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Worth Watching
  • Empires - The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance
    Empires - The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance
    A fascinating and highly entertaining look at one of the most important families of the Renaissance era--the Medici.
  • Sister Wendy - The Complete Collection (Story of Painting / Grand Tour / Odyssey / Pains of Glass)
    Sister Wendy - The Complete Collection (Story of Painting / Grand Tour / Odyssey / Pains of Glass)

    “Sister Wendy Beckett has transformed public appreciation of art through her astonishing knowledge, insight and passion for painting and painters.” This set includes Sister Wendy's Story of Painting, Sister Wendy's Odyssey, and Sister Wendy's Grand Tour. Simultaneously delightful and scholarly--this is a must have for anyone interested in art history.

  • Exit Through the Gift Shop
    Exit Through the Gift Shop
    When British stencil artist Banksy traveled to Los Angeles to work, he came across obscure French filmmaker Thierry Guetta and his badly organized collection of videotapes involving the activities of graffiti artists. Inspired, Banksy assembled them with new footage to create this talked-about documentary, and the result is a mind-boggling and odd film (so strange as to be thought a hoax by some) about outsider artists and the definition of art itself.
  • The Impressionists
    The Impressionists
    A dramatization of the Impressionist movement as seen through the eyes of Claude Monet. Highly entertaining and informative.
  • The Impressionists: The Other French Revolution
    The Impressionists: The Other French Revolution
    A very personal and revealing look at the personalities that created Impressionism.

Jenny Holzer: Neo-Conceptualist

Jenny Holzer - Installation in Lobby of 7 World Trade Center - 2006 - New York (click photo for larger image)Jenny Holzer (born 1950) is an American neo-conceptual artist, based in Hoosick Falls, New York. The main focus of her work is the delivery of words and ideas in public. In conceptual art, the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art. Neo-conceptual art represents a re-emergence of that approach.

Holzer received a BFA in printmaking and painting from Ohio University, Athens, Georgia, in 1972, and an MFA in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, in 1977. “Holzer then moved to New York and enrolled in the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum of American Art. That same year, she created her first text-based works, initiating an ongoing artistic investigation of language in which she presents both original and appropriated texts to deconstruct how personal and political meaning are created in Western culture’s patriarchal, consumer-oriented society.” (Guggenheim)

Holzer belongs to the generation of artists that emerged around 1980, looking for new ways to make narrative or commentary an implicit part of visual objects. The public dimension is integral to Holzer's work. Her large-scale installations have included advertising billboards, projections on buildings and other architectural structures, and illuminated electronic displays. Text-based light projections have been central to Holzer's work since 1996. As of 2010, her LED signs have become more sculptural. Holzer is no longer the author of her texts, and in the ensuing years, she returned to her roots by painting.


Goya: A Man of His Time

Francisco Goya - Francisca Sabasa y Garcia - 1804-08 - Oil on canvas, 71 x 58 cm - National Gallery of Art, Washington (click photo for larger image)Spanish painter Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828) was the most powerful and original European artist of his time. But his genius was slow in maturing and he was well into his thirties before he began producing work that set him apart from his contemporaries. His paintings, drawings, and engravings reflected contemporary historical upheavals and influenced important 19th- and 20th-century painters. His work continues to be studied in the 21st century.

Women occupy a central place within Goya's oeuvre, and his images of majas (the stylish and outlandish members of Spain's lower classes in the 18th and 19th centuries), witches, and queens are some of his most daring and modern interpretations, depicting women in possession of their own powers, whether political or sexual.

In the work featured here, the sitter is about 20 years old and is profiting from the emancipation of women cautiously proceeding in Goya's day. Her face is no longer concealed by a veil, and she looks self-confidently out at the viewer.

“Fantasy, abandoned by reason, produces impossible monsters; united with it, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of marvels.” — Goya


Did You Know?

Mark Rothko is famous for his simple and colorful canvases, often just a gradient from one color to another. He developed what’s known as “color field painting”. Despite his influence on color theory in art, however, Rothko himself didn't see color as his main focus. He believed that the color was only a vehicle for emotion, and beyond that, he was not particularly interested in it.


Caravaggio: Humanizing the Divine

Caravaggio - The Stigmatization of Saint Francis - c. 1596 - Oil on canvas - 36 7/8 x 50 5/16 in (92.5 x 127.8 cm) - Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford (click photo for larger image)Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (c. 1572-1610) was arrogant, rebellious and a murderer. His short and tempestuous life matched the drama of his works. Characterized by their dramatic, almost theatrical lighting, Caravaggio's paintings were controversial, popular, and hugely influential on succeeding generations of painters all over Europe.

In the painting featured here, St Francis reclines in the arms of a winged angel. The eyes of the saint are closed and the look of intensity upon his face suggests that he is experiencing deep emotion or ecstasy, having just received the stigmata.

Despite the presence of the angel, the ground underneath the saint indicates that he is not in heaven, but very firmly upon earth.

The figures are lit by an unidentified source of light, cast upon the face and hands of St. Francis and throwing one half of the body and face of the angel into shadow. This technique (tenebrism) is discussed elsewhere on What About Art?


Frank Stella: Dynamism, Tactility, and Scale

Frank Stella - Chodorow II - 1971 - Felt, paper and canvas collage on canvas - overall: 274.4 x 269.3 cm (108 1/16 x 106 in.) - National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.Focusing on the formal elements of art-making, Frank Stella (born 1936) has created complicated works that embody dynamism, tactility, and scale. Though technically part of the Second Generation of abstract expressionists, Stella dramatically departed from that tradition in the late 1950s, becoming a leader and practitioner of what would become Minimalism. He became known for his irregularly shaped works and large-scale multimedia reliefs. 

Stella studied painting at the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, and history at Princeton University (B.A., 1958). He gained recognition for his art when he was still in his mid-20s, and has enjoyed a long and productive career. MoMA and the Whitney, in New York, have both held retrospectives of his work, and one of his freestanding public sculptures is installed in front of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. 

To learn more about the artists featured on What About Art? this week, register HERE for Jill Kiefer’s Post-Modern Art class, beginning shortly at the Bethany Arts Community in Ossining, New York.