Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘art’

12 JANUARY, 2011

Proteus: Ernst Haeckel at the Intersection of Art & Science

By:

More than a year ago, we featured Art Forms in Nature — a fascinating 1904 book by German biologist and artist Ernst Haeckel, full of beautifully illustrated artistic interpretations of the biological forms Haeckel studied. His work had a profound influence on art movements, scientific thought and entire ideologies, from Art Nouveau and Surrealism to Thomas Edison to Freud and Lenin. Proteus is a remarkable documentary about Haeckel’s work and others he influenced, a breathtaking intersection of science and art 20 years in the making.

Every age has its own image of the world, and every image reflects the vision of its time and of its maker.”

Ernst Haeckel: Intersection of art and science

Among other marvels, the film features stunning images of the mineral exoskeletons of ancient one-celled marine organisms known as radiolarian — Haeckel single-handedly named, classified and illustrated nearly 4,000 of the 5,000 existing species, finding in their dazzling variety the key to the creative power of nature.

The radiolarian are like an alphabet of possibilities, as if the ancient sea were dreaming in its depths all the future permutations of organic and invented forms, from backbones to bridges and from the Earth to the stars.”

Proteus is at once a feat of science and an astonishing pinnacle of art, revealing with rigor and whimsy the magnificent meeting point of human curiosity and nature’s magic.

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

11 JANUARY, 2011

An Animated Tribute to the 10 Ruble Banknote

By:

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.

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.

10 JANUARY, 2011

Stickwork: Patrick Dougherty’s Remarkable Tree Sculptures

By:

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.

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

10 JANUARY, 2011

Democratizing Art History: 6 smARThistory Primers

By:

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.

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.