Topic: the importance of faces and symbols within the artworks devoted to the civil rights movement
Soul of a Nation at the Brooklyn Museum focuses on 20 years of post-civil rights movement art depicting various leaders in the artworks.
MoMa’s gallery consists of the injustices committed against blacks in the civil rights movement, before and after.
“Let My People Go” shows the continuous struggle for black Americans expressed in the Harlem Renaissance, tied into the symbolism of slavery and the Biblical story of Egyptian captivity of the Hebrews.
This article displays many of the artists contributing their art to the cause of civil rights during the Civil Rights Movements. It is a showcase for the different artists and forms of art that took part in this movement.
This article focuses on the importance that images have in shaping self perception and unification of a movement. It describes how important civil rights artists’ roles were in their movement.
I took my visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Sunday December 2nd. Due to the fact it was the weekend and during the beginning of the holiday season, it was crowded with locals and tourists alike. Despite that, it was easy to notice that the Met is a work of art in itself both inside and outside. I visited with someone who had an art assignment to complete from a different class. Within the museum some of my favorite exhibits were the ones that focus on East Asian cultures such as “Children to Immortals” and “Japanese Arms and Armor from the Collection of Etsuko and John Morris”. I also liked the Ancient Egyptian exhibit focusing on the afterlife.
Within the Renaissance exhibit were many paintings of religious imagery and iconography. Many images were filled with the depiction of Mary and Jesus, representative of the influence of the Catholic Church on Europe. This religious imagery was less realistic than that of the Baroque Era. It was filled with brighter tones, colors and designs representing royalty. Its symbolic imagery such as halos and thrones represented the deeper meaning behind certain religious stories. Renaissance paintings for the most part favored more of a symbolic approach instead of a realistic one when it came to religious paintings, ignoring the move toward realism.
By the Baroque Era, the move toward realism had taken over even the religious paintings of Europe. As contrasted below, the Baroque Era favored a darker, more realistic color scheme as well as more realistic depictions of people. It placed its symbolism on the lines of symmetry between the subjects of the artwork. The Baroque Era’s realism also led to less of an emphasis on religious artwork. The difference between these two eras are shown in “Merry Company on a Terrace” by Jan Steen (1670) above and “Saints and Scenes from the Life of the Virgin” by Master of Monte Oliveto (1320) below.
Unit 2 was about the emergence from art being more symbolic and representative of the ruling class to being more literal and representative of the common individual. Despite this change, art still retained its emphasis on symbolism, only its treatment of it was different. In the beginning of the unit, Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia was the focus. The ruling class was depicted in its art and the way art was handled remained the same in these societies for hundreds of years, with a ruler revolutionizing the art form every now and then before art would return back to how it always was. In these early societies, rulers and gods were always depicted as larger than the civilians and neither the civilians or their superiors were ever rendered in a realistic fashion.
The unit moved on to a visit at the Brooklyn Museum. During the exploration of the Soul of A Nation exhibit, we were tasked with the examination of a work of art as well as an examination of an ancient work of art. Although it wasn’t part of the assignment, it was very easy to explain how different art has become within our world. The Soul of A Nation was completely comprised of art that focused on the individual and the power and depth of the common man. This is in sharp contrast with the ancient art we described. Although there were many other exhibits such as Syria Then and Now: Stories from Refugees a Century Apart, One: Do Ho Suh, Half the Picture: A Feminist Look at the Collection, Something to Say: Brooklyn Hi-Art! Machine and many more, Soul of A Nation stood out the most to me. I like the fact that it acknowledged that there are different types of nations (this one being a cultural one) that may not be visible to everyone else but still exists nonetheless. It felt like something that someone within this nation could instantly understand and feel at home with.
The unit continued on with the change to Greek and Roman art. Although there was a focus on rulers (the depictions of Augustus Caesar and Julius Caesar were important pieces of art from the Roman world), much of the focus was placed on the commoner. People with normal day jobs and day jobs that didn’t pay much money were depicted and with great honor and detail. This was due to the rise in the humanist philosophy. The focus was placed more on man as being powerful as opposed to gods or the ruling class. Symbols used to show power were no longer symbols of the gods but were instead the symbols of man. Realism was created to show this power; the more realistic the art, the more praise is given to mankind. This philosophy is related to how art is used today, as seen in the modern exhibits from the Brooklyn museum. Our philosophy always bleeds into the art we create whether we are aware of it or not.
Humanism is the focus on the individual person, or concept of humanity, instead of the spiritual, divine and supernatural. Humanism is very focused on material reality and dismisses concepts that separate themselves too much from human praise. This praise of the human identity is expressed through the realism in humanist art.
The Seated Boxer for example is an extremely detailed work of art. Time was taken to work on the posture, muscularity and hair. Instead of simply showing a man sitting upright, he is shown with the top of his spine bringing his upper torso forward and his right legs are asymmetrical in placement. This seems like a snapshot in time because of the way his head is placed. It seems as if something has caught his attention to his right. One can read this from the statue not only because of the way his head has been moved but also because of his facial expression. All of these details serve to worship the beauty in the realism of humanity.
In the King Menkaure (Mycerinus) and Queen statue, the focus is not on the realism of the art. The two figures are depicted with less detail and certainly less movement. A stand and a forward stride are all that is needed because instead of vulnerability and humanity being displayed, the art is meant to display power, grace, and control. Despite the stride, the figures don’t look like they are actually in motion when compared to the Seated Boxer.
