Art

Outsider Art Heads Indoors

Did Banksy's New York City sojourn leave behind a renewed appreciation for off-the-wall art? Maybe. Maybe not.

Dennis Van Tine/Geisler-Fotopres/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images T his past October, famed U.K. street artist Banksy spent a month in New York City, leaving behind 31 provocative works in public spaces scattered throughout the city’s five boroughs. Each new piece threw the press and public deeper into the kind of frenzy usually reserved for pop culture events like a new Harry Potter book or Miley Cyrus’s latest fashion curveball. Art news, by comparison, tends to be more austere. Yet by the time Banksy left a small mural on the Lower East Side, featuring a stencil of galloping stallions in steampunk goggles who looked like the four horses of the apocalypse, the piece found itself quickly surrounded by barbed wire. Its property owners apparently realized the value of the work by the sheer traffic it drew. The Post made it headline news. The Times and CNN were not far behind. Banksy has been compared to early 20th century French conceptualist Marcel Duchamp, who once signed a porcelain...

Morally Compromised Art, on the Big Screen

A scene from the upcoming film of Ender's Game.
Look around the Internet at any list of the best science-fiction novels of all time, and Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game will be at or near the top (see here , here , or here ). Frankly, I've always thought it was a little overrated. A good book, certainly, but better than Dune or 1984 or the Foundation trilogy? Come on. In any case, Ender's Game was published in 1985, and it's finally reaching the screen this November, in a big-budget blockbuster starring Harrison Ford, among other people. As soon as the film was announced, people started advocating a boycott of the film because of Card's views about politics in general and same-sex marriage in particular. Card is not just an opponent of marriage equality, he used to be on the board of the National Organization for Marriage, the most prominent anti-marriage-equality organization. And his writings about politics aren't just conservative, they're positively unhinged, run through with the kind of venomous hatred for liberals in general...

New Treasure in Maine

The Colby College Museum of Art reopens, ready to share its $100 million gift and quietly bold vision.  

Trent Bell Photography / The Lewitt Estate / Artists Rights Society
Trent Bell Photography / The Lewitt Estate / Artists Rights Society The southeast façade of the Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion offers a view of Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing #559. C olby College perches on Mayflower Hill at the western edge of Waterville, a tired post-industrial city in central Maine. Brick classrooms and dorms, mostly nostalgic, neo-Georgian architecture, are ranged around curving roads. Relatively new, the campus still feels like a work in progress. Colby is the northern-most school in the New England Small College Athletic Conference, a kind of scaled-down Ivy League. In contrast to Waterville, it is booming. It is increasingly selective but remains resolutely unpretentious, its mascot a white mule. In January the college can feel as isolated as the Arctic. It is an unlikely place to find an important museum, and few people know that Colby has one. One cold afternoon in May, glad I’d brought a down vest, I walked past ground crews raking seed into a swath of lawn...

The Unstoppable Ascendency of Street Art

Shepard Fairey, Banksy, and FAILE are just some of the artists bridging the gap between the establishment art world and the grittier creative forces of city streets.  

AP Images/Matt Sayles
AP Photo/DDB, Alec Helm W hen Patrick McNeil was a high school freshman in Arizona, he regularly traded notebook sketches with his friend Patrick Miller. Their subject matter was typical teen angst: underground band logos, alternative superheroes, and other emblems of adolescent escapism. Though they went separate ways to study art in college, McNeil and Miller reunited in New York City by the end of the 1990s, working with a female poster artist from Japan, Aiko Nakagawa. During a short stint in jail for pasting Do-It-Yourself (DIY) screen prints illegally on city walls, the trio came up with a moniker for their work: FAILE. “We really liked the idea that you could fail to succeed,” says McNeil as a way of explaining the name’s origin. (FAILE is also an anagram of “A Life.”) Eventually, Aiko left, leaving McNeil and Miller to transform FAILE into one of the most recognizable crossover names from the street art world. Their style is a kaleidoscope of stenciled and silk-screened pop-...

A Critical Look at the Art of George W. Bush

Smoking Gun
Whatever your political leanings may be, you have to sympathize with the Bush family today as a sentient being existing in the Internet age after a hacker leaked a ream of their correspondence to The Smoking Gun . Y ou probably share too much personal information over e-mail (can I get an amen, Davey P .?) and God knows that G-chat holds enough secrets to end half the relationships in the United States (that’s a conservative estimate). George W. Bush George W. Bush But if there is one good thing this act of hack hath wrought, it is a look inside the mind of former president George W. Bush through his art. Apparently #43 (as he signs some of his paintings ) sent pictures of a couple of his works-in-progress to his sister via email, which is actually kind of sweet. Bush was never one for subtlety, and this is apparent in his work. Fittingly and in keeping with the kind of intense self-obsession that makes men run for president, both paintings that come from the hack are self-portraits...

