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Ai Weiwei: Art, Activism, and Technology

On April 5, Ai Weiwei: According to What?—the IMA’s latest featured exhibition—opened to the public. A major retrospective of the artist’s work, this not-to-be-missed exhibition includes examples from the broad spectrum of the artist’s practice, which encompasses sculpture, photography, video, and site-specific architectural installations, as well as the design for the “Bird’s Nest” stadium for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Walking past some of the works in the show, visitors may be inspired to learn more about the man who created these pieces and the circumstances that drove him to do so. In conjunction with the exhibition, the IMA is employing new in-gallery technology to facilitate these inquiries and help audiences engage with the work of this extraordinary artist.


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Filed under: Exhibitions, New Media, Technology


Understanding Ai Weiwei

For those who haven’t heard, Ai Weiwei: According to What? opened last week at the IMA. Ai Weiwei is a revolutionary artist and activist, known for his constant battle against Chinese government. Ai’s works tell a story—a story of oppression, political corruption, and a fight for equality. But to fully understand the context in which his works were created, a little reading may be required. Take a look at the links posted below to learn more about Ai Weiwei. The articles will provide a little extra insight into Ai and his works.


And of course, visit the IMA to experience Ai’s works. Like the ‘reading the book before watching the movie rule,’ the links provided will help you better understand the complete story of Ai Weiwei.

Filed under: Exhibitions


Examining Photographic Activity through a Wide-Angle Lens

Throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth-centuries, Paris was the locus of artistic activity. For that reason, the current exhibition Snapshot: Painters and Photography, Bonnard to Vuillard profiles six long-term residents of the French capital: printmaker Henri Rivière, Belgian painter Henri Evenepoel, and four members of the Nabis (Hebrew for ‘prophets’), a well-known artists’ circle active in Paris. The show pairs the professional output of these selected post-Impressionists with their recreational experiments as amateur photographers. Introduced in 1888, the handheld Kodak camera became a ubiquitous accoutrement of the modern artist. In addition to Parisians, Snapshot also includes the work of Dutch modernist George Hendrick Breitner, which demonstrates the universality of the avant-garde and their quick response to new technology. Such efforts to present a more inclusive history of the period broaden the show’s geographical scope.

Breitner’s work is unfamiliar to many outside of his native Holland. He spent the majority of his career in The Hague and Amsterdam, with brief sojourns in Berlin, London, and Paris. From 1876 until 1880, Breitner attended the Hague Art Academy, and, following disciplinary expulsion from the institution, he continued his studies in the private studio of Hague School painter Willem Maris for one year. Under the tutelage of Maris, he painted en plein air, a practice that likely contributed to his break with more conventional methodologies. Around the same time, Breitner discovered the French Naturalist writings of Gustave Flaubert, the Goncourt brothers (Edmond and Jules), and Émile Zola, which informed his selection of subject matter. His compatriot Vincent van Gogh also exhibited an appreciation for the transnational literary movement. Naturalist texts made available a plethora of suitable motifs for urbanites like Breitner and van Gogh. The two artists exchanged their favorite publications, and van Gogh accompanied Breitner on sketching excursions in The Hague’s working-class districts, and other sites described by Naturalist authors. Consequently, these activities yielded cityscapes as opposed to the pastoral views and seascapes favored by the preceding generation of Dutch artists, namely the Hague School painters.

George Hendrik Breitner, “The Dam, Amsterdam” 1895. Rijksmuseum Amsterdam.

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Filed under: Exhibitions


Opening Tonight: Snapshot

Henri Evenepoel, "Louise at Wépion," summer 1897. Modern gelatin silver print, 2011.

With the myriad of ways in which we visually record our day-to-day (Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, the list goes on), it’s hard to imagine a time when spontaneous documentation of our lives wasn’t possible. In 1888, the invention of the easy-to-use Kodak camera gave birth to the “snapshot”, forever changing how we document and share our favorite moments, both large and small. The IMA’s new exhibition Snapshot: Painters and Photographers, Bonnard to Vuillard (opening tonight!), explores the influence this camera had on the lives and work of seven painters in the Post-Impressionist era.

