I will recommend a couple of songs, films, and artworks each month. It’s hard for anyone to do this because the target audience of all forms of art vary, but I’ll see what I can do. Be ready for a scattered palette of works; it’s all for you!
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For real, isn’t the way he contours his body just straight-up hilarious? (Adam – Auguste Rodin.)
Meet Banksy. An active graffiti artist whose identity nobody knows, Banksy takes stabs at governments, societies, philosophies- many things. And his illegal work functioning as dope street art, satirical fun, and genuinely challenging questions/statements about the world, he has already revolutionized the essence of modern art.
Jacques Louis David’s 1801 Napoleon Crossing the Alps is a hallmark showcase of political art. Rather than merely idealizing Napoleon’s figure, David creates an iconographic symbol of everything that is Napoleon. Napoleon confidently marches up the mountain slope in the foreground with a sense of natural destiny, implied by both the movement in him and his horse but also the way that the wind and clouds swarm in the same direction, that wholly illustrates this historical period.
Pablo Picasso’s 1907 Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is a stunner. In it, he created abstract figures, out of minimalistic shapes, and weaved them into their own abstract universes. There are triangular-shaped, diamond-shaped, and semi-circular breasts; three of them are wearing tribal masks; colors are laid across the nudes (or, perhaps, the entire canvas) in calculatedly random ways; and it all combines for a rhythmic sense of unity (see: Jackson Pollock). It is the perfect storm, a chaos that looks bizarre in pieces but brilliant as a whole. And we are truly trapped in this brothel—trapped within the compressed (almost two-dimensional) space, the imposing women’s presence, and our own primitive human desires—facing two pairs of eyes glaring directly at us, while the masked others interact with our shared, hypersexual cubist fantasy. I used to be indifferent toward this painting but, upon further scrutiny, I had to embrace how genius it is.
Objectively speaking, I’d say this—Diego Velasquez’s massive (126 inches x 109) 1656 opus Las Meninas—is the greatest PAINTING ever made. Don’t get me started on the geometric illusions, masterful lighting, mirror in the back (and its reflection), radical perspectives, and pre-Seurat pointillism of the bridesmaids’ flowers.
What does it mean to make a sculpture? Bernini’s 1652 Baroque masterpiece The Ecstasy of St. Theresa certainly pushed this sculptural evolution. So many facets.
I figured I should go ahead and insert the painting featured in the introduction, van Gogh’s The Starry Night Over the Rhone. Part of a spree of paintings he made while in Arles, e.g. my favorite van Gogh painting (featured towards the bottom of this post), this one really showcases his introspective meanders across the night sky. So beautiful, right?
Greatest WORK of art ever made? Michelangelo’s David (1504). Look at the pulsating veins on the back of his hands, the detail of his abdomen, the ripples in his neck, the curve of his torso, the bulges in his arms, the dynamic contrapposto in his upper legs- it’s all perfect. What could possibly exceed this marvelous human achievement? Comment with your thoughts if you wish.
This one, Vincent van Gogh’s 1888 hidden gem Café Terrace at Night, might be my favorite. Who knows? It changes too much. But we can all agree that the aesthetic experience of this painting is exhilarating in a way that doesn’t need to be expressed by mere words. All you have to do is look. And imagine. And feel.
This is Auguste Renoir’s 1882 marvel Luncheon of the Boating Party. It’s not my favorite per se, but I’ve been really digging it lately so I’ll make it the debut work. Nerding out here, but I love the flickered lighting as well as the fluidity of the brush strokes; it’s a true masterpiece of Impressionism. Cheers to more paintings, now!