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exhibit

Special Coelacanth Gallery

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Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer with the coelacanth

Coelacanth Statue

As you probably know by now, I really love outdoor art, especially sculpture, so we were happy to find this interesting piece. This sculpture is in the small garden in front of the East London Museum, a fitting place as the museum has the special exhibit on the Coelacanth.

It is one in a series of sculptures commissioned by the Sunday Times, and put up around the country, as memorials to prominent South Africans. This one is in honour of Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer (1907-2004), a one-time curator at East London’s small museum, who is credited with discovering the fascinating coelacanth, a pre-historic fish that even pre-dates dinousaurs. On December 22nd, 1938, she spotted an unusual fish in the catch on the deck of the trawler Nerine. She took the 1.5 meter (4.9 ft), 57.5 kg (127 lbs), fish home and had it stuffed to preserve it until it could be identified by Rhodes University chemistry lecturer and keen ichthyologist JLB Smith.

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Coelacanth in the gallery

RodThe artist is Graham Jones, a well-known eastern Cape sculptor. He was born in Zimbabwe but went to school and studied in Port Elizabeth.

The sculpture weighs four and a half tons and is made of cast iron, giving it a wonderful surface texture, with all sorts of fascinating bits and pieces attached. The mouth is stuffed with fishing gut, a silent protest against the wicked exploitation of this hugely endangered species.

 

 

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Rod M and Mike S look at an elephant skull

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kidsOne of the things we did in East London was visit the East London Museum, a first for us even though we have visited the city quite often.

This museum is a little old and musty but has a surprising number of exhibits—from WW1 stuff, to stuffed animals and birds, to a stones collection and shells collection, and the famous Coelacanth fish exhibit, all downstairs. Upstairs is African bead and wire work, period furniture and clothing from the colonist times, a section on the local German settlers, and two exhibits on local shipwrecks (the Grosvenor and the Oceanos).

Actually quite interesting and more than you can take in in one visit. It’s popular with groups of local school kids, who seemed quite excited to be there.

carHere I’ll highlight 2 small special exhibits that we found interesting; Wirework and Shweshwe cloth. Later, I’ll cover the story of the famous Coelacanth fish.

Wirework

Among Xhosa-speaking people, wire obtained from European traders was traditionally used in the manufacture of items for adornment such as waistbands, bangles, and anklets. More recently wire has been used in a range of creative, alternative ways. These include toys made by children and items made specifically for sale to the tourist market. An example of the latter is the model of the Mercedes Benz car and Venter trailer by Philip Ntliziywana, made of wire and scrap tin, around 1998.

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Another is the Model of a Windmill, made by M Adams of wire and scrap tin, in East London, around 1987.

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Shweshwe cloth bags

Shweshwe cloth is a type of indigo print cloth that is very popular in South Africa. Indigo cloth arrived in South Africa after 1652 when a seaport was established at the Cape of Good Hope. It came mainly from India and Holland and slaves, soldiers, Khoi-san and Dutch women wore indigo cloth and floral printed indigo.

In the 1840s French missionaries gave King Moshoeshoe 1 of Basotholand a gift of indigo printed cloth, which became the favored cloth, a tradition that continues today. That’s how the name Shweshwe cloth came about—from shoeshoe or isishweshwe. It is typically used for traditional ceremonies in the rural areas but has also become fashionable beyond this use. It is used for all kinds of clothing, and for cloth bags, for example, all very popular with locals and tourists. A family member bought a Shweshwe print pinafore for our granddaughter when we visited East London not too long ago—very pretty.

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Red Shweshwe cloth pinafore

Much of this printed fabric, which now comes in other colors including chocolate brown and red, is produced in a plant called Da Gama Textiles near East London.

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Traditional and modern

signThe sign explains: the mannequin on the left has an outfit for a newly-wed Xhosa woman (UMakoti). Each piece has a meaning: The Headscarf/iqhlya is used by a married woman to show respect to her in-laws ad to differentiate herself from single women.

