Dancing red squirrel, video


This 20 February 2019 video shows a dancing red squirrel in the Netherlands.

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Indian Progressive Artists’ Group, New York exhibition


This video from the USA says about itself:

Symposium: The Progressive Artists’ Group — Creating Modern India

NEW YORK, October 25, 2018 — This panel presentation and discussion explores the idea of representing the “progressive” Indian nation through visual, literary, and performing arts by concentrating on the artists included in The Progressive Revolution: Modern Art for a New India.

The presenters included University of Washington Associate Professor of Art History Sonal Khullar, Michigan State University Associate Professor and Interim Chair of the Department of Art, Art History, and Design Karin Zitzewitz, and The Progressive Revolution guest curator and Courtauld Institute of Art Associate Lecturer Zehra Jumabhoy. The ensuing discussion was moderated by Boon Hui Tan, the vice president of global arts and cultural programs and director of Asia Society Museum. (1 hr., 39 min.)

By Josh Varlin and Evan Cohen:

The Progressive Revolution: Modern Art for a New India

Modern Indian art at the Asia Society Museum in New York

The Progressive Revolution: Modern Art for a New India; an exhibition at the Asia Society Museum, New York City through January 20, 2019, curated by Dr. Zehra Jumabhoy and Boon Hui Tan.

Progressive Artists Group exhibition, 1949. Courtesy The Raza Archives, The Raza Foundation, New Delhi, India

The Progressive Revolution: Modern Art for a New India, an exhibition at the Asia Society Museum in New York City on the Progressive Artists’ Group (PAG), was a valuable opportunity to view works from one of the most significant groups in Indian modern art. The PAG was founded in 1947 in Bombay (now Mumbai) by several left-leaning artists. After many of its members left India, it disbanded in 1956.

The Progressive Revolution is the first time the original PAG members’ art has been exhibited together outside of India.

The PAG was formed in 1947 and worked in the immediate aftermath of Indian independence and the communal partition between a predominantly Hindu India and an explicitly Muslim Pakistan, during which up to 2 million people were killed in communal violence and 18 million moved across the new borders in the largest human migration in history. The art the PAG produced during this tumultuous period stands as a powerful indictment of communalism, discrimination and the legacy of imperialist domination of the Indian subcontinent.

At the same time, it expresses the hopes of millions that independence would open up a new era of secular and democratic development for India, while articulating limited misgivings about the newly independent India, which saw power transferred to the native bourgeoisie and its Indian National Congress (INC).

This contradictory outlook was a product of the nature of Indian independence. In the last decade of the British Raj, the working class on the subcontinent, inspired by the Russian Revolution, emerged as the major force opposing British imperialism. This process was epitomized in the Quit India movement. This very development caused the Indian bourgeoisie (both Hindu and Muslim) to recoil in terror, relying on communal politics to divide the working class and securing independence via the imperialist-brokered Partition accepted by the bourgeoisie.

The PAG initially included K. H. Ara, S. K. Bakre, H. A. Gade, M. F. Husain, S. H. Raza and F. N. Souza. The Asia Society exhibition also features works by artists who joined the PAG after 1947 or were around it without being members, including V. S. Gaitonde, Krishen Khanna, Ram Kumar, Tyeb Mehta, Akbar Padamsee and Mohan Samant.

The group included artists from different social and religious backgrounds. Souza, who was briefly associated with the Communist Party of India (CPI) and did much of the writing for the group, was from a poor Roman Catholic family in Portuguese Goa. Souza was also involved in the Quit India movement. Ara was the son of a driver from the oppressed Dalit (“Untouchable”) caste, and he was a domestic servant when he began painting. Raza was the son of a forest ranger. Husain was a secular Muslim.

What brought these artists together amid the tumultuous end of British colonial rule was a rejection of staid academic art and the backward-looking, sentimental nationalist art of other Indian artists of the time, including the influential Bengal School of painting. Instead, they synthesized European modernist, Post-Impressionist and Expressionist techniques and the visual tradition of ancient Hindu, Punjabi, Jainist, Muslim and Buddhist art (and other Indian and Asian influences) into a bold break with the conventions of the Indian and British art worlds of their time.

While the PAG set out to create a new, secular art for the new Indian nation, many of the pieces featured in the Asia Society’s show, and many of the movement’s strongest works, show the failures of the Indian national project and proudly display the international cross-pollination that is fundamental to the birth of modern art.

