FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 13 Jacob Bronowski and Materialistic Humanism: The World-View of Our Era (Feature on artist Ellen Gallagher )

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Today I am looking at Jacob Bronowski and his contribution to spreading the thought of Charles Darwin to a modern generation.  The artist Ellen Gallagher is one of those in today’s modern generation that talks about how evolution is pictured in her art works.

What are some of the observations that Francis Schaeffer makes concerning the evolution that both Bronowski and Gallagher hold so  dear? Here is a summary of some of the points Schaeffer makes in the paper below:

1. Materialists and humanists believe that men and women are not unique. 2. Humans do not have any final distinct value above that of an animal or of nonliving matter. 3. Schaeffer points out that this superior attitude towards Christianity–as if Christianity had all the problems and humanism had all the problems–is quite unjustified. 4. It is the humanist worldview that has brought us to the present devaluation of human life that we see today. 5. Therefore, we need a different worldview to drive out this inhumanity that the materialistic worldview brought down on us.

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Francis Schaeffer “BASIS FOR HUMAN DIGNITY” Whatever…HTTHR

Materialistic Humanism: The World-View of Our Era
What has produced the inhumanity we have been considering in the previous chapters is that society in the West has adopted a world-view which says that all reality is made up only of matter…Those who hold such a view have argued that Christianity is unscientific, that it cannot be proved, that it belongs simply to the realm of “faith.” Christianity, they say, rests only on faith, while humanism rests on facts.
Professor Edmund R. Leach of Cambridge University expressed this view clearly, “Our idea of God is a product of history. What I now believe about the supernatural is derived from what I was taught by my parents, and what they taught me was derived from what they were taught, and so on…”
So some humanists act as if they have a great advantage over Christians. They act as if the advance of science and technology and a better understanding of history (through such concepts as the evolutionary theory) have all made the idea of God and Creation quite ridiculous.
This superior attitude, however, is strange because one of the most striking developments in the last half-century is the growth of a profound pessimism among both the well-educated and less-educated people. The thinkers in our society have been admitting for a long time that they have no final answers at all.
Take Woody Allen, for example. Most people know his as a comedian, but he has thought through where mankind stands after the “religious answers” have been abandoned. In an article in Esquire (May 1977), he says, “ It’s absolutely stupefying in its terror, and it renders anyone’s accomplishments meaningless.”
Allen sums up his view in his film Annie Hall with these words: “Life is divided into the horrible and the miserable.”
If there is no personal God, nothing beyond what our eyes can see and our hands can touch, then Woody Allen is right: life is both meaningless and terrifying.  The humanist H. J. Blackham has expressed this when he said, “On humanist assumptions, life leads to nothing, and every pretense that it does not is a deceit.”
One does not have to be highly educated to understand this. It follows directly from the starting point of the humanists’ position, namely, that everything is just matter. That is, that which has existed forever and ever is only some form of matter or energy, and everything in our world now is this and only this in a more or less complex form. Thus, Jacob Bronowski says in The Identity of Man (1965): “Man is a part of nature, in the same sense that a stone is, or a cactus, or a camel.” In this view, men and women are by chance more complex, but not unique.
Within this world-view there is no room for believing that a human being has any final distinct value above that of an animal or of nonliving matter. People are merely a different arrangement of molecules. There are two points, therefore, that need to be made about the humanist world-view. First, the superior attitude toward Christianity – as if Christianity had all the problems and humanism had all the answers – is quite unjustified. The humanists of the Enlightenment two centuries ago thought they were going to find all the answers, but as time has passed, this optimistic hope has been proved wrong. It is their own descendants, those who share their materialistic world-view, who have been saying louder and louder as the years have passed, “There are no final answers.”
Second, this humanist world-view has also brought us to the present devaluation of human life – not technology and not overcrowding, although these have played a part. And this same world-view has given us no limits to prevent us from sliding into an even worse devaluation of human life in the future.
So it is naive and irresponsible to imagine that this world-view will reverse the direction in the future. A well-meaning commitment to “do what is right” will not be sufficient. Without a firm set of principles that flows out of a world-view that gives adequate reason for a unique value to all human life, there cannot be and will not be any substantial resistance to the present evil brought on by the low view of human life we have been considering in previous chapters. It was the materialistic world-view that brought in the inhumanity; it must be a different world-view that drives it out.
An emotional uneasiness about abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, and the abuse of genetic knowledge is not enough. To stand against the present devaluation of human life, a significant percentage of people within our society must adopt and live by a world-view which not only hopes or intends to give a basis for human dignity but which really does. The radical movements of the sixties were right to hope for a better world; they were right to protest against the shallowness and falseness of our plastic society. But their radicalness lasted only during the life span of the adolescence of their members. Although these movements claimed to be radical, they lacked a sufficient root. Their world-view was incapable of giving life to the aspirations of its adherents. Why? Because it, too – like the society they were condemning – had no sufficient base. So protests are not enough. Having the right ideals is not enough. Even those with a very short memory, those who can look back only to the sixties, can see that there must be more than that. A truly radical alternative has to be found.
But where? And how?

