80 something days of MoMA Online course sessions.

Ben-Day dots

In our MoMA lecture today, we learned about the technique called Ben-Day dots. When it was first mentioned, it sounded so foreign to me as I’ve never studied such a technique. As it usually is with the things that baffle me, I was keen to research it.

Here’s what I found out about Ben-Day dots:

  • A trademark style used by American pop art painter Roy Lichtenstein in his works.
  • It takes its name from American illustrator and printer Benjamin Henry Day Jr.
  • Similar to pointilism.
  • Different from halftone.
  • Ben-Day dots Can be created by hand, stencil or screen printing.

One of Lichtenstein’s paintings that was shown to us that clearly used this technique was his famous Drowning Girl.

It’s an incredible intricate - and perhaps even bothersome - technique to apply on a painting. A blog I found while browsing explained how Ben-Day dots could be created. It looks time-consuming. But for comic-inspired pop art works, it does look amazing. 

session 12: giacometti and postwar europe

This week’s MoMA lecture has got to be one of the most depressing things I’ve ever learned in history. The topic isGiacometti and Postwar Europe. As the title suggests, we discussed the art scene in Europe, after the World War II. In other words, this topic is the counterpart of last week’s topic of the New York school. But if that one was about how artists created their works in New York, this one focuses on artists in Paris and other European countries.

We begin, dishearteningly, with a story about how the war in Europe left devastation in every country. (Honestly, I have no stomach for this. But I must, so.) The MoMA lecturer on video explained about how Pablo Picasso stayed in Paris during the war, as opposed to fleeing like many people did, and dedicated his art to show off his resisance against the oppressors. I researched this a little bit and found this link: Picasso: Love & War 1935 - 1945.

After the war, artists struggled to get back on their feet in creating their art. As was the case in New York, artists in Europe wanted to find new ways to work that could express their sentiments about the war and the aftermath of it. This led to the emergence of art informel, a type of abstract art that eschewed form. There is no predefined form or structure in this abstract art and artists paid attention to tools and materials.

Based on the examples shown to us today, including the works of Jean Dubuffet, Alberto Giacometti and Alberto Burri, the works share a common trait. That is, a sense of primitivism, a desire to start again from zero, just like places and people’s lives needed to be built after the war was over. There were many things influencing the styles used in art informel; among others, children’s paintings (particularly Dubuffet, the first artist we were introduced to) and ancient cave paintings were the two most prominent, according to our MoMA lecturer.

On the other hand, the works of Alberto Burri, a former Italian military surgeon, showecased something more macabre. He used medical analogy in his works (initially as canvas but later on as part of the painting), using burlaps in his paintings a representation of human skin and flesh. The stitchings on the burlap sacks represented sutures; the open wounds suggested not just physical, but also psychological wounds that could never be cured. (See, it was depressing stuff all around.)

Meanwhile sculptor Alberto Giacometti’s work that we saw today was “The Standing Woman”. In 1946, Giacometti allegedly dreamt about “endless abysses of space”. Far be it from me to explain to you how it gave him a thought to create this eerie piece of art, but everything this sculpture represented was apparently a questiion of existentialism. (Giacometti drew inspiration from Jean-Paul Sartre and, vice versa, Sartre was said to admire Giacometti.) So it was a piece that showcased plenty of philosophical ponderings, such as how the sculpture was seemingly surrounded by an insurmountable gap that separated it from the viewers. And although Giacometti denied it, “The Standing Woman” looked a lot like people in concentration camps, that is positively emaciated.

"The Standing Woman" was compared to Barnett Newman’s painting "Vir Heroicus Sublimis". It was also a piece that had common qualities with Giacometti’s statue. Zip lines on a red surface, vertical, frontal and playing with the ‘gaps’ between the painting and its viewers.

Interestingly, we also discussed the title of Barnett’s work. The title’s meaning is “Man Heroic and Sublime”. The word sublime, in art terms, is meant to represent a mix of awe and terror. That’s probably a simplification, but I think it does fit quite nicely with art that I see that are sublime.

A bit of an amusing story: when we were discussing this word, we were given an example of how the word came about. One painting in particular was shown, “Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog”. 

