Artists’ brains are ‘structurally different’ new study claims
04.17.2014
09:11 am

Topics:
Art
Science/Tech

Tags:
brain
artists

000niarb.jpg
 
A study has revealed that artists’ brains are ‘structurally different’ from the rest of us. The small study, published in the journal NeuroImage, detailed the results of brain scans taken from 21 art students and 23 non-artists. The scans used a voxel-based morphometry to reveal that artists have more neural matter in the parts of their brain relating to visual imagery and fine motor control.

Lead author of the study, Rebecca Chamberlain from KU Leuven, Belgium, told BBC News that she was interested in finding out how artists saw the world differently.

“The people who are better at drawing really seem to have more developed structures in regions of the brain that control for fine motor performance and what we call procedural memory,” she explained.

The brain scans were accompanied by different drawing tasks, which revealed those who performed best at the tests had more grey and white matter in the motor areas of the brain. Grey matter is mainly composed of nerve cells, while white matter is responsible for communication between the grey matter regions. However, it is not clear what the increase in neural matter means, other than artists have enhanced processing in these areas due the functions involved in drawing and painting, Dr Chamberlain added:

“It falls into line with evidence that focus of expertise really does change the brain. The brain is incredibly flexible in response to training and there are huge individual differences that we are only beginning to tap into.”

One of the study’s other authors, Chris McManus from University College London, said it was difficult to know what aspect of artistic talent is innate and how much is learnt:

“We would need to do further studies where we look at teenagers and see how they develop in their drawing as they grow older - but I think [this study] has given us a handle on how we could begin to look at this.”

One scientist, not involved with the study, Ellen Winner of Boston College told BBC News that the study “put to rest the facile claims that artists use ‘the right side of their brain’ given that increased grey and white matter were found in the art group in both left and right structures of the brain”.

“Only a prospective study could get at the question of innate structural brain differences that predispose people to become visual artists, and this kind of study has not been done as it would be very difficult and very expensive to carry out.”

 
Via BBC News

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
I think I’m too old to play with Crampy Carla the Menstruation Barbie
04.17.2014
08:25 am

Topics:
Art
Feminism

Tags:
Crampy Carla


Yeah… pretty sure I’m gonna be okay, but thanks for the warning.
 
Fact: I love disturbing feminist art. I love irreverant feminist art. I especially love gross-out feminist art! Yet, Crampy Carla the Menstruation Barbie, the Instagram art project of feminist zine collective Fourth Wave Freaks just doesn’t do it for me, and I’m not sure why. The aesthetics are very Riot Grrrl (not my favorite genre)—one of her pictures even features a poster with the lyrics, “I believe in the radical possibilities of pleasure, babe” from the Bikini Kill song “I Like Fucking.” It’s possible this is just an issue of personal preference.

I might just be too old. I’m well past the point where anyone in my life is squeamish about menstruation and so this bombastic rage against people who feel vaguely icky about periods feels even more dated than Riot Grrrl itself. Nowadays, a casual mention of of menses illicit not the slightest of squirms, and if anyone did flinch, they’d probably be mocked outright—“Oh come on! Grow up!” Consequently, Carla’s affirmation of, “I have blood on my underwear, I don’t care. Pro-period, pro-choice. Fuck you tampons, fuck you pads - if you stop this girl’s flow, I will be mad” rings a little unnecessarily aggro for me—it’s not as if your monthlies relegate you to some kind of culturally-mandated menstrual hut. No one really cares if you’re bleeding everywhere Carla. Just don’t get it on the couch.
 

 

 

 

 

 
Via Bust

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
‘Bleak Movies,’ the coloring book version for kids
04.17.2014
08:01 am

Topics:
Art
Movies

Tags:
coloring book

Bleak Movies
 
The creator of these macabre and inappropriately jolly coloring book illustrations, Todd Spence, writes, “Most kids aren’t allowed to watch R rated films, especially the really dark and twisted ones with terribly bleak endings that stick with you for days and days, so I finally figured out a way to let children enjoy some of those bleak movies along with the rest of us.”

I love the idiotic tone of these drawings. Seven‘s John Doe can’t be all bad…. he brought the bunny rabbits!

It’s difficult not to notice the prominent “Vol. 1” on the cover. I hereby propose Texas Chainsaw Massacre for Vol. 2!
 
