Monday, February 23, 2015

African American History Month 2015 II


Jae Jarrell (born 1935, US), Urban Wall Suit, ca. 1969. Sewn and painted cotton and silk, two piece, 37 1/2" x 27 1/2" x 1/2" (95.3 x 69.9 x 1.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum. © 2015 Jae Jarrell. (BMA-4837a)
The G.I. Bill after World War II (1939–1945) allowed unprecedented numbers of African Americans to attend art schools. Since African Americans served with distinction in both WWII and the Korean War (1951–1953), they believed opportunities in the arts would improve. Unfortunately, discrimination and racism revived big time during the 1950s. Some African American artists continued to study in Europe. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s galvanized black artists, however, into pushing for a revival of exhibitions and studies of African American art in the US. Many groups were formed to address the black artists’ role in modernism, while still highlighting their community and heritage. Jae Jarrell and her husband Wadsworth Jarrell (born 1929) were active in establishing African American art in the forefront of American modernism.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, critics summarily categorized much African American art that addressed injustices in American society as “protest art.” The trend toward positive messages in politically aware art began with the urban mural movement of that period, pioneered in Chicago, which sought to bring not only beauty to urban neighborhoods, but also uplifting, positive messages about African American—and other minority—life.

After the painting of the Wall of Respect in Chicago in 1969, a collaboration by numerous artists, five black artists formed the group COBRA (Coalition of Black Revolutionary Artists). They were Jae Jarrell and Wadsworth Jarrell, Barbara Jones-Hogu, Gerald Williams, and Jeff Donaldson. This group emphasized positive images of the strong African American family, and proud and profound members of the black community, rather than documenting injustices meted out by the US government on minorities. Like many artists of the Harlem Renaissance (ca. 1918–1939), these artists produced works that celebrated African American life, neighborhoods, achievements, and their African heritage.

The group grew to ten people and the name changed in 1970 to AfriCOBRA (African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists). It was during this period that Jae Jarrell created Urban Wall Suit.

Many of the Africans brought to the US as slaves came from West Africa, where there is a long, honored tradition of textile art, woven, painted, and dyed. In Africa, most weavers are men, but in the US, before emancipation, African women became the textile artists, producing quilts, rugs, and clothing, often repeating patterns and motifs from Africa. Jae Jarrell carries on that tradition as a fashion designer.

Jarrell is very proud of Urban Wall Suit, especially because it was received with such critical acclaim everywhere she wore it. The multi-colored two-piece suit represents a brick wall with appliquéd mortar lines in velvet, with graffiti, posters, notices, and tagging in acrylic paint. These are positive words representing not only black pride, but also carrying on the tradition of African American artists representing their particular neighborhood, and their unique contribution to American culture.

Urban Wall Suit was one of a group of 44 works by 29 African American artists bought by the Brooklyn Museum in 2013 from a collector in Detroit. The group of works, including two outfits by Jarrell, bridges the museum’s collection between African American art of the Harlem Renaissance and contemporary African American art.
Urban Wall Suit, reverse. (BMA-4837b)

Jae Jarrell, Ebony Family dress, ca. 1968. (BMA-4836a)

Studio activity: Design an outfit based on family or neighborhood. Using a pencil, draw on a piece of white construction paper the outline of a dress, suit, pants or shirt so that it fills most of an 11 x 8 ½” sheet. Go over the outline with a black felt tip marker. Using color pencils, create designs on the clothing item drawn to reflect personal values, experiences or family history. Try to combine images of objects of personal significance as well as words or sayings that summarize personal feelings.

Correlations to Davis programs:  Explorations in Art Grade 1: 6.33; Explorations in Art Grade 3: 6.32, 6.33; Explorations in Art Grade 4: 5.27-28 studio; Explorations in Art Grade 5: 1.5-6 studio, 2.9; A Personal Journey: 1.1, 3.1, 3.3; A Community Connection: 5.2; A Global Pursuit: 2.1; Experience Painting: 4, 9; Exploring Painting: 6; Exploring Visual Design: 11; The Visual Experience: 10.8, 12.4

Monday, February 16, 2015

It’s All in the Title


Paul Cézanne (1839–1906, France), Melting Snow, Fontainebleau, 1879–1880. Oil on canvas, 29 1/8" x 39 3/4" (74 x 101 cm). © The Museum of Modern Art, New York. (MOMA-P2557)
The words “melting snow” probably sound pretty good to most people who live in the northeast US. As a transplanted Midwesterner, snow doesn’t really phase me, but I must say, this year it’s been really…intriguing in Massachusetts. And it always seems to snow on the same day each week. Anyway, what better way to think about snow than a) when it’s melting because it spring might be a-comin’ and b) when it’s in a beautiful Cézanne painting? With those two reasons, how can one lose?  Among the many “favorite artists” I cherish, Cézanne is right up there toward the top with Monet. These two guys had a major impact on changing the direction of painting in Western art, and really, their work led to abstraction.

