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Elaine Witteveen Artist Talk - Life Drawing - Show Your Art on an RVTD Bus!!

MAIN GALLERY ARTIST TALK FOR THE SHOW:
WINGS: CELEBRATING THE LIFE AND WORKS OF ELAINE A. WITTEVEEN
January 10– February 13, 2015

For over six decades Elaine A. Witeveen has been active in the arts. Her rich history is filled with stories of bringing artists together in the Northwest, and many travels at home and abroad. Come hear local artist Elaine A. Witteveen talk about her work and life as an artist next Wednesday, February 4th at 1pm in our Main Gallery.

Learn More About The Exhibit >>>

eileen Witteveen

Life Drawing: Academic Approach begins this Tuesday!

Only two spots left!
In this ten week class well-known local artist Sarah F. Burns will guide you in developing the skills to capture the expression of the human figure using a live model.Sarah’s extensive training includes study in contemporary art at Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, academic realist drawing and painting at Ashland Academy of Art in Ashland, and intensive workshops with Ben Fenske, Michael Grimaldi, Andrew Ameral in contemporary classical painting, drawing and anatomy.

An incredible class with an amazing artist that you will not want to miss!

SIGN UP TODAY! Register here>>

Visit www.roguegallery.org/adult_classes
to see our full list of adult classes, and
www.roguegallery.org/art_kids.html to see our classes for youth.
Sarah_Burns_aja-at-bacaa-workshop-with-dan-thompson-web

A Chance to Exhibit Your Art on a RVTD Bus

A panel of judges will pick up to 10 winners whose art will be applied to one of RVTD’s new Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) powered buses in the summer of 2015, and remain on the buses for seven years. Submit your work on paper no larger than 11″x17″ and turn it in to RVCOG or RVTD during normal business hours. The theme is what you love about the Rogue Valley and outdoor activities. All submissions must be turned in by the end of March, 2015. Please contact Mike Bowman at [email protected] or 541-608-2420 or Greg Staback at [email protected] for more information. See www.roguevalleycleanair.org for information about their programs.

Rework and restraint

32-_the-large-blue-dress_henri-matisse

I got to the Metropolitan Museum of Art just in time to see Matisse: In Search of True Painting, the tremendous show which just ended, built around the French painter’s tendency to exhaustively try different variations on a theme. When he did this, and he did it a lot, I’ve never been sure whether he was trying to get something exactly right or simply exploring every possible way to render an image, the way many artists have repeatedly returned to the same image again and again: Monet’s haystacks and cathedrals, Warhol’s various riffs on a particular iconic image and Motherwell’s repeated reworkings of Ode to a Spanish Republic. In the case of Matisse, I’m never quite sure I like the later versions of particular paintings more than earlier ones. In some cases, I get less and less interested, the further he simplifies and refines a motif. But almost everything in this show seemed to be offering itself to me from a fresh, new angle. This was especially true of the first painting, Still Life With Compote and Fruit, one of the 1._Still_Life_with_Compote_and_Fruit_Henri_Matisseartist’s earliest paintings, whose incredibly subtle color—impossible to fully appreciate in the catalog—made me want to stay there at the entry into the show and skip whatever else was coming. It’s unfinished, and yet it’s as fine a painting as any he ever did, with incredibly delicate feeling in the balance between the two sections of muted green against the peach and salmon colors of the fruit. The tug-of-war between illusions of depth and the flat and uniform areas of color—an energizing opposition at the heart of what gives life to Matisse’s work—imbues the image with a dreamlike quality that seems to breathe as you keep your eye on its cluster of simple objects that reminded me of Morandi. And that was only the start. This show was a thrill, from start to finish, and taught me at least as much about the way Matisse painted as any other exhibition of his work I’ve seen, including MOMA’s Matisse: Radical Invention 1913-1917 which gave me an awed respect for the monumental paintings he did after his return from Morocco.

Yet I’m not sure I absorbed what this show was curated to emphasize.  MOREMy fascination wasn’t with the way he refined or experimented with an image as he tried successive versions of it. Instead, the exhibit opened my eyes about seemingly minor aspects of particular works I’ve seen in reproductions over the years. Again and again, what I thought was familiar work looked new to me in the context of the other work on view. Being able to get very close to the surface of these paintings offered me the ability to see Matisse often handled paint much differently from what I’d thought. Wrongly, I’ve usually thought he painted alla prima, trusting his initial instincts with paint and rarely going back over his spontaneous choices of color and value—once and done, as it were, as is always the case in those films of him as he does a line drawing of a model’s face. I came away convinced that, in many cases, he spent a great deal of time reworking individual paintings, sometimes letting previous layers of paint show through more recent ones in ways that simply get lost in reproductions. You can’t see the pentimento in the color plates. And some of his more abstract compositions stood out in a way that made me question what I’ve always valued most in his work—especially the way I’ve favored his classic middle period, the seemingly comfy, bourgeois, less radical views in and around his apartment in Nice. I still think I have more to learn from that period, as a painter, and it offers more of a starting point for anyone grappling with representational painting. Yet, for the first time, with this show, I found myself relieved to see a dramatically simplified image appear after I’d been immersed in the softer and more natural interiors, still lifes and figures. I was pleasantly stunned by how powerful his more abstract work looked, compared to the painterly Riviera interiors I’ve always favored.

32-_the-large-blue-dress_henri-matisseI first saw a reproduction of The Large Blue Dress at least thirty years ago, and I’ve seen it many times since then, but when I finally approached the actual painting in this show, it was almost startling, coming after a long series of the softer, looser still lifes and interiors and odalisques I’ve always loved. Suddenly, with The Large Blue Dress, Matisse seems to take a huge, sudden leap in the direction of his late cut-outs, reducing color to sharp-edged areas of flat uniform hue. It’s as if he decided to have his model get dressed for once, stand at attention and salute, and he paints her with utter clarity, simplicity and absolute confidence in his flat patterns of nearly uniform color in gentle, symmetrical curves. In this case, the work really does look alla prima. Grids and floral shapes are scratched quickly into the paint with a knife, and the almost austere scheme of primaries—along with white and black—help concentrate all his feeling into only two small areas of flesh tone and ocher, for face and hands and hair, along with a few tiny notes of green in what appears to be a forsythia bouquet behind his model’s head. A painting I previously considered a routine example of what you go to Matisse for—balance, pleasure, and beauty—now looks like to me like a brilliant fusion of his painterly work in Nice with the abstract rigor of the huge, nearly-abstract, post-Morocco compositions—and a glance forward to the cut-outs. There’s a tremendous sense of living presence in the model’s pose and expression, as if she’s ready to mutter an affectionately sardonic aside to the painter as he works. You get a sense of unpredictable life, as if something might happen if you look away, which takes command of the geometric rigor and flatness of the image. Again, I think that exact tension is what gives most of Matisse’s work its life: you can never quite resolve the conflict between the flatness of the overall pattern and the sense of illusionistic depth conveyed by at least part of the image. Properly balancing those two poles, within which he worked, until he arrived at the cut-outs and finally surrendered almost entirely to flat pattern and pure color—that was his struggle, decade after decade, to balance these two opposing impulses, one toward improvisation and music and the other toward order and abstraction, into one unified image.

Matisse-Interior-with-a-Goldfish-Bowl-1914-large-1138312730I was surprised at the sense of depth, for example, in Interior with Goldfish, which is as geometrically organized as anything Matisse painted, and yet offers what could almost be a rotoscope’s reduction of a photograph, the lines and forms are so accurately and proportionately drawn, and the perspective rendered so precisely. You can see through the window to a police station hundreds of yards away, so the sense of spatial depth is dramatic. (Goldfish bowl and police station cheek-to-cheek on the surface of the canvas—talk about tension of opposites.) Yet as casual as everything seems to be, as Jack Flam points out in his catalog commentary, the lines of the house plant, goldfish bowl and bridge in the distance, clustered near the center of the painting, echo and recapitulate each other, confusing inside and out, flatness and depth. And yet the painting offers a genuine sense of early evening light, so that the apartment is dark, while the setting sun shines directly onto the police station’s façade. Still, you’re just as taken by how this could also be an almost thoroughly abstract assembly of lines and curves dominated almost entirely by various blues except for little spots of gold, green, and peach. Think of Diebenkorn’s grids. And yet I also wanted to walk into that room and settle into a cushion and lose myself in the lazy shimmer of the goldfish circling in their glass cylinder–except that the room, full of pointed corners and straight edges has all the feng shui of a jail cell. Now that I’ve seen the actual painting, when I look at the image in the catalog, I feel the same sense of depth, but I never before had that sensation of being able to walk into an actual room with a view (such as it is) while looking at reproductions of this painting.

matisse-egyptiancurtainAgain and again, I had this sort of reaction to specific paintings: oh, so that’s what he was up to with this one. Granted, it may have less to do with the exhibition itself than with the way I’ve learned to pay better attention to Matisse, but the selection of work had just as much to do with it. Hyperallergic has a fine examination of Interior with an Egyptian Curtain, in which Thomas Micchelli convinces me that Matisse managed to fit three different paintings into one with this work: the eponymous curtain, the palm tree you can see through the window and the still life in the lower left. What startled and delighted me was nothing more than the color of the table at the bottom of the painting. The surface of the table is a rich, almost purplish pink—there must be a name for the color, but it’s so varied and rich, the utter opposite of the flat, controlled regions of color in The Large Blue Dress—as well as in other parts of this painting itself. For the front of the table, Matisse chose a distinctly different but related hue, with traces of that pink, but closer to salmon, rust, with far more orange. The color is complex, alive, a balance between intent and accident in the way the grain of the minerals settled into the medium as it dried. In the catalog plate, you get a hint of those rich strips of color, with the blob of pure black shadow under the bowl for contrast, but if you’re ever at the Phillips Collection, check to see if this one’s on view. Those two little strips of color representing a table are what Matisse is all about for me–an intensity he both luxuriated in and kept restrained–and if you can find a word for what it is those two slightly different hues deliver, then you’ll have found a name for what it is that drives me to paint.

