Should you have the misfortune of finding yourself under atomic attack, please, ne paniquez pas!
In 1713, Italian physician Bernardinus Ramazzini described in his De Morbis Artificum Diatriba a mysterious set of symptoms he was noticing among artists:
“Of the many painters I have known, almost all I found unhealthy … If we search for the cause of the cachectic and colorless appearance of the painters, as well as the melancholy feelings that they are so often victims of, we should look no further than the harmful nature of the pigments…”
He was one of the first to make the connection between paint and artists’ health, but it would take centuries for painters to switch to less-harmful materials, even as medicine gradually clued into the bodily havoc “saturnism” could wreak.
Read more. [Image: Wikimedia Commons]
When the Oxford Dictionary declared “selfie” the 2013 word of the year, it inadvertently kicked off a familiar argument about the relationship between women—or more precisely girls—and culture.
On Slate, Rachel Simmons took the standard third-wave-feminism, girl-culture-is-good line. She argues that selfies are an example of young women promoting themselves and taking control of their own self-presentation: Think of each one, she says, as “a tiny pulse of girl pride—a shout-out to the self.” In response, Erin Gloria Ryan on Jezebel opted for an old-school, second-wave-feminism, culture-is-oppressive argument. Selfies teach girls to obsess over their appearance and judge themselves on the basis of beauty rather than accomplishments, she says: “They’re a reflection of the warped way we teach girls to see themselves as decorative.”
Both perspectives have their strengths and their drawback. What’s interesting, though, is that, beneath Simmons and Ryan’s disagreements lies a broader consensus: that all selfies share an essential selfie-ness. Ryan, for example, acknowledges that a selfie of the first female Marines to finish infantry training (and one who was injured before she could complete the course) is awesome and empowering. But then she brushes it away as irrelevant and not a “typical” selfie. Simmons, meanwhile, says she worries about girls who spend hours editing out the blemishes in their selfies, but concludes by insisting that “The selfie flaunts the restrictions of ‘good girl’ culture.” The selfie may be good or it may be bad, but Simmons and Ryan agree that its essence is all one thing or all the other. Aberrations are to be explained away.
But is there really an essential selfie-ness?
Read more. [Image: AP/Mal Fairclough and Kevin Wolf]
The boy sits cross-legged on the floor, pajama-fresh and waist-deep in torn wrapping paper. Above his head, on the tree, a weak galaxy of Christmas lights; to his right, the ruddy, old-timey radiations of a blazing hearth. But his face is otherwise illumined: out of the flat object he holds in his hands there rises a weird, disinterred glow, as if from some vault of alien bones. He gazes into it. It gazes into him. His lower lip hangs, blue-cold and glossy; his eyes have the luster of enchantment. Watching from the doorway—because there are always watchers in the picture, proxies for the artist—are his parents. Mom looks gratified; Dad looks worried. Title of painting: The iPad He’s Been Asking For.
What would Norman Rockwell be painting now, if he were with us and in his sad-eyed, penetrative prime? Gay weddings and hockey fights; piquant scenes at the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-through window; the signing into law of the Affordable Care Act, with particular attention to the round-faced child at the president’s elbow. Rockwell was as American as the Grateful Dead. He painted America, nothing but, and the fascination of his story—newly told by Deborah Solomon in American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell—lies in the genius by which this rather strange, marginal-feeling man contrived to represent the inner life of a mass audience. So complete was the transference, indeed, that the name Norman Rockwell remains to this day synonymous with the vanished health of the republic: youthful vim, family values, “a simpler time”—the kinds of thing that make Glenn Beck burst into tears.
The secret, clearly, is that Rockwell’s productions, his tableaux of American innocence, are not simple at all. If they were, we would have forgotten them by now.
Read more. [Image: Kevin Christy]
"Last week, a judge ruled against an injunction that would have kept developers from moving forward with the plan to replace 5Pointz with luxury apartment highrises. Sure enough, the developers made a quick and deadly move early this morning.”
Earlier this month, a spectacular cache of more than 1,400 artworks surfaced in Germany—works that had been unknown to the public or presumed to be lost. And as details have emerged, one elderly American has been on the phone to his lawyer every day.
