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The Oldest Living Things in the World

Oh.  My.  Talk about wonderlust.  I love this project.  Rachel Sussman created this project, called “The Oldest Living Things in the World,” as a photographer with a fine arts background who wanted to use photographs to expand our minute human experience and understanding of time.

Inspired by an ancient tree in Japan while on a photography trip, she realized that it would be really interesting to try to document the oldest living species, and was amazed to find that no one had ever done a project on this subject in either the arts or the sciences.  So, she took it upon herself!  The result is this portfolio of literally the oldest living things on the earth– all these old plants that are all at least two THOUSAND years old!

In the gallery above (click thumbnails to enlarge, then click on the right side to go to the next image), the images are as follows:

jomon sugi japanese cedar (2,180 – 7,000 years old, yaku shima, japan); la llareta (up to 3,000 years old, atacama desert, chile); welwitschia mirabilis (2,000 years old; namib naukluft desert, namibia)

2010/08 Rachel Sussman from CreativeMornings on Vimeo.

The Art of the Steal

If you ever took an art history class, you probably learned about the Barnes Foundation.  The restricted-access private art collection of Albert C. Barnes outside of Philadelphia was, and is, legendary.  Barnes, with unbelievable foresight, put together a collection of dozens of Renoirs, Matisses, Picassos, and other 19th and 20th century masters, many of whom were not even being collected yet by anyone else.  In addition to this, he amassed an extensive African art collection, which he was passionate about and saw as just as important as the other Western art movements while his contemporaries still considered it “primitive art.”

[Image: The original blueprint for the Barnes Foundation, 1922]

As an art history major, I was always dying to go to the Barnes Foundation– a grand building outside of Philadelphia where the whole collection was housed, carefully curated according to Barnes’ preference for a style he called “wall ensembles,” that gathered art around themes, rather than by time period.

The foundation, which Barnes had intended as an educational center, was open to small numbers of students and educators and was known for its excellent seminars and classes.  But after Barnes’ death, though his will was definitive in stating that he wanted the collection to remain as one collection in perpetuity, never to be sold off, the fate of the collection was exposed to the larger forces in the art world (including his biggest rival), starting a great controversy over what would happen to this famous collection.

[Image: The digital rendering for the new building in Philadelphia]

Today, a new building is being added to the Phildelphia Museum of Art to house the collection (after lots of drama, as detailed in the documentary).  Because it will now be housed in a public museum in a major city, the collection will be much more highly accessible, but does that justify the fact that this was against the wishes of the man who built and owned the collection?   And was largely carried out by one of his rivals?  Check out the trailer to see what happened and how… it’s one of the greatest present-day dramas in the art world!

New Anish Kapoor: Turning the World Upside Down

Anish Kapoor’s new installation at Kensington Gardens, on view through March 13th.

Check out the video to see the effect on the pieces of the clouds moving across the sky… the photos don’t capture the fact that the pieces are always in flux due to the ever-changing sky.

Arts Visuels >> Classics >> Brancusi

In seventh grade, Ms. Hearey, my art teacher, showed our class this piece and immediately and forever changed my understanding of Modern art.  

Bird in Space, 1923.  
She put up a slide of this sculpture on the first day of class, without telling us the name or giving any introduction, and asked what we thought of it.  As twelve and thirteen year-olds with no particular artistic leanings, we stared dumbly and were unable to offer anything of substance.  I remember actually thinking the classic non-Modern-art-lovers’ comment, “I think I could have done that.” 
Then she told us the name, and showed us more examples of Brancusi’s style of reducing and abstracting ideas to their simplest form– in this case, a flying bird represented not by beak and wings and feathers, but by a fluid, graceful form encapsulating the essence of a bird in flight– and it all clicked. 
The Kiss, 1916
Brancusi (and these two pieces in particular) became a favorite, and Katy Hearey, if you’re out there, I think I have you to thank as starting me on a path that would result in my majoring in art history and generally loving art history for life.

More from Ball-Nogues Studio

Ball-Nogues studio, who created these awesome suspension installations, also created this map of San Diego for a new local hotel.

