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BRAVE NEW WORLD: Examining the Zeitgeist at THE ART STORY
Picasso: Works Entering the Public Domain in 2019
Pablo Picasso: Lives and Loves
John Baldessari: The Conceptual Explorer
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BRAVE NEW WORLD: Examining the Zeitgeist at THE ART STORY

My Latest Discovery:

I am excited to share a vital resource for online art history research called The Art Story.  This resource is a growing compendium for art lovers, artists, curators, writers, educators, students and the curious looking for concise and expansive art histories.  They have accumulated the largest online encyclopedia of art in the world, with over 1000 topic pages. The Art Story has specialized pages to address your interests, whether you are looking up an artist (Picasso, Michelangelo, or Kara Walker), an art movement (Impressionism, Performance, or Baroque), or an art concept (The Readymade, Renaissance Humanism, or Collage).

Founder Michael Zurakhinsky started The Art Story, noticing that art history education wasn’t always accessible or factual online.  One of the best resources was Wikipedia, but as an art history learning tool its’ value seemed limited. He was disappointed that prominent arts organizations such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York City only cover their own collection, do not cover the rest of art history, and often provide links to Wikipedia instead of their own curatorial research on their website.  Many encyclopedic art textbooks are terribly outdated. Newer, topic-based books are more inclusive, but they focus on singular subjects. To understand how a particular artist or movement connects to others is a herculean task. After 12 years with hundreds of writers on the job, The Art Story is now available to all, and for free!

The Challenge:

As a former museum educator at MoMA, Brooklyn Museum, and Studio Museum in Harlem, I was always craving a comprehensive tool for art history research on the internet. I am happy to have discovered The Art Story, and I use it in researching classes I teach, including my current online course at Pratt Institute, “Brave New World: Daily Artmaking Ritual.”

I took The Art Story for a research spin in contemplation of these unprecedented times. I share here with you how I put together a grouping of artworks navigating the consistent, accessible architecture of the Art Story website. I was able to save hours of research time and enjoyed having an easy, reliable way to travel through the site connecting artist’s works to different art movements, influences, genres, and other concepts.

A Brave New World – Contemplations and Discoveries:

Artists throughout history are known to interpret and challenge the zeitgeist of their times. The year 2020 has amplified ideological battlegrounds and ignited public health and environmental challenges.  We battle two concurrent pandemics in the United States and globally; the coronavirus and the fight for human rights spearheaded by Black Lives Matter. While thinking about the global pandemic, we can examine artworks made during past pandemics including the concurrent Syphilis and Spanish Flu outbreaks in Post-WW1 Europe and the AIDS crisis in the 1990s, with it’s devastating impact on New York City. Climate change and environmental issues have erupted globally with science denial by the United States government affecting our ability to contain the coronavirus.  Many activist artists are making work about these issues, let’s look at art history to compare notes.

Timely Treasures from The Art Story Website:

George Grosz
The Funeral: Tribute to Oskar Panizza, 1917-18
Artwork on The Art Story

As I started my research, I was thinking about artists who lived through the previous world pandemic.  Looking up the keyword Spanish Flu brought me to an article about Egon Schiele (The Female Nude) After reading about the artist, who died very young from the Spanish Flu in 1918, I became curious about other artists painting that year.  I found an artwork that encapsulates that pandemic era perfectly.

German Expressionist George Grosz painted A Funeral: Tribute to Oskar Panizza in homage to writer and psychiatrist Oskar Panizza, known for his critiques against the post-WWI German government. This passionately expressive painting deploys Cubist and Futurist techniques to capture the chaos of plague, war, syphilis, and alcohol. Grosz described The Funeral as a “gin alley of grotesque dead bodies and madmen…. A teeming throng of possessed human animals… think: that wherever you step, there’s the smell of shit.”

George Grosz captured the tight quarters and frenetic pathos of a city riddled with disease. The Funeral is ablaze with color, a tattered flag, a priest waving a glowing white cross, a club festooned with  a “Dance Tonight” sign, bodegas and cafés that stand in counterpoint to the huddled masses and tightly-packed flaming apartments. From a contemporary lens, this hallucinatory hellscape speaks to our collective unconscious, as fears of disease and death have colored the urban landscape, where there’s no option but constant motion.

