A Special Place for Blog Lovers with a Touch of Science!

Enjoy our special posts in the fields of Earth & Planetary Sciences (EPS Blog) and Social Sciences & Arts (SSA Blog)

A Special Place for Blog Lovers with a Touch of Science!

London: The City of Art

Credit: Getty images

London as a Museum of Art

Certain cities in Europe could be considered the centers of Art. One, of course, is Rome, another is Paris, Barcelona, Vienna, and many more. However, the focus today is London. One of the largest cities in Europe with a population of around 9 million, it was and is one of the main cultural hubs of European artistry. 

There are 857 public art galleries in the city, including the British Museum, National Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum, Natural History Museum, Tate Modern, British Library, and who knows how many private ones. As the art historian James Payne says: "If you went to an art gallery every single day for the next two years, you still couldn't visit them all." You can only imagine how multifarious and diverse is the world of art in the capital of England. There is a myriad of pieces of art just in that particular city. The amount of cultural heritage it gathered through the ages is just incredible.

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The Art of Yayoi Kusama

Credit: The installation "The Spirits of the Pumpkins Descended Into the Heavens" by Yayoi Kusama; Getty Images

The most famous Japanese avant-garde artist

Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese artist known for her avant-garde work in a variety of media, including painting, sculpture, performance art, and installation art. Born in 1929 in Matsumoto City, Japan, Kusama began creating art at a young age and moved to New York City in 1958 to pursue her career. She quickly became a prominent figure in the art world, known for her use of polka dots and repetitive patterns. In 1973, she returned to Japan and was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, which has greatly influenced her art. Kusama's work has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions around the world and is held in the collections of major museums worldwide.

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The immersive marvels of digital art exhibitions in Paris

Credit: Paul Cézanne - the master of Provence; Culturespaces

L'Atelier des Lumières

L'Atelier des Lumières is an art center in Paris, France that features immersive digital art exhibitions. The exhibitions use state-of-the-art technology to project images and animations onto the walls and floors of the center's galleries, creating an immersive and interactive experience for visitors. The exhibitions often focus on the works of a specific artist or art movement, which at moment are the French impressionist Paul Cézanne and the Russian abstractionist Vassily Kandinsky.

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Neo-expressionism: Jean-Michel Basquiat

Credit: American artist, musician and producer of Haitian and Puerto Rican origins Jean-Michel Basquiat, in front of one of his paintings, during an exhibition at the Yvon Lambert gallery. (Photo by julio donoso/Sygma via Getty Images)

The art of Basquiat

New York in the '80s was a turbulent artistic city. A period when many new underground contra-cultures were emerging – graffiti, rap, punk, metal, Neo-expressionism, gender, and racism awareness. It was one more time a place where many painters, writers, filmmakers, and artists would expand their creativity and enter the world of Art.

Out of nowhere, a black painter came onto the scene - Jean-Michel Basquiat. Although he lived in a progressive and rather free-minded society, rich in extravagance and peculiarities, he would face many prejudices, just because of the color of his skin. However, Jean-Michel would make his way through. From a poor graffiti artist and poet, he would become the artist with one of the most expensive paintings ever purchased – 110.5 million dollars. He lived only 27 years. Nevertheless his short career – only 7 years – he produced more than 2000 pieces of art. A talented prodigy, Basquiat is regarded as one of the most influential and recognized – unfortunately, after his death – black artists that ever lived.

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Xavier Cortada at the TED Countdown

Credit: Gilberto Tadday / TED

Socially engaged art

Artist Xavier Cortada spoke at the TED Countdown event hosted in London, England on Monday, October 3rd, 2022. He talked about using socially engaged art as a tool for engaging, educating, and mobilizing communities around climate action. The TED Talk will likely be published online in December 2022.

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Great art explained: Mark Rothko

Credit: Abstract painting by Mark Rothko

Rothko's Room in the World of ART

On 25 February 1970, the TATE museum in London finally receives 8 paintings by Mark Rothko resulting in what is known today as Rothko's room. Just several hours later, Rothko was found dead in his studio in New York where he had committed suicide. One of the most tragic artists of the 20th century, Rothko developed a unique style of expressing deep and basic human emotions through simple abstract shapes and intense color. He is best known for his later dark red, and maroon tones, however, his palette has evolved from brighter to darker tones and colors and the whole process is quite important for understanding and perceiving his art.

