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kottke.org posts about Art

Great Art Cities Explained: Paris

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 21, 2022

Great Art Explained is one of my recent favorite YouTube channels (see The Mona Lisa, Hokusai’s The Great Wave Off Kanagawa, Michelangelo’s David, and Starry Night, all fascinating) and host James Payne, along with Joanne Shurvell, are now doing a related series on Great Art Cities Explained. They tackled London first and have moved onto Paris, where they feature three of the city’s lesser known museums that were originally art studios: those of Eugène Delacroix, Suzanne Valadon, and Constantin Brancusi.

Hyperrealistic Paintings of Rich Vegetation

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 20, 2022

hyperrealistic painting of grasses and leaves

hyperrealistic painting of grasses and leaves

hyperrealistic painting of grasses and leaves

Why am I showing you these photos of lush, grassy, leafy plants? Because they are actually meticulously constructed hyperrealistic paintings of lush, grassy, leafy plants by Serbian artists Jelena and Aleksandar Paunkovic. The couple have been inspired by their verdant surroundings (I mean, just look at this) to produce these paintings:

From the big city we moved our studio near the mountain Kosmaj where we started with the production of paintings. We throw plastic bags out of everyday life and instead of them we made our canvas bags that still serve us today. We establish our own small garden, and started producing our natural non-hybrid food. We started composting organic food residues which we will use later as a soil that is rich in ingredients that will help other plants during growth. We meet new people and come to incredible information and knowledge. There will be more about that and other topics on our blog. When we harvested our first fruits after two months, there was no end to our happiness. For a moment we went back to our childhood, we remembered growing up, beautiful moments, and we had the privilege of feeling like a kids again.

With the pleasure of contact with plants, we discovered that we love hiking, but not for the reason of conquering the peaks, they are free and there is nothing to conquer. They can teach us that what we see there should be respected. All the paintings we create are created on those places. Each tour on new mountain, or visiting new environment, becomes material that will later serve us in the studio as a sketch for a new painting. We have found a way to bring the nature to a home or gallery and hang it on the wall to serve as a reminder that we need to think more about how our modern lifestyle affects the environment.

You can follow their progress on Instagram or order prints of their work. (via colossal)

Can’t Help Myself

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 19, 2022

In an artwork commissioned by the Guggenheim Museum called Can’t Help Myself, Sun Yuan and Peng Yu designed a robotic arm that is designed to keep a blood-colored liquid from straying too far away.

Placed behind clear acrylic walls, their robot has one specific duty, to contain a viscous, deep-red liquid within a predetermined area. When the sensors detect that the fluid has strayed too far, the arm frenetically shovels it back into place, leaving smudges on the ground and splashes on the surrounding walls.

Sounds a bit like everyone trying to do everything these days. This artwork has been popular on TikTok because people are empathizing that the machine is slowing down.

“It looks frustrated with itself, like it really wants to be finally done,” one comment with over 350,000 likes reads. “It looks so tired and unmotivated,” another said.

The Postage Stamp Pictures of Paul Edlin

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 19, 2022

a colorful abstract scene created with fragments of postage stamps

a colorful abstract scene created with fragments of postage stamps

Artist Paul Edlin used tiny fragments of postage stamps to create these beautiful abstract collages. Here’s closeup of the top image where you can see the fragments more clearly:

closeup of a colorful abstract scene created with fragments of postage stamps

(thx, philip)

Tiny Bubbles Quilt

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 14, 2022

a quilt with a circular pattern

Oh I love the look of this quilt made by Marla Varner of Penny Lane Quilts. Here’s a closer look:

closeup of a quilt with a circular pattern

The colors and pattern are just perfect. You can check out several of her other large quilts on her website or on Instagram. (via austin kleon)

US Quarter Featuring Maya Angelou Starts Circulating

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 11, 2022

US quarter featuring Maya Angelou on the reverse side

The US Mint has started shipping a quarter featuring poet & activist Maya Angelou on it.