goldfish and paletteFinally, one last revelation: when I stood maybe a foot away from Goldfish and Palette, I could see how much Matisse had worked on the painting, covering over previous work without entirely obscuring it. When you see the painting as a color catalog plate, you won’t recognize any of this at all. In the catalog, it looks far simpler in execution. There’s a rectangle of creamy white, slightly pink, in the lower left corner, and it does look as if some previous work is covered over, but up near the actual painting it’s astonishing how complex and busy this earlier, now obscured work got. Maybe he scraped off successive coats or found himself noodling around, losing his bearings, and then simply went over it all with the white, not really concerned to completely cover his tracks. To the right of that rectangle there’s a thin strip of alizarin, which, if you get close enough you can see is a complex mix of red and green, painted and then scratched away, as Matisse loved to do, drawing with his knife. It’s an incredibly busy, almost expressionist-looking strip of paint, all random scribbles, and now looking at the reproduction, I suspect it’s one small glimpse of what the central shaft of black has covered up—that this same sort of work lurks behind all that black and Matisse simply wanted one small taste of it to show, maybe to preserve a little accent of the color that might have once taken up a third of the painting, or maybe for the contrast between the sense of detail all that scratching offers—or for whatever seemed like a good reason at the time. But leaving that little strip of earlier work to show in the final work was a purely improvisational moment in a painting that looks severely constructed, a scene strenuously reduced into flat geometry, including the artist’s palette, thumb and knee, visible in the lower right, which are almost unrecognizable until you see the thumb.

With that little strip of scribbled color that you’ll probably never discern in a reproduction of the painting, it’s almost as if Matisse is saying, “Look at what I need to tame.”

The Great Meteor Procession of 1913, by Gustav Hahn

The Great Meteor Procession of 1913. Image Credit & Copyright: RASC Archives; Acknowledgement: Bradley E. Schaefer (LSU) The Great Meteor Procession of 1913
Image Credit & Copyright: RASC Archives ; Acknowledgement: Bradley E. Schaefer (LSU) Explanation: One hundred years ago today the Great Meteor Procession of 1913 occurred, a sky event described by some as “magnificent” and “entrancing” and which left people feeling “spellbound” and “privileged”. Because one had to be in a right location, outside, and under clear skies, only about 1,000 people noted seeing the procession. Lucky sky gazers — particularly those near Toronto, Canada — had their eyes drawn to an amazing train of bright meteors streaming across the sky, in groups, over the course of a few minutes. A current leading progenitor hypothesis is that a single large meteor once grazed the Earth’s atmosphere and broke up. When the resulting pieces next encountered the Earth, they came in over south-central Canada, traveled thousands of kilometers as they crossed over the northeastern USA, and eventually fell into the central Atlantic ocean. Pictured above is a digital scan of a halftone hand-tinted image by the artist Gustav Hahn who was fortunate enough to witness the event first hand. Although nothing quite like the Great Meteor Procession of 1913 has been reported since, numerous bright fireballs — themselves pretty spectacular — have since been recorded, some even on video.

 

Did a relative see this?: Please tell us in APOD’s discussion forum

We went to the forum above and saw a post in which the writer mentioned an earlier meteor procession in 1860. Following his link, we wound up at Sky & Telescope’s website. There we found this article posted by Roger Sinnott, from  June 7, 2010:

Walt Whitman’s “Meteor-Procession”

The meteor procession of July 20, 1860, was widely covered in newspapers and magazines of the day.

Donald W. Olson

What did American poet Walt Whitman mean by “the strange huge meteor-procession” that went “shooting over our heads” with “its balls of unearthly light”? These phrases appear in a short poem from Whitman’s Leaves of Grass titled “Year of Meteors. (1859-60).”

Walt Whitman (1819–1892).  Leaves of Grass.  1900.

100. Year of Meteors, 1859 ’60
Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Leaves of Grass. 1900.

100. Year of Meteors, 1859 ’60

YEAR of meteors! brooding year!
I would bind in words retrospective, some of your deeds and signs;
I would sing your contest for the 19th Presidentiad;
I would sing how an old man, tall, with white hair, mounted the scaffold in Virginia;
(I was at hand—silent I stood, with teeth shut close—I watch’d; 5
I stood very near you, old man, when cool and indifferent, but trembling with age and your unheal’d wounds, you mounted the scaffold;)
—I would sing in my copious song your census returns of The States,
The tables of population and products—I would sing of your ships and their cargoes,
The proud black ships of Manhattan, arriving, some fill’d with immigrants, some from the isthmus with cargoes of gold;
Songs thereof would I sing—to all that hitherward comes would I welcome give; 10
And you would I sing, fair stripling! welcome to you from me, sweet boy of England!
Remember you surging Manhattan’s crowds, as you pass’d with your cortege of nobles?
There in the crowds stood I, and singled you out with attachment;
I know not why, but I loved you… (and so go forth little song,
Far over sea speed like an arrow, carrying my love all folded, 15
And find in his palace the youth I love, and drop these lines at his feet;)
—Nor forget I to sing of the wonder, the ship as she swam up my bay,
Well-shaped and stately the Great Eastern swam up my bay, she was 600 feet long,
Her, moving swiftly, surrounded by myriads of small craft, I forget not to sing;
—Nor the comet that came unannounced out of the north, flaring in heaven; 20
Nor the strange huge meteor procession, dazzling and clear, shooting over our heads,
(A moment, a moment long, it sail’d its balls of unearthly light over our heads,
Then departed, dropt in the night, and was gone;)
—Of such, and fitful as they, I sing—with gleams from them would I gleam and patch these chants;
Your chants, O year all mottled with evil and good! year of forebodings! year of the youth I love! 25
Year of comets and meteors transient and strange!—lo! even here, one equally transient and strange!
As I flit through you hastily, soon to fall and be gone, what is this book,
What am I myself but one of your meteors?

CONTENTS BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD

CONTENTS      BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD

Frederic Church’s home, Olana, offers a spectacular vista over the Hudson River.
Image Credit: Roger Sinnott

It’s 150 years later, and now we know. The July 2010 issue of Sky & Telescope gives full details of a new finding by Texas State University astronomer Donald W. Olson and colleagues. This press release summarizes their results, and the article is already making waves in the general media, such as New Scientist, the Los Angeles Times, or even the Tehran Times.The Texas team links Whitman’s words to a very rare celestial spectacle — a string of fireballs that marched, duckling style, across the evening sky for residents of the U.S. Northeast on July 20, 1860. The researchers clinch their case with a little-known but beautiful painting, The Meteor of 1860, by Frederic Church.This is the latest in a remarkable series of projects that Olson and his honors classes have tackled during the past two decades. And this time, I got to tag along and see them in action.For last summer’s research trip, Olson headed to the Hudson/Catskill area of New York with coauthor (and English professor) Marilynn Olson, colleague Russell Doescher, and honors student Ava Pope. The prime attraction was Church’s magnificent home, Olana, now a museum. The staff let us spend a whole day, poring through archives to look for clues about Church’s comings and goings in the summer of 1860.Church was on his honeymoon, and Olana was still but a gleam in his eyes. So the newlyweds might have stayed in Catskill with Theodore Cole, a close friend and the son of Thomas Cole, a fellow artist of the Hudson River Valley School. It’s tempting to imagine the couple enjoying the night air, perhaps on the Cole house’s wide porch, when the meteors soared by.

 

 

 

The Texas researchers check out the home of Thomas and Theodore Cole, situated in Catskill, New York, directly across the Hudson River from Olana. In 1860, unlike today, there would have been a grand view from this porch to the south, where the meteor procession passed.

Porches! Does anyone use them anymore? People certainly did in 1860, as we learned while going through an extensive paper by James H. Coffin in the Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge (Vol. XVI). Coffin trudged across New England with a theodolite, interviewing all the eyewitnesses he could. He found 16 in his own hometown of Easton, Pennsylvania, crediting his good luck to “the prevalent custom of our people, to sit at the front doors of their houses in summer evenings.”Coffin’s exhaustive study helped the team get a clear idea how the meteor procession must have looked, not just to Frederic Church in Catskill, but also to Walt Whitman in New York City.This is not the first time an Olson-led team has identified a chance celestial event as the catalyst for a great poet or artist’s work. Six years ago they showed that Edvard Munch’s haunting painting, The Scream, was not entirely a fantasy of the Norwegian artist’s troubled mind. The Texas researchers learned that Munch was likely an eyewitness to a blood-red sky a few months after the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, an event that vivified sunsets around the world and caused lurid twilights as far north as Oslo. The most famous versions of The Scream were painted several years after 1883.Hey — want to hear the actual voice of Walt Whitman? The foremost American poet of his age died in 1892, but not before reciting a few lines from another poem of his, “America,” into a wax-cylinder Edison phonograph. Check it out here.

