Friday, December 7, 2012

Sister Mary Corita Kent and Visual Culture of the 1960’s


Thinking back to the most prolific artists of the Pop Art era, one name comes to mind; Andy Warhol. The Pop Art movement was often associated with Warhol because of his use of everyday items in art, mainly consumer goods. Would a nun befit what most characterize as a Pop artist?

Corita Kent, Questions and Answers, 1966; 
print on Pellon, 76.2 x 91.44 cm; 
Estate of Corita Kent.





Included in the GW Permanent Collection is Sister Corita’s work entitled, Questions and Answers, 1966, gifted from Ted and Lee Cron in 1983. Sister Mary Corita Kent, born Frances Elizabeth Kent on November 20, 1918 in Fort Dodge, Iowa, was of little recognition outside the world of art. In 1936, at the age of 16, she entered the convent of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Los Angeles. Sister Corita remarked that she most likely would not have had such a strong passion for art had she not become a nun.[i] This could possibly be due to the fact that as a nun, she understood the world from a humanitarian viewpoint and recognized art as a viable outlet for expressing her opinions.


Corita Kent, Stop the Bombing, 1967;  
Courtesy of the Corita Art Center,
 Immaculate Heart Community.
About her own work, Corita explained, “I am not brave enough to not pay my income tax and risk going to jail. But I can say rather freely what I want to say with my art.”[ii] In 1951, at the age of 33, she began creating her first prints and serigraphs, which would eventually become her main form of artistic expression. Her early art treated traditional religious themes with an untraditional expressionistic manner.[iii] By the early 1960’s, Sister Corita was at the forefront of using popular commercial images as a vehicle to articulate her opinion. She incorporated bright colors, simple forms and phrases as she openly embraced the world of modern popular culture. In Corita’s work entitled, Stop the Bombing, from 1967, Corita’s commitment to social justice and peace is evident. “I am in Vietnam – who will console me?” is repeated twice on the canvas. This powerful statement reflects the horrors and trauma of war. Another work entitled, For Emergency Use Soft Shoulder, completed in 1966, is emblazoned with the blue lettering, “Get With The Action.” This work is a call to act, a reminder that anyone can make a difference in the world.


Corita Kent, For Emergency Use Soft Shoulder
1966; serigraph, 76.2 x 91.4 cm.

Advertising slogans and billboard motifs often found their way into the art of Sister Corita. She was trying to uncover this hidden beauty in popular culture. Theologian Harvey Cox put it, for Corita, “Art meant transforming even the ugliest parts of the urban environment into testimonies of joy.”[iv]

Sister Corita was very interested in the ‘art of the non-professional.’[v] Vincent Lanier, an art educator, contemporary and friend of Sister Corita noted her willingness to become engaged with new ideas. Corita admired the passion of Pop artists for their willingness to accept any kind of form. Writing of Sister Corita’s connection with her students, Lanier writes:

Sister Corita hopes to guide the student into some insightful response to the film media so abundantly spewed forth by our technology and our commercialism. Confident that such insight can transfer to other forms of visual art; she notes that film, in the form of photography, cinema and television ‘is art’ in today’s world [the world of the early 1960s] simply because of its universality. For the teacher of art to reach the child, perhaps no better way can be found than to capitalize on the child’s constant exposure to a visual medium.[vi]

Sister Corita expressed her own philosophy towards art in an article entitled, “Art and Beauty in the Life of the Sister.” Here Corita expresses:
           
Our time is a time of erasing the lines that divided things neatly. Today we find all the superlatives and the infinite fulfillment man hungers for portrayed not only in fairy stories or poems but also in billboards and magazine ads and TV commercials.

Corita also states her belief in the importance of art in mainstream society:

If we separate ourselves from the great arts of our time, we cannot be leaven enriching our society from within. We may well be peripheral to our society—unaware of its pains and joys, unable to communicate with it, to benefit from it or to help it. [vii]

Sister Corita was a lively character. Her work within the Immaculate Heart College changed the face of the Catholic Church in the United States. Corita saw ‘Mary’s Day’ as a rather dismal affair. She called upon students and faculty to brainstorm how to liven up the ceremony. The day was organized around the theme of ‘Food for Peace.’ While others overindulged and over consumed, others starved. While this unequal distribution continued, world peace would never be achieved. Sister Corita understood Mary as the nurturer of Christ and provided him growth and development. What better theme to link the spiritual with the physical and the theological with the political?[viii] The goal of Mary’s Day was to transport the community of Immaculate Heart College from their everyday concerns into a space where they could look more deeply into themselves, their world, and their God.[ix] Originally a solemn and reserved day of celebration, ‘Mary’s Day,’ was turned into a vibrant celebration where nuns paraded around with flowered necklaces, poets reciting from platforms and colorful students rolling around in the grass; some saw this as a prototype for the hippies.[x] 

Sister Corita was scrutinized by the archbishop of Los Angeles for her ‘innovative’ celebrations and for her religious art. Most notably one of her prints referred to the Virgin Mary as ‘the juiciest tomato of them all.’[xi] Other works that tie her to the Pop Art Movement include, for eleanor, which incorporates a sentence stating, “The Big G Stands for Goodn[ess].” There is an obvious play on the big “G” for General Mills Company and the symbol of God. In her work, As Witnesses to the Light for John XXIII and JFK, Corita incorporates the product Sunkist with two limes representing both Pope John XXIII and former President John F. Kennedy. She often used the word “sun” or an image of the sun to signify a person or an idea that she found particularly enlightening or clear-eyed, someone who was a visionary.[xii] She utilizes both historical and contemporaneous figure-heads from the Catholic Church. Lastly, in her serigraph entitled, enriched bread, Corita plays on the idea of Wonder Bread representing the Eucharist in Catholicism. Each work incorporates daily commercial products, a staple for the Pop Art Movement; however Corita includes her own religious and moral message to the viewer.


Corita Kent, for eleanor, 1964; Serigraph on Pellon, 
30 x 36 in.; Collection of the Associated 
Sulpicians of the United States;
 Courtesy the Corita Art Center, 
Immaculate Heart Community, Los Angeles.
Corita Kent, enriched bread, 1965;  
print; screen print on Pellon, 75.57 cm x 92.08 cm;  
Collection SFMOMA,
 Gift of Robert Cugno and Robert Logan, 
Garnett, Kansas.
Corita Kent, the juiciest tomato of all, 1964; 
Serigraph on Pellon, 29.5 x 36 in.; 
Collection of the Associated Sulpicians of the United States; 
Courtesy the Corita Art Center,
 Immaculate Heart Community, Los Angeles.
Corita Kent, As Witnesses to the
 Light for John XXIII and JFK,
1964; lithograph.

