The Mental Museum

Archive for November 2008

Miquel Barcelo

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Having recently completed the ceiling of the United Nations office in Geneva, Switzerland, contemporary Spanish artist, Miquel Barcelo is raising controversy over the price tag. Barcelo is known for his nearly psychedelic treatment of texture and space. Commissioned in 2001, Barcelo embarked on a 7 year project transforming the interior cathedral in Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

The tradition of highly embellished cathedral interiors dates back to the 17th and 18th Centuries and was instigated by the Protestant Reformation movement that began in the early 1500s. It began with German monk and university professor, Martin Luther. His most controversial issues with the Catholic Church were the Church’s practice of selling indulgences and the Church’s policy on purgatory. Other issues included the mandatory celibacy requirement of the clergy and the authority of the Pope. Formed to a list titled the Ninety-five Theses and nailed to the door of the All Saints Church, Martin Luther began the Protestant Reformation, (which soon split along certain doctrinal lines and led to the emergence of rival Protestant churches). Meanwhile, the Catholic Church’s retaliation adopted new ways in an attempt to entice and maintain a strong congregation. The refined and dignified Renaissance art that decorated churches before this catered only to the elite class. Now in need of a visual language that reached to the masses, the highly embellished and alluring nature of Catholic Baroque art was born. Artists such as Peter Paul Rubens, Caravaggio and Bernini Cornano were being commissioned to create elaborate figurative works in various cathedrals in an attempt to swoon a potentially fleeting congregation. The Florentine Medici family, which produced three Popes and numerous rulers of Florence, had a great deal of influence throughout this artistic era.

Today, we still have highly influential institutions commissioning artists in an attempt of allure. Barcelo’s work in the United Nations offices in Geneva as well as the cathedral in Palma de Mallorca are perfect examples of how art is still being utilized politically. However, through the evolution of art history, we do see visual changes. The human figure, which has been such a familiar representation in art up until now, is successfully being eliminated by contemporary art’s highly conceptually driven nature. Barcelo among many other contemporary artist leave us with more clues as to where art is headed visually in the context of an ever evolving and globalizing world.

Barcelo states about the inspiration behind his work in the UN, “On a day of immense heat in the middle of the Sahel desert, I recall with vivacity the mirage of an image of the world dripping toward the sky.”


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November 24, 2008 at 1:39 pm

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Yoko Ono – Nude Vs. Naked

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Cut Piece, 1965

What is the difference between naked and nude? Perhaps nude is a romantic term, sexual, with grace and poise and dignity. Nude in the sense of Venus de Milo or David and Apollo. Nudity is intentional and invited. In the nude, one wears his skin. Naked however evokes vulnerability. Naked is candid and raw and perhaps it is when one is dolorously exposed.

For her performance in Carnegie Hall shown above, Yoko Ono sits motionless after inviting her audience to use the provided scissors to cut off pieces of her clothing. Undirected and unscripted, the event proves to be an effectual social and cultural commentary. Men and women approach the stage until the last participant, a man, snips the straps concealing her breasts. Touching upon dualities of male vs. female, victim vs. assailant and sadist vs. masochist, Yoko Ono submits herself as the tool through which society is permitted to speak. Although a powerful means to communicate and interact with one’s audience, performance artists can never seek to predict the outcome. Cut Piece is extremely submissive in its nature; Yoko Ono has given up complete authority over her piece. What is beautiful is that completion is achieved through a collaborative relationship between the artist and audience and both parties are left with the memory of the experience. However, in this case, can one state that completion is achieved when it is no longer ambiguous that she is in fact naked and not nude?

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November 13, 2008 at 5:21 pm

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Robin Rhode

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Stone Flag, 2004

Born in 1976, Robin Rhode is a mixed media artist from Cape Town, South Africa. Rhode instinctually immerses himself into his own work by documenting the production of his hand drawn creations, which utilize basic mediums as charcoal, chalk and raw wall surface. Arrangements of photo stills capture his work in progress and illustrate an almost staccato dance as he is shown manipulating and formulating his vision. Since most of his work is created on unprimed public wall surface, there is an strong element of street culture, tagging and graffiti art. Although currently based in Germany, Rhode often travels back to his native South Africa to create work within his own country where he references relative issues of poverty and social inequalities. One can compare Rhode’s basic techniques to those of Eadweard Muybridge. As a 19th Century English photographer, Muybridge was known for his research that sought to understand movement and rhythm through still capture. His sequenced photographic work deconstructed physical progression which in turn located patterns and repetition. Rhode takes these basic means of deconstruction several measures further. His aim is past basic movement and on to, for instance, socio-demographically conscious themes. Rhode is not only credited with success that lies in the aesthetic patterns and repetition unveiled in the evolution of his movement and thought, but also in his objectivity to the issues he touches upon.

Harvest, 2005

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November 2, 2008 at 11:15 pm

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