Tag Archives: HAMS

Art Young’s Reward, Jesus Christ (ca. 1938)

By Oscar Rieveling

Art Young was a recognized artist best known for his political cartoons which could be found in many early 20th century socialist publications. However, he did not always identify with left-wing ideals, originally considering himself a Republican with little political involvement. Through his association with individuals such as Piet Vlag and John Sloan, he would begin to embrace the radical ideas burgeoning in Greenwich Village during this time and advocate for issues such as labor issues, women’s rights, and sexual equality.

Born in Stephenson County on January 14, 1886, Art Young was a recognized artist best known for his political cartoons which could be found in many early 20th century socialist publications.Young continued to work until his death in the year 1943 at the Hotel Irving in New York City. His artistic training was extensive, attending the Chicago Academy of Design, Art Students League of New York, and the Académie Julian in Paris before participating in the creation of the socialist magazine The Masses. It was in this publication that the first version of Reward, Jesus Christ appeared as the cover for a special holiday edition. Still, the work that will be on display at the Johnson Museum will be a later example that appears to have been made by the artist independently from the magazine, indicated by the alternate color and text utilized.

Young offers a startling representation of Jesus Christ’s historical personage in the sense that it is not an idealized or devotional image. Instead, the poster emphasizes Christ’s revolutionary and agitative role that openly challenged the government of his time. The work also expands upon the fraught relationship between religion and politics, while underscoring the human nature of this iconic figure.

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Zero Tolerance

By Daniela Pimentel

MoMA PS1 has on display what could easily be called the most revolt-centric exhibition of the year. Zero Tolerance is a show focused on the documentation, interpretation, mechanics, and aesthetics of protest. From static pieces like Joseph Beuys’ Democracy is Merry print of the 70s here in the US to video footage of Pussy Riot’s “Punk Prayer” of 2013 on loop, the exhibition spans a wide geography and a variety of issues under the engaging and enraging umbrella of revolution. A room of 20 screens by the artist Artur Zmijewski depicts various assemblies, formal political and religious statements by different leaders, and general protest from Palestine to Poland. Though headphones are hung for separate monitors, there exists a cacophony of resistance and revolt audible even when listening to an individual channel. The best piece (and one of the most critically acclaimed) is East Side Story (2006-2008) by Igor Gubric. Two projected channels come together in a corner of an empty gallery. On the left, gay-pride parades in Serbia and Croatia reveal a ferocious backlash of anti-gay and neo-Nazi groups attacking parade participants both verbally and physically in television footage so vicious that it’s hard to tear your eyes away. The documentation is paired with four dance performances in the same locations as the parades by dancers responding to the first channel footage. A stunning pairing of the documentary and the interpretive, Zero Tolerance is up at PS1 through April 13.

http://momaps1.org/exhibitions/view/389

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A Trip to India – How it influenced my perception of art

By Alanna Klein  

“Art”: a single word that can be construed in hundreds of different ways. Of course, most people consider art to be anything located within the walls of a museum or gallery – a painting, a sculpture, an artistic film. As an art history major, I typically search for art in these traditional museums, galleries, exhibitions etc. – places that are recognized for their reputable and prestigious art. I spend hours in museums aimlessly wandering the halls of a multi-acre museum, if visiting a new city I will ensure I see every esteemed gallery, and throughout my studies, I search through textbooks and preserved prints to analyze work.

However, my appreciation for art evolved this past winter break when I traveled to India. Embracing my prior predilection of museums, I scoured books and websites for the best museums in Jaipur and Udaipur. However, I was left nearly empty handed and was instead urged to wander the streets, temples, palaces, markets, work factories, and parks. Of course I was disappointed, as for me, art is a lens into a culture’s history. I can learn more from viewing a painting than reading a textbook – art exposes habits, societal norms, family traditions, activities, events, clothing, food, etc., facets that create the essence of any culture. However, I adhered to my guide’s words and followed his recommendations, and, what I found was far more powerful than anything I could find behind the pristine walls of a famous museum or popular gallery. I was immersed in a sea of vibrant colors, potent smells, endless smiles, captivating people, and unique activities. I felt as if I was living in a painting instead of studying one. I was present and I could feel the culture and passion of the people surrounding me. From this experience, I have changed what the word “art” means to me.

I realize now that art is anything that can touch someone. Art instills a feeling inside the viewer. Art transports the viewer to a time or place or emotion. Art creates a memory. For me, I am fortunate in that I now know that I can find art in any corner of any city, park, or room, and that all it takes to garner an internal feeling is for to open our eyes and our senses and be present in the world in which we live, for art and beauty surrounds us at every moment.

