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.

An Artist’s Bookshelf – September 2018

So it’s not all books this time, but I can’t wait to dig into the resources I’ve got ready for the coming month…

Broad Strokes: 15 Women Who Made Art and Made History (in That Order) by Bridget Quinn & illustrated by Lisa Congdon – This book provides a natural segue into my continued creative discussions with my friend Tami over Skype. We finished A Glorious Freedom recently (we both give it glowing remarks), and by Tami’s recommendation, we’re trying Broad Strokes next. It just happens to be illustrated by Lisa Congdon, author of A Glorious Freedom, and the first pages of our latest book quickly reveal Quinn’s wit, creativity and breadth of knowledge.

Wyeth (PBS) – I can’t tell you how pumped I am to watch this film tonight on PBS! I’ve been fascinated with Wyeth’s work ever since being exposed to it through Coursera.org’s “Modern Art & Ideas” class and the fictional book A Piece of the World inspired by Wyeth’s painting “Christina’s World.” And I obviously have some catching up to do with the entire American Masters series “Artists Flight.”

The New Yorker – Through a sweet deal I spotted on Facebook, I’m getting twelve issues of this popular art-filled magazine for just $6. The first article I read today—“What We Know About Art and the Mind” by Paul Bloom—introduced me to a book that will likely make a future bookshelf post: How Art Works by Ellen Winner. More on that—as well as other New Yorker discoveries—later!

Artist Date: Minneapolis Institute of Art – April 13, 2018

A sneak peek into “Power and Beauty in China’s Last Dynasty” at the Minneapolis Institute of Art

What a jewel of an art museum we have here in the Twin Cities! How incredible that anyone can step up to an original Van Gogh, Monet, etc., free of charge any day of the week (except Monday when the museum is closed). An added bonus? A free docent-led tour at 1 p.m. whenever the museum is open—just meet the day’s guide at the main desk for an hour-long “highlights” tour of his or her choosing.

Here are the highlights of what I saw and learned during my most recent visit to the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA)

Technique: Collision of art & theater
As an MIA member, I was able to score free tickets to the MIA’s featured exhibit “Power and Beauty in China’s Last Dynasty,” which was conceived and designed by Robert Wilson, a theater director and artist. If you plan to take it in, I don’t want to give too much away—in short, it was a sensory treat complete with sound, artifacts, etc., and a new experience around every corner. I examined the walls of the exhibition space just as much as the items on exhibit. Go, go, go if you can!

Term: Automatic drawing
I happened upon a room filled with works by Minnesota artist George Morrison (more about him below) and fell upon the term “automatic drawing” in the description of one of his untitled works. In his artist statement, automatic drawing is defined as a technique “in which the artist’s hand creates a mark without thought or intention in order to access the creative imagination of the subconscious.” Despite Morrison’s unintentional approach to the piece, I love the balanced, seemingly planful result.

Artwork: “Dining Room in the Country” by Pierre Bonnard
Our docent chose to introduce us to pieces by artists who were contemporaries and friends of James Abbott McNeill Whistler (even though there are no works by Whistler in the MIA’s collection). As the docent suggested, it’s a painting that makes you want to take in a big deep breath in hopes to inhale the fragrance of the rich floral background. I, for one, would love to shove that cat to the side and take my place in that chair to chat with my visiting friend, knit a few rows, and enjoy the colorful surroundings.

Artist: George Morrison
Back to George Morrison… The variety of his work is astounding—from painting, to pen and ink, to wood collage. It seems like this man could make any medium ultimately resemble a picturesque landscape. It’s interesting to note that his artistic talents may have taken root during a fourteen-month hospital stay at age 10. He was recovering from surgery necessitated by tuberculosis, says MNopedia.

Takeaway: Automatic drawing & “Other Side of the Room” project
It goes without saying that I’d love to try my hand at automatic drawing; I’m going to test it using my black ink pens of various tip sizes. In addition, while viewing “Dining Room in the Country,” I was reminded of another interesting red room I had recently come across in my Coursera.org studies: “The Red Studio” by Henri Matisse. In my mind’s eye, I imagine the rooms depicted in both paintings as one! This got me to thinking… What other pieces of art would I pair together using similar logic? This question birthed yet another assignment for my growing list!

Coursera Course: “Modern Art & Ideas”

logo_squareEvery so often I revisit one of my favorite online resources: Coursera.org. It’s a treasure trove of online courses covering all kinds of subject matter and taught by instructors from reputable educational institutions all over the world. What’s more, most courses are completely free!

In skimming the list of Coursera’s current “Arts and Humanities” courses, there was one in particular that caught my eye: “Modern Art & Ideas” presented by the Museum of Modern Art. The description reads:

This course is designed to help anyone interested in learning more about modern and contemporary art. Themes can provide an effective structure for engaging with art. In this course, you will explore four themes that educators at The Museum of Modern Art use frequently in their teaching: Places & Spaces, Art & Identity, Transforming Everyday Objects, and Art & Society. Through videos, slideshows, and a variety of resources, readings, and activities, you will explore the content and context of works of art in MoMA’s collection.

I have since completed Week 2 of five and absolutely love the method and materials. As mentioned in the course introduction, we’re studying art outside of the typical approach of movement and time period; instead, we’re examining pieces that have a certain quality or inspiration in common.

Join me? The course runs through April 30 and there’s plenty of time to catch up. The first “quiz” is due April 2, and I tend to spend less than an hour on each week’s  coursework. Furthermore, Coursera is great at starring the stuff you don’t want to miss and offering many more resources if you want to go deeper. Sign up now>>