Even though George Grosz paints a grim scenario, the colors and the details feel so rich and satisfying to me as a viewer. The Funeral makes me wonder if imagining a monstrous hellscape can be cathartic. Which other artists throughout history have created their own visions of hell to express their societal concerns?

I was searching through The Art Story for an artist who was making work during the AIDS Crisis, so I did a keyword search on the main search bar. Felix Gonzalez-Torres came up first in the search. 

Cuban-born American Minimalist and Conceptual artist, Felix Gonzalez-Torres brought his personal history and politics to tackle issues such as gay rights, gun violence, and the AIDS crisis. Gonzalez-Torres tracked the impact of the crisis through creating intimate works, foreshadowing and later mourning the loss of his lover, Ross Laylock, who died due to AIDS-related complications. Gonzalez-Torres considered his muse, Laylock, his primary audience.  Untitled: Lover Boy captures the depth of eternal love. The two sets of windows ajar, with curtains blowing into an interior domestic space conjure breath, the intertwined souls of two men partnered in transcendence of earthly boundaries.

Untitled: Lover Boy was made in an atmosphere of government neglect of the disproportionately affected the LGBTQ+ community.  I think about each of the over 230, 000 people who have died from the coronavirus in the United States thus far.  Each one of them is connected to someone, somewhere who feels that eternal love like Gonzalez-Torres did for Laylock.  We walk alongside our lost ones. Looking at works by Gonzalez-Torres can help us to cope creatively with grief, and mortality.

Kehinde Wiley
Judith Beheading Holofernes, 2012
Artwork on The Art Story

One of my favorite ways to search through The Art Story is to look at the Artworks page for each artist I am interested in.  When I looked up Kehinde Wiley, I was reminded of his 2017 Presidential portrait of Barack Obama, hanging in the National Portrait Gallery and how it conjured conservative resistance, because of Wiley’s 2012 painting Judith Beheading Holofernes.

Many famed artists including Artemisia Gentileschi, Lucas Cranach the Elder, and Caravaggio have painted this symbolic scene from the deuterocanonical Book of Judith, where Judith seduces and beheads Holofernes, who was generally intent on destroying her city of Bethulia. Historic paintings of this biblical story are often read as a feminist victory, but Wiley’s Judith fights a different battle.

In Wiley’s “Holofernes head” we see a Karen, a Becky, humorously and quite viscerally exposing feminism’s focus on white women, that often ignores racial disparities.  Throughout this historic 2020 election, we can’t help but look back to 2016’s election to remember the commitment that 94% black women made to vote against Trump, while 53% of white women voted for Trump (according  to York Times exit polls).  An even higher percentage of white women voted for Trump in 2020.  When a white woman acts against all women, does she not become a Holofernes, a “man” attempting to destroy Judith’s people?  Amy Coney Barrett becomes our current symbol for a woman inserted by patriarchy to act against the interests of women, potentially dismantling Roe v. Wade, jeopardizing a woman’s right to choose, in this country that was originally founded to separate church and state.

Barbara Kruger
Your Body is A Battleground, 1989
Artwork on The Art Story

“Do you know why language manifests itself the way it does in my work? It’s because I understand short attention spans” -Barbara Kruger

The Art Story includes choice artists’ quotes at the top of each Artist’s page.  This is such a valuable resource for art writers, educator’s and curators, who want to get at the heart of the artist’s intent.  Reading American Conceptual Artist Barbara Kruger’s explanation of her graphic text-based works as geared to “short attention spans” in 1989 feels so contemporary. 

Barbara Kruger’s bold works deploy her training as a graphic designer to create images and phrases that resonate, functioning both in public space and the contemporary art world. Best known for her silkscreen prints with captions over found photographs, she also creates site specific installations, video, and audio works. Her prints from the 1980s encapsulate “Reaganomics,” including this Your Body is a Battleground screenprint defending women’s reproductive rights, which was originally created for the March for Women’s Lives, in Washington, D.C in 1989. This image, set in Kruger’s signature palette of black, white and red, splits a woman’s face in half.   Half photographic portrait, half x-ray, this powerful image references the constant probing and control of the female body in America.  

Echoing the words of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933- 2020), the United States Supreme Court justice who fought tirelessly for women’s rights: “The State controlling a woman would mean denying her full autonomy and full equality.”

