Google Art Project gains popularity and Congressman endorses project’s efforts

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

Image by CrunchBase

The University of Michigan’s Museum of Art joined the Google Art Project this week, a online collection of art that includes work from 150 museums and monuments around the world, including the White House.

The online collection holds over 40,000 high resolution images of art work, Ann Arbor news reported. The goal of the Google Art Project is to provide wide access to art work and broaden cultural understanding, without physical barriers.

Rep. John Dingell from Michigan endorsed the efforts of the project at an event held at the University of Michigan’s Museum of Art. He is a leading advocate in D.C. for improving cultural literacy in the pre-college education system.

In a time when museums are struggling financially, the Google Art Project hopes to aid in accessibility to art work for art education.

Read the full story of UMMA joining the Google project here.

Blue Streak invades your space

*Photo courtesy of the Hamiltonian Gallery

Photo courtesy of the Hamiltonian Gallery

By Lanie Rivera
Editor

Art has been known to defy conventional practices and surprise viewers for years. But this recent installation at D.C.’s Hamiltonian Gallery goes one step further — it invades your personal space.

A giant blue construction in the gallery’s hallway makes it hard for visitors to walk through without feeling uncomfortable.

You must be thinking: what’s the artist’s point?

“Blue Streak,” as it’s named, “is about these moments of awkward choice. It’s more about art-making and art-experience than it is about the distinct interpretation of a made object … about contemplating space, the memory of space, the expectations of space, and the mechanics of space as experienced by each individual viewer,” according to the Examiner.

Go check out artist Timothy “Mike” Thompson‘s piece in the “Gathering Space” exhibition.

Street Art — Baltimore Edition

By Lanie Rivera
Editor

Last weekend, I traveled to Baltimore, M.D. with a group of friends. Our day there seemed to be immersed in rich art forms, from art museums to public street art. Pictured here are a few of the many murals we found.

*Photos by Lanie Rivera

Art-o-Mat: degrading art or promoting success?

*Watch this video featuring Art-o-Mat creator Clark Whittington as he explains the genesis of his “art for the masses.”

By Lanie Rivera
Editor

The Smithsonian’s Art-o-Mat vending machine was installed in 2010, but this recent article by San Jose Mercury News (SJMN) shows that D.C. was ahead of the curve — institutions across the country are now tagging along, using the refurbished cigarette machines to dispense small art pieces for just $5 (check out their over 100 of the nationwide locations here).

Amid a time when art organizations are financially suffering, it makes sense that organizations have embraced fun technologies like the Art-o-Mat to attract customers.

Some art enthusiasts haven’t welcomed this trend — they claim the vending machines undermine the quality of art. But it’s not like these cigarette dispensers give out little snippets of Van Gogh’s work. Despite criticism from naysayers, the Art-o-Mat allows both artists and consumers to easily market and collect art, taking art from one home and bringing it straight into another.

While some artists are amateur, others, noted Art-o-Mat creator Clark Whittington in response to this post, have been practicing their craft for years but they want to contribute to Art-o-Mat’s cause:

“We have professional photographers, painters, sculptors, etc. who make a living from their art. They are involved because they believe in the original concept of Art-o-Mat … getting art into people’s hands and making it part of their lives.”

And the machines are more than just a short-term project, according to Whittington in the SJMN article:

“Art should reach out to the public … Some people think this is a fad, something with a short shelf life, but it’s not.”

Photo by Karl Mondon

Photo by Karl Mondon

SJMN offers other methods art organizations have used to integrate their work with technology. These modern advancements, including museums with smart-phone apps and pre-theater commercials “fly in the face of artistic convention.” And critics have also claimed that Art-o-Mat is the art world’s way of upping their “hipness” to attract a larger audience, according to SJMN.

But artists, amateur and seasoned, have praised the machines for providing entrepreneurial opportunities, and consumers are enthusiastic for the opportunity to engage with art in an innovative way.