A writer, poet, performer, social activist, and teacher, Angelou rose to international prominence as an author after the publication of her groundbreaking autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Angelou’s published works of verse, non-fiction, and fiction include more than 30 bestselling titles. Her remarkable career encompasses dance, theater, journalism, and social activism.

The front of the Angelou quarter features a portrait of George Washington (a slaveowner, I feel it is important to note) that is different from the usual image on regular quarters. The new image was sculpted by Laura Gardin Fraser in 1931:

In 1931, Congress held a competition to design a coin to honor the 200th anniversary of George Washington’s birth. The original competition called for the obverse of the coin to feature a portrait of George Washington, based on the famed life-mask bust by French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon. The reverse was to feature a design that was to be “national” in nature.

Laura Gardin Fraser submitted a design that features a right-facing portrait of George Washington on the obverse, while the reverse shows an eagle with wings spread wide. In a 1932 letter to recommend Fraser’s design, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) wrote to (then) Treasury Secretary Andrew W. Mellon:

“This bust is regarded by artists who have studied it as the most authentic likeness of Washington. Such was the skill of the artist in making this life-mask that it embodies those high qualities of the man’s character which have given him a place among the great of the world…Simplicity, directness, and nobility characterize it. The design has style and elegance…The Commission believes that this design would present to the people of this country the Washington whom they revere.”

While her design was popular, it was not chosen. Instead, Secretary Mellon ultimately selected the left-facing John Flannigan design, which has appeared on the quarter’s obverse since 1932.

the obverse side (with George Washington) of a US quarter featuring Maya Angelou on the reverse side

The Angelou quarter is the first in a series of quarters featuring notable American women:

Beginning in 2022 and continuing through 2025, the Mint will issue five quarters in each of these years. The ethnically, racially, and geographically diverse group of individuals honored through this program reflects a wide range of accomplishments and fields, including suffrage, civil rights, abolition, government, humanities, science, space, and the arts. The additional honorees in 2022 are physicist and first woman astronaut Dr. Sally Ride; Wilma Mankiller, the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation and an activist for Native American and women’s rights; Nina Otero-Warren, a leader in New Mexico’s suffrage movement and the first female superintendent of Santa Fe public schools; and Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American film star in Hollywood, who achieved international success despite racism and discrimination.

The Angelou quarter will start circulating later this month and early next month — look for it in your change soon!

Fashion for Hostile Architecture

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 11, 2022

a woman sitting against a slanted wall

four people dressed in blue track suits

a woman lying on a bench

Artist Sarah Ross’s project Archisuits draws attention to architecture in LA that is specifically designed to prohibit people from sitting on it. Each suit is produced to fit into a specific hostile architectural element so that the wearer can sit or lie comfortably on it.

Cracked Eggshells, Carefully Arranged

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 07, 2022

cracked eggshells carefully arranged

I am in deep like with this image of neatly arranged eggshells by Kristen Meyer. And her saltine arrangement is still extremely satisfying. You can check out more of her work on her website and at Instagram. Ok wait, I really like this one too:

torn book pages carefully arranged

(via colossal)

Surreal Psychedelic Headshots

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 04, 2022

a painting of a man with a landscape for a face

a painting of a woman with a landscape for a face

a painting of a man with a landscape for a face

a painting of a woman with a landscape for a face

Among Brazilian artist Rafael Silveira’s surrealist work are these portraits of people with landscape faces. I loved what he said about them in brief remarks to Colossal:

From inside, we are a strange mix of dreams, thoughts, feelings, and human meat. I think these portraits are not persons but moods.

(via colossal)

Dreamy & Surreal Imagery by KangHee Kim

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 23, 2021

clouds appear to come out of the top of a gas station canopy

a transparent road sign says 'Hope 1/2 Mile'

clouds in the middle of a lamp

a cloud nestles in a tre branch above a cliff face

Loving these fanciful and playful manipulated photos by KangHee Kim, which can be found on her Instagram or her series Street Errands.