The Great Meteor Procession of 1913, by Gustav Hahn

The Great Meteor Procession of 1913. Image Credit & Copyright: RASC Archives; Acknowledgement: Bradley E. Schaefer (LSU)
The Great Meteor Procession of 1913
Image Credit & Copyright: RASC Archives ; Acknowledgement: Bradley E. Schaefer (LSU)
Explanation: One hundred years ago today the Great Meteor Procession of 1913 occurred, a sky event described by some as “magnificent” and “entrancing” and which left people feeling “spellbound” and “privileged”. Because one had to be in a right location, outside, and under clear skies, only about 1,000 people noted seeing the procession. Lucky sky gazers — particularly those near Toronto, Canada — had their eyes drawn to an amazing train of bright meteors streaming across the sky, in groups, over the course of a few minutes. A current leading progenitor hypothesis is that a single large meteor once grazed the Earth’s atmosphere and broke up. When the resulting pieces next encountered the Earth, they came in over south-central Canada, traveled thousands of kilometers as they crossed over the northeastern USA, and eventually fell into the central Atlantic ocean. Pictured above is a digital scan of a halftone hand-tinted image by the artist Gustav Hahn who was fortunate enough to witness the event first hand. Although nothing quite like the Great Meteor Procession of 1913 has been reported since, numerous bright fireballs — themselves pretty spectacular — have since been recorded, some even on video.

 

Did a relative see this?: Please tell us in APOD’s discussion forum

We went to the forum above and saw a post in which the writer mentioned an earlier meteor procession in 1860. Following his link, we wound up at Sky & Telescope’s website. There we found this article posted by Roger Sinnott, from  June 7, 2010:

Walt Whitman’s “Meteor-Procession”

The meteor procession of July 20, 1860, was widely covered in newspapers and magazines of the day.

Donald W. Olson

What did American poet Walt Whitman mean by “the strange huge meteor-procession” that went “shooting over our heads” with “its balls of unearthly light”? These phrases appear in a short poem from Whitman’s Leaves of Grass titled “Year of Meteors. (1859-60).”

Walt Whitman (1819–1892).  Leaves of Grass.  1900.

100. Year of Meteors, 1859 ’60
Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Leaves of Grass. 1900.

100. Year of Meteors, 1859 ’60

YEAR of meteors! brooding year!
I would bind in words retrospective, some of your deeds and signs;
I would sing your contest for the 19th Presidentiad;
I would sing how an old man, tall, with white hair, mounted the scaffold in Virginia;
(I was at hand—silent I stood, with teeth shut close—I watch’d; 5
I stood very near you, old man, when cool and indifferent, but trembling with age and your unheal’d wounds, you mounted the scaffold;)
—I would sing in my copious song your census returns of The States,
The tables of population and products—I would sing of your ships and their cargoes,
The proud black ships of Manhattan, arriving, some fill’d with immigrants, some from the isthmus with cargoes of gold;
Songs thereof would I sing—to all that hitherward comes would I welcome give; 10
And you would I sing, fair stripling! welcome to you from me, sweet boy of England!
Remember you surging Manhattan’s crowds, as you pass’d with your cortege of nobles?
There in the crowds stood I, and singled you out with attachment;
I know not why, but I loved you… (and so go forth little song,
Far over sea speed like an arrow, carrying my love all folded, 15
And find in his palace the youth I love, and drop these lines at his feet;)
—Nor forget I to sing of the wonder, the ship as she swam up my bay,
Well-shaped and stately the Great Eastern swam up my bay, she was 600 feet long,
Her, moving swiftly, surrounded by myriads of small craft, I forget not to sing;
—Nor the comet that came unannounced out of the north, flaring in heaven; 20
Nor the strange huge meteor procession, dazzling and clear, shooting over our heads,
(A moment, a moment long, it sail’d its balls of unearthly light over our heads,
Then departed, dropt in the night, and was gone;)
—Of such, and fitful as they, I sing—with gleams from them would I gleam and patch these chants;
Your chants, O year all mottled with evil and good! year of forebodings! year of the youth I love! 25
Year of comets and meteors transient and strange!—lo! even here, one equally transient and strange!
As I flit through you hastily, soon to fall and be gone, what is this book,
What am I myself but one of your meteors?

CONTENTS BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD

CONTENTS      BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD

Frederic Church’s home, Olana, offers a spectacular vista over the Hudson River.
Image Credit: Roger Sinnott

It’s 150 years later, and now we know. The July 2010 issue of Sky & Telescope gives full details of a new finding by Texas State University astronomer Donald W. Olson and colleagues. This press release summarizes their results, and the article is already making waves in the general media, such as New Scientist, the Los Angeles Times, or even the Tehran Times.The Texas team links Whitman’s words to a very rare celestial spectacle — a string of fireballs that marched, duckling style, across the evening sky for residents of the U.S. Northeast on July 20, 1860. The researchers clinch their case with a little-known but beautiful painting, The Meteor of 1860, by Frederic Church.This is the latest in a remarkable series of projects that Olson and his honors classes have tackled during the past two decades. And this time, I got to tag along and see them in action.For last summer’s research trip, Olson headed to the Hudson/Catskill area of New York with coauthor (and English professor) Marilynn Olson, colleague Russell Doescher, and honors student Ava Pope. The prime attraction was Church’s magnificent home, Olana, now a museum. The staff let us spend a whole day, poring through archives to look for clues about Church’s comings and goings in the summer of 1860.Church was on his honeymoon, and Olana was still but a gleam in his eyes. So the newlyweds might have stayed in Catskill with Theodore Cole, a close friend and the son of Thomas Cole, a fellow artist of the Hudson River Valley School. It’s tempting to imagine the couple enjoying the night air, perhaps on the Cole house’s wide porch, when the meteors soared by.

 

 

 

The Texas researchers check out the home of Thomas and Theodore Cole, situated in Catskill, New York, directly across the Hudson River from Olana. In 1860, unlike today, there would have been a grand view from this porch to the south, where the meteor procession passed.

Porches! Does anyone use them anymore? People certainly did in 1860, as we learned while going through an extensive paper by James H. Coffin in the Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge (Vol. XVI). Coffin trudged across New England with a theodolite, interviewing all the eyewitnesses he could. He found 16 in his own hometown of Easton, Pennsylvania, crediting his good luck to “the prevalent custom of our people, to sit at the front doors of their houses in summer evenings.”Coffin’s exhaustive study helped the team get a clear idea how the meteor procession must have looked, not just to Frederic Church in Catskill, but also to Walt Whitman in New York City.This is not the first time an Olson-led team has identified a chance celestial event as the catalyst for a great poet or artist’s work. Six years ago they showed that Edvard Munch’s haunting painting, The Scream, was not entirely a fantasy of the Norwegian artist’s troubled mind. The Texas researchers learned that Munch was likely an eyewitness to a blood-red sky a few months after the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, an event that vivified sunsets around the world and caused lurid twilights as far north as Oslo. The most famous versions of The Scream were painted several years after 1883.Hey — want to hear the actual voice of Walt Whitman? The foremost American poet of his age died in 1892, but not before reciting a few lines from another poem of his, “America,” into a wax-cylinder Edison phonograph. Check it out here.

Disconnected realities at Viridian

IMG_1286

One of Jeffrey Melzack’s watercolors

 

I stopped into Viridian Artists last week to pick up a painting I’d shown in Endings and Beginnings, because I needed to ship it to Manifest for their current exhibit. With the parking maneuvers of an unlicensed limo driver, risking big parking tickets at rush hour, I got the job done, I’m proud to report. I’m getting as bold and improvisational as a seasoned New York driver, though I’m only an interloper in this town. I parked illegally at Second Avenue and 51st St., in the bus lane, and on a crosswalk. (You would think I was kind of a big deal.) I sprinted into UPS, plopped my big, pre-labeled pre-paid shipment onto the counter, and rushed back out to the car before anyone would have time to ticket or tow me. Gotta love those emergency blinkers. Before all of these urban scofflaw antics, I had time to catch up with Vernita N’Cognita and Lauren Purje, who were both on duty at the gallery desk. I lingered quite a while taking some iPhone shots of the current Viridian affiliate show, Disconnected Realities, getting in everybody’s way and in general feeling like an uninvited guest. It gave me time to warm up to the way the whole show looked. It seemed to hang together more coherently than most of the group shows we’ve had at the gallery over the past year, including ones I’ve been in. There was a lot of work on the walls, but it was hung in tight clusters of individual style that gave me a pretty clear sense of each artist’s strengths. It helped that most of the work was fairly small. A few quick impressions:

What I noticed about the photographs by William Atkins was how they captured contemporary sitters with techniques that give the look of 19th century figures in sepia prints, daguerreotypes, and tintypes. He induces a mild sense of perceptual friction in the contrast between the antiquated style and little clues that you’re actually looking at contemporary figures: anachronistic details such as body piercing or boxing gloves at rest on a woman’s lap. (A recent slideshow in the Times online called my attention to another photographer working in the same vein, pulling screen shots from video games like Call of Duty to create images that induce flashbacks to Matthew Brady’s Civil War.) Atkins’ photographs are wonderfully shot and printed and fun to search for those telltale signs that they were shot now, rather than a century ago.

Renee Kahn’s best painting in the show, The Card Players, despite its title, owes far more to Milton Avery than to Cezanne. It’s a quietly musical study in extremely muted, subtle greens and violets, with her three players clustered like confederates on a picnic, their bodies reduced to the simplest abstract shapes. As with Avery, by softening the edges of her geometric simplifications, and layering her paint until it vibrates with life, Kahn conveys a lot of emotion with an image reduced to its most fundamental elements. As she puts it: “maximum intensity with the least . . .  means.”

