Ai Weiwei’s Interlacing: A Chinese Activist’s Photographs and Videos

Ai Weiwei, Dropping a Han-Dynasty Urn, 1995

Ai Weiwei, June 1994, 1994

Ai Weiwei, Ai Weiwei, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 1983

Ai Weiwei, Anton Wei, Lorimer Avenue Apartment, Brooklyn, 1983

Ai Weiwei, Study of Perspective, Tiananmen, 1998

Ai Weiwei’s Interlacing: A Chinese Activist’s Photographs and Videos

Interlacing is the first major exhibition of collected works by China’s renowned dissident artist Ai Weiwei, currently on display at Zurich’s Fotomuseum Winterthur. The collection consists of an extensive selection of photographs, videos and explanatory essays that present the interweaving artist as a network, company, activist, political voice, social container and agent provocateur.

Ai Weiwei is a generalist, conceptual, socially critical artist dedicated to creating friction with/and forming reality. As an architect, conceptual artist, sculptor, photographer, blogger, Twitterer, interview artist, and cultural critic, he is a sensitive observer of current topics and social problems: a great communicator and networker who brings life into art and art into life. Ai Weiwei deliberately confronts social conditions in China and in the world in ways that have captured an international audience.

In 2003, Ai Weiwei played a major role, together with the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, in the construction of the Olympic stadium, the so-called “Bird’s Nest.” Subsequently, he publicly repudiated the project and the whole Olympic buildup as a preposterous fraud to put on a “good face” for the international community. In 2007, 1001 Chinese visitors traveled, at his instigation, to Documenta 12 (Fairytale) in Kassel, Germany. In 2010, the world marveled at his large, yet formally minimal carpet of millions of hand-painted porcelain sunflower seeds at the Tate Modern.

Chinese officials announced in May, 2011, that the authorities were investigating Ai Weiwei on suspicion of tax evasion, after police officers had taken him from the main Beijing airport on April 3rd as he prepared to board a flight to Hong Kong. A global outcry went out, blasting the Chinese government for what was deemed a politically motivated move, claiming that the tax inquiry was a pretext to silence one of the most vocal critics of the Chinese Communist Party. The Chinese legal authorities finally released Ai Weiwei on June 22nd, after a three-month detention, apparently ending a prosecution that had become a focal point of criticism of China’s eroding human rights record. Nevertheless, the terms of his release may silence him for months or even years.

Ai Weiwei: Interlacing

Ai Weiwei: New York Photographs (with English subtitles)

Ai WeiWei: Never Sorry

Photo-Gallery: Ai Weiwei’s Interlacing/A Chinese Activist’s Photographs and Videos

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Cy Twombly: Scratching and Scribbling to the Heights of Abstract Expressionism

Cy Twombly, 2005

Wilder Shores of Love, Bassano in Teverina, 1985

Ferragosto IV, 1961

School of Athens, 1964

Lepanto, 2001

Cy Twombly: Scratching and Scribbling to the Heights of Abstract Expressionism

Cy Twombly (1928-2011), whose spare, delicate scratching and scribbling, odd marks, raw smudges, and gorgeous visceral color with intimations of myth, narrative and poetic engagement with antiquity left him often ignored by the movements of postwar American art, even as he eventually became one of the era’s most significant painters, died on Tuesday in Rome. He was 83.

His artistic career roguishly subverted Abstract Expressionism, dipped briefly into Minimalism, barely acknowledged Pop art, but anticipated some of the concerns of Conceptualism, Mr. Twombly was a polarizing figure in the art world almost from the beginning. His work has been described by one important art curator as “influential among artists, discomfiting to many critics and truculently difficult not just for a broad public, but for sophisticated initiates of postwar art as well.”

Twombly left New York City and moved permanently to southern Italy in 1957 and paid little heed to his many critics, who questioned constantly whether his work really deserved a place at the forefront of 20th century abstraction. The low point for Twombly probably came after a widely panned 1964 exhibition in New York, which one critic described as a blatant fiasco. However, he lived long enough to see his work receive new-found attention and a degree of critical favor he had never enjoyed before. By the 1990s, he had become highly sought after not only by European museums and collectors, who had appreciated his work early on, but also by those back in the United States who had not known what to make of him two decades before.

During the final decade of his life, Twombly surpassed his earlier body of work, making tremendous late abstract works telling tales of ancient armies, otherworldly invasions of burning suns and radiating chrysanthemums. His works from this later period invoked twelfth-century dynasties, exoduses, love, loss and longing. He had launched upon a creative journey to some artistic place where the deepest of feelings, experiences, expectations, dreams, and love become one.

Read more about Cy Twombly in The New York Times here.

