There’s no escaping the selfie, they’re everywhere. But have we really stopped to consider them as an art form? Here’s a critique of this new genre, with some famous and infamous examples.
Art at arm’s length: A history of the selfie
In some way, selfies reach back to the Greek theatrical idea of methexis—a group sharing wherein the speaker addresses the audience directly, much like when comic actors look at the TV camera and make a face. Finally, fascinatingly, the genre wasn’t created by artists. Selfies come from all of us; they are a folk art that is already expanding the language and lexicon of photography. Selfies are a photography of modern life—not that academics or curators are paying much attention to them. They will, though: In a hundred years, the mass of selfies will be an incredible record of the fine details of everyday life. Imagine what we could see if we had millions of these from the streets of imperial Rome.
And here’s Jason Bailey from Artnome suggesting we could see Rembrandt as the Paris Hilton of his day…
How Rembrandt and Van Gogh mastered the art of the selfie
Next time someone gives you a hard time for spending 15 minutes fussing with filters on your selfie, remind them that Rembrandt spent a full 10% of his career perfecting selfies.
I’m lucky enough to live relatively close to the wonderful Yorkshire Sculpture Park, but here’s an outdoor sculpture that’s a little further afield; in the middle of the desert in Chile, more than 45 miles from the nearest town.
Hand of the Desert rises from Chile’s Atacama desert
The lunar-esque landscape has been used by NASA for testing martian rovers, while its smooth sandy dunes draw surfers looking for a different kind of wave. By night, the sky is a kaleidoscopic wonder of constellations and attracts many a stargazer.
Driving through the desert can be disorienting, and, at first, weary travelers may mistake its most unusual monument for a mirage. It rears up from the ground as if a giant is drowning in quicksand, reaching an outstretched hand in a desperate last plea for help.
But on closer inspection, visitors will see that the “Mano del Desierto” — “Hand of the Desert” — is, in fact, very real.
It’s not the only one Mario Irarrázabal has created.
The hand may strike a solitary figure in the desert, but actually it’s part of a pair. It’s right counterpart sits in Uruguay. Built a decade earlier, in Punta del Este near the Atlantic Sea, an identical four fingers and thumb stretch for the skies, this time rising from the beach.
That hand seems not to have climbed out as far.
Here’s the Google map of the left hand in Chile, if you want to track it down for yourself.
Hand of the Desert, Antofagasta Region
Some wonderful images here, amongst the winners of this photography competition specialising in garden and botanical photography.
Winners of the 2019 International Garden Photographer of the Year competition
British photographer Jill Welham has been announced as the overall winner of this year’s International Garden Photographer of the Year Competition. The North Yorkshire photographer beat 19,000 entrants from more than 50 countries to scoop the top prize of £7,500 with her photogram print entitled Fireworks, below. The image shows Allium flower heads from her garden.
That is such a strange, liquid image. Natural and unnatural at the same time. Here’s what the judges said of Jill’s work.
Competition 12 results – International Garden Photographer of the Year
Jill’s image has proven that even old techniques are still capable of relevance, originality and immense beauty. Her knowledge and passion for the process has resulted in an extraordinary exposure of the Allium, adding complex textures and colour profiles analogous to the pioneering botanical cyanotype prints by English botanist and photographer Anna Atkins in the first half of the 19th century. The resulting exposure clearly draws from this rich and interesting heritage, but is unmistakably different in its approach and execution, making an image fit for the modern age in both its ability to communicate the beauty and importance of plant life as well as its capacity to represent the empowerment of women in art and science.
It was nice to see these more abstract images, nestling within the HDR landscapes.
Another review of Mark Dery’s biography of the “deadpan Victorian-Surrealist”, Edward Gorey. This one seems more positive than the previous one I found.
Edward Gorey: A highly conjectural man
Hackett would be the first of many people who championed Gorey, who at Parker worked on murals and artist projects for the school paper. It’s with Hackett that we begin to see a defining element of Gorey’s career: the willingness of others to embrace Gorey’s weirdo style.
I’ve never thought of myself as an art snob but, after reading this piece about a Winnie-the-Pooh exhibition at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, perhaps I am?
