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Sunday, October 16, 2005

Earliest Kinetic Art

Kinetic Art, a form of art, usually sculpture, in which movement plays a primary role. The source of this movement can be mechanical, the natural motion of surrounding air currents, or an interaction with the viewer.

Some of the earliest kinetic art came from constructivism, a movement in the early 20th century started by Russian artists who constructed sculptures out of industrial materials. Monument to the Third International (1920), by Russian artist Vladimir Tatlin, is a landmark of kinetic art. Although it was never built to full scale, Tatlin intended this architectural structure to be about 400 m (about 1300 ft) high, featuring three cylindrical glass chambers, rotating at different speeds around a tilting axis and surrounded by spiral scaffolding.

Also in 1920, fellow Russian constructivist Naum Gabo assembled a motorized sculpture from a metal rod and a doorbell vibrator, called Kinetic art Sculpture: Standing Wave (Tate Gallery, London). Hungarian-born artist László Moholy-Nagy, who was affiliated with the Bauhaus, a progressive school of art and design in Germany, made Light-Space Modulator with moving components of steel, plastic, and wood (1921-1930, Busch-Reisinger Museum of Germanic Culture, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts).

At the same time in a more playful spirit, French artist Marcel Duchamp painted segmented circles on glass plates and set them spinning to create the illusion of uninterrupted rotating rings. This work, Rotary Glass Plate (1920, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut), was the first of his Precision Optics series.

It was followed by Rotary Demisphere (1925, Collection of Mrs. William Sisler, New York City), which simulated three-dimensional spirals, and ten years later by a series of Rotoreliefs, patterned cardboard discs turned by record players. Duchamp meant these to be viewed (and marketed) as perceptual novelties, somewhere between toys and household gadgets.

American sculptor Alexander Calder created equally whimsical sculptures, which were named mobiles by Duchamp. These first kinetic art appeared in the early 1930s and were simple forms, sometimes abstract, sometimes figurative, made of metal or wood and balanced or suspended from metal rods of various lengths. Although a few early mobiles had motors, most of them were set in motion by moving air acting upon the delicately balanced parts.

Kinetic art blossomed again in the late 1950s. With the advent of pop art and its embrace of commercial products and images, machines became frequent subjects of art, often with a note of irony or nostalgia.

American sculptors Richard Stankiewicz and Edward Kienholz both experimented with motorized components—Stankiewicz in his assemblages of industrial junk and Kienholz in his melancholy scenes of contemporary life. American artist Robert Rauschenberg, who played a crucial role in the development of pop art, included motors and moving parts in his collagelike combines of the 1950s, and in 1967 helped organize a groundbreaking series of collaborations between scientists and artists called Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T).

Perhaps no one did more to draw public attention to kinetic art than Swiss sculptor Jean Tinguely, whose noisy, motorized sculptures entitled Meta-matics first appeared in the mid-1950s. Tinguely’s massive, spectacular Homage to New York (1960), which included everything from baby-carriage wheels to old office equipment, was the first of a series of machines designed to destroy themselves.

At the opening exhibit in the sculpture garden of New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, Homage did not operate as planned, although it did destroy itself, causing a fire. Kinetic art sculptors Len Lye, and George Rickey set sleek abstract forms in motion. Other kinetic artists in the early 1960s, including Venezuelan artist Jesus Raphael Soto and Israeli artist Yaacov Agam, used lines and form to create the illusion of movement as the viewer walks past their works, in what is sometimes referred to as op art.

Kinetic art today encompasses a wide variety of work, ranging from wind-powered musical sculpture by American artist Doug Hollis to extravagant motorized assemblages by American artist Rebecca Horn, video art by Korean American artist Nam June Paik, and even artistic experiments in computer-generated virtual reality.

Anne Ahira
Editor The Best Affiliate Newsletter

Friday, October 14, 2005

Today’s Installation Art

Installation Art, a form of visual art in which an exhibition space is transformed into a three-dimensional work of art. The range of materials used in installations is almost limitless, and the art crosses many stylistic categories—it can be abstract or narrative, political or purely theoretical, temporary or permanent. The term installation art came into use in the 1970s, but forerunners of this art form date back to the early 20th century.

