Monthly Archives: April 2017

JR project 3

Alfons Mucha exhibition.

Every art major has that one artist who inspired you so much that despite everyone telling you “you’re not going to have a job perusing art” or “how are you going to eat doing art ” you decide to follow in your dream. Well, in my case that was Mucha. Even as a young child, I found the commercial works of Mucha absolutely gorgeous. The organic decorations, the swerving letterings, and the breath taking beauty of the female characters in his work… just breath-taking.

So you can imagine how delighted, content and just so amazingly happy I was when I heard about Mucha coming to the Mori art museum in TOKYO!!?? No. you can not imagine. The Exhibition started on March 8th. Which was my birthday. It was faith telling me to go. Finally as a part of the JR project, I decided to go have a look.

Walking through the entrance I see a massive winding line. The crowd was lined up for the Yayoi Kusama show. Not even giving the line a second look, I walk in with my pre-reserved Mucha ticket. HA!

I shove all of my stuff in a locker, walk up to the third floor, hand my ticket to the ladies t the entrance and walk in to the exhibition.

One step in the exhibition aria, I am stunned. There is no other word to describe how I felt just then other than “breath taken”.

The massive 8m by 4m painting looks down at the crowd of people piled up in front of the work. I was surrounded by 4 masterpieces of Mucha and probably never could happier. My favourite out of all was “The Introduction of Slavonic Liturgy”. The painting was made out of three sections. The background, middle ground and the foreground. The background was mostly made of the cityscape, and the depiction of the people living at that time. In the foreground there were two different sections. The 1st on the right top corner were what seemed to be a bunch of priests dressed in robes. A very two-dimensional flat style over the precise landscape gave the painting a unique feeling to it.

As I walked farther in to the gallery and see the jewellery and the mirror he had designed. The unique work looked like it was grabbed out of one of his paintings.

The murals, posters, and the postage stamps seemed a tiny bit less creative, maybe because of the lack of his own idea (having to create them for the client) but still based on his very organic and natural style.

The exhibition was over all just amazing and the best money I spent and I can’t wait to go back again.

Karl Marx and the Marxist Aesthetics 2

Modern art has also incorporated Marxist aesthetics, perhaps more directly. In the 60’s artists like Andy Warhol created art that reflected the counter-culture of revolution at the time. Warhol created many repetitive, multi-screen prints, which was commentary on mass production under capitalism. His famous “Campbell’s Soup Cans” was a direct critique on capitalism. This piece used the image of a daily object without any obvious aesthetic value, and question the relation between desire and availability 6. More contemporary artists are also using art to comment on capitalist tendencies. In particular, we see artists creating art relating to revolutionary ideas such as “going green” or wasting less resources – a critique on the unnecessary waste in modern capitalist society.

Marxist aesthetics is probably one of the more unique theories of aesthetics in the art world, and can be a useful tool for judging art that is attempting to be revolutionary. Many artists use this theory as a   goal for their artwork, but most happen to have some artwork that falls under the criteria of good art under the theory, while also having plenty of artwork for commercial purposes. Some believe that the rejection of beauty by Marxists aesthetics makes the theory a contradiction, reflecting some of the problems in Marxism itself. In the words of Chris Rasmussen, “what appears to be a system designed to defend beauty, in fact becomes one that seeks out and destroys beauty wherever it finds it”. However, it is hard to deny the influence Marxism and its aesthetic theory have had on art, especially from the 1960s onward. Only history will determine if art under Marxist aesthetics will be considered classic, great artwork.

Karl Marx and the Marxist Aesthetics

Marxism, the political and economic theories of Karl Marx, is often applied to other theoretical frameworks in order to view particular aspects of society. One of the many areas Marxism is concerned with is art, and the lens with which one can view art from a Marxist point of view is called Marxist aesthetics. Aesthetic theory in itself is a set of criteria used to judge and criticize artwork, based on what the artist and art was trying to accomplish. Marxist aesthetics is used to judge artwork, with the idea that art should have a social function, revealing truth and awakening the people to reality of their struggle. Art, according to Marxist aesthetics, should be a revolution. Since the 1970s, Marxist aesthetic theory has become a popular way not only to judge older art, but has also inspired modern artists who apply it to their artwork in order to criticize capitalist tendencies.