Like Atkins’ photography, Lauren Purje’s paintings ride in the gap between her anxieties about contemporary disasters—things fall apart, the center cannot hold, mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, yo—and her love of the traditional masterwork of Durer, Turner, and Constable. She’s also smitten by a few contemporaries like Walton Ford, but mostly she’s got a crush, big-time, on the Romantic sublime. A couple fine examples of how she melds present and past are on view, but I wanted to see a couple of her witty and self-deprecating drawings, unveiled weekly at Hyperallergic. They offer wry commentary on contemporary art as well as the joys and sorrows of Purje’s nocturnal, Brooklyn-centric habitat, as well as the fauna populating the small region of her zip code located inside her skull. Her default setting about the world, and herself, is essentially, “I’m just not sure I feel good about all this.” I hear that.

Two colorful works on paper from Vernita Nemec, the gallery’s director, are quite different from the performances she’s contributed to the shows I’ve seen in the past year. The one I liked the most appeared to be an image created by immersing the plume of an ostrich fern in red paint and then using it to lay a flat, patterned shadow of itself on paper—a monoprint off a natural, botanical design. It has subtle variations in the predominant red with faint cooler tones showing through in patches, like sky through clouds. The effect is moody but cheerful and almost Chagall-like, She’s been pulling monoprints from nature’s ready-mades for many years, including her own body in a nod toward Ives Klein. It’s part of what she calls an “archeology of the self.” Her work—performances, installations, photographs, prints, and collages are assembled from found materials to convey a kind of inner autobiography. She tells me she has yet to do a monoprint of her cat, though. If that happens, I’m going to have to go ahead and ask her to do a YouTube video of the process. Now that’s a cat video even I would watch.

Meredeth Turshen offers only the briefest reflections on her gestural abstractions in her artist’s statement, which refrains from explaining much of anything. Wish that would become a new standard. Her colors are rich and subtle, and she can load the rifts with ore by saving the most saturated passages of intense hues for the tiniest slivers of line and form. Sounds geometric, I know, but her work is anything but. Formal properties suggest a kind of mammal warmth more than abstract precision. Shards of color melt at the edges and lope in friendly, lazy swaths across the paper. Irregular figures huddle like badly-fitted puzzle pieces. There’s a slight sense of unfinished business about all of it: the energy of what she chose at the last second not to quite finish, leaving the viewer room to imagine the rest in a way that makes what’s there even better.

I suggest you take the photographs of Sheila Smith as an invitation to view more of her work on her website. The work on view at Viridian seems to marry the feel of a Matisse cut-out with Pollock drips. She assembles large crinkly collages from what appear to be colored tissue paper—the sort you might wrap around a new blouse in a gift box. Then she dribbles and splatters paint across the surface, and finally takes detail photographs of the work, which she modifies with Photoshop and then prints onto cradled painting panels. It’s all good, but it’s only a small taste of her diverse photographic work. She seems to constantly try to reconcile her schooling in both photography and painting: her detail shots of New York City graffiti sing with a surprising sense of push-pull visual depth and a deep affinity with the abstract expressionists, both from the 50s and 60s. One thinks of Mark Tobey at one point, while another image on her site is a dead ringer for de Kooning. Good de Kooning. I’d love to see her try one further step: to do actual paintings based on photographic images she thought she’d Photoshopped to completion.

Joshua Greenberg’s sophisticated photo-based images combine photography with digital processing to create surprisingly textured images that look as if they’ve been painted on a rough surface. My fingertips had to resist temptation. His artist statement spins around on itself, generalizing in abstract terms about the balance between photograph and computer manipulation. In other words, he gives nothing away about what he’s actually doing—what image he shoots, and what specifically he does to it once he uploads it. The results look unapologetically modernist. The way Jeffrey Melzack’s images hearken back to Klee, Greenberg’s stir memories of Braque’s analytical Cubist phase at one point and Mondrian at another, if Piet had been way more into blue. What’s most enjoyable is how painted his images look.

A balance between photography and painting seems to be a major thread running through this show. Katherine Smith’s paintings carry this dialectic to a more complex extreme: she shoots digital photographs of paused movie scenes on her flat-screen, then uses these images as sources for large, nearly monochromatic water-based oil paintings, done on polymer film. Process-wise, it’s a bit of a sandwich of paint between layers of film—one at the start of the process and one at the end. The paintings she’s included in the show, painterly and nearly expressionist in their brushwork, are only two of a series based on shots that took her nearly three years to compile by sifting through vintage films for just the right image. The effect is to lift an image completely out of its original narrative by isolating it and stressing its formal properties as a painting—yet in the process the figures in her scenes evoke complex, subtle emotional responses, a hint of passing time just as powerful as the flicker of frames shuttling through a projector.

Elvira Lantenhammer’s statement about her Site Maps offer a pretty concise reflection on what she’s up to in her work, which has grown from her practice as an art restorer. I pass it along with only slight editing: “I reprocess details of maps and street plans into painted tableaus – sometimes in large format. Through an intensive study of topographical map works, historic and contemporary, I arrive at the formal basic structure . . . of the place. In my abstract acrylic paintings on canvas or egg tempera paintings on wood, the main points of orientation for the viewer are the dominant colors. I am inspired by the wonderful brightness of the colors of the early Italian paintings. With the background of my education as restorer, I use this traditional materials pigment/ egg tempera on wood to express what I feel about a certain place.” In an email, she emphasized that color is her primary focus. To increase the brightness and intensity of her color, she uses wood panels, three layers of chalk, and then paints with egg tempera. She says she strives for “a remarkable, deep shining surface, like velvet.”

When I stood before Michael Rippl’s photography I had no idea it was based on Polaroid prints. I was admiring the sense of disconnected reality he achieves, as if he’d taken the show’s title to heart a long time ago as a philosophical principle. The patina of faded color evokes lost time—again a convergence of past and present that runs through a lot of this show. Yet he underscores that feel of lost time by giving the images a look of  rough usage: slightly faded, slightly worn. What amazes me in retrospect is that I started talking with Lauren, at the desk, apropos of nothing, about how Polaroids might be the last really trustworthy photographic technology available (not for long, since the technology isn’t as readily available anymore), given the ubiquity of digital manipulation. At that moment, I didn’t realize I was looking at digitally manipulated images based on Polaroids. (Subconsciously I must have picked up on it.) For these images, Rippl shot his Polaroids, which he altered as they developed—not in the manner of Andre 3000’s sage advice (shake it Suga, shake it like a Polaroid picture)—but by massaging them with his fingers, among other things. He then uploads digital images of these Polaroids for further manipulation. So what I saw here destroyed my fatuous nostalgia for a mythically untampered-with photographic image. I was seeing yet more evidence that photographs aren’t any more “objective” or literal or trustworthy than any other form of representation. Not that I cared. The beauty of the images justified whatever it took to achieve it.

I kept coming back most often to the smallest work by Jeffrey Melzack. His finely wrought images hover, like Paul Klee’s or Escher’s, in a world where geometry seems to represent a visually inviting but mostly unfamiliar world. His work is seemingly abstract but full of feeling. With the slight caveat that it’s impossible to pin down exactly what’s being represented, his world here is dreamlike, full of trap doors and stairs that lead nowhere and colors that seem to airbrush themselves into the void. There’s a quietly upside-down, inside-out enchantment going on that feels exactly right, as if this is what you came to art for in the first place, back when you had no need to know what the point of it all was. No excuses, no explanations, just my world and welcome to it. Back when you loved art because it was so irresistibly where you wanted to lose your head for a while and all the significance would dart away if you tried to take dead aim at it.

Thoughts on yellowism

 

Some observations on and amused reactions to the Yellowism texts at www.thisisyellowism.com/:

“In the context of yellowism every feeling is a definition of yellow, every emotion expresses yellow color only. Sadness is about yellow and happiness is about yellow too. Pain is considered as a pure expression of yellow, orgasm as well. Inside the context of yellowism all emotions and feelings . . .  images can arouse in potential viewers, express yellow color and nothing more.”

What they’re saying resembles both the erasure of all value—everything is reduced to yellow dust, basically—or the elevation of everything to one monotonous Truth. Both extremes force you essentially to give up the discriminations you normally cling to as a source of meaning and value. All art is about the same thing. Everything is either nothing or everything is holy. Take your pick. They have eliminated the dilemma by saying everything is simply about “yellow.” What you lose, in any case, is the system of values that elevates one thing over another in the world of art—or the world in general. (I find myself agreeing with both sides of this, both for and against what’s implied here.)

Consider yellowism as a totalitarian system. Two young “dictators” – authors of the definition and manifesto of yellowism decided that there is only one interpretation in this specific context. Everything is about yellow – this is the order, the final solution. It is imposed on you, you are not free to interpret, and you have to accept the only possible way of seeing things. This way and no other way.

This makes me laugh. Since nothing really changes in works of art itself when the Yellowists get busy with it. It remains the same. The art is regarded from a new context, that’s all. Yellowism is simply an assertion that all art is ultimately about “yellow color” without disturbing the diversity of meaning and interpretation that thrives in the hothouse world of art to such little effect on the course of most human lives. They stand above this hothouse and look down with amusement, pairing their fingernails.

That’s obvious that a monkey doesn’t see differences between ordinary reality, art and yellowism; it just want to jump (or sit in a funny monkey way) on a chair, doesn’t matter where.

LOL.