Art-o-Mat artist Dean Konop commented on the Smithsonian’s blog post about their art vending machine with enthusiasm and gratitude for the opportunity this machine provides for him:

I am an artist [who has been] part of the Art*O*Mat group (Artist in Cellophane) since 2004. I have created over 650 pieces for AIC and Art*O*Mat and I find the whole experience liberating and enjoyable. To work on a project and then have them dispersed to places I have never been to is exhilarating … Plus I get my name out as an artist through this whole endeavor.

While some outright oppose the new technologies, others are simply worried that inventions like these are a sign of an arts industry crisis.

Kathryn Jones, CEO of VisualArtsTV, a company that creates innovative ways for the community to engage with art, said that the art world is desperate to attract more viewers, reported by SJMN’s recent article:

“Our industry is facing a severe sustainability crisis … If speaking to today’s audiences via the technology they are already using will help to build more demand for the performing arts then I think we are doing the industry a terrible disservice by refusing to try.”

With this in mind, the question is: does technology really degrade the quality of art?

Some art connoisseurs have argued that ploys like the vending machines are disrespectful to both artists and their work, but others know the art world has to adapt to the changing times:

While purists bemoan the cheapening of the aesthetic experience, others say it’s a sign of times: The arts, like most sectors of the economy, must evolve or die.

And evolving it is. These antique “carcinogen delivery systems” have been repurposed by North Carolinian artist Clark Whittington. They are art themselves.

And the Art-o-Mat machines are undeniably gaining attention from the art world.

The Smithsonian’s blog post reported that consumers immediately took advantage of the opportunity to collect these eccentric pieces of art.

Within the first 12 days of the machine’s installation at the American Art Museum, visitors averaged 16 art pieces dispensed per day.

Not to mention, everyone can participate. It seems like a win-win. Whittington told the SJMN that his art is meant to, at its heart, serve the public:

“This way anyone can be an art collector … It’s as democratic as you get.”

Photo courtesy of artomat.org

Photo courtesy of artomat.org

[WC: 826]

*This post was corrected in response to a comment by the Art-o-Mat creator. He clarified that all of the Art-o-Mat artists are not amateur; many have been practicing their craft and selling their work for years.

Art students use NEXT exhibit to address political issues

Kim Jong Un

Oil painting of Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, by student Robert Yi.
*Photo courtesy of VOA

By Lanie Rivera
Editor

Art students from D.C.’s Corcoran College of Art and Design presented their final art projects at the college museum, on display until May 19, many of which have a politically charged meaning.

The students’ artwork has been compiled into an exhibit called NEXT, the name symbolic of the students who will receive their degrees move on from the undergraduate art program in May.

Robert Yi, a student from South Korea, presented many paintings in the exhibit, including one of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un.

He explained his intended message to Voice of America:

“My paintings are called Mask paintings. And it’s the idea that, in society today, no matter where you are, people put on a mask,” he said. “That idea is expressed in North Korea because the people of North Korea, the citizens, put on a face…they’re required to act happy.”

Other students targeted different political issues.

Jason Tucker, a fine art photography major, sought to reflect his homosexual identity in his artwork by researching the meaning of derogatory terms for homosexual people.

“I started doing a lot of research into words that have a specific meaning within a gay male context, and so I started with the word ‘faggot,'” he said. “The root of the word comes down to ‘a bundle of sticks.’ So I started with that and wanted to make a self-portrait. So I ended up collecting my exact body weight in sticks…I wanted to take something that I’ve been called before, that was an epithet, and make something beautiful out of it.”

Read more about the D.C. students’ art exhibit here.

The art of destruction: Canadian artist brings provocative gun control piece to the streets of D.C.

Photo by The Washington Post photographer Mike DeBonis.

Photo by The Washington Post photographer Mike DeBonis.

A self-proclaimed walking paradox, artist Viktor Mitic is not afraid to destroy what he creates.

This last week, Mitic hit the streets of D.C., as well as a few local art exhibits, with his piece, entitled “Incident.” The work of art is simple- a small yellow school bus decorated with bullet holes from 6,000 rounds of ammunition.

