An Insightful Demonstration Recreates Donatello’s Marble Carving Technique
To coincide with the first major U.K. exhibition of works by the Renaissance great Donatello, the Victoria and Albert Museum released the latest addition to its How was it made? series, which explores the process behind some of art history’s most lauded pieces. The short video follows sculptor Simon Smith as he creates a scaled-down iteration of the 15th-century Prato Pulpit, a relief featuring dancing cherubs made for the Cathedral of Prato.
Referring to marble as “the emperor of all stones,” Smith draws a portion of the original work on a small block and explains the unique characteristics of the material as he carves. “It’s all about trapping shadows,” he says. “Carving is all about having deep cuts here and lighter here and the angle here and how the light plays on it. And certainly in relief because relief carving like this. It’s kind of halfway between sculpture and drawing.” While demonstrating how Donatello might have approached his work, Smith offers a compelling glimpse into how two artists’ techniques overlap and converge centuries apart.
Donatello: Sculpting the Renaissance is on view through June 11 in London and includes Smith’s panel, which viewers are encouraged to touch. Find more about the demonstration on YouTube. (via Kottke)
Share this story
A Stunning Timelapse of Ice Melting Ties the Climate Crisis to an ‘Eternal Spring’
Melting mounds of snow, icicles dripping from gutters, and morning frost quickly disappearing from the grass are all telltale signs that spring is near. But what happens when the landscape is suspended in a perpetual state of thaw not tied to the change of the season? Christopher Dormoy wades into this question in “Eternal Spring,” a mesmerizing short film that magnifies the properties of melting ice.
Shot with a macro lens, the timelapse zeroes in small frozen pockets that appear like cavernous landscapes and vast tundras, tying the film to its large-scale concerns. “Melting ice is beautiful and symbolizes spring, but it can also symbolize the problematic aspect of our climate,” the Montreal-based art director says. Given the incredible loss of ice already happening at the poles, “Eternal Spring” takes on additional meaning when linked to the climate crisis and what it means to inhabit a rapidly warming planet.
The film is part of a larger archive of Dormoy’s experimental projects, which you can find on Vimeo.
Share this story
Documentary History Photography
‘A History of the World According to Getty Images’ Challenges the Power Structures Inherent in the Capture and Control of Footage
When a creative material’s copyright lapses, it enters the public domain, which means it is no longer subject to trademarks, patents, or intellectual property rights. No individual, company, author, or artist owns it, and it belongs to the public. If this is the case, why is some public domain footage so expensive? This is the question at the core of Richard Misek’s short film “A History of the World According to Getty Images” in which he explores how historically significant footage from newsreels, government agencies, and pioneers of film are “held captive” behind paywalls.
Beyond the history contained within the images, Misek examines footage itself and what happens after it’s captured. He focuses on Getty Images, the world’s largest commercial archive, challenging its control over public footage, which it only makes available through steep licensing fees. In the case of The Miles Brothers’ iconic short film “A Trip Down Market Street,” which captures downtown San Francisco just days before the devastating 1906 earthquake, the film was digitized in 2016 by the Prelinger Archive and made available for free, while Getty charges hundreds or thousands of dollars for the rights to use the footage, depending on its intended use.
Misek parses the unequal power dynamics inherent within capturing life and major events, in addition to the barriers to accessing that footage today. “Newsreel cameras document power, but what strikes me most from my exploration of the Getty Archive, is how much the act of filming itself is an expression of power,” Misek narrates. He points out that footage shot by the government, like the first atomic explosions at Bikini Atoll in 1946, enters the public domain immediately, but that NASA is the only federal agency that releases directly to the public. Misek paid to us use six of the eight full clips in the film, which he sourced from various collections to find the best price.
Whenever I search a news archive, I always hope I’ll find some images that aren’t about power. And once in a while I do. But by and large, the past offers no surprises. As it is the source of all the inequalities and injustices that still exist. That’s why I made this film. Its aim is not only to share images’ stories, it’s to release them from captivity.
By paying to use the full clips, Misek slyly adds previously inaccessible images into the public realm by claiming no copyright, making the film available to stream online and download in full for free. You can find more of his work on Vimeo and his site.
Share this story
Coinciding with the Season 11 Launch, Art21 Will Release All Past Episodes on YouTube to Stream for Free
Art21, the award-winning filmmaking enterprise, is in the midst of its 11th season, which features artists and collectives like Cannupa Hanska Luger (previously), Hank Willis Thomas (previously), and Guerilla Girls. Grouped thematically in three episodes— “Everyday Icons,” “Bodies of Knowledge,” and “Friends & Strangers” —the new season centers around the political landscape in the U.S. and how, regardless of where they call home, the artists are shaping culture through care and a more meaningful consideration of what it means to be part of a community.
