ChildArt July-September 2020 issue now online

The current issue of ChildArt is now online. This issue is published in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Institutes of Health, and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. You can find it at https://icaf.org/childart/ChildArt_ArtforHealth_July-Sept2020.pdf

Published by the  International Child Art Foundation (ICAF), this group also  produces the World Children’s Festival, which is postponed this year due to Covid-19. It will now take place on July 30th–August 1st, 2021 at The National Mall across from the U.S. Capitol.

As Ashfaq Ishaq, the Founder and Chair of ICAF, points out in the forward to this issue:

“While we rely on science to free us from Covid-19, art opens windows to new vistas and can serve as a mirror for self-improvement.”

Now Online: Situationist Times!

The extensive publication on The Situationist Times is out now with more or less global distribution. It is accompanied by a website that makes the entire corpus of the magazine freely available: http://vandal.ist/thesituationisttimes

Table of contents and introduction are available at https://files.cargocollective.com/c464040/These-are-Situationist-Times_3-14.pdf

Christopher Tyler discusses three books published by Diatrope Press

Complete Illustrated Edition of the Life of Leonardo da Vinci, from Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects by Giorgio Vasari.. Edited with complete illustrations and annotations by Christopher W. Tyler. Color illustrations throughout. This is the only edition of Vasari’s Life of da Vinci that illustrates every single painting and sculpture mentioned by Vasari. Translated by Gaston du C. De Vere (The Medici Society/Macmillan: London, 1912-1915).

Portraits of his Daughters by Thomas Gainsborough commemorates two delightful sisters painted by their father, the famous 18th century English painter Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788). The daughters are buried together at St Mary’s Church, Hanwell. In 1809, the rector of the Church, George Henry Glass, built the Hanwell cottage where a fountain inscribed in memory of two sisters makes an interesting link with the Gainsborough daughters. Illustrations on every page.

Parallel Alices: Alice through the Looking Glass of Eleanor of Aquitaine. New insights into historical roots of Alice in Wonderland. Examines the historical lines of the Alice books by Lewis Carroll through the historical sources at the time of Eleanor of Aquitaine. 170p. 6×9″ inches. Includes timelines, glossary, bibliography.

Book Review of The Seductions of Darwin: Art, Evolution, Neuroscience by Mathew Rampley

Reviewed by Amy Ione, May 2020

It is not surprising that Mathew Rampley’s book, The Seductions of Darwin: Art, Evolution, Neuroscience, caught my eye since the volume touches on a number of topics covered in my own Art and the Brain: Plasticity, Embodiment, and the Unclosed Circle. [1] What did surprise me is that, despite analyzing many of the same subjects (cave painting, evolutionary psychology, art history, neuroaesthetics, neuroarthistory, etc.), the two books are worlds apart, even as we share similar goals. Both of us state that we seek to encourage humanistic thinking and voice reservations about the scientific and philosophical research surrounding art, neuroscience, and evolution. Yet, while I agree with Rampley’s premise that efforts to construct a “unity of knowledge” theory are misconceived, I found that his book read like a polemic, with arguments more along the lines of “not this, not that” than a humanistic probing of the contours of art, evolution, and neuroscience. This reaction is one the author himself acknowledges as possible, writing: “[m]uch of the discussion will come across as polemical in tone” (p. viii) and “[i]t would be reasonable to conclude, given the polemical tone adopted in this book, that I see neo-Darwinian approaches as having little value” (p. 140). Thus, my principal take-away was a humanistic-type question: Why is it that two people who review much of the same range of information can come away worlds apart? He is clear that, “It might be objected that I am relying on a reductive and overly empirical notion of inquiry, one based on the testing of hypotheses, and that this approach is particularly problematic when applied to the humanities” (p. 139); consistent with this statement, I take a more dialogical humanistic type of approach to the issues.

The Seductions of Darwin itself consists of an informative introduction, four chapters, and a conclusion. The bulk of the book outlines what Rampley sees as persistent weaknesses in theories of art that assume (presume) a Darwinian or neuroscientific perspective. What was most prominent within this is that he is looking for a unifying explanatory methodology (despite his claim that efforts to construct “unity of knowledge” theories are flawed). This paradoxical strategy lands him in a space that largely mirrors the theoretical problems inherent in the arguments he rejects.

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Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power Reviewed by Amy Ione

Book cover. Soul of a NationReview:
Mark Godfrey, Zoé Whitley, Curators

de Young Museum, San Francisco, 9 Nov. 2019-8 Mar. 2020
Exhibition organized by Tate Modern
Catalog by D.A.P./Tate; 2017, 256 pp., ISBN: 978-1942884170.

In balancing a range of art practices with socio-political realities, Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 1963-1983 effectively demonstrates that there isn’t a Black art per se but rather a Black experience that informs what, how, and where Black artists present and re-present. The project also superbly presents the rich contributions of African American artists are an important and integral part of American Art, despite their often being underrepresented in art histories. While the catalog expands one’s understanding of the exhibition immeasurably, I was glad to have the opportunity to engage with the actual size works so as to optimally experience the interweaving of artistic insights and materials with concepts like Black Power, Black Pride and the array of social realities that informed the work (e.g., the Watts riots) [1]. Still, the catalog is invaluable. Reading curator Mark Godfrey’s essay on Black abstraction in the publication before visiting the exhibition primed me to see the socio-political elements through the eyes of individual artists musing about material objects and black identify in tandem. In essence, his essay, co-curator Zoé Whitley’s essay, and the recollections from a number of people associated with this art in the documentation, all of whom were black participants, further underscored that there is a black American culture to celebrate, one that has thrived despite its peripheral place within institutions. Furthermore, the written material demonstrate the value of critically engaging with objects on a number of levels.