Upon seeing this image, my friends all went, “Oh, this is very much like Thorin Oakenshield!” and “Is that the Misty Mountains?” To which my reaction was to sing, “Faaaar oooooveeeer….” (It’s just what we do, really.)

Also, I made a joke to my friend about “Hey, that’s Benedict’s John Harrison inStar Trek Into Darkness poster, right?!” I was actually being totally relevant. Who knew?

Anyway, that was what I got from today’s lecture. It went better than last week. Almost all of the videos were shown. There was on that didn’t get shown and it was Francis Bacon’s “Study of a Baboon”, which I hope our local lecturer Mr. Sidharta and the @atamerica video guys can show before next week’s lecture. I really want to see that video.

My personal feelings about this Postwar European art scene aside (which is “too depressing to dwell on”), I have to be honest and say that none of it is my cup of tea. Aesthetically, it is none too pleasing for my eyes. Philosophically, it is rather too much (existentialism, it traumatized me in university and I haven’t recovered now). So, yeah, no. I don’t think I’m going to be wanting to find out more about this.

But if YOU are interested to know more, here are some links to read up on:

session 11: pollock and the school of new york

 the first session today is about Jackson Pollock and The School of New York. Otherwise known as the class where I blanked out on Abstract Expressionism.

First of all, I have to say that I was once again disappointed that our lecturer (same guy as before, Mr. Amir Siddharta) ran out of time to play ALL THE VIDEOS. Unlike the first series of MoMA lectures, this time around those who have near full attendance will be able to get access to the online materials from MoMA, which means we will be able to see the videos by ourselves later on. But it never fails to irk me when there are 5 videos available and only 3 are played.

The main reason for my objection, particularly with today’s topic, is that by not playing all of the videos, my understanding of the topic becomes incomplete. And true enough, I didn’t come out of the lecture feeling like I’ve learned anything much. The topic itself is hard enough to comprehend - in the first series, I also had trouble understanding fully the topic of Expressionism and didn’t truly *get it* until I did my own research outside of the class - so I would really like to watch and listen to all and any information that MoMA could offer us, in addition to listening to Mr. Siddharta’s information on the side.

I really, really hope that this won’t happen again. Play all the videos and give the participants of the lecture the COMPLETE EXPERIENCE and FULL BENEFIT of the lesson.

Moving on to the topic itself, as I have said before, I’m at this moment unable to say anything about Abstract Expressionism. All I can say is that it’s an art movement that several artists in the 1940s in New York developed, that was born out of their desire to find new ways to express themselves with their art, because they felt that the ‘old ways’ (of painting, mostly) is no longer sufficient for their expressions. There are many styles in the movement, as artists experiment with different MATERIALS and TECHNIQUES to paint. Some styles are also influenced by previous art movements; Surrealism got mentioned a lot in the lecture. European artists’ migration to New York during the war and their subsequent interaction with other artists in New York also played a part in the birth of Abstract Expressionism.

Pollock, for one, chose to express himself through nonobjetive paintings created by gestures, painting on large surfaces laid on the floor, flicking, dripping paint on the medium and letting nature take its course on the painting. Arshile Gorky, who was considered A Very Awesome Artist by his peers apparently, was more colorful in his works, making abstract shapes that could be anything. We discussed one of his paintings, “Diary of a Seducer" (one the videos that DID get played), and the lecturer said something along the lines of "regarding the title, the artist gives you something to think about: who is the seducer and who is the seducee?" And that’s philosophy, right there.

Of course, the one artist that caught my attention was Barnett Newman. (Just now I checked him out and apparently his type of painting, the ones he was most famous for, is called “color field painting”. ) Newman’s painting is basically all about colors. A colored canvas with a “zip line” in the middle that represents a “divide but also a connection”. It’s again very philosophical, from the way the lecturer told it, but aesthetically it is very beautiful in a simple way. This is the one artist I am eager to learn more about. 

Gorky’s demise, but most importantly Pollock’s demise signified the end of this movement. Where the artists moved on to, I suppose we’ll see in the next session.

As I said, I struggled with this movement. It’s not only philosophical in terms of meaning behind the art, but it’s also very much technique- and material-related. Having no background in actual art techniques, I was quite lost. But Mr. Siddharta kindly gave examples of his own experience with these techniques (like the drip technique and etching) so I was able to learn something new, though not much. The challenge, however, is welcome. You can bet that I will do my own research after this.