Afghanistan Sketches

Victor Juhasz
*/ I n July 2011, equipped with his sketching tools, a camera, borrowed Kevlar, and Dragon Skin body armor, illustrator Victor Juhasz arrived in Kandahar, Afghanistan, to embed for three weeks with Major Shane Mendenhall and his medevac unit, the 1-52nd Arctic Dustoff out of Fairbanks, Alaska, as well as members of Alpha Company 7-101 from Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Juhasz had participated in the United States Air Force Art Program for several years, documenting in drawings various Air Force operations on bases around the U.S. and overseas. This independent trip, with extended time in a war zone, would give him a chance to do more. “Rendering planes in the sky or on the ground had not been what drew me to the program,” Juhasz writes. “I was looking to draw real people who happen to be warriors; to witness and create images both on the spot and back in the studio telling their stories.” Presented here is a sampling of his work and observations from his trip. Slideshow Afghanistan Sketches

Occupy 19th-Century Norway

Photo Courtesy of Broadway World Whether through sheer coincidence or masterful timing, the Manhattan Theatre Club’s Broadway revival of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People opened last Thursday in the wake of Occupy Wall Street’s first anniversary. When the play’s main character, Thomas Stockman (Boyd Gaines) declares that “the enemy is the liberal-minded majority,” it’s as though he were speaking directly to the audience of polite theatergoers who sit idle as their own government takes advantage of them. Director Doug Hughes reinforces the connection by aiming Stockman’s climactic speech at the audience, where an ensemble playing townspeople sits in the first row. It’s a rare bit of bravura from a director known for his understated yet emotionally powerful productions like 2005’s Doubt , for which he won a Tony Award. British playwright Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s snappy adaptation, first produced in London’s Arcola Theatre in 2008, drives the point home with a few loose translations...

CSI: David Byrne

An investigation of music’s power by one of its great polymaths

(Flickr/DividedSky46)
(Flickr/Dividedsky46) David Byrne at Bonnaroo in Manchester Tennessee, 2004. I f you listen to music too soon after reading David Byrne’s new book, How Music Works , especially Chapter 5 (how recording studios shape what we hear), Chapter 6 (how collaborations shape what we hear), and Chapter 7 (how recording budgets shape what we hear)—you might be in for a disorienting experience, like watching a magic show after you’ve been taught all the tricks. I happened to put on Fiona Apple’s The Idler Wheel , an album I’ve enjoyed repeatedly over the past few months. Suddenly, instead of the songs I’d come to know by heart, with their minimalist but emotionally brutal stabs at self-analysis that it took Apple seven years to complete, I heard an assembly of parts. I became obsessed with microphone placement and where each song was recorded, debated whether I was hearing an upright piano or an electronic keyboard, tried to picture the number of musicians, imagined Apple’s writing process (words...

If the Tibetan Can't Go to the Homeland...

As some of you know, there is far more to the Tibetan diaspora than the Dalai Lama. More than 200,000 refugees are living, sometimes stateless, in other countries. Tenzin Dorjee, whom I've mentioned here before, is the director of Students for a Free Tibet and one of the next generation of Tibetan leaders in exile. Last week, he wrote at The Huffington Post about an incredibly moving art project, conceived after activist and artist Tenzing Rigdol's father died in exile longing to see his homeland one more time: Rigdol was deeply affected by his father's untimely death, and devastated by his own helplessness in fulfilling his father's final wish. He could not stop agonizing over the idea that hundreds of other Tibetan exiles were going through the same denial of dignity, passing their final years in foreign lands.... Rigdol ... smuggled 20,000 kilograms of native Tibetan soil into India and laid it on a platform six feet high, creating an installation unprecedented in art history. For...

"Hillz" Clinton Was Always Cool

What's behind the former First Lady and current Secretary of State's image rehabilitation?

(Texts from Hillary/Adam Smith)
Texts From Hillary Clinton , a Tumblr that imagined the Secretary of State smacking down fools by way of smartphone, may have set a new speed record for the lifecycle an internet meme. The Tumblr went up, went viral, went big media, and then ended within a week after Clinton herself entered a submission, making it literally impossible for the blog to top itself any longer. Unless the internet changes its ways in the near future, this record will likely be topped by the end of the year, but at least one legacy of the whole experiment will live on. The whole thing neatly demonstrated how much Clinton’s reputation has morphed in the past four years, turning her from the frumpy mom figure to an icon of D.C. cool. The Tumblr founders can’t really take credit for Clinton’s image rehabilitation, since the joke doesn’t work unless the audience already has an image of the Secretary as the badass boss lady. No, this process has been going on for years, and really, there’s no reason to believe...

The Fashion Week Bill of Rights

Two veteran runway models work to bring safe labor practices to the glamour industry.

