Art For Hoi Polloi: M.C. Escher

From 1963: Why settle for ants on a log when you can have ants on a Mobius strip?

As an aging member of Generation X, I can attest to the existence of certain rites of pop culture passage that have shaped our perception of the world. Eating Pop Rocks, for example. Acknowledging the profundity of Dark Side of the Moon. Attempting to reconcile a Rubik’s Cube. Discovering the Three Stooges. And surely somewhere in there, as our brains expanded to fathom the limitless wonder of human history and the unknowable infinity of our universe, we were all exposed to prints by the Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher.

You know the work, if not the name. The famous pair of hands emerging from a flat sheet of paper to draw each other. The self-portrait of the artist as seen in the reflection of a hand-held sphere. Tessellations of birds, fish, and other creatures. Impossible architecture in which columns defy logic, stairs descend endlessly within a closed loop, and strange beings walk upon every surface of a convoluted interior. All were the creation of Maurits Cornelis Escher, who was born in the Netherlands on this day in 1898. Read More

Art For Hoi Polloi: Salvador Dali


Lowbrow meets lowbrow: Rocky emulators sprint up the visage of Salvador Dali.

Recently I came across a live webcam of a construction site in St. Petersburg, Florida.  I was surprised to find not only active workers but fairly interesting activities going on, and I zoomed in to watch a pair of laborers installing triangular glass panes into a large, metallic lattice that bulged from a concrete edifice.  The structure looked somewhat odd for a conventional building but rather conservative for its intended purpose:  the next home of the Salvador Dali Museum.  Given the famous surrealist’s iconic imagery of melting watches and drooping appendages propped up by crutches, one might have expected a design that abandoned recognizable geometric forms altogether.

The new facility, slated to open in 2011, is only a few blocks from the current museum, but it will offer fifty percent more gallery space and more than twice the overall area.  More importantly, it will provide robust shelter from violent storms for its collection in a way that the present building does not;  so vulnerable is the existing museum to damage that its exhibits must be removed and stored during severe weather warnings.  Constructing a more secure home for these treasures sounds sensible to me, because I would hate for the world to lose the original work of such an incredibly talented and imaginative artist.  I have been captivated by Dali’s art all of my life, and obviously many people feel the same way.  Why, then, do I have the nagging sense that serious critics would dismiss his oeuvre as pandering to the lowest common denominator?

Perhaps because it does. Read More

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