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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Lariat Seat Loops - James Garvey

James Garvey is an artist and a blacksmith. He created fourteen sculptural lariat seat loops for the 33rd Street station of the New York Subway system. Inspired by a lasso demonstration in a Will Rogers film clip, he created seat rests and hand holds that invite one to touch the thick ropes of bronze. Garvey sees labor intensive, one of a kind products as referencing a traditional work ethic recognized and practiced by many cultures throughout the world.

Michael Johansson

Born 1975 in Trollhättan, Sweden
I am fascinated walking around flea markets finding doubles of seemingly unique, though often useless objects I have already purchased at another flea market. Despite the fact that I did not have any use for them even the first time, the desire to own two of these objects becomes too strong to resist. The unique and unknown origin of the object increases my desire to want the double – the unlikelihood of this sensation repeating itself produces an attraction that is too strong to resist.
This combination of the now-familiar and the new-unknown are among the various factors that come together to create the irresistible pull of these objects. This re-iterated fascination and the overwhelming desire that follows is central to my art practice.
I am intrigued by irregularities in daily life. Not those that appear when something extraordinary occurs, but those that are created by an exaggerated form of regularity. Colors or patterns from two separate objects or environments concur, like when two people pass each other dressed in the exact same outfit. Or when you are switching channels on your TV and realize that the same actor is playing two different roles on two different channels at the same time. Or that one day the parking lot contained only red cars.
These irregularities, these coincidences, are another focus of my artwork.

London’s National Gallery

GE and London’s National Gallery just unveiled an ecomaginative collaboration – an installation of Van Gogh’s famous A Wheatfield with Cypresses, made from over 8,000 living plants and on display on the western side of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. The green doesn’t stop there: GE also contributed Jencacher cogeneration heat and power engines that will help reduce the Gallery’s carbon footprint. Check out the photos below to see how Van Gogh’s vision bloomed again. The first photo is the actual painting:

The Nature Of Architecture: W.N.W. Bar

by Tom Villa

What if architects were given simple tools and asked to build a shelter from materials in the environment around them?

Taking that approach, the vietnamese architectural studio vo trang nghia co. ltd came up with the WNW Bar. The design is intended to be a model for construction that values local resources and conditions to quickly build low cost temporary structures in areas affected by flooding... WNW stands for wind and water, the building is ventilated by the wind and water is used as a natural cooling system. The materials, mainly bamboo, provide the structure and the skin and are plentiful and well suited to the Binh Duong province in the southern region of Vietnam.

Blow it up! Wear it out!

Balloon fashion is created by twisting latex and trapping air in much the same way that carnival toys are made. In the hands of some this technique results in (albeit short-lived) wearable art. Rie Hosokai has made many one of a kind costumes winning the “Millennium Jam Fashion Award” for several years in a row.

Ai Weiwei's public art informs new show at Milwaukee Art Museum

By Mary Louise Schumacher of the Journal Sentinel
June 5, 2011
There is a wonderful irony in the public sculpture by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei that debuted in New York last month, just a few days after the close of a seemingly unrelated exhibit of Chinese art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Ai’s “Zodiac Heads” is a re-creation of an 18th-century fountain commissioned by the same emperor whose treasures were up at the Met and will go on view in Milwaukee this week. That critically acclaimed show, “The Emperor’s Private Paradise,” opens Saturday at the Milwaukee Art Museum.
To many Americans who are unfamiliar with Chinese history, Ai’s giant animal heads seem whimsical, a bit of Chinese kitsch. But Ai is toying with a complex morality tale, too.
To keep time, the original heads spouted water every two hours. Ai’s sculptures keep vigil too, adding an unintended poignancy to the work. The outspoken artist has been detained by Chinese authorities since April, part of a recent crackdown against creative expression, according to human rights groups.
The original sculptures, the animals of the Chinese zodiac, were designed by Jesuit missionaries who went to the East to convert its inhabitants, only to themselves be converted, learn the language and make art, often a hybrid of Western and Eastern traditions.
This cordial meeting of artistic styles flourished especially under the Qianlong emperor, a complex man who had a taste for the exotic and who ruled what was then the planet’s richest and most powerful empire. This emperor and aesthete, however, didn’t see the rise of the industrial powers coming, and the zodiac heads were pillaged during the British-led opium wars.
That these original works, actually designed and made by Western artists and a reminder of a past humiliation and western aggression, would be so vehemently proclaimed as “national treasures” by Chinese officials in recent years, as they were when some of them resurfaced on the art market, is perhaps irony enough for Ai to explore.
But Ai’s work implicates much more, raising questions that are both obvious and subtle. The work tugs at issues about cultural identity and about how, even in the midst of globalization, audiences in the West and East still read art and history so differently. Like threads pulled from a thick, fraying rug, there is so much to unravel here.
It is also context for the unprecedented show about to open at MAM and for Ai’s own detention.
With “Zodiac Heads,” Ai recasts imperial spoils and presents them willingly to the West. It is interesting that this contemporary re-creation of a Qianlong commission comes at precisely the time that a major exhibit of the emperor's objects travel to the U.S., including Milwaukee. The unprecedented nature of this show cannot be understated. It is the first major exhibit organized by China's national museum to come here.
Some of the conceptual implications seem pretty clear. Is China peddling its once prized cultural wares in an effort to create a more agreeable image in the world? What does it mean that the very objects placed proudly on pedestals at the Met were until recently dusty and neglected in a closed off part of the Forbidden City? That Ai's heads are contemporary and yet recall the past spotlights a contradiction, too: China is opening the doors of cultural exchange when it comes to the past while suppressing contemporary voices.
Super sized and oddly cute, Ai’s bronze heads are an apt critique of its American audience, too, since many who see the work in New York will surely associate it more with their morning horoscope than any part of history. One of the things I like most about Ai Weiwei's work is how he is able to effectively address and critique both the East and the West simultaneously and in entirely different ways. 
Ai has said that the sculptures explore other contradictions as well. They are about what's authentic and what's fake, as well as symbols of national identity, ideas that hold even more resonance since Ai's silencing, ideas that will be hard to set aside when viewing the MAM show.
In fact, it is too bad “Zodiac Heads” wasn’t paired with “The Emperor’s Private Paradise” more directly, here or in New York. The installations inform each other, sift the same history and raise important questions about the changing role of culture in the world.
The Milwaukee Art Museum did hope to present a work by Ai for its "Summer of China" but could not find a work that suited its budget or programming needs. This work, a version of which is also up in London (image, top) and which is about to go on a worldwide tour, must have been at least a passing consideration. It is undoubtedly expensive. Still, why did MAM take a pass on this work, which will tour to Houston, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and Washington, DC? Would the connections Ai makes have offended Chinese officials, whose cooperation is necessary to put on the show? Would any work by Ai have been an issue in this regard?
"The Emperor's Private Paradise," which opens to museum members Thursday and to the public on Saturday, is an exhibit of unquestionable art historical significance and, in fact, an opportunity to contextualize Ai Weiwei's detention and what is going on in China today. Yes, it does raise ethical questions, which I wrote recently and which were subsequently raised in the art world, by artists and in mainstream publications such as the Guardian and Wall Street Journal.
But one of the things that we've learned from the dialogue that's ensued is that there are no simple answers for MAM, an institution that is struggling to find its voice. I believe MAM has an obligation to educate its audience about the state of creative expression in China during its "Summer of China." An artwork by Ai would have done a wonderful job of it.

