Sunday, December 14, 2008

08/09 Academic Decathlon Image #18

From Spaniard and Black, Mulatto (De Espanol, Y Negra. Mulato) Attributed to Jose de Alcibar, 1760-1770, Oil on canvas, 31 x 38 1/4 in. (Art during the Colonial Era)

Ethnic mixing is not new - this work shows a common situation in colonial Mexico in which different races came together in marriage and produced a child that at that time was labeled "mulatto". The painting is a genre scene (showing an everyday happening). The woman is wearing a rebozo (see previous AcDec post about rebozos), which indicates she is of middle- or lower-class. She is cooking and gazing affectionately at husband and son. The father also gazes down on his small son with a loving expression.

The young boy is the focal point of the composition. He is lifting a brazier so his father can light his cigar. This skillful oil painting is careful in the portrayal of each subject's body positions and facial expressions. This piece (numbered 6) (you can see the label in the upper left hand corner) is one in a series that would have comprised a set. For someone to have owned a set of paintings this size, they would have been from the more wealthy social class.

The elite felt threatened by people who mixed racially, but race relationships were complicated and confusing because you couldn't always identify a person's race just from their appearance. People of European descent (and especially those from Spain) wanted to identify strongly with their white, European heritage to maintain positions of power.

Check out this PowerPoint about art in the Colonial era.

08/09 Academic Decathlon Image #17

Beaker, Maya Civilization, 600 A.D., Polychrome ceramic, 7 x 5 in. (Pre-Hispanic Art)

Have you ever made a pot using the coiling technique? You role out a long snake of clay and coil it into the shape you want. Then you use water and your fingers or a tool to smooth the surfaces. It's a fun way to make a pot! The Mayan potters used this technique because they didn't have a potter's wheel. After forming the shape, they would let it dry until it was leather hard, then paint it with "slip" (minerals and earth materials mixed with water to make a kind of paint.) They know this was made in the Classic period because it has so many colors.

Two males are seated, dressed in elaborate textiles and jewelry. They have make-up and headdresses. The smoke that seems to come from the figure in the front is meant to indicate speech or communication. The heiroglyphs above their heads could detail their identity or the nature of the ritual. Hooked noses were aesthetically pleasing to them. The figures are stylized but look naturalistic.

Here's a quiz you can take about the Mayan and a beaker. See how you do! There is also what appears to be a high school PowerPoint on the web that is related to the work chosen for AcDec - check it out! Scroll down the presentation to see the beaker slide, but check out the others! It has some great information in it!

08/09 Academic Decathlon Image #16

Figure in Illuminated Doorway, Rufino Tamayo, 1960, Color lithograph, 65 x 50 cm (Art after Independence)

Tamayo, though he had contact with artists such as Siqueiros and Orozco, and was aware of the work of Rivera, took a different path, made work that was rather small and not political in nature. He lived and taught in New York and in Paris. In 1960 (the date of this lithograph), he moved back to Mesico until his death in 1991. He and his wife had an impressive collection of Pre-Hispanic art and left it for a museum in Oaxaca. Another museum (Ruffino Tamayo Museum of Contemporary Art) opened in 1981 and houses his work along with other contemporary artists. (There is also a PowerPoint from another high school that references the work after Independence. It has highlights about the pieces.)

This type of print is unlike the etchings in the previous posts. This is a lithograph - check out MOMA's explanation of printmaking - you will learn about 4 processes here! THIS IS A FABULOUS FLASH DEMONSTRATION OF THE PRINTMAKING PROCESS - YOU MUST CHECK THIS OUT!! (You can tell I really like this site!)

Anway - he was interested in still life and genre scenes (images of everyday activities). This female silouette in in a doorway with one hand resting on the doorframe. It seems that her head is covered by a veil and is shaped kind of like a keyhole. His palette is simple - black, white, red and shades of yellowish-browns. The featureless figure could represent common experiences at key stages in life. Modern subjects often move towards themes that have broad universality with the viewer.

08/09 Academic Decathlon Image #15

Don Juan Joachin Gutierrez Altamirano Y Velasco, Miguel Cabrere, 1752, Oil on Canvas, 81 5/16 x 53 1/2 in. (Art during the Colonial Era)

This piece resides in the Brooklyn Museum. Notice the similarity in this Imperial portrait to that of Louis XIV of France by Hyacinthe Rigaud painted around 1701! Copy Cat! (In art we call it appropriation!)