Below you can enjoy another great video made by James Payne.

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A prison opera and digital transformation boost diversity of artistic voices

O Tempo (Somos Nós)', performance June 3rd 2022, Leiria, Portugal © Gil de Lemos/SAMP

A special opera performance in Lisbon improves inclusivity for the marginalised while digital literacy will create new artistic opportunities.

Four professional Portuguese singers performed the main roles in a new opera based on Homer's "Odyssey" at a packed concert hall in Portugal's capital Lisbon in mid-June.

Also on the stage that evening were 16 amateur performers from the central Portuguese city of Leiria, where they are members of the city's "school prison" population. The prison houses offenders in the age range of around 16 to 21 years.

What's more, a second group of Leiria inmates took part in the performance by video link from a stage that was located back in the jail 150 km away.

Welcome to TRACTION, a European research project that tackles social exclusion through the use of opera. The people behind it are redefining what is often perceived as an elite activity so that some of society's most-marginalised groups – young offenders, migrants and the rural poor to name but three – can find expression for themselves.

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The latest project of Xavier Cortada

Credit: Cortada.com

Xavier Cortada's Public Art

Over the past three decades, Cortada has created art across six continents including more than one hundred and fifty (150) public artworks and dozens of collaborative murals and socially engaged projects. Cortada's work aims to address our relationship to place, to each other, and the natural world. He has developed innovative art solutions to public art-making that explore our ability to coexist with nature.

Cortada's site-specific public art range from free-standing and suspended sculpture, fountains, plazas, ceramic tile murals, mosaics, paintings, and large-scale digital works. His Florida public art commissions include works at Port Everglades, the Frost Art Museum, the Florida Turnpike, Florida Botanical Gardens, Curtis Park, and at ten Miami-Dade Housing Authority sites.

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Great Art Explained: Hieronymus Bosch

Credit: The Garden of Earthly Delights in the Museo del Prado in Madrid, c. 1495–1505, attributed to Bosch; via Wikipedia

The Garden of Earthly Delights

We could use tons of words to describe the work of Hieronymus Bosch but that won't be enough. His pictures are so full of various figures, allegories, and metaphors, more of which could be deciphered only through the imagination of the medieval mind. On the other hand, visual art is traditionally hard to be transcribed into words and is often ineffable. That is especially the case when we are talking about his most famous triptych – The Garden of Earthly Delights  (c.1503-1515) – that represents heaven, earth, and hell. Its obvious connections with Biblical texts give us some ideas about the possible meaning but that is definitely a small part of the massive scenes represented in the picture and fails to elucidate the surrealistic imagery and hallucinatory-like visions populating it.

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Money Killed Art. Here's how we take it back​

Credit: Gettyimages

Art is Dead

Western Culture holds a particular proneness to metaphysical killings. First, it was God, then the Meaning, the Self, later on, the Author, and now we are aiming at Art. However, each time a new God, Meaning, or Self has been summoned up from the old ones. It appears that such dynamics are part of our tradition and are symbolically represented by the archetype of the Phoenix, forever resurrecting, back from its ashes. If we search for the sources of these revolutionary movements in history, we could trace them back to ancient Greece's shift from mythological thinking to Philosophy, or even before that in Mesopotamian and Egyptian periodical movements from one Supreme God to another.

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The Hidden Troves of Etymology

Credit: Gettyimages

What does Synaesthesia mean?

Have you heard about the term synesthesia? If you haven't, the time has come. From a neuropsychological trait to a literary device, it has a wide range of meanings. Generally, synaesthesia indicates an interplay between the senses, when the information registered by one of the senses simultaneously affects one or more of the others. For example, it is the situation when you had a visual impression of sound or a tactile experience of an odor.

