Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘art’

11 JANUARY, 2011

An Animated Tribute to the 10 Ruble Banknote

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From Russian animator Irina Neustroeva comes Inflation of Animation — a wonderful stop-motion short film commemorating the 10 ruble banknote. So negligible is the banknote’s value — roughly equivalent to $0.35 — that the denomination was deemed undeserving of paper currency, taken out of circulation and demoted to a replacement coin of the same value, a common shift in many post-communist Eastern European countries that have suffered from inflation-induced devaluation of their native currency.

For more banknote creativity, don’t miss The Art of Money — a roundup of 5 artists’ incredible collages and sculptures made out of paper currency.

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10 JANUARY, 2011

Stickwork: Patrick Dougherty’s Remarkable Tree Sculptures

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Sculptor Patrick Dougherty has an unusual medium: Trees. Yet he isn’t a traditional wood scuplptor, carving shapes into rigid trunks and branches. Rather, he weaves twigs into remarkable fluid shapes that exude the whimsy and lyricism of a Scandinavian fairy tale, blending it with architectural aesthetics and a profound respect for nature.

Stickwork is a magnificent monograph of Dougherty’s best work from the past 25 years, featuring 38 of his most stunning structures captured in lavish photographs, alongside drawings documenting his construction process and fascinating anecdotes about each site’s particularities and challenges.

Close Ties

Brahan Estate, Dingwall, Scottish Highlands, 2006 | Photographer: Fin Macrae

Paradise Gate

Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, MA, 2001 | Photographer: Stephen Petegorsky

Cell Division

Savannah College of Art, Savannah, Georgia, 1998 | Photographer: Wayne Moore

Stand By

Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority, Raleigh, NC, 2000 | Photographer: Jerry Blow

Call of the Wind

Museum of Glass, Tacoma, WA, 2002 | Photographer: Duncan Price

Childood Dreams

Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Arizona, 2007 | Photographer: Adam Rodriguez

Hovering between landscape design, architecture, art and a living manifesto for our connection with the Earth, Dougherty’s is an uncommon talent and rare conceptual vision, captured beautifully and hauntingly in Stickwork.

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10 JANUARY, 2011

Democratizing Art History: 6 smARThistory Primers

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From the Byzantine empire to Rembrandt, or what web video has to do with democratizing art.

Traditionally, the study of art history has belonged to the privileged. Tuition-rich courses, overpriced textbooks, trips to museums (often across vast oceans) — they all cost a pretty penny. Nowadays, the field is gradually being democratized. During the past few years alone, MoMA has made a trove of Abstract Expressionist art available on the iPad; the Getty Museum lets users view art online in 3D with the help of Augmented Reality technology; and we can now take a virtual tour through Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, or gaze at essential Renaissance paintings hanging in the famous Uffizi Galleryin Florence — all for free.

smARThistory is perhaps the most centralized effort to make art history an accessible field. Developed by MoMA Director of Digital Learning Beth Harris and Steven Zucker, Pratt Institute chair of History of Art and Design, the portal now offers 115 videos presenting unscripted conversations between art historians about the history of art. (Find them all on Vimeo right here.) The easiest way to understand the project is to experience it, so we have curated a sampler of six videos, covering iconic art from antiquity to modernity.

THE ROSETTA STONE

Rosetta Stone, c. 196 B.C.E., granite, 114.4 cm x 72.3 x 27.9 cm or 45 x 28.5 x 11 in. (British Museum, London)

The story of [the Rosetta Stone] is historically incredibly important. It allowed us for the first time to be able to read, to be able to understand, to be able to translate hieroglyphics. […] The Rosetta Stone is what helped [linguistic historians] understand that Egyptian hieroglyphics are not pictorial, they’re not pictograms but actually phonetics — so all those things that look like pictures actually represent sounds.”

ICON OF THE TRIUMPH OF ORTHODOXY

Byzantine, Icon of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, c. 1400-1450, tempera and gold on wood, 39 cm x 31 cm (British Museum, London)

The gold is the spiritual, it’s the heaven, it’s what you’re not supposed to represent.”

APOLOLLO & DAPHNE

Bernini, Apollo and Daphne, 1622-25 (Galleria Borghese, Rome)

This is all about not attaining beauty, almost having the thing that you want in your hands and having it slip out at the very moment when you attain it. […] It’s a meditation on what sculpture is. Bernini, more than anyone else, makes marble seem like the wings of an angel, a cloud.”

A GIRL AT A WINDOW

Rembrandt, A Girl at a Window, 1645, 81.6 x 61 cm (Dulwich Picture Gallery, London)

To Rembrandt’s credit, he really does make you psychologically interested in her.”

METAMORPHOSIS OF NARCISSUS

Salvador Dali, Metamorphosis of Narcissus, 1937 (Tate Modern)

[The surrealists] called the ability of Dali to do this, to see things simultaneously as more than one thing, as a result of a psychological state, which they called ‘paranoic critical activity.’ It was based on a willfulness reading of Freud. Freud talked about the filters that kept the unconscious and the conscious mind apart. But Dali claimed that in the state of ‘paranoic critical activity’ he could actually embrace both the unconscious and the conscious simultaneously, so that his conscious mind could actually do the painting.”

ONE: NUMBER 31

Jackson Pollock, One: Number 31, 1950.

When we think of Pollock’s drip paintings, we think quite rightfully of an improvisation, like a jazz musician going off on a riff.”