Tributes Flow After Death of Artist Cy Twombly

Cy Twombly: Lepanto-Cycle at Museum Brandhorst, Munich

Slide Show: Cy Twombly/Scribbling to the Heights of Abstract Expressionism

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Never Sorry: Who’s So Afraid of Ai Wei Wei?

Never Sorry: Who’s So Afraid of Ai Wei Wei?

Never Sorry is a fascinating 17-minute documentary short film about China’s renowned dissident artist Ai Wei Wei by freelance filmmaker Alison Klayman, who spent several months documenting his work and life, as well as capturing his many provocations and scuffles with the government. So who’s really so afraid of Ai Wei Wei? Well, the Chinese government for one. Ai Wei Wei is China’s most famous contemporary artist, acclaimed for his solo exhibitions the world-over.

Much to the Chinese government authorities’ chagrin, Ai Wei Wei has vociferously used his fame to speak his mind. A prolific blogger and tweeter, Wei Wei often publishes angry writings against injustice, corruption and abuse, which the Chinese censors invariably take down.  Most famously, after assisting in the design of China’s renowned 2008 Olympic Stadium (the Bird’s Nest), Ai Wei Wei publicly repudiated the project and the whole Olympic buildup as a preposterous fraud to put on a “good face” for the international community.

A mere 5 days after the PBS television airing on March 29th of this short film, Ai Wei Wei was detained by police at Beijing airport, and proceeded to vanish. No word was given about where he was taken, only a vague statement from authorities that he had committed “economic crimes.” His associates and lawyer were also targeted and disappeared. A global outcry went out, blasting the Chinese government for what was deemed a politically motivated move; however, the protests appeared to have no effect. Youth culture began to assert itself, and based on the title of this short film, stencil graffiti and light tags imaging Ai Wei Wei went up all around Hong Kong and mainland China, in spite of extraordinary risks.

After 43 days of silence, Ai Wei Wei’s wife was finally allowed to visit him on May 15th. She has confirmed that he had not been maltreated and appeared to be in good health, but his imprisonment does not look as though it will be overturned any time soon. So for the time being, Ai Wei Wei is now China’s best known detainee.

Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry

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Still Life Photography: Courting Surprise and Allegorical Meanings

Ori Gersht (Israeli, 1967 – ), Blow Up: Untitled 15, 2007

Marian Drew (Australian, born 1960), Lorikeet with Green Cloth, 2006

Edward Weston (American, 1886 – 1958), Bananas and Orange, April 1927

André Kertész (American, born Hungary, 1894 – 1985), Bowl with Sugar Cubes, 1928

Sharon Core (American), Early American: Still Life with Steak, 2008

Still Life Photography: Courting Surprise and Allegorical Meanings

In Focus: Still Life is a selection of photographs from an installation of wonderful still life photographs presently on view at The J. Paul Getty Museum Center for Photographs. The collection presents a survey of some of the innovative ways photographers have explored and refreshed this traditional genre. During the 19th century, still life photographs tended to resemble still life paintings, with similar subjects and arrangements. Beginning in the 20th century, still life photographs have mirrored the subjects and styles that have more broadly concerned photographers in their time.

In addition to early experiments of pioneers of the photographic medium, some of the works that have been newly acquired by the Getty Center are presented here: Still Life with Triangle and Red Eraser (1985) by American Irving Penn, Lorikeet with Green Cloth (2006) by Australian Marian Drew, and Blow Up: Untitled 15 (2007) by Israeli Ori Gersht.  Gersht loosely based his Blow Up series on traditional floral still life paintings. His arrangements of flowers are frozen and then detonated; the explosion is captured using synchronized digital cameras, with the fragmentary detritus caught in remarkable detail.  This contemporary approach to still photography belies the notion of still life as something motionless, as it explores the relationships among painting and photography, art and science, and creation and destruction.

This piece also presents the experimental video Still Life (2001) created by the English artist Sam Taylor-Wood, a three-minute short film that focuses on a classically composed bowl of fruit as it decays. Also, there’s a pen. Still Life has been said to be one of the most classical works in contemporary art, carving a permanent record for itself in art history with hardly any commentary. This is not just a Still Life; it is based upon a particular type of still life painting that developed during the 16th and 17th centuries in Flanders and the Netherlands, part of a classical genre that contains symbols of change or death as a reminder of their inevitability. Its focus was upon confronting the vanity of worldly things through often subtle signs of elapsing time and decay.