Throughout the exhibit, paintings that borrow from and update traditional Hindu imagery are exhibited next to historical examples from the Asia Society’s collection. While some of these pairings suggest that the PAG reached back to discover an essential “Indianness”, others suggest that the artists’ influences went far beyond national folk traditions, and combined influences from across Asia and the world. The exhibit’s section “National/International”, for instance, suggests that the PAG’s works, as well as the work of European and American modernists, were valuable products of cultural exchange among sensitive artists expressing the upheaval and the contradictions of the post-war era.

Among the paintings that express the social divisions in post-independence India, some of the most successful are F. N. Souza’s Tycoon and the Tramp (1956) and Ram Kumar’s Unemployed Graduates (1956).

F. N. Souza, Tycoon and the Tramp (1956). Oil on masonite

Tycoon and the Tramp is a large oil portrait of the two title figures: the tycoon is a pallid, corpse-like man in a blue suit and shirt and tie, with a small, bemused smirk perched atop folds of fat; the tramp is a slight man wearing dark red and black clothing, with a thin, wispy beard, his face a deep red, with a blank, removed expression.

Both figures are outlined in heavy, rough, glossy black lines that foreshadow Souza’s later works—his violently crosshatched women and grotesque figures of Christ. They stand against an abstract, light green and sickly yellow textured background, and their eyes, framed by heavy lines and shadows, stare across the center of the image. Souza’s painting is a stark expression of the class divisions between the parasitic bourgeoisie and the working class that remained entrenched in the new India.

Ram Kumar, Unemployed Graduates (1956). Oil on canvas

Kumar’s Unemployed Graduates, completed after his return to India from Paris, is an oil painting of four ghostly young men in suits that hang off their gaunt, elongated bodies. The students’ faces are long and rendered, like the majority of the painting, in dull browns and grays. Of particular interest are the students’ eyes, which are abstracted into white and black ovals sunken into their faces. Unemployed Graduates is a haunting evocation of the economic struggles of ordinary people in post-independence India.

Krishen Khanna, News of Gandhiji's Death (1948). Oil on canvas

Krishen Khanna’s News of Gandhiji’s Death (1948) is a sorrowful depiction of Indians from various backgrounds gathered under a lamppost reading newspapers carrying word of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi at the hands of a right-wing Hindu nationalist. Reflecting the sectarian tensions Khanna feared, no one is reading together or discussing, but each, with his or her own paper, is reflecting.

The figures have muted facial features, with attention instead drawn to their stooped postures and garb depicting them as Muslim, Sikh or Hindu, all united in their grief over the assassination. The colors are dull, and the scene is surrounded by darkness. The figures holding newspapers are distributed about the canvas to form the rough shape of the Indian subcontinent. While not as emotionally evocative, in these reviewers’ opinions, as The Anatomy Lesson, which would come later, News of Gandhiji’s Death reflects the PAG’s contradictory misgivings about, and illusions in, the Indian national project.

M. F. Husain, Peasant Couple (1950). Oil on canvas. Courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA.

Husain’s Peasant Couple (1950) is a painting of a man and a woman striding forward. The woman seems to be carrying something on her back, while the man seems to hold a tool or farming implement. The color palette is mostly earthen colors, with some vibrant splashes on the woman’s clothes. The unusual, more abstract depiction of the woman’s figure contrasts with the more realist depiction of the man’s, but both figures are distorted as if seen from many viewpoints, the shapes and colors of their clothing and bodies combining with the background into a collage from which the couple are emerging.

Peasant Couple seems to emphasize the Nehruvian ideal of “unity in diversity”, enhanced by the use of people from a rural area and the depiction of a woman, both associated with depictions of India qua India. Though an effort to turn toward the peasantry as a subject matter showcasing an “authentic” Indian national identity, the painting is also a successful and evocative combination of Cubism and Expressionism—a bold leap away from the sentimental nationalist paintings of the Bengal Art School.

V. S. Gaitonde, Untitled (1962). Oil on canvas

V. S. Gaitonde’s work was more abstract, with many of his paintings seeming at once austere and vast. An untitled work from 1962 is haunting, seeming to depict either a bird or a ship in an expanse that threatens to engulf the viewer as well. The subdued grays and blues add to the isolating effect. Gaitonde, like many European artists of an earlier generation, was influenced by Japanese art and ancient calligraphy. Gaitonde combined his influences into non-objective meditations not unlike Mark Rothko’s work, but with an emphasis on single colors and experiments with texture.