Exit through the novelty exhibition: Winnie the Pooh, destroyer of art museums
Visitors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Art Institute of Chicago may reasonably expect to enjoy millennia-old fiber arts or Jeff Koons ego trips—a fully encompassing assemblage of artworks, in other words. And in recent years, the encyclopedic mandate of global art institutions has become still more generous, such that it now includes not just art, but the art-adjacent.
Perhaps it all began with the inclusion of high fashion, as typified by the hit Alexander McQueen and Jean Paul Gaultier retrospectives that won over New York City earlier this decade. Next came pop culture, with, for example, the traveling exhibition “David Bowie is,” which garnered some two million visitors globally. And now, with the arrival of “Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic” at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the novelty exhibition trend has cynically bottomed out into outright mania for triviality. […]
The deepening entrenchment of exhibitions like “Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic” in the art world’s consciousness has brought with it a sense of malaise. While Klaus Biesenbach’s infamous 2015 Björk spectacle at the Museum of Modern Art led even Jerry Saltz to warn that MoMA was on “a suicidal slide into becoming a box-office-driven carnival,” this Pooh exhibition has been received with ambivalence.
Jesse Simon continues to pay attention to the details of his built environment.
The colours of Berlin: yellow
The colours of Berlin is a new bi-monthly series that will run throughout 2019. Where other posts on this blog have attempted to describe typographic trends and phenomena in Berlin, the entries in this series will focus on a particular colour by presenting a collection of images without additional text. Every city has its full spectrum on display; this is the one that belongs to Berlin.
It’s hard not to feel down about the ugly state of my city, when I compare it with those examples of considered design. So here’s something quirky to lift my mood.
“Something illegible still has something to say”: Eliott Grunewald on his type designs
“I’ve been more interested in display typefaces, for their expressiveness and ‘voices’; like type as an image more than the design of a text typeface,” he tells It’s Nice That. “So I guess, sometimes, it does result in letterings which are formally too intense or even illegible. But something illegible still has something to say, to show or to promote, I don’t feel that even if you cannot read the word, you cannot get anything from it.”
And, for a full account of what goes into good typeface design, take a look at this.
Why San Francisco
We got our first glimpse of Apple’s new sans-serif typeface, San Francisco, when the Apple Watch was unveiled in September of 2014—a new typeface designed specifically for legibility at small sizes on a tiny, high-resolution screen. Big news for type nerds and Apple fans alike.
It’s very thorough, and I don’t pretend to understand half of it, but it’s nice to see someone paying such close attention to the details.
I can’t decide if these drawings are portraits of cities, or just portraits of maps. The scale of each drawing, and of the project as a whole, is impressive though.
Large-scale drawings of the United Kingdom’s 69 cities by Carl Lavia
Self-taught artist Carl Lavia, who goes by the nickname “Sketch,” has been drawing intricate cities and architecturally-minded illustrations since he was the age of five. Although his early works were imaginative renderings of fictionalized cities, his practice has grown into immensely detailed depictions of large cities from an aerial point of view. Lavia uses ink and archival paper to produce each drawing, which appear like maps from a distance, but have a loose, almost Impressionist style when viewed up close.
Perhaps he could convert these sketches into a Google maps layer, letting you take a stroll through his drawings as you walk round the city in real life, comparing one with the other.
Postcards are such simple things, really – just small rectangular pieces of thin card. No technology required. Perhaps that’s why they don’t seem as popular these days? But thanks to the Postcrossing project, I’ve been sending and receiving more and more — and from all over the world.
The Postcrossing project was created in 2005 by Paulo Magalhães as a side project when he was a student in Portugal. Paulo loves to receive mail and postcards in particular; from friends, family — or from anyone in the world. Finding a postcard in the mailbox always makes his day!
He knew more people shared the same interest, but there was no good way yet to connect everyone. And that’s how he got the initial idea of creating the online platform for this which he called Postcrossing. Its goal: to connect people across the world through postcards, independently of their country, age, gender, race or beliefs.
Here are some more postcard-related links.
Wish you were here? Postcards from the art world
“It’s possible to form a significant collection of extremely good and important works of art without being wealthy,” he says. “Anyone could decide to form a collection very close to mine with most of the same things – and I like that. It’s anti-exclusive.”