(AP Photo/Charles Sykes)
At the height of the 1990s supermodel boom, Linda Evangelista famously said of herself and her catwalk colleagues, “We don’t get out of bed for less than $10,000.” While Evangelista and her cohort, which now includes household names like Gisele Bundchen and Heidi Klum, commanded six-figures for their photo shoots, the reality for most working models then and now is that they earn close to the minimum wage and face long hours in unregulated working conditions. Models, many of whom are teenage girls, are also vulnerable to sexual harassment and pressure to pose nude. Tired of the exploitative conditions they faced as models, runway veterans Sarah Ziff and Jenna Sauers are launching Model Alliance , to coincide with Fall 2012 New York Fashion Week, which wrapped up this week. The nonprofit aims to bring protections to the industry and has partnered with the Fordham University Fashion Law Institute to craft the regulations. “There is a sense that fashion is frivolous, and that encourages...

Woody Allen's Excellent Adventure

Midnight in Paris is nothing more than a dilettante's guide to the City of Lights.

AP Images
U p for four Academy Awards on February 26 and Woody Allen's biggest box-office hit ever, Midnight in Paris seems likely to overtake even 1977's Annie Hall as the man's most beloved movie. And I wish I could belove it myself, honest I do. In this case, it's no fun to disparage the core audience's genuine pleasure. It's not as if a marketing juggernaut turned the thing into a must-see. Nobody expected Allen's latest to do much business until old-fashioned word of mouth brought his longtime fans out of the woodwork while earning him more than a few new ones. Since I live for chances to fake being an endearing sort of fellow, it's just my lousy luck that I couldn't help abominating Midnight in Paris pretty much from lights down to closing credits. Presumably, you all know the premise by now. On vacation in the City of Light with his snot of a fiancée (Rachel McAdams) and his gargoyle-Republican future in-laws, discontented screenwriter Owen Wilson finds a portal in time that lets him zip...

A Quick-Step Forward

Dancing with the Stars challenges ballroom dancing's rigid gender roles.

You’d be forgiven if, like me, you spent several years avoiding ABC’s ballroom dancing contest show, Dancing With the Stars . It belongs to that saccharine genre of reality show geared toward “families,” which usually means it’s sterilized and scrubbed until there’s nothing left to either like or be offended by. It’s a cousin of the ready-to-be-euthanized American Idol . Its pen pal is the British show Britain’s Got Talent , which gave us Susan Boyle. This genre has a lot to make up for. But one night not long ago I caught the 13th Season on Hulu. The moment I was hooked came in week three, when J.R. Martinez, a former All My Children actor who had served in the Iraq War. (SPOILER ALERT: Martinez won last night). When he was 19, his Humvee hit an IED. It burned half his face, and on the show he’d already talked about his 32 surgeries. On this episode, he dedicated a Viennese Waltz to all of the soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Watching it, my pasta turned into a soggy...

Rosie the Riveter and the Ironies of Bentonville

When the doors swung open this morning on Alice Walton’s Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas—funded to the tune of $1.4 billion by the Walton Family Foundation—one of its prize possessions was Norman Rockwell’s iconic World War II-era painting of Rosie the Riveter. The painting features a confident, insouciant Rosie on her lunch break, eating a sandwich, with a riveting gun on her lap, a copy of Mein Kampf that she uses as a footstool, and an American flag fluttering in the background. Given the Walton family’s epic history of mistreating its company’s workers, and its company’s female workers more particularly, the inclusion of Rosie in the permanent collection is almost too ironic for words. Nonetheless (otherwise, this blog post would end right here), a few facts from the annals of Wal-Mart (approximately 48 percent of whose stock is still owned by the Walton family) are in order. Such as the average hourly wage of its 1.4 million American employees...

What's in a Name?

Urban Outfitters removes the word "Navajo" from its product line, but the cultural poaching is the same.

Urban Outfitters' formerly "Navajo" hipster panty. AP Photo/Matt York
U rban Outfitters, the retail mecca for once and future hipsters, recently scrubbed its website of all references to “Navajo.” What was once the “Navajo Print Fabric Wrapped Flask” is now the “Printed Fabric Wrapped Flask”; the “Navajo Hipster Panty” is now the “Printed Hipster Panty”; and so on. The items are still available for purchase, but they’ve all been renamed. AP Photo/Matt York Urban Outfitters' former "Navajo" hipster panty. The move comes on the heels of a Web-based campaign against the retailer’s marketing practices and official requests from the Navajo Nation Department of Justice. In June, the Navajo Nation sent a cease-and-desist letter to Urban Outfitters CEO Glen Senk, citing the company’s numerous registered trademarks for “Navajo” on clothing, footwear, household products, textiles, and online retail sales. This was followed by an open letter at the Racialicious blog by Sasha Houston Brown , a member of the Santee Sioux Nation, who assailed Urban Outfitters' “mass...

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