Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Dada is so foxtrot ashtray boolelsj

This is it, you guys… the very last installment of the Shock of the New.
(cry, sob, whine.)
I know; I’m upset too.
Come join us for one last hurrah!  This Saturday, April 7th, we’ll be showing the "The New Shock of the New" followed by speaker Jim Kleug, followed by a mourning session when we all bid a fond farewell to our beloved Shock of the New project.  I assume you will all be inconsolable, but just remember the fun times we’ve shared; we’ll always have the memories.

Here’s one last vocab word of the week to leave you with:

Da•da noun \ˈdä-(ˌ)dä\
: a movement in art and literature based on deliberate irrationality and negation of traditional artistic values; also : the art and literature produced by this movement

Dada spread through all forms of art, including the visual arts, literature, and performance art. 

Beginning during World War I, Dadaist created ridiculous works of art to mock the ridiculousness of war, as well as the ridiculousness of the modern world.  They were basically anti-everything: anti-war, anti-art, anti-bourgeois.  They were, however, pro-awesome.

Hugo Ball founded a nightclub in Switzerland called the Cabaret Voltaire in 1916.  Here, Dadaists could experiment and perform, which basically meant they could do whatever they wanted.  In one performance, Hugo Ball read his poem “Karawane,” which is a poem made up of entirely nonsense words.  He dressed up in a bizarre, tube-like costume, rendering his body useless.  He had to be carried on and off stage.

And here is the poem he read:


Another wonderful example of Dada is, of course, Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain.”
Marcel Duchamp submitted a urinal signed “R. Mutt” to the exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in 1917.  The piece was titled “Fountain.”  Although the rules stated that all submissions would be accepted, “Fountain” was rejected and declared “not art.”  Today, it is called the most influential artwork of the 20th century.

A urinal in a restroom is just a urinal, but a urinal in a museum exhibit… does it become a sculpture?  Is it a work of art because Duchamp says it is a work of art?  Art would never be the same again.
A urinal revolutionized the world of art.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mandorla: Nutty treat, or angelic aura?

Hey!  What are you doing this Saturday?


Nah, how about you go to this week’s Shock of the New screening, “The Future that Was,” at 11a.m. at the Zinema 2!  We’ve got Fahti Benzer, professor at UMD, speaking after the show.  So come on down March 31st to have fun and get cultured, all for free.

Ready for the vocab word of the week? Me too! Let’s go!

man•dor•la noun
Also called: vesica  (in painting, sculpture, etc) an almond-shaped area of light, usually surrounding the resurrected Christ or the Virgin at the Assumption

Mandorla in Italian translates literally as “almond.”  You can’t make delicious nutty cookies with it, though.  When two circles overlap, an almond shape forms in the middle (think Venn diagram).  This overlapping symbolizes the meshing of Heaven and Earth.  The Mandorla was used mainly in early Christian art, and also Buddhist art to reference this unification of opposite forces.

The very first mandorla to be used in Christian art appears around figures of the Old Testament in the mosaics from Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.  The scene shows Abraham entertaining the Three Strangers who are, unbeknownst to Abraham, actually angels.

It looks a little archaic, but that mandorla sure is giving off some angelic vibes.

Another great example comes from the Monastery of Chora in Istanbul.  In the apse of the arekklesion (or funerary chapel will suffice, if you, like I, cannot pronounce that) is a fresco showing a scene of the traditional Byzantine Anastasis (the Resurrection of Christ).  It shows Jesus lookin’ pretty darn good, and not even a little bit dead.


He looks way more majestic with that white light emanating from him.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Trompe l’oeil

This week's post is brought to you once again by intern Jennie!

Well, hey there!  Have you gone to the Shock of the New screenings at the Zinema 2 yet?  If yes, good for you!  Thanks!  If not, don’t worry; you have three more chances.  So go, go, go!

This Saturday, March 24th, we’ve got UMD art professor Jen Dietrich speaking.  Beforehand we’ll be watching the Shock of the New episode “Culture as Nature.”  So make your way over to the Zinema 2 at 11a.m. and enjoy our complimentary entertainment and education.

This week’s blog post is brought to you by the vocab word…

trompe l'oeil noun [trômp loi]
1. a style of painting in which objects are depicted with photographically realistic detail
2. a trompe l'oeil painting or effect
3. something that misleads or deceives the senses : illusion

Trompe l’oeil in French translates as “fools the eye.”  It’s all about tricking the viewer. Ex. “That’s a painting?! It looks like a photograph!”  Every detail must be totally perfecto.

