by   Posted on July 7, 2010 in Medieval Manuscripts: History & Techniques

Helpful links for ARTS 335/ ARTH 362:

British Library MSS

Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

Aberdeen Bestiary

St. Albans Psalter

The Cloisters

Bodleian Library, Oxford (Digital Image Library)

Morgan Library medieval manuscripts

Morgan Library

Lectures and film clips related to manuscript studies:

Jonathan Alexander lecture at the Met on the exhibition Pen & Parchment: Drawing as an Art Form in Medieval Manuscripts

Morgan Library curator Roger Wieck’s lecture on the Prayer Book of Claude de France.

Belles Heures of Duc de Berry at the Met

Michelle P. Brown talks about the Holkham Bible

Christopher de Hamel discusses Medieval manuscripts at Corpus Christi College

Things you may not know about Christo

by   Posted on April 17, 2010 in Contemporary Art Issues & Images

Tuesday, April 13th, Christo spoke at Memminger Auditorium (here in Charleston) about his and Jeanne-Claude’s past and future projects, most notably Over the River, which will span 14 miles of the Arkansas River.  In his lecture, he outlined the rigorous trials he and Jeanne-Claude and their team of engineers underwent to ensure the successful completion of their past projects. For instance, they built 17 of the “Gates” in their engineer’s yard near Seattle, Washington to test colors for the fabrics. He said they knew they wanted a warm color, but the exact shade had to be determined at full scale and over months in order to see the color in different lighting situations.  For Over the River, the engineers have had to work out many details to allow for wind, the twists and turns of the river, and other environmental factors. Christo categorized his and Jeanne-Claude’s work as urban projects and rural projects: of course, there are different issues they must consider in each of these categories.  The urban projects, like the wrapping of the Reichstag or the wrapping of the Pont-Neuf, usually involve an architectural landmark. Christo studied architecture as an art student at the National Academy in Sofia, Bulgaria, which is a traditional academy with an art curriculum that combines studies of painting, sculpture, drawing, and architecture. Christo’s academic background was news to me. Also, he seemed very appreciative of his early traditional art training that his parents gave him; they hired an art tutor for him as a boy at age 6.  He referenced many early art historical works as an influence on his artistic output. I found his reference to drapery studies particularly intersting.  In the Question and Answer period after the talk, someone asked about his influences, and Christo discussed at length the character of drapery in various periods of art history. He mentioned the angular folds found in Gothic works versus the voluptuousness of Bernini’s folds , for instance.  

The images above are drawings by Christo. He does all his work by hand by himself, without the help of studio assistants. Despite the collaborative nature of his and Jean-Claude’s work, he seemed very much the Romantic individualistic artist. In addition to the studio work – which is self contained and which funds the lrge scale projects – he also mentioned that the primary consideration for each project was not any audience other than himself and Jeanne-Claude. They did what they did, where they did it, because they wanted to see it. Christo spoke very much about Jeanne-Claude, almost as though she was still alive and still his partner in his artistic endeavors. Of course, the current project, Over the River, is something that began years ago, and she did indeed collaborate on it.

Fortunately, the semester is almost over. Unfortunatlely, we’ve not discussed the range of topics I’d hoped.

by   Posted on April 11, 2010 in Contemporary Art Issues & Images

After watching the video on Andy Warhol’s work last week, I wanted to look more closely at his films and screen tests. [kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /][kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]We addressed his influence on pop art in painting and sculpture, but his work in film is quite influential too and should be further discussed. [kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]The screen tests strike me as a precursor to the portrait photography of Thomas Struth, whose “Video Portraits showcase carefully selected subjects – an art dealer, an architect, a student, and Struth’s godson – gazing calmly at the camera, and, by extension, at us. His subjects sit before the camera for one hour, steady and unmoving except for the occasional blink of an eye. After their initial self-consciousness passes, Struth’s subjects sink into a fascinating meditative state. The hour before the camera reveals barely perceptible changes in mood and emotion, evidenced through shifting eyes or even a stifled yawn.  Struth’s restrained use of the medium brilliantly combines the stasis of painting with photography’s embrace of the fleeting,” according to Creative Time.

