Back in February 2015, we discussed the history of 19th century French political satire in response to the tragedy of the mass shooting at the offices of the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo. In the wake of the insurrection at the Capitol in January 2020, our minds turned once again to the relationship between politics and the visual arts. This time around, we thought we would extend our conversation into the early 20th century, focusing on the Russian painter Kasimir Malevich and "Suprematism," which he developed in the heady years leading up to the Russian Revolution.
While Malevich's iconic "Black Square" paintings can seem like a radical break with the past, in this episode, we look at the trajectory of his career to understand how they emerged out of the context of early 20th century Russian and European avant-gardes. We conclude by discussing how a non-representational painting can still "represent" political ideals, and also touch on recent scholarship that revealed the painting's origins in anti-Black racism.
In this follow-up to our discussion of NFTs and the NFT market, we consider how so-called "cryptoart"--or digital art that is bought and sold with NFTs--relates to the history of Conceptual art, which is often cited by those in the crypto community as its precedent. While most cryptoart is not "Conceptual art," it's not unrelated to it, either: both raise questions about the nature and value of art. The episode concludes with a brief discussion of some artworks by artists who are using blockchains to make art that really IS Conceptual, and who treat blockchain as a medium, and not just a transactional tool.
In recent months, the term "fascism" has appeared frequently in the media. Many pundits have argued that the political tactics and rhetoric of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump echo those of fascist leaders like Benito Mussolini and Hitler. On the other hand, a smaller number of pundits have made the same claim about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Furthermore, the 2016 Olympics in Rio marked the 80th anniversary of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, which expressed the fascism of Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime. In this episode, we discuss the rise of modern fascism; outline the major characteristics of fascist aesthetics; and look at a few examples of fascist aesthetics in practice, from the 1930s to the present day.
In 2011, shock waves erupted in the art world when the long-established New York gallery Knoedler & Company announced it was closing. Knoedler had been in major dealer in modern art, handling works by mid-century American masters like Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Robert Motherwell. The closure of the gallery coincided with persisting rumors that a number of works the gallery had sold were highly convincing forgeries. In the past few years, details have emerged that link the gallery to a dubious dealer and Chinese immigrant who painted works resembling those of well known artists in his apartment in Queens. In today's episode, we discuss the Knoedler case, as well as the notions of "originality," "authenticity," "copying," and "forgery." As we will see, these complex ideas become more complex--and even contradictory--when translated between the cultural contexts of the US and China, where copying now operates on an industrial scale in the notorious Dafen Oil Painting Village.
In this special Memorial Day Weekend episode, we interview Harriet F. Senie, Professor of Art History and Director of the M.A. program in Art History and Art Museum Studies Program at City College of New York, and co-founder of the organization Public Art Dialogue. Our topic is her recent book Memorials to Shattered Myths: Vietnam to 9/11 (Oxford University Press, 2016). Using the case studies of the Vietnam Memorial and the 9/11 Memorial, which open and close the book, we discuss how the function of public memorials has evolved over the past few decades: whereas memorials formerly helped the public to make sense of history, now, they're more likely to prompt private experiences of grief. We'll learn how and why this transition was made, and consider its negative impact on our ability to properly "memorialize" the tragedies of our time.