Photorealism is a popular form of trompe l’oeil, and Chuck Close is an expert.  Painting from photographs, Close gets every hair and pore and freckle and flaw perfect in his huge portrait paintings.  No matter how closely you inspect his paintings, there is no evidence of any brushstroke.  For real, it’s amazing!

You can go check out his self-portrait at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis right now!  If you haven’t seen it, go now.  If you have seen it, go again.

Oh, and P.S. Chuck Close is one radical dude.  On December 7, 1988 he had a seizure which left him paralyzed from the neck down (diagnosed as spinal artery collapse) and has lived in a wheelchair ever since.

Now, if that were me, I’d get real sad and probably not paint anymore.  But not Chuck Close.  Nope.  He kept painting with a brush taped to his wrist.


His style changed, as he wasn’t able to paint quite as meticulously as before, but he adapted.  His canvases remain as immense as before, but instead of painting photorealistic images, he paints in a grid format, which, when viewed from afar, reads as pseudo-photorealism.


Some really, really fun examples of trompe l’oeil come from sidewalk chalk artist Kurt Wenner.  He creates unbelievable works of art that look so convincingly real; it looks like you could fall right in.

It’s ridiculous.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Take a look at that verso.

Our blog post this week is brought to you by intern Krista!  Boy, do we love our interns.

Aanii, bonjour, ciao. Hello! For all of you who can’t wait to see Shock of the New this Saturday, come prepared. Bill Payne, Dean of the School of Fine Arts at UMD, will be discussing the episode, “The View From the Edge.” If you like abstract expressionism or artist’s like de Kooning and Pollock, you won’t want to miss this one!

Now for the only reason you come to our lovely blog, the much anticipated vocab word of the week!

Noun: A left-hand page of an open book, or the back of a loose document; The reverse of something such as a coin or painting.

I wish I could tell you why scholars don’t just use the words “front” and “back” but I can’t give a great reason.

Anywho, I bet most of you are probably wondering what is so interesting about the back of painting. It’s so much more than a stretcher and a canvas; each painting has a personality because of the artist and that goes for the back as well.

Wildly famous artists like Vincent Van Gogh have used the back of a painting as another canvas. His Garden with Sunflowers, 1887, is one example, although, it was rare for van Gogh to do this.

Here is an example of a painting by Walt Kuhn that was found to have another painting on the back:
You can read about this painting here.

Apples in a Wooden Bowl

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Craquelure: Animal glue, or shabby chic?

This week's post is brought to you again by intern Jennie!

Greetings and salutations, fellow art lovers! This week’s installment of Shock of the New will be The Threshold of Liberty. Artist and critic Ann Klefstad will be speaking after the show. Join us at the lovely Zinema 2 at 11am this Saturday, March 10th for a rollicking good time.

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for:  This week’s word of the week is…

cra•que•lure noun [krak-loor, krak-loor; Fr. krakuh-lyr] :
a network of fine cracks or crackles on the surface of a painting, caused chiefly by shrinkage of paint film or varnish.

The Sistine Chapel ceiling frescoes painted by Michelangelo (full name: Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, yeowza!) are a famous and controversial example of this. Michelangelo used the buon fresco technique to paint the ceiling, which is the technique of painting on wet plaster (hence the label of “fresco” instead of “painting”). Because of the ceiling’s surface craquelure, as well as dirt and flaking, a decision was made to clean it.

A before and after of the prophet David on the Sistine Chapel ceiling

The entire surface was at one point covered with animal glue (which is a glue made by boiling animal skins, bones, tendons, and other tissues; ew). This was not original to Michelangelo’s work, but was added later. The glue is what caused the gross flaking, along with trapping in a layer of dirt and rainwater over time, which was quite damaging. Before further damage, the glue needed to come off.

Between June 1980 and December 1999, a restoration took place. 

Here comes the controversy!

Although the restoration did make the colors cleaner and brighter, what came along with the cleaning, unfortunately, were some pretty radical changes to the original frescoes.  During the cleaning process, it is said that some of Michelangelo’s original details were erased.  Highlights, shadows, and alterations made by Michelangelo (called pentimenti) all suffered from the restoration.  This made many people sad.

So, what do you think!  A cleaner, brighter, less damaged ceiling vs. a loss of original intent.  Was the cleaning worth it? 

Some people who aren’t art restorers love craquelure!

To fool guests into believing you are tremendously cultured and own beautiful, antique pieces of art or furniture, you can purposefully create a craquelure effect on modern day items in a matter of minutes rather than decades.