A postcard writing Rube Goldberg machine in a suitcase
As the sun regrettably sets on the art of letter writing, the inventive folks at design studio HEYHEYHEY have pieced together a clever contraption that promises to keep the art of travel postcards a thing of the present. Kind of. Melvin the Traveling Mini Machine is an elaborate Rube Goldberg machine that fits in a pair of suitcases that executes the simple task of “writing” and stamping a postcard of your choice, that is, if the absurdly elaborate sequence of steps goes off without a hitch.
Two women leading parallel lives are getting to know each other through data
Giorgia Lupi, who lives in New York, and Stefanie Posavec, who lives in London, are engaged in a long-distance, postcard-based data exchange in order to get to know each other better: “Dear Data.” They’ve only met in person twice, and they’re both interested in data, so they’re sending each other postcard drawings of data about their day-to-day lives.
Four Corners Books announces its next publication
Four Corners Books has just announced the next book in its Irregulars series titled, Leeds Postcards, a celebration of the independent postcard press. For the past four decades, independent postcard press Leeds Postcards has been making oppositional, inspiring images; activism by design. The cards are not of Leeds; the name represents a defiant rejection of the hegemony of London. The images cover a fascinating range of domestic and international politics, causes and campaigns, creating, in their own unique and graphically inventive way a record of the struggles as well as the progressive political triumphs from 1979 to the present day.
I’ve got the art degree, I know all about the male gaze, but here’s something I’m embarrassed to say I’ve not really considered before.
How black women were whitewashed by art
All it takes is a few minutes of searching ‘Queen of Sheba painting’ on Google Images to see a litany of reclining, exoticised white women glancing languorously either at the viewer or King Solomon. There were once some depictions of the Queen of Sheba as dark-skinned, but the Renaissance saw her whitewashing and sexualisation on a grand scale. For Ohajuru it jars with earlier depictions of her, such as that seen at the altarpiece of Klosterneuburg in Austria, which portrays her visiting the king next to an image of the Adoration of the Magi. “She was used as a prefiguration, a foreteller, a prophesiser, that a king would visit the baby Jesus, just as a queen visited Solomon.” By the 18th Century she is no longer a queen meeting a king to have a healthy debate – she is an idolatrous seductress.
Of blackness and ‘beauty’
Unlike his predecessor, Bazille does not capture a black woman as a servant to a naked, white prostitute as Manet does in his famous Olympia painting, but rather as a human being who exists outside of deference to a white woman. Peonies, symbols of riches, honor, and prosperity, surround her. She extends one flower out toward the frame as if a potential patron has approached her station. Like Manet’s black model Laure, she wears a headscarf and white outfit, but this peony-possessing woman’s features are much more defined. One cannot lose the connection of her curved lips from top to bottom, or the shape of her eyebrows. In contrast, Olympia, which many art historians call a modernist update to Titian’s Venus of Urbino (1534), has inspired much study of Victorine Meurent, the naked white model who is staring directly at the spectator, instead of her servant Laure, whose history is sparsely documented. Her last name is not on record. It is another example of how a black model’s humanity is not given the same recognition as that of her white female counterpart.
Rushing to leave for work in the dark, fighting through the traffic coming home in the dark — dawn and dusk can be a little depressing in these winter months. But perhaps I’m looking at it all wrong. Thankfully, artist Chloe Wilson is here to show us the beauty and stillness of these times of day.
This body of work is inspired by the particular quality of light that the sky possesses during the transition from day to night. I find these brief, daily moments interesting because of how they precipitate both perception and introspection. … I collect reference photos from my daily commute and then transcribe these moments into paint.
I love the atmosphere she’s captured here, all very calming. Those telegraph wires remind me of Robert Crumb’s drawings.
R. Crumb’s snapshots: Source material of the legendary comic artist
What his focus on such unsightly minutia in this anthology suggests, is that as outlandish, garish, or other-worldly as Crumb’s cartoons get, their lasting affect comes from always being firmly grounded to the banal referents of our real world.
“People don’t draw it, all this crap, people don’t focus attention on it because it’s ugly, it’s bleak, it’s depressing,” he says, “The stuff is not created to be visually pleasing and you can’t remember exactly what it looks like. But, this is the world we live in; I wanted my work to reflect that, the background reality of urban life.”