In the late 1910s aspects of installation art were appearing in the work of artists who wanted to go beyond the conventional notions of painting and sculpture. Artists of the Russian constructivism, German Bauhaus, and Dutch De Stijl movements believed fine art and crafts should be integrated into architecture and design, and that domestic environments could be improved through a unified artistic approach based on pure geometric form.

Working in a more anarchic spirit, French American artist Marcel Duchamp and German artist Kurt Schwitters created several early examples of works that fill and transform a space. Duchamp set important sculptural precedents for today’s installation art by heaping bags of coal on the floor and nailing them to the ceiling for a work called 1,200 Bags of Coal (1938), and by filling a room with webs of taut string for Mile of String (1942). Both works were exhibited in New York City art galleries, radically altering viewers’ experience of the gallery spaces.

Schwitters’s fabled piece, Merzbau (begun in 1923), was a massive and complex accumulation of cast-off objects and debris assembled in his home in Germany. Other important forerunners of installation art include American sculptors Louise Nevelson and Louise Bourgeois, who began in the 1950s to conceive of their works as environments rather than independent objects.

Nevelson, for instance, created large sculptures made up of shallow boxes filled with various wooden forms; these collections of objects came together to form sculptural walls, their collective power overwhelming the viewer in a way that an individual object cannot.
In the 1960s American pop artists Claes Oldenburg, Edward Kienholz, and George Segal created room-sized, figurative tableaux. Kienholz’s The Beanery (1965), for example, was a replica of a dimly lit tavern, complete with 17 life-size figures, functioning neon signs, and sprayed-on smells of food and cleansers.

American minimal artists Dan Flavin and Fred Sandback experimented with, respectively, fluorescent light tubes and string to make austere, room-altering abstract sculptures. Other artists worked with natural materials. Earth artists Robert Smithson and Walter de Maria, both American, deposited quantities of rock and dirt in once pristine installation art galleries, radically altering their character.

Although the term installation art is now more broadly applied, it came into use in the 1970s to help define artwork made in direct response to an environment. Installation artists shared an interest in making temporary use of evocative spaces for expressive ends. Some collaborative installations brought together dozens of artists.

American artists Judy Chicago, Faith Wilding, and Miriam Schapiro, for example, collaborated with their art students to create Womanhouse (1972, Santa Monica, California). For this project, they renovated a dilapidated mansion, turning it into a temporary shelter for painting, sculpture, performance art, and crafts created by, for, and about women.

Another landmark collaborative work was Rooms P.S. 1 (1976, New York City). Each of the 78 artists involved in this work, including American abstract sculptor Richard Serra and American artist Dennis Oppenheim, adopted and transformed a room in a New York City public school. Other important early figures in installation art include Americans Joseph Kosuth and Lawrence Weiner, who used written language to define art’s philosophical and physical limits.

In the 1980s and 1990s Ann Hamilton, David Hammons, Judy Pfaff, and other American artists utilized a wide range of materials to create lively and complex installations. Pfaff’s Cirque, Cirque (1995), for example, permanently transformed the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. In this installation art more than 14 kilometers (9 miles) of tangled steel and aluminum tubing combine with suspended glass orbs and other colorful materials to produce a visual carnival.

Anne Ahira
Editor The Best Affiliate Newsletter

Minimalist Art

Minimal Art, an art movement that developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s, chiefly in the United States. Minimalist art paintings and sculptures typically consist of geometric shapes or other simple forms, often arranged in a series of modules (standard units). Other names proposed for the movement, including systemic painting, ABC art, and serial art, reflect its aims and impact.

Minimalist art was conceived largely in opposition to abstract expressionism, a movement that dominated the art world of the 1950s. Abstract expressionist painters sought to express emotional experience directly through spontaneous painting methods, such as slashing brushstrokes or dripped paint, that allowed the artist’s subconscious to determine the artistic outcome.

They considered the subconscious to be art’s motivating impulse and highest authority. The proponents of minimalist art, on the other hand, were interested in logical systems and universal physical principles (such as mathematical progressions or gravity) rather than individual sensations and their expression.

