African Art

Published November 24, 2013 by kologban

African art and culture deals with making sense of the world. It reflects their religious aspects of life and beliefs. African culture has been passed on by teaching and through verbal communication. They used sculptures and objects to pass on their beliefs and customs. Sculptures may be of an ancestor or it may be used during a special ritual or ceremony. Each piece of African art represents a cultural value or belief. For instance, baskets were used to hold the remains of the deceased and masks were worn in battles to invoke the god of strength and courage.

Below are 5 works of art that I have chosen to represent the art I described above.  You will see pictures of a sword, mask, sculpture, figurine and woven garment.  As I was reviewing these works of arts, I came across some interesting facts that I thought I share.  I’ve come across many African art works through out my life, from paintings, to sculptures and figures and so on.  African art is popular in other countries and I found it interesting to review the history behind it.

Baga peoples; Guinea 19th-20th century

Banda Mask Guinea 19th-20th century

The character represented in this mask, Banda is a composite of a human and animal. This mask is used today for entertainment only, however in the past it carried an extremely sacred significance. It was a high and powerful being that would appear only to privileged society elders. It was used in rituals to prevent danger such as animal attacks.

Akan peoples Ghana19th-20th century

Akan peoples Ghana19th-20th century

These figures are consecrated by priests and carried by women who hope to conceive. Women carry the figure on their backs the same way they would a child. The name of a woman called Akua. She wanted to have children and went to consult a priest. The priest told her to have a small wooden child carved and carry it on her back as if it were real. She did as she was told and was laughed at by people. She eventually conceived a child and so women started adopting the practice.

Owo–Yoruba peoples Nigeria 19th-20th century

Sword and Sheath Owo–Yoruba peoples Nigeria 19th-20th century

This sword is also known as udamalore and can be found among the high-ranking Owo chiefs. This sword lets people know that the owner is famous and respected person of high ranks who had power and influence. The beaded sheath and its panels include symbolic imagery. The top portion is made with glass beads representing rams, monkeys, human figures and birds. The ram represents leadership among the people. The monkeys are seen as being cunning and is admired for their wit with their deceit.

Between Earth and Heaven 2006 El Anatsui

Between Earth and Heaven 2006
El Anatsui

This work refers to the celebrated West African traditions of strip woven textiles.  Master weavers used a complex technique called “floating weave”.  Because of the expense and symbolic associations, only people of high rank wore kente.  Certain patterns were made especially for kings.

Caryatid Veranda Post  Olowe of Ise 20th century

Caryatid Veranda Post Olowe of Ise 20th century

This sculpture was done by Olowe of Ise.  He was born in Efon-Alaiye and then moved to southeast Ise.  There he carved sculptures for the king and was well known in Africa and beyond the continent.  He was responsible for a workshop that apprenticed young artist.



Anamorphic Street Art

Published November 15, 2013 by kologban

Street art is something that is well known and popular in the post-modern era.  It became known and popular during the 80’s.  When the technique anamorphic was invented and incorporated in street art, it took street art to another  level.  I’ve always enjoyed art that created illusions and this is the reason why I chose this particular topic.    This type of art normally doesn’t last long and is captured by pictures that are taken.  The creativity behind these drawings are amazing.  It takes time and skills to be able to draw a picture in 3D that is an illusion.  The 5th drawing done by Julian Beever called Rescue was done using an inverted mirror.  Julian Beever and Kurt Wenner are the two artist I chose to focus on.  I’ve provided a brief biography about both artists, as well as, a few of their works. I couldn’t find the dates for most of their works, but the location of each work is included.

Kurt Wenner was born in Ann Arbor, MI.  He attended Rhode Island School of Design and Art Center College of Design before working for NASA.  In 1982 he left Nasa and went to Italy to pursue his love of classical art. He lived in Rome for 25 years before returning to the US. His work echo’s renaissance classicism with a modern approach. Wenner invented the art form known as anamorphic  or 3D pavement art in 1984.  This technique makes art appear to rise from or fall into the ground. It appears to be correct when viewed from a particular space.

Northwest Fantasy by Kurt Wenner, San Francisco, CA

Northwest Fantasy  Kurt Wenner, San Francisco, CA

Perseus and Medusa by Kurt Wenner, Detroit, MI

Perseus and Medusa Kurt Wenner, Detroit, MI

The Flying Carpet by Kurt Wenner , Bettona Italy

The Flying Carpet Kurt Wenner , Bettona Italy

Julian Beever was born in the UK in 1959. He attended state schools and studied art at Leeds Met. University in UK. He began anamorphic pavement illusions in early 90’s and has worked a variety of jobs, such as photographers assistant, tree planter, art teacher, english teacher and so on. His earlier drawings were of well known people, which caught the attention of passers-by. He was called “the pavement picasso”but he doesn’t see himself as having any connection with Picasso, besides the fact that they were both interested in 3 dimensionality. Julian is known for his pavement drawings especially the 3d illusions.