Another artist working with the video portrait format (sort of) is Tony Oursler. His large scale filmed facial feautures are projected onto biomorphic sculptures, creating a surreal image of blinking, blood shot eyes and glistening, yellowed teeth greeting you as you enter the gallery space. [kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Somehow, the entire semester slipped by without looking at nearly enough work by contemporary photographers and video artists….

One last thought… the human face is such a powerful and unnerving subject to view in real time; Marina Abramovic’s current show at the Museum of Modern Art entitled “The Artist Is Present”capitalizes on the strangeness of staring at another person for several minutes. She sits in a chair and has an audience with one museum visitor at a time. Of course, her work eliminates the filter of video, and is about personal – or interpersonal – experience. Watch the live video during museum hours!


by   Posted on March 21, 2010 in Contemporary Art Issues & Images

Multiple Shadow House is a new work by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eiasson which was recently exhibited at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery. IMG_0769IMG_0767 Using projection lamps, a simple wooden framework, and projection screens, Eliasson creates a “situation experienced as it is created,” according to the gallery’s press release. The effects of the lights on the screens remain unarticulated until visitors interact with the space. I took the pictures above as I walked through the room-like spaces, and my shadow was projected in various hues.  Eliasson often addresses perception of color and light in his works.  The following film introduces Eliasson’s work and aesthetic theories. 

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“In this century, and moment, of mania, tell me a story.”

by   Posted on March 15, 2010 in Contemporary Art Issues & Images  and tagged ,

…”Tell me a story of deep delight.” This line from Robert Penn Warren seemed apropos considering our last class discussion on narrative content in visual art. As one of my favorite college English professors Dr. Ernest Suarez explained the above quotation, human beings are storytellers by nature.  This uniquely human concern with narrative was central to several exhibits I saw last week in New York. The Morgan Library currently is featuring a stunning exhibition Demons and Devotion: the Hours of Catherine of Cleves, and the Met has the Limbourg Brothers’ masterpiece the Belles Heures of Jean de Berry lavishly displayed. I’ll gush about those extraordinary works in a later post. What is germane to our purposes are examples of contemporary artists who are working with narrative structures and/or the book format.


The Bible Illuminated: R. Crumb’s Book of Genesis was on view at David Zwirner.In these 207 ink drawings, Crumb chronicles all 50 chapters of Genesis in “an astonishing tapestryof masterly detail and storytelling, rendered frame by frame in meticulous comic book fashion,” according to David Zwirner’s press release.

Yun Fei-Ji’s work was on view at James Cohan. His traditionally rendered scroll-like ink drawings depict a narrative about the controversial Three Gorges Dam project, and incorporate text into the imagery.  Ji is a Chinese expatriate artist who – in his own words – uses landscape painting “to explore the utopian dreams of Chinese history, from past collectivization to new consumerism.” the_dance_aug_05feature_2b_S_O03

Seminal (or Germinal) Performance Pieces

by   Posted on February 22, 2010 in Contemporary Art Issues & Images  and tagged , , , , ,

“I assume the senses crave sources of maximum information,” wrote Carolee Schneeman in “The Notebooks (1962-63)” in More Than Meat Joy.  The carnal richness and frenzy of Meat Joy (which we watched at the beginning of our last class) offers a counterpoint to the formal concerns of minimalist artists and the cerebral concerns of conceptual artists, who equally contributed to the artistic climate of the 1960’s and 1970’s. meatjoy

Austrian artist Hermann Nitsch conceived of an art of Dionysian fervor seven years before the Schneeman piece; he founded the Orgies Mysteries Theater in 1957. This film clip, an excerpt from Das Orgien Mysterien Theater. Day 3: Day of Dionysus, is from his 100th performance which took place in 1998.  Nitsch intends the work to be life affirming, ecstatic, all-embracing festival of life. In this piece, all are to be intoxicated and to partake of the slaughter of a pig.  Nitsch describes in detail, “GRAPES, FRUIT and TOMATOES, ANIMAL LUNGS, FLESH and INTESTINES are trampled on in ecstasy. People trample in SLAUGHTERED ANIMAL CARCASSES FILLED WITH INTESTINES, in troughs full of blood and wine.  He wanted to excite the senses into metaphysical ecstasy, drawing on themes from Greek tragedy.[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /] nitsch