Minimalists art favored the hard, straight lines of industrial design over uninhibited brushwork, and they suppressed evidence of hand craftsmanship in favor of commercial production. Above all, they were interested in the sheer physical presence of the artwork, uncomplicated by illusion or metaphor; to emphasize this point they often worked on a very large scale.

American sculptor Donald Judd, who exerted influence through his critical writing as well as through his art, established many of minimalism’s ground rules. Judd’s sculptures consist of simple geometric forms arranged in series, with identical repetition in some series and incremental alterations from one unit to the next in other series.

Much of his work from the early and mid-1960s involves linear series of cubes or rectangles machined from metal and Plexiglass, many of them partly lacquered with automobile body paint. Judd’s sculptures either hung on the wall or sat directly on the floor—the elimination of pedestals was considered critical to minimalist art sculpture because it allowed for a more direct confrontation between viewer and artwork.

American painter Frank Stella made a major contribution to the definition of minimalist art painting with his pinstripe images, the earliest of which date to 1959. These began as chalky white stripes painted on rectangular black fields, but Stella soon introduced notches in the stripes, which were reflected in the contours of the canvas itself.

These shaped canvases, their configuration determined by the logic of the paintings’ compositions, were enormously influential. They affirmed a minimalist art belief that art should be created according to a logic generated within the artwork itself, not in reference to tradition or other outside influences. In one of minimalism’s most quoted epigrams, Stella said of his paintings, “What you see is what you see.”

Other important minimalists art include American sculptors Sol LeWitt, best known for his three-dimensional white grids; Carl Andre, who lays metal tiles directly on the floor; and Dan Flavin, who worked with fluorescent light tubes. American painters Jo Baer and Ellsworth Kelly and sculptors Tony Smith and Robert Morris also produced influential work based on hard-edged geometric shapes.

Minimalism’s characteristic features were not without precedent. Two important predecessors are sculptor David Smith, whose work of the early 1960s was based largely on circles and squares, and Ad Reinhardt, a painter best known for all-black canvases divided into squares, although both are associated by artistic temperament and time period with the abstract expressionists.

The cool, commerce-savvy approach of the Pop artists, near-contemporaries of the minimalists art , was also influential. More distant in time, but closer in visual terms, are the 1918 white-on-white squares of Russian painter Kasimir Malevich and the grid-based paintings of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, first made in the 1920s.

These works are unquestionably minimalist art in their cleanly finished lines and their lack of narrative reference, but they grew out of an entirely different theoretical framework.

Anne Ahira
Editor The Best Affiliate Newsletter

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Early Conceptual Art

Conceptual Art, an art form that developed in the mid-1960s, in which the concept takes precedence over the actual object. As American conceptual artist Sol LeWitt notes in a 1969 article, not all ideas for art need to take physical form.

Le Witt argued that art criticism is no longer necessary because artists can and should write their own analysis of art; these writings are themselves as legitimate an art form as painting or sculpture. Around the same time, another founder of the conceptual movement, Joseph Kosuth, declared that conceptual art is based on an inquiry into the nature of art itself.

Early conceptual art took several forms. LeWitt provided how-to instructions for creating drawings, specifying types of lines by length, curvature, color, and so forth. The instructions constituted the salable artwork; the drawings themselves were only a secondary result of the original creative concept.

In 1965 Kosuth exhibited single objects—a chair, hammer, or saw, for example—alongside a life-size photograph of the object and a dictionary definition of the object printed on a placard. This presentation questioned the relationship between objects, images, and words of conceptual art.

Another investigation of the link between conceptual art and language occurs in the work of American artist Lawrence Weiner. By lettering phrases about material conditions like scale, position, color, and even price, directly on gallery walls, Weiner made art out of language.

For his No. 051 (1969, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City), Weiner had the words “1000 GERMAN MARKS WORTH MEDIUM BULK MATERIAL TRANSFERRED FROM ONE COUNTRY TO ANOTHER” printed on the gallery wall. Weiner instructed that the phrase be presented “alongside the material referred to.” Weiner’s instructions are purposely open-ended, so that in one installation it might include a pile of fabric with a value of 1000 German marks, and in another, a pile of bricks with this value.

