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Posts Tagged ‘Contemporary Art’

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Blue Boar (2010) installed in the Contemporary Gallery at the NBMAA

The New Britain Museum of American Art is pleased to feature the newest addition to the New Media series, Blue Boar, 2010 by Victoria Bradbury. This interactive, mixed-media installation brings the viewer into the midst of a witch trial – the so-called “blue boar incident.” In 1692, 75-year-old Mary Bradbury, the artist’s 10th great-grandmother and the first “American” woman in her lineage, was convicted of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts. Two local men, Richard Carr and Zerubabel Endicott, accused Mrs. Bradbury of transforming herself into a blue boar while she was tending to her garden. Victoria Bradbury retells the “blue boar incident”  through a sewn book narrated by vegetables, face recognition software projected onto a sculpture of a boar, and a video animation of a blue boar running through flowers.

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So She Floats, 2010. Deb Todd Wheeler (b.1965). HD video (running time: 5 minutes). Georgie Friedman: Cinematography; Heidi Keyser: Actor, Allison Layton: Actor. Courtesy of Ellen Miller Gallery.

Many people are not receptive to contemporary art, deeming it too cold, somewhat elitist, and rather inaccessible. In some ways, the conceptual nature of a sizable fraction of contemporary art does not bode well in a society that is used to instant gratification. We live in a world where a meal can take less than a minute to make, numerous forms of entertainment are available at the click of a button, and a question that used to take hours to answer by pouring over books and archives can now be obtained instantly via the Internet. By extension, art that denies instant aesthetic pleasure often raises suspicion and lends itself to being overlooked or dismissed altogether. It could be argued that some artists today are making art only for the informed audience who are well-versed in philosophy and art historical discourse. However, many artists, like Deb Todd Wheeler are finding new, innovative ways to directly involve, rather than shut out, every type of viewer.

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Portrait of John James Audobon, 1826. John Syme. Oil on canvas. 35 1/2 x 27 1/2 in (90.2 x 69.8 cm). White House, Washington DC.

Since the early days of America’s founding, the close association between hunting and virility has remained unchanged. During the Victorian Era, outdoor, recreational sports  became increasingly popular among urban males. The hunt, formerly a recreational privilege of the rich and powerful in Europe, was democratized in America in the 1850s when private and public land became accessible to all. Hunters were free to exploit the wilderness and its wildlife with unfettered zeal, leading to a great reduction in the wildfowl population and the extinction of several species. Professional bird hunting became an accepted annual right for urban business men.  Mimicking the migrations of thousands of birds flocking along the east coast, men from the city would take fall and spring vacations to camp in the salt marshes and shoot all forms of wild fowl.  While hunting was purely recreation for some, others practiced the sport professionally.  Market gunners arose in great numbers during the 1850’s, responding to an urban demand for the inexpensive, abundant and undeniably tasty birds.

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Gentleman with Negro Attendant, ca. 1785-88. Ralph Earl (1751-1801). Oil on Canvas. New Britain Museum of American Art. Harriet Russell Stanley Fund, 1948.06.

Upon a quick glance, the newest addition to the Colonial Gallery at the New BritainMuseum of American Art has left some visitors panic-stricken – an understandable  reaction considering the fact that the painting has two large holes cut out of it. But do not worry, the NBMAA has not been vandalized, in fact, the holes are meant to be there. The work, Jaavon and the Unknown Gentleman, was recently commissioned by the Museum from New Haven artist Titus Kaphar as part of an new project of pairing contemporary art with older works from the permanent collection. The purpose of this project, Appropriation and Inspiration, is to highlight the ways in which historical awareness has shaped the practice of many contemporary artists.  Appropriation and Inspiration is not yet a full-fledged exhibition, but rather a budding initiative that will develop into a museum-wide installation in the near future.

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Norbert Brunner (b.1969), an artist whose name may be familiar to visitors of the New Britain Museum of American Art, is one of many contemporary artists participating  in the 54th Venice Biennale. The Venice Biennale was started in 1895 and was originally based around the decorative arts of Italy. Its focus gradually expanded, and after World War I it began to spotlight contemporary artists from all over the world. Several art movements including Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art had their debut at the Biennale.

Grand Canal, Venice, Italy

This year, the main exhibition running from June 4, 2011, to November 27, 2011, is called ILLUMInations. Curator Bice Curiger explains the concept of the show: “The title of the 54th International Art Exhibition, ILLUMInations, literally draws attention to the importance of such endeavours in a globalized world. As the biggest and oldest Biennale, la Biennale di Venezia has always been buoyed by an international spirit, and even more so now in an age in which artists themselves have become multifaceted, discerning migrants and cultural tourists.”

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Patented Pigs, 2008. Marcus Antonius Jansen (b. 1948). Oil enamel collage on canvas, 48 x 60 in. New Britain Museum of American Art, Marcus A. Jansen / Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York, 2010.16.

If a work of art reflects the time it was created, what are we to make of the NBMAA’s recent acquisition, Patented Pigs by Marcus Jansen?

The painting was inspired by an article that appeared in Greenpeace Magazine titled “Monsanto Files Patent for New Invention: The Pig.” The article addresses this multinational agricultural biotecnology company’s attempt in 2004 to patent two processes designed to control the breeding of pigs with a specific marker gene.
Greenpeace and other opponents claimed Monsanto was trying to patent the breeding of all pigs. The company, on the other hand, said the patents would apply only to pigs bred using a specific process capable of locating genes which increase pig size.

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Mad Meg (detail), 2010. Judith Schaechter (b.1961). Stained Glass Lightbox, 52 x 21 in. New Britain Museum of American Art, Paul W. Zimmerman Fund, 2010.66.

There are countless contemporary artists who have appropriated classic materials to create their works of art. In selecting acculturated media, such as stained glass, these artists infuse the resulting artworks with powerful connections to the past. They confront the traditions of society to engage the viewer in a conversation about what art is, where it came from, and where it is going. The New Britain Museum of American Art has recently acquired two striking examples of contemporary art that are born out of classic traditions and materials from centuries past. (more…)

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