Less orgiastic,but no less sensual, are the works of Vito Acconci and Karen Finley. vito_acconci_seedbed_1972FinleyWeKeepOurVictimsReadyIn Acconci’s 1972 piece, Seedbed, he maturbated for 8 hours every day under the floor of the gallery with visitors to the gallery able to talk to him from an opening in the floor. Seedbed (the ultimate “seminal” performance piece), can be viewed on; simply follow the link above.

Karen Finley’s work focuses on feminist issues with her portrayals of violence against and objectification of women. Following is Finley performing “Enter Entrepreneur” on Mondo New York in 1988. [kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

The substance – beyond the sensational and shocking aspects of these works – lies in the multi-sensory experience these artists create. The idea that visual art can engage more than the single sense of sight divorced from the other senses (namely touch) is something Mark Rothko discusses in The Artist’s Reality.  Across all media, this is a common artistic concern – whether the work should be purely visual or involve the tactile, auditory, etc.

No discussion of performance art would be complete without a look at the work of Marina Abramović.  She briefly discusses her work in the following clip. [kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /] “Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present,” a retrospective of nearly 50 of her works will open at the Museum of Modern Art next month (March 14 - May 31, 2010).

monumental/ unmonumental

by   Posted on February 14, 2010 in Contemporary Art Issues & Images

Don’t forget to check out Maya Lin’s web site for more detailed information about her recent projects.  “What is Missing?” is her most recent piece, in which she deals with issues related to endangered species and the changing soundscape of our environment.

maya-lin-what-is-missing-4 Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial is often lauded as a rare example of an appropriate contemporary monument. It demonstrates sensitivity and formal intelligence without relying on outmoded expressions of either victory or loss or mourning. The more recent World War II memorial, also in Washington, D.C. is often considered less successful for its failure to avoid these common pitfalls. On the official WWII memorial website is this bit of criticism from Time magazine: “Time Magazine, in their May 3, 2004, review of the new World War II Memorial, critically commented, “Il Duce would have loved it.” Some of the early criticism of the memorial elements centered on their similarity to some of the Nazi and Fascist architecture of the 1930s and 1940s”. The contrary opinion is also stated on the site: “Friedrich St.Florian’s winning design balances classical and modernist styles of architecture, harmonizes with its natural and cultural surroundings, and connects the legacy of the American Revolution and the American Civil War with a great crusade to rid the world of fascism.”  The issue of creating monument sculpture that reflects the sentiment of the people it is to serve is complex and is a very specific artistic concern.

Perhaps what is more common among contempoary artiss is treatment of that which is decidedly unmonumental.  We’ve looked at examples from Alison Knowles ad Rirkrit Tiravanija in class. [kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

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The New Museum in New York mounted an exhibition entitled “Unmonumental: The Object in the 21st Century,” which explored the ideas of found object sculpture, informality, and improvisation. Thirty artists from a wide variety of backgrounds and various artistic stategies were represented in the show.  Here are more links to this 2008 show: “Unmonumental” and “Collage: The Unmonumental Picture” .  The legacy of Marcel Duchamp lives on and on….

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Pish Posh/ Bosch

by   Posted on February 1, 2010 in Contemporary Art Issues & Images

tgoed-hb-tryptychLast week we looked at The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch and remarked how it has influenced many contemporary artists.  Indeed, it is difficult to look at the wide variety of human behavior on display in this Bosch painting and not see something of oneself.  In his article Bosch Carrying the Crass, Mark Irving reviews an exhibit at the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam in which artists were invited to respond to the works of the late 15th- early 16th century master. Irving’s article can be accessed through the C of C library website; go to Art Fulltext under databases, then login and search “Bosch” and “Mark Irving”.  One of the works that fared well in this fairly negative review was Bill Viola’s video work entitled The Quintet of the Astonished which depicts the range of human emotions in the painting The Crowning with Thorns by Hieronymous Bosch.