Taking a break from their AI coverage, Artnome take us on an interesting journey through Van Gogh’s shifting colour schemes, busting a couple of myths as they go.
New data shows why Van Gogh changed his color palette
We were not convinced by the medical reasoning behind the shift in Van Gogh’s color palette and we could not think of any French Impressionists that painted with colors nearly as bold as Van Gogh, so we decided to take a look at some other possibilities.
Van Gogh was a restless soul and moved around quite a bit. He also spent a lot of time painting outdoors, especially in his later years. As someone who famously struggled with mood swings, we thought location, and more importantly, weather patterns may have impacted his use of color.
To test this, we created composite images averaging every painting Van Gogh created from each of the major locations he worked from and compared them to weather patterns from those regions. We think the results are quite remarkable.
Using data and technology like this is a fascinating way to learn more about works of art and the hidden narratives behind them.
The Chrysler Building, the iconic art deco skyscraper in New York, is up for sale.
For sale: New York City’s second most famous skyscraper
The 77-story stainless steel-clad skyscraper, briefly the world’s tallest building after it was finished in 1930, is 90% owned by the Abu Dhabi Investment Council, a sovereign wealth fund, with developer Tishman Speyer owning the remainder. […]
The 1.26m sq ft building underwent a $100m renovation after Tishman acquired the property in 1997. Tishman later reduced its holding. The sovereign wealth fund paid $800m when it bought its stake in 2008.
$800,000,000 in 2008? Who knows what they’re asking for now. It’s an amazing building, though.
Chrysler Building put up for sale
When the building was completed in 1930, it was the tallest building in the world, a title it held for about a year until the Empire State Building opened less than a mile away in midtown Manhattan. Today it is only the sixth tallest building in the city, and will drop down another notch later this year when a new office tower opens on the city’s west side. But it is still one of the city’s most recognizable buildings. It is famous for its triangle-shaped, vaulted windows worked into the stylized crown, along with its distinctive eagle gargoyles near the top.
Chrysler building, the art deco masterpiece
A look at the famous building currently on sale.
The Guardian have also gathered together some wonderful images showing the development of New York from the turn of the century onwards.
Rising high: the evolving skyline of New York City
Manhattan’s skyline is the most famous in the world. Its horizon has been interrupted by verticals from the first 10-storey office buildings in the late 1800s, and will only continue to rise higher.
Well, the ongoing mystery of Da Vinci‘s Salvator Mundi is going in a direction I hadn’t imagined.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman appears to have ‘lost’ the world’s most expensive painting. The Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece, Salvator Mundi, may hold the key to the Trump-Russia investigation. And, the artwork itself could be evidence of collusion.
Curiously, when I last mentioned this painting here, I compared it to a painting currently in the White House. I never would have thought that Salvator Mundi and Trump would go on to be more directly connected like this.
There can be no certainty when the game is subterfuge, and we need to wait for Mueller’s final report before we reach any conclusions, but if Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi proves to be a key which helps unlock Trump-Russia, “Savior of the World” could prove to be nothing short of prophetic.
It must take a considerable ego to venture down this path.
‘Art bastard’ Robert Cenedella sues New York’s biggest museums
Is the art world fixed? That’s what the artist Robert Cenedella charges in a lawsuit against what he terms a “corporate museum cartel”—the Metropolitan, the Whitney, MoMA, the Guggenheim and the New Museum—for conspiring against artists. […]
Cenedella, who has not been exhibited in any of the museums he is suing, is seeking a jury trial and damages totalling $100m.
Needless to say, the museums disagreed.
This artist sued museums for $100 million for declining to show his work. But a judge Isn’t buying it
A lawyer for the museums, William Cavanaugh of Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler, called Cenedella’s claims “implausible” during oral arguments on Monday, adding that many people experience professional disappointment, but “few of us would try to transition that into an antitrust suit.” He requested that the case be dismissed, arguing that Cenedella had failed to demonstrate antitrust standing, a conspiratorial agreement among the museums, or any adverse effect on competition from the alleged conspiracy.
The judge agreed and the case was dismissed.
