Sunday, September 15, 2019

Ben Shahn, 1898 - 1969, A Lithographer, painter, Muralist, photographer, graphic artist, & an advocate for social justice.

Ben Shahn, "Men are men before they are lawyers or physicians or , 1955, brush and ink on paper mounted on paperboard, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Container Corporation of America, 1984.124.264

Picture a secular Jewish socialist on fire for justice for the poor, the working class, and the immigrant.

The man in question was Ben Shahn, the 20th-century American painter, muralist, photographer and graphic artist and a leader of the social realism art movement.  Born in Lithuania, emigrated to the United States as a child, was apprenticed to a lithographer after high school. 

He studied at New York University and City College, and very briefly at the National Academy of Design. 

Shahn was shaped by his early religious education and informed by his experiences and observations of “the social and political events and history of Jews in America,” His work is about Jewish ethics, not prayer or ritual, said art historian Diana L. Linden, author of “Ben Shahn’s New Deal Murals: Jewish Identity in the American Scene.”

Shahn's first major success came with the 1932 exhibition of his series The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti. Look to Shahn’s series of 23 paintings detailing the controversial trial and ultimate execution of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. They were two radical Italian immigrants of the 1920s, convicted of murder on scanty (and now missing) evidence.

Shahn once said that he paints two things, "what I love and what I abhor," and during the Depression years his scenes of children playing in concrete urban parks, and of miners and construction workers engaged in their trades, reflect his admiration for the working American and his abhorrence of injustice and oppression. Throughout the 1930s Shahn worked for various government programs, and when the United States entered World War II, he joined the Graphic Arts Division of the Office of War Information, although only two of the many posters he designed were published. In the 1940s, Shahn turned to what he called personal realism." His late work is often symbolic, allegorical, or religious and reflects his belief that "if we are to have values, a spiritual life, a culture, these things must find their imagery and their interpretation through the arts."

Shahn’s life work was infused with the political passions of his time. He expressed them by retelling the Hebrew Bible’s stories of slavery, exile and freedom in images of garment workers, cotton pickers, labor organizers, immigrants and refugees.

  • Ben Shahn, You Have Not Converted a Man Because You Have Silenced Him, 1968, offset lithograph on paper, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Source unknown, 1997.37

    • While never a Communist or an avowed atheist, Shahn was close to many who were, including his second wife, the artist Bernarda Bryson. Yet he also was fiercely devoted to the First Amendment, with its vaunted four freedoms.

      “(It) held special significance for Shahn, as it did for many American Jews who aspired in the United States to achieve civil liberties denied them by European nations,” Linden writes.

      He observed the rise of Hitler from a distance with horror, deploying his art to battle the “fervent resistance to open immigration” that kept desperate Jews from a safe haven in the United States, she writes. The doors to freedom were shuttered by Americans’ fear of “unemployment, nativism and anti-Semitism” — fear stoked in the 2016 presidential campaign.

      Born September 12, 1898, Kaunas, Russia [now in Lithuania]—died March 14, 1969, New York, New York, U.S.

      Saturday, September 14, 2019

      Friday, September 13, 2019

      The Kinsey Sicks latest video "Don't Be Happy, Worry"

      So many worries, so little time! The Kinsey Sicks latest video "Don't Be Happy, Worry" is released just in time for The Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement! To our Jewish fans: it’ll help get you in shape for all the atoning you have to do (and yes, there is something important that you’ve forgotten). To our non-Jewish fans: aren’t you just a little worried that you don’t really know exactly what the Day of Atonement is???
      Even the atone-deaf will love this video, filmed in gorgeous San Francisco settings (Do you recognize the house from “Full House” in the backdrop?)!
      Please note that our video is NOT kosher to pass over,

      There are only 8 days of Chanukah, but 365 days of worrying! The Kinsey Sicks' anthem to anxiety is soon to become a holiday classic on par with Fox News’ War on Christmas and Satan's efforts to take the “Christ” out of “Starbucks”

      -The Kinsey Sicks

      Thursday, September 12, 2019

      Ethiopian New Year

      11th of Sep is the Ethiopian New Year. #Ethiopia uses its own calendar with 13 months in year. The 13th month has 5/6 days a leap year. Instead of fireworks+champagne They celebrate w/family, traditional food & honey wine #tej. chanting #Enkutatash. #HappyNewYear @BLAsia_Africa

      Wednesday, September 11, 2019

      Monday, September 9, 2019

      Pieter Bruegel. The greatest Flemish painter of the 16th century

      Dulle Griet, motivated by fury and going on the attack. Also Known as Mad Meg, she leads an army of women to attack and pillage Hell.

      Dulle Griet is determined to win - she leads her army through a fiery world to plunder at the gates of hell.