The Amunhotep III statuette is located on the 3rd floor of the Brooklyn Museum standing at almost 11 inches tall. The full figure is covered in gold and black, the headwear and bottom garment are golden and the torso as well as the legs being completely black. The figure is missing arms, probably due to the passage of time, and it is standing on an inscribed wooden base. The position of the figure is a stride, with his left leg moving forward and his right leg following behind. The mediums of the statuette are wood, gold leaf, glass, and pigment. The body, head and base were made of different types of wood. The eyebrows and eyes were made from different types of glass.
The subject of the piece is a pharaoh from the New Kingdom of Egypt: Amunhotep III. He is one of the first pharaohs to depict himself in a more realistic manner. The statuette’s stomach isn’t flat, denoting lack of perfect fitness. His jowls sag slightly, denoting age.
Amunhotep III was the son of Thutmose and his minor wife, Mutemwiya. During Amunhotep’s reign, Egypt had reached its peak in terms of art production, influence and international power. Meaning that this depiction of the pharaoh was also a representation of Egypt at one of its most artistic and powerful times. It is interesting that this is the time when the pharaoh chose to be represented in a more realistic manner, perhaps due to the outside influences that come with being an international power.
In the Soul of A Nation exhibit, there was a lot that spoke to me due to the fact that not only were there so many beautiful artworks, but because I felt like I was being addressed specifically. Black artwork in an American setting has always felt like it was a revolution in itself, not always a rebellion, but a constant growth and undefinable spirit of a people that keep evolving, which is why I think the exhibit is perfectly titled.
The piece that I chose is “Black Children Keep Your Spirits Free” by Carolyn Lawrence. The piece was made through acrylic on canvas and is around 48in x 50in x 5in. It was completed in 1972. The 1970s were an important time for Black America because it was the post-Civil Rights Era. Black heroes had just paved the way for every American citizen to be truly granted equal rights and liberties and because of this, black citizens were making great strides in society. The phrase “keep your spirits free” is probably a nod to this revolution, and a reminder to never lose the freedom that they had achieved.
The artwork is filled with a wide array of colors. Orange, yellow, green, red, blue, purple, and pink make up the painting. The colors blend into one another, different shades of the same colors are touching each other. In the forefront is a kid making a beat with their hands. Even though this child is on the right, they are the first thing someone in the audience will see because how large they are drawn, showing they are the closest to us. Other characters include a kid biking, and a man in a mask playing an instrument. The words “keep your spirit free” repeat endlessly in different colors all over the artwork. This is written in different fonts as well, perhaps representing a chant said by many different people.
Unit 1 covered basic learning styles and systems of analysis that are conducted in the study of art. To truly appreciate art, a student should be a part of a classroom that engages in critical pedagogy, so that everyone in the classroom can truly learn together. Friere’s learning style leads to students being more active and gaining more independence than the classic learning style. This increased engagement leads to art students feeling more connected to the education they’re getting and develop more of a passion and memory for the concepts. An example of a concept that can be retained faster from this learning style is formal analysis. Formal analysis is the study of a work of art by breaking down and identifying its physical, historical, and meaningful features. Although it is presented in a very formal way, this skill should become second nature to an art student who is tasked with the duty of analyzing art. Practice and input from this student through the critical pedagogy system will develop this second nature at a fast rate within the individual. I’m refreshed to know that I am learning within a classroom where I can be treated as an equal and asked to analyze all of the different ways art is meant to effect its audience. Being treated as lesser and only analyzing art through one lens would become boring and disinteresting.
Formal analysis is the examination of a piece of artwork by describing three different aspects from it. These aspects are the artwork’s formal properties, subject matter and historical context. When examining formal properties, the examiner must look at the medium used to compose the art itself, the colors used, the dimensions, the canvas, and all other properties that relate to the art’s aesthetics. Subject matter of an artwork is sometimes obvious, as with “The Creation of Adam” by Michelangelo. With artwork that is less direct and more interpretative, this is where the examiner’s knowledge of art will shine. Historical context will also help an examiner further understand the subject matter. Historical context can play into artists’ influences, intentions and state of mind.
To Friere, the banking model of education is the standard format of a classroom where a teacher, the knowledge holder, shares their knowledge with the students, the knowledge receivers, without any input from the receivers themselves. This empowers the teachers because they are exalted beyond the receivers and their power is unchecked. The students are disempowered because the power that they have is only the power that the teachers have given them. If the teacher doesn’t feel the need to listen to their students, they don’t have to, because of the power they hold. I’ve been in many classes that were modeled in this fashion and I’ve never had any enthusiasm for them. The banking model has led me to study more independently and not rely on my teachers. It has also made me someone who cares less about retaining the knowledge learned in class and applying it to my life, and more about simply passing the class with a good grade. The banking model makes students robotic and not prepared for the real world. They may lose independence because they are trained not to think for themselves. One positive of the banking model, however, is that it can teach discipline and independent study, which are things that will be necessary in certain situations later in life.
Art is often perceived as something that is too subjective to be real. People who pursue art careers are seen by the majority of society as unrealistic and immature. Art is something that is able to reach into the deepest parts of the human soul and express, with or without words, something that is hard to express. Growing up, I was always someone who was interested in the art of storytelling, no matter the medium. Whether stories are told through movies, music, tv shows, books, or video games, I’ve always been passionate about them. Physical art like painting and sculptures never captivated my interest as much as other art mediums, but does share a lot in common with them and therefore has my appreciation. What is simple to one person may be deep and introspective to another. Art represents the human soul in a way nothing else does. It represents differences, similarities, beliefs, passions, thoughts, and perceptions. I have written short stories in the past and now am focusing more on music and film. Art, although often thought not to be, is very important to the growth of a society and is something that I’ve always wanted to pursue.