Dan Colman edits Open Culture, which brings you the best free educational media available on the web — free online courses, audio books, movies and more. By day, he directs the Continuing Studies Program at Stanford University, and you can also find him on Twitter.

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07 JANUARY, 2011

Creative Cartography: 7 Must-Read Books on Maps

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From tattoos to Thomas More’s Utopia, or what Moby Dick has to do with the nature of time.

We’re obsessed with maps — a fundamental sensemaking mechanism for the world, arguably the earliest form of standardized information design, and a relentless source of visual creativity. Today, we turn to seven fantastic books that explore the art and science of cartography from seven fascinating angles.

THE MAP AS ART

Map As Art, The: Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography is the definitive overview of today’s bravest, boldest creative cartography, featuring 360 colorful creations by well-known artists and emerging visual experimenteurs alike, including Brain Pickings favorites Maira Kalman, Paula Scher and Olaful Eliasson. Insightful essays by Gayle Clemans complement the maps and overlay a richer sheath of insight onto the work and creative process of these cartographic artists.

Matthew Cusick, 'Fiona’s Wave,' 2005

Cusick's oversized collages are painted with fragments of vintage atlases and school geography books from the golden era of cartography, 1872-1945.

Qin Ga, 'Site 22: Mao Zedong Temple,' 2005

In 2002, China's Long March Project embarked upon a 'Walking Visual Display' along the route of the 1934-1936 historic 6000-mile Long March, and Beijing-based artist Qin kept tracked the group’s route in a tattooed map on his back. Three years later, Qin continued the trek where the original marchers had left off, accompanied by a camera crew and a tattoo artist, who continually updated the map on Qin’s back.

We reviewed it in full here.

YOU ARE HERE

You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination is a beautiful and meditative compendium of maps and musings on maps exploring, in the broadest possible terms, the human condition. Divided into three sections — “Personal Geography,” “At Home in the World” and “Realms of Fantasy” — the book features 50 full-color and 50 black-and-white cartographic illustrations, ranging from a humorous diplomatic atlas of Europe and Asia to a canine view of the world to hand-drawn maps of shelters along the Appalachian Trail.

A selection of diverse essays, from the academic to the personal to the humorous, contextualize the maps within the larger conceptual narrative exploring humanity’s compulsion to map and chart its place in the universe.

FROM HERE TO THERE

We’re longtime fans of the Hand-Drawn Maps Association, an ongoing archive of user-submitted maps, diagrams and other spatial illustrations.

From Here to There: A Curious Collection from the Hand Drawn Map Association is exactly what it promises — a delightful anthology of ephemeral documents that give direction, from quirky doodles to remarkably detailed drawings on anything from Dallas skate parks to questionable tourist routes in Bulgaria’s mountains.

Eccentric yet unassuming, From Here to There offers a charming visual treat and, in the process, reveals fascinating slivers of human stories.

RADICAL CARTOGRAPHY

An Atlas of Radical Cartography is as much about the art of cartography as it is about social activism, pairing artists, designers, architects, urban planners and cultural institutions in an ambitious volume that explores mapping projects across social justice, globalization, energy, human rights and more.

It features 10 eye-opening maps on everything from marginal land settlement in Calcutta to the Los Angeles water cycle by 10 different artists, alongside 10 compelling essays on sociopolitical issues examined through the prism of cartography.

An Atlas of Radical Cartography comes from The Journal of Aesthetics & Protest, an inspired editorial collective hosting dialogs and initiating art projects that facilitate idea exchange and pro-social action.

STRANGE MAPS

Based on the excellent blog of the same name, Strange Maps: An Atlas of Cartographic Curiosities features 138 of the most fascinating, absorbing and remarkable maps from the blog’s 3-year history of culling the world’s forgotten, little-known and niche cartographic treasures. From the world as depicted in Orwell’s 1984, to a color map of Thomas More’s Utopia, to the 16th-century portrayal of California as an island where people live like the Amazons, the book is brim-full of priceless anecdotes from our collective conception of the world over the centuries.

Strange Maps is one of our favorite blog-turned-book success stories. We reviewed it in full here.

CARTOGRAPHIES OF TIME

Since antiquity, humanity has had an ongoing fascination with the nature of time, struggling not only to understand it but to also visualize it and thus make it more digestible, more tangible, more graspable.Cartographies of Time: A History of the Timeline traces the history of graphic representations of time in Europe and the United States from 1450 to the present. The gorgeous, lavishly illustrated collection of timelines features everything from medieval manuscripts to websites to a chronological board game developed by Mark Twain. BibliOdyssey has a sneak peek.

Cartographies of Time is easily one of the most beautiful books to come by in the past year, both a treasure trove of antique artwork and a priceless cultural timecapsule containing humanity’s understanding of time and place in the larger context of existence.

MAPS OF THE IMAGINATION

On a most fundamental level, maps are visual storytelling about the world — about what exists in it, what matters in it, and where we belong relative to it. In Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer, Peter Turchi explores how some of greatest storytellers in literary history employed maps as narrative devices, revealing some remarkable similarities between mapmaking, traditionally perceived as an analytical science, and the art of writing fiction. From Melville to Nabokov to Stevenson to the Marx Brothers, the book features hundreds of extraordinary illustrations from and about iconic works of literature.

Maps of the Imagination is a genre-defying gem that straddles art book, writer’s manual and cultural critique in an utterly captivating way that makes you look at both old maps and familiar fiction with new eyes.

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