      A beautiful painting, full of symbolism. Icarus feather's and wax wings fail him at a crucial moment. Hubris triumphs over dubious modernity 

      The Painter and The Connoisseur, c. 1565, . Died on this day in Brussels, 1679. Died far too young - between the ages of 39 to 44. Wise, witty, brilliant artist - looking skeptical about the art buyer looking over his shoulder. 

      The Peasant Dance (1568), Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, oil on oak panel
      The Harvesters (1565), oil on panel, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
      Pieter Bruegel, the Elder, by name Peasant Bruegel, Dutch Pieter Bruegel De Oudere or Boeren Bruegel, Bruegel also spelled Brueghel or Breughel, (born c. 1525, probably Breda, duchy of Brabant [now in the Netherlands]—died Sept. 5/9, 1569, Brussels [now in Belgium]), the greatest Flemish painter of the 16th century, whose landscapes and vigorous, often witty scenes of peasant life are particularly renowned. Since Bruegel signed and dated many of his works, his artistic evolution can be traced from the early landscapes, in which he shows affinity with the Flemish 16th-century landscape tradition, to his last works, which are Italianate. He exerted a strong influence on painting in the Low Countries, and through his sons Jan and Pieter he became the ancestor of a dynasty of painters that survived into the 18th century

      Saturday, September 7, 2019

      Caspar David Friedrich. A Virgo birthday for this painter of romantic and mysterious landscapes

      German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich was born on September 6 in 1774 - another Virgo like Queen Elizabeth 1. Growing up in Europe during a period of disillusionment with society, Friedrich was best known for the themes of nature and spirituality that are prominent in his work. Landscape with an Obelisk, c. 1803

      Right-hand window of Caspar David Friedrich's studio in 1805. Site of dreams, and boats.

      The tide flows in, the tide flows out, ships great & small navigate it. Periods of life, 1834, by Caspar David Friedrich.

      On the boat w/ Caspar David Friedrich in 1818, sailing off to some misty place of promise.

      Looking out into infinity from the chalk cliffs of RĂ¼gen in 1818 with Caspar David Friedrich.

      Contemplating a vast, formless infinity: Wanderer above a Sea of Mist, by Caspar David Friedrich, 1818.

      His works were coloured by his imaginative response to the atmosphere of the Baltic coast and the Harz Mountains, which he found both awesome and ominous. In 1824 he was made a professor of the Royal Dresden Art Academy, though not in the capacity he had wished for. In 1835 he suffered a stroke from which he never recovered, and a second stroke in 1837 caused him almost complete paralysis. His reputation was in decline by the time of his death as the Romantic movement gave way to Realism. For a long time his work was forgotten; it was revived in the 20th century, and the artist’s reputation continued to strengthen into the 21st.

      Wednesday, September 4, 2019

      Oskar Schlemmer. Multi talented artist associated with the Bauhaus School

      September 04, 1888. Oskar Schlemmer (4 September 1888 - 13 April 1943) was a German painter, sculptor, designer and choreographer associated with the Bauhaus school. In 1923, he was hired as Master of Form at the Bauhaus theatre workshop, after working at the workshop of sculpture. His most famous work is Triadisches Ballett (Triadic Ballet), which saw costumed actors transformed into geometrical representations of the human body in what he described as a "party of form and colour". In this image: Costumes from Schlemmer's Triadisches Ballett (1922).

      Schlemmer’s figures may appear simplistic, but he managed to break free from the traditional ballet constraints by using just three dancers, who, together, performed 12 scenes with 18 simple, but ingenious costumes. The performance was designed to be subversive and unashamedly modern, skewering painters such as Max Beckman and Emil Nolde in the process. A new paradigm was formed.