There is no “official” Marxist theory of aesthetics created by Marx himself, though some in the art world believe that Marxism was ultimately a set of aesthetic beliefs. In fact, it is said that Karl Marx attempted to write specifically about aesthetics on a few occasions, but would become distracted, leaving the ideas mostly unexplored. Marxist aesthetics stems from the belief of Marxists that a true understanding of art can only be gained by having a complete understanding of Marxist theory. According to Louis Althusser, a French Marxist theorist: ”The only way we can hope to reach a real knowledge of art, to go deeper into the specificity of the work of art, to know the mechanisms which produce the `aesthetic effect’, is precisely to spend a long time and pay the greatest attention to the `basic principles of Marxism’.”

Karl Marx had a strong appreciation for art, but felt that it had lost its way. According to Marx, art is a part of the superstructure, and was therefore heavily influenced by the economy. Marx was upset

with how capitalism affected art, and the appreciation of art by viewers. He wrote about art and aesthetics many times, in his Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, and Capital. In his writings he mentioned the capitalism took away this aesthetic sense, by promoting self-interested values and making disinterested appreciation of beauty impossible. In Marx’s mind, capitalism brought a monetary value to art, which turned viewers into consumers, destroying the appreciation of art is taking away the human desire to experience true beauty. Marx believed art should serve the social function of awakening society to their pain, but felt that the destruction of beauty by capitalism anesthetized people to their own suffering.

Interestingly, under Marxist aesthetics, art cannot be beautiful until Communism has been established, but rather must have utility. In 1939, American art writer Clement Greenberg had the idea that socialism was what would provide the avant-garde, or revolutionary artist with the freedom needed to create beautiful art. He believed this was because a Capitalist system rewards artists for responding to the demands of society under the influence of a ruling class . This influence is seen as corruption, causing man to be alienated from himself and therefore incapable of judging beauty. In order to create beautiful art (or see the beauty in art), man must reject this world and the “beauty” in it and perform aesthetically satisfying labor. The key element that defines beautiful or good art under Marxist aesthetics today is art that rejects and criticizes society and opens the eyes of its viewers.

In order to understand the basic ideas behind Marxist aesthetics, it is helpful to examine art (or artists) considered “good” under the criteria. Two great examples from before the rise in Marxist aesthetic popularity are Francisco De Goya, and Alphonse Mucha. With each of these two artists we can see both sides of the coin, and how their ideas fit into frame of Marxist aesthetics.


Female artists during the baroque period

Even though Orarizio built a friendship among Carravagio and his followers at one point of his life, it did not last long. By 1610, Orarizio was left with cosimo Quorli a understeward and the one last close companion. During the trial he claimed to be artimisia’s father when he was trying to rape her as well. Agostino Tessi arrived in Rome in 1610. Tessi arrived in rome after his brief time in Florence where he assaulted a prostitute. To get out of the mess, he married the prostitute. The prostitute lest him for a richer man when he seduced the prostitutes sister. He attempted to kill her too. The scandals life of Tessi does not change that he was a well appreciated painter by many patrons including the Medici. Tessi was not a figure drawer but a illusionistic architecture and landscape painter and turned to Orarizio for help. Orarizio turned to Tessi for help when it came to arranging the characters in space. The two became close and Tessi was often seen visiting the gentaleschi house leading to the famous rape in 1612.

Artemisia was only 17 at the time was already a divine artist. She was kept away from public places, and not many people ever saw her outside of the house. Artimisia was still charmed by Tessi even during the trial. ( tessi was small chubby with a scant beard) until she found out that Tessi’s wife was still alive. Tessi provided witnesses he planted for the court leading to a close call. But in the end tessi was sentenced 5 years of exile from Rome.

Her father remained in rome but lost the favour of the paple family because of the trial. Artemisia married the brother of the man who helped her father with the trial right after tessi was exiled in 1612. They headed to Florence. During her time in Florence between 1612-1620, She enjoyed the freedom she never had due to her connection to the Medici court.( And she was married too). IN the end even though she lost her dignity and virginity to a terrible human bean, she gained freedom from the terrible trial. Perhaps if the trial never happened, she would of spent her entire life in the little room her father cooped her in. Sense Artemisia was not allowed to be in touch with models; were these bodies perhaps a drawing of herself? There is not much known about the Judith painting. It is thought to be a painting Artemisia started to draw in Rome after the rape ( there is no proof to this). But Bissell (R. Ward Bissell is Professor of the History of Art, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and author of Orazio Gentileschi and the Poetic Tradition in Caravaggesque Painting (Penn State, 1981). noted that this kind of painting were probable a commotion there for the artist Artemisia did not make the decision of painting this topic. If this were to be true, how ironic is it. So much influence from caravaggio’s Judith painting in palazzo barberini. Could the painting be a response to seeing caravaggio’s painting for the first time? Did the person who commissioned the painting arrange Artemisia to see caravaggios painting?

Kono Takashi

I’m going to do something different for this post. I’m going to talk about a japanese graphic designer.

I’ve been studying graphic design during this semester and I’ve found a guy who was very interesting to me. so let’s jump in.

Takashi Kōno (河野鷹思) was a Japanese graphic designer known best for his ability to combine post-World War II western influences with his Japanese heritage. Kono was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1906. Unfortunately, not much is known about his life from his birth until the time he went to university. At Tokyo Art School (Tokyo Geijutsu University), Kono chose to study design. During his time at the university, Kono became an influence on Kenkichi Yoshida (a stage designer, art director, costume designer, and typographer) while helping him create the stage design for the Tsukiji Theater. While he studied here, he also joined the Second Japan Workshop (第二次日本工房), a theater where he did stage design, and ended up having an influence on the theater’s manager, Yousuke Natori (who formerly studied at the Bauhaus and later became and editor).

Kono graduated from university in 1929, and went on to work for Shochiku Public Relations department, where he created movie posters, magazine ads, and stage designs. He worked here for about 7 years, until in 1936 he became independent. After setting out to work on his own, he created several posters, newspaper illustrations, and bookbindings. He is known for his design of the cover and layout for the magazine “NIPPON”, which was a magazine about Japan targeted mainly at foreigners. The covers Kono designed for “NIPPON” magazine combined natural organic motifs, very simple but modern text, and somewhat saturated colors reminiscent of ukiyo-e paintings. He also spent time as an art director and stage designer for movies, as well as designing logos for companies. One of his most well known logos are the red heart on white background for the Kyuu Daiichi Kangyou Ginkou, which later became Mizuho bank.

In 1940, in the midst of the Second World War, Kono became the head editor and cover designer for the Nihon Shashin Kougeisha (日本写真工芸社), who had established a propaganda magazine called “VAN”. In 1941, Kono was drafted into the military and served in Java, Indonesia. When he returned from the war in 1946, he decided to work as a freelancer. Since Kono actually fought in the war himself, he incorporated this experience in his art. Many of his works express his feelings toward the war, and reflect the developments taking place after the war. He started the Japan Advertising Artists Club (日宣美) with other famous graphic designers such as Ayao Yamana, Hiromu Hara, and Yuusaku Kamekura, in an effort to promote Japan to the outside world. It was the first organization for graphic designers after the war. In 1955, Kono and the other founders of the JAAC held an exhibition called Graphic ’55, which was the first time a Japanese art exhibition recognized advertisement posters as art.

One of Kono’s most famous works was actually done during this period. It was a poster called “Sheltered weaklings- Japan” designed in 1953. The black background signifies the uncertain and unclear international political environment surrounding Japan in the early 1950s. Japan is expressed as a school of fish swimming behind a bigger, stronger, and vicious America. Two red fish on the right top corner symbolize the Soviet Union and China, alluding to the ongoing Cold War. There are 13 fish, and in western culture the number 13 represents bad luck or death. This might be Kono expressing the death of Japan in his eyes.


In 1959, Kono established a design company called “Desuka”. In 1960, Kono became a member of the World Design Conference, making him the first Japanese graphic designer to be recognized for his talent around the world. In 1964, he was on the design committee for the Tokyo Olympics. In 1966, Kono participated in the establishment of Aichi Art University, where he became a professor, and then later the Dean in 1983. In 1967, he held his first one-man exhibition called Kono Takashi’s Fish Exhibition, featuring many different fish motifs. In that same year, Kono also became the first Japanese person to be chosen as a member of the Royal Designers for Industry, which recognizes designers who have achieved excellence in their careers. In 1986, Kono was chosen to be a part of the Tokyo Art Directors club, and was inducted into the hall of fame.

Takashi Kono died in 1999 at the age of 93. Though he has passed, his legacy and influence has lived on. He is survived by his daughter, Aoi Huber Kono, who is also a graphic designer and an illustrator. Aoi was married to a famous Swiss graphic designer named Max Huber. As we have seen, Takashi Kono was also a teacher of his craft, teaching design at Musashino University, Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, Joshibi University of Art and Design, and Aichi Prefectural University of Arts and Music (where he became president). His teaching and influences have been passed down and are carried on at these schools to this day. Kono’s works themselves are still relevant today as well, because many of them have a very modern feeling. Though Kono uses simplified shapes, the combinations of colors and shapes makes his art fit right in with art from the 2010’s. A posthumous solo exhibition of Kono’s work was held at the Ginza Graphic Gallery in 2003, and again at the National Museum of Art in Tokyo in 2005.