Paul Cézanne’s paintings of the 1860s were dark and painterly, often involving mythological or literary subjects. Cézanne had studied the great masters of the Renaissance and Baroque, as well as Romanticism, especially the work of Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863). He also gravitated toward more unconventional contemporary painters Gustave Courbet (1819–1877) and Edouard Manet (1832–1883).

The most significant influence on his early work was Camille Pissarro (1830–1903), at the time an unrecognized painter living near Paris. Pissarro introduced Cézanne to the impressionist palette and technique of painting outdoors. Cézanne developed a painting style that involved working outdoors rapidly and at reduced scale, using small touches of pure color. He exhibited with the impressionists between 1874 and 1878, his so-called “Impressionist Period.”

By the late 1870s, Cézanne felt that Impressionism was too restrictive.  Formally, Cézanne was drawn to Baroque and Renaissance art because of the emphasis on structure and balance. He resolved to work with a style that combined the Impressionist technique with the underlying structure of basic geometry of the Renaissance and Baroque. Because of this shift, his work is often classified as Post-Impressionism. The palette of this work is a relatively conservative, traditional one of earth tones with a grey-green underpainting. In many of his works from this period, Cézanne worked areas of the canvas with a palette knife, seen in the snow of this painting. The result is a thick impasto, visible in this work, and heavily defined, almost sculptural forms.

 
Studio activity:  On a piece of brown or green construction paper, draw a group of bare winter trees in black chalk. Using white chalk to indicate snow, and the brown or green of the construction paper as the ground, indicate a scene of melting snow. Allow the green or brown of the paper to show through in spots. Use other colors of chalk such as blue or green to give texture to the snow covering.

Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 1: 4.connections; Explorations in Art Grade 2: 1.1, 1.3; Explorations in Art Grade 3: 5.29-30 studio; Explorations in Art Grade 4: 1.5, 1.6, 4.21, 4.22; Explorations in Art Grade 5: 4.19; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 2.7, 2.7-8 studio; A Personal Journey: 5.4; A Community Connection: 6.2; A Global Pursuit: 7.1, 7.2, 7.4; Experience Painting: 6; Exploring Painting: 11; Exploring Visual Design: 1, 7; The Visual Experience: 9.3, 16.4; Discovering Art History: 13.2

Monday, February 9, 2015

African American History Month 2015


William Edmondson (ca. 1870–1951, US), Squirrel, 1941(?). Limestone, 13 1/2" x 5" x 7 1/2" (34.3 x 12.7 x 19.1 cm). © Philadelphia Museum of Art. (PMA-3508)
African-American artists in the 21st century have embraced every art form, style, and new development, as well as pioneering many on their own. They have the added distinction of contributing a unique vision to American art based on the history of black culture in America, and its rich foundations in African art. Self-taught artists have a long history in many western cultures, and, in the United States, particularly in the African American community. If an inquiring art historian mind thinks about it, “self-taught” probably describes 90 per cent of the artists on the planet. In the instance of African American art, it is particularly important, because African slaves in the US passed on their knowledge of African artistic traditions from one generation to another. This rich history, in an amazing variety of art forms, sure was not going to be taught at the National Academy of Design in New York or the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, the two premier “art schools” of the 1800s! The term I like the best for this genre of art is “visionary,” because it really is.

William Edmondson was born in Nashville of former slaves. He worked a number of different jobs, including as a stonemason in the building trade. When the Depression affected construction jobs, he began carving stone sculpture around 1931, intrigued by the solid dignity and enduring quality of the stone medium. Edmondson had no training in sculpture or painting, nor had he studied American or European art. He believed that God had told him to become a sculptor and carve pieces of limestone, which he had gathered, lying in his driveway. He initially began carving tombstones that he sold to members of his church. Eventually he began carving non-utilitarian works. He carved limestone exclusively because it was abundant locally and inexpensive. Most of it was discarded sections of street curbstones. Sometimes he could find larger pieces on the sites of building demolitions. He used tools he fashioned himself from old railroad spikes.