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Jacob Bronowski

Article Free Pass

Jacob Bronowski,  (born January 18, 1908, Poland—died August 22, 1974, East Hampton, New York, U.S.), Polish-born British mathematician and man of letters who eloquently presented the case for the humanistic aspects of science.While Bronowski was still a child, his family immigrated to Germany and then to England, where he became a naturalized British subject. He won a scholarship to the University of Cambridge, where he studied mathematics. He not only achieved high honours in mathematics but also received critical acclaim for his poetry and prose. After receiving his Ph.D. (1933) from Cambridge, he taught mathematics (1934–42) at the University College of Hull. During World War II Bronowski pioneered in a field now known as operational research and worked to increase the effectiveness of Allied bombing. After the war he headed the projects division of UNESCO (1948) and then worked for Britain’s National Coal Board (1950–63).When Bronowski, on a scientific mission to Japan to study the effects of the atomic bombings (1945), saw firsthand the ruins of Nagasaki, he gave up military research. From that time on, he concentrated on the ethical as well as the technological aspects of science, and he shifted his attention from mathematics to the life sciences, the study of human nature, and the evolution of culture.Among his books are The Common Sense of Science (1951) and the highly praised Science and Human Values (1956; rev. ed. 1965). In these books Bronowski examined aspects of science in nontechnical language and made a case for his view that science needs an ethos in order to function. In The Identity of Man (1965) he sought to present a unifying philosophy of human nature. He also wrote William Blake, 1757–1827: A Man Without a Mask (1943), revised as William Blake and the Age of Revolution (1965), and four radio plays.From 1964 until his death Bronowski was a resident fellow of the Salk Institute of Biological Sciences (San Diego). His last major project was the authorship and narration of the BBC television series The Ascent of Man (1973), a luminous account of science, art, and philosophy in human history. The book was reissued in 2011, with a foreword by British biologist and writer Richard Dawkins.

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BBC. The Ascent of Man. Extra Interview with Sir David Attenborough.

Published on Jun 10, 2012

15 minute interview of Sir David Attenborough discussing his role in the ground-breaking documentary “The Ascent of Man” { Written and Presented by Dr Jacob Bronowski. }
This interview was filmed by the BBC. I also recommend Attenborough’s book ‘Life on Air’. It is brilliant.

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The Ascent of Man

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This article is about the documentary series. For the book “The Ascent of Man by Means of Natural Selection”, see Alfred Machin (writer).

The Ascent of Man is a thirteen-part documentary television series produced by the BBC and Time-Life Films first transmitted in 1973, written and presented by Jacob Bronowski. Intended as a series of “personal view” documentaries in the manner of Kenneth Clark‘s 1969 series Civilisation, the series received acclaim for Bronowski’s highly informed but eloquently simple analysis, his long unscripted monologues and its extensive location shoots.

Overview

The title alludes to The Descent of Man, the second book on evolution by Charles Darwin. Over the series’ thirteen episodes, Bronowski travelled around the world in order to trace the development of human society through its understanding of science. It was commissioned specifically to complement Kenneth Clark‘s Civilisation (1969), in which Clark argued that art reflected and was informed by the major driving forces in cultural evolution. Bronowski wrote in his 1951 book The Commonsense of Science: “It has been one of the most destructive modern prejudices that art and science are different and somehow incompatible interests”. Both series were commissioned by David Attenborough, then controller of BBC Two, whose colleague Aubrey Singer had been astonished by Attenborough prioritising an arts series given his science background.[1]

The 13-part series was shot on 16mm film. Executive Producer was Adrian Malone, film directors were Dick Gilling, Mick Jackson, David Kennard and David Paterson. Quotations were read by actors Roy Dotrice and Joss Ackland. Series music was by Dudley Simpson with Brian Hodgson and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Additional music includes, amongst others, music by Pink Floyd. Apart from Bronowski, the only other named person appearing is the sculptor Henry Moore.

