Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Some Reading Suggestions

By Charles Kessler

Another relatively recent archeological discovery is radically changing the way we understand the evolution of civilization (see my post on the Cauvet cave paintings). Charles C. Mann summarizes some of the latest thinking in his National Geographic article about the Gobekli-Tepe Pillars of southern Turkey: We used to think agriculture gave rise to cities and later to writing, art, and religion. Now the world’s oldest temple suggests the urge to worship sparked civilization.
Gobekli-Tepe-Pillars, southern Turkey. Photograph by Vincent J. Musi
The Gobekli-Tepe Pillars are a Stonehenge-type structure but taller, more finished and much older (about 11,600 years old).  One of the other interesting things about Göbekli Tepe is the builders got steadily LESS competent over the millennia. More photos can be found on the official Turkish site. (Scroll about halfway down for a text in English.)

Jonathan Jones of the Guardian suggests curators could learn something from the way Shakespeare is presented:
Theatres bring Shakespeare searingly alive time and again, so why are art galleries content to leave the old masters in their graves?  ...why can't the custodians of great art make Rembrandt, Raphael and Rubens as immediate as actors and directors make Shakespeare?

Richard Dorent, the astute art critic for the London Telegraph, reviews the Musee Orsay's Manet exhibition. He compares Titian's Venus of Urbino with Manet's Olympia (see photos above):
...All this implies a new and more active relationship between the subject and the viewer. Titian’s goddess feigns indifference to our presence whereas Olympia sizes us up, takes our measure. One is immortal, beyond human reach; the other could be booked after a good lunch at the Jockey Club.

Alan Taylor of the Atlantic put together this breathtaking album of 38 NASA photos of the solar system.
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) satellite captures an image of the Earth's moon crossing in front of the Sun, on May 3, 2011.
In his article Adrift: Will the Whitney’s new home allow it to finally find happiness?, Jed Perl, The New Republic’s art critic, makes some good points about the expansion of most art museums: 
.... What museums are really looking for is not more exhibition space, per se—and certainly not more space for under-appreciated aspects of the permanent collection—but rather for spaces large enough for a Richard Serra sculpture or a Matthew Barney installation. That stuff will impress potential donors, who couldn’t tell a Charles Demuth from an Arthur Dove if their lives depended on it.

Kyle Chayka, writing in the Hyperallergic art blog, has a rudimentary but good summary of Performance Art here including this serviceable definition:
...If we were to assign performance art a single defining characteristic, it would probably be the fact that a piece of performance art must be centered on an action carried out or orchestrated by an artist, a time-based rather than permanent artistic gesture that has a beginning and an end.
In addition, she provides a brief description of several iconic performances.

Chayka also has an excellent photo essay on the newly opened Section 2 of the High Line.

Section 2 of the High Line. Photo: Kyle Chayka.
Update: The Guardian has an article today on the opening of Section 2 of the High Line. What's taking the Times so long?

Vanessa Thorpe of the Guardian/Observer goes out on a limb:
...The freshest art on the contemporary scene appears to have turned its back on the ironic jokes and personal confessions epitomised by Tracey Emin's notorious unmade bed and Damien Hirst's dead floating shark.
From her lips to God's ears!

Joanne Mattera has some suggestions for making artists' statements more effective. I still think the best advice is that unless you're really good at it, DON’T DO IT --  you could easily sound like a pompous ass.

Charles Kessler is an artist and writer, and lives in Jersey City.


Carl Belz said...

Re: The architectural pillars in southern Turkey: Please don't tell me that this means Stanley Kubrick's appalling endnote to what is one of the worst films ever inflicted upon an unsuspecting movie-going public was right! Please, say it ain't so...

Charles Kessler said...

Good morning, Carl. I'm afraid your suspicion is right, Carl. Have you noticed they both got worse over time?