According to polish theoretician and visionary Jerzy Ludwinski, the evolution of art can reach the stage called “the stage of totality” and this is how he described it: “What matters are the tensions created by the collective effort of many individuals which contributes to the making of one system, pulsating with its own life like some gigantic work of nature. Art = reality.” Even if there was such a fusion (art + reality), yellowism would be still “outside”. If art disappeared and reality disappeared – if both were transformed into “aRteality” or something like that, I would call yellowism, it this particular case, not the third but the second context. If two contexts (art and reality) become one, then the third context we should perceive as the second context. Imagine that yellowism is the only context which exists and you don’t need to distinguish anymore. No art, no ordinary reality (no “aRteality” as well), just yellowism, the whole universe is like one huge yellowistic chamber, all and everything is flattened to yellow. What would you say in a such ontological situation? Will you say: “Oh my god!”?

Yeah, I would, Vlad. But that’s just me, probably. This is postmodernism taken to its dead end. Ironically, postmodernism is really an attempt to escape the tyranny of inherited meanings and the social/economic/political system that uses them to control individuals. Yet Yellowism trumpets its totalitarian aims, to transform everything into one thing only: the color yellow. Not literally, but mentally. Mentally, it’s as if Blake’s Orc has become his Urizen, the rebels maturing into the oppressor, which Blake recognized as a cycle that happens again and again in human society and individual growth. You don’t cover a Rothko with yellow paint. You add a little drippy scrawl to a bottom corner and hope somebody understands. These radicals aren’t holding cans of lemon Krylon and aiming it at a Rothko. They tag the painting in a discreet and probably reversible way to make a point. They are simply trying to put everything into a new and nullifying context: all things mean only one thing, the color yellow. The point is that they want to point all signifiers in one direction, toward one absurd meaning. Which they believe will offer a fresh start, basically—for them it’s outside art. They leave it behind. But the sad evolution of  modernism into what we have now as art resides in that very hope; it was there at the start, that hope for a clean slate, a new context.

Yellowism is saying all inherited meanings are erased, so that something genuinely new can emerge that isn’t conditioned by existing culture and history. This is the faith at the heart of modernism itself: it’s revolutionary, but with an unrequited love for what it rebels against. Hence the way rebellion leads to systems just as oppressive as what they tore down. Ironically, our two Yellowists have merged their revolution into an act of tyranny: everything is yellow. They dictate it. Your meanings are dissolved. Your art means nothing but the color yellow. Submit! (Again, it’s funny. A commentary on the whole course of modernism and post-modernism.) Brace yourself for a heavy Russian accent:

“This exhibition proves that the extreme point at which the current culture is now, should be called ‘The beautiful end of postduchampian era. Marcin Lodyga and Vladimir Umanets several times invoked Duchamp’s Fountain during the writing the Manifesto of Yellowism in the end of 2010 in Egypt. They marked on the studio floor in Cairo three fields: the context of reality, the context of art and the context of yellowism and they were walking on this diagram and commenting it more or less like that: the urinal in the context of reality fulfills its function and you can pee into it; the same urinal moved from reality to the context of art loses its usefulness and becomes a carrier for idea, is entitled, can be interpreted, it acquires the status of the work of art. And then this work of art, which, let’s say, now only looks like a urinal, we move in the context of yellowism. In yellowism, this work of art titled “Fountain” ceases to be a work of art and becomes a piece of yellowism therefore is about yellow and expresses yellow color and nothing more (notice: it is about yellow but not visually yellow). Duchamp in the early twentieth century had two areas: 1 – reality, 2 – art, and he accomplished the shift from one context to another. After that, in art, there was nothing so revolutionary, radical and influential. Andy Warhol (pop art), Joseph Kosuth (conceptual art), Damien Hirst (newest art) did not come out of the shadow of Duchamp, despite the fact that their work is very important in the history of art. None of them have accomplished the latter important move (on the chessboard).

If yellowism belongs to postmodernism, then it is the tip of postmodernism – its outermost piece. But it is not a part of postmodernism, is a completely new era.

Exerting influence on contemporary art is not the purpose of yellowism. Yellowism doesn’t want to attack, provoke and question the contemporary art. However, the presence of yellowism in modern culture overturns the entire contemporary art upside down. The fact that yellowism exists causes that contemporary art loses ground underfoot. Metaphorically speaking, it is a little as if contemporary art fell in love with yellowism, but yellowism is cold and impassive and focused on its own expansion. Yellowism is an autonomous being and does not need to substantiate, corroborate or verify its existence through other beings. Contemporary art looks at “inexorable” yellowism and consequently turns itself upside down and fall into insanity and despair.

Again, I’m laughing out loud. This is the Body Snatchers, on an intellectual plane. Art works, we’re turning all of you into exact replicas of what you used to be, but you won’t be what you thought you were anymore! You’ll be . . . . yellow.

Yellowism simply exists, and it is possible that yellowism existence can be taken by some people as a kind of provocation… Well, therefore the fact that the trees grow and the sun rises can also be perceived as a provocation.

Frankly, this is creepy, again a Body Snatchers moment. You imagine Yellowism actually siphoning the life out of all art. Or at least the conscious intellectual content, rather than what art embodies.

 “Abstract painting is abstract.” – Jackson Pollock  “The flight from interpretation seems particularly a feature of modern painting. Abstract painting is the attempt to have, in the ordinary sense, no content; since there is no content, there can be no interpretation. Pop Art works by the opposite means to the same result; using a content so blatant, so “what it is,” it, too, ends by being uninterpretable.” – Susan Sontag, “Against Interpretation” Yellowism is not against interpretation, but Yellowism gives only one interpretation. Not many, just one, forever. Every piece of Yellowism  is about yellow and nothing more. Whatever you put into a yellowistic chamber, it is a definition of yellow. The lack of many different interpretations is not the lack of interpretation. Every piece of yellowism has the content – every piece of yellowism has exactly the same content. All pieces of yellowism are interpretable because all are about yellow and express yellow, however the content is not obvious (blatant) for humans. Humans have a problem to see beings and objects (inside yellowism) as expressions of yellow color only. If for humans the fact that inside yellowism everything is about yellow was obvious and blatant, then it would mean that human perception was radically changed. An abstract painting placed in a yellowistic chamber has the content – the same content as a chair or anything else placed in a chamber . Every abstract painting (inside yellowism) is a definition of yellow, therefore is not so abstract anymore because you can see (interpret) it as a pure expression of yellow color. In art, an abstract painting is the attempt to have, in the ordinary sense, no content.

The point here is obvious. Yellowism does what Sontag was trying to do, but in one dictatorial sweep: eliminate all content. The Yellowists say all content means only one thing and therefore means nothing.

“We are able to decode the meanings and symbols because they are already (made) in us. We are looking for something which we already know. The traditional and universal “system of reading” meanings and symbols falls in this way – through introducing yellow into the construction / deconstruction of every metaphor – all metaphors are equalized to one level. All meanings are reduced (“flattened”) to yellow. This creates a new system of reading meanings. This is an absurd system. This is a Utopian system. This is a sick system – infected by yellow. This leads to suffocation of all previous meanings and symbols. All the beautiful metaphors and courageous comparisons rot if we apply to them yellow.”

“When you are inside the context of art you expect metaphors, new meanings or old meanings given to you sometimes, paradoxically, in unexpected way, in very, let’s say: ”strange” way, not typical, you don’t take things literally, you don’t sit on a chair – you read a chair, you consider a chair… You see an art work made out of some rubbish as a “definition” of love or death. You don’t have a problem with a chair which (according to artist/author statement and art critics opinion) expresses something more than the idea of a chair, you don’t perceive a chair as a chair but you interpret it, you see new meanings because you already know that in the context of art any being can gain a new (intellectual) status. Therefore I ask you now, why you can not accept the fact that in the context of Yellowism a chair is a definition of yellow color? Is this meaning too new for you? Maybe you can not reach this level of abstraction? I think that you just can not forget about all meanings and symbols which our civilization, culture “inserted” into your mind, you can not stop your tendency to interpret, you are not able to leave the comfortable “kingdom of many interpretations” – art. How much do you need to change your perception to see a chair as a pure expression of yellow color only, how much you need to change your perception to see a chair as a expression of death? In art a chair can be about love, death, art, war, holocaust, but in Yellowism a chair can be only about yellow and nothing more, every object, every being, every emotion, feeling in yellowism (in yellowistic chambers) is only and forever about yellow. In Yellowism the only possible interpretation, the final meaning, the sense is given to you, is imposed on you, it is the order, the command . The only thing you have to know is that any piece of Yellowism is about yellow and that you are in a yellowistic chamber. Don’t think, you don’t have to. Just take it. You have to listen to young dictators. The fact that a chair in the context of yellowism is about yellow is ridiculous for you, but the fact that a chair in the context of art is about war in Vietnam or love, is not ridiculous for you. Why?

This is very funny and very good. You can accept that this work of art means Vietnam, because the artist or the critic tells you that’s what it means, even though a chair just looks like a chair, but you can’t accept yhat it means nothing but the color yellow. Deal with it.