An artist sued museums $100 million for rejecting his work
In his 32-page opinion (paywall), which was almost as harsh as a critic’s unfavorable assessment of an artwork, judge John Koeltl explains that he’s dismissing Cenedella’s case because the artist hasn’t shown there’s an actual controversy that can be resolved with a lawsuit. “Although the plaintiff assures the court that his work is of a quality that would be shown in the defendant museums if not for the alleged conspiracy, this subjective boast alone cannot substantiate the plaintiff’s claim that enjoining the alleged conspiracy would lead the defendants to begin purchasing his work,” Koeltl writes.
That artnet.com article concludes with:
Despite the dismissal, Cenedella remains undaunted. Responding to the decision, he told artnet News via email: “This lawsuit was never about me. It has always been about exposing the secrecy and insider dealing of the art world, in which curators, dealers, and donors conspire to profit off of the work of a select few artists, regardless of talent or artistic merit. […] This lawsuit was just the first step. I will not stop my efforts to make the art industry more transparent, fair, and accessible for artists. I believe now more than ever that the art industry in America needs to be regulated.”
Why must people jump to conspiracies when faced with a situation they don’t understand?
Why a new study about finding art-world success doesn’t mean what you think it means (and other insights)
Our columnist examines how art-market research published in the journal ‘Science’ may not be as specific to the art world as we think.
I really like the delicacy of these live-action animations (that’s not the right term) from Catherine Prowse. The frailty of the models and the directness of the movements acting on them work well to illustrate the vulnerability of our inner lives, trying to get through each day.
Asleep on the Train: a puppeteered music video explores the wishful daydreams embedded in a daily commute
The stop motion short film follows a businessman as his daily commute gets wildly off-track, leaving the audience to guess if his adventure was real or only acted out in a wishful dream. A rich blue and orange color scheme is used in the design of both the train and the surrounding landscape, which stylistically connects the protagonist’s commute to the scenery he explores during his nostalgic escape.
Rod puppets in intricate felt sets profess The Need to Be Alone for Alain de Botton
Not long out of Kingston’s Illustration and Animation course, Tom Fisher and Catherine Prowse have directed a charming and impressively detailed short film for The School of Life, made entirely from hand-stitched felt. Featuring a cast of rod puppets shot in a live action format, The Need to Be Alone stars a red-spectacled, introverted protagonist called Alan – a tribute to its writer and narrator Alain de Botton. Throughout the film, Alan navigates a series of potentially awkward social scenarios as Alain professes the importance of having time alone to process these interactions.
These gifs should come with health warnings.
Black and white vortexes swallow bits of data and smoke-like swirls in looping animations by Étienne Jacob
French student Étienne Jacob creates optically-charged black and white GIFs that suck the viewer into their repetitious animations like deep black holes. His works are often celestial in nature, appearing like animated stars or invented planets traversing an unknown orbit.
Click through for more. The tutorials on his blog, whilst being completely above my head, are also fascinating to look at.
This set is more calming, thankfully.
Marker drawings turned into mesmerizing looping gifs by Benjamin Zimmermann
Loving these looping hand-drawn animated gifs by German artist Benjamin Zimmermann. The textures and little imperfections of the Stabilo markers and graphite make these so much more interesting to look than simple computer renders.
Compare and contrast these two recent posts from Web Urbanist. Similar levels of ingenuity and skills, but eliciting very different emotional responses.
Refugee Baggage: Suitcase dioramas show dark scenes from countries fled
The project of a Syrian-born artist and architect and an Iraqi-born author, this installation invites viewers to imagine what refugees leave behind when the pack up the few things they can carry and flee an oppressive regime or war-torn country.
The UNPACKED: Refugee Baggage installation by Mohamad and Ahmed Badr “sculpturally re-creates rooms, homes, buildings and landscapes that have suffered the ravages of war. Each is embedded with the voices and stories of real people — from Afghanistan, Congo, Syria, Iraq and Sudan — who have escaped those same rooms and buildings to build a new life in America.”
Some really important stories being told. Meanwhile, over in Japan, Tanaka Tatsuya is continuing his miniature photography series. It’s been going since 2011.
Miniature Calendar: Micro-city scenes made daily from household objects
It takes just one artist to raise this annual micro-village, putting out a fresh scene daily featuring miniature people going about their everyday lives, navigating repurposed objects designed for different purposes at larger scales.