 Living through the 1960’s was a transformative age for the youth of America; however, the work of Sister Corita was not such a successful agent of change within her own time. Corita failed to acknowledge the fact that, despite the ‘youth culture’ of the 1960’s, most who were teaching in schools became educators in the relatively conservative 1940’s and 1950’s.[xiii] The way in which children understood the world shifted more towards television, billboards, and other advertisements. In order for contemporaries like Sister Corita to reach the youth, she would need to conform to popular culture in the visual world, and she did just that. Sister Mary Andre, a contemporary of Sister Corita with a similar mindset, teaching in Westchester, Illinois, advised fellow art teachers not to be “bogged down in the mire of a rutted and ingrained educational system, and to look ahead! Tomorrow is fast becoming yesterday.”[xiv]

Sister Corita was preoccupied with this idea of keeping present for herself and for her students. However, this continuously created strong tension with the Archbishop of Los Angeles and the Immaculate Heart College. In 1967, Sister Corita left the religious life, retired from teaching and moved to Boston to focus solely on her art. She did, however, maintain the name Corita. In 1986, at the age of 67, she passed away from cancer. Lanier saw her as a type of Renaissance [wo]man, who aspired to be many things at once. “Sister Corita was a nun, teacher, artist and thinker, and unlike many others she did not compartmentalize her several universes of action, but instead they all fed each other in their unity.”[xv]

Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. is currently exhibiting the works of Sister Corita entitled, To Believe – The Spirited Art of Corita. The show is in the May Gallery of the John K. Mullen of Denver Memorial Library until December 14, 2012. The link is below.

http://publicaffairs.cua.edu/releases/2012/cal-corita-exhibit.cfm


[i] Jeffrey M. Burns, “Be of Love (a Little) More Careful: Sister Corita, Father Bob, Love, and Art,” Catholic University of America Press: 2001, 68.
[ii] “Corita Kent Biography,” Corita Art Center, accessed November 28, 2012, https://www.corita.org/coritadb/index.php?id=5&option=com_content&task=view.
[iii] Burns, 68.
[iv] Harvey Cox, “Corita Kent: Surviving with Style,” Commonweal, 24 October 1986, 550.
[v] Vincent Lanier, “An Interview with Sister Mart Corita,” National Art Education Association: 1965, 14.
[vi] Lanier, 14.
[vii] Burns, 69.
[viii] Colleen McDannell, “Spirit of Vatican II: A History of Catholic Reform in America,” Basic Books: 2011, 133.
[ix] McDannell, 133.
[x] Burns, 70.
[xi] Burns, 70.
[xii] “Sister Corita,” PBS, accessed November 28, 2012, http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/episodes/by-topic/sister-corita/10526/.
[xiii] Graeme Chalmers, “Visual Culture Education in the 1960s,” National Art Education Association: 2005, 6.
[xiv] Chalmers, 9.
[xv] Chalmers, 14.

Friday, October 26, 2012

John Chumley- Anecdotes on the American Painter


John Chumley, Late Summer


John Chumley (1928-1984) was an American Painter who was known for, and had an impeccable talent for, painting light.  Whether Chumley was painting a landscape or one of his children, the detail in lighting which he observed was always extremely well portrayed.          
Chumley was born in Minnesota and originally entered college on a scholarship for football.  After an injury to his knee, he chose to pursue painting and enrolled in the Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, Florida.  Through his career Chumley strayed away from the lime light which is why today many are unfamiliar with his works. His career began with one man shows in New York, and if one researches Chumley there are many clippings of his work but little information about the artist in general.
John Chumley, Goldie, 1958,
This artist is particularly intriguing because despite the many catalogues that rave of his paintings, it is difficult to find commentary from Chumley himself.  This could be because he was a very independent artist.  He insisted upon living in a rural environment, which could be why he was never directly in the spotlight.  He spent many of his years not too far from DC in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  Many of his works include glimpses of the valleys that surrounded him, his large estate, and his children.  Interestingly enough Chumley never used photographs to paint.  This realist put himself in front of his subject and translated on to canvas what his eyes saw. 
A quirk that we know about the artist is that he painted alone and only alone until the last brush stroke of his canvas was completed.  His paintings were truly his own from the paint he used to the finished image.  Chumley is known for his use of watercolors, but he often used an egg tempera paint that he made himself.  This medium is difficult to work with, making Chumley's works even more astonishing.  The egg tempera adds a layered effect to his works creating an interesting depth and a wide array of shades.  Once out of art school, Chumley was asked what drew him to painting such realistic images he replied, "In art school I saw students of near genius achieve spectacular results with abstraction--but too quickly, without what I considered enough background--then they gave up. It was too easy.  For me there has to be a challenge. I wanted more. More knowledge of what went before, so I could bring it to my work”. [1]
Andrew Wyeth, Christina's World, 1948
Chumley has been compared to artist Andrew Wyeth by various sources.  Wyeth is most famous for his painting Christina's World, 1948 which shows a young girl looking into a vast landscape with a house in the distance (pictured below).  The similarities that exist between these artists live in their realistic style, their fine detail, and their use of tempera. The variations of light that Wyeth uses amongst the landscape is also a prominent aspect of this painting, that makes it comparable to Chumley’s work.  In Goldie one can see how Chumley directed light in order to form the definitions in his shapes and lines within the pieces. Similarities between the two can be drawn from the detail in both Christina and Goldie's clothing, such as the folds of the clothing, and the shadows that the fabric casts among itself.  These variations within light that both artists use helps to portray movement in the surroundings of these two women.  In Christina's World Wyeth's use of light illustrates movement within the grass, while in Goldie, the detail of light brings life to the curtains in the windows, along with the fabric that Goldie is ironing.  By comparing Chumley’s work to Wyeth, it becomes evident that Chumley had the talent, and style of a renowned painter. 
Chumley had a passion for the beauty in both the landscapes and solitude he found tucked away in the Shenandoah Valley. While this kept Chumley’s work out of the limelight, if it were not for the inspiration he found there, we may not be able to appreciate his expertise today. 


[1] J.C, T. (March, 28 2001). Fountain citians who made a difference. Retrieved from http://www.fountaincitytnhistory.info/People5-Chumley.htm

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Apocolypse or Not?


As the impending doom of December 21’s scheduled apocalypse approaches, it’s only natural to want to get out and see the sites.  Visiting a few Pre-Colombian inspired exhibits in D.C. may have one realizing that the fascinating culture of Ancient Mesoamerica is much more than calendar-keeping.   

Here at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery the Turned and Burnt: Pre-Colombian Artifacts and Wood-turned Vessels exhibit will give one a taste of Pre-Colombian art, paired with the works of local woodturners.  Both the ancient and contemporary pieces draw transcendental inspiration from nature.  The use of earthen materials and the involved process of creation in both Pre-Colombian terracotta and contemporary woodturning produce a physical connection between the artist and the art.  For Mayans, this process was no doubt mystical and for contemporary artists, it is cathartic.  This exhibit focuses on the historic tradition of connecting to nature via the artistic process.           

Not far away, at the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection in Georgetown, an extensive permanent Pre-Colombian collection is displayed as one with nature.  The specially designed gallery is a unique space that recreates for the viewer this connection with nature.  The circular room is walled by windows that at all times look out upon the gardens.  The viewer is immersed in nature which serves as a fitting backdrop for the art of a society that worshipped nature gods. Their current exhibit, The Ancient Future: Mesoamerican and Andean Timekeeping, expands upon the Mesoamerican calendars that so potently fascinate the masses today.

Aztec Sculpture, Dumbarton Oaks Pre-Colombian Gallery


Finally, at the Mexican Cultural Institute’s 16th Street Mansion one can find a stunning array of murals that, just like Turned and Burnt, represent a collision of ancient motifs and modern style.  The murals were painted by Cueva del Rio between 1933 and 1941 and explore the history of Mexico in bold, colorful fresco.  Featured prominently among the murals are themes of Aztec mythology and stunning representations of the Mexican landscape.  Cueva del Rio synthesizes ancient traditions with modern Mexican life. 

