In The Cult of Lego, my co-author Joe Meno and I devote a whole chapter to art, both works created with bricks as well as art using more traditional media featuring Lego as the subject matter.
Despite the success of museum exhibitions such as Nathan Sawaya's nationally-touring "Art of the Brick", inevitably some people claim that Lego is not a serious artistic medium. While I don't see how someone can look at Sawaya's amazing works, or those by such mainstream artists as Olafur Eliasson and Douglas Coupland which feature the bricks, and not agree it's art, nevertheless there are doubters.
Enter Lego fan and philosophy professor Roy Cook, who wrote an essay contending that yes, Lego can be art.
From The Cult of Lego:
As Lego makes its way into galleries, it’s sure to provoke a reaction from visitors who don’t think it belongs there. Conversely, the artists featured in this chapter obviously disagree. Who is right?
Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer. Scholars have debated the concept’s definition for centuries and continue to do so to this day. However, most theorists agree that art involves three criteria: form, content, and context. Roy Cook, a Lego fan and professor of philosophy at the University of Minnesota, wrote an essay arguing that Lego, by this definition, can clearly be called art. He uses the following criteria:
Form refers to the medium and the skill used to manipulate that medium, Cook’s essay explains. A work must typically display masterful technique to be considered art. Surely numerous models demonstrate a high level of skill. As with any technically demanding medium, there will always be works that stand out as being exemplary.
Content is the statement the piece makes or the meaning behind it. Even if this message is so obscure that only the artist can grasp it, there has to be some sort of thought behind the piece. It seems like a given: If artists desire to make a statement with a Lego model, they can do it.
Context refers to the culture and artistic tradition into which the work is placed. Andy Warhol’s soup cans outside the context of Pop Art probably would not have been considered art. As Cook points out in his essay, there is no widespread artistic tradition surrounding Lego. Just as novels were considered trash literature in the 18th century and graphic novels battle for legitimacy today, Lego simply doesn’t have the acceptance it needs to be considered legitimate art. That doesn’t mean that Lego can’t be art; there simply is no longstanding body of formal, accepted Lego art to place a model within.
[The photo at the top of this post depicts art by James "AME72" Ame, whose work may be found in The Cult of Lego.]
I love Thumbtack Press, because they make excellent art prints, offer high quality framing of the prints they sell, and pay their artists a very good commission. I've been offering my work at Thumbtack Press for years, and couldn't be more pleased with their service and product quality.
Today, they introduced my latest print, Flower, Daughter of Googam, which is based on a painting I did for a Jack Kirby Museum benefit art show. You can buy the print in a variety of formats and sizes, including stretched canvas, which looks very much like a painting.
One a recent art crawl in St. Paul, Minnesota, I ran across the work of Michael Bahl.
Dressed in a white lab coat, Bahl bills his work as "post-osteological interpretation." Basically, he's built both skeletal monsters, and an ostensibly real research history to go with them. This creature, for instance, is a Chalicotherium laurentian. She is an adult female, part of a trio of fossil animals that includes an adult male and a juvenile. Here's Bahl's statement on the C. laurentian family.
Discovered in 1887 by Harold Vanselow, a maverick dinosaur hunter and at one time a member of the Othniel Charles Marsh team from the Yale Peabody Museum, this Chalacothere was named appropriately enough after the Laurentian Divide in Northern Minnesota where tributaries of the St. Lawrence River divide and flow in two directions.
Dating from the Miocene era, the bones of these creatures retain the rich, deep color of the Iron Range where they once roamed in large herds. The purpose of the male's secondary head has been much debated, some experts believing it to be fully functional while others maintain it was most probably used in the mating ritual.