      Throughout the 1920s Schlemmer was commissioned to paint several murals in both private residences, such as the home of architect Adolf Meyer (1924), and public spaces, such as the former Bauhaus in Weimar (1923), which the Nazis destroyed in 1930, and the Folkwang Museum in Essen (1928–30), which the Nazis vandalized, dismantled, and removed in 1933. Schlemmer left the Bauhaus in 1929.
      Stairway Scene, 1932
      From the Bauhaus, Schlemmer moved to Breslau, where he continued to work in theatre and teach (State Art Academy). He also continued to paint, and in 1932 he created his well-known work Bauhaus Stairway. Without warning the Nazi regime dismissed him from his teaching position in 1933. Schlemmer moved to Switzerland for a brief time with his wife and children and painted portraits and landscapes.
      The last decade of Schlemmer’s life was marred by the Nazi dictatorship and defamation of his life’s work. In 1937 five of his works were included in the Nazi-organized “Degenerate Art” exhibition in Munich. He continued to exhibit his work when possible and participated in major exhibitions in London and New York City in 1938. Schlemmer was reunited with Baumeister and other artists in 1940 when he moved to Wuppertal, Germany, where he earned a living by working at a lacquer factory. He died of a heart attack three years later. Schlemmer’s Triadic Ballet was revived on a number of occasions in the late 20th century and was performed with the original, restored costumes. Those costumes, however, were the only original elements remaining. 
      Blue Stairway, 1932 MOMA 
      The music and choreography associated with Schlemmer’s production were lost. A volume of his diaries and letters edited by his wife was published in 1972; an English translation by Krishna Winston was issued in 1990.
      From the LA Times;  ...Post-Modernism, with its revived urge to integrate the arts and a surge in the various hybrid forms that fold into the omelet of performance art. As presently practiced, integrated arts too often become either embarrassing amateur psychotherapy or slickly designed theater. Schlemmer’s art tells us it ain’t necessarily so. The problem is to find a temperament like his in our exhibitionistic epoch.
      Schlemmer was basically so self-effacing that his art can sometimes seem mindless and neutral, until one looks twice to find the cool intelligence and idealism that informs it.
      When the Nazis started exercising their spectacular flair for right-wing pageantry, Schlemmer was urged to politicize his theater program to conform to the left-tilt of the Bauhaus. He refused, believing the theater must reflect universal concerns that are beyond politics.
      When the Nazis proscribed his art and made it impossible for him to either sell or teach, he neither fled nor fought. He painted murals for a commercial company and worked in a paint lab. Basically, he just wanted to do his thing and not be bothered. There is a certain dignity in that...The stress of survival in a familiar world turned suffocatingly grotesque certainly weakened Schlemmer, making him vulnerable to the diseases that carried him off at age 55--one of the more poignant beacons of innocence to be snuffed in that awful time.

      Tuesday, September 3, 2019

      Joseph Wright of Derby. 18th century master painter of artificial light.

      Natural disaster du jour: Mount Vesuvius erupting, as seen from Posilippo, 1788. By Joseph Wright of Derby, born OTD in 1734.

       Joseph Wright of Derby visited Naples but never actually saw Vesuvius erupting. Fortunately he had a vivid imagination!

      Nature's drama, nature's disaster: Mount Vesuvius erupting, with view over the Bay of Naples, c. 1778

      Portrait of Mrs. Andrew Lindington, 1762, with amazing attention to her exquisite lace

      John Whetham of Kirklington, and his inquisitive dog. Painted 1779 

      Little sister is straight-out curious; big sister can't bear it. Poor birdie! Very sweet moment from Joseph Wright of Derby's Experiment w/an Air Pump, 1768. At the Tate

      Mr and Mrs Thomas Coltman & their dog, who is asking an urgent question of the horse. Painted in 1771. Tate Gallery
      Joseph Wright, byname Joseph Wright of Derby, (born September 3, 1734, Derby, Derbyshire, England—died August 29, 1797, Derby), English painter who was a pioneer in the artistic treatment of industrial subjects. He was also the best European painter of artificial light of his day.

      Wright was trained as a portrait painter by Thomas Hudson in the 1750s. Wright’s home was Derby, one of the great centers of the birth of the Industrial Revolution, and his depictions of scenes lit by moonlight or candlelight combine the realism of the new machinery with the romanticism involved in its application to industry and science. His pictures of technological subjects, partly inspired by the Dutch followers of Caravaggio, date from 1763 to 1773; the most famous are An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump (1768) and The Orrery (c. 1763–65). Wright was also noted for his portraits of English Midlands industrialists and intellectuals.   

      From the Getty: The effects of light fascinated him. An attorney's son, he trained as a portrait painter in London, but he returned to Derby, the first major English painter to build his career outside the capital. With scientific experiments a source of general fascination, his meticulously painted figure groups in dark interiors illuminated by candles or lamps carried his reputation to London. His dramatic contrasts of light and shade showed the influence of artists like Gerrit van Honthorst and Rembrandt van Rijn, but Wright invented the scientific Enlightenment subject: scenes of experiments, new machinery, and the leaders of the Industrial Revolution. In 1773, Wright went to Italy. Vesuvius's volcanic eruption and Rome's annual fireworks display impressed him, and he began to understand how his interest in light sources could combine with landscape painting. Returning to Derby in 1777, he found a steady stream of portrait clients, whom he satisfied with more penetrating characterizations, more complex iconography, more subdued coloring, and, frequently, literary themes. With the leisure to choose subjects, he increasingly painted landscapes, seeking truthful observation of nature, including rock formations or effects of light and atmosphere, without sacrificing aesthetic values like poetry, beauty, drama, and composition.