Dia de los Muertos

Day of the Dead is a holiday widely practiced in Mexico. Families come together to honor dead loved ones and encourage their sprits to visit with various gifts. Evidence of ceremonial rituals meant to attract the spirits of the dead and honor them can be traced back to Pre-Colombian times. Aztecs dedicated a month long festival starting around August to the goddess Micteozcihuatl, the precursor to today’s Catrina. Over time beliefs of the indigenous peoples combined with Catholic beliefs, producing a three day celebration that starts on October 31st and lasts until November 2nd. Each day holds specific significance. On the first night, called Dia de los Inocentes (Day of the Innocents) children make altars for the angelitos (spirits of young children or babies) encouraging them to visit. The next day called All Saints Day honors adult spirits and on the last day, All Sous Day, families gather in cemeteries to decorate the graves of relatives and friends who have passed. The traditions of this festival spread through out the region and now similar holidays for the dead are practiced in Spain, Brazil, and some areas of Europe, Asia, Africa and America.

There are specific icons that make up the visual lexicon of Dia de los Muertos. The most readily recognized being sugar skulls (calaveras de azúca) placed onto graves as oferenda (offerings). These decorations made of sugar and can be bought, but are often homemade. The sugar is shaped into a skull and brightly decorated with patterns in multi-colored icing, shiny foil, sequins and glitter. These are not morbid items, but are cheerful reminders to the dead of the love their living relatives still have for them. Marigolds are the flowers of the dead and are thought to attract spirits. The flowers and sugar skulls populate art inspired by Dia de los Muertos themes. Faimlies also paint their faces in a likeness of the sugar skulls and wear marigolds in their hair.

Altars made for the dead can become large and complex, filled with sugar skull, paper decorations, food and drink favored by the deceased, candles, flowers, toys and pictures. These altars are made to attract the spirits during the days of the holiday when they can visit. Special bread is baked called pan de muertos (bread of the dead) and also placed on graves. These elaborate alters are quite beautiful and reenforce the celebratory themes of the holiday. Below I have attached some pictures of altars and other items from Dia de los Muertos. Later this week, my work place will participate with Dia de los Muertos by having private and public altars for the community to visit. I am very proud to be able to contribute to this long tradition as well as excited to be a part of it. I will try to take some good pictures of the altars to share later this week or early next week.

Thanks for reading guys, and whether you chose to celebrate Halloween or Dia de los Muertos or both, I wish you all the best.

 

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Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

So where do I start with this outrageous character of Dada legend and lore? Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven is pretty much the founder of Dada in New York during the 1913-20’s. (Dada came about as a reaction against the academy’s stuffy rules regulating, defining, organizing, and otherwise controlling an understanding/definition of art; the anti-art scene then escalated into anti-culutre movement in part as a search for meaning and consolation in the catastrophic aftermath of WWI.) Marcel DuChamp, her contemporary and friend, credits her as being the original dadaist stating that, “she is not a futurist, she is the future.”

It is right that DuChamp should be so admirable of The Baroness. She brought Dada to the fore front of culture in at the start of the new century in New York by pushing the boundaries of elite culture. Dada’s darling went to war with the bourgeois, attacking decency with her explicit dadaist poetry, constructed ready-mades that upset traditional art making practices, crafted dangerously anti-religous sculptures, and designed her own elaborate costumes from found and stolen items. The Baroness did not just cause a riot, she was a riot, making scene with her outlandish, ridiculous behavior everywhere she went. In short, the woman was a hot mess. Today we’d call her a ratchet, with the singular gift of provoking everyone around her into a hissy fit.

The Baroness was born July 12,1874 in Germany, she studied art in Dachau, near Munich before marrying her first husband in 1901, Berlin-based architect August Endell, at which time she became Else Endell. Ever one for a good scandal, she lived an avant-garde bohemian lifestyle, having an open relationship with her husband while working as an actress and vaudeville performer. She had numerous affairs with artists in Berlin, Munich and Italy, and in 1902 she became involved romantically with a friend of Endell’s, the minor poet and translator Felix Paul Greve (later the Canadian author Frederick Philip Grove), and all three went to Palermo in late January 1903. They then lead a faery nomadic lifestyle, traveling to various places, including Wollerau, Switzerland and Paris-Plage, France.  She found work modeling for artists in Cincinnati, and made her way east via West Virginia and Philadelphia.

