August 2010
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
« Jul   Sep »

Month August 2010

Galaxy Plateau

By Ian Perlman; music of Twin Sister


The Volcano & the Dinosaur

By Aaron Waters-Marsh; music of Twin Sister

A dinosaur’s world is catastrophically shaken when the love of his life goes missing after a volcano eruption. The dinosaur is then forced to search for her among the different subcultures, along the way realizing that the no one else makes him feel the way his beloved does.

Picasso Looks at Degas

Via NY Times article Who’s the Voyeur Now, Picasso?, by Karen Rosenberg

Degas and Picasso make an odd couple, a Realist-Impressionist and a restless Modernist born nearly 50 years apart. But their relationship, as seen through the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute’s “Picasso Looks at Degas,” isn’t the tempestuous kind typical of blockbuster shows. Neither a partnership (“Picasso and Degas”) nor a competition (“Picasso/Degas”), it’s about one artist regarding another, calmly and from a distance.

The title tells us that Picasso is the subject, Degas the object, but it’s not always clear who’s doing more looking. Degas, after all, is the notorious voyeur, whose fly-on-the-wall views of women bathing, dancers resting between scenes, and prostitutes awaiting customers are in turn, in this exhibition, surveyed by Picasso.

The Clark is the only North American stop for the show, which runs through mid-September and is the perfect coda to a summer of Picasso in New York’s museums. Its organizers, the Picasso expert Elizabeth Cowling and the Degas scholar Richard Kendall, have wrangled some extraordinary loans and assembled some inspired pairings (as well as an excellent catalog). In the process they have found a revealing new angle on Picasso and exposed Degas as a proto-Modernist, if not quite on par with Cézanne.

We don’t know whether the artists ever met, although their studios in Paris were just blocks from each other in the first decade or so of the 20th century. As a young artist in Spain, Picasso encountered reproductions of Degas’s work; in Paris he had many opportunities to see it in person. But his most intimate acquaintance with Degas came only after the elder artist’s death in 1917, when the contents of his studio — including many unfinished works — were displayed and sold in a series of very public auctions.

Left, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Mass. Right, Museo del Novecento, Milan, Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York

At the Clark the raw and unpolished version of Degas is much in evidence — a refreshing change from the sanitized, Impressionist-focused presentation to which we are accustomed. The show gives us Degas as Picasso saw him: an artist with a classical hand and a modern eye, who idolized Ingres but indulged in coarser and more outré forms of eroticism.

The show’s first few galleries delve a little too deeply into the early lives of both artists in an effort to show parallels: Picasso and Degas were strong draftsmen, with overbearing fathers who pushed them to specialize in portraiture. The works of interest here — there aren’t many — include Picasso’s expressive sketch of his sister Lola and a preparatory drawing for Degas’s gloomy group portrait “The Bellelli Family.”

After this false start the show begins in earnest with Parisian cafe scenes by both. From the Musée d’Orsay comes Degas’s marvelously bleak painting of a woman slumped over her glass, “In a Café (L’Absinthe)”; it hangs next to a boozy blue-period Picasso from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, “Portrait of Sebastià Junyer i Vidal.”

Yet the link to Degas feels a bit forced: To Picasso, Degas was one cafegoer among many; a small oil sketch of a male cabaret audience, “Stuffed Shirts,” finds Picasso emulating Toulouse-Lautrec.

Two striking paintings of dark-eyed women, Picasso’s “Portrait of Benedetta Canals” and Degas’s “Woman With an Umbrella (Berthe Jeantaud),” make a deeper connection. Degas knew Mme. Canals, who was a friend of Picasso’s lover Fernande Olivier, but the point made by these paintings is that he and Picasso were acquainted through Goya.

Among the exhibition’s numerous images of women at their toilette, no third-party introduction is needed. Picasso’s blocky nudes of around 1906 respond, clearly enough, to the physical awkwardness and perverse sensuality of Degas’s crouched bathers. And decades later his violent painting “Nude Wringing Her Hair” (1952) picks up on the masochism inherent in Degas’s paintings and drawings of women yanking brushes through their tresses.

But as another pairing shows, Picasso also grasped Degas’s sympathy for working women. In 1904 he made a painting after Degas’s “Woman Ironing,” translating the earlier work’s sturdy Parisian laundress into a pinched figure with a bony, raised shoulder.

He could sometimes be oblivious to subtleties in Degas, a point reinforced by two sculptures of pregnant women. Degas’s small bronze statuette bends slightly at the waist, cradling her belly in her palms. Picasso’s version, a straight-backed figure with milk jars for bosoms, is more grotesque than tender.