 It is estimated that synaesthesia is a genetically linked trait that affects from 2 to 5 percent of the general population. Aside from synaesthetes, which are experiencing it involuntarily, many artists and poets have deliberately applied various practices to attain such psychological conditions. Thus they would achieve a certain creative outcome. However, we use such synaesthetic expressions in our everyday speech, such as "a cold eye," "a burning view," "a soft wind," "a hard voice," etc.

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Great Art Explained: Rodin

Credit: The Thinker in The Gates of Hell at the Musée Rodin; via Wikipedia under CC BY 2.0

The Thinker

Arguably, the most famous modern sculpture. Most of us have seen it, even though unintentionally. It was part of a multitude of modern art exhibitions, movies, research, art albums, and even advertisements. It is undoubtedly the most popular sculpture made by Rodin. Moreover, The Thinker has the aura of captivating history behind it. From the time it was conceived up to the moment of its well-known parameters and title, it underwent hundreds of transformations. In fact, it was first a part of a large group of figures on the most monumental work made by Rodin – The Gates of Hell. The main figure, at this time, titled The Poet, was a representation of Dante Alighieri. Later on, Rodin began to examine and elaborate its shape in many slightly different designs until the moment when the figure started life on its own. The Thinker has tens of originals around the world, which put forward the question of authenticity.
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Great Art Explained

Credit: The Kiss by Gustav Klimt, 1907-08, via Wikipedia

The Kiss by Gustav Klimt

Paintings are visual mysteries, which are often difficult, and sometimes even impossible, to be verbally described. They use a language that aims to our perception and could include otherwise mutually excluding elements. For example, there are many debates about one of the most popular pictures of all time – "The Kiss" - painted by the most prominent member of the Vienna Secession movement – Gustav Klimt. Is it showing a romantic consumption of love between a man and a woman, or maybe the woman is turning her head away from the thrusting advances of the lover? We could only wonder. Like many other painters, Gustav Klimt hasn't left an explanation for that question and many other of his pictures and murals. Once he said: "If you want to know me better, just look at my pictures" and that is what we do.

Below you can enjoy a short but elucidating video explaining "The Kiss" and the art of Gustav Klimt.

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Thoughts to reflect on: Borges

Credit: Borges in 1979; Gettyimages

Jorge Luis Borges

1. "A writer - and, I believe, generally all persons - must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art."

2. "So plant your own gardens and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers."

3. "When writers die they become books, which is, after all, not too bad an incarnation."

4. "Heaven and hell seem out of proportion to me: the actions of men do not deserve so much."

5. "A book is more than a verbal structure or series of verbal structures; it is the dialogue it establishes with its reader and the intonation it imposes upon his voice and the changing and durable images it leaves in his memory. A book is not an isolated being: it is a relationship, an axis of innumerable relationships."

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The Polish Nightmare Artist

Credit: Zdzisław Beksiński, 1996,  fot. Wojciech Druszcz / EAST NEWS.

Zdzisław Beksiński

When referring to dark, nightmarish artists, people often cite Giger, or Francis Bacon (the painter), and their alternative macabre perception of the world. The first with his frustrating fusion of body and machine, and the latter, with the permeating anxiety of his blurry expressionistic figures caught in their existential dreadful scream. Truly, two scary examples of fine art. However, today we are going to focus on one artist, which is maybe less known but certainly, he completes the atmosphere of horrifying artistic beauty - Zdzisław Beksiński (24 February 1929 – 21 February 2005). He was a Polish painter, photographer, and sculptor. He is mainly known for his dystopian surrealistic imagery of death, decay, fleshy skeletons, bleak deserts, apocalyptic architecture, and synthesis of bodies and objects. Although his pictures are depressing and dark, they evoke a state of contemplation and thoughts about the nature of life and how do we use our time on the planet, what is our attitude to each other. Critics are often seduced by the idea to interpret his art as a reflection of the turbulent ages that he lived in. However, Beksiński remained unrelenting in his conviction that his paintings don't need any words to dismantle their meaning. Furthermore, he even abstained from giving his pieces any title. They are rather dreamlike visions for visual perception and meditation.

Below you could take a look and decide for yourselves.