The long skirt/Umbhinqo covers her legs and lower body in a dignified way.

The Apron/Ifaskoti symbolizes the way a dignified wife doesn’t share problems or issues in the marriage or new family. As the apron covers what she wears, so will she cover challenges.

The Blanket/Ixakatho also shows respect to the in-laws.

The mannequin on the right has the Shweshwe dress worn by Zoe Reeve to her graduation party, 2008.

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Margie W at the cafe

 

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Rod M, Mike S and Margie W at lunch

After a couple of hours in the museum we had lunch at the museum café, aptly named the Coelacanth Café. It was pleasant and the food pretty good. Lots of local folks were there having lunch too, plus some students from the nearby high school, so they must be doing something right!

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Detail of Chagall’s America Windows

Marc Zakharovich Chagall (born July 1887, Belarus; died March 1985, France), a Russian-French artist of Belarusian Jewish origin, was an early modernist. We’ve come across his work before (in Paris and in Zurich), and love his bold use of colors in glass, and his “pictures within pictures.” For us, probably the most famous is his America Windows in Chicago at the Art Institute.

Marc Chagall’s America Windows is one of the most loved treasures in the Art Institute’s collection—they are one of our favorites too, although it’s hard to pick favorites in this museum so chock-a-block with masterpieces! They made their debut at the Art Institute in May 1977 and were made more famous less than ten years later when they appeared in the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Bit of Background:

Chagall’s Windows were not on show for quite a while as they were undergoing

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Detail of America Windows

conservation treatment and archival research. But, they returned in 2010 to a new location as the stunning centerpiece of a new presentation on Chicago’s other modern public art at the east end of the museum’s Arthur Rubloff building (as you go down to the café). Here we can see models and maquettes of some of the important large pieces in the story of Chicago’s modern public art.

It’s interesting that the history of America Windows is interwoven with the history of Chicago and its rich tradition of public art, which continues strongly today.

The roots of this can be traced to 1967, the year Pablo Picasso’s monumental sculpture was unveiled. It was Chicago’s first major installation of the new styles of 20th century modern art (see my post on this here https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2017/04/19/chicago-creativity-on-the-streets/ ). It initially inspired controversy, but soon started a cultural resurgence fueled by public and private investment in the arts. One of these included Mark Chagall’s mosaic The Four Seasons installed outside Chase Tower in 1974, which in turn inspired America Windows.

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Another detail from America Windows

Because the city was so enthusiastic about his work and the Art Institute gave him great support, Chagall offered to create a set of stained-glass windows for the museum. During the next three years plans were clarified, and Chagall decided that the windows would commemorate America’s bicentennial.

The resulting six-panel work, with three main themes, celebrates the country as a place of cultural and religious freedom, giving details of the arts of music, painting, literature, theater, and dance. They paint a romantic picture of the American Dream, the idea that we can achieve anything we want in this country. Because Chagall admired Chicago and its strong commitment to public art during the 1960s and 1970s, he chose to dedicate the work to the late Mayor Richard J. Daley, a great supporter of public art projects (he died December 1976). The windows were presented with great fanfare at a formal unveiling, hosted by the Auxiliary Board of the Art Institute, on May 15, 1977.

The Windows Today:

The Windows are in a superb location now, as they glow softly from the natural light coming in behind them. The colors and the details are beautiful, a story of different religions, arts and parts of American life all intertwined.

The first panel shows the city’s rich history as a hub for rhythm and blues. Note people playing instruments, plus floating guitars and fiddles, all in glowing blue panes. The windows are done cathedral-style, a perfect way to show the spirituality of Blues music.

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First panel

The second panel depicts the unity and peace within the city’s many neighborhoods. Note the giant dove, a symbol of peace. This panel is also a prayer for the city. When Mayor Richard J. Daley died in December1976, many people were in mourning. The figure on the left of the pane lights a candle in remembrance of the late, great mayor.