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Book Review: Biology in the Grid: Graphic Design and the Envisioning of Life by Phillip Thurtle

Reviewed by Amy Ione

As I began Phillip Thurtle’s well-researched Biology in the Grid: Graphic Design and the Envisioning of Life, I wondered how his “envisioning of life” would intersect with the abundant evidence that a complex array of grids have served as a foundational element in art, architecture, and design production throughout history. A few examples that quickly come to mind include those used to construct perfectly proportioned Egyptian and Aztec temples, Islamic and Buddhist art, Chuck Close’s stylized portraits, and the layout of medieval illuminated manuscripts. Rosalind Krauss’ 1978 statement that the surfacing of the grid in early twentieth century modernist art was an announcement of “modern art’s will to silence, its hostility to literature, to narrative, to discourse” [1] is also a part of the grid litany, although one that gives a negative cast to how we use grids to engage with objects in our world.

As it turns out, Biology in the Grid moves along a markedly different track. Despite his integration of graphic design, the entertainment industry, advertising, and cultural theory, the book is largely orthogonal to the long art and design trajectory. Thurtle sees grids as a framework within a biopolitical circumstance and makes the point that “living in the grid’ does not equalize us because all lives are not treated similarly despite the seeming uniformity of the form. In his words: Continue reading “Book Review: Biology in the Grid: Graphic Design and the Envisioning of Life by Phillip Thurtle”

Now Online: Was Leonardo da Vinci’s World Map the First to Name America?

Was Leonardo da Vinci’s World Map the First to Name America? A Quincentennial Reappraisal

Leonardo da Vinci’s World Map, image

Abstract
In addition to his better known artistic, scientific and engineering talents, Leonardo da Vinci has an extensive reputation as a cartographer, drawing maps for a wide range of hydro-engineering projects for the rulers of Florence, Milan, Arezzo and the Vatican, amongst others. However, he is not generally acknowledged as authoring a world map (or mappamundi) spanning the globe, which was the domain of a few specialized cartographers of the era. Nevertheless, there is a world map among his papers in the Royal Library, Windsor, which has the correct overall configuration of the continents, including an ocean at the north pole and a continent at the south pole. Moreover, it has a unique cartographic projection onto eight spherical-geometry triangles that provide close to isometric projection throughout the globe.

This quincentennial anniversary year of his death in 1519 is an appropriate moment for a reappraisal of this contribution to global cartography. Although the authenticity of this world map has been questioned, there is an obscure page of his notebooks in the Codex Atlanticus containing a sketch of this precise form of global projection, tying him securely to its genesis. Moreover, the same notebook page contains sketches of eight other global projections known at that time (early C16th), from the Roman Ptolomaic conic section projection to Rossellli’s (1508) oval planispheric projection. This paper reassesses the dating of Da Vinci’s unique mappamundi to suggest that it predates that of Waldseemüller (1507), and may thus have been the first map to name both America and Florida.

Citation:
Tyler, CW. 2019. “Was Leonardo da Vinci’s World Map the First to Name America? A Quincentennial Reappraisal,” Calafia Journal, 2:7-12. PDF

EXHIBITION: The Codex and Crafts in Late Antiquity (February 23–July 8, 2018)

Bard Graduate Center, February 23 – July 8, 2018

The transition from roll to codex as the standard format for the book is one of the most culturally significant innovations of late antiquity, the period between the third and eighth centuries AD.

This exhibition offers a concise history of the first steps of the codex book format from a technical and technological point of view. Specifically it focuses on the different techniques used to turn leaves of papyrus or parchment into a functional book that could be safely used and preserved.

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EXHIBITION: Anti-Confucian Propaganda in Mao’s China

Anti-Confucian Propaganda in Mao’s China is a compelling exhibition installed in Geisel West, 2nd Floor near Special Collections & Archives on the University of California, San Diego campus. Collected by Matthew Wills, a doctoral candidate in the Department of History, the materials in the exhibition reflect a 1970s campaign to reinforce the power of political elites and affirm the absolute correctness of Maoist socialism. Some of these materials are no longer available in China.

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Review of A Different Kind of Animal: How Culture Transformed Our Species

Reviewed by Amy Ione, March 2019
Published: Leonardo Reviews

A Different Kind of Animal is based on two lectures Robert Boyd delivered in 2016 at Princeton University as a part of the Tanner Lectures on Human Values series. In these lectures Boyd introduces his theory that biology and culture are both evolutionary, a topic he’s been working on with Peter Richerson for three decades. Needless to say, this is a broad topic, a point brought home by the four Responses to the lectures also included in the volume. All four commentators endorse the contours of Boyd’s theory and their critiques also raise valid questions: Is Boyd too reductive? Does Boyd’s view of social learning and cooperation rely too much on copying others? Does he adequately define the ways that norms arise and change? Is he ignoring how individuals manipulate norms?

At the beginning of the book Boyd points out that his lectures are about human uniqueness and cumulative cultural adaptation, not the inventive capacities of individuals. He writes:

“We are much better at learning from others than other species are, and equally important, we are motivated to learn from others even when we do not understand why our models are doing what they are doing. This psychology allows human populations to accumulate pools of adaptive information that greatly exceed the inventive capacities of individuals. Cumulative cultural evolution is critical for human adaptation.” (p. 16)

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