What was more important in an imperial portrait was to convey the subject's status rather than an accurate likeness. (His powdered wig is a big status symbol.) He is portrayed as aristocratic with thin, refined features, long slender fingers and light skin - all traits valued by the elite in New Spain.

Oil paint on canvas was used to create this life-size portrait. Oil paints are perfect for creating tiny details. You can be sure this large portrait cost a pretty penny. Cabrera had a workshop with assistants: they helped him prepare the materials as well as paint the least important sections of the painting.

"Don Juan Joachin held the titles of the Sixth Count of Santiago de Calimaya and the Seventh Marquis of Salinas de Rio Pisuerga as well as maintaining a position of power within the Church. He was a wealthy landholder in both Europe and New Spain. His ancestors were explorers and conquistadores, and from them he ingerited the honarry title of High Governor-in-Perpetuity of the Phillipines (a purely ceremonial role)." Whew! No wonder he needed a huge picture of himself!!

08/09 Academic Decathlon Image #14

Tikal: Temple of the Giant Jaguar, Maya Civilization, 731 A.D., Cut stone masonry, 144.4 ft. (Pre-Hispanic Art)

This site is located in Guatemala and was thriving in the Classic Maya time period. Unlike the previous city at Teotihuacan (which was laid out on a grid), Tikal is arranged in a more organic manner, clustered around separate courtyards. They seem to have been created on an as needed basis, without a clear master plan.

This city had pyramids, monumental palaces and thatched houses that were on earth and stone mounds. Tikal had six temple-pyramids, and though the Temple of the Giant is not the highest, it is one of the most important. The jaguar was revered as a powerful animal that demonstrated divinity and leadership. One of the Mayan leaders, Jasaw Chan K'awiil was buried in this temple and identified with the Jaguar's power. In his tomb were typical afterworld objects - containers for food and liquid as well as personal ojects made of jade and precious materials.

Here are some quotes from your AcDec Art Resource Guide, but also check out the link in the image title for a website about Tikal National Park. "...the Temple of the Giant Jaguar is constructed of rubble and limestone blocks. It is a stepped pyramid built on nine levels. The pyramid is tall and quite steep...The pyramid was probably covered with plaster, and there are indications that some elements were painted.....The pyramid was a burial site, and it contained narrow pasageways and rooms, dome decorated with fresco paintings. The small size of the passageways and rooms within the temple indicates that it was not designed to hold large numbers of people at a was built during the Late Classic Period."

08/09 Academic Decathlon Image #13

View of the Street of the Dead, Showing the Plaza of the Moon and the Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan, 1-750 A.D. (Pre-Hispanic Art)

This city flourished at a time that was known as the Classic Period from 150-900 A.D. A lot of growth and development happened at this time leading the city to have great influence in the region. Because of the material culture left behind in their ruins, experts can surmise that there was a lot of trade and political domination. Teotihuacan (as well as Remojadas mentioned in a previous post) are in close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico.

The culture was sophisticated (and the 6th most populous city in the world in 600 A.D.). The city had religious and political rulers (along with the requisite warriors!) and was surrounded by peasant farmers. The Maya and Zapotec peoples had writing systems that were well developed. There were may gods that were worshipped who seem to have spun out of the Olmec deities. Some of these even became important to the Aztecs. As a result of the cultural development the people built monumental civic and ritual architecture to show their Power & Authority (a common theme in the Art History class!). We see the pyramid shape as a dominant shape for their temples and tombs (familiar???). Check out the hyperlink in the image title to go to an guide to the archeological site in Teotihuacan.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

08/09 Academic Decathlon Image #12

The Flower Carrier, Diego Rivera, 1935, Painting, oil and tempera on Masonite, 48 in. x 47 3/4 in., (Art after Independence)

The history of Diego Rivera (and his wife Frieda Kahlo) is a wonderful, tragic love story of two artists that had a stormy and turbulent marriage. He was an established artist when they first met (she actually took her paintings to show him as a young woman, interested in getting his approval).

He is best known as a mural painter (using the technique of fresco), but he also produces smaller artwork such as this one. His paintings were of landscapes, still lifes, portraits and genre scenes (scenes of everyday life). Perhaps because he was used to creating such large works, the figures in this piece are monumental considering the picture plane - the fill the entire surface. He uses earth tones contrasted with the bright magenta of the flowers and the white costume of the peasant. Your AcDec Art Guide suggests that "the harmonious relationship between the two figures perhaps indicates an overall balance and stability in the rural life of Mexico."