Research indicates that the family grouping seen here was first exhibited in the late 19th Century at a private museum in London and assembled by Walter Vernon, the well-known enfant terrible of those early years of prehistoric osteological display. Vernon's philosophy was explained in a lengthy article which appeared in 1901. He stated that he felt his specimens acknowledged not only the accurate presentation of a skeleton, but the millions of years that the bones had been part of the earth itself and the impact the internment had on them. "Tribute must be paid to the beauty given to these beasts by the greatest of artists -- time."
The exhibit caused a furor in scientific circles largely because no other specimens or even fragments had been unearthed. It was both hailed as a work of art and villified as "expressionistic". Matters were complicated further by the disappearance of Vanselow's notebooks and meticulously detailed maps. The exhibit vanished in 1904 after fire destroyed the hall in which it was housed, and as if by unspoken agreement it was quietly forgotten.
Then, in 1994, the bones were rediscovered embedded in the foundation of a home in South St. Paul, Minnesota. They had been packed in crates originating in Prague circa 1914 and, since the house had been built in 1939, it is not known where the remains of this might species had been kept. Although some structural repairs were necessary, the specimens are otherwise presented here in the splendidly ancient condition in which they were found.
At the Atlantic, science historian Suzanne Fischer has a really interesting post up about the development of pointe shoes. In the early 20th century, at a time when all sorts of technologies were remaking the way people lived, worked, and played, pointe shoes were doing the same thing for ballerinas.
In particular, Fischer writes, pointe shoes were almost the dance equivalent of Henry Ford's assembly line—they standardized bodies and turned dancers into a sleek, modern commodity.
... the new shoes forced dancers' bodies to move in new ways. Dancers on this pointe regimen developed characteristically long, lean leg muscles. Balanchine also encouraged dancers to let the shoes remake their bodies, including developing bunions that gave the foot just the right line. And as their bodies were remade, dancers became "like IBM machines," modern and indistinguishable. This had consequences for labor, too. For one, stars became a less central feature of dance companies as dancers became more interchangeable, and second, dancers came to spend hours working on their shoes -- altering, gluing, and caring for them. In fact, in 1980 dancers threatened to strike -- not over hours or pay, but for better pointe shoes, and better management of them.
Via Alexis Madrigal
I love serendipity. On the same day that Anja Austerman posted this awesome knit hat to my Google+ feed, Kevin Zelnio also posted a link reminding me of the existence of the The Museum of Scientifically Accurate Fabric Brain Art. Xeni posted about the museum here back in 2008. But it's awfully fun to contrast the super-detailed brain art on display there with this more whimsical variety.
This Saturday (October 15) at 5pm, legendary rock club Maxwell's in Hoboken will open its Kirby Enthusiasm art show in its front room. More than 30 visual artists have contributed work paying tribute to "The King of Comics."
At 7pm, in the back room, the Kirby Enthusiasm rock show will start, with WEEP (featuring the Venture Brothers' Doc Hammer), WJ & The Sweet Sacrifice and (formed for this occasion) The Boom Tubes!
If you're at New York Comic Con, Maxwell's is easy to get to from the Javits Center - take a ferry at 39th Street across the Hudson to Hoboken North and walk a few blocks to 1039 Washington St.
The art is awesome - the music is gonna rock - Kirby Enthusiasm!
Here's my contribution to the show: A 24x24" painting of Carroll Baker starring in the reel-to-reel tape audiobook, Flower, Daughter of Googam.
This gorgeous photo of a statue in England called The Angel of the North was taken by Justin Quinnell, over the course of three months, using a pinhole camera made out of a beer can. Yes, the parabola is the path of the Sun, with the highest peak being June 21. New Scientist has more information on how Quinnell made this photo. (Via Roger Highfield)
I've spent an inordinate amount of time over at Monster Brains, a blog filled with thousands of scans of comic books, movie posters, science fiction paperbacks, model kit boxes, and other media starring monsters. Here are a few noteworthy ones.
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A rather unusual weapon to have on the cover of a kids' comic book from the 1960s.