The show includes many other small bronzes by Degas, some of which were cast after his death from wax molds found in his studio. They relate closely to the paintings and drawings, emphasizing a tendency (shared by Picasso) to slip back and forth between mediums.

Degas’s most famous sculpture, “Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen,” anchors a brilliant, and mischievous, grouping in the next gallery. This snub-nosed, pubescent diva is flanked by two Picasso paintings: one of a dwarf in a tutu and another of a come-hither nude in the style of his “Demoiselles d’Avignon.” Both figures ape the little dancer’s pose, with their hands behind their backs.

Other sculptures and works on paper flesh out the ballet theme, including two luscious Degas pastels from the Clark’s collection that show dancers catching their breath in the wings. Picasso had his own reasons for lurking backstage; drawings and family photographs remind you that one of his wives was the ballerina Olga Khokhlova.

The Picassos here, like most of the works in the previous galleries, date from the first two decades of the 20th century. At this point you may start to wonder whether Degas had any real hold on Picasso after that time. The answer is in the next and final gallery, and it will surprise you.

On view is a series of 39 etchings made by Picasso in 1971, just two years before his death. It’s a lucid, highly specific response to a group of monotypes by Degas, known informally as the “brothel series” and based on the close observation of Parisian prostitutes.

Only a few of these louche, smeary prints are at the Clark, but you can see reproductions commissioned by the dealer Ambroise Vollard (who, in all likelihood, introduced Picasso to this furtively circulated body of work). Picasso was taken with the monotypes, and in the late 1950s he finally had the opportunity to buy some of them. He already owned a photograph of Degas, which he kept in his Cannes studio.

The women in Degas’s pictures are scantily clad but not very active; what they do, mostly, is wait. In Picasso’s etchings they’re Gorgon-faced exhibitionists who intimidate potential clients with enlarged, mazelike genitals. More shocking, though, is the presence of Degas as a recurring character in this oversexed narrative. (And it is most certainly Degas; the titles mention him by name.)

He’s most often shown in profile, peering in from the edge of the composition with wide saucerlike eyes. In one scene he has his hands clasped behind his back, as does the prostitute standing in front of him — a pair of “Little Dancers.” In another he’s there twice, as customer and spectator.

What, exactly, is Picasso doing here? Why, at the end of his life, did he summon an artist associated with the 19th century? Was he using Degas, who was reportedly celibate, to satirize his own sexually voracious reputation? Identifying as an outsider, a voyeur on the art world of the 1960s and ’70s? Letting it all hang out, a privilege of old age?

Maybe he was simply reminding us that art is about finding distance, even in close proximity. And that Degas had been in the room, with him, all along.

Herb and Dorothy

A Strange Ring Galaxy

From NASA, Image Credit: NASA, R. Lucas (STScI/AURA)

Is this one galaxy or two? Astronomer Art Hoag first asked this question when he chanced upon this unusual extragalactic object. On the outside is a ring dominated by bright blue stars, while near the center lies a ball of much redder stars that are likely much older. Between the two is a gap that appears almost completely dark. How Hoag’s Object formed remains unknown, although similar objects have been identified and collectively labeled as a form of ring galaxy. Genesis hypotheses include a galaxy collision billions of years ago and the gravitational effect of a central bar that has since vanished.

This image, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in July 2001, reveals unprecedented details of Hoag’s Object and may yield a better understanding. Hoag’s Object spans about 100,000 light years and lies about 600 million light years away toward the constellation of the Snake (Serpens). Coincidentally, visible in the gap (at about one o’clock) is yet another ring galaxy that likely lies far in the distance.

The Periodic Table of Irrational Nonsense

By Crispian Jago

Blu, Norway

From unurth

Compromised Democracy

There’s no democratic state that’s not compromised to the very core by its part in generating human misery.

Gilles Deleuze, Negotiations, 1972-1990, 173

First Super-Massive Black Holes Were Born ‘Soon’ After Big Bang

In the image, the panel illustrates the complexity of dynamical evolution in a typical collision between two equal-mass disk galaxies. The simulation follows dark matter, stars, gas, and supermassive black holes, but only the gas component is visualized. Brighter colors indicate regions of higher gas density and the time corresponding to each snapshot is given by the labels. The first 10 panel images measure 100 kpc on a side, roughly five times the diameter of the visible part of the Milky Way galaxy. The next five panels represent successive zooms on the central region. The final frame shows the inner 300 pc of the nuclear region at the end of the simulation. Credit: Ohio State University

Via PhysOrg

Astronomers believe they have discovered the origin of our universe’s first super-massive black holes, which formed some 13 billion years ago.