Bleak Movies
 
Bleak Movies
 
Bleak Movies
 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
Chinese space babies, the taikonaut tykes of the future!
04.16.2014
07:45 am

Topics:
Art

Tags:
China
space


Little Guests in the Moon Palace, 1972 
 
You may recall a post I did a while back on Soviet holiday cards and their predilection for space travel. If you were able to get past the whole “Santa on a rocket ship” motif, you might have also noticed the prevalence of a little boy in cosmonaut get-up, another symbol of the USSR’s vision of an exciting future of fantastic technological advances—one which awaited all good little Soviet children. In the US, of course, the space race was a far more sober affair. NASA didn’t really produce this kind of propaganda, beyond some (admittedly very cool) space colony concept art. So while the US promoted a much more “dignified” view of space technology, Soviet space imagery was much more familiar.

However, Chinese space propaganda makes the Soviet stuff look like military school. Progress is commonly represented by children and technology in a lot of nationalist art, but the Chinese child taikonauts are a step beyond. This stuff is so kid friendly, it had toys, puppies, bunnies, and all manner of toddler-friendly spacecraft. Perhaps hoping to excite the younger generations, these pieces abandon almost any semblance of science fiction and go straight to fantasy. 
 

Take the Spaceship and Tour the Universe, 1962
 

Bringing his playmates to the stars, 1980
 
More space babies after the jump…
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
‘Dr. Death’: The macabre and disturbing paintings of Jack Kevorkian
04.15.2014
07:55 am

Topics:
Art

Tags:
Dr. Death
Jack Kevorkian

Dr. Jack Kevorkian
 
The world’s most famous advocate for the right of terminal patients to elect physician-assisted suicide, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, was a fairly gifted painter as well. I’m no art expert; while his draftsmanship skills and imaginative brio appear to have been in fine shape, his sensibility was perhaps a touch blank, straightforwardly literal for my tastes. These pictures, in a way, are almost precisely what you’d imagine would fancy the much-maligned “Dr. Death,” who himself died in the summer of 2011 of thrombosis (once the disease had progressed past an advanced state, there were no artificial attempts to prolong his life).

There’s a resonance here…. if he was fond of Magritte, it wouldn’t stun me. Basically, you can divide the paintings into ones that seem entirely of a piece with his public persona, and the ones that don’t. The one of the 9th Amendment and the astonishing one with Adolf Hitler and the “New Seal of the Loyal Papal State of Michigan” certainly fall into the former category, as do the more metaphorical meditations on the terror of the human body. The musical clefs, and the two anonymous-feeling portraits are more unexpected. And then there’s Bach.

Gallerie Sparta in Los Angeles is “paying homage to a lesser known side of the famed activist” through the end of the month. All paintings are available for purchase, but apparently a few have sold already, so act fast!
 
Dr. Jack Kevorkian
 
Dr. Jack Kevorkian
 
Dr. Jack Kevorkian
 
Dr. Jack Kevorkian
 
Dr. Jack Kevorkian
 
Dr. Jack Kevorkian
 
Dr. Jack Kevorkian
 
Dr. Jack Kevorkian
 
Dr. Jack Kevorkian
 
Dr. Jack Kevorkian
 
In this video gallery featuring Kevorian’s paintings, the flute and organ music are likewise performed by “Dr. Death.” Yes, he was a jazz musician, too!
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
Finland to release Tom of Finland postage stamps
04.14.2014
12:48 pm

Topics:
Art
Queer

Tags:
stamps
Tom of Finland

Tom of Finland
 
You may not recognize the name Touko Laaksonen, but you almost certainly are aware of his attention-getting drawings of gay men, as well as his pseudonym, Tom of Finland. Tom of Finland’s drawings, during the second half of the twentieth century, were some of the most defiant and liberated depictions of gay men, so much so that they unquestionably achieved iconic status—and most likely, dictated some fashion trends on its own.

Yesterday the Finnish Postal Service, known as Itella, unveiled 33 new stamp designs. The most surprising inclusion, and as time passes most likely the most controversial, are the three depicting “male drawings by Tom of Finland.”
 
Tom of Finland
 
According to Itella, Tom of Finland had reached the status of a Finnish cultural hero worth celebrating in stamp form: “His emphatically masculine homoerotic drawings have attained iconic status in their genre and had an influence on, for instance, pop culture and fashion. In his works, Tom of Finland utilized the self-irony and humor typical of subcultures.”
 