I believe it’s called “shabby-chic.”

Here’s a how-to video to help you get fancy!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

He eats dilettantes for breakfast.

This week's blog post is brought to you by intern Jennie!  

By now, we’re all aware of how awesome Robert Hughes is.  With a name like Robert Studley Forrest Hughes (for real, that's his full name), it’s no wonder why we find him so alluring and, dare I say, captivating.

And, judging by the great turnout we’ve been having, you all must find him equally captivating.

Thank you, thank you, everyone, for your continued support in our fun little project!  The topic of our fourth installment is Trouble in Utopia, and Ken Bloom, Director at the Tweed Museum of Art, will be speaking after the show.  Meet us at 11am at the Zinema 2 this Saturday, March 3rd for some fun and free (FREE!) entertainment!

Can’t make it this week? No worries! We have four more Saturdays to go.

And now, without further ado, our vocabulary word of the week:

dil•et•tante noun \ˈdi-lə-ˌtänt, -ˌtant; ˌdi-lə-ˈ\
1. an admirer or lover of the arts
2. a person having a superficial interest in an art or a branch of knowledge : dabbler

When using this word in public to impress your friends, just keep in mind that the last ‘e’ is silent.

To get a better idea what a dilettante is, here are some hopefully helpful examples of something one might say:

-“I think Van Gogh cut off his ear or something.”
-“Did you know the Mona Lisa is actually really small?”
-“Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, not the Sixteen Chapel.”

In contrast, an expert like Hughes might sound something more like this:

-“Duchamp is a hugely overrated artist. Duchamp was the first artist who really became a great master at the art of curating his own reputation.”
-“On the whole, money does artists much more good than harm. The idea that one benefits from cold water, crusts and debt collectors is now almost extinct, like belief in the reformatory power of flogging.”
-“A Gustave Courbet portrait of a trout has more death in it than Rubens could get in a whole Crucifixion.”

Thank you, Robert Hughes, for your insight.

While a dilettante just has a casual interest in art, an expert like Robert Hughes lives for it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Rober Hughes: The man, the mystery, and the motorcycle.

Last week's turnout for Shock of the New was phenomenal!  We are in awe of the support we are receiving, and are happy to keep this going for six more weeks. This week's installment will be covering The Landscape of Pleasure – Jeff Kalstrom, a UMD Drawing and Painting professor, will be speaking afterwards.  We hope to see you there at 11am at the Zinema Theater; and of course this is FREE and open to the public.

This week we would just like to talk about Robert Hughes.  If you couldn't make it to the first showing of Shock of the New, or merely need a refresher, here is the opening scene of the series:  On What Art Is

Although we don't have a vocab word included in our visual representation of Hughes this week, he does use the word prognosticate in his introductionary rant.

prognosticate [prɒgˈnɒstɪˌkeɪt]vb
1. to foretell (future events) according to present signs or indications; prophesy
2. (tr) to foreshadow or portend

You can most definitely tell that Hughes is not just lecturing on the history of modern art, his lectures are filled to the brim with his opinion.  Although you might not always agree with Hughes' views you can't deny that he is strong personality who is extremely entertaining to watch. Here are some interesting facts about the man behind the documentary:

Born in Sydney, Australia in 1938
  • Studied arts and architecture at the University of Sydney
  • Moved to Great Britain in the 1960s to write for the Spectator, the Telegraph, the Times and the Observer, before landing the position of art critic for Time Magazine in 1970.
  •  Some books that he has written include:
    • The Shock of the New (1981)
    • The Fatal Shore (1987)
    • Culture of Complaint (1993)
    • American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America (1997) 
  • Hughes' son, Danton, was named after the painter Georges Danton.  Danton was a fairly well known sculptor until his untimely death at the age of 34; his son committed suicide by remaining in the closed garage while his car was running.
  • Hughes was involved in a near-fatal car accident in 1999 near Sydney, which may have added to the slightly negative light he cast on Australia in his documentary: Australia, Beyond the Fatal Shore.
  • Hughes was married three times; his most recent marriage being to the famous painter Doris Downes.
  • Whilst at university, Hughes was part of the left-wing intellectual sub-culture in Sydney called the Sydney Push.  The Push was comprised of artists, poets, journalists, philosophers, musicians, lawyers and even career criminals, who typically gathered in pubs to organize large political demonstrations and protests. 
  • Here's an article he wrote about "Tuna Suprise" for the New York Times.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bibelots: Crown Jewels, or souvenirs?