08/09 Academic Decathlon Image #11

Untitled (Our Lady of Guadalupe), a page accompanying a thesis submitted to the law faculty in Guadalajara by Joseph Turibius Gonzalez et Ramirez, Francisco Aguera Bustamante, Engraver, 1796, engraving, 11.1 x 7.3 cm (image) (Art during the Colonial Era)

This particular kind of image of the Virgin Mary is specific to Mexico and is still an very important symbol of national identity. She is reported to have appeared in Mexico in 1531 just after the Spaniards defeated the Aztecs. During this time, large numbers of Aztecs were converting to Christianity.

The narrative specific to this vision of the Virgin involves a poor Aztec man , Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (1471-1548). He had already converted to the Catholic religion. One day on his travels, he experienced a vision of the Virgin on a hill. She sent him to the bishop with the request for a church dedicated to her in that spot. Not surprisingly, when he delivered his story of the vision and instructions, he was spurned by Bishop Juan de Zumarraga.

Juan Diego went back to the spot, waiting to see the Virgin again. When she made another miraculous appearance, she dispatched him to find a rare species of rose that would not have normally been growing at that time of the year. He set off on his mission and wrapped the flowers in his tilma (a type of cape). The virgin arranged the garment with the flowers and sent him back to the Bishop.

When he opened his cape to reveal the flowers, a miraculous image of the Virgin appeared on his garment, and the Bishop fell to his knees and agreed to build the church at the top of the hill where there had been an Aztec temple. The power of the miracle has transferred to this symbol as the patron of the masses.

08/09 Academic Decathlon Image #10

Standing Female, Jalisco, 200 B.C., Ceramic, 7 1/4 x 3 1/2 in. (Pre-Hispanic Art)

The top figure was excavated in the state of Jalisco, the bottom one in Michoacan. Both are made of clay.

The top figure is tall and thin and stylized with elastic-like arms. One of her arms rests on her waist while the other reaches in front of the body and touches the necklace she's wearing. The necklace and headdress are formed from coils of clay.

The bottom figure is short and squat and has more clay details on the figure. The four circles on her upper arms could be body adornment or scarification. She, too, has a necklace which may represent carved shells or stones.

Little is know about the purpose of these figures, though their location in mass graves indicates they were probably burial offerings. Check out more about the history of Pre-Columbian art.

Standing Female, Ancient Michoacan, 200 B.C., Earthenware, 6 x 3 in. (Pre-Hispanic Art)

08/09 Academic Decathlon Image #9

Valley of Oaxaca, Jose Maria Velasco, 1888, Oil on Canvas, 41 7/8 x 63 1/4 in. (Art after Independence)

Jose Maria Velasco lived and worked in the mid-19th century in Mexico. He was trained as a painter and the style of the landscapes he painted was picturesque and idealized. He was dedicated to painting landscapes that were not only Mexican, but were also clearly identifiable to his viewers.

This painting is a large scale work from the peak of his career. He has a bird's-eye view of the valley. Natural flora and fauna are portrayed in the detailed foreground. The group of people are in indigenous dress and are of the peasant class. Notice the small wooden cross on the small hill behind the figures. Not only was Velasco a devout catholic, but religious imagery like this was common in the rural landscape.

Also we see the grid of the growing city portrayed with the use of linear perspective. He also used Leonardo's famous artistic device, atmospheric perspective (the colors in the background are more blue and the sharpness of detail is softened further away), to additionally create a vast depth of space on the two dimensional picture plane. Working with oil allowed not only for the precision of his work but also for the delicate shading of color to create this panoramic view.

08/09 Academic Decathlon Image #8

Codex Huejotzingo (Painting 5), Nahua Culture, 1531, Hand-painted document on maguey (a pre-European paper)(Art during the Colonial Era)

Sometimes art techniques are used for record keeping and as a documentary tool like this Codex page. Remember that a codex is an early form of a book. This particular page is a record of the tribute provided to the court by the town of Huejotzingo. Different objects and people are arranged carefully on the page in a straightforward manner. The focal point of the composition is of the Virgin Mary and Christ Child.

