The Misguided Cover Up

From the Global Post, by Iva Roze Skoch

After complaints, statue of naked Prometheus gets undies

It isn’t clear who exactly complained about the nudity of the Greek God Prometheus, whose bronze statue now graces the area opposite the Parliament building in Skopje, the capital of Macedonia, but that’s part of the mystery behind this story.

According to this article in the Balkan Insight, the complainers were “unidentified women’s organizations.”

What is clear is that good old nude Prometheus — who in Greek mythology is a symbol of self-sacrifice because he stole fire from the gods — suddenly appeared a few days ago decked out in brand new tidy whities.

Made out of bronze, naturally.

The speedy official response and “cover up” have sparked debate in Macedonia, prompting some to speculate whether other statues, like the giant sculpture of a woman breast-feeding a child, which is yet to be erected just a few hundred meters from the Prometheus sculpture, will also get a cover up.

Vladimir Velickovski, Skopje-based art professor, told the Balkan Insight:  “Our environment is small and frustrated and this (speedy cover-up) reflects hypocrisy and self-censorship….In private everything is allowed while in public everything is disputed.”

Then again, this isn’t the first time Macedonia has been accused of hypocrisy when it comes to their treatment of Greek heroes. Continue reading

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Ron Mueck’s Astounding Art

Ron Mueck at work on one of his lifelike, larger than life statues.

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Mueck began his career working on the Australian children’s television program Shirl’s Neighbourhood. He was the creative director and made, voiced and operated the puppets Greenfinger the Garden Gnome, Ol’ Possum, Stanley the snake and Claude the Crow amongst many others. The show was made for Channel 7 Melbourne between 1979 and 1984, broadcast nationally and starred the ex-lead singer of Skyhooks, Graeme “Shirley” Strachan.

Mueck’s early career was as a model maker and puppeteer for children’s television and films, notably the film Labyrinth for which he also contributed the voice of Ludo, and the Jim Henson series The Storyteller.

Mueck moved on to establish his own company in London, making photo-realistic props and animatronics for the advertising industry. Although highly detailed, these props were usually designed to be photographed from one specific angle hiding the mess of construction seen from the other side. Mueck increasingly wanted to produce realistic sculptures which looked perfect from all angles.

In 1996 Mueck transitioned to fine art, collaborating with his mother-in-law, Paula Rego, to produce small figures as part of a tableau she was showing at the Hayward Gallery. Rego introduced him to Charles Saatchi who was immediately impressed and started to collect and commission work. This led to the piece which made Mueck’s name, Dead Dad, being included in the Sensation show at the Royal Academy the following year. Dead Dad is a silicone and mixed media sculpture of the corpse of Mueck’s father reduced to about two thirds of its natural scale. It is the only work of Mueck’s that uses his own hair for the finished product.

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Germany’s Michelangelo?

Arno Breker (1900-1991)

Rare photo of Arno Breker in his studio

To celebrate the man is a controversial notion; to celebrate his brilliant work, less so.  Though most of his public work survived World War II, 90% of it was destroyed by the Allies at the end of the war.  A sad state-of-affairs but thoroughly understandable.  Breker socialized with the likes of Albert Speer and Hitler, joined the Nazis and became the official state sculptor for Germany, taking commissions from the Nazis from 1933 to 1942.  As magnificent as his sculptures are, you can also see where they could have been used to symbolize the so-called perfect “Arian Race”.

So take a look at some samples of his work and decide for yourself what side of posterity you come down on.

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Richmond Barthe

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James Richmond Barthé (January 28, 1901 – March 5, 1989) was an African American sculptor known for his many public works, including the Toussaint L’Ouverture Monument in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and a sculpture of Rose McClendon for Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater House.

Barthe once said that “all my life I have be interested in trying to capture the spiritual quality I see and feel in people, and I feel that the human figure as God made it, is the best means of expressing this spirit in man.”

Richmond Barthe2Richmond Barthé was born in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, (in January 1901). His father died at 22, when Richmond was only one month old, leaving his mother to raise him alone. Barthé spent his teen years in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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Lyle Saxon of the Times Picayune newspaper, tried unsuccessfully against racist policy to get Barthé registered in art school in New Orleans. In 1924, with the aid of a Catholic priest, the Reverend Harry Kane, S.S.I, and with less than a high school education and no formal training in art, Barthé was admitted to the Art Institute of Chicago. During the next four years Barthé followed a curriculum structured for majors in painting. During his four years of study he worked as a busboy at a small café. His work caught the attention of Dr. Charles Maceo Thompson, a patron of the arts and supporter of many talented young black artists. Barthé was a flattering portrait painter, and Dr. Thompson helped him to secure many lucrative commissions from the city’s affluent black citizens.

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Modern Day Michelangelo; Ian Rank-Broadley

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“The naked figure, whether in the studio or on the beach, has always fascinated me. It is a subject that everyone can relate and respond to in their own way, often without conceptualizing or intellectualizing. That is the way I prefer to do it. There is a deeper response to the illusive and resonating qualities of the body in art.”

Thinking there is more than what passes as sculpture, Ian set out to develop his own interpretations.  Thus, a recent installation at the Abbey House Gardens in ancient Malmesbury, Wiltshire, England.

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“The choice of the male figure / nude as a dominant motif was made quite early when I realized that the female nude had, to a large extent, been robbed of its power by the commercial world of advertising, whereas the the male nude still retained a power that could excite, grab attention and shock. The reaction of the spectator to the male figure was stronger, whether out of competition, fear or embarrassment. It proved to be a potent image. For me, the sculptor, this fact reinforced the work with a greater resonance and meaning.”

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