Salt Dragon
When photography takes itself out of context, severing the connections illustrated by Sander, Blossfeldt, or Germaine Krull, when it frees itself from physiognomic, political, and scientific interest, it becomes “creative.” […] The creative in photography is its capitulation to fashion. “The world is beautiful” – this, precisely, is its motto. In it is unmasked the posture of a photography that can endow any soup can with cosmic significance but cannot grasp a single one of the human connections in which it exists, even when this photography’s most dream-laden subjects are a forerunner more of its salability than of any knowledge it might produce.

Walter Benjamin, “Little History of Photography” in The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility and Other Writings on Media, eds. Jennings, Doherty and Levin (Harvard University Press, 2008), 293. (originally published in Die literarische Welt, September-October 1931).

I have a suspicion that Benjamin would not have liked Andy Warhol.

Whether devoting such attention to anonymous artists and to the objects that have preserved traces of their hands would not contribute more to the humanization of mankind than the cult of the leader – a cult which, it seems, is to be inflicted on humanity once again – is something that, like so much else the past has vainly striven to teach us, must be decided, over and over, by the future.
Walter Benjamin, “Eduard Fuchs, Collector and Historian” in The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility and Other Writings on Media, eds. Jennings, Doherty and Levin (Harvard University Press, 2008), 143. (originally published: Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung, fall 1937)
We had been entirely a generation of children of the cheder, just Talmudic students, exhausting so many passing years solely with the analysis of texts. We seized upon pencils and paintbrushes and began to dissect Nature, but we were also dissecting ourselves. Who were we? What would be our place among the nations? What would our culture consist of? What should our art resemble? All this sketched itself in the shtetlech of Lithuania, White Russia and the Ukraine, and it continued on to Paris, and ended up in Moscow.

El Lissitzky, 1923

The Constructor (self portrait), 1924

Anyone out there comfortable reading german rendered in gothic script? With the time and willingness to read 37 pages of it and offer a summary of relevant portions? I could really use an idea of what is contained in this text before I start hunting for someone to do a scholarly translation.

That Beauty video going around is creepy as hell. Also, it is the photoshop equivalent of playing with paper dolls.

Jewish Biography: Chaim Soutine

Painter Chaim Soutine (gallicized from Sutin) was born in 1893 near Minsk, Belarus (then part of the Russian Empire), in the Litvak shtetl of Smilavitz. The tenth of eleven children, Chaim grew up in extreme poverty, his father’s income as a tailor insufficient to cover the family’s basic needs. From a young age, Chaim drew incessently. The Orthodox community of Smilavitz viewed drawing with deep suspicion, it was at best a secular practice, at worst idolatrous. In 1909, at the age of 16, Chaim made the error of asking a respected elder, possibly a rabbi, to sit for a portrait. The man’s sons took offense to the request, taking it as a blasphemous insult. Chaim was severely beaten, and compelled to leave Smilavitz.

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I really wish art history teachers would mention that no artists ever considered themselves “neoclassical” or “rococo” within the timeframes and stylistic confines described by these words. “Neoclassical” was coined in 1859, and “rococo” in 1836 – decades after the associated movements had pretty much burned out. As categories created by later commentators to describe two different stylistic tendencies with differing ideological underpinnings in 18th- and early-19th-century art, they are probably best seen as discourses which artists to one degree or another engaged rather than definitions of what artists were. Defining what an artist is constricts the possibility of understanding an artist and their oeuvre where records prove contradictory, encourages lazy historical analysis, and provides a breeding ground for runaway distortion (see: Vigée Le Brun).