The new Miniature Calendar by Tastuya Tanaka is the latest in a series of 7, each one featuring 365 snapshots of lives lived small. The figures are often framed by items that are easy to recognize and yet also simple to reimagine in context.
Making of MINIATURE CALENDAR
Today would have been Paul Klee’s 139th birthday. Google have marked the occasion with a Doodle.
Google Doodle celebrates colors of artist Paul Klee
To celebrate Klee’s 139th birthday Tuesday, Google is paying homage to the artist’s sometimes dry and sometimes child-like approach with a Doodle reminiscent of Klee’s Rote Brücke (Red Bridge) — a 1928 painting that uses a pattern of shapes and contrasting yet harmonious hues to represent the rooftops and arches of a European city. The painting reflects Klee’s deep exploration of color theory — the mixing of colors and the visual effects of specific color combination.
Here’s a link to that Red Bridge painting. Yes, the Doodle mimics the shapes well, but it’s so hard to properly replicate the textures.
Paul Klee: 5 things you should know about the renegade German-Swiss painter
His legacy still permeates the art world. “The legacy of Klee is everywhere,” reads a New York Times headline from 1987. “The unemphatic art of Paul Klee has entered the universal language not only of fine art but of advertising, graphic design, high-quality cartooning and communications in general,” the newspaper wrote.
Senecio could be regarded as his most familiar work, but let’s not overlook paintings like this one.
Paul Klee – most important art – Highways and Byways
Klee visited Egypt in 1928, inspired by the North African country to create brightly colored abstract works. Yet, like many of his others, this painting is not quite fully divorced from its real world subject. Narrow blue rectangles at the top of the canvas suggest the sky, while uneven rectangles and trapezoids create paths leading one’s eye from the bottom of the page to the elevated horizon. Broad trapezoids painted pale hues are arranged down the center of the canvas to suggest a main road. Thus Klee manipulates color, shape, and line to create a sense of real-world depth and movement.
It reminds me a little of Monet’s Water Lilies, in that they hit you first in a forceful, abstract way, but then shortly their depth of field opens up to show you a much larger painting.
I’m not sure what colour it’s really supposed to be, though.
Another fine 2018 retrospective, another rabbit hole to fall into.
The 75 best book covers of 2018
But it is December, and therefore I am inclined to ask: which book covers were the best? As I did last year and the year before that, I asked the experts: book designers. This year, I asked 27 designers to share their favorite book covers of the year, with a bit about why—and they came back with a whopping 75 different covers of note.
I especially liked reading about the trouble with designing a book when its author is in jail.
This is what happens when people stop paying attention to the details.
Holland Tunnel’s Christmas decorations are ‘OCD nightmare’
“I look at it and it makes me itch. It gives me anxiety and anger — why wouldn’t they just put [the tree] in front of the A?” fumed Cory Windelspecht, 38, of Tribeca, whose change.org petition notes that between one and three percent of Americans have obsessive compulsive disorder. One guy told me he avoids it completely and takes the Lincoln Tunnel because of the decorations.”
The perfect size and alignment of that first O sets expectations way too high. I can almost see where they were going with the triangular tree against the diagonal of the N, but that second wreath is inexcusable.
The petition Cory set up to sort this out has close to 2,000 signatories now.
Petition: Move the Christmas Tree on the Holland Tunnel from the N to cover the A
The entrance to the Holland Tunnel (One of the busiest enterance ways into America’s most populated and famous city) is a majestic site of architecture and history. A site that should be celebrated. However, every Holiday Season it is decorated with 2 wreaths and a Holiday Tree. But for some reason the tree is over the letter N in the word Holland instead of the letter A where it would fit perfectly. This one small thing triggers anyone with the slightest hint of OCD every time they enter the city. On top of that, it’s just unsightly and ruins the holiday festivities for people to enjoy on such a great piece of architecture.
Cory’s not the only one bothered by this.
Budweister hates the Holland Tunnel’s decorations too
“We stand with @WhosCory. This is what our Newark Brewery will look like until they #MoveThatTree. #TunnelNotTonnel,” the Missouri-based company tweeted Wednesday, along with an image showing a wreath placed on top of the “U” in its Budweiser sign and a triangular tree slapped above the “E.”