The discovery fills in a missing chapter of our universe’s early history, and could help write the next chapter — in which scientists better understand how gravity and dark matter formed the universe as we know it.

In the journal Nature, Ohio State University astronomer Stelios Kazantzidis and colleagues describe computer simulations in which they modeled the evolution of galaxies and black holes during the first few billion years after the Big Bang.

Our universe is thought to be 14 billion years old. Other astronomers recently determined that big galaxies formed much earlier in the universe’s history than previously thought — within the first 1 billion years, Kazantzidis explained.

These new computer simulations show that the first-ever super-massive black holes were likely born when those early galaxies collided and merged together.

“Our results add a new milestone to the important realization of how structure forms in the universe,” he said.

For more than two decades, the prevailing wisdom among astronomers has been that galaxies evolved hierarchically — that is, gravity drew small bits of matter together first, and those small bits gradually came together to form larger structures.

Kazantzidis and his team turn that notion on its head.

“Together with these other discoveries, our result shows that big structures — both galaxies and massive black holes — build up quickly in the history of the universe,” he said. “Amazingly, this is contrary to hierarchical structure formation.”

The paradox is resolved once one realizes that dark matter grows hierarchically, but ordinary matter doesn’t,” he continued. “The normal matter that makes up visible galaxies and super-massive black holes collapses more efficiently, and this was true also when the universe was very young, giving rise to anti-hierarchical formation of galaxies and black holes.”

For Kazantzidis and other astronomers, our Milky Way galaxy is small compared to others.

So when it comes to normal matter, big bits like giant galaxies and super-massive black holes come together quickly, and smaller bits like our own Milky Way galaxy — and the comparatively small black hole at its center — form more slowly. The galaxies that formed those first super-massive black holes are still around, Kazantzidis added.

“One of them is likely our neighbor in the Virgo Cluster, the elliptical galaxy M87,” he said. “The galaxies we saw in our simulation would be the biggest galaxies known today, about 100 times the size of the Milky Way. M87 fits that description.”

They started their simulations with two giant primordial galaxies — ones made of the kinds of stars that were around at the beginning of the universe. Astronomers believe that back then, all stars would have been much more massive than present-day stars — up to 300 times the mass of our sun.

Then the astronomers simulated the galaxies colliding and merging together.

The astronomers were able to make their discovery because they used supercomputers to provide a high-resolution view of what happened next.

Previous simulations showed details of the merged galaxy down to only about 300 light-years across. A light-year is the distance that light travels in year, about six trillion miles.

These new simulations contained features that were 100 times smaller, and revealed details in the heart of the merged galaxies on a scale of less than a light year.

The astronomers saw two things happen. First, gas and dust in the center of the galaxies condensed to form a tight nuclear disk. Then the disk became unstable, and the gas and dust contracted again, to form an even denser cloud that eventually spawned a super-massive black hole.

The implications for cosmology are far-reaching, Kazantzidis said.

“For example, the standard idea — that a galaxy’s properties and the mass of its central black hole are related because the two grow in parallel — will have to be revised. In our model, the black hole grows much faster than the galaxy. So it could be that the black hole is not regulated at all by the growth of the galaxy. It could be that the galaxy is regulated by the growth of the black hole.”

He and his cohorts also hope that their work will aid astronomers who are searching the skies for direct evidence of Einstein’s theory of general relativity: gravitational waves.

According to general relativity, any ancient galaxy mergers would have created massive gravitational waves — ripples in the space-time continuum — the remnants of which should still be visible today.

New gravitational wave detectors, such as NASA’s Laser Interferometer Space Antenna, were designed to detect these waves directly, and open a new window into astrophysical and physical phenomena that cannot be studied in other ways.

Scientists will need to know how super-massive black holes formed in the early universe and how they are distributed in space today in order interpret the results of those experiments. The new computer simulations should provide a clue.

Provided by The Ohio State University

Murakami Turns Britney Back into a Naughty Schoolgirl

Via ANIMAL, by Marina Galperina

Since the de-throwned pop star Britney Spears hasn’t been a pimped out Mouseketeen for over a decade, Takashi Murakami gave the 28-year-old mother of two a hazy Kawaii fantasy make-over for POP Magazine and viola! She’s a pervy manga’s pretty princess with a wedding veil on top. Fetish nostalgia galore.