Pre-Colombian Mexico, Roberto Cuevo del Rio, Mexican Cultural Institute

Turned and Burnt: Pre-Columbian Artifacts and Wood-turned Vessels

co-sponsored by the Office of Sustainability
October 8 - December 21, 2012
The exhibition is located on the 2nd Floor of the Media & Public Affairs Building at 805 21st Street, NW
Can be viewed:
Mon-Fri 7-10


Friday, September 7, 2012

“Once you put your hand in the paint you must do something, create something” - Jules Olitski



 It has been quite a while since our last post here at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery, but we are excited to say that we have almost finished our installation for Jules Olitski On An Intimate Scale. Jules Olitski, an American painter known mostly for his abstract works was born in the 1920’s and died just a short time ago in 2007.  We are thrilled to display pieces from the Olitski collection yet again, as this will be the Gallery’s third exhibition featuring the artist.
The exhibition will open Friday, September 21st with a reception with the artist’s family, and will run through December 14th. Along the same time span, the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center will be hosting their show Revelation: Major Paintings by Jules Olitski.  The Brady Art Gallery’s exhibition of smaller scale works is a fitting comparison to the monumental works that will be on view at American University.  Come get to know Olitski’s style with a close view to his admired paintings. 
Along with the show, there will be a panel discussion at the Phillips Collection on Jules Olitski’s work as a segment of the Creative Voices DC series.  Do not hesitate to come by The Phillips Collection on September 20th at 6:00 PM for more information on Olitski’s collected works.  


Shaker, 1961, acrylic on canvas, 25"x16". Image courtesy of the Olitski Family Estate. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Coming Soon: Howard Hodgkin

Flag, 2006 - 2010, 34-1/2" x 43-3/8". Private Collection. 
Today in the gallery, we're saying farewell to a great show as the nice fellows from ARTEX Fine Art Services are packing up Carol Brown Goldberg's drawings and sculptures. Mark your calendars for our next opening of Howard Hodgkin: Paintings on May 16, 2012!

Gallery Website
Howard Hodgkin's Website

Friday, April 20, 2012

Exhibition Closing - "Carol Brown Goldberg: Sculpture and Works on Paper"



Today is the final day of our exhibition, Carol Brown Goldberg: Sculpture and Works on Paper. Goldberg's bronzed assemblage sculptures have lots of personality, and her biomorphic drawings are beautifully engaging in their abstraction. Stop by the gallery before 5:00 PM to catch them before they're gone!

We are located on The George Washington University campus, in the second floor of the Media & Public Affairs Building at 805 21st Street, NW.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Battle Scene by Il Bourgognone


One might think that a battle painting must be large in size and bright in color to show the grand chaos of the fray, but this small piece by Courtois demonstrates otherwise. The dynamic energy of the forms and brushwork hold power even four centuries later.


Work of interest: Untitled battle scene with cavalry painted by Jacques Courtois, (a.k.a. Giacomo / Jacopo Cortese, Le Bourguignon, or Il Borgognone), oil on canvas, ca. 1645-1655, 22” x 30” framed, 16” x 25” sight

Provenance: This work came to George Washington University as a donation with the founding of the Eleanor and Michael Burda Collection, which was dedicated in 2003. Mr. Burda had served as an intelligence officer in Europe in WWII before going into the insurance business, and some evidence suggests that he may have acquired the work while on his tour of duty. Although he is neither an alumnus nor a faculty member, he has made contributions to the G.W. Hospital, the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and the university’s art collection, especially in honor of the doctors who cared for President Reagan after his assassination attempt in 1981.[1] More investigative work could be done on where Burda acquired the painting and where it had been in the previous centuries, though we do know that he thought the work to be of some value. (Read more about Michael Burda and his collection through the Gelman Library’s Special Collections Research Center.)

Conservation notes: There are significant regions of paint loss, especially in the lower right corner. While the painting may have been cleaned in the past, it also retains a layer of varnish, which in some areas has created a muddied effect on the old canvas. This work is in need of some careful cleaning in order to counteract the effects of the varnish, paint loss, and general grime due to age.

Details: fighter riding towards the tower; a painterly horse's head

Who was Jacques Courtois?
Born in Burgundy in 1621 as son of the painter Jean Courtois, Jacques Courtois (along with his younger brother Guillaume) would become known in Italy as Le Bourguignon or Il Bourgognone.[2] After studying under their father, the brothers traveled to Italy around 1637. Guillaume, the younger of the two, immediately began studying art in Rome and Bologna, while Jacques spent time with a fellow Burgundian in Milan and served in the French military for three years. According to a 1910 biographer, Guillaume’s “draughtsmanship is better than that of Jacques, whom he did not, however, rival in spirit, colour or composition.”[3] Apparently, some images of battles rekindled his interest in art, and Jacques Courtois also began to study art in earnest.

In Rome, he painted the subject of the Miracle of the Loaves in the Cistercian monastery but soon gained recognition for his skilled renderings of battle scenes. In Tuscany, Venice, and Florence he worked successfully on battle paintings commissioned by military patrons and also completed a series of twelve etchings of a similar subject. Later in his life, Jacques Courtois took the habit of the Jesuits in Rome in 1655, possibly to avoid trouble after it was rumored that he had poisoned his own wife.[4] As a Jesuit father, he worked primarily in the churches and monasteries around Italy until his death in 1676. Nevertheless, Jacques Courtois is most well-known for his scenes of contemporary battles in small yet energetic paintings, made in a style that departs from the neat definitions of French and Italian art in the Baroque era.

Details: some horsemen in the smoky distance; the central combatants

The battle scene:
Despite its size and aged appearance, this particular battle scene captivates the eyes in shades of red, rust, blue gray, and gleaming white.  The composition centers on a jumble of no more than a dozen mounted soldiers who clash and charge through clouds of smoke towards a fortification on the left. In the center, one cavalryman on a white horse engages another on a dark horse as their armor and swords catch the light. Below them, a fallen steed and crumpled rider lie on the ground near discarded armor and weapons. The robust strength of Courtois’s figures, men and horses alike, takes the forefront and creates a landscape of strong, jostling bodies heavily influenced by the Italian style. The land around them is difficult to distinguish, and one glimpses a horizon only on the right in the distance, where two small riders race away on the plain. Though murky at first glance, this battle scene gives viewers the sense of the effort of a battle, the movement over ground, through smoke, and against other bodies.

- M. Whitman

You can view more works by Jacques and Guillaume Courtois at these sites and elsewhere::

References:
“Courtois, Jacques.” Web Gallery of Art. Created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx. http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/bio/c/courtois/jacques/biograph.html.

“Courtois, Jacques (1621-1676)  and Guillaume (1628-1679).” The Encyclopædia Britannica: a dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information, Eleventh edition, Vol. 7. Edited by Hugh Chisholm. New York: The Encyclopædia Britannica Company, 1910. Google eBook. http://books.google.com/books?id=CioOAQAAMAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false. 329.

“Jacques Courtois [French Baroque Era Painter, 1621-1676].” Artcyclopedia. John Maylon, Specifica Inc., 2011. http://www.http://www.artcyclopedia.com/artists/courtois_jacques.html.com/artists/courtois_jacques.html.

Kinniff, Jennifer. "December Collection of the Month: Michael Burda/Ronald Reagan Inaugural Materials Collection, 1969-2003." The George Washington University Libraries, Special Collections News and Notes, December 5, 2011. http://www.gelman.gwu.edu/collections/SCRC/current-events/december-collection-of-the-month-michael-burda-ronald-reagan-inaugural-materials-collection-1969-2003.





[1] Jennifer Kinniff, "December Collection of the Month: Michael Burda/Ronald Reagan Inaugural Materials Collection, 1969-2003," The George Washington University Libraries, Special Collections News and Notes, December 5, 2011. 
[2] “Courtois, Jacques,” Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.
[3] “Courtois, Jacques (1621-1676)  and Guillaume (1628-1679),” The Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh edition, Vol. 7, Ed.  Hugh Chisholm, New York: The Encyclopædia Britannica Company, 1910, Google eBook.
[4]  “Courtois, Jacques (1621-1676)  and Guillaume (1628-1679),” The Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh edition, Vol. 7, Ed.  Hugh Chisholm, New York: The Encyclopædia Britannica Company, 1910, Google eBook. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Keep George in the Buff!

