Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘art’

15 NOVEMBER, 2010

Tree of Codes: A Literary Remix

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In our present culture, we’ve come to see the art of remix as a product of digital media. But author Jonathan Safran Foer (of Everything Is Illuminated fame) reminds us of its analog quintessence in his brilliant Tree of Codes (public library) project — a book created by cutting out chunks of text from Foer’s favorite novel, The Street of Crocodiles by Polish author Bruno Schulz, rearranging the text to form an entirely different story. The die-cut narrative hangs in an aura of negative space, adding the necessary touch of designerliness to what’s already a hipster-ready concept.

The result is a beautiful blend of sculpture and storytelling, adding a layer of physicality to the reading experience in a way that completely reshapes your relationship with text and the printed page.

Vanity Fair has an excellent interview with Foer talking about his creative process on this project and contemporary art at large.

I thought: What if you pushed it to the extreme, and created something not old-fashioned or nostalgic but just beautiful? It helps you remember that life can surprise you.” ~ Jonathan Safran Foer

The making of the book is a true marvel of human ingenuity:

Tree of Codes is part Nina Katchadourian’s Sorted Books, part Brian Dettmer’s carved book sculptures, part something else entirely — and wholly recommended.

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12 NOVEMBER, 2010

Edible Landscapes: Miniature Vignettes Made from Food

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What Martian landscapes have to do with London’s skyline and the mutations of Thanksgiving.

CARL WARNER FOOD LANDSCAPES

British photographer Carl Warner doesn’t look at broccoli and cabbage leaves the way you do. He seems in them trees and sunset skies. His fantasy food landscapes are part Ansel Adams, part Anthony Bourdaine, painstakingly hand-crafted with only minimal Photoshop involvement.

London Skyline

Riverbank walls: panini; lamppost: mackerel, asparagus, onion, vanilla pods; London Eye: green beans; courgette, leek, lemon, rhubarb supports; The Dome: green melon.

Coconut Haystacks

Parsley trees with horseradish trunks, red cabbage sky, toasted almonds as distant haystacks, and loaves of bread for hills

Chinese Junk

The roster of ingredients includes dried lotus leaves for snails, noodles for the wood floor, physalis lanterns, and the obscure wild green yamakurage for the rope.

Celery Rain Forest

Canope made of okra with dried chili oarsman, tiny mushroom hat and a cardamom pod; path: pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and lentils

Cart & Balloons

Balloons made of red onion, apple, garlic bulb and other fruits; balloon baskets: nuts; hills and fields: bread, cucumber, string beans, green beans, corn, asparagus

Warner’s book, Food Landscapes, came out last month and is a page-turner of visually delicious fascination.

via NPR

MATTHEW CARDEN SMALL WORLD

Almost two years ago, we spotlighted photographer Matthew Carden’s Small World — a series of stunning macro photographs exploring our relationship with food through a compelling blend of playfulness and meditation on wastefulness.

Lambs

Monks walking on a lettuce-and-bread mountain trail

Sprinkles

Take a ride down the sprinkles-covered hill

Carden’s work is a timely prompt for reflection around Thanksgiving, a holiday designed as appreciation for our blessings yet one that has mutated into a celebration of gluttony and excess.

MATTHEW ALBANESE STRANGE WORLDS

We featured Matthew Albanese’s Strange Worlds at length back in February, but his miniature condiment landscapes are worth a revisit. The remarkably detailed creations, made out of everyday culinary materials like cinnamon, paprika, jello and corn syrup, depict emotive visions of surreal, often otherworldly landscapes.

Tornado made of steel wool, cotton, ground parsley and moss

A Martian landscape, made out of 12 pounds paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg, chili powder and charcoal

See more of Albanese’s fantastic and fantastical work here.

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11 NOVEMBER, 2010

Wabi-Sabi: Finding Beauty in Imperfection and Impermanence

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Wabi-sabi is a beautiful Japanese concept that has no direct translation in English. Both an aesthetic and a worldview, it connotes a way of living that finds beauty in imperfection and accepts the natural cycle of growth and decay. Wabi Sabi is also the title of a fantastic 2008 picture book by Mark Reibstein, with original artwork by acclaimed Chinese children’s book illustrator Ed Young, exploring this wonderful sensibility through the story of a cat who gets lost in her hometown of Kyoto only to find herself in the process.

The book reads like a scroll, from top to bottom, and features a haiku and a Japanese verse on each spread, adorned with Young’s beautifully textured artwork.

A true wabi-sabi story lies behind the book: When Young first received the assignment, he created a series of beautifully simple images. As he went to drop them off with his editor, he left them for a moment on the front porch of the house. But when he returned to retrieve them, they were gone. Rather than agonizing over the loss, Young resolved to recreate the images from scratch and make them better — finding growth in loss.

While technically a children’s book, Wabi Sabi is the kind of subtle existential reflection adults, with our relentless aspiration for more and our chronic anxiety about imperfection, could take solace in. (A recurring theme this week as we unravel our relationship with imperfection.)

via Altalang

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11 NOVEMBER, 2010

Hide/Seek: Portraits of Gender Identity and Sexual Difference in Art

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What gelatin and silver have to do with the history of art and equality.

Gender identity isn’t something openly discussed and studied as a shaping force in the arts (or , until recently, in science, for that matter), but it is a powerful one. Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture takes an ambitious look at the history of sexual difference, published as a companion volume to a Smithsonian exhibition of the same title, but offering a powerful stand-alone piece of visual scholarship charting the hidden impact of gay and lesbian artists on the history of art and portraiture and how they explored the fluidity of gender and sexuality.

The book explores the presence and evolution of same-sex desire in contemporary portraiture through more than 140 full-color drawings, illustrations and photographs by prominent American artists, from Georgia O’Keeffe to Jasper Johns to Andy Warhol. (Including a remarkable silver print of Susan Sontag, with whom I’m hopelessly obsessed.)

In Memory of My Feelings - Frank O'Hara

Jasper Johns, oil on canvas with objects, 1961

James Baldwin

Beauford Delaney, pastel on paper, 1963

A historical account contextualizes the artwork, tracing the influential marginality of LGBT artists from the turn of the 20th century to the gay liberation movement of 1969 to the AIDS epidemic of the 80s to today.

Camouflage Self-Portrait (RED)

Andy Warhol, synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen on canvas, 1986

Susan Sontag, 1933-2004

Peter Hujar, gelatin silver print, 1975

Hide/Seek comes from authors Jonathan D. Katz, founder of the first department for gay and lesbian studies in the US, and National Portrait Gallery historian David C. Ward. It is both a brilliantly curated anthology of seminal portraiture and an essential piece of cultural history for human rights and equality.

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