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Second panel

Panel three shows the importance of religious freedom in the USA. Note the immigrants of different backgrounds, an angel-like figure, a menorah, and rose window. Chagall was Jewish but worked extensively with cathedral windows and was comfortable referring to Christianity and Judaism. It’s also important, as most American citizens have come from a family of immigrants. Something the current Administration needs to take heed of!!

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Panel 3

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Opera Garnier is a gorgeous setting for Chagall’s ceiling

Another Chagall masterpiece we’ve seen and photographed is in Paris at the neo-Baroque Opera Garnier; the magnificent ceiling in the main auditorium. It was unveiled in 1964. It looks beautiful there, even though his design is way more modern that the setting it is in. Somehow, we think the older (and very sumptuous and ornate) and the new meld very well and apparently the public love it today. Chagall divided the ceiling into color zones that he filled with landscapes and figures commemorating the composers, actors and dancers of opera and ballet.

 

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Angels on pillars, angels on the ceiling

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Chagall ceiling at Opera Garnier

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Chagall at Fraumunster Church Zurich–first 4 window-panels of 5

We also saw some of Chagall’s work in the heart of old Zurich at the Fraumunster Church, built on the remains of an abbey built in 853. The choir of the abbey has 5 large stained-glass windows designed by Chagall and installed in 1970. They all depict a Christian story. Stunning.

The first panel in red/orange depicts Elijah’s

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Last 4 window-panels

ascent to heaven. The second panel in blue shows Jacob’s combat and dreams of heaven. The middle (third) panel in green depicts various scenes from Christ’s life. The fourth panel in yellow shows Zion with an angel trumpeting the end of the world. The last (fifth) panel in blue depicts Law, with Moses looking down on the suffering of the people.

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Middle 3 window-panels

We look forward to tracking down more of Chagall’s work in the future. But, in the meantime, we are happy that Chicago and its history of public art can boast one of his major works.

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Untitled (Portrait) by Nikki Rosato

I recently wrote about the amazing creations made by cutting paper that we saw in an exhibition in the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, NH. It is Untitled (Portrait) 2016, by Nikki Rosato, American born 1986

One I omitted to add, and perhaps one of the most interesting is that of a head. It is interesting on two main counts: first, because of the material from which it is made and what that symbolizes; and secondly because it reminds us very much of another head, much larger, but just as symbolic (see further down). At first glance, they have a similar look, even though the size and the materials are different.

This one in the Deep Cuts exhibit is a three-dimensional bust made from cut road maps. The illustrations on the map look similar to parts of the human body: roads are like arteries and topographical lines form ridges and wrinkles. In this piece the artist tried to evoke the affiliations that people have with place and how places have shaped his or her development. This bust is a portrayal of the artist’s partner made from maps of New England and the surrounding areas that are significant to him.

This piece is part of a section called Altering Atlases. As the board explains, “For centuries cultures have created maps and atlases to define, categorize, and navigate their way through the world. Although many now rely heavily on GPS, the paper map remains an important, sometimes lifesaving tool for any adventurer (especially when we lose signal).

Maps symbolize not just geographies, but also the people who inhabit the landscapes and the geopolitical borders that divide and define them. Some artists alter these representations by cutting and abrading the paper on which they are printed in order to explore the politics of place and the relationship of humans to their natural and built environments…

What a great concept! As world travelers who usually use paper maps, we find this interpretation fascinating, because it’s true that people are also defined by place.

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Nomads by Jaume Plensa

The other head this reminded us of is by Jaume Plensa (Spanish, born 1956), and I wrote about it here:

https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2014/04/25/symbolic-head-sculpture-with-multiple-meanings/

This head, called Nomade (2007), is huge and is painted stainless steel. The head and torso are made of letters from the Latin alphabet. His idea is that when letters are combined they produce words, thoughts and language, just as a person alone has limited potential but when people join together in a group or society they become stronger. It is in the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Garden in Des Moines, Iowa.