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Titan Books gave me permission to present samples from the new art book, The Definitive SF Works of Chris Foss. It's available in a standard edition for $21.14, and a special edition for $75 that comes in a slipcase with an alternate cover, an extra 8-page cover gallery and a signed Chris Foss print in an envelope.
Foss’s groundbreaking and distinctive science ﬁction art revolutionized paperback covers in the 1970s and 80s. Dramatically raising the bar for realism and invention, his trademark battle-weary spacecraft, dramatic alien landscapes and crumbling brutalist architecture irrevocably changed the aesthetic of science ﬁction art and cinema.
Featuring work for books by Isaac Asimov, E. E. ‘Doc’ Smith, Arthur C. Clarke, A. E. Van Vogt and Philip K. Dick, and ﬁlm design for Ridley Scott and Stanley Kubrick, this volume brings together many rare and classic images that have never been seen or reprinted before. The ﬁrst comprehensive retrospective of Chris Foss’s SF career.
All images © Chris Foss courtesy ChrisFossArt.com
My friend Tara Helfer, who you may remember as the illustrator of this lovely drawing I posted a while back, is taking on a pretty ambitious senior project: organize seventy two different artists to illustrate each of the demons in the Ars Goetia. As Tara describes:
Inspired by The Lesser Key of Solomon, comics, mythology and 17th-century grimoire, the 72DEMONS project is a venue for new and budding visual artists. Our goal is to compile and publish an illustrated book depicting the 72 demons archived in the Ars Goetia, believed to be a guide for summoning spirits...
Both traditional and digital pieces are accepted, so long as it is 2D. It is suggested that you work large (300 dpi at least) and keep it rated...oh, PG13. Above all, have fun with the project, evoking demons being dangerous and all. Try to bring out something in the demon that the original illustrators missed way back when.
About a third of the demons have been adopted by artists, but the project is just starting for the semester. If you'd like to adopt a demon, you should read through the list of available ones then submit the application form.
Heritage Auctions is auctioning off the Jerry Weist Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy Art and Books on September 11 in Beverly Hills. Some amazing pieces of art and artifacts are being offered.
This 1966 Frank Frazetta painting from a Ray Bradbury paperback book cover is estimated at $40,000-$60,000. I have a feeling it will go for much more than that, even though it doesn't feature one of Frazetta's trademark curvaceous woman brandishing a spear or zap gun.
Only 200 copies of Ray Bradbury's novel Fahrenheit 451 were printed with an asbestos cover. What lucky future mesothelioma victim is going to get this copy, signed by the author? Opening bid is $3000. Read the rest
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I don't quite understand how I've kept forgetting to post this here since my friend Leah showed it to me months ago. I also don't quite understand how Cory didn't get to it first. Regardless: Behold, Professor Elemental and his delightful combination of tounge-in-cheek Victorian parody rap + actually damn fine beats.
For context: This is a dis song aimed at the other Victorian parody rapper, Mr. B, The Gentleman Rhymer. After careful consideration, I think I'm on Team Professor Elemental.
YanquiUXO, the Reddit user who originally posted this sign says that it comes from the Harvard Museum of Natural History, which hosts an annual event that allows artists to set up installations and performance art inside the museum. This is one of those pieces.
I can't find the name of the artist of this particular piece, though, so if you know, holler.
Many of the Redditors have wondered whether this piece took real-life inspiration from a lion that was famously (poorly) taxidermied for the King of Sweden in 1731. I have no idea, but the lion itself must be seen to be believed. The derp is strong with this one.
Image via Ed Yong
David Byrne made a bunch of fake screenshots for iPhone apps that don't exist. They'll be in an exhibit called "Social Media," at The Pace Gallery (510 West 25th Street) from September 16 - October 15.
Show description: "The exhibition focuses on contemporary artists exploring public platforms for communication and social networks through an aesthetic and conceptual lens. In an era of increasingly omnipresent new technologies, Social Media examines the impact of these systems as they transform human expression, interaction, and perception."