Meeting Mr. Frog Julian Beever

Meeting Mr. Frog Julian Beever

Rescue Julian Beever

Rescue Julian Beever

Christmas Eve in Santas Workshop by Julian Beever

Christmas Eve in Santas Workshop Julian Beever


Influence of African Americans in Art

Published November 5, 2013 by kologban

The influence of African-Americans was evident throughout art during the Early Modern period.  You can see the influence in things such as, the Harlem Renaissance and in the music (American Jazz).   After the Civil War, African-Americans wanted to have a part in politics and wanted equality and economic and self-determination.  Being in the South, whites denied African-Americans the right to exercise their civil and political rights.  They terrorized theme and forced them to into unpaid labor, overworked them and had them working in unsanitary conditions.  I’m pretty sure most of us are familiar with how the story goes.  Well this was one of the reasons behind the migration north.  This movement centered around the neighborhood Harlem.  This movement helped enable them to express their feelings and things from their culture.

I’ve decided to take a closer look at a couple of specific arts related to the Harlem Renaissance and of course music.  The art works I would like to focus on are by Aaron Douglas.  I chose his art  because he was known as the leading painter of the Harlem Renaissance movement.  His art work was commissioned by the WPA and the art had a great influence on the African-American culture. The following paintings were painted by Douglas in 1934 and are at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.


Aspects of Negro Life: Song of the Towers


Aspects of Negro Life: From Slavery Through Reconstruction.


Aspects of Negro Life: An Idyll of the Deep South.


Aspects of Negro Life: The Negro in an African Setting.

These paintings were painted towards the end of the Renaissance.The third image undermines the happy southern plantation negro, by making the central theme around a happy and cheerful African-Americans singing and dancing.  If you look to the left and right of the picture, you see the reality of racism during that time.  You have a lynching going on, to the left of the picture and workers in the field to the right.  In the upper left hand corner, there is a star which symbolizes hope for the African-Americans.  These pictures are just one example of how African-Americans influenced art during this era.


Impressionism VS. Neoclassicism

Published October 25, 2013 by kologban

During the 19th and 20th century there were several different art movements.  Each movement had a specific common philosophy or goal that was followed by a group of artists during a restricted time.  The two I would like to focus on are the Neoclassical and Impressionist.

Neoclassic had a different purpose than Impressionist.  Neoclassical was a part of the Western art movement.  They  wanted to express rationality and sobriety that was suitable for their times.  They placed many rules and restrictions on artists. Neoclassical paintings were influenced by the Greek and Roman themes and ideals.  Drawing was considered more important than painting.  The surface had to be perfectly smooth and show no evidence of brush-strokes to the naked eye.

This painting of Oath of the Horatii was painted by Jacques-Louis David in 1784 and is now in Louvre, Paris.  It’s a painting of a dispute between two cities Rome and Alba Longa.    Neoclassicism often included in their paintings moral virtue, patriotic self-sacrifice, goodly deeds and Heroism.  This era was influenced by the American Revolution and the French Revolution, which reflects in the artists work.

Jacques Louis David Oath of

I enjoy the Impressionism art work.  There are several reasons, why I enjoy it.  I find it appealing because of the lighting and choice of colors used in the art.  I’ve come across several different paintings that I enjoyed, but the one I found most intriguing was Impression, soleil levant by Claude Monet in 1872 .   It is now in Musee Marmottan Monet, Paris.   This painting was how the movement got its name Impressionism.  I enjoyed everything about this movement and the fact that they were able to stand out and be different from other artist at the time. This was just one of the things that caught my attention.

Impressionist did not rely on realistic depictions, they wanted to capture the optical effects of light.  During this time the scientific thought was what the eye perceived and what the brain thought were two different things.  They also abandoned the traditional linear perspective and avoided clarity of a picture. This is evident in the picture below by Claude Monet.


Impressionist violated the rules of academic painting.  When they painted they used freely brushed colors, they painted realistic scenes of modern life and they often painted outdoors.  Previously these paintings were painted indoors, for example in studios.  They felt that they could capture moments outside in the sunlight and portrayed the visual effects instead of details.   Their work was often rejected by the Salon, which at the time was the only way artist were able to show their work.  There were several reasons why the Salon rejected the Impressionism work.  They felt the art wasn’t finished, they called it just impressions. The category for which the Impressionist painted was mainly landscape and Contemporary Life and not history painting.


Economic Power of The Middle Class

Published October 15, 2013 by kologban

The growing economic power of the middle class in the 1700s had a great impact on the changes of art during the classical era. The Composers in the classical period main focus was to maintain a perfect order in the music.  The middle class felt the music during the Baroque era was too complex and they wanted music that they could understand.  The middle class during this time began to gain influence, which meant they could now afford to support the composers of this era.   Public concerts were being held for the first time, and composers were able to make music that the public wanted versus the selected group of experts.  Music was still being made for the church and courts, but the change to public concerts reflected the new view of music for the middle class.  The classical era in music was dominated by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.  The two composers I would like to focus on are Mozart and Beethoven.

The music during this era carefully controlled emotions.  Evidence of this is shown through the use of dynamics in each movement, section or measure of the song.  In other words this was done by using crescendo and decrescendo throughout  the music.   Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik (serenaded No. 13) and Beethoven’s Symphony NO. 5 are two great examples of this use of dynamics.  Both of these composers were not from Vienna, but completed most of their works there.

Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik means ” a little serenade”. This work was completed in Vienna on Aug. 10, 1787, but it is not known why it was composed. This music was written in sonata form. Mozart listed his work as having five movements, suggesting one of them was lost, which left this work with only four movements.

Beethoven’s Symphony NO. 5, was composed in Vienna from 1804-1808 and was one of the most popular and best known compositions. His work was also written in sonata form.   The opening four note motif is known worldwide (short-short-short-long).  The basic rhythm of the fifth symphony, Beethoven described the motive as “Fate knocks at the door”.  It took him a while to compose the fifth symphony, because he constantly interrupted it to complete other compositions.  It was premiered on December 22, 1808 in Vienna’s Theater and der Wein.

The Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons

The Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons

The leading Neoclassical painter was Jacques Louis David.   David felt that human intellect could show the path to true morality and right living.  He painted The Lictors Bring to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons in 1789 and it is now in the Louvre Museum in Paris.  The royal court at the time had banned David picture from being hung up because they didn’t want it to agitate the people.  However, when the people heard of this, they were outraged and forced the government to hang it up.  The painting shows Lucius Junius Brutus grieving for his sons.  His sons had tried to overthrow the government and restore the monarchy.  Brutus being the leader at the time ordered their death to maintain the republic.  David painting was very controversial and shows how committed he was to the new ideas and the enlightenment idea.


The Milk Maid

Published October 11, 2013 by kologban

milk maid

Jan Vermeer also known as Johannes Vermeer was a Dutch painter who was known for his paintings of domestic life. There are approximately 35 known paintings by Vermeer. His earlier paintings were mainly history pieces. His paintings later would reflect a meticulously constructed interior with just one or two figures, which usually were women. The subjects of these paintings were always engaged in some everyday activity such as,reading a letter, fastening a collar or pouring milk.

The painting of The Milk Maid in 1658 was only one of the 35 paintings attributed to Jan Vermeer. The painting is now in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Netherlands. This painting captured my attention because it appears to be simple and easy to observe at first glance. Here you have a woman, a milk maid or kitchen maid pouring milk. She appears to be pouring the milk without a care in the world.

The subject matter of these paintings were often a reflection of the experiences and aspirations of the middle-class during the Baroque Era. Also during the Baroque era, paintings started to reflect theatrical tenebrism. This painting by Vermeer of The Milk Maid is a perfect example of this display. Let’s begin with the space around the maid. The background of the picture is not cluttered, which brings the attention and focus to the maid. Next I would like to focus on the lighting of this painting. Vermeer used “tiny points of light” all over this painting. The lighting on the bread in the basket and the jug are brighter, than those things around it. Also the cracked windowpane shows the light shinning brighter through it.

In the Protestant countries the two wealthiest sources, the monarchy and Church were gone. With them being gone, the middle class wanted to express their status by purchasing art. The middle class wanted smaller paintings that would look nice in their homes. These paintings, which were popular, included landscapes, still-life and scenes of everyday life.


The Tower of Babel

Published October 1, 2013 by kologban


The Tower of Babel painting focuses on the story told in the book of Genesis.  It explains why there are so many languagaes  The people of Babylonia decided to build a massive tower that would reach heaven.  They were successful in building it because the people all worked together and spoke the same language.  After a while God disrupted the project and made it impossible for the workers to communicate.  He forced everyone to speak different languages.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder painted The Tower of Babel.  He painted it three times.  The first one, which was very small and painted on ivory was lost.  The second one which is dated 1563, is in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.  The third painting is in the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam.

I chose The Tower of Babel by Bruegel because of his attention to detail.  In this painting, the detailed to realism was very clear.  His knowledge of building procedures and techniques were correct in detail.  To the right of the painting, it shows the crane lifting a stone and men loading the machine with the stone.   In the painting, each individual is doing a specific task.  When you first look at the painting you see this massive tower leaning slightly to the left.  But, as you start to pay attention to each scene in the painting, you can see what Bruegel was seeing or exposed to during that time frame.  For instance, in the bottom right of the painting, the ships were coming in to the port to bring supplies.  There is also the falling apart of the tower.  You can see parts of the tower that is obviously crumbling and falling.

Bruegel was born during the time Western Europe was going through extensive changes.  Humanist ideas were influencing artists and scholars in Europe.  He was born eight years before Martin Luther created the Ninety-Five Theses, which led to the Protestant Reformation.  During the reinvention of Rome, the Spanish monarchs were rising to power.  This was the time Bruegel reached the height of his painting career.

The Tower of Babel is thought to be influenced by the Colosseum in Rome.  Bruegel would have seen this tower during his stay in Italy ten years prior. At the time the Colosseum was thought to be a symbol of hubris and persecution. When it collapsed the Protestants thought it symbolized vanity and all the sin people were committing.  The painting itself looks as if the engineering problems were the reason for it failing versus God’s decision. Bruegel place the tower near a river to reflect the fact that during the 16th century, waterways, not unpaved country roads was how things were transported to and from  the town.  This painting was suppose to be a mirror of what was taking place in Antwerp.  The rapid building growth was causing problems for the town.