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Foundlabs Conversation: French Drawings from 1500-1800

Foundlabs Conversation: French Drawings from 1500-1800

The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. is running a show called “Renaissance to Revolution: French Drawings from the National Gallery of Art, 1500-1800″ from October 1, 2009 to January 31, 2010. I had the enormous opportunity to talk to Margaret Morgan Grasselli, the curator in charge of putting the whole show together.

Part 1: 16th and 17th Centuries

Part 2: 18th Century

As a quick summary, in editing the video for the interview, I found it very hard to condense three centuries into less than 15 minutes. And to further condense, I will say that it is interesting that the French art in this period is strongly delineated in terms of a political timeline, that a king in the 16th century very consciously kicked off an artistic movement by inviting established Italian artists to France. As the kings changed, so too did the art, such that the art that would glorify kings became more ornate and “French.” Finally, as France moved toward revolution (beginning in 1789), the art also reflected that of the people aesthetic, with neoclassicism.

The exhibit is great– go see it if you are in D.C. before the end of January 2010.

For more on the events that occurred during this period in France, the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art.

Street Art: Found Interviews of Shepard Fairey (Obey Giant), WK Interact, D*Face, Faile

Street Art: Found Interviews of Shepard Fairey (Obey Giant), WK Interact, D*Face, Faile

The concept of “graffiti” has evolved beyond vandalism and has taken on a purposeful message. Like any art form before it, street art has changed along the way, but perhaps more significant is the way that it has grown beyond fly-by-night antics to something powerful and relevant in the current world.

In many instances, it’s a somewhat “messy” art form, due in part to the media (spray paint, Sharpies, posters) and in part to an intent to attract attention, but in a humorous and/or subversive way. With the 2008 Obama campaign, many of the artists (along with other contemporary artists) devoted their attention to a new cause, and the public noticed. Most notably, the Shepard Fairey (Obey Giant) version of Obama’s image became an icon. The real story there, though, is not that it happened, but that the public paid attention the way it did; the aesthetics of street art have increasingly become a part of more “mainstream” advertising, media, and culture.

But Shepard Fairey/Obey and his art is just one part of the picture. From Banksy (one of the “pioneers”) to Fairey/Obey to the up-and-coming generation, there is an evolving culture and approach to the art. It appears that in addition to a message of freedom and independence (some pushing the boundaries towards anarchy), there is a deeper expression of unrest and a call for an examination of society. It is and isn’t as simple as a form of self-expression that has been juxtaposed against accepted order.

I’ve found some videos of Shepard Fairey/Obey Giant and WK Interact– some of the recognizable leaders– as well as of the younger generation: represented here by D*Face and Faile. In addition to these videos, Streetsy, a site on street art, has a list of “40+ Street Artists You Should Know Besides Banksy.” Obey, WK, D*Face, and Faile are all listed there.

Obey & WK Interact Collaboration at Agnes B. (said to be Tokyo/Paris 2008):
The video’s audio has been removed, but the look at how and what the two do is an interesting comparison.

WK’s Explanation of the Collaboration:

Interview with Shepard in two parts (from Karmaloop, a street clothing site (since Shepard Fairey also does clothing)):
Part 1

Part 2

Interview of D*Face from BBC Blast, a BBC UK initiative aimed at getting teens involved in the arts :

Interview of Faile from BBC Blast :

The image of Shepard Fairey’s Obama was taken from his site.

MIT Open Courseware

MIT Open Courseware

Another one of those amazingly great resources available for free online is MIT’s Open Courseware. They have put up course materials for around 1,900 courses on their website, from all of their departments. However, the completeness of the course materials is a little uneven, but happily, they indicate the extent of sharing with symbols for lecture notes, videos/audio, special features, and if there are only “selected” offerings provided.

One can’t complain, particularly given the nature of this very altruistic project, and shouldn’t– the courses with provided audio and/or video are quite thorough and engaging, and might even be overly involved for some (as can be seen below).

Here are some sample videos from their Youtube channel:

Calculus, for those who need an intro or brushup

A course on the Six Sigma principles for management

The image is of MIT’s Stata Center, designed by Frank Gehry. The picture is taken from their admissions page.

Fiorano Wine

Fiorano Wine

I’ve been deciding whether or not to discuss wine on my blog, since there is a legal age at which the dialogue becomes more relatable. More and more, though, I’m leaning toward discussing it just because it is a product of both a scientific and aesthetic process, in addition to a very relevant historical connection.

At this current point in time, I’ll just point to an article and follow up in the New York Times, written by Eric Asimov. He discusses an Italian prince, Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi, who made wines in the second half of the 1900s. The prince believed in the natural course of action, trusting in his vines and in the surrounding mold– and not in the pesticides used by his Italian contemporaries– and result has since been remarkable.

I like this story because aside from being a wine story, it has the mystery and intrigue that came from one person’s single-minded devotion to a personal way of doing something. Also, what I like most about that element of mystery and the fantastic is that it resides in truth.

Original 2004 Asimov New York Times piece

His April 2009 follow-up His April 2009 follow-up

Bottle photo from Italian Wine Merchants, one of the “Prince-approved” sellers in the Asimov piece (I have no financial affiliation to the company)

Historical Photographs

Historical Photographs

The Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress offers an incredible selection of online prints and photographs for those interested in a peek at the past. In addition to just having the images, they also offer a description of where and how. Here’s a description of “First Flight” photograph from the Wright Brothers collection as an example:

Wright Brothers

The most well known negative is, of course, that showing the “First Flight” at Kitty Hawk on December 17, 1903. The brothers had arranged to have John T. Daniels of the Kill Devil Life-Saving Station, who was among the spectators, snap their camera for them just at the moment the machine had reached the end of the take-off rail and had risen two feet into the air. Before attempting the flight, Orville had placed the camera on a tripod and had aimed it at a point he hoped the machine would attain when it left the track . The shot was successful and the negative was developed by Orville on his return to Dayton. (

The the Print and Photograph Division is also really helpful in that they let you download the image in either jpeg or tiff, in varying qualities. And if you’re really crazy about the image, you can buy a print of it, too.

Now, aside from all of that helpfulness, think about this: you are seeing an image of the first flight!

In the world!

I find it very interesting that there is almost nothing else in the picture– no trees, no buildings, no other planes (obviously), and nothing else. Granted, they picked Kitty Hawk for those features, but it really emphasizes the two men and what is really a pretty primitive– but brilliant– device.

Kinda makes me want to build something.

Library of Congress Prints & Photographs

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