Otherworldly Single Malt Scotch

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 16, 2021

patterns at the bottom of a whiskey glass that look like an alien planet

patterns at the bottom of a whiskey glass that look like an alien planet

patterns at the bottom of a whiskey glass that look like an alien planet

patterns at the bottom of a whiskey glass that look like an alien planet

For his series Vanishing Spirits: The Dried Remains of Single Malt Scotch, photographer Ernie Buttons photographed the creatively lit bottoms of glasses emptied of their single malt Scotch whisky. The results look like alien worlds.

These remind me a lot of Christopher Jonassen’s frying pan worlds and Nadine Schlieper’s & Robert Pufleb’s photos of pancakes that look like moons. (via moss & fog)

Colorful Gradient Sculpture

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 16, 2021

sculpture with a colorful gradient glaze

sculpture with a colorful gradient glaze

sculpture with a colorful gradient glaze

Courtesy of her distinctive glazing technique — which she uses to “express feelings of transcendental experiences” — Angel Oloshove’s sculpture shares a colorful, gradient aesthetic with contemporary digital media (including this here website). More on her Instagram.

Al Hirschfeld’s Drawings of Steven Sondheim’s Musicals

posted by Tim Carmody   Dec 09, 2021

Al Hirschfeld's caricature of a moment from Steven Sondheim's play Into the Woods

Writing for the New York Times, theater critic emeritus Ben Brantley praises caricaturist Al Hirschfeld’s depictions of the late Steven Sondheim’s work:

These seemingly simple pen strokes — and the ellipsis of the white space, which your own, happily collaborative mind fills in — are anything but static. They tremble with energy, tension and, above all, character, as it is conjured in real time on a stage.

Hirschfeld always said he would rather be called a “characterist” than a caricaturist. His illustrations of Sondheim, the most complex character portraitist in the Broadway songbook, make you understand why. Caricatures are a shorthand for the physical traits that make stars distinctive: Angela Lansbury’s immense Tweety Bird eyes, for example, or Bernadette Peters’s Cupid’s bow mouth.

Hirschfeld nails such elements of physiognomy. He also endows them with the exciting emotional temperature that heats up every Sondheim song. The Lansbury he draws as the corrupt mayor Cora Hoover Hooper of “Anyone Can Whistle” (1964) and as the cannibal pie-maker Mrs. Lovett in “Sweeney Todd” are recognizably the same woman.

I particularly like the great energy swirling all around the lead characters in Hirschfeld’s take on “West Side Story”:

Hirschfeld's caricature of a moment in West Side Story

The Courtroom Sketch Artist

posted by Tim Carmody   Dec 07, 2021

ghislaine-maxwell-court-sketch.jpeg

Choire Sicha’s interview with Jane Rosenberg, the courtroom sketch artist currently working on the Ghislaine Maxwell trial in New York, is delightful.

Do you and other courtroom artists ever fight?
Oh, sure. You don’t want to hear all that.

All I want to hear is that!
Oh, no, no. I’m not starting. I get along professionally with most artists. There are some who are just really a problem. It’s not normal, what I put up with from the other ones. I used to have a story every day — they cursed me out! They knocked my pastels over! They’re sly as a fox, they do it when no one’s around, but all the court officers know who they are. They’re not in this trial.

Jeez. It’s much nicer among the reporters!
We compete, also! There’s issues of competition for certain clients. Some of us have our set clients, and there’s stealing going on, all kinds of backstabbing going on. It’s not all roses. I’m okay with who’s here, and we do what we have to do.

(Rosenberg has been drawing defendants since 1980.)

