February Happenings

There’s a lot going on this month in the Denver art world! This Friday, February 3rd, Presence: Reflections on the Middle East opens at the CVA, and Iranian-American artist Samira Yamin, whose work is featured in the show, will be at the opening. Yamin and Professor Leila Armstrong will be taking over the CVA’s Instagram for the weekend, so if you don’t follow the CVA, you should do it now! Next up, University of Denver Professor and artist Laleh Mehran will be giving a talk on Wednesday February 8th about her work in the show (and more). If you can’t make it to the opening or the talk, the CVA is open Tuesday-Friday 11 AM – 6 Pm, and Saturdays from 12 PM – 5 PM.


If you haven’t been by RedLine’s Nice Work if You Can Get It, you should definitely do so before it closes at the end of the month. The show features two MSU Denver professors (Mario Zoots and Sarah Rocket) and an alumnus, Molly Bounds. The Museo de las Americas’ Tornaviaje: The Return Route opens on February 9th, and MCA Denver’s winter exhibitions, Basquiat Before Basquiat, Ryan McGinley: The Kids Were Alright, and Wall Writers: Grafitti in its Innocence opens on February 11th.

Spring Art History Courses

Still trying to decide what to take next semester? There is still room in “Ancient Maya Art & Culture” and “The Global Renaissance Court.” Both courses can count towards the ‘history of art prior to 1900’ degree requirement for Art History majors. “The Global Renaissance Court” can fulfill the ‘senior level seminar’ requirement, but is open to all students who have taken World Art II (bonus: because it’s a seminar, it won’t have any exams!)maya-flyer-spring-2017


Cultural Heritage and War

Over the last several weeks, a number of articles on the preservation of cultural heritage in war torn areas such as Iraq and Syria have popped up. One such article has the provocative headline “Does Aleppo prove that we westerners should keep the world’s antiquities?”, and the author concludes, that yes, since these treasure belong to “us” (us being humanity at large) that we ought to safeguard them in museums in Berlin, London, Paris, and across the United States for future generations (see also these articles on the trade in illegal antiquities and a new “Monuments Men” division in the British army). It’s an important question, but one that is based on a somewhat false premise. Many of the antiquities which now reside in museums across the West were either taken by force during brutal colonial encounters or “gifted” by equally brutal homegrown dictators. At no point did the “people” to whom these objects supposedly belong have a say. Many of the countries who’ve had their cultural heritage preserved in Western museums are seeking the return of them. The Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon have been a source of friction between Greece and Great Britain for some time now, while Egypt is fighting for the return of artifacts such as the famous bust of Nefertiti and the Rosetta Stone. As one who studies Islamic architecture, the destruction in Aleppo of the Umayyad mosque and the Ayyubid citadel are devastating (though in no way more devastating than the ongoing humanitarian crisis), however, if the West refuses to return artifacts taken in some cases centuries ago, who’s to say we would return artifacts taken today? If and when fighting ceases, is it any better that people have no cultural heritage left due to destruction than to have no cultural heritage left because the West has taken it for safekeeping? Who’s to say that we won’t clumsily drop something and shatter it into a million pieces as was the case with this Fatimid era rock crystal ewer at the Pitti Museum in Florence, or that we won’t knock something over in our quest for the best selfie as was the case with a 126 year statue in Portugal? We need to resist the urge to say that the West will be the best steward of the world’s artifacts and look closely at our history in relation to artifacts from non-Western cultures, and at our true intentions as regards those artifacts.

Footnotes, The Chicago Edition

Research pen.jpg

At some point in your art history classes, your professor is going to assign you a research project that requires footnotes, probably using the Chicago Manual of Style. In order to help you figure this out, I’m posting an annotated mini-essay that demonstrates how to cite some of the most common scholarly research materials (books, articles, and essays). It also shows the difference between footnote citations and the bibliography.

You can access the mini-essay here (download and view in adobe to access the annotations): footnote-example-juan-de-flandes-annotated

An art history playlist

“I have always thought of myself as a painter derailed by circumstance.”
-Joni Mitchell

In my World Art I courses, students read an article by art historian Robert Bork that relates the power and distortion of Gothic cathedrals to that of Heavy Metal music. The article is intended to get students to think about Gothic architecture in a new way, and it is usually successful. While this is a novel approach to the topic, music and visual art have a long relationship with one another. Musical instruments are often considered works of art themselves; see, for example, the ancient Chinese bianzhong and Mesopotamian lyres of Ur. In the past 50 years, there have been many collaborations between visual artists and musicians. A previous blog post touched on David Bowie’s artistic influences, but Bowie was certainly not alone in his regard for, and relationship with, art. Andy Warhol famously managed and promoted The Velvet Underground in the 1960s. A recent video by Beck features the work of several visual artists. Some musicians, such as Kim Gordon, M.I.A., Ronnie Wood, and Joni Mitchell, are artists themselves.

In addition to these collaborations, many musicians refer to artists and their work in their music. Here are some of my favorite songs in this category to begin your art history playlist. Some are quite specific and literal, but others have more oblique or conceptual references to artists and their art. Some are serious and solemn, others irreverent. They run the gamut of genres–classical, folk, rock, punk, avant-garde, new wave, pop, alternative–there should be something here for everyone. Enjoy!

  1. Modest Mussorgsky, Pictures at an Exhibition, 1874 (a suite written to accompany an exhibition of works by Viktor Hartmann)
  2. John Cage, “Music for Marcel Duchamp,” 1947
  3. Nat King Cole, “Mona Lisa,” 1950
  4. Simon and Garfunkel, “So Long Frank Lloyd Wright,”1970
  5. David Bowie, “Andy Warhol,” 1971
  6. Don McLean, “Vincent,” 1971
  7. The Modern Lovers, “Pablo Picasso,” 1976
  8. Adam and the Ants, “Picasso Visita El Planeta De Los Simios,” 1982
  9. Paul Simon, “Rene and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog after the War,” 1983
  10. The Pogues, “Wake of the Medusa,” 1990
  11. The Pixies, “Alec Eiffel,” 1991
  12. Dar Williams, “Mark Rothko Song,” 1991
  13. They Might be Giants, “Meet James Ensor,” 1994
  14. John Cale, “Magritte,” 2003
  15. The Decemberists, “The Bachelor and the Bride,” 2003
  16. Peter Bjorn and John, “Blue Period Picasso,” 2009
  17. …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, “Spiral Jetty,” 2011
  18. Florence + The Machine, “What the Water Gave Me,” 2011 (of note: Florence’s mother is an art historian)
  19. Jesca Hoop, “Ode to Banksy,” 2012
  20. Manic Street Preachers, “Black Square,” 2014

Did I miss your favorite? Leave a comment and let me know!