Malone and Kennard later emigrated to Hollywood, where they produced Carl Sagan‘s Cosmos. Jackson followed them, and now directs feature films.

The book of the series, The Ascent of Man: A Personal View, is an almost word-for-word transcript from the television episodes, diverging from Bronowski’s original narration only where the lack of images might make its meaning unclear. A few details of the film version were omitted from the book, notably Episode 11, “Knowledge or Certainty.”

Series outline

  1. Lower than the Angels — Evolution of man from proto-ape to the modern form 400,000 years ago.
  2. The Harvest of the Seasons — Early human migration, agriculture and the first settlements, and war.
  3. The Grain in the Stone — Tools, and the development of architecture and sculpture.
  4. The Hidden Structure — Fire, metals and alchemy.
  5. Music of the Spheres — The language of numbers and mathematics.
  6. The Starry Messenger — Galileo’s universe—and the implications of his trial on the shift to “northern” science.
  7. The Majestic Clockwork — Explores Newton and Einstein’s laws.
  8. The Drive for Power — The Industrial Revolution and the effect on everyday life.
  9. The Ladder of Creation — Darwin and Wallace’s ideas on the origin of species.
  10. World within World — The story of the periodic table—and of the atom.
  11. Knowledge or Certainty — Physics and the clash of the pursuit of absolute vs. imperfect knowledge, and the misgivings of the scientists realizing the terrible outcome of the conflict. Auschwitz. Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
  12. Generation upon Generation — The joys of life, sex, and genetics—and the dark side of cloning.
  13. The Long Childhood — Bronowski’s treatise on the commitment of man.

Legacy

The Ascent of Man was placed 65th on a list of the 100 Greatest World Television Programmes voted for by industry professionals and drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000.[2] Charlie Brooker praises Bronowski and The Ascent of Man on his BBC Four programme, Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe.[3]

The complete series was released on DVD in 2007.

References

  1. Attenborough interview in The Ascent of Man DVD set
  2. “The BFI TV 100”. Retrieved 3 August 2009.
  3. “Charlie Brookers Screenwipe S1E1P1”. Retrieved 4 February 2010.

External links

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These are ones that everyone agrees are not pre-human intermediates between apes and humans.

  • Homo sapiens neanderthalensis (Neandertal man)-150 years ago Neandertal reconstructions were stooped and very much like an “ape-man’. It is now admitted that the supposedly stooped posture was due to disease and that Neandertal is just a variation of the human kind.
  • Ramapithecus-once widely regarded as the ancestor of humans, it has now been realised that it is merely an extinct type of orangutan (an ape).
  • Eoanthropus (Piltdown man)-a hoax based on a human skull cap and an orangutan’s jaw. It was widely publicized as the missing link for 40 years.
  • Hesperopithecus (Nebraska man)-based on a single tooth of a type of pig now only living in Paraguay.
  • Pithecanthropus (Java man)-now renamed to Homo erectus. See below.
  • Australopithecus africanus-this was at one time promoted as the missing link. It is no longer considered to be on the line from apes to humans. It is very ape-like.
  • Sinanthropus (Peking man) was once presented as an ape-man but has now been reclassified as Homo erectus (see below).

Currently fashionable ape-men

These are the ones that adorn the evolutionary trees of today that supposedly led to Homo sapiens from a chimpanzee-like creature.

  • Australopithecus-there are various species of these that have been at times proclaimed as human ancestors. One remains: Australopithecus afarensis, popularly known as the fossil “Lucy”. However, detailed studies of the inner ear, skulls and bones have suggested that “Lucy” and her like are not on the way to becoming human. For example, they may have walked more upright than most apes, but not in the human manner. Australopithecus afarensis is very similar to the pygmy chimpanzee.
  • Homo habilis-there is a growing consensus amongst most paleoanthropologists that this category actually includes bits and pieces of various other types-such as Australopithecus and Homo erectus. It is therefore an “invalid taxon”. That is, it never existed as such.
  • Homo erectus-many remains of this type have been found around the world. They are smaller than the average human today, with an appropriately smaller head (and brain size). However, the brain size is within the range of people today and studies of the middle ear have shown that Homo erectus was just like us. Remains have been found in the same strata and in close proximity to ordinary Homo sapiens, suggesting that they lived together.