For now, here are some helpful Abstract Expressionism for Dummies links:

days of modern & contemporary art

It has returned. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Online Course sessions are back again. This time, it’s not just about modern art, but also about contemporary. Officially, the second series is titled Modern and Contemporary Art From 1945-1989. There will be 10 sessions in all, like the first time, so in this blog and in my notes, I will number the sessions from 11 to 20 (continuing from the first.) Enjoy.

Expressive Picasso Artworks That Don’t Need Color

Would Pablo Picasso’s Weeping Woman look more somber if every surface of her body wasn’tgarlanded with festive colors? Would his mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter look less sensual if her curves were monochromatic instead of pale fleshy pink? Opening tomorrow at the Guggenheim,Picasso Black and White focuses on the legendary artist’s work in black, white, and gray — with the occasional hint of yellow or blue. Organized chronologically along the Guggenheim’s spiraling ramps, the show runs through January 23rd and features 118 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper from 1904 to 1971, including six pieces on public view for the first time. From his devastating reflections on the atrocities of war to his opulent meditations on the female form and its various details, preview some highlights from the exhibition in our slideshow. 

(Source: Flavorwire.com)

Man Ray’s photography: Pablo Picasso (1922); Le Violon d’Ingres (1924); Henry Crowder (1928) and Catherine Deneuve (1968).

(Source: telegraph.co.uk)

The National Portrait Gallery is to stage the first museum exhibition devoted to portraits by the photographer Man Ray.

One of the most innovative photographers of the 20th century, Man Ray (born Emmanuel Radnitzky) is best known for his avant garde images.

But he also produced portraits of artists, musicians and performers throughout his career, photographing the likes of Catherine Deneuve, Pablo Picasso and Juliette Greco.

Sandy Nairne, director of the National Portrait Gallery, said: “Man Ray was a fascinating and complex figure, and one of the great artists of the 20th century.

“These are really important portraits we want people to have a chance to see. While some of the image will be extremely well known, others will not.”

:: Man Ray Portraits runs from 7 February – 27 May 2013.


Salvador Dali Wolverine by Paolo Rivera


Salvador Dali Wolverine by Paolo Rivera

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Dr. No and the extraordinary open-ended donation from Albert R. Broccoli, Barbara Broccoli, and Michael G. Wilson, MoMA presents all 22 films in its James Bond collection.
Read full article at the MoMA website.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Dr. No and the extraordinary open-ended donation from Albert R. Broccoli, Barbara Broccoli, and Michael G. Wilson, MoMA presents all 22 films in its James Bond collection.

Read full article at the MoMA website.


Jean Arp, Untitled, 1922-1923


Jean Arp, Untitled, 1922-1923

the continuation

I’ve been struggling to decide what to do with this blog. Since the MoMA Online Course for modern art is over, I no longer have anything to write here. But I do plan on continuing with the next course (on contemporary art) when I get the chance so I can’t exactly retire this blog. That’s why I’ve been updating it with miscellaneous modern art-related things in the past few weeks.

What I’m trying to say is, I still don’t know how long I can keep up with this, but I’ll try to update as much as possible. If anyone wants to stick with this blog, then I thank you profoundly. If anyone wants to leave, that’s okay too. Thank you anyway.

Batman gets a Surrealist makeover as Salvador Dali’s monstrous Sleep
Salvador Dalí’s painting Sleep depicted a disembodied, slumbering head held aloft by crutches. In Mike Capp’s pop cultural spoof of the painting, Sleep Batman, Batman fills the head’s role, snoozing without any thought to the fragile props that might collapse below him. Read more.
Additional: Mike Capp’s works.

Batman gets a Surrealist makeover as Salvador Dali’s monstrous Sleep

Salvador Dalí’s painting Sleep depicted a disembodied, slumbering head held aloft by crutches. In Mike Capp’s pop cultural spoof of the painting, Sleep Batman, Batman fills the head’s role, snoozing without any thought to the fragile props that might collapse below him. Read more.

Additional: Mike Capp’s works.