Greetings art lovers, Internet aficionados, and readers.  Last week's installment of "Shock of the New" had a wonderful turnout!  Only five seats were available once the film started.  We can't thank you enough for your support and avid interest in the arts!  This week we're hoping to have a full house; Jim Klueg will be our guest speaker and he will be presenting on the ten things Dada has given us.  We're expecting a full house, so make sure to show up early enough to find a seat - 11am, this Saturday at the Zinema.

Now for this week's vocabulary word, bibelot.

bi·be·lot noun \ˈbē-bə-ˌlō\
1. a small object whose value lies in its beauty or rarity; trinket
2. a book of unusually small size
This being a french word, you might want to drop the 't' phonetically when you say it out loud (we know, it really does sounds like Bilbo Baggins' first name).

Bibelot has a couple of different meanings; sometimes referred to as a "bauble" it can be considered a small trinket that people get, often on a vacation, to remember an event.  It can also mean a small, well-made book that is of great value.  Both definitions share the fact that they are rare and usually a treasured object with sentimental value. 

What are some very old and famous bibelots?  The Crown Jewels!  The Crown Jewels of the UK use to be kept in Westminster Abbey, until the 1300's when it was found "unsafe" (or so the official website of the British monarchy says).

Colonel Thomas Blood (Doesn't he look like a tool?)
Real story: they were stolen.

After their theft the Crown Jewels were soon recovered and transported to their current home, The Tower of London. This incident of theft is not to be confused with the very famous Colonel Blood, known as the 'Man who stole the Crown Jewels'.  This name is somewhat ironic given the fact that he didn't really get away with stealing the crown jewels, he was caught INSIDE the Tower of London before being able to escape.  He also had the audacity to refuse questioning by anyone other than the king; the king acquiesced to his request (Pirates of the Caribbean reference) and ended up pardoning Colonel Blood and awarding him land in Ireland.  Now that's just rewarding bad behavior, if you ask me.

Thank you for sitting through our rant on the Crown Jewels, we promise there is a reason!

 Jewelry making is a wonderful craft, and jewelry can be considered a work of art in it's own respect.  Listed below are a couple regional jewelry makers:

Britta Kauppila : britta lynn design
Silver Cocoon Blog : Silver Cocoon Retail
The Jewelers Bench
Näf Glass
For you Wisconsinites : Water Music Jewelry

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Fingerprint and a Doorknob

Hello all!  We hope you're getting excited for the first showing of "Shock of the New" THIS SATURDAY, January 11!  The showing will be at 11am at the Zinema, followed by a discussion by the curator at the Tweed Museum of Art, Peter Spooner.  The topic of this week's installment is The Mechanical Paradise.  This episode shows how the development of technology influenced art between 1880 and end of WWI.  A longer synopsis can be found on the BBC's website.

Now for the fun stuff, our vocab word of the week!

prov·e·nance \ˈpräv-nən(t)s, ˈprä-və-ˌnän(t)s\
: The history of ownership of a valued object or work of art or literature.  French provenir, "to come from".

You can imagine how important this is when acquiring works at a museum.  By having the sufficient provenance of a piece you can make sure that the painting wasn't stolen and you can gather the actual worth of a painting based on its history.  An example of a very long and old provenance of a work is The Arnolfini Protrait by Jan van Eyck (see left).  The documented history of this piece dates back to 1434!  It's hard to believe this piece was purchased for a mere £600! ($950).  If you read through the entire provenance, you can see how the piece evolved over time; i.e. it used to have shutters and an original frame.

This painting is well recognized around the world because it is the only surviving panel from 15th-century northern Europe that specifically shows contemporary people interacting in a contemporary house.  It's also pretty baller that the literal translation of the artist's signature is "Jan van Eyck was here".  The signature of the artist in this case has been used in the literal interpretation that the artist was there; this meaning that he witnessed an event rather than only creating the work.  What did he witness?  A wedding?  A lawful transference of legal power to the gentleman's wife?  There has been a lengthy argument amongst art historians on the meaning behind this work, and unfortunately the provenance can only tell us so much!  We're not going to get into that now, but a nice little diddy on this painting can be found here

Speaking of a work of art getting stolen, we're now going to talk about one of the greatest art heists of all time...THE STEALING OF THE MONA LISA!  DUN DUN DUN.  Did you know that one of the first prime suspects in the pilfering of the Mona Lisa was none other than Pablo Picasso?!  Four years prior to the Mona Lisa heist he had been found with stone-heads that, unbeknownst to him, had been stolen from the Louvre.  Now, if Pablo's mother had heard she probably would have lectured him on the importance of provenance before buying art from a 'guy who knows a guy'.