SeoulInterestingly, we’ve experienced another head that is somewhat similar to these two. It is one of three head sculptures in the concourse of the Bongeunsa subway station in Seoul. I haven’t been able to find out any information about the artist or date etc.

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museum We happened on an amazing exhibit at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire. The museum itself was a wonderful unexpected find, as we didn’t originally plan on spending time in Manchester (except to fly in and out).

We went to the Currier on our recent visit to New Hampshire as we wanted to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s Zimmerman House, and the only way to do that is to take a guided tour from the museum. We had time to look around the museum a little after lunch in their attractive Winter Garden Café (which is actually indoors), and decided on the special exhibit called Deep Cuts, Contemporary Paper Cutting.

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The beautiful doorway into the museum from the Garden Cafe

It was on from February 25-May 21, 2017, so sadly it is no longer there. Hopefully, because it was so interesting and popular, it will move to another museum for more people to see it.

The exhibit is on paper cutting and we entered with all the wrong expectations: We imagined the traditional Chinese paper cuttings, or perhaps cut-paper portrait silhouettes, as we have seen in Paris at Place du Tertre in Montmartre.

But no, this is way more than that. These contemporary artists reconsider, redefine and even subvert the centuries-old art of paper cutting. They slice, shred and abrade paper using blades, scissors, lasers, and even belt sanders. The range of materials is mind-boggling—from handmade artisan paper, to office stationery, books, wallpaper, currency notes, and shopping bags.

Since its invention around two thousand years ago, paper has become a commonplace material, permeating practically every aspect of our lives. In this exhibit we see how paper can be transformed from ordinary to extraordinary, from practical to thought-provoking; for example, some explore political or social topics.

Some of the artists use traditional techniques, but with new subjects. Others have made sculptural objects that challenge the flatness and fragility of paper. Others have cut printed paper to create works that explore the information and power normally linked with text. A bank note is very powerful and artists may cut it to make a statement. This also hints at a recent shift towards digital banking.

Some artists dissect documents, newspapers or books to question the information printed on them. By reforming them into something else, the artists show how intended meanings can change.

This lovely “picture” is an example of that, but I don’t have the artist information about it.

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Another theme is how a growing focus on recyclable paper products is affecting paper’s role in our economies and society.

Of all the pieces we saw, we randomly chose 5 to showcase here. The others were all fascinating, but for some it was difficult to get the detailed information on them.

Currency collage, called The World is Yours, 2006, by C. K. Wilde, American (born 1972). As the board tells us, “This world map is composed of pieces of currency from many countries. Paper money affords a wide palette of color and design while also carrying the political weight of the various world democracies, monarchies, dictatorships, and other government. This map further suggests that global wealth is controlled by a handful of people, often including those whose faces appear on the currency. In Wilde’s work, cutting up money can be seen as a disruption of power and wealth.”

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World map made of cut bank notes

Male Pelvis, 2012, by Lisa Nilsson, American (born 1963). This is a mulberry paper collage, and is a true-to-life anatomical cross section using intricate paper filigree. It uses Japanese mulberry paper and the gilded edges of old books.

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Rainbow, 2017, by Li Hongbo, Chinese (born 1974). Li Hongbo uses the honeycomb technique used in traditional Chinese paper gourd making to produce striking, large-scale installations with deep symbolic meanings. As the board tells us, “The artist has cut hundreds of colorful pieces in the shape of firearms and bullets. Unfurled, the threatening silhouettes transform into beautiful flower-like sculptures. The installation evokes the fine line between war and peace, and between violence and understanding, showing that one simple act can have a transformative effect. His chosen material and subject matter are related through their shared history: the Chinese invented paper but they also invented gunpowder. For an American audience, his sculptures are inevitable and poignant evocation of the epidemic of gun violence.”

rainbow

 

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Untitled (NY Yellow), 2009, by Jane South, British (born 1965) .Made of hand-cut paper, ink, acrylic and bass wood. As the board tells us, “Jane South fabricates bewildering cut-paper constructions that seem both real and imaginary; mechanical and artistic. Complex cut elements, as well as drawings on the paper’s surface, create a web of actual and illusionistic shadows, mixing fiction and reality.”