Conclusion: There is no fossil evidence that man is the product of evolution. The missing links are still missing because they simply do not exist. The Bible clearly states, “then the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7).

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         What’s a Missing Link?

by John D. Morris, Ph.D.

Evolutionists often speak of missing links. They say that the bridge between man and the apes is the “missing link,” the hypothetical ape-like ancestor of both. But there are supposed missing links all over the evolutionary tree. For instance, dogs and bears are thought to be evolutionary cousins, related to each other through a missing link. The same could be said for every other stop on the tree. All of the animal types are thought to have arisen by the transformation of some other animal type, and at each branching node is a missing link, and between the node and the modern form are many more.

If you still don’t know what a missing link is, don’t worry. No one knows what a missing link is, because they are missing! We’ve never seen one. They’re still missing. Evolution depends on innumerable missing links, each of which lived in the unobserved past and have gone extinct, replaced by their evermore evolved descendants.

While we don’t really know what a missing link is (or was), we can know what they should be. As each type evolves into something else, there should be numerous in-between types, each stage gaining more and more traits of the descendant while losing traits of the ancestor.

If some type of fish evolved into some type of amphibian, there should have been distinct steps along the way of 90% fish/10% amphibian; then 80% fish/20% amphibian; etc., leading to the 100% amphibians we have today. You would suspect that unless evolution has completely stopped, there might even be some transitional links alive today, but certainly they lived and thrived for a while in the past before they were replaced.

Actually, evolutionists don’t mention missing links much anymore. With the introduction of “punctuated equilibrium” in the early 70s, they seem to have made their peace with the lack of transitional forms in the fossil record. Their claim is that basic animal types exhibited “stasis” (or equilibrium) for a long period, but they changed rapidly (punctuation) as the environment underwent rapid change, so rapidly they had little opportunity to leave fossils. Thus we wouldn’t expect to find transitional forms or missing links. Fair enough, but the fact is we don’t find them. Evolution says they did exist, but we have no record of them. Creation says they never existed, and agree that we have no record of them.

Some of these gaps which should be filled in by missing links are huge. Consider the gap between invertebrates and vertebrate fish. Which marine sea creature evolved into a fish with a backbone and internal skeleton? Fish fossils are even found in the lower Cambrian, and dated very early in the evolution scenario. But there are no missing links, no hint of ancestors. The missing links, which should be present in abundance, are still missing!

Both creation and evolution are views of history, ideas about the unobserved past, and both sides try to marshal evidence in their support. Creation says each basic category of life was created separately, thus there never were any “missing links.” Evolution says links existed whether or not we find them. The fact is we don’t find them. The question is: which historical idea is more scientific, and which is more likely correct?

* Dr. Morris is President of the Institute for Creation Research.

Cite this article: Morris, J. 2006. What’s a Missing Link? Acts & Facts. 35 (4).

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Bill Nye Debates Ken Ham – HD (Official)

    Streamed live on Feb 4, 2014

Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern, scientific era? Leading creation apologist and bestselling Christian author Ken Ham is joined at the Creation Museum by Emmy Award-winning science educator and CEO of the Planetary Society Bill Nye. To see Bill Nye’s arguments debunked visit http://debatelive.org .

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Francis Schaeffer “BASIS FOR HUMAN DIGNITY” Whatever…HTTHR

Dr. Francis schaeffer – The flow of Materialism(from Part 4 of Whatever happened to human race?)

Dr. Francis Schaeffer – The Biblical flow of Truth & History (intro)

Francis Schaeffer – The Biblical Flow of History & Truth (1)

Dr. Francis Schaeffer – The Biblical Flow of Truth & History (part 2)

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Part 1 on abortion runs from 00:00 to 39:50, Part 2 on Infanticide runs from 39:50 to 1:21:30, Part 3 on Youth Euthanasia runs from 1:21:30 to 1:45:40, Part 4 on the basis of human dignity runs from 1:45:40 to 2:24:45 and Part 5 on the basis of truth runs from 2:24:45 to 3:00:04

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Francis Schaeffer pictured below with some of his grand kids:

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Francis Schaeffer with his son Franky pictured below. Francis and Edith (who passed away in 2013) opened L’ Abri in 1955 in Switzerland.