In addition to David Byrne's work, Social Media will feature work by Christopher Baker, Aram Bartholl, Jonathan Harris, Robert Heinecken, Miranda July and Harrell Fletcher, Sep Kamvar and Penelope Umbrico.
See more of David Byrne's fake apps after the jump.
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This segment of an episode of Horizon, called "Do You See What I See?"
shows how language has an effect on how people see color, especially when comparing colors.
The Himba of northern Namibia categorize colors differently than English speakers. From an American Psychological Association article called "Hues and Views" :
In short, the range of stimuli that for Himba speakers comes to be categorized as "serandu" would be categorized in English as red, orange or pink. As another example, Himba children come to use one word, "zoozu," to embrace a variety of dark colors that English speakers would call dark blue, dark green, dark brown, dark purple, dark red or black.
Roberson and her colleagues explain that different languages have differing numbers of "basic color terms." English has 11 such terms, the same as in many of the world's major languages, and Himba has five, each of which covers a broader range of colors.
In a test, Himba were able to very quickly point out the standout color below:
It took me a long time to figure out which color was different (it complicates matters that the TV program pointed to the wrong square!). I used the eyedropper tool in Adobe Illustrator to confirm which square had the different color. Click here to see the RGB value for each square.
The Himba had a much harder time pointing out the square that English speakers would categorize as a shade of blue:
These findings are presented as if they’re new, but they’re based on the pioneering work of Paul Kay and Brent Berlin in 1969.
One of the challenges for me in getting used to the Yurmby color wheel is learning to recognize cyan and magenta as basic color terms, distinct from blue, green, and red.
Because I didn’t grow up with the terms “cyan” and “magenta,” it has taken me a few years to remap my brain, but now I routinely recognize cyan and magenta colors around me according to their own terms.
It would have been much easier if I had learned those color terms in kindergarten, but that would be like changing America to the metric system.
When filmmaker Paul Kroeker found a dragonfly dying on his deck, he turned the animal's final moments into a beautiful and haunting short movie. Who says insects can't be charismatic fauna?
(Via John Pavlus)
Are you headed to Comic-Con in San Diego? If so, make sure you have a go at Comic-Con Bingo presented by our pals at Last Gasp Books! "Using a camera, cell phone, etc., snap a picture and mark the square. Five in a row wins a prize" at the Last Gasp booth! Last Gasp's Comic-Con Bingo (Thanks, Greg Long!)
I really dig the stylized superheroes in this massive graffiti piece in San Francisco's Mission District. I didn't see the artist's name and the background text was too hard to read from my vantage point. (Update: Thanks to TheEvilJeremy for identifying the artists as Keb, Wand, and Buter, which is what the letters spell behind the superheroes.) Click to enlarge, and check out Batman, Green Lantern, Iron Man, Wolverine, Dr. Doom, and others after the jump.
My insane and insanely-talented pals Stacey Ransom and Jason Mitchell at Purebred still + motion created a startling new photo series starring lowbrow artist Alex Pardee. Yes, that monster is real. Well, real in that it's not Photoshopped into the picture. Pardee is at ComicCon right now and will be signing photos at the ZeroFriends booth. Follow @alexpardee for times. And for all of the images, check out the Purebred portfoilo.
Bassam Tariq and Aman Ali, two funny and talented guys behind "30 Mosques" who've contributed to Boing Boing as guestbloggers in the past, are raising funds for a new round of their ambitious "30 Mosques in 30 Days" project (which we've featured here before).
"Ramadan is starting again in three weeks and we're finishing our US tour by visiting the 20 states we missed in our last trek," says Bassam. "We have started a kickstarter page and have only seven days left for fundraising."
A cool project with a proven track record. Recommended. More about it here.
I will offer this without comment. See the rest of the dummies, who are not in police custody, at the Public School blog.
Thanks to the wondrous Leslie Marlow!