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Biophony of Spring, 2017, by Fred H C Liang, Chinese (born 1964). This is made from cut Arjowiggin paper. Liang makes “drawings in space” by cutting out multiple shapes that he weaves together and balances to make one large rhythmic mass. He combines traditional Chinese paper cutting with contemporary art, creating non-representational work. The name of this one “refers to the collective sound made by all living organisms in a given environment, a natural symphony.”

Biophony

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men2More Public Art in Chicago

As I was walking recently  to the Chicago Cultural Center from our hotel I happened on this outdoor sculpture, one I have not seen before. It was apparently officially installed about two years ago.

Living World Series, Gentlemen, bronze on cast bronze plinth, by Ju Ming (1938-) from Taiwan. He trained as a woodcarver, but went on to an international career creating works in many materials. These figures are in bronze, but do have a look of wood carvings, I think.

On the plinth are a group of square, pedantic-looking men in suits and ties, some with menhats, or with bags and briefcases, and umbrellas.

This is on the AMA Plaza, next to the IBM Building housing the Langham Hotel on the north side of the river.

It’s an unusual  sculpture, and many people who walk by stop to take pictures.

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Exhibits at Chicago’s Cultural Center

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Poster about the Wall of Respect

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Old photo of the Wall of Respect

As mentioned earlier, this year is Chicago’s Year of Public Art and the 50×50 Initiative, sparked by Chicago’s 50 wards and the 50th anniversary of 2 famous public art works in the city: Picasso’s “Untitled” (see previous post), and The Wall of Respect.

The Wall of Respect is no longer in its original position but a special exhibition on it is in the Chicago Cultural Center until July 30th. The exhibition, called Vestiges, Shards and the Legacy of Black Power, is in the Chicago Rooms, 2nd Floor North in the Cultural Center (corner of Michigan, Randolph and Washington).

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How the wall looked

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The Blues panel

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The Jazz panel

Curated by Romi Crawford, Abdul Alkalimat and Rebecca Zorach, and students in the Department of Art History, this exhibition chronicles how the Organization for Black American Culture designed and produced this first mural for, and within, Chicago’s Black South Side communities. It features 7 sections with the images of leading black icons (called heroes), ranging from Sarah Vaughan and John Coltrane to Marcus Garvey and Ossie Davis. Two of the panels are devoted to musicians—one for Blues, one for Jazz—not surprising, as Chicago has always been a hub for music, notably Blues and Jazz with many famous black artists.

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Using photographs and documents relating to the Wall of Respect and other murals, this exhibition explores the mural movement in Chicago in its historical context, investigating how race and class have intersected with the spatial politics of the city.

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Story of the Wall of Respect

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Who is your hero today?

In 1967, the Organization of Black American Culture painted this huge mural “guerrilla-style” on the wall of a decaying building on the South Side of Chicago at 43rd Street and Langley Avenue. They called it the Wall of Respect. This mural, which grew out of the Black Liberation Movement of the 1960s, was controversial from the start and only survived a few years—but in that time it inspired a community movement that went on to paint vivid colors on walls across the city and beyond. The Wall of Respect received national acclaim when it was unveiled in 1967.

Just outside the exhibit rooms, the center has strips of colored paper. They invite people today to write down the names of their heroes and make a long paper chain—a Heroes Chain. Would be a fun project for school kids, I think.

Muddymural

Muddy2Not far away on the side of a building opposite Macy’s is a huge colored mural of Muddy Waters. I couldn’t find any information on that. Any ideas, anyone?

Somewhat linked to this topic is another exhibition at the Cultural Center: that of Eugene Eda’s Doors for Malcolm X College (see future post)

 

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