Famous fashion photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe (1895–1989, US) met Edmondson in 1937. She photographed him in his studio in Nashville, working and with his pieces. Dahl-Wolfe helped organize a show of twelve of his works at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He was the first African American artist to have a one-person show at the Museum of Modern Art. He was twice employed in the sculpture division of the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression (1929–1940), and had many shows of his work subsequent to MoMA. He was also photographed in the 1930s by the photojournalist Consuelo Kanaga (1894–1978), one of the first American photographers to document the lives and struggles of African Americans.

Many of Edmondson’s subjects involve the animal world. His early non-tombstone work involved many Biblical subjects, including animals that were symbolic in the Bible, such as doves. When he expanded his figurative work to non-religious subjects, he also included the range of animals he depicted. Many of the animals he chose have symbolic significance in African art. The African ground squirrel, for example, was considered to be endowed with sharp wits, resourcefulness, and protection of family. This piece is most likely the first of many versions he did of this subject, most in the same pose.

Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 1: 4.connections; Explorations in Art Grade 2: 3.13, 3.14, 3.15-16 studio; Explorations in Art Grade 4: 4.20; Explorations in Art Grade 5: 4.connections, 4.21-22 studio; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 2.9-10 studio; A Community Connection: 3.2; Beginning Sculpture: 5; Exploring Visual Design: 6; The Visual Experience: 10.2; Discovering Art History: 2.1

Monday, February 2, 2015

Art History Survey, A New Slant, No. 12: Abstraction

In our art history survey, we are now at the end with the 1900s. The big “revelation” in Western art starting very late in the 1800s and flowering in the early 1900s was abstraction. Abstraction is defined basically as any art that does not represent observed elements of the physical world. Where objects of the physical world are the subject matter, they are abstract if reduced to simple, stylized forms. The basic change in Western art was from the physical to the cerebral.  Isn’t it interesting how these criteria are found in art long before abstraction was “invented” by Western artists?

The following are works from cultures that are known to have influenced groundbreaking Western artists and led them to explore abstraction.    

Ancient Aegean, Cycladic Culture, Figure of a Woman, ca. 3000–2000 BCE. Marble, 13 3/8" x 3 5/8" x 1 3/4" (34 x 9.2 x 4.4 cm). © Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY. (AK-44)
Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 6: 1.4; A Community Connection: 3.2; A Global Pursuit: 1.4; Beginning Sculpture: 5; Exploring Visual Design: 10; Discovering Art History: 6.1; The Visual Experience: 10.2


Ancient Mexico, Colima Culture, Standing Female, ca. 300 BCE–500 CE. Terra cotta, 7 1/4" x 2 3/4" x 1 1/8" (18.4 x 7 x 2.9 cm). © Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY. (AK-901)
Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 6: 1.4; A Community Connection: 1.5, 3.2; Beginning Sculpture: 5; Discovering Art History: 4.9; The Visual Experience: 10.2

Britain, Celtic culture, Male Head, ca. 100s–200s CE. Sandstone with traces of red pigment, 13" x 11 3/4" (33 x 29.9 cm). © Cleveland Museum of Art. (CL-588)
Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 6: 1.4; A Community Connection: 3.2; Beginning Sculpture: 5; Discovering Art History: 7.1; The Visual Experience: 10.2

Maruyama Ōzui (1766–1829, Japan), Carp and Waterfall, 1796. Ink and color on silk, hanging scroll, 52 1/2" x 16 9/16” (133.5 x 42.1 cm). © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. (MFAB-951)
Correlations to Davis programs:  Explorations in Art 1 4.connections; Explorations in Art 2 3.14; Explorations in Art 3 5.27-28 studio; Explorations in Art 4 4.conn., 4.21-22 studio; A Community Connection 6.2; A Global Pursuit 7.5; Experience Painting 4; Exploring Painting 5; Exploring Visual Design 1, 7, 12; The Visual Experience 9.3, 13.5; Discovering Art History 4.4