Tom of Finland
 
Tom of Finland
 
Same-sex marriage in Finland is currently illegal, if you are under the mistaken impression that all Scandinavians are reflexively tolerant and thus won’t even blink at a little male sex play on their envelopes. In February the Finnish parliament began to debate a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage, but the measure has not become law yet. The stamp issue may put a spotlight on the debate.

Tom of Finland’s images of leather-clad bikers mark the early boundary of what can be considered contemporary queer art designed for mainstream consumption. They shred the boundaries between porn and art. What makes them so intriguing, in a way, is that the male figures have a sensitivity accorded them that makes them something beyond mere “beefcake.” They’re images of pure fantasy, without being oppressive; they are obscurely real. In contrast to the once dominant gay stereotype of the “fairy,” “ponce,” etc., Tom of Finland’s bikers were unquestionably empowering. We salute the progressive minds at Itella who worked to make these stamps a reality.
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
Flower girl LEGO sculpture
04.14.2014
10:29 am

Topics:
Art

Tags:
LEGO


 
There’s no gimmick with this LEGO sculpture of a little girl holding flowers. I’m so used to seeing things like “Your favorite bands made out of LEGO” or “Album covers made out of LEGO” that’s it’s sorta refreshing to see this LEGO Flower Girl by artist Ekow Nimako. She’s lovely.


 

 
Via SuperPunch

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
El Vez, the Mexican Elvis: Che Guevara meets ‘Viva Las Vegas’
04.10.2014
06:42 pm

Topics:
Art
Music
Pop Culture

Tags:
The Zeros
ELvis
El Vez


 
Although he regularly tours internationally—and he might not even live here anymore—I tend to think of El Vez, the Mexican Elvis, as one of the best things about the city of Los Angeles. One of my very, very first nights out “on the town” when I first moved here involved catching El Vez and the Elvettes—totally by accident—at the Atlas Bar and Grill on Wilshire Blvd. Claiming to be the bastard son of Elvis and Charo, his act was super fun—reminding me of John Sex, Deee Lite or The B-52s—and the sort of multilayered political and racial satire and hilarious dog whistles that went into his material like “En El Barrio” made me an instant fan. Over the years I’ve seen El Vez (real name Robert Lopez) at least a dozen times and it’s always been a blast. He’s a local institution. (Still in high school, Lopez co-founded LA punk legends, The Zeros way back in 1976. He can also be seen as part of Catholic Discipline in The Decline of Western Civilization.)

El Vez doesn’t only do Elvis songs. He might do something by ABBA or The Clash or T.Rex or David Bowie (El Vez had his “Thin Brown Duke” phase), but it’s always ultimately filtered through his “Chicano power” persona, one part Che Guevara, one part Viva Las Vegas. The guy pays attention to the details and the revolutionary politics in his idiosyncratic (and very, very funny) artform. Is it just a novelty act? Well, sure, but only to someone too stupid to get all the jokes. He’s like The Simpsons, even someone thick would enjoy seeing El Vez do his thing.

El Vez will be touring with his Cinco de Mayo review. Dates are listed on his website, where you can also buy a lock of his hair (in a “deluxe” ziplock bag) for just $3.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Much more El Vez after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Pete Townshend and the Auto-destructive art of guitar-smashing
04.10.2014
07:33 am

Topics:
Art
Pop Culture

Tags:
The Who
Pete Townshend
Gustav Metzger

ratiugtwons.jpg
 
Pete Townshend said it was an accident the first time he smashed his guitar. He was playing with The Who in a small cramped room at the Railway Hotel in Harrow, west London. The ceiling was damp with condensation, the room smoky, a smell of sweat and stale beer. The Who were playing “Smokestack Lightning,” “I’m a Man,” and “Road Runner” when:

I scrape the howling Rickenbacker guitar up and down my microphone stand, then flip the special switch I recently fitted so the guitar sputters and sprays the front row with bullets of sound. I violently thrust my guitar into the air—and feel a terrible shudder as the sound goes from a roar to a rattling growl; I look up to see my guitar’s broken head as I pull it away from the hole I’ve punched in the low ceiling.  It is at this moment that I make a split-second decision—and in a mad frenzy I thrust the damaged guitar up into the ceiling over and over again. What had been a clean break becomes a splinter mess. I hold the guitar up to the crowd triumphantly. I haven’t smashed it: I’ve sculpted it for them. I throw the shattered guitar carelessly to the ground, pick up my brand-new Rickenbacker twelve-string and continue the show….