Krishen Khanna, The Anatomy Lesson (1972). Oil on canvas

Khanna’s 1972 work The Anatomy Lesson is one of the most successful comments on the bloody wars and partitions of the Indian subcontinent coming from artists associated with the PAG. The Anatomy Lesson was painted in the aftermath of the Indo-Pakistani War, which resulted in the bifurcation of Pakistan, the creation of Bangladesh, the military predominance of India, an intensification of religious and ethnic tensions, and mass deaths and atrocities on each side.

The painting is a menacing update to Rembrandt’s 1632 masterpiece The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp.

This 2015 video says about itself:

Rembrandt van Rijn, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, 1632, oil on canvas, 169.5 x 216.5 cm, (Mauritshuis, Den Haag). Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker. Created by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker.

The article on the New York City exhibition continues:

Instead of a social event for well-to-do onlookers, Khanna’s work depicts a menacing group of pale, sharp-faced military figures preparing to dissect a shrouded human figure. The work’s cold pallet and monochromatic rendering of military officials condemns the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 and its immense human toll.

The PAG expressed in artistic form the genuine democratic and anti-imperialist strivings of the masses on the Indian subcontinent. However, its fate demonstrates the inability of the Indian bourgeoisie—or the bourgeoisie in other countries historically oppressed by imperialism—to achieve the great democratic tasks tackled by the bourgeois revolutions of an earlier era, such as the French Revolution.

When it took power as a result of the communal Partition, the Indian National Congress legitimized its rule in the large, multi-ethnic and multi-religious country by appealing to secularism and the slogan of “unity in diversity”, in contrast to Pakistan, which was founded as a Muslim republic. However, even before the horrors of the communal partition, the INC had incorporated elements of the Hindu Mahasabha, or communalists from the upper classes. …

The result is that the struggles of the workers and peasants on the subcontinent were channeled into a reactionary nation-state structure that hamstrung any efforts at overcoming the legacy of the Raj. This is somewhat brought out in the Asia Society Museum exhibit, which notes the repressive atmosphere faced by the PAG and the role it played in dissolving the group.

Bombay authorities raided Souza’s home and removed two of his works from an exhibition in 1949 on the grounds of “obscenity” for a nude self-portrait, although there were likely political motivations as well. He left for the United Kingdom shortly afterward. Raza, another founding member of the PAG, left for France in 1950. While Souza’s and Raza’s decisions to move exemplify the rich interconnection between different artistic traditions, they also express the difficulties of the period in India.

Also noted in the exhibit is that, after a years-long campaign by the Hindu right, Husain (a secular Muslim who chose to remain in India after the partition) was forced out of the country in 2006. He had faced death threats and legal challenges on the basis of his portrayal of Hindu deities. Husain died in 2011 a citizen of Qatar and had returned his Indian passport.

While the PAG was short-lived, the individuals in and around it are major, lasting figures in modern art in India and internationally. The Progressive Revolution: Modern Art for a New India brought these works together for an audience that normally cannot access them.

Why oil paintings deteriorate, new study


This video is called Georgia O’Keeffe: By Myself. BBC documentary 2016.

By Jeremy Rehm, 9:00am, February 16, 2019:

Why some Georgia O’Keeffe paintings have ‘art acne’

A new imaging technique could help art curators track destructive bumps over time

WASHINGTON — Like pubescent children, the oil paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe have been breaking out with “acne” as they age, and now scientists know why.

Tiny blisters, which can cause paint to crack and flake off like dry skin, were first spotted forming on the artist’s paintings years ago. O’Keeffe, a key figure in the development of American modern art, herself had noticed these knobs, which at first were dismissed as sand grains kicked up from the artist’s New Mexico desert home and lodged in the oil paint.

Now researchers have identified the true culprit: metal soaps that result from chemical reactions in the paint. The team has also developed a 3-D image capturing computer program, described February 17 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, to help art conservators detect and track these growing “ailments” using only a cell phone or tablet.