Goofy 18th-Century Self-Portraits by Joseph Ducreux

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 29, 2021

self-portrait by Joseph Ducreux

self-portrait by Joseph Ducreux

self-portrait by Joseph Ducreux

self-portrait by Joseph Ducreux

self-portrait by Joseph Ducreux

self-portrait by Joseph Ducreux

Joseph Ducreux was a French painter active in the latter part of the 18th century — he was a portraitist in the court of Louis XVI and continued his career after the French Revolution. But Ducreux is increasingly remembered for his series of self-portraits that were surprisingly informal for the age in which they were painted. To contemporary eyes, they almost seem to have been painted for use in memes, a purpose for which they certainly have been used.

Beautifully Arranged Rock Sculptures

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 24, 2021

colorful rocks arranged neatly

colorful rocks arranged neatly

colorful rocks arranged neatly

colorful rocks arranged neatly

Jon Foreman neatly arranges rocks into colorful sculptures. He also does similar sand, leaves, debris, and shells. You can order prints on his site or check out more of his stuff on Instagram. (via colossal)

Blonde Drawings

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 18, 2021

drawing of a colorful wig

drawing of a colorful wig

drawing of a colorful wig

CJ Hendry has done a series of photorealistic drawings of hair called BLONDE. You can see some of the work in progress on her Instagram and see it in person in NYC Dec 10-12. Love these. (via @downtown.collective)

The Dutch Angle

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 12, 2021

These days, movies, TV shows, and even commercials all use something called the Dutch angle,1 a filmmaking technique where the camera is angled to produce a tilted scene, often to highlight that something is not quite right. The technique originated in Germany, inspired by Expressionist painters.

It was pioneered by German directors during World War I, when outside films were blocked from being shown in Germany. Unlike Hollywood, which was serving up largely glamorous, rollicking films, the German film industry took inspiration from the Expressionist movement in art and literature, which was focused on processing the insanity of world war. Its themes touched on betrayal, suicide, psychosis, and terror. And Expressionist films expressed that darkness not just through their plotlines, but their set designs, costumes… and unusual camera shots.

This got me thinking about my favorite shot from Black Panther, this camera roll in the scene where Killmonger takes the Wakandan throne:

It’s the Dutch angle but even more dynamic and it blew me away the first time I saw it. I poked around a little to see if this particular move had been done before (if director Ryan Coogler and cinematographer Rachel Morrison were referencing something specific) and I found Christopher Nolan (although I’d argue that he uses it in a slightly different way) and Stranger Things (in the scene starting at 1:33). Anywhere else?

  1. As with Pennsylvania Dutch, the Dutch in Dutch angle is a bastardization of Deutsch (German).

Face-Swapping Collages

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 09, 2021

hand-cut collages with a face replaced with various other scenes/objects

hand-cut collages with a face replaced with various other scenes/objects

hand-cut collages with a face replaced with various other scenes/objects

hand-cut collages with a face replaced with various other scenes/objects

For the past year or so, UK artist Shane Wheatcroft has been making these hand-cut collages that replace people’s faces with various other scenes and objects. It’s hard to tell from these images, but (at least some of?) the collages are 3D. A number of Wheatcroft’s artworks are available for sale on Artfinder. (via jenni)

Great Art Explained: The Mona Lisa (The Extended Cut)

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 09, 2021

In the most recent episode of the excellent YouTube series Great Art Explained, James Payne expands on an earlier, shorter video on the Mona Lisa with this double-length extended cut.

For Mona Lisa, Leonardo used a thin grain of poplar tree and applied an undercoat of lead white, rather than just a mix of chalk and pigment. He wanted a reflective base. Leonardo painted with semi-transparent glazes that had a very small amount of pigment mixed with the oil, so how dark you wanted your glaze to be depends on how much pigment you use. He used more like a “wash”, which he applied thin — layer by layer. Here you can see two colors of contrast — light and dark. When you apply thin glaze over both of them, you can see it starts to unify the contrast but also brings depth and luminosity. The lead white undercoat reflects the light back through the glazes, giving the picture more depth and in essence, lighting Mona Lisa from within.