This visual list of tribute shows that payment included pots of amber, gold plaques, a banner and a standard with the image of the Virgin Mary and Child, loincloths, and metal-tipped darts. The people with rings around their necks and sticks protruding are slaves. Someone who was skilled at reading the visual symbols could quickly analyze the offering.

The maguey is made by stripping the inner leaves of the agave cactus. After it is dried it has a light silvery color. The colors are made from earth pigments with details from gold leaf (which was very expensive). Whoever created this page was highly skilled in handling these materials. Check out this link from Sharon Cohen, a world history teacher in Maryland and her approach to teaching this piece in her classroom.

08/09 Academic Decathlon Image #7

Smiling Head, Veracruz, Ceramic, 6 x 7 in. (Pre-Hispanic Art)

This piece of hollow ceramic work is considered unique in the Classic and Epiclassic period. Because this piece was found along with tens of thousands clay figurines at the site called Remojadas, the identifying classification "remojadas figures" is applied to such objects.

The shape of the head is stylized and reflects their idea of beauty at the time. Made of clay, it was shaped while in a plastic state and then fired. Some of the figures had the addition of paint on the surface emphasizing certain features. As with so many artifacts, the exact purpose of this object is unknown, but many of them were found in burials. But, smiling figures are very rare in ancient Mesoamerican art, so this smiling head must have had special significance. Be careful not to put your own cultural understanding of a smiling face as an expression of happiness in your interpretation, because this ancient culture may have had a very different significance for the expression!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

08/09 Academic Decathlon Image #6

La Calavera Catrina (Calavera of the Fashionable Lady), Jose Guadalupe Posada, 1913, Relief Etching on Zinc (Art after Independence)

The first thing I want to mention is that Posada produced at least 2,000 plates for etching in his lifetime! Ay caramba!!! That is prolific! His work is often satirical, and his calaveras (skull in Spanish) were shown in every kind of activity as social and political satire. Like so many other artists, though he spent his life expressing the world he saw around him, he died in relative obscurity. Diego Rivera told stories about Posada as his teacher, though the veracity of those stories is questionable.

This print is one of his most famous. The etching process involved engraving on a sheet of metal then treating that metal in an acid bath that left the lines in relief. Many copies were printed from that plate which made it economical and capable of being distributed widely. One of the factors in his lack of notoriety is that he was paid much like a skilled laborer instead of a fine artist.

This skeleton is dressed in the fashion of a wealthy woman with her elegant hat and fancy hair ribbons. But as is often portrayed in Art History, death is a stranger to no one, and for the working class there was an element of comfort knowing that the powerful would meet their maker as everyone else. The grin and festive attitude of the calavera reminds the living to not take life so seriously - it's only life, after all! Read more about Posoda, etching, Diego's connection and more here.

08/09 Academic Decathlon Image #5

Shawl (Rebozo) Late 18th c., Silk Plain Weave with Resist Dyeing and Silk and Gilt Thread Embroidery in Darning, Satin, and Outline Stitches; Knotted Fringe, 30 1/2 x 93 3/4 in. (Art during the Colonial Era)

This luxury garment, the Rebozo, is typical of colonial New Spain and post-colonial Mexico. This particular example is made entirely of silk: embroidery on a woven fabric which is done so expertly it is reversible (a very accomplished feat!). Many women of this time period spent lots of time mastering the art of embroidery. Time was not rushed and the many hours spent in producing a textile like this resulted in a garment that was highly valued. Silk was a luxury fiber then and this rebozo would have been owned by a wealthy woman, though the style was also produced in practical cotton affordable to women of the working and merchant class. These are not just decorative garments, but are also very utilitarian as this website demonstrates.

Monday, December 08, 2008

08/09 Academic Decathlon Image #4

Olmec Figure Sitting, with Spread Legs, Olmec Civilization, 2000-900 B.C., Low-fire earthenware, 9 1/2 x 8 3/8 x 5 in. (Pre-Hispanic Art)

This small sculpture has a mystery about its function, perhaps it had a special ritual use. The Olmecs made megalithic heads that are compelling and powerful. But this seated figure is also typical of their sculpture. The figure is soft and natural - almost boneless - and is genderless. The body is compact and sturdy looking and the face expressive and detailed. Made of earthenware, it was created using an additive sculpture technique then fired to make it hard. Because clay can crack if it dries out too quickly, the artist made small perforations in the eyes, nostrils and navel that provided air vents during the firing process. This hollow figure is somewhat rare in relation to the figures sculpted from stone.