Dan People, Liberia, Mask, late 1800s–early 1900s. Wood, 11 3/8" x 9" (29 x 23 cm). Private Collection, photo © Davis Art Images. (8S-10551)
Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 1: 5.29-30 studio; Explorations in Art Grade 4: 5.30, 5-29-30 studio; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 3.17-18 studio; A Personal Journey: 7.6; A Community Connection: 3.2, 7.6; A Global Pursuit: 1.5; Beginning Sculpture: 5; The Visual Experience: 10.2, 10.15, 14.3, 14.7; Discovering Art History: 4.8


Iatmul People, Papua New Guinea, Suspension Hook, late 1800s to early 1900s. Wood, fiber, shell, and pigment, 36" x 11" x 6" (91.4 x 27.9 x 15.2 cm). © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. (MFAB-738)
Correlations to Davis programs:  Explorations in Art Grade 6: 1,4; A Community Connection: 3.2; A Global Pursuit: 6.5; Beginning Sculpture: 5; The Visual Experience :10.2; Discovering Art History: 4.6


The following are artworks that I feel meet the criteria of “abstraction.” As you can see, they come from all places and all periods.  Some of these cultures may have, over the last hundred-something years, had an impact on the abstraction of some Western artist, or contemporary artists in these cultures.

Ancient Egypt, “Marsh” Bowl, ca. 1400 BCE. Faience ware, width: 6 3/16" (15.7 cm). © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. (MFAB-722)
Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 2: 3.17-18 studio; Explorations in Art Grade 3: 6.35; A Personal Journey: 3.4; A Community Connection: 2.6, 5.2; A Global Pursuit: 1.4; Experience Clay: 4; The Visual Experience: 10.6, 15.3; Discovering Art History: 5.3

Ancient Panama, Chest plaque, from Sitio Conte, 400–900 CE. Hammered gold, 9 7/8" x 10 1/2" (25.1 x 26.7 cm)  © Cleveland Museum of Art (CM-432)
Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 2: 2.11; Explorations in Art Grade 3: 2.7-8 studio; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 1.4, 5.29; A Personal Journey: 7.conn.; A Community Connection: 1.5, 5.2; Exploring Visual Design: 1; The Visual Experience: 10.7, 14.4; Discovering Art History: 2.2, 4.9


Byzantine, Saint Matthew Writing his Gospel, page excised from a lectionary, from Constantinople (current Istanbul), Turkey, 1057–1063. Tempera and gold leaf on vellum, 11 5/16" x 9 1/2" (28.8 x 24.3 cm). © Cleveland Museum of Art. (CM-429)
Correlations to Davis programs:  Explorations in Art Grade 3: 1.3, 3.17-18 studio; Explorations in Art Grade 4: 1.2; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 1.1, 1.4, 3.16; A Community Connection: 6.2; A Global Pursuit: 3.4; Experience Painting: 1; Communicating Through Graphic Design: 5; The Visual Experience: 9.3, 15.6; Discovering Art History: 7.2, 7.activity 2


India, Buddha Seated in Meditation, from Tamil Nadu, ca. 1100s. Granite, 63" x 47 5/16" x 22 1/8" (160 x 120.2 x 56.3 cm). © Art Institute of Chicago. (AIC-386)
Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 5: 1.3-4 studio; A Community Connection: 3.2; A Global Pursuit: 3.5; Beginning Sculpture: 5; The Visual Experience: 10.3, 10.13, 13.2; Discovering Art History: 4.2



Byzantine, Head of a Saint, 1100s–1300s. Fresco fragment transferred to panel, commissioned for the Church of Hagiou Staurou, Jerusalem, 14 3/4" x 10 9/16" (37.4 x 27 cm). © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. (MFAB-1220)
Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 3: 1.1-2 studio, 1.3; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 1.1, 1.3, 1.4; A Community Connection: 6.2; A Global Pursuit: 2.4; Experience Painting: 8; Exploring Painting: 4, 10; Exploring Visual Design: 10; The Visual Experience: 9.3, 15.6; Discovering Art History: 7.2

Maori People, New Zealand, Maskette, 1800s–1900s. Wood, haliotis shell, height: 6" (15.2 cm). © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. (MFAB-747)
Correlations to Davis programs: Explorations in Art Grade 1: 5.29-30 studio; Explorations in Art Grade 4: 5.30; Explorations in Art Grade 6: 1.4, 3.17-18 studio; A Personal Journey: 7.6; A Community Connection: 3.2, 7.6; A Global Pursuit: 6.5; Beginning Sculpture: 5; The Visual Experience: 10.2, 10.15, 14.7; Discovering Art History: 4.6