Ana Mendieta
Untitled (Siluetas Series), 1976
Artwork on The Art Story

Cuban artist Ana Mendieta is renowned for her contributions to the Body Art, Land Art, and Performance Art Movements.  On each Artist’s page on The Art Story, there are links to every art movement associated with the artist, making it easy to find (and to dive into) connections.

Her powerful Silueta series contemplates the cycles of birth, life, and death through performing various ephemeral actions in natural environments. Mendieta ritualistically asserted her form in relation to the seascape in Untitled: Silueta Series, Mexico (1976/1991). The deep impression of her body in the sand is activated by red pigment, the blood, the body, the soul’s imprint washed away by the ocean’s waves.  The vulnerability of the body and of the natural environment are seamlessly interrogated here, evoking Paleolithic goddess power, a matrilineage dating back to the Venus of Willendorf circa 30,000 BCE as well as childlike fantasy mermaids and bloody snow angels.

Mendieta’s Silueta series shares a feminist viewpoint on the environment that reverberates currently, with climate change affecting us globally. The Americas have been hit hard by fires, increasingly destructive hurricanes and global warming. According to Aaron Bernstein, Director of Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment at Harvard University, climate change has caused habitat loss for animals, and germs and diseases are spreading as animals congregate more closely to each other and human-populated areas.  I ponder how Ana Mendieta would respond now to the coronavirus as part of her lexicon.


About Me:

Rebecca Goyette is an interdisciplinary artist who lectures on performance/film/video and their relation to activist practices in modernist and contemporary art.  Goyette has taught and lectured for the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, School of Visual Arts, New York University and The New School and is currently teaching for Pratt Institute’s Professional Continuing Studies Department as well as leading her own online art workshop series called Maker’s Magic. Rebecca Goyette is represented by Freight & Volume Gallery, NYC, and exhibits her work internationally.


Call to Action:

I invite you all to start using The Art Story, for all your art history research.  I know you will find it easy to navigate and richly rewarding, helping you to quickly make connections between artists, movements, and concepts.  If you create an article, essay or research paper using The Art Story, let me and The Art Story Founder, Michael  Zurakhinsky know. Tag #theartstory, and we would be happy to repost for you on social media. If you are an artist looking for new ideas, The Art Story is here for you.  Do your own search for artists from the past that speak to our concerns of today. I am sure you will make some new discoveries using The Art Story’s accessible platform. Stay inspired!

Picasso: Works Entering the Public Domain in 2019

On January 1st, 2019, a group of Pablo Picasso artworks will enter the public domain in the United States. A small but significant selection of will be completely free for re-use and publication of any sort.

According to copyright law, for the first time in twenty years, thousands of books will be free from copyright. Among them is a work by French poet, artist, and writer Jean Cocteau, a man with whom Picasso shared a long friendship. The tiny, unassuming book, entitled simply Picasso, includes a total of 14 works by the artist. Some of those 14 works have been published prior to 1923, so they are not the focus of this article – this article is about the brand new (to 2019) copyright-free works.

Boy Leading a Horse (1905 – 06)
Museum of Modern Art, New York.

The book includes the Rose Period’s Boy Leading a Horse a work whose influence from Cezanne and El Greco are clearly visible. Ownership of this work was hotly debated when in 2007 both the Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation asked a court to declare them the canvas’ rightful owner. The matter was settled out of court and the piece remained with MoMA. And now, as it enters the public domain, the image may see new incarnations as its representation becomes public property. 

In fact, all the images you see on this page are now copyright free.

 

 

 

The Reservoir, Horta de Ebro (1909)
Museum of Modern Art, New York

Guitar (1912)

Glass, Guitar, and Bottle (1913)
Museum of Modern Art, New York

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picasso’s famous construction Guitar also makes an appearance in Cocteau’s book. It was a work that marked the artist’s first foray into assemblage and amused his friends who asked whether it was painting or sculpture. There are actually many versions of this work, so if you are going to use it, be extra careful.

Glass, Guitar, and Bottle, considered one of the more complex works of the Synthetic Cubist period in its use of material and different surface effects, also appeared in Cocteau’s text.