The Beautiful End Of Postduchampian Era
Fountain” is simply a common human waste receptacle. Taking an object that is generally considered filthy and worthless, Duchamp converted it into an expensive art piece. He instilled value to an object most would consider valueless. Duchamp wanted to prove a point: by fabricating art and getting society to regard it as meaningful, we can increase its worth and value. With his art piece, Duchamp showed that in a postmodern world, truth is no longer dependent on its intrinsic value (a common, filthy receptacle); it depends extrinsically on how society defines it (an expensive piece of fine art). On the first page of the prologue in the book “Marcel Duchamp The Failed Messiah” Wayne Andersen introduces the reader to the powerful gatekeepers of the postmodern art world, the men and women who collectively unleashed Duchamp on the 20th century. Citing a December 2004 editorial from the Guardian Weekly that proclaimed “Urinal Comes Out on Top” he reports a survey of 500 international artists, critics, curators, and art dealers, who confirmed that Duchamp’s urinal, named “Fountain” still remained at the end of the 20th century what it had been at its beginning: “The world’s most influential piece of modern art”. Marcin Lodyga and Vladimir Umanets several times invoked Duchamp’s Fountain during the writing the Manifesto of Yellowism in the end of 2010 in Egypt. They marked on the studio floor in Cairo three fields: the context of reality, the context of art and the context of yellowism and they were walking on this diagram and commenting it more or less like that: the urinal in the context of reality fulfills is function and you can pee into it; the same urinal moved from reality to the context of art loses its usefulness and becomes a carrier for idea, is entitled, can be interpreted, it acquires the status of the work of art. And then this work of art, which, let’s say, now only looks like a urinal, we move in the context of yellowism. In yellowism, this work of art titled “Fountain” ceases to be a work of art and becomes a piece of yellowism therefore is about yellow and expresses yellow color and nothing more (notice: it is about yellow but not visually yellow). Duchamp in the early twentieth century had two areas: 1 – reality, 2 – art, and he accomplished the shift from one context to another. After that, in art, there was nothing so revolutionary, radical and influential. Andy Warhol (pop art), Joseph Kosuth (conceptual art), Damien Hirst (newest art) did not come out of the shadow of Duchamp, despite the fact that their work is very important in the history of art. None of them have accomplished the latter important move (on the chessboard). So, to do something to measure Duchamp, to make an another revolution we had to reach to the point where, metaphorically speaking: if you want to walk, you need to create a piece of land which previously did not exist, in other words: define the third context, (which is not art nor a reality) and do the next step. The third context, in which the works of Duchamp, Warhol, Kosuth and Hirst cease to be works of art and become pieces about yellow color and express yellow color and nothing more. Notice: the first step – made by Duchamp – a transition from the territory of reality to the territory of art; the second step – made by Lodyga and Umanets – a transition from the territory of art to the territory of yellowism. In the collection of the Tate Modern in London is one of the few authorized by Duchamp replicas of the “Fountain”. Hypothetically, if the Tate Modern would lend this readymade for the exhibition of yellowism, then the “Fountain” shown in the yellowistic chamber would cease to be a work of art. The world’s most influential piece of art would be a piece of yellowism and would equate with other pieces – each piece of yellowism is influential to the same extent. Postmodernism or post-postmodernism in relation to visual art can be called “the postduchampian era”. If yellowism belongs to postmodernism, then it is the tip of postmodernism – its outermost piece. But if is not the part of postmodernism, is a completely new era. If Marcel Duchamp is a border point between the age of modernism and the time of postmodernism, therefore, perhaps, Marcin Lodyga and Vladimir Umanets are the border point between postmodernism and the era of yellowism or other era whose yellowism is the first conspicuous forerunner.
In the same manifesto, yellowism has been described as “a homogeneous mass.” To recall why yellowism is so homogeneous, so monolithic refer to my earlier texts such as “All and everything” or “The Forest”. Hypothetically, if the works of forty four artists taking part in the exhibition in the museum would be transferred to an yellowistic chamber, then all, without exception, would be about yellow and would express yellow and nothing more and then “the maximum breadth and diversity of vision” would be narrowed, flattened to yellow. The context of yellowism would unmercifully equalize all interpretations to one, because inside yellowism “a fascination with diversity of approach and Interpretation” doesn’t exist. But – no worries :) , this is just an example, a hypothesis. The process of formation of piece of yellowism is not (but it can be) based on the strategy to move works of art from museums, galleries, artist studios, public space etc. in to the context in which everything is about yellow color. It’s just such a possibility. A piece of yellowism doesn’t have to be a work of art, before it becomes a piece of yellowism. Notice also, that pieces of yellowism do not occur to fight with works of art or to be against art. Yellowism is not anti- art, this is not a war; there is no aggression between art and yellowism. Art and yellowism tolerate each other, despite the fact, that both are two separate “worlds”. I would not call this relation symbiosis or parasitism; these two contexts just look at each other and that’s it…

It’s a wonderful mockery of postmodernism, in halting Russian accent, but it’s also the fulfillment of it. With yellowism, nothing means anything. Duchamp said a urinal could be a fountain. The yellowists say that his fountain means nothing but the color yellow. (A little fun irony swirling around in there.) If I say all art means “yellow” then that’s what it means: that’s what interpretation amounts to now, as well as much artistic practice.

Imagine, that you are in the forest where all trees look the same, and everywhere you go you see the same thing; you walk, but you are still in the same place. Everything is homogeneous and nothing surprise you. There is no secrets. This lack of mystery, this desirable and innate lack of hope of doing something original, inventive, new and revolutionary is connected with the lack of creativity in yellowism. In yellowism, anything you do, does not develop any idea, you don’t create anything, you do not even think about a new concept of your work because no matter what it would be, it will be always the same “definition” of a yellow color given in another form.

This is beautiful, in its own way. Forget about “the new”, “the radical”, art history, or any other context. Do what you can’t help but do as an individual. Do what you have to do. It’s all yellow in the end. It’s all flattened out into one thing. There is no contest to win, no new barriers to break—just do what you, alone, can do. Why it matters will spring up on its own, without the need for the intellectual, conceptual armature that has been supporting it for the past century. All of that is over. You need to find the necessity for your art in other ways, outside all the contexts that determine what art should be. If you really need to do art.

“Yellowism is not art, it is not a form of creativity. We resigned from art, but not like Marcel Duchamp. Unlike him, after resignation we defined a new context, both mental and physical, and it was our last creative move. We didn’t reduce our activity to the domain of reality. Now, after this decision to give up any kind of artistic practice, after the “Manifesto of Yellowism”, it is better to say “we arrange pieces of Yellowism” or even “we produce” rather than “we create” Yellowism piece number one, Yellowism piece number two . . .  These are just examples of yellowistic expansion. There is no evolution of Yellowism; we do not develop any idea. No new messages. The final message is done, context has been defined. Examples of Yellowism can look like works of art, but are not works of art.”

Art history is over. Something else has to take the place of the notion that art evolves into something “new.” Some other exigency has to arise within the making of art. Or maybe you simply live your life as if were your work of art.

 

OK, I am curious, yellowists

Rothko Homage 2 Yellow

Remember when John Goodman, in The Big Lebowski, discovered he was facing philosophers when he thought they were only three dweebs who used ferrets as weapons and dressed like Dieter hosting Sprockets on Saturday Night Live? His reaction: Oh my god, not nihilists. We’re fucked. You best listen to Mr. Goodman if you’re deeply invested in the world of contemporary art. It would be a sensible reaction to Vladimir Umamet’s recent act of vandalism at the Tate Modern where he tagged one of Rothko’s Seagram’s paintings and thus, by his own philosophy, turned it into a painting about nothing but the color yellow. I find myself oddly amused and cheered by his act of Yellowism. I doubt that it’s going to knock anything off the rails in the art world in the short term, but it may help free up some individuals to start making art without trying so hard to consciously make it mean something. And it might get a few people out of the art game altogether. If you can be talked out of it (and you should be, trust me) you shouldn’t be doing anything as nutty as making art to begin with. Art should be like the Zen monastery where they chase you away fifty times and then finally let you in out of pity because they finally realize you just can’t help it.

Thanks to my Brooklyn friend Lauren, who is a bit of a yellowist herself, but is in denial about it (so far this evening anyway), I started reading up on Yellowism. The manifesto is an interesting, monotonous and nihilistic incantation that keeps asserting its authors’ right to reduce all art to nothing more than a symbol for the color yellow. Umamets and Marcin Lodyga—the founders of yellowism—amiably claim their “new context” for art nullifies everything in art so that all art means nothing but the color yellow. In the context of yellowism—in a yellowistic chamber, as they put it—all meanings, all diverse significance, all styles and shapes and mediums, signify nothing but yellow. By tagging the Rothko and then surrendering to police, Umamets was calling attention to his philosophy and also leaving behind a painting that didn’t feature much yellow but was about nothing but yellow. Rothko may have thought otherwise when he was hard at work on his subversive painting, commissioned for the Four Seasons restaurant. He wanted it to be oppressive, part of a suite of paintings that would surround and envelope the restaurant’s patrons with Rothko’s especially unsunny weltschmerzen. I stood in that Rothko room last year at the Tate Modern, when I had a painting in a London pop-up exhibition, and I didn’t stay in that place for long. The whole museum felt like a prison: cold, imperious, and impersonal. Rothko did the paintings, now hanging in that room, right before he killed himself. By putting his mark on the work, Umamets was claiming to make the painting about nothing but the extremely sunny color yellow. (Though there’s nothing sunny or unsunny about yellowism itself. It’s the color of what should have been swirling at the base of Duchamp’s Fountain, for one thing and Umamets claims to be doing to Duchamp what Duchamp did to art: recontextualizing. If Duchamp can say a urinal is art, then Umamets can say any work of art is about nothing but yellow, simply by surrounding it with a new context. That’s the logic, and it’s cleverly seductive, a bit of a chess move, which is also Duchampian.)