Fun fact, his work titled Demoiselles d’Avignon was modeled after these stolen objects (see right).

Empty Space Unoccupied by Mona Lisa
Long story short, Pablo didn't steal the Mona Lisa.  A previous employee of the Louvre, Vincenzo Peruggia, who was Italian by birth thought that the work by Da Vinci belonged  in it's mother country, Italy.  Peruggia was found out whilst trying to 'return the painting to Italy' for a 'small fee' from a shopkeeper whose store a few streets away from where the Mona Lisa was originally painted.

Why did we name this post 'A Fingerprint and a Doorknob' you may ask?  The only piece of evidence linking Peruggia to the crime was a doorknob he had removed from the door to get out of the Louvre and tossed in the ditch, and one fingerprint that was left on the wall where the Mona Lisa had hung.  Why didn't this link him to the crime earlier?  The detective on the case had the fingerprints of all the past and present employees of the Louvre.  The fingerprint that had been on the wall was from Peruggia's left hand, and what the detective had on file were  right handed prints.  ZING!  That's a 'face-palm' moment if I've ever heard one.

Did the heist of the Mona Lisa add to it's historical worth?  We sure think so!  If not, at least it's an interesting story.  If you're curious about the details of the stealing of the Mona Lisa a good book to read is The Crimes of Paris: A True Story of Murder, Theft, and Detection, by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler.  You can read an excerpt from the book here.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Hello, impasto!

Hello art world!  This is the Duluth Art Institute speaking (and/or it's Development-Operations Manager, Laura).  Well, if you haven't heard we will soon be starting screenings of Robert Hughes' "Shock of the New", which is a fantastic eight-part series on the rise and fall of the modern art movement.  Not only will you be able to rest your eyes on the handsome and talented Robert Hughes, but you will be able to do it FO FREE!  That's right, we're partnering with the Zinema 2 in downtown Duluth to share these nuggets of educational fun at no cost to you, the viewers.  If you need a convenient reminder here's the event on our Facebook page! (Insert social media marketing tactic):

This brings us onto the purpose of this blog: sharing the awesomeness that is Robert Hughes.  A few weeks back you may remember us sharing with you "Ryan Gosling, museum lover" on Facebook.  However, if you do not remember here is the link:

Now, this got our creative juices flowing.  It started as a fun Photoshop project to make our coworkers giggle but soon grew into an obsession that took over an entire afternoon.  We can't stop.  So, to turn our seemingly unproductive project into something useful we're using it to promote our "Shock of the New" series in blog form!  Every week before our showing of "Shock of the New" a new post will be made with a picture that we had a blast creating along with some fun tidbits about our sultry host and some clarification on the fancy jargon he's using.

This week our photo is brought to you from the painter Sylvia Shap and can be found in the Smithsonian Institute National Portrait Gallery.  Sylvia Shap creates portraits of interesting people, and who better than our Aussie friend, Robert Hughes?  Her technical skill as a realist-portraiture painter not only accurately depicts the physical aspects of her subjects, but reveals something about their inner-being and personality.  Doesn't this portrait just ooze Robert's insightful-suaveness?

Now, some of you might not know what impasto means; hopefully not because you fell asleep in your Art History course during your undergrad.  Anywho, here is the Merriam-Webster definition:

impasto: im·pas·tos
1 : the thick application of a pigment to a canvas or panel in painting; also : the body of pigment so applied
2 : raised decoration on ceramic ware usually of slip or enamel

In layman's terms it means the way an artist applies the paint to their canvas.  Every artist does this differently; it's an easy way to distinguish who painted what!


Wheat Field with Cypresses: Vincent Van Gogh
This is an easy-peasy example.  It's simple to distinguish a Van Gogh painting given the way the painting almost feels like its MOVING.  This movement is created because Van Gogh applied his paint with thick, continuous strokes.

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte : Georges Pierre Seurat
Now here is what our dear friend, Robert, was referencing this week.  Can you see the difference in how Seurat applies his strokes?  It's much more delicate and soft compared to the robust application of Van Gogh; not unlike a lady that Robert might be seducing. 

Fun Fact:  This painting was used as inspiration for a promotional poster for the current season of "The Office".

Was also was used at one point for "The Simpsons":

Isn't art fun?  
Alright kiddies, that's enough for now.  
Until next week!

Oh yea, if you have comments, questions, or a nifty picture of Robert Hughes that you'd like to share leave us a comment!  Or email us at