Category Archives: Art

Graffiti from the Past

When we think of graffiti, we usually think of spray painted signs, walls and doors with anything from a symbol or word, a hodgepodge of designs to a unified mural. In most cases, graffiti is considered bad, disrespectful, and ugly.

What about graffiti from 1,850 years ago?

These two profiles were etched into a column with other signs and symbols in front of the Southeast Building (built ca. 150 CE) in the agora in Athens, Greece. The profiles could have been drawn by anyone living today. However, they were not.

These copies come from an American School of Classical Studies at Athens agora excavation report. When I saw them I got chills. Who were these people? (I assume at least two, as probably the latter one was added close to the earlier profile.) Were they students at a school? (The Library of Pantainos was next door to the Southeast Building and apparently had similar graffiti on its columns.) Did these people know each other? Did they end up as artists? As philosophers? There is no way to know.

Nonetheless, these doodles are a bridge to people who lived in another time and place.

Goosebumps.

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Parthenon Marbles Coming to the Graduate Center

City College was given copies of the so-called Elgin Marbles–the Parthenon Marbles–as a gift in 1852 from Charles M. Leupp, Esq. The casts, made in the 1830s, were among the first to be sent to the United States. The casts have been in storage until recently. The sculptures are now going to be mounted in the CUNY Graduate Center Library. They will line the wall along 34th Street.

This is exciting.

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Pergamum Exhibit at the Met

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A bronze shield from Pontos, 185-160 BC

Though it closed at the beginning of July, I was able to see the Pergamum exhibit over the Independence Day weekend. I went on a Friday night, rightly assuming that the crowds which make the Met so hard to explore would be out of town. Most of those in the museum were the clueless tourists, most of whom got in the way, talked loudly, and flew through the exhibit probably because they had no idea what they were looking at. Fine by me.

An "old friend" from Athens

An “old friend” from Athens

The Met gathered antiquities from across the world to create the exhibition, Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World. I was surprised and pleased to see some “old friends” from the Antikytheria Shipwreck exhibit (and redux) that the National Archaeological Museum in Athens had held in 2013. I took a few pictures, but I already have photos of the pieces.

I took 184 photographs, some of which I later deleted (bad photos, duplicate photos, etc.). I just managed to get through the exhibit right before the museum closed at 9. I bought the exhibition catalog–hardback. I usually buy the paperback copy because it is cheaper (and sometimes I wait for a few months and hope that the catalog is put on clearance, which sometimes happens if any are left over), but I was told that too many people complained that the paperback copies fall apart. Now the Met only prints its catalogs in hardback.

Overall, it was a wonderful exhibit.

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Art or Not–You Decide

(2016-05-10 002)This is a piece of modern art that is in Madison Square Park. I took the photos on two different occasions.

It’s called Big Bling and was created by Martin Puryear. It took me a while to get the photographs about Puryear and his creation because every time I passed by, tourists were reading the sign and I didn’t have time to wait for them to finish.

When I first saw it made with wood and chicken wire (fencing wire?), I thought “squirrel condo,” probably because of all the squirrels in the park, and there were many running around it.

Perhaps Puryear is commenting on “bling” and what it means to society–or what really makes up “bling.”

Enjoy.

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Irving’s Monument, and Rip Van Winkle

(2015-04-11 003)Way back at the beginning of the 20th century, a memorial/monument to Washington Irving was planned for Broadway, at the top of Sunnyside Lane. A local committee started raising funds in 1909-1910. Famous sculptor Daniel Chester French was hired to make a bust of Irving and some images of Rip Van Winkle and King Boabdil (from The Alhambra). The Headless Horseman is Irving’s most famous character, with Rip Van Winkle running second in popularity.

French worked on the monument for the next 15 years. Over those years, the costs of the monument, in French’s hands, kept going up and up. The local committee put on many fundraisers to try and keep up with the escalating price tag. In 1925, French designed this small statue of Rip Van Winkle for fundraising purposes; each sold for $500.

Unfortunately, the statue got no further than the model stage. French created a model to work from and started making preparations to build the statue. However, the money was not raised for the statue and the idea was scrapped. Still, the sculptor had to be paid. In order to recoup some of the money, the statue committee had copies made of the model and sold it locally.

The Charles T. Newberry Estate donated this statue to the Historical Society, where it peers out from a corner in the research room.

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Filed under Art, History, Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown

Historical Society’s Valentines

(2016-02-13 001)Before the month is over, and wanting to have a posting on Leap Year Day, here is something at the Historical Society.

No, I have not changed my mind from my last post. I still think Valentine’s Day is for people with not a romantic bone in their bodies. However, in honor of the day, the Historical Society installed a display of Valentines from the past. Many of them look to be from the late 19th-early 20th century.

For those you who like Valentine’s Day, enjoy. For those of us who don’t, it’s still interesting to look at artifacts from a bygone era.

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Technologically-created Art on the Moon

Charles Duke family pic on MoonAwhile ago, I posted an entry on the plaque that was left on the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission. It really wasn’t art per se, but it did contain a message to whoever finds it in the future.

Today I found this photograph on the Free York site. It’s of Charles Duke and his family that Duke left on the Moon in 1972 while on the Apollo 16 mission. Another photograph posted on Science Alert (which is a repost from Business Insider) is a copy of the photograph. According to the article, Duke had written on the back, “This is the family of astronaut Charlie Duke from planet Earth who landed on the moon on April 20, 1972.”

That photograph is still there on the Moon.

CharlesDuke_webNow a word about the Library of Congress classification. Photography is classed in T, for technology. This frustrates art affectionados, since art is classified in N. What they fail to understand is that the art of photography would not exist without the technology of the camera, which definitely belongs in T. Also in T, sewing, painting (as in walls, trim, etc.), and cooking–yes cooking. We tend to take cooking for granted, but it is a technology.

As Duke discusses in the article, conditions on the Moon are not favorable to preserving the photograph, and it has probably faded, but his message on the back is probably still there, which will always indicate what had been on the obverse.

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