Here’s the thing, as Alec Baldwin says way too often now. These nihilists are basically threatening to get yellow on your ass. The act of vandalism was small potatoes. The philosophy behind it is saying art itself has reached a point of exhaustion, a dead end, where meaning and purpose is so fungible that it doesn’t really exist anymore. Hey, tell me about it, Vlad. The tract about Yellowism is something to enjoy and even skim with a bit of wicked glee–it’s very funny in places and the Russian accent is perfect. As you do, think, along with me, it’s about time.  They’ve pushed postmodernism to a dead end, particularly postmodern criticism. What Yellowism leaves in its wake, if you recognize the absurdity of the kind of critical thought the yellowists are attempting to skewer and also to take to its ultimate extreme, is something only an individual artist can answer through the act of making art. A yellowist says all works of art can be reduced to nothing but metaphors for the color yellow and they can make art works mean yellow by simply placing them in a “yellowistic chamber.” (Of their monomaniacal critical thought.) It’s a quick and dirty deconstruction of art in the most simplistic way. In my view, whatever can be reduced to the color yellow in a work of art, when a yellowist gets done with it, was beside the point to begin with—what actually matters will always resist interpretation as content. The yellowists don’t go so far as to say this, but by taking all ostensible meaning in art and reducing it to the color yellow, they force you to realize that this is where postmodern criticism leads, the arbitrary domination of the critic over the work itself, as well as the tired dominion of the intellect over a mysterious, yet integral act of imagination.

More on this tomorrow.

How Vincent van Gogh Can Help You Teach to the Common Core Standards

Lynne Munson

Henry Matisse in Kindergarten? Leonardo da Vinci in fifth grade? These names don’t often come to mind while thinking about instruction in English Language Arts (ELA). But they should.

In an age when literacy dominates public discourse on education, we must begin to think more broadly about what students read. Sure—the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) emphasize close reading of high-quality, rigorous informational and literary texts, but they also support the “reading” and scrutiny of other forms of high-quality text. Works of art can, indeed should, be “read” in a very similar way to a poem by Shakespeare or a speech by Winston Churchill.

The CCSS present an exciting opportunity for elementary school teachers (who teach all subjects), grades 6-12 ELA teachers, and arts teachers to utilize the arts to teach the literacy skills outlined by the new standards. This should be done in addition to (not instead of) teaching the arts for their own sake. David Coleman, a lead writer of the CCSS in ELA has argued:

“There is no such thing as doing the nuts and bolts of reading in Kindergarten through 5th grade without coherently developing knowledge in science, and history, and the arts…it is the deep foundation in rich knowledge and vocabulary depth that allows you to access more complex text.”

Because it is not always obvious how to use a painting, film, play, or dance to meet the speaking, listening, and writing standards, Common Core has illustrated this in our Common Core Curriculum Maps in ELA.  Below are examples of how a teacher might design two arts-centered ELA activities using works by Louis Comfort Tiffany, Vincent van Gogh, George Seurat, and an unknown Chinese artist. These activities are written for second graders:

“Mulberry Tree” by Vincet van Gogh

Art, Speaking and Listening

Artists often convey a sense of season in their depictions of flowers or trees. Ask students to study the Tiffany image, van Gogh’s Mulberry Tree, and the work titled Snow-Laden Plum Branches. Note that these works were created on three different continents at around the same time period. Ask students to discuss similarities and differences in these artists’ techniques for depicting the seasons. (SL.2.2)

Art, Informative Writing

Select a work to study—for instance, you might choose the Georges Seurat for a clear depiction of a season. Ask the students to name the season that the artist has painted. Then have students write a two-or-three-sentence explanation identifying elements in the work that led them to their observation. (W.2.2)

The first activity engages students in close “reading” of three art pieces. Their settings and compositions convey a distinct message about a season. By engaging students in a discussion about their similarities and differences, students are practicing the skill outlined in the second speaking and listening standard (pg. 23) for second grade in the CCSS (SL.2.2): “Recount or describe key ideas or details for a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media.”

“Une Baignade, Asnieres” by Georges Seurat

In a similar fashion, the second activity enables students to practice the skill described in standard W.2.2 (pg. 19):

“Write informative/explanatory texts in which they introduce a topic, use facts and definitions to develop points, and provide a concluding statement or section,” by considering a painting by Seurat.

Just imagine how wonderful it would be to hear a second grader liken a summer outing in the park to Seurat’s Une Baignade, Asnieres. While both activities address specific standards, they also build two other critically vital elements: students’ vocabulary and knowledge of important works of art. These assets contribute directly to students’ growth towards becoming skilled readers, writers, speakers, and thinkers.

These second grade activities are just two examples of the 179 arts activities included in Common Core’s ELA Maps that connect directly to the CCSS’ ELA standards. In fact, each of the 76 units that comprise our K-12 curriculum maps contain guidance for utilizing works of art, music, or film to teach to the new standards.

As students progress through the middle and high school grades, these arts activities demand increasingly complex analysis, thereby keeping pace with the standards while continuing to expand students’ knowledge of art history, and enriching their vocabulary. In an 8th grade unit titled “Urban Settings in America: It Happened in the City,” an arts activity engages students in the study of various depictions of New York City:

Art, Speaking and Listening

“Nighthawks” by Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks and Piet Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie, which both depict New York City, were painted in the same year. Notice the dramatic difference in these artists’ styles. The difference goes beyond realism versus abstraction. Discuss the painters’ color palettes, the distance at which they placed the viewer, and the type of space in the work. Dwell on the extent to which each artist was focused on the people versus the place. Were they depicting the same time of day? (SL.8.1, SL.8.2, SL.8.4, SL.8.5)

The activity addresses four of the six speaking and learning standards in eighth grade, by having students compare the works’ composition, style, and subject. One of the standards addressed, SL.8.2 (pg.49), enables students to “analyze the purpose of information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and evaluate the motives (e.g. social, commercial, political) behind its presentation.”

Common Core’s ELA Maps demonstrate that the CCSS are an ideal vehicle for providing students with ample opportunities to “read” art. Gearing up and tuning students’ skills of visual observation will help to develop them into insightful and analytical readers, dexterous writers, and adept speakers, while also turning them into avid art lovers.

Black bean burger colloquy

Natalie Frank, Portrait of S at Fredericks & Freiser

I got home yesterday from a busy four days in New York City. I rode my R1150R down and back, and took it over the upper level of the George Washington into the city almost every day I was there. Though it was very hot most of the time, for the most part, it was bliss, not only the ride down through the Catskills but also the feeling of being able to weave and carve an original path along any Manhattan street clogged with cars. There is no such thing as a parking problem for a motorcycle in New York City. You just back the bike between two parking spaces, or at the front of a row of them, and you’re good to go. (I did bolt a lock to the brake disk.) I learned a lot on this trip, not only about riding a thousand miles on two wheels in four days, but also about a couple artists I thought I already knew fairly well and a slew of others I didn’t know at all. I also learned some basic rules about hanging a good show from Chrissie Iles, a young curator from the Whitney Museum of American Art with a British accent I loved, who showed up on Sunday—just back from Spain—to direct us in our attempt to properly exhibit the summer show she’d jured for us at Viridian Artists.

More on that show in another post, but the most fun I had on my visit was a day I spent with John Lloyd, a Brooklyn artist who joined me for a tour through various Chelsea galleries. Our conversation about art is something I want to share, mostly because it’s what I enjoy most about visiting the city. All the talk. The conversations about art and life. He’s fun to be with, because his knowledge ranges over a number of disciplines, and he touched on only a couple. John and I were comparing work histories and we followed similar paths, in terms of our art. In college, we both came to the conclusion that we needed to do something other than make art to pay bills, and I didn’t want to teach. Mostly, I wanted to paint without anyone else meddling with my head. I wanted to do what came naturally to me, not mold myself into a “career” based on what work was being done successfully at the time. John said, “I never did the bohemian thing the way our friend Lauren is doing it. I wanted an income so I learned computers and went to work at the stock exchange.” That’s more or less what I did as well: I worked two years as a staff associate for the United Way, as a way of making rent money, and then went back to grad school for an English degree, but again decided I didn’t want to teach in departments where people had to name-check Derrida while doing some savage deconstruction of Little Women or The Great Gatsby. So I got a second master’s in communications and became a reporter. I kept painting, and now it’s finally becoming more central to who I am. I do not miss the bohemian stage of being poor and struggling at all. When I’ve stayed with younger friends in Brooklyn, sleeping on an air mattress, it isn’t for the romance of faux poverty: it’s a free way to stage my visits into Manhattan, that’s all. I’m not trying to live out my twenties again in some way I missed in the past. If I had friends in a $3 million house in Brooklyn who would offer me a room for $100 a month I’d send a check for rent immediately. All Brooklyn signifies to me is proximity to Manhattan and the exhibits and people I’d like to meet–and if that means sleeping on the floor with mice running around, that’s fine because I’m not picky about comfort. It isn’t about getting off the straight and narrow path.  It’s about finding an affordable way to have access to Oz on a regular basis.

John and his wife, Jane Talcott, like me, have refocused their efforts on painting during periods of unemployment in the recent past and have kept it up with wonderful results in the quality of the work. Income is another matter for all of us. So I feel as if I have a lot in common with both of them. John and I had our best exchange after our little Chelsea tour was done, during a quick dinner of black bean burgers at New York Burger on 10th Ave., before we made our way to Brooklyn for a cocktail party at the home of a curator from The Queens Museum of Art. We’d been through many galleries that afternoon, during only a couple hours, and we’d seen one place that had marked down every piece in the gallery for a summer sale, and these were by name artists: Ruscha, Rockburne, Hockney, Kelly. As we headed back onto the street, John startled me by saying, “I gave a class once on geometry and painting, and Dorothea Rockburne showed up to listen. Afterward she was saying everybody has a different sense of space. Pollock has his sense of space. Another artist has another. Somebody like Morandi, his is something like a candy wrapper. Just a little shifting of movement is interesting, where someone else might want to see enormous vistas. . . Cezanne would shift the sense of space by moving an apple.”