Saltimbanque Seated with Arms Crossed (1923)
Bridgestone Museum of Art, Tokyo, Japan

Bust of Female Nude (Buste de nu feminin) (1921)

Mother and Child (Mere et enfant) (1921)
The Art Institute of Chicago

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the later works presented in Cocteau’s book is Saltimbanque Seated with Arms Crossed. As the work enters the public domain, will this alabaster-faced acrobat spring from the pages of a dusty book and join the Munch iPhone covers, Van Gogh yoga leggings, and Klimt scarves and decorative cushions that pop up for sale online?

Also entering public domain is this photograph of Picasso, by Man Ray (1923)

The Art Story endeavors to carry out the most meticulous research possible. However, if readers are aware of any other texts containing works by Pablo Picasso published in 1923, please email us at info@theartstory.org. The Picasso works that are already considered to be in the public domain in the US are on this Wikipedia page  (but it is possible some works were not included by Wikipedia).

Disclaimer: The Art Story Foundation has discovered this book and our research shows that the Picasso works discussed in this article are copyright free. But we want to stress that The Art Story is not a legal expert – any and all usage of the above works should be thoroughly verified. Outside the United States, each country has different laws determining copyrights. UK and EU member countries may have similar reciprocal protection laws, but we recommend for publishers in those countries to speak with a legal expert.

Pablo Picasso: Lives and Loves

Erotic Scene (1902-3)

There may be some things you won’t say, or do, or even contemplate, in front of genteel strangers, but peculiar things can happen at an art gallery. You can find yourself in this type of polite huddle when you are in front of Picasso’s Erotic Scene (1902-3).

The picture contains a self-portrait, the artist was 21 when he painted it, but he seems to imagine himself as a younger boy, reclined on a bed with arms casually behind his head, while a naked woman leans more than a trifle suggestively over his lower regions.

The subject of Erotic Scene was risqué enough for Picasso to deny for many years that he painted it, yet scholars maintain that he did, and it’s not such a surprising painting from one who, at a young age, was so sexually experienced, and whose life would have so many loves. No matter which period of Picasso’s oeuvre one studies, from the Blue Period that shaped the Erotic Scene, through the Cubist years and on into the Neo-Classicism of the 1920s, one might be just as tempted with tales of the great master’s love life as much as with the works that he has created. Viewing his paintings through his personal life would still offer us a rich picture of his work, since it has often been noted how a new woman in Picasso’s life signaled an observable departure in his work.

Consider touring Picasso’s love life through a sequence of his fabulous portraits – a few declared as such, most hidden – that reveal his changing moods and amours. While he was in Rome, making sets for the Ballets Russes, he met former dancer Olga Khokhlova; they married in 1918, and his relationship with her coincided with a turn to Neoclassicism in his work, and imaginings of a lost Golden Age on the Mediterranean. Together they had a son, Paulo, and Picasso’s joy in fatherhood was manifest in compositions celebrating women and maternity such as Woman in White (1924). But the artist soon wearied of fatherhood, and of his wife, and as his feelings soured his contact with the Surrealists led him to produce Head of a Woman (1927), a biting satire of Olga. That same year, at the age of 45, Picasso’s attentions were drawn to a 17-year-old girl he met on a Paris street, Marie-Thérèse Walter. His previously cold and dispassionate Surrealist style warmed, to produce sunny, joyfully erotic images of his new love, such as The Dreamer (1932). But again, as his ardency waned, his palette cooled, as in later portraits like Woman Asleep at a Table (1936). And, finally, as was his pattern, Marie-Thérèse was replaced, this time by the fiery and cerebral Surrealist photographer Dora Maar.

Even when Picasso wasn’t painting his women, his thoughts of them were shaping his work: one apocryphal tale has it that in Lent of 1930, the young and pious Marie-Thérèse swore off sex, and Picasso became so enraged he painted a Crucifixion. While this tale is subject to scrutiny, there is little mystery behind Man with a Lollipop (1938), the comic figure who appears with his many depictions of women of the 1920s and 1930s. The composition mocks those who, late in life, return to childhood in order to find replacements for lost erotic love: here it is as if Picasso claims such a fate will not be his.