Elsa became a baroness by marrying Baron von Freytag-Loringhoven in 1913 and maintained that title the rest of her life, despite numerous affairs. She exploited her aristocratic status as a weapon to assault bourgeois taste. One of my favorite Baroness antics was her single-handed effort to present futuristic fashion to the bohemians of Greenwich Village, by scandalizing her neighbors parading about semi-nude along 14th Street, barely covered with feathers. It is evident that her preferred method for undermining the avant-garde was to always be as naked as she could get, even wearing nothing but tea-balls on her breasts while reciting poetry on street corners.

Until recently, The Baroness was best known for her  provocative poetry, which was finally published in a 2011 posthumous compilation of her writings Body Sweats: The Uncensored Writings of Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, Irene Gammel. (The New York Times praised the book as one of the notable art books of 2011.) She liked to experiment with punctuation and grammar to challenge the structure of langue. She made good use of dashes to set unique tempos and almost actual motion within her sentences, and created portmanteau compositions that made a mockery of coherency with non-sensical phrases.  As the poem “Loss” states:  “She is mad— / I am lost— / Utter.” (Loss, 234)

When reading her poems you often have to pause to rethink her meaning. I find I have to recompose the poems, decide which statements are spoken by which voice/persona, in what order lines are meant to be read, and in what combination with the lines surrounding it.  Take a second look at the tercet cited above—here the two-syllable word line “Utter” may be a command “to utter” and if so who is to speak?  Is the command directed to her, us, or is it the owl in the poem? Or is “utter” not a verb at all but a displaced adjective, one which should be read as if it precedes the word “lost” in the penultimate line? And if so does The Baroness ask the reader if this refers to utter loss? And who utterly lost and what was it? Or is the speaker utterly lost? Or is she talking about a random cow’s utters?! By being evasive with layers of meaning, The Baroness wrote very polarizing poetry, causing some people to either find their meanings very personal to each reader or very isolating and shallow. Ezra Pound was not always her biggest fan, but what does he know?

Another one of her stylistic elements is her laudable exploration of the thin line—made up of one to three syllables and streaking down the pages like a stripe, an arrow’s shadowtrail. At times these tiny lines create a clipped, staccato pacing, at others they embody speed and slippage; are aquatic in their rush. This is especially true in poems where sound seems beyond control, tumbling and falling

And of course she is never shy about discussing sex. A lot of her portmanteaus are highly explicit, such as “Kissambushed” and “Phalluspistol.”  The Little Review put her on the map in 1918 by publishing 20 of her poems and more than a dozen of her essays and notes. The magazine thereupon gave the baroness a forum for the next four years, establishing her among Dada luminaries. One of the Baroness’ poems, reproduced by Gammel, reads:

No spinsterlollypop for me!
Yes! We have no bananas
I got lusting palate
I always eat them…
There’s the vibrator
Coy flappertoy! …
A dozen cocktails, please!

Yup. Those are blatant phallic references. By today’s standards perhaps these aren’t so shocking, but in the early 1900s worn were still admired for their gentle and modest qualities. And even men could get into trouble for being so open about sex acts.

The Baroness also worked with found object making assemblage sculptures and collage paintings while in New York. Her habit of collecting rubbish and refuse to create sculptures of anti-art greatly offended art critics. But her radical behavior impressed and inspired her contemporaries. She was feared and admired by the likes of Hart Crane, William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, and Djuna Barnes who all, like Ezra Pound, found themselves discussing her work in verse whether they liked it or not. And the very first movie made by Duchamp and Man Ray was about Elsa, titled The Baroness Shaves her Pubic Hair. The film cements her status Queen of Dada, but sadly only a handful of film stills have been salvaged by history. She is featured in many other Dada artists works, adding further testament to the depth of her influence and the admiration held to her by contemporaries.

Being friends with DuChamp, The Baroness was likely also involved in the conception of the famous ready-made, Fountain (1917). As Irene Gammel has documented, the choice of a urinal as art work is more in line with Freytag-Loringhoven’s scatological aesthetics than with Duchamp’s.  Moreover, Duchamp indicates in a letter to his sister written in 1917 that a female friend of his had sent him the urinal for submission at the Independents Exhibition. Rediscovered by the Whitney Museum in New York City in 1996, her Portrait of Marcel Duchamp (no longer extant) is an example of her ready-made pieces. She also contributed to New York Dada by collaborating with Morton Schamberg on the 1917 assemblage sculpture God, which is constructed of plumbing materials.