Dave: We saw two shows today that used black Kongs as an element in the installation. The dog chew toy? Did you notice that? Two different galleries, two different artists.

John: That’s pretty hilarious . . .

D: Bizarre. I remember that toy, we had a Westie for years and he had a little red Kong.

J: I used to keep a coincidence journal.

D: If you start looking for them, they happen all the time. I gave up thinking it means something a while back. Unless there’s a Kong art movement going on. Our friend Lauren is always reading Jerry Saltz and she was saying last night that he’s been calling everything Post-Art now. It’s an old concept, though. Arthur Danto talked about how the history of art ended in the Sixties.

J: You ever read The Painted Word?

D: Yes. I like that book. It’s a little limited. I like Abstract Expressionism. It doesn’t matter that they needed Greenberg to prop up the work.

J: You know the poet Robert Bly? He said the ABEX appeared on the scene after there had been a solid century of really serious art being done in this country . . .

D: Yeah, they took away the American momentum. . . we had our own American art until they took European art and imported it.

J: Right. Until Pollock and the rest showed up and became the superstars, you had all these people who struggled and made slow progress.

D: The Ash Can School. Bellows. Burchfield.

J: Burchfield, yeah. They made slow progress and it fed into this bank of energy that all these artists had been pouring into their work and basically Pollock and the abstract painters it’s as if they were spending out of this full bank account of energy. They basically robbed it and didn’t put anything back in. When they first appeared they were as awesome as the Hudson River painters. It seemed to make sense and yet there was nowhere for the next group to go except Pop Art and all the rest. . .

D: It was a reaction to Abstract Expressionism and that’s where it ended because it allowed anything to be art. Pop Art made anything legitimate. Anything could be a work of art. There was nowhere else to go.

J: There were people like Thiebaud who could be a Pop Art person but he’s had a long, extended career.

D: I just did a post recently about Fritz Scholder that my friend Donna Rose sent me. He said that Thiebaud never considered himself a Pop Artist. He was infatuated with Monet and he loved a painting Monet had done of food on a table. I don’t think of Thiebaud as a Pop artist at all. What he’s done is what painters need to do now: make it your own. There’s nothing to advance anymore. Be who you are.

J: Thiebaud knew it was about paint.

D: Yep. Thiebaud said he wanted to feel as if he were putting icing on a cake when he was applying paint to a canvas.

J: I think he said he makes twenty bad paintings for one good one. Yet he goes for that effect that looks spontaneous . . .

D: I’ve always wondered if Matisse did that.

J: Did you see that movie of him? He’d paint and then wipe it out. He had this rag soaked in linseed oil. He’d do a painting, like, thirty or forty times and finally he’s got one he likes.

D: I’ve been reading Vasari. I got into it because it’s seen that he’d adopted the concept of sprezzatura, which is the appearance of effortlessness, despite all this work behind it. It’s Matisse, Fairfield Porter, Manet—

J: That’s a great idea.

D: I want to pursue that. It’s a superficial, cosmetic quality almost, the way he describes it, but I think it ought to be a much deeper principle of art. You do what feels most natural. That’s what you need to get to, instead of coming up with a justification for doing what you do. It’s Taoist.

J: You probably read Robert Hughes. The Shock of the New. He’s hilarious. He was an Australian who rode a motorcycle and showed up on SoHo in the 70s. He’s turned into a cranky old fuck.

D: Because he hates everything that’s being done?

J: Sort of.

D: I feel a little of that.

J: Me too.

D: I don’t think it all sucks. I saw stuff today I liked.

J: I liked that thing Sam Messer did. He is a smart fucker.

D: Do you know him?

J: No, he’s my age, and I’ve been seeing his shows since the 80s and I always say, damn I wish I’d done that. He always gets better and better. There’s something prickly about him. He doesn’t really let you enjoy yourself too much.

D: That is what’s so wrong with so much art. It’s what Dave Hickey called out. Art has to seduce you first. You can have all the nasty meaning you want built into it, but you need to want to look at it. Some of the stuff in that show I enjoyed looking at. It wasn’t beautiful, but I enjoyed it.

J: It looks like a lot of self-indulgent art school stuff you see. It’s funny. What he did looked like a couple other shows, like the woman with the bedroom scenes at Freight + Volume, but he did it better. That sort of twisted Christmas scene painting with the toys and jet airplane, that would have been any show in the east Village in the 80s.

D: You’ve been a New Yorker for decades. You’ve been here.

J: Yeah.

D: I’ve been coming down here for just as many years, but for a long time I was always looking for what I already knew in the museums and galleries.

J: I went to art school in Boston and that’s where I saw Messer. I usually don’t remember artists. But he just, there was something to what he was doing that kind of, that spoke to what I was trying to figure out at the time. I personally wouldn’t go the route he did. I’m more connected to that French outlook on art: it’s sexy, it’s delicious, it’s pleasure. He’s much more a Gerrman expressionist.

D: With a sense of humor, apparently.

J: It’s interesting to see someone so successful at a young age. He isn’t a name brand like the other guys.

D: From the 80s?

J: Yeah, a Haring or those other guys. David Salle. They went to art school in the 70s and made it by the time they hit thirty.

D: I have conversations with A.P. Gorney in Buffalo. He laments art school, the professionalization of art.

J: It’s a challenge. If you went to grad school now. If you went to one of these schools in New York City. Pratt. School of Visual Arts, there will be all these galleries snooping around seeing if they can turn you into the next star. There was nothing like that going on when I was in school. I had to figure out how to make a living. What were you like in your twenties?

D: I’ve been painting since my teens, and I avoided art school. I didn’t want to be molded. I did what you’ve done out of school. I went to grad school for English. Made money as a writer, still make money as a writer. In my twenties, I didn’t want to be the bohemian. I never would have occurred to me to go to Brooklyn.

J: It’s a very homey place.

D: I agree, it’s a great place.

J: We didn’t have social media back then either. In my twenties, I was trying to figure out how to make a living. I had a little taste of art school and thought how can I pay the bills. I got computer training for six months and I walked into the stock exchange and from four to midnight I ran these machines and it paid for anything I wanted to study. I missed being in my twenties and being bohemian.

D: I’m not sure we missed too much.

Happy Birthday, M.C. Escher!

Found at HuffPostArts: Happy Birthday, M.C. Escher! (PHOTOS).

Posted: 06/17/2012 10:14 am Updated: 06/17/2012 10:34 am

Today we would like to wish a very happy birthday to the master of paradox himself, M.C. Escher. The Dutch artist behind never-ending staircases and gravity-defying landscapes would turn 114 years old if he were magically still alive this June 17th.

 

Looking Glass, by MC Escher Photo: Image from M.C. Escher by Taschen Books.

Maurits Cornelis Escher was born in Leeuwarden in the northern part of the Netherlands in 1898, and spent most of childhood in perpetual uncomfort due to a reoccurring skin rash. His grades in primary school were lackluster, yet he found solace in drawing and carpentry. After surviving secondary school, he went on to study architecture and decorative arts, and decided to travel throughout Europe before settling down.

 

It was during this period that he became enchanted with the intricate architectural legacy of the Moors and with the Italian countryside; this was a time when he fell in love with his future-wife. The two of them settled in Rome in the 1930s, unfortunately just in time to experience the early development of Italian fascism. So he, his wife, and their sons moved first to Switzerland, then to Belgium, and finally back to the Netherlands, the cold and wet location where most of his greatest works were produced.

 

Relativity, by MC Escher

Relativity, by MC Escher

Photo: Image from M.C. Escher by Taschen Books.
Escher was not a formal mathematician by any means (he only had a high school education in the subject), but he was fascinated by the visual identity of mathematical concepts. Working mostly in lithographs and woodcuts, Escher explored the relationships between shape and space, interlocking figures in multi-dimensional planes and eternally spiraling spaces. He developed a serious obsession with impossible objects like the Necker Cube and the Penrose Triangle, as well as with ordered arrangements and absolute symmetry. In “Relativity,” one of Escher’s most famous works, several identical, egg-headed characters are depicted roaming up and down endless staircases that seem to defy the laws of gravity.

 

His love for math was also a major inspiration behind his master tessellations, two-dimensional designs that showed repeated, geometric shapes with no gaps or spaces in between. He often incorporated aspects of nature into these tessellations, using birds, fish and lizards to create perfectly-balanced compositions.

 

geckos by MC Escher Photo: Image from M.C. Escher by Taschen Books.

Throughout his career, Escher created an outstanding amount of work while lecturing and furthering his understanding of mathematical concepts like topology and the Mobius Strip. In his later life, Escher moved to a retirement home for artists in the Netherlands, where he died in 1972 at the age of 73.

 

The legacy of M.C. Escher’s “impossible” designs certainly lives on, as he remains a constant influence for members of the math and science community, as well as graphic designers and artists today — not to mention LEGO enthusiasts. We have a particular soft spot for this Star Wars themed LEGO set that let’s us imagine light saber fights in Escher’s iconic “House of Stairs.”

[slidepress gallery=”escher”]