Sam Taylor-Wood’s film represents yet another step in that direction: the image, beautiful as ever in Taylor-Wood’s universe, decomposes itself. By the end of the short film, nothing is left but a grey amorphous mass. But upon closer inspection, one detail distinguishes this picture from its predecessors. The plastic ballpoint pen, a cheap contemporary object. One that doesn’t seem to decay and doesn’t seem to be a part of the universal process of self-disappearing life. Is this what is really left here to stay after we are gone, this nothingness, this ridiculous attribute of ourselves?

Sam Taylor-Wood: Still Life (2001)

Slide Show: Still Life Photography/Courting Surprise and Allegorical Meanings

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David A. Smith: Traditional Decorative Sign Artist

David A. Smith: Traditional Decorative Sign Artist

David A. Smith: Sign Artist is an engrossing documentary short film by the English filmmaker, Danny CookeDavid A. Smith is a name that has become synonymous in Sign-Writing and Glass Gilding circles with high quality, hand crafted reverse glass signs and decorative silvered and gilded mirrors.  This documentary short shows detailed work behind the scenes, including the techniques and visions that Smith uses when carrying out his passion as a glass embosser, one of the few remaining traditional UK glass artists.

David A. Smith: Traditional Decorative Sign Artist

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Satoshi Kon, Leading Light of Anime Films, Dies at 46

Satoshi Kon, Leading Light of Anime Films, Dies at 46

Satoshi Kon, the Japanese filmmaker and comic-book artist whose dazzling visual compositions and humane, emotionally vibrant works won him a devoted following in animation circles and beyond, died in Tokyo on Tuesday at the age of 46.

While Mr. Kon’s film work incorporated many familiar anime elements, with pixie-like female characters, sensitive robots, futuristic cityscapes and an anxious fascination with both the creative and destructive power of technology, it was also well versed in literary and cinematic traditions far beyond contemporary Japanese popular culture.

Satoshi Kon: Good Morning

This commemorative piece honors Satoshi Kon by sharing two short films, which provide a small sample of Kon’s work and impart an impression of his cinematic style and thematic fascinations.  Good Morning is a one-minute short film that shows a girl waking up, who exhibits a personal sense of disconnection in the process of awakening.

Satoshi Kon: Good Morning

Satoshi Kon: Magnetic Rose from Memories

The second film presented here is one that marked the first time the world took notice of Kon as a filmmaker to closely watch.  In 1995, two years before his directorial debut with Perfect Blue, Kon wrote and provided the artistic direction for Magnetic Rose, a 45-minute film that screened theatrically as part of a short film triptych called Memories. The actual director of Magnetic Rose was the legendary Morimoto Kôji, who is known for collaborating with and accommodating new artists of great vision.  In Magnetic Rose, through his writing and artistic contributions, Satoshi Kon proved he could meet the  challenge of working with some of the anime world’s great luminaries, and now the piece is recognized as the most memorable part of the film.

Magnetic Rose presents a gothic ghost story in space, a narrative in which three astronauts come across a wrecked space ship and enter a surreal reality built upon dreams.  Created the same year that Ghost in Shell was released, Magnetic Rose similarly has become a touchstone work for a generation of serious, philosophically-minded anime devotees, and it is still frequently discussed 15 years later.  The film is presented here in five video segments.

Satoshi Kon: Magnetic Rose from Memories-Part 1

A detailed review of Satoshi Kon’s artistic contributions was published in today’s edition of The New York Times.

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A Beautiful Mind: Stephen Wiltshire Draws New York City from Memory

A Beautiful Mind: Stephen Wiltshire Draws New York City from Memory

Steven Wiltshire (born 1974) is an accomplished architectural artist who has been diagnosed with an autistic spectrum disorder.  Wiltshire’s work has been the subject of many television documentaries; neurologist Oliver Sacks praised his artistic work in the chapter Prodigies in his book An Anthropologist on Mars.  Stephen Wiltshire’s many published art books have included Cities (1989), Floating Cities (1991) and Stephen Wiltshire’s American Dream (1993).

Wiltshire is presently working to complete his last drawing in a series of city panoramas, this time of his spiritual home, New York City.  Wiltshire’s collection of  already completed works depicting some of the world’s most iconic cities already includes London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Rome, Madrid, Frankfurt, Dubai, and Jerusalem.  A 20-minute fly-over Manhattan this past weekend provided the memory for a 20-foot panorama of the city that he’s drawing throughout this week at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute.  Viewers can watch his progress on a live web cam or visit the Institute while he works from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday, Oct. 26 to Friday, Oct. 30, 2009.

A Beautiful Mind: Stephen Wiltshire Draws New York City from Memory

Slide Show: A Beautiful Mind/Stephen Wiltshire Draws New York City from Memory

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Viewers can watch his progress on a live web cam while he works from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday, Oct. 26 to Friday, Oct. 30, here.

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