Category Archives: Art

“They rejected brushes and pencils in favor of drafting tools and photography”

The Art Institute of Chicago is currently hosting an exhibition titled “Avant-Garde Art in Everyday Life” which follows six artists working in Eastern Europe primarily from the 1920’s and 1930’s in the world of design. As the exhibition overview tells, these artists “rejected brushes and pencils in favor of drafting tools and photography,” choosing not to create fine art, but to bring their work to the people through posters, books, magazines, and even office supplies and stationary. The six artists are similar and at times their work overlaps in space, style and intent, but I found the second half of the exhibit – that focusing on the work of Latvian Gustav Klutsis, Russian El Lissitzky and German John Heartfield – to be the more interesting. Continue reading

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The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life

Not without controversy, the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year was awarded to The Tree of Life, the fifth film in nearly forty years by American director Terrence Malick. As the title suggests, The Tree of Life attempts to relate our cosmic origins, the mundane and sometimes tragic occurrences of our lives, and aspects of our emotional and spiritual selves like love, redemption, and forgiveness. Without too much spoiler, the anniversary of a tragedy necessitates a phone call between father and son. Most of the film is spent on a journey through the son’s memories and thoughts on existential questions that are ultimately raised when one recalls an event of this enormity, as if the viewer were privy to the flashbacks and mental images behind the closed eyelids of a person deep in recollection. As such, The Tree of Life is impressionistic and not strictly temporally ordered, which may alienate filmgoers – it continues to polarize critics after Cannes.

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Is it Due to a Deep Interest in the Afterlife?

I had a conversation with a friend recently that included the above question. When pulled from its context, it makes a great title for a blog post, don’t you think?

We were chatting about a work by Édouard Manet (Jesus Mocked by the Soldiers, 1865) and, as the conversation meandered, we spoke of Madrid’s excellent Museo del Prado and so I revealed that I really love a lot of that explicitly religious style of medieval art that characterizes Old World collections like El Prado’s. When she pressed further on what drew me to it, I fell back to an old standby of mine, Hieronymus Bosch and his work The Garden of Earthly Delights. You likely have seen the painting; Bosch is well known for his especially creative and visually exciting depictions of religious scenes, the most popular of which are his depictions of Hell and damnation.

The Garden of Earthly Delights, c. 1450-1516

The Garden of Earthly Delights, c. 1450-1516

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The Debut May Have to Last Me All My Life

The Avalanches - Since I Left You

The Avalanches - Since I Left You

This post continues the anniversary series on albums with some personal significance, but I want to digress before writing about the album. Some time ago, while out with friends for drinks, a discussion sprung up regarding sampling. The debate centered on its artistic validity, and whether the albums of say, Girl Talk, deserved the label “music” or a dismissal as glorified mixtapes. I supported the former, and in my argument, used an analogy with the visual arts inspired by my best friend.

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A Hypnotic Shade of Blue

Chagall Windows

I alighted from the 6 bus yesterday, the first snowy day of the year, to start a last round of profligate spending that began during Thanksgiving with the goal of leaving my walls and wardrobe less bare. The stores lay on a convenient south-north route along State and Michigan, and I got off at Jackson. With the Art Institute directly in my line of sight, I decided to delay my brief foray into Christmas consumerism and take advantage of the university’s Arts Pass to see the Chagall windows.

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Avant-Pop: A Primer on Ghostly International

Ghostly International Logo

I have never before pledged loyalty to a particular record label. (Hyperdub, you were close, but ended up being a little inconsistent.) That changed several months ago when I dug deeper into the catalog of Ann Arbor-based electronica label Ghostly International. It’s rather unlikely that you’ve heard of many (if any) of the labels artists (Matthew Dear, School of Seven Bells, Phantogram, Daestro, Gold Panda…), but the group keeps up a high quality and a focused agenda which puts them at the top of the game in their particular niche. The label describes their artists as falling into two categories: SMM, an intentionally undefined acronym which they claim represents “gentle, texture-focused instrumental music;” and avant-pop, a simultaneously pretentious and brilliant term which describes the segment of the label’s work I find most appealing. Continue reading

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Treasures Trapped in a Closet

Imagine your business was forced to mortgage every building it owned, lay off staff, take out numerous loans and appeal to friends for money. Also imagine that your business owned 101 paintings estimated to be worth possibly up to $100 million dollars. Most businesses would fix point number one by cashing in point number two, but if your “business” is Fisk University in Tennessee, that option, unfortunately, isn’t on the table. Continue reading

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