O’Keeffe’s works aren’t the first to develop such blisters. Metal soaps, which look a bit like white, microscopic insect eggs, form beneath the surfaces of around 70 percent of all oil paintings, including works by Rembrandt, Francisco de Goya and Vincent van Gogh. “It’s not an unusual phenomenon,” says Marc Walton, a materials scientist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

Scientists in the late 1990s determined that these soaps form when oil paint’s negatively charged fats, which hold the paint’s colored pigments together, react with positively charged metal ions, such as zinc and lead, in the paint. This reaction creates liquid crystals that slowly aggregate beneath a painting’s surface, causing paint layers on the surface to gradually bulge, tear and eventually flake off.

How these crystals combine is unclear. “I wish we had an answer about why that’s occurring,” Walton says, “but it’s still an open research question.”

For Walton and his colleagues, though, the questions of greater interest are about what factors may lead to crystal formation in the first place, such as relative humidity, light levels or temperature. “To be able to answer those questions, we have to look at it from a macroscopic point of view, and we’ve chosen imaging as a way to get there,” Walton says.

Walton’s colleague at Northwestern, computer scientist Oliver Cossairt, designed a computer program that shines particular patterns of light from a cell phone or tablet’s screen onto a small section of a painting, and then collects the reflected light in the device’s camera.

The program then removes color information, which can camouflage small distortions in the painting’s surface. Using machine learning, the software then distinguishes the knobby structures from other textures such as brushstrokes, and creates a sort of medical report by determining the location, size and density of the blisters.

It’s a bit like Star Trek’s “tricorder”, which could diagnose a human illness simply from a scan, Cossairt says.

The team is currently using this imaging technology to observe test paintings exposed to one of several environmental factors, watching how light, humidity and temperature may affect blisters’ sizes and rates of development.

“You see paintings with this kind of knobby, bubbly surface, and you don’t know if that has happened in five years, 50 years or more,” says art conservation scientist Kenneth Sutherland of the Art Institute of Chicago, who was not part of the research. The new imaging technique “starts to give you a way of monitoring how quickly [the bubbles] are forming and, more specifically, answer questions about what factors are influencing it and how we can control or minimize it.”

Although the technique doesn’t solve the dilemma of soap formation, it provides information that can help in protecting iconic works of art. If new bubbles are forming, for example, an art conservator could perhaps change the environmental conditions where paintings are stored. “Maybe this [process] is just an intrinsic vice, and the real solution is to find the right environment to store them”, Walton says.

Murdoch empire bans anti-nazi film


This 14 February 2019 video from the USA saays about itself:

Oscar-Nominated Film Shows Nazi Rally at Madison Square Garden

It’s an unlikely Oscar contender. Marshall Curry‘s “A Night at the Garden” has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short. The film, entirely comprised of archival footage, shows a 1939 rally of American Nazis at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. The rally drew 20,000 people on the eve of World War II. “The lesson of the film,” Curry told InsideEdition.com, is that “we are vulnerable to leaders who will stir us up against each other.”

By Ari Feldman in Jewish daily Forward in the USA, 14 February 2019:

Fox News Rejects Ad For Oscar-Nominated Short About American Nazism

Fox News will not air an ad for an Oscar-nominated documentary about American Nazism, the Hollywood Reporter reported.

The 30-second ad, called “It Can Happen Here”, is for “A Night At The Garden”, a documentary short about a 1939 meeting of the German American Bund, a pro-Nazi organization. That infamous meeting, which gathered 20,000 people in New York’s Madison Square Garden, was a dramatic show of American support for Hitler — and of American anti-Semitism. Banners hung up in the Garden read “Stop Jewish Domination of Christian Americans”, and “Wake Up America. Smash Jewish Communism”. The crowd yelled “Seig Heil!”

Click here to read the New York Times’ account of the rally.

“A Night At The Garden” is pieced together from archival footage of the event, recalls the shocking level of determination and organization achieved by American Nazis and their supporters.

But Fox News rejected the ad for the short, which is meant to warn that Nazism and fascism can happen in American. The ad, which Fox News’ leadership deemed “not appropriate,” was meant to be aired for [extreme right Murdoch-Fox employee] Sean Hannity’s show, historically the most-watched cable news broadcast.

“It’s amazing to me that the CEO of Fox News would personally inject herself into a small ad buy just to make sure that Hannity viewers weren’t exposed to this chapter of American history,” said Marshall Curry, the director of the short.