Matching Items (68)

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Radio Transmission: Electricity and Surrealist Art in 1950s and ‘60s San Francisco

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Journal of Surrealism and the Americas, Cinema Issue (2016)

This paper deals with a version of Surrealism that emerged in San Francisco in the late 1940s, and its influence on Wallace

Journal of Surrealism and the Americas, Cinema Issue (2016)

This paper deals with a version of Surrealism that emerged in San Francisco in the late 1940s, and its influence on Wallace Berman’s film Aleph (1966) and Harry Smith’s Early Abstractions.

Many San Francisco poets of the 1940s through the 1970s understood poets as a visionary company possessing a nearly sacerdotal authority arising from their capacity to put aside the individual self and open themselves to influences from beyond—in a peculiar turn, these influences came to be understood as energy waves that are transmitted through the ether and operate the poet/artist—and cinema and the radio became models for these transmissions. The collage art that resulted was understood as anemic, cobbled together from insecurely apprehended fragments of thought carried in radio signals nearly drowned out by static. I conclude with comments relating the idea of artists’ feeble imaginations being operated by remote control to film and electric media.

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  • 2017-08-07

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Modern Architecture Will Help You

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Journal of Surrealism and the Americas, Cinema Issue (2016)

La Ciudad Frente al Río (The City in Front of the River) is an Argentinian, ten-minute long film directed by Italian Surrealist

Journal of Surrealism and the Americas, Cinema Issue (2016)

La Ciudad Frente al Río (The City in Front of the River) is an Argentinian, ten-minute long film directed by Italian Surrealist Enrico Gras in 1949. The film was part of the promotional material for Bajo Belgrano, a modern housing plan sponsored by the Buenos Aires City Hall under the auspice of populist president Juan Perón. As part of this promotion, German photographer Grete Stern designed a brochure with images from the film and text by the Study for the Plan of Buenos Aires (Estudio del Plan de Buenos Aires, hereafter EPBA). I compare the film and brochure to contemporaneous work by Stern: a series of photomontages illustrating a women’s advice column. The column mined its readers’ dreams for insights into their unconscious, and advised them on proper behavior. Following a similar method, the film found Buenos Aires’ unconscious in the chaos of city life, and revealed what I have termed as "pastoral modernity" as the cure. Masked behind a veneer of revolutionary modernity, the message of these works was that of a nostalgic return to the past—an invitation to sleep, and to dream. Complicating this message, subtle hints in both the film and the photomontages point to the artists’ awareness of the totalizing vision they were collaborating with.

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  • 2017-08-07

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‘Polycythemia,’ or Surrealist Intertextuality in the Light of Cinematic ‘Anemia’

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Journal of Surrealism and the Americas, Cinema Issue (2016)

Robert Desnos’s and Man Ray’s 1928 film L'Etoile de mer has long been considered an exemplar of the surrealist love story, thematically

Journal of Surrealism and the Americas, Cinema Issue (2016)

Robert Desnos’s and Man Ray’s 1928 film L'Etoile de mer has long been considered an exemplar of the surrealist love story, thematically similar to Salvador Dalí’s and Luis Buñuel’s Un Chien andalou (1929) but less overtly shocking. In comparison to the elaborate iconographical analyses of Chien, critiques of L'Etoile tend to describe its avant-garde cinematic style, to distinguish how it illustrates or deviates from Desnos’s scenario, or to provide summary analysis of some of its more obviously Freudian iconography. There have been fewer scholarly explorations of specific symbolism, yet the film exhibits many political-philosophical intertexts, one of which explicitly builds a bridge between the surrealist revolution and America’s core self-signifier, Liberty.

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  • 2017-08-07

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Ana Mendieta's Influence on the Contemporary Artists Simone Leigh and Gina Osterloh

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Despite her untimely passing in 1985, Cuban-born, American artist Ana Mendieta continues to shape modern thinking about many themes including gender, cultural displacement and body discourse. Among those profoundly influenced

Despite her untimely passing in 1985, Cuban-born, American artist Ana Mendieta continues to shape modern thinking about many themes including gender, cultural displacement and body discourse. Among those profoundly influenced by Mendieta’s legacy are contemporary artists Simone Leigh and Gina Osterloh. This research critically compares Mendieta's artwork to that of Leigh and Osterloh in terms of identity, feminism, and the body. While their approaches to these themes differ, all three artists incorporate their bodies within their work in order to connect with the rest of the world.
Twelve year-old Ana Mendieta and her sister involuntarily left their family in revolutionary Cuba to live in an orphanage in Iowa. Mendieta’s art legacy includes an innovative combination of numerous mediums, including her earth-body sculptures, which amalgamated land art, body art, and performance. Realizing the feminist movement of Western (white) society largely neglected women of color, Mendieta explored her Cuban roots. Her work is both semiautobiographical and ambiguously political, appropriating indigenous components of art to address issues of identity, feminism, and ethnicity.
To begin, in chapter one I will analyze Ana Mendieta’s work in terms of a search for her personal identity. Art critics plagued Mendieta throughout her lifetime placing her in identity categories. Mendieta’s struggle to defy social constraints led her to explore identity politics throughout her work. Simone Leigh and Gina Osterloh further Mendieta’s emphasis on identity politics through complex explorations of identity within their works. Politics of identity, specifically fragmentation, cultural and self-identification, shaped Mendieta’s works. Gina Osterloh explores themes of visibility and invisibility, attempting to abstract and obscure the identity of subjects within her work. Like Mendieta, Leigh explores her diasporic roots through numerous media, including sculpture and video. Her practice is very research based and heavily considers feminist discourse and histories of political resistance.
In chapter two I will argue that Mendieta did not essentialize the female body. Her observation that the 1970s feminist movement overlooked women of color plays a significant role in her work as well as in the work of Osterloh and Leigh. All three artists seek to break through social constructions of race, gender, and ethnicity. Gina Osterloh’s performance Prick! is a post-feminist critique on call and response relationships. Mendieta’s work encapsulates third wave feminism, she sought to challenge second wave feminism’s essentialist view of femininity. All three artists address the complexities of feminism within their work explore the social constructions of gender and femininity and attempt to break down boundaries to open dialogues for new discussions about feminism. Gina Osterloh works in Los Angeles and uses photography and video as integrative sites for questions of visibility, invisibility, and perception. Within her constructed paper rooms, the body—whether human, paper-māché, wood cutout—explores the idea of camouflage.
In chapter three I will assess Mendieta’s contribution to body discourse. All of Mendieta’s video works are mute, underscoring the focus on the actions of her body. Osterloh uses abstracted bodies within her paper-constructed rooms as a means to bring awareness about the importance of not making conclusions about people and their affiliations. Leigh uses the body to go beyond Mendieta’s exploration to show the racial and gendered body in a positive light. Mendieta traces the outline of her body in the Silueta Series similar to Osterloh’s use of camouflage. Mendieta, Osterloh and Leigh use their own bodies to explore themes of the displaced, marginalized and disempowered.

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  • 2016-12