3 Cool Things (You Might Not Know) About Banksy's Public Art

Banksy What Are You Looking At

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You're walking down the street, minding your own business. You happen to look up and see the image above and crack a smile. Banksy is best known for his street art in unexpected locations around the world. Made with intricate stencils and layers of spray paint, Banksy's stunt-like work goes beyond London's walls, from zoos to the wall in the West Bank. Taking viewers by surprise, his work invites them to question their assumptions and look more closely at the world around them.

Banksy Cart Monet Japanese Bridge1. Brandalism: Like Andy Warhol, Banksy repurposes recognizable images in pop culture. Banksy's "brandalism" is often an irreverent, visual satire on society. Closer look: Banksy's spoof on Monet's classic makes a statement on consumerism. Similarly, here's one on The Jungle Book characters and environmentalism.
Banksy In Disguise Putting Painting In Museum2. Mystery: Banksy keeps his identity secret. This anonymity is practical in order to avoid arrest (even though he's been arrested before), but also makes the voice of his work seem more ubiquitous. Here's some speculation on his real name. Closer look: Banksy in disguise, putting a spoof painting on a museum wall.
Banksy Maid3. It's everywhere: Banksy's work is not limited to street art - his work has been displayed in museums and auctioned off for large sums. You walk by public art every day, from decorative murals to Banksy-like stenciled "revolutionary" statements behind the newspaper boxes at Stanford's post office. For public art with a more cheerful spin, look out for Katie Sokoler's whimsical work in the streets of New York. Closer look: Another example of Banksy's work

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3 Cool Things (You Might Not Know) About Picasso's "Guernica"

Guernica

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This week’s issue is curated by Jett, a recent Stanford graduate.

Ever feel like you can’t meet a deadline? Don’t sweat it - one of the most iconic works of art of the 20th century, Guernica, was painted in an incredible three weeks. After Nazi Condor bombers decimated the northern Spanish village of Guernica, Picasso was moved to depict the suffering of Guernica’s inhabitants. This powerful scene has left viewers both bewildered and emotional.

Newspaper1) Newsprint: Why only black and white? As in his other Cubist pictures, Picasso did this to mimic the look and feel of newsprint. Before there was Twitter, newspapers were important in disseminating information about the tragedy. The black and white also may have been a nod to photos or film, both supposedly “objective” sources of info.
Guernica Bull2) ¡Olé! Fascinated by both the beauty and tragedy of the corrida, Picasso uses the bullfight as a metaphor for aggression against the helpless. The bull, which may be interpreted as Fascism, is victorious against the weak horse, or the people. Looking at the weeping figures, these suffering characters are difficult to recognize or understand, partly because we have never seen such suffering in our own lives. Picasso deliberately constructs them from odd shapes and sharp lines to confuse and torment us, to inspire us to think more deeply about the minutiae of suffering and pain. Closer look: The aforementioned bull and a woman holding a dead child.
United Nations Security Council3) Power of art: Since its first showing in Paris, Guernica has been a masterpiece for peace. An incident arose in which the United Nations seemingly hung a sheet over a full size reproduction of Guernica when Colin Powell delivered a speech about the Iraq war in front of the iconic mural.

Guernica essentials:

  • Read: Herschel Chipp, Picasso's Guernica, 1988. Still the most thorough study in English of the mural masterpiece
  • Listen: World-renowned Art Historian TJ Clark gives the 2009 Mellon Lecture at the National Gallery about Picasso's Guernica
  • Visit: Reina Sofia Museum, Madrid. Surround yourself with modern Spanish masters including Picasso, Dali and Miro

Bonus:

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3 Cool Things (You Might Not Know) About Jackson Pollock's Action Paintings

jackson pollock creating action painting

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Pollock's paintings may remind you of kindergarten finger paints, but there's more to them than meets the eye. The drips are imprints of action and movement, resulting in wave-like images that are full of energy. Pollock went from being a custodian at the Guggenheim to creating the most expensive painting ever sold.

  1. Lights, camera, action: Pollock's works focus on the process of painting rather than the image it depicts. These "action paintings" record a "performance." (The opposite would be a portrait, whose purpose is to convey the likeness of a person - the viewer doesn't care about how the artist actually layered the paint or made it happen, just that it's there and it looks like whomever it's supposed to.) Pollock would put huge canvas on the floor, walk around all 4 sides of it, drip paint with a brush or stick, and sometimes throw stuff like sand or broken glass at it. He even named his paintings by number so people can focus on the process rather than reading into the image. Closer look: Below is a short video of him from 1950 walking around and painting as he demonstrates his process.
  2. Oops: Surprisingly, there is actually a way to mess this up. Interested in psychoanalysis, Pollack attributed his paintings to his unconscious. Pollock needed to be in a state of flow - "It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess." He controlled the thickness of paint and directed where it landed, going through numerous canvases if the paint didn't fall as planned. His work has even been linked to fractals and chaos theory. Closer look: The result looks like an enormous wave, filled with energy. The photo below shows the imposing presence of his work relative to its viewers.
  3. Record-breaking: Being a custodian at the Guggenheim in NY was among Pollock's earlier jobs. Peggy Guggenheim gave him his big break. About 50 years after his tragic death, his work No. 5, 1948 sold at $140 million, currently the most expensive painting ever sold, beating out Van Gogh and Picasso. Closer look: Would you pay $140 million for the painting, seen below?

4 ways to encounter Jackson Pollock:

  1. Get into your own flow: In this TED Talk, expert Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes the science of the state of flow and tips for achieving it in your own work, regardless of profession.
  2. If you're ever walking around LA: Not sure if it's still there, but at La Brea & San Vicente, there's a Pollock-inspired mural.
  3. Best procrastination tool ever: Putting off whatever you need to do? Make your own Pollock!
  4. On TV: Here's Homer Simpson as Jackson Pollock. Pollock has also made several appearances in Family Guy, once mentioned by Stewie in Season 4 "Fast Times at Buddy Cianci Jr. High" and referenced in Stewie's music video in Season 7 "Oceans Three and a Half."

jackson pollock autumn rhythm 30

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