This is Townshend recounting the first time he smashed a guitar in his autobiography Who I Am. It’s an event that Rolling Stone magazine considered so important that it was included in their list of “50 Moments That Changed Rock & Roll.”

When The Who played the Railway Hotel the following week, the audience expected Townshend to give a repeat performance of his guitar smashing. He didn’t. The next time Townshend smashed his guitar was at the Olympia Ballroom, Reading, in April 1965. This time it was done as a piece of self-promotion. The Who’s manager Kit Lambert had “invited Virginia Ironside (Daily Mail) and writer Nik Cohn along to this gig and briefed Pete to create an impression by smashing his £400 Rickenbacker, despite the expense.”

This he duly did, and Keith joined in by smashing his drums. However, Lambert had been waylaid in the bar with the journalists when this grand spectacle occurred and was reportedly horrified to find he had been taken at his word.

It wasn’t until 1966 that Townshend’s trademark guitar-smashing regularly became part of The Who’s performance right up to a concert at the Yokohama Stadium, Tokyo, Japan, where he smashed a gold Fender Eric Clapton Stratocaster.
 

 
Over the years, Townshend has given various reasons as to why he first smashed his guitar in September 1964. He has claimed he deliberately did it because he “was determined to get the precious event noticed by the audience.”

Pete: I proceeded to make a big thing of breaking the guitar. I bounced all over the stage with it and I threw the bits on the stage and I picked up my spare guitar and carried on as though I really had meant to do it.

And he has also said it was “really meaningless”:

“I’ve often gone on the stage with a guitar and said, ‘Tonight, I’m not going to smash a guitar, and I don’t give a shit.’ And I’ve gone on, and every time I’ve done it. Basically, it’s a gesture that happens on the spur of the moment. It’s a performance, it’s an act, it’s an instant, and it’s really meaningless.”

“I thought, ‘It’s broken’” said Townshend. “‘Might as well finish it off.’”

But in his autobiography, Townshend ties his guitar-smashing into a more political act:

I had no idea what the first smashing of my guitar would lead to, but I had a good idea where it all came from. ... I was brought up in a period when war still cast shadows, though in my life the weather changed so rapidly it was impossible to know what was in store. War had been a real threat or a fact for three generations of my family…

I wasn’t trying to play beautiful music, I was confronting my audience with the awful, visceral sound of what we all knew was the single abso lute of our frail existence—one day an aeroplane would carry the bomb that would destroy us all in a flash. It could happen at any time. The Cuban Crisis less than two years before had proved that.  On stage I stood on the tips of my toes, arms outstretched, swooping like a plane. As I raised the stuttering guitar above my head, I felt I was holding up the bloodied standard of endless centuries of mindless war. Explosions. Trenches. Bodies. The eerie screaming of the wind.”

All this from one smashed guitar?
 

 
It’s undoubtedly good copy, and gives the young Townshend’s actions considerable cultural cachet, as The Who at this time were still little more than a pop band singing songs about white boy angst—music for young white working class kids who thought they were missing out on something, but weren’t quite sure what. By 1965, there was nothing particularly new about their music or their obsessions with girls, dancing, or their generation. But the association with Mods, and Townshend’s guitar-smashing gave the band an edge, which counterculture figures like Mick Farren would later see as making Townsend and The Who revolutionary figures offering a kind of leadership in the fight against a police state.

In the early sixties, Townshend had been a student at Ealing College of Art, where he attended classes given by the auto-destructive artist Gustav Metzger. In his autobiography, Townshend says he was “Encouraged too by the work of Gustav Metzger, the pioneer of auto-destructive art, I secretly planned to completely destroy my guitar if the moment seemed right.”

So, who is Gustav Metzger and what was his “auto-destructive art”?

Find out after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
What the backside of album cover art might look like
04.08.2014
11:06 am

Topics:
Art
Music

Tags:
Cover art


King Crimson: In the Court of the Crimson King
 
Flickr user Harvezt imagines what the backside of album cover art might look like. Interesting concept. I’ve never really thought about it before, but I’m glad someone else has.

Harvezt’s series is titled “The Dark Side of the Covers.“


Iron Maiden: Killers
 

Sonic Youth Goo
 

Deep Purple in Rock
 

Kraftwerk: Computer World
 

DIO: Dream Evil
 

Metallica: Master of Puppets
 

The Exploited: Let’s Start a War
 
Via Laughing Squid

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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