Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Robert Williams: Bitchin’ Art Crusader?

As artist Robert Williams grew up in his often dysfunctional, divorced home in the 1940s and 1950s, his mother wished he’d become a cowboy. After seeing Cecil B. DeMille’s 1935 film The Crusades (rereleased in 1948), however, young Bob decided on a career as a crusader instead. With a lion’s heart, fiercely wide-ranging intellect, and outsider’s eye, Robert Williams dreamed of a holy land where his unique brand of art would one day gain acceptance. Robert Williams: Mr. Bitchin’, now available on DVD and digital platforms, tells the story in Williams’ own words and pictures of that long, often lonely crusade to make art true to his experience that defied the mores of society at large and the art world in particular. Entertaining and enlightening, Robert Williams: Mr. Bitchin’ offers the rare chance to see the real-life good guy win in the end. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Robert Williams: Bitchin’ Art Crusader?"

[Image: Robert Williams. In the Land of Retinal Delights, 1968 (detail).]
[Many thanks to Cinema Libre Studio for providing me with a review copy of Robert Williams: Mr. Bitchin’, available on DVD and digital platforms starting July 30, 2013.]

Monday, July 29, 2013

Is Walter De Maria’s Death His Final Artwork?

Walter, we hardly knew you. When I saw that American artist Walter De Maria had died at the age of 77 on July 25th, my mind’s eye immediate pictured The Lightning Field (shown above), the landmark 1977 installation piece that most art lovers know only through pictures thanks to its out-of-the-way location and strict visitation policy. De Maria brought a minimalist’s mind to the world of large-scale art, imposing a powerful will for precision on the natural landscape as a means of ordering it in a way for contemplation. De Maria, who shunned photography not only of his artworks but also of himself, may remain as enigmatic as his art now that he’s gone, but is his bodily passing his final artwork? Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Is Walter De Maria’s Death His Final Artwork?"

Should America Increase, Not Decrease, its Arts Budget?

“We can’t afford it!” Insert the frothing face of the Republican congressperson of your choice above that phrase and you have a pretty comprehensive picture of the current debate in the U.S. House of Representatives over budgeting for U.S. cultural institutions. The House Appropriations Committee’s proposed fiscal 2014 budget outlines 19% overall cuts for the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, which includes everything from national parks to museums such as the National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian Institution (whose “castle” is shown above) as well as organizations such as the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Before we storm the cultural castle and tear down the arts, however, it might be worthwhile to consider what’s going on across the pond in England, where an argument was successfully made before austerity-minded government monetary gatekeepers that we can’t afford NOT to support the arts—not just from an aesthetic perspective, but also from a dollars and cents economic perspective. The question then becomes, should America increase, not decrease, its arts budget?  Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Should America Increase, Not Decrease, its ArtsBudget?"