Unfortunately her death was not a glamorous or scandalous as her lifestyle. Finding herself finically insecure, in 1923, The Baroness went back to Berlin, expecting better opportunities to make money. Instead she came home to an economically devastated post-World War I Germany. Regardless of her difficulties in Weimar Germany, she remained there, penniless and on the verge of insanity. Though she still had several friends in the American expatriate community, in particular Djuna Barnes, Berenice Abbott, and Peggy Guggenheim, who provided emotional and financial support, she continued to deteriorate over the next few months.  She died on December, 14 1927 of gas suffocation after the gas was left on in her flat. She may have forgotten to turn the gas off, or someone else may have turned it on; the circumstances were never clear. She is buried in Paris, France at Père Lachaise Cemetery.

So there you have it. The Baroness is the original socially unacceptable bad girl. Her life reminds us that Miley Cyrus only wishes she could be as naughty as The Baroness, and Madonna and Lady gaga have nothing on her scanty outfits. I leave you with what is my favorite poem, for now, and I’ll also leave a few of images of her art and costumes. I highly recommend you read the Gammel book and check out this link to her digital library hosted by the University of Maryland digital library: http://www.lib.umd.edu/dcr/collections/EvFL-class/index.html

Ah Me!

Trust me
I do agree
Madam—I firmly stand that ground
Coitus is paramount
Ab-so-lu-te-ly!

Nay—Mr. Twitch do me allow
To cool define: when you know how!
As poetry—coitus urges
Driven courses rhythmic surges
Energy—
Executive ability.
Fancy’s wing composed complex
Genius sex’
Bagpipe spell
Sunsirens’ crimsoncruising yell
It is—

Else:
Hell!
Well?
Saucerorbs agog enorm
Smirks he
Ah me!
I don’t perform. (43)

“God” Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, Limbswish, sculpture 1917-1919

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven 1874, Swinemunde, Germany – 1927, Paris Portrait of Marcel Duchamp 1919 Collage, pastel, and ink on board 31 x 46 cm

The Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven in her Greenwich Village apartment, December, 1915

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven Wheels are Growing on Rose Bushes, 1921-22 Ink on paper, 5 3/4 x 8 3/4 inches

Art Term: Artist’s Hand

The hand of the artist (or artist’s had) refers to the evidence authorship in a work of art, identified by any evidence of the artist’s mark in the piece. For example, the brush strokes left in paint, the delicate modeling of a sculpture, and even the general emotive qualities of a piece and all be described as the artist’s hand and used to uncover the artistic process of creating the art. This the proof left behind that reveals or provides insight into the artist’s role in creating the art. An expert can spot an unsigned Picasso as genuine merely by identifying Picasso’s one-of-a-kind handling of every medium he ever tackled. There’s something deeply personal when an artist gives his hand, his unaccredited collaborator if you will, a cameo.

Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675) “View on Delft,” 1660

One artist that demonstrates perfectly the artist’s hand concept is Dutch genre painter Johannes Vermeer. Vermeer lived in the 17th-century and painted mostly domestic scenes; in fact most of his paintings are set in one of two rooms in his own home in Delft and the same pieces of furniture, decorations and even the sitter (generally women) can be identified from painting to paintings. He worked slowly and with great care, using bright colors and is particularly famous for his masterly treatment of light in his paintings. The recurrence of traits from painting to painting— style, light effects, furniture, location, subjects, pigments, materials, etc.— are all considered evidence of Vermeer’s authorship, or “hand,” in his paintings. But in particular, it is Vermeer’s use of color to recreate the effect of light hitting a surface that most distinguishes his hand at work. There is no other seventeenth-century artist who employed as lavishly, or as wastefully, the exorbitantly expensive pigment lapis lazuli, or natural ultramarine. Vermeer used these elements not just in naturally colored subjects, but earth colors like umber and ochre. Vermeer understood that warm light behaved within a painting’s strongly-lit interior by reflecting in multiple colours onto the wall. So he recreated this effect by building the warms tones with cooler tones and in this way he created a world more perfect than any one could witness, as exampled in “View on Delft.” Vermeer developed this method from his understanding of Leonardo’s observations that the surface of every object partakes of the colour of the adjacent object, meaning that no object is ever seen entirely in its natural color. Anyway, I say all this to make the point that artists can leave a signature trait behind in their work that distinguishes it as there’s, and these traits are referred to as the “artist’s hand.”