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More recently the husband and wife team Matter Practice (Alfred Zollinger and Sandra Wheeler) took inspiration from Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights in their piece entitled Delightoscope, in which they focus on Edenic places – the garden itself.

The meticulous paintings of Hilary Harkness are often compared to the surreal landscapes and dream spaces depicted by Bosch.  The following clip shows Hilary Harkness paintings at Mary Boone’s 5th Ave galley.

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Last year a group show at Tape Modern in Berlin also took up this subject of Bosch’s masterpiece, as interpreted by contempoary artists.

Indian artist Raqib Shaw also notably created originak works based on the Bosch piece:  In 2003 he produced a spectacular golden tondo of dreamlike fantasy and mystical wonder, Garden of Earthly Delights XIV

“A 21st Century vision of paradise, the work is inspired by Hieronymus Bosch’s epic late 15th Century triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights. Here, however, Shaw’s hallucinatory fantasy reinvents age-old themes of mystical transformation, divine sexual potency and transcendental power, to create a wholly contemporary re-interpretation of extreme bliss. Part undersea world, part golden sky full of flying fish-like birds, this dazzling kaleidoscopic ‘garden’ of mythical creatures, gods, demons and plants presents a strange new vision of an imaginary realm of sumptuous and animate form and colour that intentionally sits halfway between the rich pictorial traditions of East and West.”

Interview with Raquib Shaw at MoMA.

… When an artist addresses the gamut of human experience, his work has the potential to continue to inspire people 500 years after its creation. Or, possibly, as Mark Irving suggests, contemporary artists merely align themselves with a master work in order to lend gravitas to their own artistic output.


by   Posted on January 25, 2010 in Contemporary Art Issues & Images

I have been looking for this BBC documentary, The Mystery of Hammershoi, for years. Finally, I found it – in its entirety – on, China’s leading internet video website. If you love 19th century Danish art – and who doesn’t? – it is a must see! Also, I’m posting another movie on the British painter Lucian Freud’s portraits from the same site.

Michael Palin Mystery of Hammershoi

Lucian Freud Portraits


by   Posted on January 23, 2010 in Contemporary Art Issues & Images

giacometti_man_stridingGiacometti is a curious artist for us to study in the context of “contempoary art issues” because he stands apart from the majority of 20th and 21st century artists. While an overwhelming majority of artists concern themselves with abstract reality or conceptual reality, Giacometti grapples with tangible material reality in every painstaking stroke. The essayist Jacques Dupin comments how odd it is to see Giacometti’s work installed alongside the other notable artists of his time, for his work stands in utter contrast to that of most of his contemporaries whose concerns were with inner states of being or the world of ideas, as opposed to the world of physical forms. I cannot praise Giacometti’s work enough, so I won’t even try to go on….  Visit the Museum of of Modern Art’s multimedia piece on Giacometti for more detailed information.  You’ll be glad you did!

In our first class this semester, we talked about Giacometti’s use of space. He elevates destruction to a method, to paraphrase Dupin. The figures get whittled down to thin, elongated, fragile forms.  In contrast to classical sculpture in which the figure asserts itself in the space, Giacometti’s figures are almost overwhelmed by the space around them. This meaningful use of the negative space is common to several artists I’d like to mention. It’s really a provocative idea, in my opinion, to deal with lack – or absence, void, negative space, whatever you want to call it – as a thing itself. To use an analogy to music, it is the intervals between notes that are as much a part of the piece as the notes themselves.

Rachel Whiteread is a British artist whose work often involves casting the negative space around large objects (e.g. entire rooms, library stacks), to produce a sculpture or installation piece that renders the space between things solid matter.whitereadStacks

In this video, Rachel Whiteread discusses her piece “Ghost” and some of her artistic methods.Download Rachel Whiteread discusses “Ghost” (National Gallery of Art)

Materializing lack is also reflected in the new memorial to 9/11, which is described in this BBC video. Water is used to represent persistent absence.

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