Then again, in Weiner’s conception, the piece need not be built at all; the words could simply be spoken and the piece imagined. Hanne Darboven, a German conceptualist, has been working with numerical and chronological progressions since 1965, creating serial installations that examine the nature of time. In her Kulturgeschichte 1880-1983 (1996, Dia Center for the Conceptual Arts, New York City) 1,589 panels of uniform size and format trace more than a century of history, using texts, numbers, photographs, and postcards.

In practice, many conceptual art works were reduced to the documentation of an event or activity through written instructions, photographs, or video footage. Additionally, some conceptual artists executed or gave directions for performance art. A 1970 work by Japanese American performance artist Yoko Ono consisted of the simple written instruction: “Draw an imaginary map and follow it down an actual street.” This piece demonstrates the difficulty of connecting an abstract idea (the imagined place) and a visual representation of it (the map) to the real world (the actual street).

Conceptual art has important precedents in the early 20th century. French American artist Marcel Duchamp exhibited an upside down but otherwise unaltered Bicycle Wheel in 1913, asserting that it and other everyday objects are sculpture if an artist declares them to be so. Duchamp soon followed the bicycle wheel with a bottle rack, snow shovel, and most famously, a urinal.

The attitude of Duchamp and other members of the dada movement who shared his revolutionary views about art reemerged in the early 1960s through an international group of artists calling themselves Fluxus. Working under the spiritual guidance of American composer John Cage, Fluxus artists sought to erode the barriers between conceptual art and life and allow randomness and chance to guide their work.

Another important precedent to conceptual art is minimal art, a movement that developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In minimal art simple geometry often determines the shape of a sculpture or painting, and the mathematical specifications for an artwork can be as important as its execution.

Conceptual artists originally attempted to rid art of all so-called objecthood and thus of its commercial value as well, and their endeavor survived for only a few years in its purest form. But conceptualism’s heirs thrive.

In the 1970s a number of artists, including Americans Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer and German artist Lothar Baumgarten, began using words in their art to explore visual and verbal conventions. The legacy of conceptual art is a belief that thought expressed in words can be art.

Anne Ahira
Editor The Best Affiliate Newsletter

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Landscape Painting Elements

Landscape Painting, the art of depicting natural scenery in painting. In the East, particularly China, it has long played a central role in art, but in the Western world it did not become a separate branch of painting until the 16th century, and was initially considered to be less important than figure painting.

Landscape painting elements appeared in ancient Egyptian and Greek art, but only as a setting for other subjects. The Romans seem to have been the first to employ landscape in painting for its own sake.

They showed a great love of the countryside in their poetry, and in the 1st century ad Roman writer Pliny the Elder told of the “fashion of painting walls with pictures of country houses and porticoes and landscape gardens, groves, woods, hills, fishponds, canals, rivers, coasts.” A few fragments of such landscape paintings have survived from the ancient city of Pompeii, which was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in ad 79.

During most of the Middle Ages, Western art was almost exclusively religious, and landscapes were depicted only occasionally in painting, as an incidental feature. From about the 14th century, however, landscape painting began to assume a more prominent place in art. Religious scenes were increasingly set in the natural and workaday world.

This change reflected a new joy in nature that Saint Francis of Assisi had introduced to Christianity as well as a scientific spirit of observation typical of the Renaissance. Art historians generally agree that the first picture in Western art to depict a scene recognizable as an actual place is The Miraculous Draught of Fishes (1444, Musée d’Art et d’Histoire, Geneva, Switzerland) by the Swiss painter Konrad Witz, which depicts part of Lake Geneva.

German artist Albrecht Altdorfer usually receives credit for landscape painting the earliest surviving examples of pure landscape, without any human figures. One such work by Altdorfer is Landscape with Footbrige (1520?) in the National Gallery in London.

By 1600 landscape painting had become established as an independent branch of art. Initially it was more popular in northern Europe than southern Europe. The word landscape probably entered the English language in the late 16th century, derived from the Dutch word landschap.