This was fascinating, not a wasted moment in the whole thing. I’ve read, watched, and listened to a lot of analysis of the Mona Lisa over the years, but Payne’s detailed explanation both added to my knowledge and clarified what I already knew.

Paper Sculptures of Bleached Coral

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 09, 2021

intricate paper sculpture of bleached corals

intricate paper sculpture of bleached corals

Artist Rogan Brown is highlighting what the climate crisis is doing to global coral populations with two recent delicate and intricate paper sculptures of bleached coral. Brown writes:

Here I try to capture the beauty, intricacy and fragility of the coral reef in layers of simple paper. The world’s coral reefs have become symbols of the devastating effects of global warming and man-made pollution. Mass bleaching events occur each year with increasing regularity and if the situation continues then it is inevitable that we will witness the demise of these magnificent biodiverse habitats. My hope is that by reminding us of how astonishing these ecosystems are we may unite to save them.

You can check out the rest of Brown’s intricate paper sculptures in his portfolio or on Instagram. (via colossal)

Leonardo da Vinci’s Best Painting (Is Not The Mona Lisa)

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 02, 2021

For the latest episode of Nerdwriter, Evan Puschak (after briefly introducing his forthcoming book) discusses his favorite Leonardo da Vinci painting, The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne.

In this way, moving from the apex of the pyramid to its bottom right corner is actually a trip through time, from the past to the present to the future. And that timeline also extends along a three-dimensional axis — the lamb is in front of Jesus, who’s in front of Mary, who’s in front of Anne. But on this axis, it goes even further — behind Anne, we’re launched into the geological past. These mountains, these bones of the Earth, suggest a deep time — so deep that it conflicts with the Christian sense of the age of the world. Now that reflects a larger conflict in the Renaissance between religion and a growing appreciation for natural science, which is embodied in no person more than Leonardo da Vinci, the insatiably curious polymath.

Camouflaged Portraits

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 28, 2021

a woman camouflaged to blend into a patterned wall

a woman camouflaged to blend into a patterned wall

a woman camouflaged to blend into a patterned wall

a woman camouflaged to blend into a patterned wall

Cecilia Paredes takes photos of herself blending into elaborate backgrounds. You can see more of her work at Colossal, Lens Culture, Schneider Gallery, and Artsy.

Wind Turbine Wall

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 25, 2021

Wind Turbine Wall

Designer Joe Doucet’s Wind Turbine Wall is both a kinetic sculpture and a way to harness wind power to create electricity.

Wind energy has played a key role in helping national grids around the world reduce dependence on fossil fuels to generate energy, but wind turbines for the home have encountered very slow uptake due, in part, to their intrusive physicality.

Designed to be as aesthetically pleasing as it is functional, this “kinetic wall” is made up of an array of rotary blades that spin individually, driving a mini generator that creates electricity. The electricity is utilized in the home or business, can be stored in a wall-mounted battery, or can even be fed back into the national grid to provide revenue for the owner.

Here’s the wall in action:

From a writeup of the project in Fast Company:

Doucet has built a prototype for a single spinning rod and run simulations based on that. The average annual electricity consumption for an American home uses a little over 10,000 kilowatt-hours per year. One of these walls would be enough. But where Doucet sees true potential is in larger-scale commercial buildings and even cities. “Instead of the typical retaining walls along roads and freeways, you’d have an array of these,” says Doucet, who says he’s in conversation with several manufacturers to help him bring the product to market. “With the added wind boost from trucks, our highways could take care of all our energy needs.”

(thx, michael)

Flingbot: A Robotic Artist That Flings Paint

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 22, 2021

Artist & engineer JBV has built a robot artist called Flingbot that works by throwing paint at a canvas according to a number of randomized parameters, e.g. fling strength, scoop shape, paint color, and throwing angles:

The next parameters are the starting and ending fling angles. Randomly chosen by the code, the trajectory and point it hits the canvas is variable creating another factor of uniqueness. This is all controlled by a servo under the base of the catapult, which also happens to be the motor that allows Flingbot to position itself under the paint reservoirs.