La Fornarina by Raphael (1518-20)

But which liaison brought the most to his art? The popularity of his portraits of Marie-Thérèse would suggest that it was this unlikely match that brought out the best in him – especially as evidenced in the latest auction price paid for her painting. Or maybe it was the variety of those different experiences which sharpened his art: his works have different erotic images sprinkled throughout: depictions of Venus, of nudes, even a series of prints imagining Raphael in embraces with the young woman who appears in his famous La Fornarina (1518-20). But the sorry tale of the Picasso dynasty – stories of suicide, instability, and unhappiness – suggests that brief encounters with the master weren’t so healthy for his women, nor were they so beneficial for the children to have such as legend as their father. Picasso’s art may have flourished, but other lives weren’t so lucky.

 

The Loves:

Fernande Olivier photograph
Head of a Woman (1909-10)

Fernande Olivier (1904-1912)

An artist and model who posed for over sixty portraits by Picasso over the course of their passionate and tempestuous relationship, Olivier and Picasso met at the Bateau-Lavoir in 1904 and were living together the year after. Olivier was the model for some of Picasso’s most famous forays into Cubism, including  being one of the demoiselles in Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Once Picasso became a successful artist he left Olivier as she reminded him of more difficult times.

Eva Gouel (1912-1915)

Gouel and Picasso’s relationship had a scandalous start, they met in 1911 while both involved with other people, and began their affair before they left their respective partners. During this time Picasso left secret love notes in his paintings for Gouel, who was the model for many of his works, notably the cubist work Ma Jolie (Ma Jolie was Picasso’s nickname for Gouel). Sadly their love affair was short lived. Gouel died of tuberculosis, or cancer, in 1915. Picasso described her last weeks in the hospital as “hell” in letters to his good friend, Gertrude Stein.

Olga Khokhlova photograph (1918)
The Woman in White (1924)

Olga Khokhlova (1917 – 1927)
A dancer with the famed Ballet Russes company, Khokhlova and Picasso met when he designed the costumes and sets for the Ballet Russes’ production of Parade (1917). She was 26 years-old and he 36. Picasso married Olga in 1918, but the relationship waned in the late 1920s. They had a son, Paulo in 1921, but formally separated in 1935. Here, in Woman in White, he depicts her at one of the heights of his love for her. Through amorous eyes, she is illustrated softly in a glow of femininity and maternity.

 

Marie-Thérèse Walter photograph (1929)
The Dreamer (1932)

Marie-Thérèse Walter (1927-1936)
Picasso’s affair with Marie-Thérèse began in 1927 and lasted for nearly a decade, making it one of his longest relationships. However, his wife Olga did not discover the affair until much later when a friend told her that Picasso was expecting a child with his long-time lover. Walter and Picasso’s daughter, Maïa, was born in 1935. In The Dreamer Picasso is caught up in the throws of his passion for Walter, using warm colors to depict her sensuous body in repose.

Dora Maar photograph (1941)
Portrait of Dora Maar Seated (1937)

Dora Maar (1936-1944)
Picasso met the Surrealist photographer in 1936, at the famed Parisian cafe, Les Deux Magots, and their relationship lasted until some time after he met a young painter, Françoise Gilot, in 1943. Although primarily remembered for her relationship with Picasso, Maar was a talented artist in her own right, known for Surrealist photography and abstract painting. In this painting of Maar, Picasso depicts her on a throne, the Queen equal to the artist’s King.

Sylvette photograph (c. 1954)
David Sylvette (1954)

Sylvette David (1954)

Only nineteen years old when she met the decades older Picasso on the Cote d’Azur, Picasso was instantly attracted to David. Following in the footsteps of Picasso’s previous companions, David served as both muse and model to the artist. She inspired what is known as the “Sylvette Series” of over sixty paintings and portraits. Interestingly, David’s relationship with Picasso was never consummated as she was too shy to even pose in the nude for him. This lack of carnal passion spelled the end of their time together, especially after Picasso met Jacqueline Roque.

Jacqueline Roque photograph (1956)
Jacqueline with a Headband III (1964)

Jacqueline Roque (1953-1973)
Picasso met Jacqueline on the French Riviera in 1952 where she worked at a ceramics studio. Roque was 28 years-old to Picasso’s 72.  After Picasso’s first wife, Olga Khokhlova died in 1961, he and Roque married, remaining together until his death. He created over 400 portraits of her, the most of any of his loves. Roque is called the “muse” of Picasso’s old age.

 

The Life and Art of Picasso –