At first glance, it resembles an unspeakable tragedy, at second glance, a provocative statement that needs to be made.

The “Incident” made its U.S. debut last weekend, as it was placed on the back of a tow truck and driven around downtown Washington, D.C, The Washington Post reported. Many onlookers interviewed by The Post were disturbed by the piece, and some were inquisitive about the artist’s technique.

Regardless of individual reactions, the “Incident” is proof that art is necessary, and is many times the most effective means of grabbing public attention and provoking civic engagement.

Mitic originally created the “Incident” in light of a case of gang violence in his home town of Toronto, but was asked to bring his piece to the U.S. this week to be shown at an art exhibit held at the First Congregational Church of Christ in NW D.C. entitled the “Newton Project: Art Targets Guns.”

The piece made its original debut at the Toronto International Art Fair in September 2012.

The exhibit will last until May 19 and was put together in order to illustrate the need for more restrictive gun laws after the Newtown tragedy, through art. 40 different works of art will be on display at the First Congregational Church of Christ.

Revered Sid Fowler of First Congregational Church of Christ said on the church’s events blog that he believes art can go farther than news reports and legislation.

“Art goes deep into our imaginations and hearts. We can experience what often is difficult to articulate in words.  God can call us, disturb us, and inspire us through the gifts and insights of art. Our hope is that many people will see the images these artists have created and inspire greater public support for effective laws that will restore hope to survivors of violence and to our communities.”

The piece was also on display for three days at George Mason University.  An opening discussion was held Monday and hosted by Helen Frederick, the University’s professor of printmaking in the School of Art. Mitic was invited to lead a discussion with students about the process of “Incident’s” creation, according to GMU’s Newsdesk.

Frederick told GMU’s Newsdeck that she believes Mitic wants to send a vivid message about the issues and dangers of guns in society. She hoped the display of the piece at GMU would not only provoke discussion, but also political awareness for students on campus.

“Mr. Mitic’s artwork provides an important and relevant project for our students, and I am confident that his discussion with our students will spark a dialogue about the gun control bills now in Congress.”

Although Mitic told The Post he refuses to think of himself as an activist, the statement made through this piece is clear, if only because of the intentions of the Newtown art exhibit in which it will be held this next month.

Despite claims of anti-activism, Mitic, at the very least, believes there is power in the usage of a weapon as an artist medium, as he has shot countless bullets through his artwork many times before.

For example, he created a series of pop art pictures this year of notable figures such as John Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe, and outlined them with bullet holes. The series will be on display this month in Toronto.

At the end of the day, Mitic is a tranquil artist, using a weapon as a medium in order to simply create an uncomfortable paradox. He wrote a book entitled “Art or War” and speaks of his artistic intentions on his website’s biography page.

“The uneasiness with which people perceive weapons, since they were made for one purpose only (to destroy something living) puts me in an unique position—I use weapons to re-create iconic images. I carefully shoot the outline of the subject painted to generate the feeling of tranquility.”

As illustrated in the gun-control movement after the Newtown shootings, discomfort, whether through art or national tragedy, may sadly, be the only way to ignite change today.

Street artist Hanksy sneaks into Easter Egg Roll

hanksy-white-house-egg-3

Photo courtesy of Hanksy (tumblr)

By Lanie Rivera
Editor

Although it hasn’t been confirmed, evidence of the pun-loving street artist Hanksy attended President Barack Obama’s Easter Egg Roll at the White House, according to Blouin Art Info.

What evidence supports this claim?

Well, photographs of graffitied Easter eggs filled with puns have exploded across cyberspace, posted on the artist’s Tumblr and apparently confirmed by his gallery coordinator Benjamin Krause.

Photo courtesy of Hanksy (tumblr)

Photo courtesy of Hanksy (tumblr)

Some are skeptical, though, because the rumors of Hanksy’s work began to spread on April Fool’s Day. Could it be a hoax?

Well, examine the convincing photos and see if you think they’re authentic.