Below are two good examples of Vermeer’s “hand” putting authorship to his work. You can see that single out a woman, the floor is of the same tile, the composition is notably similar, some historians think the man is the same model (others believe “The Allegory of Painting” is self-portrait though), and colors and lighting are also similar as well as his expert treatment of the lush fabrics.

Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675) “A Lady and Two Gentlemen” 1659

Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675) “The Allegory of Painting” (or “The Art of Painting”) 1666

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think its worth pointing out that the Modern art movement developed largely around questioning the what’s, why’s, and how’s of art with the intention of challenging the academy’s authority to distinguish between “good” and “bad” art. By ignoring basic artistic conventions, the premise of removing authorship arose and thus artists began to omit their signatures from their work. No finer example of this can be mentioned than Marcel DuChamp’s readymades. The readymades are Duchamp’s answer to the question, How can one make works of art that are not “of art”? They are incredibly impudent and Duchamp’s method was audacious: he withdrew the hand of the artist from the process of making art, substituted manufactured articles (some custom-made, some readymade) for articles made by the artist, and substituted random or nonrational procedures for conscious design. The results are works of art without any pretense of artifice, and unconcerned with imitating reality in any way. The readymades included found objects, objects he chose and deemed art presented unaltered largely the way he found them. Again, these objects lack completely any distinguishing traits that could single out DuChamp as the maker.

DuChamp reasoned that if you want to break all the rules of the artistic tradition then you may as well begin by discarding art’s most fundamental values: beauty and authorship/artisanship. By removing completely any signifier from the work, he created art that was art only because he CHOSE it and presented it as such. His most famous readymade is probably “The Fountain.” (though he definitely had co-conspirators, most notable of which is Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, and she is a complicated post for another day) “The Fountain” was conceived for a show promoting avant-garde art, which inevitably excluded forward-looking artists. Under the pseudonym “R. Mutt,” DuChamp took advantage of the show’s lack of juried panels and submitted “Fountain” as a prank taunting his not-quite-so-avant-garde peers. And like all of his readymades, this was a calculated attack on art tradition. By signing the piece as “R. Mutt” Duchamp surrendered all claim to authorship of the piece, completely eliminating the “artist’s hand” tradition in the “The Fountain.” He defended the piece from accusations and even charges of plagiarism in an unsigned article in The Blind Man, a one-shot magazine published by his friend Beatrice Wood, replying that “Whether Mr. Mutt with his own hands made the fountain or not has no importance. He CHOSE it. He took an ordinary article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title and point of view — created a new thought for that object.”

And so, Modern Art was born and authorship— among other conventional definitions of art— became irrelevant.

In 1995, Damien Hirst defended his work with that very same rationale stating that, “It’s very easy to say, ‘I could have done that,’ after someone’s done it. But I did it. You didn’t. It didn’t exist until I did it.”

Well this post took a tangent toward Modern Art! But I suppose Modern Art is my favorite and I have been thinking about the period a lot here lately. I hope you guys enjoyed the extra art information. It seems that I need to to do a post on Damien Hirst and the Baroness soon.

So recap: Artist’s hand refers to signifiers of authorship, that distinguish the art piece as being by this artist.

 

https://www.lamodern.com/2013/05/peters-auction-pick-of-the-day-exploring-the-artists-hand/ http://www.julietmacdonald.co.uk/phd_files/Site_hand_eye_p/theartistshand.htm

Freya Jobbins

Ohhhhhh my gosh just look at these dolls sculpture portraits! In this latest series, Freya Jobbins, born in Johannesburg, South Africa and raised in West Sydney, uses dismembered plastic parts from old dolls and  toys to create these unsettling portraits of people and pop culture icons. The result is polarizing to be sure,— you either loved the sculptures or hated them— but regardless they are the byproducts of an  incredible amount of labor and time. Each anatomical amalgamation requires an intense observation of form and color.

But seriously, TOYS. How can you not appreciate the whimsy of toy sculpture? Oh the nostalgia…

For this series, Jobbins drew influence from Guiseppe Archimboldo’s fruit and vegetable paintings as well as Ron Mueck’s oversized humans. The immaculate execution of her work belies Jobbins first love, printmaking; which she prefers and considers to be her true “voice.” She majored in printmaking, receiving her diploma in Fine Arts from South West Sydney Institute of TAFE. Currently she is continuing her studies in printmaking at NAS and Wollongong TAFE while balancing her work with plastic toy sculptures.