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Laylah Ali’s Greenheads at the Johnson Museum

By Daniela Pimentel

Last fall, the Johnson Museum held an exhibition of more than forty paintings from Laylah Ali’s series titled Greenheads. The precisely delineated gouache works on paper are best interpreted as a group, as each work presents different tableaux of interaction between Ali’s pared down figures of power that seem to inhabit a peculiar political universe. Cartoonish figures sport a range of costumes and signifiers, from white pope-like headpieces to black ski masks on the head or just the eyes. All are depicted with green heads (as the title would suggest) that confuse the viewer seeking to identify race, and gender or age distinctions are just as difficult to pin down. Their actions are less ambiguous than the figures’ appearance – the Greenheads engage in torture, murder, beheadings, salutes, and the mutilation of various limbs. Their bodies and faces are rendered as simply and cleanly as possible, and impart more about relationships, identities, and structures of power because they are boiled down to simple bodily and facial signifiers of conflict, war, and violence. The visage of each Greenhead features a crude expression of grief, anger, pain, or fear that grips the viewer through its fundamental rendering of the surface-face, flat and full of holes.

Upon first viewing the Greenheads, I immediately attempted to parse the circumstances and groups responsible for the obvious conflict in front of me. There was clearly some sort of revolt, though never clear for what purpose or from which set of figures to another. It soon became clear that the point of navigating through these signs and signifiers was to become aware of what we look at and look for when we see images of revolt. And because of the engrossing seriality of the Greenheads, we witness the circularity, manifestation, networking and variation of signifiers and faciality. We see expression and costume change, and with it the actions of the figures re-territorialized and redefined. It is a body of work in which power structures and the regimes of signs are laid bare for the viewer to explore which signs and signifiers we respond to in different visualizations of power and revolt.

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A HAMS Update!

Hello! I am Haley Knapp, Social Media Chair of HAMS and as we are almost done with the semester, I wanted to give a little update of what our HAMS members have been up to this semester, where we are in developing our exhibition, and what our weekly meetings have been like! This week is our last week of pulling works. For the past few months, everyone has been developing ideas through works that we have pulled from not only the Johnson Museum’s own collection, but from the Rare and Manuscript Collection in Kroch as well, expanding our resources to really get in touch with what Cornell has to offer and how we, as art history students, can use those resources to develop our exhibition to its greatest potential. Pulling works and discussing them during weekly meetings has been not only fun, but really helping to develop what our exhibition theme, Revolt, really means in terms of what works we should incorporate, how we, each member, define the word, and how we want it to reach our audience.  Our decision to create an exhibitionRevolt comes at a time in our world when there has recently been so much political turmoil and we are seeking to incorporate that into the meaning of our exhibition. We are looking at revolt through an art historical, political, and cultural lens in however photographers, artists, sculptors, have chosen to identify it.

Every member has been really passionate in discussing the works that they have pulled for the meetings, and this will definitely show in our completed exhibition, not only in the display of the works, but in our catalogue as well. One meeting we were able to get a tour of the Surrealism and Magic exhibition from Andy Weislogel Two weeks ago, we were lucky enough to have a visitor during our meeting. Tameka Norris was up at Cornell for an artist’s talk about her work in the New Orleans Biennial and gave us some great insight about how we wanted to present our exhibition to the visitors that will be attending. Then, last week we were fortunate to get to go down into main storage and see works that aren’t available to the public at the current moment.

Check us out on Facebook and Instagram (@insta__hams) to see more pictures, and stay up to date on events we may be having!

Here are some pictures of some of our meetings and the different things we have been doing each week!

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On Christopher Pinney’s Lecture – “Ganga and the Cellphone: On the Civil Contract of Photography in India”

By Lara Abouhamad

How many times a day do you take a picture on your cellphone?

In a society where Snapchat and Instagram define a huge portion of social interactions, it is often hard to think about how revolutionary this mere click of a button could be – especially on a device so small and mobile. This feat of mobility was central to Christopher Pinney’s lecture in which he explained the revolutionary (!!) effects of cell phone photography in India, that arise from the newfound portability and widespread accessibility of these devices. Christopher Pinney, a Professor of Anthropology and Visual Culture at University College London, focuses many of his studies on Indian culture, especially on the peripheral villages. This particular lecture focused on what villages are doing with image and photography through the use of cell phones and other mobile devices. Pinney opened his lecture with the question: “What happens when photographic means become smaller and faster?”

