Archive for November, 2011


The Occupy Wall Street movement are a very creative group, not only in their method of protest but in the art associated and created by the protesters.

Here are some examples




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I’ve been reading about a school of art that I had not been exposed to before. Art from the 1930’s through 1950’s Soviet Union, sometimes referred to as Socialist Realism.


The artists of this era had to tread carefully, their art required government approval and if the government didn’t like or mis-read your message you could end up behind bars. Erotic, religious, abstract, surrealist and expressionist art were banned.

(Censorship did not start with the Communists though, it had a long history in Russia. The Tsar’s government also required artwork to be cleared by the government, nothing “disruptive” allowed.)

The number one rule was; only show the happy side of communism (or else).  Even as late as 1974 an unofficial art show in a field near Moscow was broken up, and the artworks destroyed with a water cannon and bulldozers


The artwork was a  combination of Neoclassicism & Realism showing the working man or the poor, the “heroes of labor”. Also scientists, civil engineers, doctors. Cultivated land, Soviet architecture, achievements of Soviet science and technology.

Of course, idealized pictures of the leadership was also welcome


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The Federal Art Project and the Section of Painting and Sculpture were Great Depression-era New Deal Works Progress Administration programs. Estimates are that they created more than 200,000 works of art. 


The programs’ primary goals were to employ out-of-work artists and to provide art for government buildings: post offices, schools, hospitals, libraries, etc. They awarded commissions through competitions and paid artists a lump sum for their work. Competitions were open to all artists, regardless of economic status, and artists’ proposals were judged anonymously so new and experienced artists had the same chance.


Some of the well-known artists supported by the project:

• Thomas Hart Benton

• Stuart Davis

• Arshile Gorky

• Marsden Hartley

• Lee Krasner

• Jackson Pollock

• Diego Rivera

• Mark Rothko

• Grant Wood

• Willem de Kooning


These programs allowed abstract artists (abstract had not gained a popular audience yet) to get paid. It also acted as an incentive to galleries and museums to display abstract art and began several decades of non-representational arts dominance in the art world (your call if that was a good or bad thing).

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If you want a good laugh turn on Bravo TV for a show called “Work of Art; The Next Great Artist”. It showcases how ridiculous the art world can be.


The show is set up like your typical “reality” show; a group of artists are pulled from various parts of the country and are housed together in a trendy New York apartment. Then one per week is dramatically sent packing.

It’s more “Great Commercial Artist’ as the contestants are given assignments and deadlines. They are mentored by my favorite character on the show Simon De Pury, the one person on the show who seems to realize how silly the whole set up is, he always has a smirk as he tells the contestants in a heavy accent to “Be bold!” “be original!” “be audacious!”.

The artist are obviously chosen for their quirkiness; from the “Golly Gee” hillbilly from Arkansas to a guy who insists everyone call him “The Suck Lord”, to a woman who seems obsessed with, and includes in all of her art, blood covered internal organs (she was sent home last week, I feel less nauseous already).

They all work in the same studio and all seem to lean towards “installations”. Very few paint brushes, lots of chicken wire and power tools. The artspeak flies around the room.

Then there is a gallery show and they are judged by two of the most arrogant pricks I’ve seen and a spokesmodel named China (drinking game: have a shot every time China changes her outfit). They also have a weekly celebrity judge; a “famous artist”, the contestants gasp at how lucky they are to meet these celebrity judges, no one I ever heard of.

The big take away from this show is how random being an “art expert” is. The whole critique seems to be based on the judges mood, the artists personality, whether it’s shocking…. I can’t imagine any of the stuff that “wins” sitting in someone’s house or a public building .

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