Thursday, June 27, 2013

American Gothic

I wanted to start off with one of the creations that pushed me over the top to add art to my blogging categories. Nathan Sawaya's new Times Square exhibit includes several LEGO renditions of famous artworks. The first one to jump out at me was this version of Grant Wood's famous painting American Gothic, recreated as a combination of sculpture and mosaic. This seems a great place to start, since the painting is one of the most recognizable paintings, and therefore most reproduced and parodied, along with the Mona Lisa and the Scream (and yes, there are multiple LEGO renditions of those, and I'll feature them). I know there is debate over whether a copy of an artwork is an artwork, and in future posts I'll address that question, but I also see this blog, as with GodBricks and SciBricks, as a way to teach something about a topic (and learn, myself) through a fun medium. To make a comparison, last night I watched the first two episodes of America's Got Talent, and there were two different acts that came out, a mariachi band and an orchestra/chorus combo. Each time, we got asides of judges (Mandel and Stern, respectively) saying they didn't like that kind of music, but then the groups ended up doing contemporary pop songs (Sexy and I Know It and Call Me Maybe, respectively), and winning the judges and the crowd over. Some might say that in doing so they were betraying their art forms, and bringing them down to a kitschy level for the lowest common denominator, but I'd say the opposite - they were bringing people up to their art forms who may have never paid attention if they'd done traditional pieces.* Anyway, I think that some people might never consider going into an art museum, but would very much enjoy a LEGO show. And that LEGO rendition would open the door to an appreciation of the original artwork. So, I hope that featuring LEGO reproductions here will help teach readers (and myself) to appreciate the original art even more. Okay, back to Woods' piece. He painted this in 1930, inspired in part by the absurdity of putting a gothic window in a very simple farmhouse. He put two people in front (actually his sister and his dentist) representing the people who would live in such a house. The painting has been described as both a critique and a celebration of the rural midwest at the start of the depression era. The painting is in the permanent collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, though I know it sometimes travels as I saw it when it was on loan to the Smithsonian about five years ago.




*BTW, I'm not saying that a general crowd would not respond to more traditional art. There were also two singers who totally won the audience over singing opera, and I think it's fair to assume that most people don't consider themselves huge opera fans.

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