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Great Art Explained: Sandro Botticelli

Credit: Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus (c. 1484–1486). tempera on canvas; via Wikipedia

Botticelli's Birth of Venus

One of the most popular and revolutionary paintings in the Western world. It aroused many debates and commentaries on what exactly is the meaning of it. Of course, on the surface, it is easy to discern the personages from the Greek Mythology – Zephyr, Aphrodite (Venus), Chloe (Flora), and the Horae of spring (or summer). Yet, what are their function here; what is the meaning of their gathering on the canvas of Botticelli; is there something more? The picture is not exactly a representation of an exact moment drawn from the imagination of ancient Greek mythology. It is rather second-level mythology (in Roland Bart's sense), created by Botticelli himself. Botticelli was deeply influenced by both Marsilio Ficino and Giovanni Pico Della Mirandola, the Florentine champions of the Humanism, Gnostic and Neo-platonic philosophies, which thrived in the Medici's court. In that regard, his pieces were an Early form of Renaissance art and many symbols and philosophical concepts were embedded in them.

Below you can enjoy a video with one of the possible explanations of that mesmerizing and mystic painting.

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Oolite Arts’ Home + Away Residency at Anderson Ranch Arts Center

Credit:  Cortada creates wax sculptures in preparation for bronze casting at his Anderson Ranch studio. (Photo by Trae Broomfield, Anderson Ranch)

Xavier Cortada's residency works

During his Oolite Arts' Home + Away residency at Anderson Ranch Art Center in Aspen Snowmass, Colorado, artist Xavier Cortada is creating a series of new works to advance his social practice in Miami. Using state of the art facilities at Anderson Ranch Arts Center, Cortada is creating both 3-D printed pieces and hand-carved wax sculptures that will be cast in bronze.

Cortada's sculptures will be displayed at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center (AHCAC) in Liberty City at the end of April for his ArtCARE exhibition. Addressing juvenile justice in the context of broader structural issues impacting Miami communities (systemic racism, social inequity, climate gentrification), the exhibition will serve to launch a community-building participatory art project and reforestation effort he is developing through AHCAC as part of the Socially Engaged Art in Law course he is co-teaching at the University of Miami.

Cortada was selected to attend the residency at Anderson Ranch Art Center by jurors Amy Galpin, chief curator of the Frost Art Museum, Leilani Lynch, Curator at The Bass and Lorie Mertes, Executive Director, Locust Projects. The residency extends from February 6 to March 9, 2022.

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Great Art Explained

Credit: Portrait of Dalí by Allan Warren, 1972; via Wikipedia

Salvador Dali's 'The Persistence of Memory'

It is certainly not necessary to be an art historian to know the name of Salvador Dali. Arguably, the most popular painter of 20th-century side by side with Picasso, though it was to a large extent because of his constant self-promoting. However, by no doubt, Dali was a meticulous master of the brush and an artist with unique and alluring imagination. The topics of his pictures were always as provocative – death, sex, decay, excrement, dreams, irrationality – as was his personality. He was often and is still criticized for his self-centered, ego-maniacal obsessions, and parading. Dali was all the time surrounded by deliberate scandals, he loved giving shocking interviews, quibbling, and arguing about what was considered piquant topics at the moment. For example, he would say that is fascinated by the personality of Adolf Hitler or that he (Dali) is a monarchist. He was often speaking about himself in the third person, a habit usually associated with Roman emperors, or maybe he was pretending to be so special that he is a stranger even to himself. Maybe, in a way, he was. We cannot be sure what was true and what was just part of his farce.

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Neil deGrasse Tyson: Science is in Our DNA

Credit: Gettyimages

Homo Scientia

What is the most human feature, the thing that distinguishes us from all other species? What makes us human beings? Is it the fact that we play, or dance, or maybe, that we use language? Another good pretender for such a trait is that we create our artificial world, in which we live whereas other species live in the natural world as it is. We call our species Homo Sapiens but if we take a look at the written human history, it is questionable that being reasonable and wise are our most distinctive characteristics. So what it is? Neil deGrace Tyson has an answer that you can hear in the video below.

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What does the artist say

Credit: Picasso in 1962; via Wikipedia

Pablo Picasso

"We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies."

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SSA Recent Posts

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Social Sciences & Arts (SSA)
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