 We all know our school’s namesake was a fashionable guy but to keep our leader standing tall in University Yard, we have got to stop dressing him up! The bronze sculpture in U-Yard comes from an original marble statue by Jean-Antoine Houdon in the 18th century that can be found in the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond. This is the only full-length portrait of our first president to be created while he was alive, and is suggested to be George’s truest likeness.

Our George has been with us for over 50 years, and while he looks great in most t-shirts, hats, and sunglasses, we ask that he remains in his traditional Revolutionary War uniform. Excess clothing on George removes the patina from the bronze sculpture. Patina, meaning “shallow dish” in Latin, is a tarnish that forms on the surface of bronze and other metals that protects the metal against corrosion. If the patina is disrupted overtime, it can flake off altogether! That means if George is continually sporting your Colonials gear, there may no longer be a George. So save your Buff and Blue to show off your own spirit, and keep George in the buff!

-R. Milkovich

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Warhol at the Beach: Thoughts on the Modern Photographic Condition


Item(s) of interest: three gelatin silver prints by Andy Warhol (1928-1987), all 8” x 10,” from July 6, 1982, numbered FL05 .05034, FL05 .05036, FL05 .0537
© Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. Please do not download this image.


Warhol’s “Photographic Legacy”
In 2007, to commemorate its twentieth anniversary, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts donated nearly 30,000 photographs made by the artist to more than 180 educational institutions.[1] The George Washington University, as one of those participants, received a curated collection of original Polaroids and black and white gelatin silver prints. While most of the Warhol photographs in our collection have been researched to a small degree, the group remains intriguing in the way it offers a semi-private look at the man who lived by and for popular icons.

Having donned cotton gloves to protect the photographs, I experienced our slice of the Warhol œuvre not only as a peek into some stranger’s photo album, but as a viewer distinctly aware of the photographer’s impulse to document his life.  According to the Warhol Foundation, the artist “often used these photographs as the basis for commissioned portraits, silkscreen paintings, drawings, and prints,” as well as a couple of book projects in the last decade of his life.[2] While looking through our collection, the Polaroids seem most like these preparatory studies, while most of the larger prints easily function as independent works documenting Warhol’s friends and activities. Except for prints of a street corner or a house peeking over a tall fence, the entire set is primarily people-driven. Both the Polaroids and the party candids demonstrate Warhol’s flair for directly interacting with his photographic subjects. The common conception of Warhol’s work may focus on his appropriation of photographic and commercial images, but his drive to photograph people around him gives nuance to the giant of Pop Art.

Three Seaside Moments
Three of the larger black and white photographs depict a compelling series of moments when Warhol and another man visited the beach in the summer of 1982. We can guess at the identity of this man since the last of the three is a cheerful close-cropped portrait as he smiles back at the camera with a striped sweatshirt draped over the top of his head. The other two, one horizontal and one vertical, show this man with the striped sweatshirt following a tire along the empty beach. While Warhol usually kept his relationships private, this man at the beach appears to be his boyfriend Jon Gould, who he had met two years previously in 1980.[3] Regardless of whether Warhol just caught some moments that interested him or whether he actively directed Gould to run after the tire, the resulting works express a carefree attitude. Still, since every photograph involves an arbitrary choice, Warhol must have taken care enough to snap the camera’s shutter and to develop the results. 

Warhol vs. Web 2.0
When looking at his body of work, scholars have asserted that Warhol’s interests often gravitate towards the intersection of fame, glamour, death, and the modern consumer culture of symbols of these concepts. Paul Mattick, in an essay on Warhol’s philosophy, discourages an overly cynical, consumerist viewing of the man and his works as some tend to follow. Instead he discusses how Warhol took such interest in “the gap that would always exist between the appearance and reality of wealth and power, and the fact that in the end you die.”[4] Many scholars identify this as the mindset behind his production (and reproduction) of images of Marilyn, Mao, and car accidents, as well as his urge to document his own social life through photographs. Douglas Fogle argues that, “What is clear from Warhol’s work is that his early paintings of celebrities were just as much ‘disasters’ as his bodies of more typically couched works such as the suicides, car crashes, electric chairs, and race riots.”[5] Throughout his career, Warhol held in common with America a “dual fascination with celebrity and tragedy.”[6] In this way, his later photographs of parties and glamorous people reveal his continued interest in observing fame before the fall.

Warhol was adept at what the Foundation calls “(analog) social networking,” and this tactic with people is manifest in his photographs and in their relation to our experience of photography in 2012.[7] Due to the number and variety of works, his photography exists as a sort of precursor to the widespread twenty-first century practice of creating and sharing photographs through websites like Facebook and Flickr. We cannot speculate whether Warhol would have taken interest in sharing such seemingly private works, but we do know that his artistic practice centered on creating art for the market. Thierry de Duve writes that, “Warhol [based art] on desire and thus on a principle of consumption.”[8] Similarly, websites like Facebook advance social connections through the photography, especially in the way “albums” of our acquaintances photographs advance upon individual users as a “feed” of images to be viewed and consumed.

Since the late nineteenth century, photography has provided the average person with a means for creating keepsakes of special events and personal images of friends and family.[9] However, with the development of an ever more transient Internet culture, individuals experience a flood of photographic information from each other, concerning everything from their dinner last Tuesday to their sanguine smiles at parties to their own artistic-cum-documentary images of their homes, neighborhoods, and adventures. In the late 1960s, Andy Warhol predicted the “fifteen minutes of fame” for everyone, but little did he know that his own near-obsessive photographic activity would be manifest as a large-scale social pattern, wherein everyday people become travel photographers, artists, and documentarians all at once, promoting their self image and their quality of life. Celebrity is also still of great interest in popular culture, but each day regular people export their own images of self-definition and glamorization for the world’s perusal.

In a way, social media-connected people of 2012 play with the idea of fame through the creation of masses of images for the kinetic platform of the Internet in a manner that is reminiscent of Warhol’s own interests in the production of physical art. Analyzing such social activity can turn into a pretzel of meta-thought, but some want to address how the Internet mobilizes this ephemeral pursuit of people’s “fifteen minutes” more than ever before. On that note, we conclude with the statement in a work by the street artist Banksy, that “in the future, everyone will be anonymous for [fifteen] minutes.”[10] This work uses a pink painted television to associate with the popular hunger for celebrity culture but also calls upon Warhol’s legacy to prompt viewers to wonder whether fame is truly the goal.

- M. Whitman

In the future everyone will be anonymous for 15 minutes.
Banksy, In the future, everyone will be anonymous, on Orí’s Flickr streamDecember 1, 2007. 
Click-through for photo.
Links to Learn More:
The Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, PA
The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts
WarholStars.org
Information about Warhol on The Art StoryArtNet and, ArtStor 
Books by and about Warhol on Amazon

Warhol: Headlines - 2011-12 Exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Andy Warhol: Shadows - 2011-12 Exhibition at the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D.C.
Big Shots: Andy Warhol Polaroids - 2009-10 Exhibition at Duke University's Nasher Museum of Art
Warhol vs. Banksy - 2007 Exhibition from Pollock Fine Art in London
WARHOL / SUPERNOVA: Stars, Deaths, and Disasters, 1962-1964 - 2005-6 Exhibition at the Walker Art Center


Continue for Endnotes and Bibliography

About the Blog

Ipsum Tempor

Sit amet

Covering exhibits at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery and giving you a peek into the Permanent Collection of the George Washington University.

Ultricies Eget

Coming Soon...

Coming Soon...
Howard Hodgkin: Paintings - May 16, 2012

Friday, December 7, 2012

Sister Mary Corita Kent and Visual Culture of the 1960’s


Thinking back to the most prolific artists of the Pop Art era, one name comes to mind; Andy Warhol. The Pop Art movement was often associated with Warhol because of his use of everyday items in art, mainly consumer goods. Would a nun befit what most characterize as a Pop artist?