The first great flowering of landscape painting occurred in 17th-century Holland; it was an expression of the pride in their country felt by the Dutch, who had recently won independence from Spain. Many scholars regard Jacob van Ruisdael, who painted during the mid-17th century, as the greatest of all Dutch landscape painters, but he had many distinguished contemporaries.

Dutch landscapes painting were usually naturalistic, but in Italy another tradition developed, known as the ideal landscape. In this approach, the elements of nature were arranged into carefully structured, elegant compositions that served as settings for mythological or religious subjects.

The ideal landscape painting was invented by Italian artist Annibale Carracci in the first decade of the 17th century, but its most famous exponents were Claude Lorrain and Nicolas Poussin, French painters who worked in Rome in the mid-17th century. They were inspired by the art of ancient Rome to convey classical principles of order, clarity, and serenity in their paintings. The ideal, or classical, landscape became highly popular among painters, influencing the art of many countries.

The ideal landscape painting continued to flourish in the 19th century, but other approaches also emerged, notably in the work of Romantic painters such as Caspar David Friedrich in Germany and J. M. W. Turner in Britain, who emphasized the awesome and mystical aspects of nature. In the United States, members of the Hudson River School expressed a similar spirit as well as a desire to glorify the natural beauty of their country, especially its spectacular mountain scenery.

At the same time, such painters as Camille Corot in France and John Constable in Britain enriched the landscape painting tradition with a new spirit through their loving observation of ordinary, unidealized scenes. Their work—especially their efforts to depict the fleeting effects of light—influenced the French Impressionists, who helped establish landscape’s great popularity.

In the 20th century landscapes painting have continued to be a favorite subject for artists who work in more or less traditional, representational styles. It has also formed the starting point for some avant-garde developments, including many abstract compositions and surrealist fantasies.

Anne Ahira
Editor The Best Affiliate Newsletter

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Cantata As An Independent Genre

Cantata music, a vocal composition with instrumental accompaniment. The cantata originated in the early 17th century, simultaneously with opera and oratorio. The earliest type of cantata, known as the cantata da camera (Italian for “chamber cantata”), was written for solo voice on a secular text. It contained several sections in contrasting vocal styles, such as recitative and aria. Italian composers who wrote in this form include Giulio Caccini, Claudio Monteverdi, and Jacopo Peri.

During the late 17th century, the cantata da camera developed into a composition for two or three voices, written mainly for religious services and known as the cantata da chiesa (church cantata). Its chief Italian exponents were Giacomo Carissimi and Alessandro Scarlatti.

In Germany, under the leadership of Heinrich Schütz, Georg Philipp Telemann, Dietrich Buxtehude, Johann Sebastian Bach, and other composers, the cantata da chiesa developed into a far more elaborate form than its Italian model.

After the middle of the 18th century, the importance of the cantata music as an independent genre declined. The term has since been applied to a wide variety of choral compositions with instrumental accompaniment, containing choruses, solos, arias, recitatives, and instrumental interludes, and resembling the oratorio if their text is sacred or resembling opera if their text is secular.

In its sacred form, the cantata music differs from an oratorio by being considerably shorter and less elaborate in both its vocal writing and its accompaniment. A secular cantata differs from opera in its lack of scenery, costumes, or staged action.

Composers of cantatas music in the 19th and 20th centuries include Felix Mendelssohn, Franz Liszt, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Hector Berlioz, Edward Elgar, Claude Debussy, Aaron Copland, Béla Bartók, Igor Stravinsky, and Sergey Prokofiev.

Anne Ahira
Editor The Best Affiliate Newsletter

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Iconoclastic Movement

Icon art, a painted image of a religious figure or event, especially a painted panel that is characteristic of the Eastern Christian church. The term icon art is derived from the Greek eikenai, ”to resemble,” and refers to an image believed to be sacred in itself that can aid in contacting the represented figure.

