A recent edition of Smithsonian magazine had a fascinating article on the collection of different soils in Wyoming and California, and their transformation into pigments.
“A soil scientist and a professor at the University of Wyoming, Karen Vaughan sees a lot more soils than the average person, and certainly knows them more intimately. Over many years spent examining them, she has come to appreciate their natural beauty and immense variability. Two years ago, she began channeling that appreciation into a product she could share with the world, turning the soils she loved into watercolor pigments. Now, she and her collaborator, Yamina Pressler, a soil scientist at California Polytechnic University, use soils to make pigments and paintings, bridging the gap between science and art. “
“To the uninitiated, the landscape of Wyoming might seem like a monotonous stretch of tan dirt. But that idea is exactly what Vauhgan is trying to change through her art. By explaining to artists and curious laypeople how the myriad hues in soils come to be and sharing them visually through both her own creative works and those by other artists, she hopes to give people the ability to see soil as more than “just dirt.”
It is called YInMn after its ingredients: Yttrium, Indium, and Manganese — “and its luminous, vivid pigment never fades, even if mixed with oil and water.”
“Blue pigments, which date back 6,000 years, have been traditionally toxic and prone to fading. That’s no longer the case with YInMn, which reflects heat and absorbs UV radiation, making it cooler and more durable than pigments like cobalt blue. “The fact that this pigment was synthesized at such high temperatures signaled that this new compound was extremely stable, a property long sought in a blue pigment,” [Mas] Subramanian [the lead chemist] said in a study about the compound.
The new blue was discovered in 2009, was licensed for exterior use in 2016 but has only now been made available for general use.
Many of us have grown used to the idea that pre-historic cave painting is a European artform, and we rightly delight in the images at Lascaux in France, for example. However, a new study has shown that the earliest images of animals yet discovered are to be found in south-east Asia.
This is a digitally enhanced image of a painting at Leang Tedongnge Cave, in Sulawesi, Indonesia, dated from 45,000 years ago.
The mulberry colored painting, drawn with the red mineral ochre, shows the profile of what is likely a Sulawesi warty pig (Sus celebensis), a wild stubby-legged beast with facial warts that can weigh up to nearly 190 pounds (85 kilograms). These pigs “are still found there today, although in ever-dwindling numbers,” said study co-lead researcher Adam Brumm, a professor of archaeology at Griffith University’s Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution.
Also noteworthy are the stenciled hands on the left of the photograph. These types of images have been found throughout the world in early contexts.
The Museum of Modern Art’s magazine — My Modern Met — has selected its favourite 60 images from the year. There is a wealth of beauty and wonder here, and it is hard to select just a few, but these are the three that I selected.
“The ultra-composed Neo-Impressionists aren’t obvious angels of chaos, yet Georges Seurat, Camille Pissarro, Paul Signac and Maximilien Luce all advocated anarchist positions, including ‘the propaganda of the deed’, aka bomb-throwing. This is one of the riddles of modernist art, and at its centre is the sphinx Félix Fénéon (1861-1944), great champion of Seurat and company, brilliant critic and editor, sophisticated dandy and gallerist – and committed anarchist.”
The end of the 19th century was a time of tumult and revolution in Paris. Government scandals and anarchist bombings punctuated the news. Feneon — who as an art critic and collector had coined the name “Neo-Impressionists” in 1886, and who worked at the Ministry of War —
“cut a dashing figure on the literary scene too, animating several journals, attending Mallarmé’s Symbolist salon and editing Rimbaud’s Illuminations. Amid all this, he also found time for anarchist activities, publishing subversive articles anonymously and pseudonymously.”
In 1894 he was arrested for the bombing of Restaurant Foyot. His wit and intelligence saw him found not guilty by the jury, but he was fired from the War Ministry. For many years thereafter, he edited La revue blanche and later was curator at the prestigious Galerie Bernheim-Jeune.
The Neo-Impressionists worked through strict formalism — what Seurat called ‘a systematic paradigm’ — while riffing off the colour deconstructions of the Impressionists. The order in which they worked seems not to gel with the idea of a chaotic anarchism but, as Foster notes, “[a]lthough anarchists seek to overthrow the state, they do so only to claim a more fundamental order.”
“For Signac the arrangements of painting and society were isomorphic: ‘Justice in sociology, harmony in art: same thing.’ This analogy between a just painting and a just world isn’t as far-fetched as it seems. Subsequent artists with anarchist sympathies, such as Mondrian and Barnett Newman, thought along similar lines – though, fortunately for them, they weren’t trying to depict the golden age.”
The Neo-Impressionists were deeply respectful of autonomy.
“This autonomy takes nothing away from the singularity of a Seurat painting, a Fénéon text, or an anarchist action: individuality, the sine qua non of anarchism, is not sacrificed – on the contrary. ‘This uniform and almost abstract execution leaves the originality of the artist intact,’ Fénéon wrote of Neo-Impressionist technique, ‘and even heightens it’.”
Foster’s piece is a deeply fascinating essay on several levels and I have barely scratched the surface with my notes above. Well worth the read.
“Demonstrating continued demand for both masterpiece and core-level works of art, some 280,000 people tuned into the highly anticipated Evening Sale through Christie’s website and social media channels, including YouTube, Facebook and WeChat. The sale also registered bidders from across the world via Christie’s LIVE online bidding platform, with a broadening demographic of bidders under the age of 40. “
The prize exhibit was Cy Twombley’s Untitled (Bolsena) which sold for $38,685,000.
A Mark Rothko also sold well:
Also of interest, Stan the T-Rex sold for five times the low estimate, making it at $31,847,500 the most expensive fossil ever sold.
The success of this outing will no doubt encourage more on-line fine art auctions in the future.