“When we began thinking about how to frame this latest season of Art in the Twenty-First Century, we considered our current historical moment and decided to turn the lens inward and focus on the United States,” Tina Kukielski, the executive director and chief curator, said. “In this first episode, we wanted to highlight artists who challenge and question American monuments and iconography.” “Everyday Icons” centers on Amy Sherald (previously), Rose B. Simpson, Alex Da Corte, and Daniel Lind-Ramos, who each question historical narratives, subvert aesthetic traditions, and offer new visual languages for the contemporary landscape.
To coincide with the launch, Art21 is also sharing all of its past episodes for free viewing on YouTube in an effort to make the series more accessible. Seasons eight, nine, and ten are currently available and take viewers on journies from Johannesburg to Berlin, London to Beijing, and Mexico City to Chicago to follow artists like Zanele Muholi, Olafur Eliasson, Anish Kapoor, and Nick Cave. Other seasons are organized more thematically, grouping artists based on a common idea rather than physical location. Since debuting in 2001, Art21 has released nearly 40 episodes, offering insightful looks at how the art world, aesthetics, and cultural interests have evolved during the last two decades.
Episode 1 of Season 11 aired earlier this month, and the second is scheduled for June 23 on PBS. Keep an eye on Art21’s YouTube for the remainder of previous seasons to be released throughout the year.
Share this story
An Unwitting Consumer Finds Himself Out of His Depth in the Stop-Motion Animation ‘Five Cents’
Stumbling upon a coin purse, a lone consumer finds himself in possession of a bit of extra change in the stop-motion animation “Five Cents.” Aaron Hughes created the film by using thousands of market analysis pages from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Financial Times, on top of which he applied layers of ink, Wite-Out, gold leaf, and gouache. A symbolic and witty criticism of capitalist society and how economic mechanisms like inflation impact the everyday cost of living, Hughes’ solitary character purchases essentials like glasses and an umbrella before being hoodwinked into unnecessary purchases.
“Five Cents” won the 2022 South by Southwest Animated Short Audience Award, and you can see more of Hughes’ work on Vimeo.
Share this story
Art Documentary History
Duct Tape and Dreams: The Wild History of SFMOMA’s Famous Soapbox Derby
Art can have many purposes—to be beautiful, to teach, to make us feel—but sometimes, art is just for fun. Such is the case for SFMOMA’s Soapbox Derby, a raucously creative race that sent dozens of artist-designed cars barreling through the streets of San Francisco in 1975, 1978, and again last April.
The idea originated with Bay Area sculptor Fletcher Benton (1931-2019) back in the 70s when he proposed that the museum commission a competition to make art fun and accessible to the public and to provide local artists with funding. SFMOMA agreed to the project, and more than 90 artists were tasked with designing racers and trophies. Rules stipulated that the cars “must coast, that they must not exceed the dimensions of six feet in width and seventeen feet in length, (and) that the vehicle contains an adequate steering and braking system.” Plus, the works should be cost-effective, and the museum offered $100 per car and $35 for trophies.
Thousands of viewers lined the 800-foot winding slope of McLaren Park’s Shelley Drive to watch artists like Ruth Asawa, Carlos Vila, and the collective known as Ant Farm compete. Racers were varied in subject matter and material and included vehicles shaped like bananas, sneakers, enormous hands, and a yellow No. 2 pencil, the latter of which was built by Richard Shaw, the winner in the “Fastest Looking” category of the legendary 1975 competition and the only alum in the 2022 revival.
Shaw features in “Duct Tape and Dreams,” a short documentary produced by SFMOMA and Stink Studios about last year’s event that follows artists as they construct their cars and sail down the hill. After studio visits and glimpses into the construction processes, race day is a riotous, high-energy event that sees a range of mishaps and successful descents for designs like Windy Chien’s rope dome (previously), a googly-eyed backhoe by Girl’s Garage and “Succulent Sally,” a car covered in native plants made by a team of the city’s gardeners.
Capturing the streets lined with spectators, the documentary is a reminder of what life was like before digital connection became ubiquitous and that art can be both playful and foster meaningful connection. “Art is not just in a white cube,” writes Tomoko Kanamitsu about the derby. “It can be a car made of bread that disintegrates halfway down a hill on Shelley Drive. Art can be anywhere and everywhere.”
SFMOMA hasn’t yet announced plans to host another iteration, but you can brush up on your derby history by watching “Duct Tape and Dreams” and diving into the photo archive in the meantime.
Share this story
Editor's Picks: Animation
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.