Check out the "Seated Ruler in Ritual Pose" that the Dallas Museum of Art has in their collection. Compare the two: do the postures and materials communicate different ideas? How do simple marks create expression? Consider this statement from the Museum's info about this piece: "As one of several objects deposited in a burial cache, a greenstone figure such as this may have signified the renewal of life, especially when it was coated with cinnabar, a mineral whose red color represented the life force of blood." Do you agree with this thinking? We may never know all of the answers - even the scholars can only theorize about some of these ideas. All the more reason to do your own surmizing!! Click on the Post title to visit a site about the Olmec culture - it's packed with information!

08/09 Academic Decathlon Image #3

Frieda and Diego Rivera, 1931, Oil on Canvas, 39 3/8 in. x 31 in. (Art after Independence)

This portrait of the couple, which looks like a traditional wedding portrait, does not reflect the stormy passions that affected their relationship. Frieda married Diego Rivera when he was an established artist. She was a fledgling artist at the time, but in this portrait looks submissive and demure - she was anything but! She did not take her husband's name, but kept her own - a very unorthodox thing to do in the early 20th century. So this portrait is appropriate in the conservative culture of Mexico: she was expected to be wife and mother. But - the inscription above her head tells it all. She states that she is the artist and that the work was not for personal pleasure but for an art collector, Albert Bender.

To read more about the life and times of Frieda Kahlo, click on this link.

08/09 Academic Decathlon Image #2

Mosaic Skull and Jaw, Aztec Civilization 1350-1521, Bone, stone mosaic, and teeth (Pre-Hispanic Art)

This art piece is a human skull that is covered with small pieces of cut stone and shell, a mosaic technique. The pieces, called tesserae, are arranged in a deliberate manner over the surface of the skull. Notice how they are arranged in concentric circles around the eyes - even pieces of white shell or stone are used for the eyes and have been drilled to indicate the pupils. The turquoise used is valuable and communicates power. This skull was possibly used for ritual purposes.

Skulls like this are associated with human sacrifice. We know that the Aztecs thought that human sacrifice was necessary in order to satisfy the gods and keep their world in harmony. The Spanish, when they were invading the Aztecs, thought them to be barbarian - all the more reason to quickly eliminate them and exert their own authority. No doubt they collected these artifacts and took them back from their expeditions as there are a number of such skulls that are in museum collections throughout the world. Check out this site that has other jade and turquoise masks. Scroll down to see some that are similar to this example.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Art Daily - an Art Newspaper on the Internet

Okay, where have I been?!?!? This is the first art newsletter to be on the Internet since 1996 and I'm just finding out about it. Never mind.......thank goodness Mr. Miller sent me a link after he started Googling Eliasson. AND, that was a result of my taking him to the DMA to see the Eliasson exhibit, which he said was "tremendous". (see post made on 11/21/08)

As a studio art teacher, Art I teacher and Art History teacher, this website has something for EVERYBODY!! From the classic artists and paintings to the current, up to date exhibits and news, this site seems to have it all. There are even games and puzzles you can play to test (ahem!) your art knowledge! Explore, have fun, check it out, make it a daily delivery to YOUR inbox like I have!!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Andy Goldsworthy

"Photography is a way of putting distance between myself and the work which sometimes helps me to see more clearly what it is that I have made. " - Andy Goldsworthy

Our school library got Andy Goldsworthy's DVD "Rivers and Tides" and I showed it in class to the Freshmen on Friday. I was very moved by his work and the dedication he has to his art. The integration of his vision into the environment he installs it into is incredibly beautiful.

What did you think about his work? What about the process he goes through to create environmental art? Did you get a sense of the level of commitment he has to perfection? I loved the way his palette moves from intense, high contrast color combinations to subtle, sunbleached neutrals. Did you like the video? What were you impressed about? The link I have in the Title takes you to a Flickr portfolio of some of his work. Be sure to watch it in slideshow mode - link in the upper right hand corner of the page.

Student Work - AP 2D Studio Art

This is created by one of my students, Desiree, for an optical illusion assignment. Great piece of digital art!! I found this short video clip featuring other eye popping illusions. Check it out - click on this post's title - it's a doozy!