show, several years in the making, MoMA could have set a new template for a multimedia museum experience, blending music and video, text and artefacts. This retrospective could have mapped out Bjork’s creative process, placing her prodigious talent in some kind of context. Oh, this show might have done so many things. Alas, the only thing it reliably does is waste people’s time.

Wellhart Ltd. and One Little Indian

Prepare for some long queues. The line just to buy a timed ticket snakes out of the door and down the block. Then there’s the queue to get into the show, in a cramped, two-storey pavilion specially built in the museum’s atrium. Expect to wait again before being allowed to enter a modest screening room to see “Black Lake”, a specially commissioned video installation (ie, a music video) featuring a song from “Vulnicura”, Bjork’s emotionally devastating new album. And finally there’s the queue to enter another larger screening room where 32 of her music videos play back-to-back. All of this time spent waiting is not merely irksome; it also serves to build anticipation for a show that feels flimsy and unfinished.

Wellhart Ltd. and One Little Indian

The centrepiece, such as it is, is “Songlines”, which winds around the upper level of the pavilion. This “psychographic journey” through Bjork’s career should take 45 minutes, according to the whizzy audio guide, but it is easy to run through these strange, intestinal galleries rather faster. In part this is because it is difficult to get a sense of pace and space in this awkward maze of an exhibition, arranged chronologically by album. But also it is because there isn’t that much to see.

There are vitrines of Bjork’s notebooks filled with scribbled lyrics and notes. Then there are a number of her costumes, dresses, masks and other ephemera, some of which are genuinely astounding. For example, there is the “Bell Dress”, designed by Alexander McQueen (a frequent collaborator), which Bjork wore in her music video for “Who Is It” in 2004. There is also the swan dress designed by Marjan Pejoski, which the singer famously wore to the Academy Awards in 2001. But the way the displays have been assembled makes them feel less like sensuous art exhibits and more like the kind of celebrity flim-flam one might find in a Hard Rock Café.

The audio guide hardly helps. It features a somewhat insipid storybook-like narrative written by Sjón, an Icelandic poet and long-time collaborator. “Once there was a girl, a girl who lived alone in a lava field in a forest,” the guide begins. Bjork’s entire biography—her early years as a musician and punk-rocker in Reykjavik, her solo work in London, her 13-year love affair with Matthew Barney, an artist and the father of her second child—is somehow squeezed into a sing-song storyline that sounds like the fruits of a creative-writing exercise. “She was the hunter…and all was full of love,” the syrupy guide intones. Instead of lending insight into Bjork’s career, this show merely fetishises her as some kind of pixie love-goddess from a distant land.

One Little Indian

Not all is lost. It is worth making the time to watch Bjork’s music videos, which are well-served by a big screen and surround sound. The singer regularly works with visionary directors—Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze, Andrew Thomas Huang—and the results are often spectacular. Mr Huang’s video for “Mutual Core” from 2012, for example, features Bjork buried to her waist in shifting sands, which come alive in colourfully erotic eruptions. It is a shame that these singular films are not somehow embedded in the larger show; as it is, they can only be seen on a two-hour chronological loop. Visitors should find a comfortable spot and allow themselves to be mesmerised.

A leitmotif of love—explosive, transformative and ravaging—runs through the show. Bjork’s music is often robustly emotional, full of juicy exuberance or romantic despair. Her latest album is essentially a raw chronicle of her separation from Mr Barney, with each song assessing an increasingly desolate landscape. The film “Black Lake”, also directed by Mr Huang, features Bjork in a bleak, damp cave, mourning and purging a lost love (“You fear my limitless emotions/ I am bored of your apocalyptic obsessions”). It ends on a note of rebirth, with Bjork, now 49, in a dress of gossamer wings, walking stridently towards a sunnier unknown. Unfortunately MoMA’S strangely discordant show never quite captures this depth of feeling, or even tries to understand how the singer transforms it into compelling work. Yet Bjork once again emerges triumphant, if not unscathed, from the experience, ready for her next big project.

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