Thursday, August 31, 2006

Art news

Remember The Scream by Munch? The painting has been finally recovered! The masterpiece was stolen two years ago by gunmen who seized it from an Oslo museum (via

Symbols in art

1- Clouds mean rain, a falling barometer means that a storm is coming, a twister in the sky means an approaching tornado: one is a sign of the other. These relations exist in nature and were discovered, not invented by humans. On the other hand, a bell ringing means the end of class, the word “cat” means a certain species of domesticated quadruped. These relations are conventional. 2- In art, what is it that makes a thing a symbol? It is something represented in the artwork (an object, an action, or a pattern of objects and actions, or just a color) that does the symbolizing? How does A become a symbol of B? 3- The cross is a symbol of Christianity (a conventional token of suffering) but this is a historic and religious convention. On the other hand, the sun seems like a natural symbol of life and strength; a river brings forth the idea of eternal change and flowing, and so forth. In these cases there was no agreement (convention) as to what would stand for what; the relation is too obvious. 4- According to philosopher Nelson Goodman one can virtually make any A to stand for any B, provided one can justify the link -an important premise for an artist. 5- Here are some examples of how virtually anything can be a symbol for something else: animals, parts of the body, abstract characters, artefacts, plants, etc. A circle → the cosmos (in Shamanism); a triangle→ perfection; an ant→ industry; the ape → loyalty and devotion (ancient India); the arch→ the union of earth and sky (ancient Greece); the human beard→ wisdom, strength and virility (Semitic religions); blood→ a tantric image of fertilization (Vedas); ying/yang→ positive, negative (Ancient China); A and ω→ beginning and end (ancient Greece); the dog→ watchful guardian (ancient Egypt); Moby Dick→evil. 6- So, to further problematize the issue: What would Duchamp's Fountain stand for?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Update (3 points)

1- We have class tomorrow, same time, same place. 2- Charo Oquet is coming around 7:40pm for a presentation. Oquet co-directs The Edge Zones (, one of Miami’s most interesting alternative spaces. Oquet is a good painter, but I particularly like her installations. They stand like discombobulated towers, part trash architecture, part baby-world. Dolls, fake jewelry, trinkets, cheap embroideries, little toys, souvenirs and whatnot jumbled in some bizarre offerings to the gods. 3- Incidentally, I haven't seen much participation (your 120-word comment) -which was already due. Ernesto? Fine, but how about the very possibility of the Internet (look under sociological implications) in cases like this?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

What is art?

Since definitions aim at setting limits, Dominic made a good point when he said that a work of art “is a man-made thing,” an artifact -as distinguished from an object in nature. A sunset is beautiful, but it's not art. A piece of driftwood may have aesthetic qualities, but it is not a work of art. On the other hand, a piece of wood that has been carved to look like driftwood is not an object of nature, but of art. Is it intention or “purpose” what characterizes art? Even that was challenged by Duchamp’s objets trouvés. Even though “Fountain” is a urinal, it could be that the act of recontextualizing it, i.e. setting it in a different space (re)defines it as art. Could art relate to a kind of heightened interaction with a particular environment? Historian Rhonda Roland Shearer has argued that exhibiting a found object “is already a modification from its natural state” (think of an installation of sea shells inside a gallery entitled “Wisdom”). According to this definition, paintings, sculptures, buildings, furniture, automobiles, ships, etc, can be seen as art. Arthur Danto (well-known critic and philosopher of art) has suggested that “art” should be kept open, as “an evolving concept” (as coincidentally one of you suggested on Wednesday). In addition, you advanced these other functions for “art”: (1) Self-expression (Jason?), (2) A way of presenting problems (Ernie?), (3) A means of human communicaton (visual perhaps? (Michele), (4) Is “art” innate? (Maria) Some of your suggestions point to important themes in aesthetics: (1) is the thesis of Italian philosopher Benedetto Croce in his book The Essence of the Aesthetic, (2) defines the manner of aesthetic investigation for Martin Heidegger in his essay The Origin of the Work of Art. (3) characterizes semiotics as a discipline in the Human Sciences. As per (4) I think of Jung's quote: “Art is a kind of innate drive that seizes a human being and makes him its instrument.” The issue points to an old debate, which still goes on. I side with evolutionary biology. This post addresses our first art issue. Please, find time to respond by (the latest) Tuesday, so we can have an interesting online discussion. Thanks to all for further problematizing existing problems.

American "Corvette": "Why did you Americans stop building those amazing square cars?" (Italian star designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, Fiat & Alpha Romeo)

English battleship (late 18th Century): With one of these -at Trafalgar- Admiral Nelson destroyed Napoleon's shot at ruling the seas (for many the first Modern naval battle).

Duchamp's "Fountain" (a 1964 replica of the original): "What is copied once can be copied many times."-- Gary Starkweather, inventor, laser print.

Eames' "Lounge Chair": A paragon of functionality and style.

Pantheon (c. 118 A.D.): "Being inside the Pantheon is like floating in heaven"-- J.W. Goethe

Robert Crumb: Intense, excessive, self-indulgent.

Venus of Willendorf (c. 22,000 B.C.): "[Some] have raised the possibility that it was designed to be inserted vaginally."

Pollock's "Lavender" ("Pollock is the strongest painter of his generation and perhaps the greatest one to appear since Miró."-- Clement Greenberg

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Some artnews

1- Power to the people in China (via Artdaily). 2- Calatrava's Fordham Building could be a masterpiece in a city with many (via WILLisms). 3- How about market trends? It means you've become a commodity. So what? 4- Local art & food (via Critical Miami) 5- The Next Few Hours is the coolest artblog in Miami (Kathleen is doing her MFA at UM and may come to talk to our class in October). 6- Who said there was no "ecological art"? 7- This is a fresh place to think about art. See you later...

Friday, August 25, 2006

In the meantime

Last night was fun. I'll post something more serious later, for now, this is the math genius I talked about last night... as per laid back intense, find it here. Another angle of propaganda art is this anti-holocaust exhibit in Iran. Pretty bizarre.