This means that every painting Flingbot creates is effectively unique.

All in all, accounting for all the different parameters, there are almost 3 trillion paintings that Flingbot can make. The number is likely even higher than this because there are even more variables to consider that are out of Flingbots control. These include the consistency of the paint, the angle of the canvas, the temperature in the room…the list goes on. It’s safe to say that each one of Flingbot’s painting is truly one of a kind.

(via the morning news)

“Drawing in the Air”

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 21, 2021

Korean artist Lee Sangsoo makes these minimalist yet expressive sculptures of animals, people, and objects. And they’re perhaps larger than you expect.

minimalist metal sculpture of a siamese cat

minimalist metal sculpture of flamingos

I know I’ve said this probably 100 times before, but I’m continually amazed at how, with just a few strokes of a brush or twists of metal, an artist can create something that’s both abstract and familiar. That beige and brown sculpture above…my brain took about 0.03 seconds to recognize that as a siamese cat. Artists hacking the human brain’s pattern recognition ability and us being delighted by it is the gift that keeps on giving. (via colossal)

A People’s Archive of Sinking and Melting

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 19, 2021

a discolored dollar bill found after Hurricane Sandy

a slipper found after Hurricane Katrina

a collection of tools from Anarctica

For the last ten years, artist Amy Balkin has been collecting artifacts related to the climate crisis. The collection is called A People’s Archive of Sinking and Melting.

A People’s Archive of Sinking and Melting is a collection of materials contributed by people living in places that may disappear because of the combined physical, political, and economic impacts of climate change, primarily sea level rise, erosion, desertification, and glacial melting.

From a piece about the archive in the New Yorker:

There is an incredible pathos to Balkin’s collection of things. In the light of imagined future eyes, tinged by loss, all manner of things become relevant that would otherwise pass unnoticed. Even two beer-bottle caps, in this context, are mesmerizing. Both are from places that are threatened with a certain kind of disappearance, or, at the very least, radical change; through their corrosion and fading, they seemed to foretell this disappearance somehow. And yet, paradoxically, looking at them, I knew that these pieces of metal would likely outlast me. A future person might see them in a museum, displayed with a label that reads “Beer-bottle caps, common in this time.” But what would that person’s world be like? What would be lost, between now and then, even as these fragments are shored up against ruin?

You can contribute to the archive — instructions for sending in an artifact are here.

Swirling Clay Landscape Sculptures

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 19, 2021

a blue sky and green field landscape sculpted from clay

a blue sky and green field landscape sculpted from clay

a blue sky, green field, and river landscape sculpted from clay

Alisa Lariushkina uses air-dry clay to make swirling sculptures that look like landscape paintings. Lariushkina’s patterns and color palette evoke the style of Post-Impressionist painters — indeed she’s even recreated van Gogh’s Starry Night in clay. (via my modern met)

A Small Store

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 18, 2021

illustration of a Korean convenience store with a tree with yellow leaves outside of it

illustration of a Korean convenience store

illustration of a Korean convenience store with a fruit tree outside of it

Always great to check back in on the work of Me Kyeoung Lee, who has been drawing delicate & detailed portraits of convenience stores from around Korea. Check out her Instagram for more work and some behind-the-scenes — I was surprised at how large some of her drawings are. (via colossal)

Star Wars Oil Paintings

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 15, 2021

oil painting of Star Wars X-Wing fighters

oil painting of Star Wars X-Wing fighters and the Millennium Falcon

oil painting of Star Wars X-Wing fighters and the Death Star

oil painting of Star Wars X-Wing fighters

Check out these expressive impressionist oil paintings of scenes from Star Wars by Naci Caba. (He also does paintings of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.) Seeing futuristic sci-fi rendered in this medium is giving me a bit of cognitive dissonance.

You can buy prints and even the original oil paintings in his shop or at Etsy. (via digg)