Brain Feels Rewarded While Looking at Art

By Traci Pedersen Associate News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on January 9, 2011 
Viewing the works of Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh and other artists more strongly activates the brain’s “reward system” than simply looking at photographs of similar subjects, according to a new study by researchers at Emory University School of Medicine.
The Emory study included four male volunteers and four females whose average age was 23.  The participants were asked to view paintings from both unknown and famous artists (Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso and others), as well as photographs that depicted similar subjects.  Imaging technology revealed that when an individual viewed a painting, rather than a simple photograph, the ventral striatum (part of the reward system) was more strongly activated.
The ventral striatum is a set of regions in the brain involved in drug addiction and gambling, says senior author Krish Sathian, M.D., Ph.D., professor of neurology, rehabilitation medicine and psychology.  The orbitofrontal cortex is another brain area involved in the reward circuit.
Sathian noted that this area of the brain is not only activated by strong reward-seeking behaviors like gambling or drug-taking, but also plays a part in making decisions under uncertain conditions, such as financial decision-making.
Previous art appreciation studies that utilized brain scans typically sought to examine how the brain responds when art is considered attractive or ugly. Usually a study participant would be asked to look at an image and then give it a rating based on how well he or she liked it.  These studies have shown that the amygdala, involved in emotional reactions, as well as different regions in the orbitofrontal cortex are involved in aesthetic preference.
“We took an independent approach,” Sathian said. “This paper hasn’t solved the problem of what art is. Rather, we can show that art does not activate just one process in the brain. There are a whole host of circuits involved.”
During the current study, participants were not asked if they enjoyed what they saw, or even if they considered it art, in order to avoid any biasing as a result of the question asked. Instead, as participants viewed the images, researchers scanned the volunteers’ brain activity (using functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI) as they viewed paintings versus photographs.
Interestingly, the brain regions activated by art images (as opposed to photographs) were independent from those brain regions that became active during aesthetic preference.
Specifically, the results reveal that not only did art viewing stimulate the ventral striatum, but it also activated the hypothalamus (associated with appetite regulation) and the orbitofrontal cortex (associated with risk-taking, impulse control and detection of social rules).
The study was inspired by the work of marketing experts Henrik Hagtvedt of Boston College and Vanessa Patrick of University of Houston; both of whom were at the University of Georgia during the study. Hagtvedt and Patrick had explored the effects of “art infusion,” in marketing—in other words, how incorporating a painting on a product’s advertising or packaging could make it more appealing.
“The art infusion effect is tied to the notion that art represents a distinct, universal and recognizable category of human behavior,” said Hagtvedt, who also chose the images used in the study.
“This category is not characterized by what is depicted, but by how it is depicted. Therefore, even art and non-art images with similar content should evoke different responses from viewers. The current study provides evidence that this is indeed the case. ”
If the participants had all been art historians, or had come from a developing country and had not visited museums or been exposed to Western art, they might well have shown a different pattern of brain activation when viewing the images, said first author Simon Lacey, Ph.D., and research associate.
“The thinking is that the reward circuit evolved to shape our brains’ decision making, to provide reinforcement when decisions turn out to be beneficial,” Sathian says.
“We find that the brain’s responses to art may have a connection to the reward circuit and perceptions of luxury or social status, independent of whether an individual rates the image in question highly.”
The study was supported by the State of Georgia, the National Institutes of Health and the Veterans Administration.  The results are published online in the journal NeuroImage.