For the past five years, 88-year-old David Toren and his 92-year-old brother—both Holocaust survivors—have been trying to track down a beautiful painting that their great-uncle, the collector David Friedmann, lost due to Nazi persecution: “Two riders on the beach,” by the German Impressionist Max Liebermann. Their lawyer spotted the long-lost painting on TV when it was presented to the public as one of the pieces discovered in an apartment in Munich. But whether the brothers will ever get it back is far from clear.
Between 1933 and 1945, the tightening grip of the Third Reich facilitated one of history’s biggest art thefts. Initially, Jewish dealers were effectively forced to sell their precious collections at bargain prices before fleeing abroad. Later, Jewish-owned collections—such as those of David Friedmann, who died of natural causes in 1942—were systematically confiscated. Other pieces were looted after their owners were deported to concentration camps. Paintings that were deemed modern or subversive were snatched from museums and exhibited as “degenerate” art.
Read more. [Image: Reuters/Michael Dalder]
The critic David E. Nye has theorized that there might be an American technological sublime. That is, sometime during the Industrial Revolution, he writes, Americans substituted the seemingly divine awe they felt when looking at nature for the awe they experience gazing at machines. Trains, light bulbs, the a-bomb: The magnitude, the enormity of these, demand a reverence from us.
So, on this brisk, late autumn Thursday, I ask you: Is it possible that a single webpage, and its near miraculous URL, might evoke such a feeling in you?
The answer is yes. Here is the URL of that webpage: ButtGenerator.com.
The death of Lou Reed has been felt most sharply across popular music, but his absence resonates in the art world, which he inhabited as an accomplished photographer and as an earlier product and documentarian of Andy Warhol.
This week an aspiring boundary-breaker in the mold of Reed, Lady Gaga, released her latest album, with the intention of doing what she terms a reversal of Warhol: “Instead of putting pop onto the canvas, we wanted to put art onto the soup can.” (Of course many, Warhol included, have already pulled that move). To achieve this somewhat muddled goal, Gaga has famously cozied up to established artists such as flavor-of-the-past-few-years Marina Abramović, and the creator of the Artpop cover imagery, Jeff Koons.
Read more. [Image: Reuters/Carlo Allegri and Brendan McDermid]
With countless walls to choose from, it’s little surprise that artists like Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, Thomas Hart Benton, Maxfield Parish, Keith Haring, and Sol LeWitt—and now, working on a different scale, Banksy—have made New York City their canvas. But many of the massive artworks that adorn office buildings, schools, hospitals, bars, and restaurants often go unseen to the many eyes that pass by them every day. Unless shown exactly where to look, a New Yorker can miss the masterworks in front of him or her.
I, for example, never realized that Orozco painted a suite of politically sensitive historical tableau on labor, science, politics and culture at The New School on 12th Street, so close to where I live. But then I saw the paintings in the new book Murals of New York City: The Best of New York’s Public Paintings From Bemelmans to Parrish by Glenn Palmer-Smith with photographs by Joshua McHugh. The tome offers a collection of fascinating, striking images—and should make city-dwellers look on their surroundings anew .
Brian, 16, is instant-messaging. He’s chatting with a girl he’s never met in person—a girl who, by the looks of her avatar, seems both his age and more beautiful than any girl who’s ever deigned to talk to him. And she just asked to take the chat private.
Sitting at his laptop, in his room, Brian pauses for a moment; his mouth hangs between a smile and an inhaled breath. He gets up, hurries to the door, makes sure his parents aren’t on the other side. He locks it. He hustles around his room again, around his bed and back to his computer—I can see the disbelief, awe, anxiety on his face—and sits back down at the computer. They’re in a private chat room now, this girl and him.
He faces the laptop. On his screen, words appear from the girl: “What’s going on?”
The words appear on a tower as tall as a house behind Brian’s head. Hazy music wafts around him, music over which the girl—her name’s Rebecca—sings: “What’s going on?” The music swirls again.
Thousands of us are watching him, watching him respond, seeing what he’ll do next.
Read more. [Image: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera]