Coursera’s “In the Studio: Postwar Abstract Painting”

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Coursera.org, in partnership with the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), has done it again. They are currently offering another fabulous and totally free course (as long as you don’t care about credits) on a totally fascinating topic.

“In the Studio: Postwar Abstract Painting” is part history lesson, part practicum. Instructor Corey D’Augustine is indeed the right guy to teach such a course being both a technical art historian and an artist. Some videos capture D’Augustine in studio demonstrating the characteristic techniques of Newman, Pollock and their New York School contemporaries. Other videos show D’Augustine standing before such artists’ original works at MoMA, helping us to observe nuances, to engage more fully in the “push” and “pull” of color values, etc. I absolutely love the mix of both study and application.

As you may have noticed through my blog posts, the former is much easier for me to accomplish these days compared to the latter. But this course is great motivation to apply myself more, and I’m going to start by testing some of the masking methods and “zips” for which Barnett Newman is known (see Week 2). As I proceed through the course, I’m certain my to-do list will only grow.

Artist Date: Minneapolis Institute of Art, Art in Bloom – April 29, 2018

I can hardly believe that I allowed 35 years of my life to pass without taking in this gem: the Art in Bloom exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA).

This was the 35th year that the MIA invited florists, both novice and professional, to imitate or interpret an existing work of art through a floral creation.

I have bragged on MIA’s docents before, but on Art in Bloom weekends, they take their skills to another level, not only offering historical background and their insight on paintings and sculptures, but also introducing us to familiar and not-so-familiar plant life and its use in artistic design.

In the process of my tour of some modern and contemporary selections, I discovered a few new artists and pieces of art among MIA’s permanent collection:

“An Inner Dialogue with Frida Kahlo (Hand-Shaped Earring)” by Morimura Yasumasa
This Japanese artist dresses and poses as a well-known figure—Marilyn Monroe, Mona Lisa, etc.—then paints a “self portrait.” The process itself is extremely creative, but, boy, what detail this painter lends to his work. In his depiction of Frida Kahlo, the Louis Vuitton wrap bears an amazing and oh-so realistic texture and vibrancy. Wow!

“Billboard” by Grace Hartigan
Hartigan used 1950s advertisements as her inspiration in creating an abstract collage of color blocks and simple figures. “Billboard” began with an  arrangement of images from “Life” magazine—this became Hartigan’s model for her painting. Note to self: Try this!

“Young Woman in Undergarments” by Wilhelm List 
The mother-and-daughter team who created the floral imitation of this painting were on hand to point out sweet details of this painting; the pair had obviously studied it well to arrive at their own composition of precisely placed hydrangeas, carnations and greenery. Both works of art carried an intriguing mix of light and dark, light and lush.

“Italian Town by the Sea” by Alexandra Exter
Vibrant colors. Juxtaposed shapes. A little tension. A dynamic flow. This abstract painting boasts all the qualities that bless my eye with delight. A student of cubism, Exter took the approach and made it all her own by including realistic hues and shading. It’s always a treat to learn of another woman of independent courage!

Again, these were just the highlights of my first Art in Bloom experience. Next year, I hope to extend my visit and to explore more genres… and to welcome spring with some beautiful flowers, too!