Corita Kent, Questions and Answers, 1966; 
print on Pellon, 76.2 x 91.44 cm; 
Estate of Corita Kent.





Included in the GW Permanent Collection is Sister Corita’s work entitled, Questions and Answers, 1966, gifted from Ted and Lee Cron in 1983. Sister Mary Corita Kent, born Frances Elizabeth Kent on November 20, 1918 in Fort Dodge, Iowa, was of little recognition outside the world of art. In 1936, at the age of 16, she entered the convent of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Los Angeles. Sister Corita remarked that she most likely would not have had such a strong passion for art had she not become a nun.[i] This could possibly be due to the fact that as a nun, she understood the world from a humanitarian viewpoint and recognized art as a viable outlet for expressing her opinions.


Corita Kent, Stop the Bombing, 1967;  
Courtesy of the Corita Art Center,
 Immaculate Heart Community.
About her own work, Corita explained, “I am not brave enough to not pay my income tax and risk going to jail. But I can say rather freely what I want to say with my art.”[ii] In 1951, at the age of 33, she began creating her first prints and serigraphs, which would eventually become her main form of artistic expression. Her early art treated traditional religious themes with an untraditional expressionistic manner.[iii] By the early 1960’s, Sister Corita was at the forefront of using popular commercial images as a vehicle to articulate her opinion. She incorporated bright colors, simple forms and phrases as she openly embraced the world of modern popular culture. In Corita’s work entitled, Stop the Bombing, from 1967, Corita’s commitment to social justice and peace is evident. “I am in Vietnam – who will console me?” is repeated twice on the canvas. This powerful statement reflects the horrors and trauma of war. Another work entitled, For Emergency Use Soft Shoulder, completed in 1966, is emblazoned with the blue lettering, “Get With The Action.” This work is a call to act, a reminder that anyone can make a difference in the world.


Corita Kent, For Emergency Use Soft Shoulder
1966; serigraph, 76.2 x 91.4 cm.

Advertising slogans and billboard motifs often found their way into the art of Sister Corita. She was trying to uncover this hidden beauty in popular culture. Theologian Harvey Cox put it, for Corita, “Art meant transforming even the ugliest parts of the urban environment into testimonies of joy.”[iv]

Sister Corita was very interested in the ‘art of the non-professional.’[v] Vincent Lanier, an art educator, contemporary and friend of Sister Corita noted her willingness to become engaged with new ideas. Corita admired the passion of Pop artists for their willingness to accept any kind of form. Writing of Sister Corita’s connection with her students, Lanier writes:

Sister Corita hopes to guide the student into some insightful response to the film media so abundantly spewed forth by our technology and our commercialism. Confident that such insight can transfer to other forms of visual art; she notes that film, in the form of photography, cinema and television ‘is art’ in today’s world [the world of the early 1960s] simply because of its universality. For the teacher of art to reach the child, perhaps no better way can be found than to capitalize on the child’s constant exposure to a visual medium.[vi]

Sister Corita expressed her own philosophy towards art in an article entitled, “Art and Beauty in the Life of the Sister.” Here Corita expresses:
           
Our time is a time of erasing the lines that divided things neatly. Today we find all the superlatives and the infinite fulfillment man hungers for portrayed not only in fairy stories or poems but also in billboards and magazine ads and TV commercials.

Corita also states her belief in the importance of art in mainstream society:

If we separate ourselves from the great arts of our time, we cannot be leaven enriching our society from within. We may well be peripheral to our society—unaware of its pains and joys, unable to communicate with it, to benefit from it or to help it. [vii]

Sister Corita was a lively character. Her work within the Immaculate Heart College changed the face of the Catholic Church in the United States. Corita saw ‘Mary’s Day’ as a rather dismal affair. She called upon students and faculty to brainstorm how to liven up the ceremony. The day was organized around the theme of ‘Food for Peace.’ While others overindulged and over consumed, others starved. While this unequal distribution continued, world peace would never be achieved. Sister Corita understood Mary as the nurturer of Christ and provided him growth and development. What better theme to link the spiritual with the physical and the theological with the political?[viii] The goal of Mary’s Day was to transport the community of Immaculate Heart College from their everyday concerns into a space where they could look more deeply into themselves, their world, and their God.[ix] Originally a solemn and reserved day of celebration, ‘Mary’s Day,’ was turned into a vibrant celebration where nuns paraded around with flowered necklaces, poets reciting from platforms and colorful students rolling around in the grass; some saw this as a prototype for the hippies.[x] 

Sister Corita was scrutinized by the archbishop of Los Angeles for her ‘innovative’ celebrations and for her religious art. Most notably one of her prints referred to the Virgin Mary as ‘the juiciest tomato of them all.’[xi] Other works that tie her to the Pop Art Movement include, for eleanor, which incorporates a sentence stating, “The Big G Stands for Goodn[ess].” There is an obvious play on the big “G” for General Mills Company and the symbol of God. In her work, As Witnesses to the Light for John XXIII and JFK, Corita incorporates the product Sunkist with two limes representing both Pope John XXIII and former President John F. Kennedy. She often used the word “sun” or an image of the sun to signify a person or an idea that she found particularly enlightening or clear-eyed, someone who was a visionary.[xii] She utilizes both historical and contemporaneous figure-heads from the Catholic Church. Lastly, in her serigraph entitled, enriched bread, Corita plays on the idea of Wonder Bread representing the Eucharist in Catholicism. Each work incorporates daily commercial products, a staple for the Pop Art Movement; however Corita includes her own religious and moral message to the viewer.


Corita Kent, for eleanor, 1964; Serigraph on Pellon, 
30 x 36 in.; Collection of the Associated 
Sulpicians of the United States;
 Courtesy the Corita Art Center, 
Immaculate Heart Community, Los Angeles.
Corita Kent, enriched bread, 1965;  
print; screen print on Pellon, 75.57 cm x 92.08 cm;  
Collection SFMOMA,
 Gift of Robert Cugno and Robert Logan, 
Garnett, Kansas.
Corita Kent, the juiciest tomato of all, 1964; 
Serigraph on Pellon, 29.5 x 36 in.; 
Collection of the Associated Sulpicians of the United States; 
Courtesy the Corita Art Center,
 Immaculate Heart Community, Los Angeles.
Corita Kent, As Witnesses to the
 Light for John XXIII and JFK,
1964; lithograph.

 Living through the 1960’s was a transformative age for the youth of America; however, the work of Sister Corita was not such a successful agent of change within her own time. Corita failed to acknowledge the fact that, despite the ‘youth culture’ of the 1960’s, most who were teaching in schools became educators in the relatively conservative 1940’s and 1950’s.[xiii] The way in which children understood the world shifted more towards television, billboards, and other advertisements. In order for contemporaries like Sister Corita to reach the youth, she would need to conform to popular culture in the visual world, and she did just that. Sister Mary Andre, a contemporary of Sister Corita with a similar mindset, teaching in Westchester, Illinois, advised fellow art teachers not to be “bogged down in the mire of a rutted and ingrained educational system, and to look ahead! Tomorrow is fast becoming yesterday.”[xiv]

Sister Corita was preoccupied with this idea of keeping present for herself and for her students. However, this continuously created strong tension with the Archbishop of Los Angeles and the Immaculate Heart College. In 1967, Sister Corita left the religious life, retired from teaching and moved to Boston to focus solely on her art. She did, however, maintain the name Corita. In 1986, at the age of 67, she passed away from cancer. Lanier saw her as a type of Renaissance [wo]man, who aspired to be many things at once. “Sister Corita was a nun, teacher, artist and thinker, and unlike many others she did not compartmentalize her several universes of action, but instead they all fed each other in their unity.”[xv]

Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. is currently exhibiting the works of Sister Corita entitled, To Believe – The Spirited Art of Corita. The show is in the May Gallery of the John K. Mullen of Denver Memorial Library until December 14, 2012. The link is below.

http://publicaffairs.cua.edu/releases/2012/cal-corita-exhibit.cfm


[i] Jeffrey M. Burns, “Be of Love (a Little) More Careful: Sister Corita, Father Bob, Love, and Art,” Catholic University of America Press: 2001, 68.
[ii] “Corita Kent Biography,” Corita Art Center, accessed November 28, 2012, https://www.corita.org/coritadb/index.php?id=5&option=com_content&task=view.
[iii] Burns, 68.
[iv] Harvey Cox, “Corita Kent: Surviving with Style,” Commonweal, 24 October 1986, 550.
[v] Vincent Lanier, “An Interview with Sister Mart Corita,” National Art Education Association: 1965, 14.
[vi] Lanier, 14.
[vii] Burns, 69.
[viii] Colleen McDannell, “Spirit of Vatican II: A History of Catholic Reform in America,” Basic Books: 2011, 133.
[ix] McDannell, 133.
[x] Burns, 70.
[xi] Burns, 70.
[xii] “Sister Corita,” PBS, accessed November 28, 2012, http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/episodes/by-topic/sister-corita/10526/.
[xiii] Graeme Chalmers, “Visual Culture Education in the 1960s,” National Art Education Association: 2005, 6.
[xiv] Chalmers, 9.
[xv] Chalmers, 14.

Friday, October 26, 2012

John Chumley- Anecdotes on the American Painter


John Chumley, Late Summer


John Chumley (1928-1984) was an American Painter who was known for, and had an impeccable talent for, painting light.  Whether Chumley was painting a landscape or one of his children, the detail in lighting which he observed was always extremely well portrayed.          
Chumley was born in Minnesota and originally entered college on a scholarship for football.  After an injury to his knee, he chose to pursue painting and enrolled in the Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, Florida.  Through his career Chumley strayed away from the lime light which is why today many are unfamiliar with his works. His career began with one man shows in New York, and if one researches Chumley there are many clippings of his work but little information about the artist in general.
John Chumley, Goldie, 1958,
This artist is particularly intriguing because despite the many catalogues that rave of his paintings, it is difficult to find commentary from Chumley himself.  This could be because he was a very independent artist.  He insisted upon living in a rural environment, which could be why he was never directly in the spotlight.  He spent many of his years not too far from DC in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  Many of his works include glimpses of the valleys that surrounded him, his large estate, and his children.  Interestingly enough Chumley never used photographs to paint.  This realist put himself in front of his subject and translated on to canvas what his eyes saw. 
A quirk that we know about the artist is that he painted alone and only alone until the last brush stroke of his canvas was completed.  His paintings were truly his own from the paint he used to the finished image.  Chumley is known for his use of watercolors, but he often used an egg tempera paint that he made himself.  This medium is difficult to work with, making Chumley's works even more astonishing.  The egg tempera adds a layered effect to his works creating an interesting depth and a wide array of shades.  Once out of art school, Chumley was asked what drew him to painting such realistic images he replied, "In art school I saw students of near genius achieve spectacular results with abstraction--but too quickly, without what I considered enough background--then they gave up. It was too easy.  For me there has to be a challenge. I wanted more. More knowledge of what went before, so I could bring it to my work”. [1]
Andrew Wyeth, Christina's World, 1948
Chumley has been compared to artist Andrew Wyeth by various sources.  Wyeth is most famous for his painting Christina's World, 1948 which shows a young girl looking into a vast landscape with a house in the distance (pictured below).  The similarities that exist between these artists live in their realistic style, their fine detail, and their use of tempera. The variations of light that Wyeth uses amongst the landscape is also a prominent aspect of this painting, that makes it comparable to Chumley’s work.  In Goldie one can see how Chumley directed light in order to form the definitions in his shapes and lines within the pieces. Similarities between the two can be drawn from the detail in both Christina and Goldie's clothing, such as the folds of the clothing, and the shadows that the fabric casts among itself.  These variations within light that both artists use helps to portray movement in the surroundings of these two women.  In Christina's World Wyeth's use of light illustrates movement within the grass, while in Goldie, the detail of light brings life to the curtains in the windows, along with the fabric that Goldie is ironing.  By comparing Chumley’s work to Wyeth, it becomes evident that Chumley had the talent, and style of a renowned painter. 
Chumley had a passion for the beauty in both the landscapes and solitude he found tucked away in the Shenandoah Valley. While this kept Chumley’s work out of the limelight, if it were not for the inspiration he found there, we may not be able to appreciate his expertise today. 


[1] J.C, T. (March, 28 2001). Fountain citians who made a difference. Retrieved from http://www.fountaincitytnhistory.info/People5-Chumley.htm

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Apocolypse or Not?


As the impending doom of December 21’s scheduled apocalypse approaches, it’s only natural to want to get out and see the sites.  Visiting a few Pre-Colombian inspired exhibits in D.C. may have one realizing that the fascinating culture of Ancient Mesoamerica is much more than calendar-keeping.   

Here at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery the Turned and Burnt: Pre-Colombian Artifacts and Wood-turned Vessels exhibit will give one a taste of Pre-Colombian art, paired with the works of local woodturners.  Both the ancient and contemporary pieces draw transcendental inspiration from nature.  The use of earthen materials and the involved process of creation in both Pre-Colombian terracotta and contemporary woodturning produce a physical connection between the artist and the art.  For Mayans, this process was no doubt mystical and for contemporary artists, it is cathartic.  This exhibit focuses on the historic tradition of connecting to nature via the artistic process.           

Not far away, at the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection in Georgetown, an extensive permanent Pre-Colombian collection is displayed as one with nature.  The specially designed gallery is a unique space that recreates for the viewer this connection with nature.  The circular room is walled by windows that at all times look out upon the gardens.  The viewer is immersed in nature which serves as a fitting backdrop for the art of a society that worshipped nature gods. Their current exhibit, The Ancient Future: Mesoamerican and Andean Timekeeping, expands upon the Mesoamerican calendars that so potently fascinate the masses today.

Aztec Sculpture, Dumbarton Oaks Pre-Colombian Gallery


Finally, at the Mexican Cultural Institute’s 16th Street Mansion one can find a stunning array of murals that, just like Turned and Burnt, represent a collision of ancient motifs and modern style.  The murals were painted by Cueva del Rio between 1933 and 1941 and explore the history of Mexico in bold, colorful fresco.  Featured prominently among the murals are themes of Aztec mythology and stunning representations of the Mexican landscape.  Cueva del Rio synthesizes ancient traditions with modern Mexican life. 

Pre-Colombian Mexico, Roberto Cuevo del Rio, Mexican Cultural Institute

Turned and Burnt: Pre-Columbian Artifacts and Wood-turned Vessels

co-sponsored by the Office of Sustainability
October 8 - December 21, 2012
The exhibition is located on the 2nd Floor of the Media & Public Affairs Building at 805 21st Street, NW
Can be viewed:
Mon-Fri 7-10


Friday, September 7, 2012

“Once you put your hand in the paint you must do something, create something” - Jules Olitski



 It has been quite a while since our last post here at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery, but we are excited to say that we have almost finished our installation for Jules Olitski On An Intimate Scale. Jules Olitski, an American painter known mostly for his abstract works was born in the 1920’s and died just a short time ago in 2007.  We are thrilled to display pieces from the Olitski collection yet again, as this will be the Gallery’s third exhibition featuring the artist.
The exhibition will open Friday, September 21st with a reception with the artist’s family, and will run through December 14th. Along the same time span, the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center will be hosting their show Revelation: Major Paintings by Jules Olitski.  The Brady Art Gallery’s exhibition of smaller scale works is a fitting comparison to the monumental works that will be on view at American University.  Come get to know Olitski’s style with a close view to his admired paintings. 
Along with the show, there will be a panel discussion at the Phillips Collection on Jules Olitski’s work as a segment of the Creative Voices DC series.  Do not hesitate to come by The Phillips Collection on September 20th at 6:00 PM for more information on Olitski’s collected works.  


