The Easel

30th May 2023

Liu Xiaodong with Barry Schwabsky

Liu’s neo-realist paintings are large scale, unidealized, renditions of people and places. He chooses a town about which he knows little and, after getting to know the place, chooses subjects pretty much at random. This “casual” approach yields portraits that are impartial yet also empathetic. Liu claims he doesn’t “wish to investigate and tell some truth about a place”. Except, perhaps he does anyhow – in the face of modernization, these are portraits of “local ways of life”.

Are We Asking Too Much of Public Art?

A statue of a female has been installed atop a New York courthouse. A blessed relief to the ubiquitous patriarchal statuary, right? No, say some advocates for womens’ rights because it insufficiently “interrogates the concept of justice”. So how do we judge a piece of public art? “Public art often reflects our values, but also demonstrates the limits of our civic imagination. Our culture is too bound to the idea of the static, unchanging hero. What if we made no public monuments to people?”

23rd May 2023

Supreme Court sides against Andy Warhol Foundation in copyright infringement case

When is it fair to copy the work of another artist? In a much-anticipated decision, the US Supreme Court has ruled that the Warhol Foundation infringed copyright in their use of a Prince photograph. Some think the decision may limit the “fair use” exemptions to licensing requirements, thus restricting artists’ freedom. A dissenting Justice objected “it will stifle creativity of every sort. Creative progress unfolds through use and re-use. The Court has turned its back on how creativity works”.

The Curious Case of the Transcendental Painting Group

Transcendental Painting Group briefly appeared in early 20th century US. Have they been wrongly ignored? Possibly. It seems they offended influential art critics with their “kooky” ideas. However, their work has a quality of “internal coherence” that is shared by all good art. They show that “art can be deep without being aloof … this is a “gold mine of very good—and very novel—paintings.”