During the early Christian period, after the 4th century, the term icon art was applied to all religious art, including mosaics, reliefs, and paintings. Few early painted icons survive, but a small group of 6th- and 7th-century encaustic (wax) paintings on wooden panels, from the Monastery of Saint Catherine on Mount Sinai, show realistic, lifelike faces animated by large eyes and intense expressions.

For prvate devotions, small icons were made, frequently in the form of miniature mosaics such as Saint John Chrysostom (early 14th century) in the Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine Collection, Washington, D.C.

The iconoclastic movement starting in the 8th century, which condemned icons art as idolatry, led to the destruction of much religious art throughout the Byzantine Christian world, and it was not until the next century that icons were restored to their former position of honor in religious observance.

Painted icons art of Christ, the Virgin, and various saints—often grouped into an iconostasis, or large screen—became the primary religious images of the Byzantine, Greek Orthodox, and Russian Orthodox churches. To avoid the taint of idolatry, they were created with a formalized, deliberately stylized aspect that emphasized otherworldliness rather than human feeling or sentimentality.

Gold-leaf backgrounds were common, and strongly geometric designs—emphasizing either angularity or long, sinuous curves—were favored. Although painters of icons art usually remained anonymous, two exceptions, Andrey Rublyov and Theophanes the Greek, are known. These artists, active in the late 14th and early 15th centuries in Russia, represent the supreme achievement in icon art painting, and their work combines spiritual grace and technical excellence in a synthesis that was never again equaled.

Anne Ahira
Editor The Best Affiliate Newsletter

Friday, October 07, 2005

Malevich Suprematist Composition

Suprematism, a highly geometric style of 20th-century abstract painting, developed by Russian artist Kasimir Malevich. The term suprematism refers to an art based upon the supremacy of “pure artistic feeling” rather than on the depiction of objects.

In 1913 Malevich executed his first suprematist composition: a pencil drawing of a black square on a white background (Russian State Museum, Saint Petersburg). In 1915 he published a manifesto and for the first time displayed his suprematist compositions at an exhibition in Saint Petersburg (then known as Petrograd).

Malevich’s earliest suprematist works were among his most severe, consisting of basic geometric shapes, such as circles, squares, and rectangles, painted in a limited range of colors. In the following years he gradually introduced more colors as well as triangles and fragments of circles. He also began to restore some illusion of depth to his compositions.

Despite this apparent enrichment of his pictorial language, in 1918 he produced the extraordinary Suprematist Composition: White on White (Museum of Modern Art, New York City), a painting consisting of a tilted white square on a white background. Only the variation in the brush strokes allows the viewer to distinguish the different parts of the picture. Having attained this ultimate point of abstraction, Malevich declared in 1919 that the suprematist experiment had finished.

Any attempt to interpret suprematism inevitably draws upon Malevich's own explanation of the movement. Malevich distinguished his work not only from depictions of external reality, but also from any art that attempted to represent the emotions of its creator.

He intended suprematism, by contrast, to express “the metallic culture of our time,” and he occasionally made direct references to technology in his art. In Suprematist Composition Expressing the Feeling of Wireless Telegraphy (1915), for example, Malevich incorporated a visual expression of the dots and dashes of telegraphy.

In general, Malevich used perfect abstract shapes such as the square as symbols of humanity’s ability to transcend the natural world. Like Dutch painter Piet Mondrian and other geometric abstractionists, Malevich was extremely interested in the mystical movement theosophy and in expressing a spiritual reality beyond the physical through his art.

In this context the black square of his first suprematist work was not empty, as his critics claimed. Instead it was “filled with the spirit of non-objective sensation,” according to the artist, who described the areas of white in his suprematist compositions as “the free white sea” of “infinity.” This liberation from finite earthly existence reached a fitting climax in his white-on-white paintings, where the square finally lost its physical presence and merged with its brilliant white background.

Despite announcing the end of suprematism in 1919, Malevich continued to produce suprematist composition works during the 1920s. However, he gradually returned to figurative art after 1927. His most important followers were Russian artist El Lissitzky and Hungarian artist László Moholy-Nagy, who helped spread his ideas throughout Western Europe and North America.

Anne Ahira
Editor The Best Affiliate Newsletter