Shaker, 1961, acrylic on canvas, 25"x16". Image courtesy of the Olitski Family Estate. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Coming Soon: Howard Hodgkin

Flag, 2006 - 2010, 34-1/2" x 43-3/8". Private Collection. 
Today in the gallery, we're saying farewell to a great show as the nice fellows from ARTEX Fine Art Services are packing up Carol Brown Goldberg's drawings and sculptures. Mark your calendars for our next opening of Howard Hodgkin: Paintings on May 16, 2012!

Gallery Website
Howard Hodgkin's Website

Friday, April 20, 2012

Exhibition Closing - "Carol Brown Goldberg: Sculpture and Works on Paper"



Today is the final day of our exhibition, Carol Brown Goldberg: Sculpture and Works on Paper. Goldberg's bronzed assemblage sculptures have lots of personality, and her biomorphic drawings are beautifully engaging in their abstraction. Stop by the gallery before 5:00 PM to catch them before they're gone!

We are located on The George Washington University campus, in the second floor of the Media & Public Affairs Building at 805 21st Street, NW.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Battle Scene by Il Bourgognone


One might think that a battle painting must be large in size and bright in color to show the grand chaos of the fray, but this small piece by Courtois demonstrates otherwise. The dynamic energy of the forms and brushwork hold power even four centuries later.


Work of interest: Untitled battle scene with cavalry painted by Jacques Courtois, (a.k.a. Giacomo / Jacopo Cortese, Le Bourguignon, or Il Borgognone), oil on canvas, ca. 1645-1655, 22” x 30” framed, 16” x 25” sight

Provenance: This work came to George Washington University as a donation with the founding of the Eleanor and Michael Burda Collection, which was dedicated in 2003. Mr. Burda had served as an intelligence officer in Europe in WWII before going into the insurance business, and some evidence suggests that he may have acquired the work while on his tour of duty. Although he is neither an alumnus nor a faculty member, he has made contributions to the G.W. Hospital, the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and the university’s art collection, especially in honor of the doctors who cared for President Reagan after his assassination attempt in 1981.[1] More investigative work could be done on where Burda acquired the painting and where it had been in the previous centuries, though we do know that he thought the work to be of some value. (Read more about Michael Burda and his collection through the Gelman Library’s Special Collections Research Center.)

Conservation notes: There are significant regions of paint loss, especially in the lower right corner. While the painting may have been cleaned in the past, it also retains a layer of varnish, which in some areas has created a muddied effect on the old canvas. This work is in need of some careful cleaning in order to counteract the effects of the varnish, paint loss, and general grime due to age.

Details: fighter riding towards the tower; a painterly horse's head

Who was Jacques Courtois?
Born in Burgundy in 1621 as son of the painter Jean Courtois, Jacques Courtois (along with his younger brother Guillaume) would become known in Italy as Le Bourguignon or Il Bourgognone.[2] After studying under their father, the brothers traveled to Italy around 1637. Guillaume, the younger of the two, immediately began studying art in Rome and Bologna, while Jacques spent time with a fellow Burgundian in Milan and served in the French military for three years. According to a 1910 biographer, Guillaume’s “draughtsmanship is better than that of Jacques, whom he did not, however, rival in spirit, colour or composition.”[3] Apparently, some images of battles rekindled his interest in art, and Jacques Courtois also began to study art in earnest.

In Rome, he painted the subject of the Miracle of the Loaves in the Cistercian monastery but soon gained recognition for his skilled renderings of battle scenes. In Tuscany, Venice, and Florence he worked successfully on battle paintings commissioned by military patrons and also completed a series of twelve etchings of a similar subject. Later in his life, Jacques Courtois took the habit of the Jesuits in Rome in 1655, possibly to avoid trouble after it was rumored that he had poisoned his own wife.[4] As a Jesuit father, he worked primarily in the churches and monasteries around Italy until his death in 1676. Nevertheless, Jacques Courtois is most well-known for his scenes of contemporary battles in small yet energetic paintings, made in a style that departs from the neat definitions of French and Italian art in the Baroque era.

Details: some horsemen in the smoky distance; the central combatants

The battle scene:
Despite its size and aged appearance, this particular battle scene captivates the eyes in shades of red, rust, blue gray, and gleaming white.  The composition centers on a jumble of no more than a dozen mounted soldiers who clash and charge through clouds of smoke towards a fortification on the left. In the center, one cavalryman on a white horse engages another on a dark horse as their armor and swords catch the light. Below them, a fallen steed and crumpled rider lie on the ground near discarded armor and weapons. The robust strength of Courtois’s figures, men and horses alike, takes the forefront and creates a landscape of strong, jostling bodies heavily influenced by the Italian style. The land around them is difficult to distinguish, and one glimpses a horizon only on the right in the distance, where two small riders race away on the plain. Though murky at first glance, this battle scene gives viewers the sense of the effort of a battle, the movement over ground, through smoke, and against other bodies.

- M. Whitman

You can view more works by Jacques and Guillaume Courtois at these sites and elsewhere::

References:
“Courtois, Jacques.” Web Gallery of Art. Created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx. http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/bio/c/courtois/jacques/biograph.html.

“Courtois, Jacques (1621-1676)  and Guillaume (1628-1679).” The Encyclopædia Britannica: a dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information, Eleventh edition, Vol. 7. Edited by Hugh Chisholm. New York: The Encyclopædia Britannica Company, 1910. Google eBook. http://books.google.com/books?id=CioOAQAAMAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false. 329.

“Jacques Courtois [French Baroque Era Painter, 1621-1676].” Artcyclopedia. John Maylon, Specifica Inc., 2011. http://www.http://www.artcyclopedia.com/artists/courtois_jacques.html.com/artists/courtois_jacques.html.

Kinniff, Jennifer. "December Collection of the Month: Michael Burda/Ronald Reagan Inaugural Materials Collection, 1969-2003." The George Washington University Libraries, Special Collections News and Notes, December 5, 2011. http://www.gelman.gwu.edu/collections/SCRC/current-events/december-collection-of-the-month-michael-burda-ronald-reagan-inaugural-materials-collection-1969-2003.





[1] Jennifer Kinniff, "December Collection of the Month: Michael Burda/Ronald Reagan Inaugural Materials Collection, 1969-2003," The George Washington University Libraries, Special Collections News and Notes, December 5, 2011. 
[2] “Courtois, Jacques,” Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.
[3] “Courtois, Jacques (1621-1676)  and Guillaume (1628-1679),” The Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh edition, Vol. 7, Ed.  Hugh Chisholm, New York: The Encyclopædia Britannica Company, 1910, Google eBook.
[4]  “Courtois, Jacques (1621-1676)  and Guillaume (1628-1679),” The Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh edition, Vol. 7, Ed.  Hugh Chisholm, New York: The Encyclopædia Britannica Company, 1910, Google eBook. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Keep George in the Buff!

 We all know our school’s namesake was a fashionable guy but to keep our leader standing tall in University Yard, we have got to stop dressing him up! The bronze sculpture in U-Yard comes from an original marble statue by Jean-Antoine Houdon in the 18th century that can be found in the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond. This is the only full-length portrait of our first president to be created while he was alive, and is suggested to be George’s truest likeness.