You can see more freaky faces in her online gallery and on Facebook.

 

1,400 Works of Degenerate Art Found in Nazi Collector’s Home

This past Monday Germany’s Focus magazine finally released official press information about a  stash of 20th century art that was discovered back in 2011 under the headline “The Nazi Treasure” (Der Nazi-Schatz). German investigators and tax officials discovered a cache of 1,400 pieces of “degenerate art” when they visited  the cluttered apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt in Munich. They found missing paintings, both known and previously unknown, by famous painters such as — it has Picasso, Renoir, Max Beckmann, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, Auguste Renoir and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and other works have never been seen before now!  Gurlitt is the son of a WWII official who, obviously, was also an art collector during this time and probably had to hide his collection of so called “degenerate” art.

So degenerate art, what is that you may be asking? Well first, a little known fact about Hitler is that he a failed art school in Vienna. He was told he was not very talented, and he was rejected by the arts academies.  He held a grudge over the negative criticism, but he still considered himself an “arbitrator” of art. Later when he came into his power he organized the Degenerate Art Exhibition (Die Ausstellung “Entartete Kunst”) in an effort to control Germany’s media and art culture. Hitler commanded Nazi solders to confiscate modern art that, according to him, promoted anti-Nazi ideas. According to the art school flunky, art could be deemed degenerate if it “insulted” German feeling, or destroyed and confused natural form or simply revealed an absence of adequate manual and artistic skill. So basically any art that showed support for free thinking ideologies was labeled degenerate, and that definition includes nearly all modernist art.

The exhibit was designed to promote the idea that modernism was a conspiracy by people who hated and conspired against German decency, also called Jewish-Bolshevist. (Although only six of the 112 artists included in the exhibition were in fact Jewish.) The second purpose of the Degenerate Art show was to identify which artists were considered verboten by the Nazi leadership. The exhibit consisted of 650 works of art by modernists like Marc ChagallGeorg GroszWassily KandinskyErnst Ludwig KirchnerPaul KleeGeorg Kolbe,Wilhelm LehmbruckFranz MarcEmil Nolde, Picasso and others; all of the art was stolen from German museums and galleries. Hitler and the Nazi leadership pulled off of museum walls thousands of pieces of art that were considered “degenerate,” and exhibited them in Berlin. The show ran from July 19 to November 30, 1937 and was hosted in the Institute of Archeology in the Hofgarten. The day before the exhibition started, Hitler delivered a speech declaring “merciless war” on cultural disintegration, attacking “chatterboxes, dilettantes and art swindlers”. One million people attended the exhibition in its first six weeks which is an average of 20,000 people per day!— and the final estimate is that about 2,009,899 visitors attended the show.  Oh and the exhibition was held simultaneously with the Große Deutsche Kunstausstellung (“Great German Art Exhibition”), which served as a counterpoint to the Degenerate show. Its purpose was to example “proper German sensibility” and displayed the classical and “racially pure” type of art advocated by the Nazi regime. That exhibition was hosted near Hofgarten, in the Haus der Deutschen Kunst and was described as mediocre by modern sources; it attracted only about half the numbers of the Degenerate Art show.

So lol at Hitler!

Many works were displayed without frames and partially covered by derogatory slogans. No catalog was created for it, and it had to be reconstructed by modern scholars from secondary sources. But not all of the stolen art was put on display. Historians estimate that around 20% of great European art was stolen by Nazis during WWII, so there is a great deal of outstanding art to be found. The recently discovered Munich trove is  part of the continent’s seven-decade rediscovery of an artistic heritage that is still recovering from the Nazis’ efforts to wipe it out. This collection of looted art has an estimated value of $1.35 billon. Stolen art is known to be out there in private hands, but this kind of cache of nearly 1,500 works is really just unprecedented. It’s a mind blowing huge collection and I would just LOVE to be one of the historians there to document it.  I am sure that art historians will have their hands full recording it all and museums and dealers will be busy trying to figure out who owns which pieces— apparently there are some outstanding requests to locate some of the art found in this cache. But according to Anne-Marie O’Connor, a Jerusalem-based journalist interviewed for an NPR article, this discovery will probably affect the art market more than the art history, and drive up the price of paintings by these artists that are already privately owned.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/11/06/why-nazi-seized-art-is-only-now-resurfacing-and-how-it-will-change-the-art-world/