Ellen Lee, Wood-Pulliam Senior Curator at the IMA and co-curator of Snapshot, discusses the connections between this invention and influence on artistic practice:

In this audio clip, Todd Gustavson – Curator of the Technology Collection at the George Eastman House – discusses how these artists approached the process differently (for more like this, check out the free TAP mobile tour in the exhibition):

Share your own snapshots (digital camera, scanned film, Instagram filtered, whatever you’ve got!) and enter our online competition for a chance to win monthly prizes.  Photos will also be projected outside the exhibition at the IMA.

Filed under: Art, Exhibitions


Living in a “Material World”

With every coming season, we’re bombarded with the latest “trends” and innovations the fashion world has cooked up for us. We’re always led to believe we’re seeing the newest, freshest batch of chicness – but is any of it really new?

Not exactly. The old saying “history repeats itself” can be applied to fashion without fail.  Save for those unexplainable and unsettling fads (i.e. jelly shoes and acid wash denim), nearly everything in fashion can be traced to a previous trend or inspiration.  The long-sleeved mini dresses on the Azarro and Jil Sander runways? Direct 60s references. Prada looked back to the 50s with knee-length skirts and feminine hues. On countless runways, polka dots – one of the most classic prints – were given a fresh, modern spin.

While none of this is “new,” we’re definitely seeing it in a new way.

Luckily, fashionphiles like me have an advantage when it comes to tracing trends: the IMA’s very own Material World exhibition.  From crystal-encrusted Dior gowns to ornate Cambodian pieces, Material World is chock full of the clothes that started it all. Seeing the exquisite craftsmanship, rich colors, and tiny details up close means spotting fashion influences is both easy and fascinating. In particular, a feathered Chanel cape, a Tibetan regalia, Chinese imperial robe, and a two-piece Chanel suit stood out to me, and to demonstrate their timeless appeal, I compared them to Fall/Winter 2011 runways:



The 1920s was an age of excess and luxury, exuberance and joy.  This feathered, camel-colored Chanel cape exhibits all of these sentiments, with the addition of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel’s exquisite tailoring and craftsmanship, of course. Wearing feather-adorned clothing was both an exotic new design idea and a shameless display of wealth for upper class Americans of the Roaring Twenties.  Naturally Chanel, the premiere couturier, was among the first to turn out magnificently feathered pieces.  The dense application of feathers gives the cape a soft, plush feel, yet true to form, Chanel kept the colors natural and the shape sleek and simple. Nothing too gaudy or over-the-top for the original minimalist.

Today, we’re seeing modern interpretations of the feathered trend – and not just feathered pieces, but opulent fur pieces as well.  But modern styling and shapes make all the difference in the world; take the Valentino feathered jacket, for example: ultra-naturalized feathers on a 60s-inspired swing coat, complete with cropped sleeves and a rounded collar. The juxtaposition makes an impact far greater than the original shapeless Chanel cape. Similarly, fur has held its ground as a fabric of luxury, and the past few seasons have shown a fur resurgence.  Designers are playing with different treatments of fur; think full sleeves, thick textures, even psychedelic dyes like turquoise, red and pink.



The Tibetan tradition of the oracle’s regalia is to emphasize his connection to the spiritual world, just as the Chinese imperial robe expresses an emperor’s oneness with God. And while fashion today isn’t exactly spiritual, it’s arguable that our ability to see runway shows online connects us to the fashion gods (aka designers). Religion aside, the inspiration of Tibet and China is unmistakable on some of today’s biggest runways, including Dries Van Noten, Mary Katrantzou, and Etro, which featured looks with boldly mixed patterns, draped fabrics, ornate decoration, and metallic threads.

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Filed under: Exhibitions, Textile & Fashion


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