Pinney argues the two sides of this coin – stating that this media incarnates both the utopia and dystopia within these societies. Firstly, in the sense of utopia, this newfound accessibility creates a certain democratization within society by including the lower classes in the modern discourse of media, who are now given a voice of sorts through their ability to create images. By calling on Ariella Azoulay’s study of photography in the Palestinian movement, Pinney advocates for the photographic citizenship of the oppressed that stands in stark juxtaposition with their lack of actual citizenship. In such, these Indian villages explore the subversive potential of photography, defying the colonial gaze that once defined them. On the other side of this phenomenon, Pinney reveals the stagnant aspects of some of these villages, in which some prohibit village girls from using mobile phones. Pinney also addresses the concept of the “myth of photographic” which takes on a new dimension in these villages. Through the new accessibility to photographic devices and photo-editing softwares, villages create “proof” or legitimate images of divine apparitions such as the Ganga – a cow how gave birth to twins (an apparently impossible occurrence) – or a mythical snake with ten heads. In other words, beyond being a tool of democratization, this type of media creates a sort of “digitally mediated encounter with the divine” that modernizes traditional belief systems.

All in all, despite the downsides this new development exposes, Pinney’s lecture is central in considering the revolutionary potential of photography. As photographic technologies become smaller and more mobile, the habitus changes as social hierarchies implode on the photographic plane.

Think of that next time you send a Snap

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The Politics of Polish Poster Art under Communism

By Piotr Pillardy

Polish Poster Art, as it has evolved into its modern form, got its start in the 1950s, after the end of World War II. During the war, the Nazis had implemented many policies of cultural extermination and suppression to effectively destroy Polish culture. Later, during the Yalta Conference of 1945, one of the agreements that were made between the leaders of the Allied Forces was that the Soviets would gain control of the Poland after the end of the war. This would greatly impact the development of Polish art going into the post-war era. After the Nazi occupying forces left Poland after the war, the Soviet forces became the new occupiers of Poland and would implement their own policies of cultural suppression and control.

One of these forms of cultural extermination was the state supported and endorsed Soviet Social Realist artistic style, which would serve to help promote and celebrate the ideological underpinnings of Communism and marginalize Polish artistic expression. This style consisted of academic paintings which was figural, representation, and contained strictly controlled messages that adhered to a promotion of Communism. After the death of Joseph Stalin in 1952, the slightly more liberal regime of Władysław Gomułka in 1956 led to looser restrictions on the type of art and poster art that could be made.

During this time, Polish poster art evolved, seeing an increase in non-academic art being incorporated into compositions such as abstracted, geometric, and minimalistic forms that were contemporaneous with the developments of similar art forms in the U.S. and Western Europe, as well as referencing other artistic movements such as Surrealism. Additionally, two schools became synonymous with the academic training of Polish poster artists: The Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts and the Warsaw Polytechnic Institute. Each school influenced the ways in which artists would realize their compositions, with the Academy of Fine Arts students favoring more of a painterly approach in their graphic arts while the artists trained at the Polytechnic Institute went with a more geometric approach.

Additionally, under Communism, there was a centralized film distribution authority which eliminated the need for competition between filmmakers for making more of a profit from their films. This greatly contributed to this blossoming of creativity during this period since posters did not have to sell a certain product but could become more centered on the actual aesthetics of the poster as well as being recognized as the work of a particular artist. The belief was that, if the film had already been approved by the censor, that the poster would most likely not be censor, allowing the poster artists slightly more freedom in what they were able to depict in their works.

The power and appeal of the posters within Communist Poland was what they symbolized for people when they would see them on them hung up along the street. Because all of the posters needed to be approved by a censor, in most case, the posters were not overtly political. In some cases, the symbolic language imbued within the posters that criticized the Communist government could be understood on a level that most Poles would understand but was not forthright enough to merit being censored or erased. With their vastly different aesthetic sensibilities, these posters would offer a focus on subjectivity through personal interpretation. The sole fact that they were on the street and were so different from previous artistic styles endorsed by the Communist state represented a type of aesthetic revolt that was legible to most people walking down the street and a call to think for themselves.

The Johnson Museum has many of these posters within its permanent collection, such as those by Henryk Tomaszewski, Waldemar Świerzy, Jan Lenica, Andrzej Pagowski, and Francszek Starowiejski. All of these artists were able to use the medium of poster to explore different artistic concepts through posters that to a few individuals seemed to only advertise a film or theatrical production, but through their aesthetics and often veiled symbolism, represented a revolt in their own right. The collection of the Johnson Museum highlights many developments in Polish poster art from the 1950s through the late 80s which greatly encapsulate the political climate of the post-war era. Building off of this artistic legacy, Polish poster art has continued to be a culturally relevant mode of artistic expression into the 21st century and is still highly regarded within the realm of contemporary Polish art.

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