Not content with merely an “artistic representation” of the layout of the city, they created a geographic and topographic replica using custom-made software to transform an aerial photo in a 3-d bas relief using wood, bronze, and polymer resin.

Classics >> Peter Beard

Steve Powers is Back

So glad to see that Steve Powers (a graffiti artist AND Fulbright scholar) is back with a new project.  Called “A Love Letter for Syracuse,” it’s a project in conjunction with Syracuse University and local organizations intended to use public art as a means to neighborhood revitalization.
Powers, together with these organizations, used painted phrases to turn three train bridges that are physical and metaphorical dividers between two very disparate neighborhoods into points of unity and conversation-starters.

Here, Steve discusses “why” of the font, the words, etc behind this project…

The bridges that cross Fayette and West Streets were hand made in the 1940s from Carnegie Steel and the toil of countless people. They were built for a Syracuse of great industry and remain faithful to the industrial ideals of utility, dependability and (yes) austerity. In the era the bridges were built, sign painting was a viable profession and like many other professions in Syracuse, went away because a machine replaced hands, heart and head.

Once sign painting as a trade became extinct, it became interesting to me as a medium for art. I learned to paint signs as they had been painted for generations, but instead of the commercial concerns of most signage I used the letters and colors to talk about love and life. The font I employ was prized by sign painters because it is clear and versatile, qualities that serve me well when I am talking about complex things like love. Beyond that, my use of the sign painters craft is about the importance of the hands, heart and head being present in the work I make. The work we are calling on to renew the West side must possess the same qualities.
The words we painted were drawn from the neighborhood. The font was already on one side of the w. Fayette Street bridge. (It was painted for Romano Ford in the 60′s and again in the 70′s) The colors we used are present in every industry, the federal safety colors, blue, red, yellow, green, and especially orange. The gloss black is what the bridge was painted when it was first built. The innovations of the color and the content emerge from the history of the black paint. In doing so, these painted bridges represent what I believe is the future of Syracuse;  Taking what has value and remaking it for the future, in a way that respects tradition and innovation.

If you missed his last project, the now-famous “A Love Letter For You,” check it out back here.  More about the current project here.

Arts Visuels >> Claire Morgan

In the same way that people often describe experiencing the moments of a car wreck or calamitous accident as though it were in slow motion, so slow that they can recall every detail with supernatural clarity, Claire Morgan’s painstakingly precise installations composed of taxidermied animanls, manmade plastics, and natural elements seem to reconstruct a freeze-frame of the metaphorical factors that collided to cause the death of the animal on display.

[Claire Morgan]

Ball Nogues Studio

 Ball-Nogues studio designs these installations of dyed twine, which they call “Suspensions,” using a computer program they created, and then they hang the twine by hand.  Are you in awe??  I am!

Ball-Nogues studio is a design and fabrication studio based out of Los Angeles and is headed by Benjamin Ball and Gaston Nogues, who studied together at Southern California Institute of Architecture.  Represented by Edward Cella Gallery in LA, their work has been featured at P.S. 1, the Venice Biennale, the Guggenheim, and many more prestigious institutions and exhibitions.
PS- if you like these, check out these installations.. highly reminiscent!
[Ball-Nogues]
[Edward Cella]
[via Kitsune Noir]

Urban Play

Graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister, in collaboration with lettering guru Jessica Hische and 150 volunteers, created this public installation in Amsterdam composed of 250,000 eurocents proclaiming, “Obsessions make my life worse and my work better.”  After it was finished, the installation was left unprotected to see how the public would interact with it.

About 20 afters after it was complete, when the plaza was empty, a man came through and started picking up the coins and putting them in bags.  A neighbor, concerned that someone was “stealing the artwork,” called the police, who tried to find the artist, and when they couldn’t, they called a city cleaning company to bag up all the money and put it in a safe until they could reach the artist.  Ha!
More on Sagmeister’s site here, including a timelapse video of the installation.
Jessica Hische website here (tons of awesome typography/graphic design stuff to explore).

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