Our George has been with us for over 50 years, and while he looks great in most t-shirts, hats, and sunglasses, we ask that he remains in his traditional Revolutionary War uniform. Excess clothing on George removes the patina from the bronze sculpture. Patina, meaning “shallow dish” in Latin, is a tarnish that forms on the surface of bronze and other metals that protects the metal against corrosion. If the patina is disrupted overtime, it can flake off altogether! That means if George is continually sporting your Colonials gear, there may no longer be a George. So save your Buff and Blue to show off your own spirit, and keep George in the buff!

-R. Milkovich

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Warhol at the Beach: Thoughts on the Modern Photographic Condition


Item(s) of interest: three gelatin silver prints by Andy Warhol (1928-1987), all 8” x 10,” from July 6, 1982, numbered FL05 .05034, FL05 .05036, FL05 .0537
© Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. Please do not download this image.


Warhol’s “Photographic Legacy”
In 2007, to commemorate its twentieth anniversary, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts donated nearly 30,000 photographs made by the artist to more than 180 educational institutions.[1] The George Washington University, as one of those participants, received a curated collection of original Polaroids and black and white gelatin silver prints. While most of the Warhol photographs in our collection have been researched to a small degree, the group remains intriguing in the way it offers a semi-private look at the man who lived by and for popular icons.

Having donned cotton gloves to protect the photographs, I experienced our slice of the Warhol œuvre not only as a peek into some stranger’s photo album, but as a viewer distinctly aware of the photographer’s impulse to document his life.  According to the Warhol Foundation, the artist “often used these photographs as the basis for commissioned portraits, silkscreen paintings, drawings, and prints,” as well as a couple of book projects in the last decade of his life.[2] While looking through our collection, the Polaroids seem most like these preparatory studies, while most of the larger prints easily function as independent works documenting Warhol’s friends and activities. Except for prints of a street corner or a house peeking over a tall fence, the entire set is primarily people-driven. Both the Polaroids and the party candids demonstrate Warhol’s flair for directly interacting with his photographic subjects. The common conception of Warhol’s work may focus on his appropriation of photographic and commercial images, but his drive to photograph people around him gives nuance to the giant of Pop Art.

Three Seaside Moments
Three of the larger black and white photographs depict a compelling series of moments when Warhol and another man visited the beach in the summer of 1982. We can guess at the identity of this man since the last of the three is a cheerful close-cropped portrait as he smiles back at the camera with a striped sweatshirt draped over the top of his head. The other two, one horizontal and one vertical, show this man with the striped sweatshirt following a tire along the empty beach. While Warhol usually kept his relationships private, this man at the beach appears to be his boyfriend Jon Gould, who he had met two years previously in 1980.[3] Regardless of whether Warhol just caught some moments that interested him or whether he actively directed Gould to run after the tire, the resulting works express a carefree attitude. Still, since every photograph involves an arbitrary choice, Warhol must have taken care enough to snap the camera’s shutter and to develop the results. 

Warhol vs. Web 2.0
When looking at his body of work, scholars have asserted that Warhol’s interests often gravitate towards the intersection of fame, glamour, death, and the modern consumer culture of symbols of these concepts. Paul Mattick, in an essay on Warhol’s philosophy, discourages an overly cynical, consumerist viewing of the man and his works as some tend to follow. Instead he discusses how Warhol took such interest in “the gap that would always exist between the appearance and reality of wealth and power, and the fact that in the end you die.”[4] Many scholars identify this as the mindset behind his production (and reproduction) of images of Marilyn, Mao, and car accidents, as well as his urge to document his own social life through photographs. Douglas Fogle argues that, “What is clear from Warhol’s work is that his early paintings of celebrities were just as much ‘disasters’ as his bodies of more typically couched works such as the suicides, car crashes, electric chairs, and race riots.”[5] Throughout his career, Warhol held in common with America a “dual fascination with celebrity and tragedy.”[6] In this way, his later photographs of parties and glamorous people reveal his continued interest in observing fame before the fall.

Warhol was adept at what the Foundation calls “(analog) social networking,” and this tactic with people is manifest in his photographs and in their relation to our experience of photography in 2012.[7] Due to the number and variety of works, his photography exists as a sort of precursor to the widespread twenty-first century practice of creating and sharing photographs through websites like Facebook and Flickr. We cannot speculate whether Warhol would have taken interest in sharing such seemingly private works, but we do know that his artistic practice centered on creating art for the market. Thierry de Duve writes that, “Warhol [based art] on desire and thus on a principle of consumption.”[8] Similarly, websites like Facebook advance social connections through the photography, especially in the way “albums” of our acquaintances photographs advance upon individual users as a “feed” of images to be viewed and consumed.

Since the late nineteenth century, photography has provided the average person with a means for creating keepsakes of special events and personal images of friends and family.[9] However, with the development of an ever more transient Internet culture, individuals experience a flood of photographic information from each other, concerning everything from their dinner last Tuesday to their sanguine smiles at parties to their own artistic-cum-documentary images of their homes, neighborhoods, and adventures. In the late 1960s, Andy Warhol predicted the “fifteen minutes of fame” for everyone, but little did he know that his own near-obsessive photographic activity would be manifest as a large-scale social pattern, wherein everyday people become travel photographers, artists, and documentarians all at once, promoting their self image and their quality of life. Celebrity is also still of great interest in popular culture, but each day regular people export their own images of self-definition and glamorization for the world’s perusal.

In a way, social media-connected people of 2012 play with the idea of fame through the creation of masses of images for the kinetic platform of the Internet in a manner that is reminiscent of Warhol’s own interests in the production of physical art. Analyzing such social activity can turn into a pretzel of meta-thought, but some want to address how the Internet mobilizes this ephemeral pursuit of people’s “fifteen minutes” more than ever before. On that note, we conclude with the statement in a work by the street artist Banksy, that “in the future, everyone will be anonymous for [fifteen] minutes.”[10] This work uses a pink painted television to associate with the popular hunger for celebrity culture but also calls upon Warhol’s legacy to prompt viewers to wonder whether fame is truly the goal.

- M. Whitman

In the future everyone will be anonymous for 15 minutes.
Banksy, In the future, everyone will be anonymous, on Orí’s Flickr streamDecember 1, 2007. 
Click-through for photo.
Links to Learn More:
The Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, PA
The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts
WarholStars.org
Information about Warhol on The Art StoryArtNet and, ArtStor 
Books by and about Warhol on Amazon

Warhol: Headlines - 2011-12 Exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Andy Warhol: Shadows - 2011-12 Exhibition at the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D.C.
Big Shots: Andy Warhol Polaroids - 2009-10 Exhibition at Duke University's Nasher Museum of Art
Warhol vs. Banksy - 2007 Exhibition from Pollock Fine Art in London
WARHOL / SUPERNOVA: Stars, Deaths, and Disasters, 1962-1964 - 2005-6 Exhibition at the Walker Art Center


Continue for Endnotes and Bibliography

Labels

Lorem ipsum

.

Lorem ipsum

Recent News

There was an error in this gadget

About

Washington, District of Columbia, United States
"Found In Collection" or simply "FIC" is the way many museums classify the more mysterious items in their possession that have little or no documentation. Here at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery of the George Washington University, we do keep extensive records of our collection, but some of the items we come across in academic buildings or our own storage can leave us wondering. This blog is an effort to showcase some of the more curious examples and their stories, and to provide a glimpse of the great variety of art pieces within the collection. To learn more about the Brady Gallery's history, recent exhibitions, or the George Washington University, take a look at the links below.

Followers

Sociable

There was an error in this gadget