Francis Schaeffer has written extensively on art and culture spanning the last 2000 years and here are some posts I have done on this subject before : Francis Schaeffer’s “How should we then live?” Video and outline of episode 10 “Final Choices” episode 9 “The Age of Personal Peace and Affluence”episode 8 “The Age of Fragmentation”episode 7 “The Age of Non-Reason” episode 6 “The Scientific Age” episode 5 “The Revolutionary Age” ,  episode 4 “The Reformation” episode 3 “The Renaissance”episode 2 “The Middle Ages,”, and  episode 1 “The Roman Age,” . My favorite episodes are number 7 and 8 since they deal with modern art and culture primarily.(Joe Carter rightly noted, “Schaefferwho always claimed to be an evangelist and not a philosopher—was often criticized for the way his work oversimplified intellectual history and philosophy.” To those critics I say take a chill pill because Schaeffer was introducing millions into the fields of art and culture!!!! !!! More people need to read his works and blog about them because they show how people’s worldviews affect their lives!

J.I.PACKER WROTE OF SCHAEFFER, “His communicative style was not thaof a cautious academiwho labors foexhaustive coverage and dispassionate objectivity. It was rather that of an impassioned thinker who paints his vision of eternal truth in bold strokes and stark contrasts.Yet it is a fact that MANY YOUNG THINKERS AND ARTISTS…HAVE FOUND SCHAEFFER’S ANALYSES A LIFELINE TO SANITY WITHOUT WHICH THEY COULD NOT HAVE GONE ON LIVING.”

Francis Schaeffer’s works  are the basis for a large portion of my blog posts and they have stood the test of time. In fact, many people would say that many of the things he wrote in the 1960’s  were right on  in the sense he saw where our western society was heading and he knew that abortion, infanticide and youth enthansia were  moral boundaries we would be crossing  in the coming decades because of humanism and these are the discussions we are having now!)

There is evidence that points to the fact that the Bible is historically true as Schaeffer pointed out in episode 5 of WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE HUMAN RACEThere is a basis then for faith in Christ alone for our eternal hope. This link shows how to do that.

Francis Schaeffer in Art and the Bible noted, “Many modern artists, it seems to me, have forgotten the value that art has in itself. Much modern art is far too intellectual to be great art. Many modern artists seem not to see the distinction between man and non-man, and it is a part of the lostness of modern man that they no longer see value in the work of art as a work of art.” 

Many modern artists are left in this point of desperation that Schaeffer points out and it reminds me of the despair that Solomon speaks of in Ecclesiastes.  Christian scholar Ravi Zacharias has noted, “The key to understanding the Book of Ecclesiastes is the term ‘under the sun.’ What that literally means is you lock God out of a closed system, and you are left with only this world of time plus chance plus matter.” THIS IS EXACT POINT SCHAEFFER SAYS SECULAR ARTISTS ARE PAINTING FROM TODAY BECAUSE THEY BELIEVED ARE A RESULT OF MINDLESS CHANCE.

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Today I featuring the artist Ellen Gallagher and she talks about Evolution in this video below. She asserts, “Matter is not fixed. It is always in motion. You are dealing with this idea of ecology, transformation and evolution into something different.”

Ellen Gallagher, Untitled, 2012.(Below)

Ellen Gallagher: “Osedax” | “Exclusive” | Art21

Published on Sep 6, 2013

Episode #188: Filmed in 2013, artist Ellen Gallagher discusses her large-scale installation “Osedax” (2010) at the New Museum in New York City. Made in collaboration with Dutch artist Edgar Cleijne, Osedax was inspired by and named after the bone-devouring worms recently discovered in an ocean canyon near Monterey, California. Drawn to scientists’ description of this discovery, Gallagher sees similarity between their account and how science fiction narratives unfold through the transformation and evolution of characters and physical matter.

Repetition and revision are central to Ellen Gallagher’s paintings, collages, and films. From afar, Gallagher’s work often appears abstract and minimal but, upon closer inspection, details reveal complex narratives that borrow from maritime history, science fiction, popular culture, and the experiences of African Americans. Although the work has often been interpreted as an examination of race, Gallagher also suggests a formal reading with respect to materials, processes, and formal structures.

Learn more about the artist at:
http://www.art21.org/artists/ellen-ga…

CREDITS: Producer: Ian Forster. Consulting Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Ian Forster. Camera: Rafael Salazar & Ava Wiland. Sound: Ava Wiland. Editor: Brad Kimbrough. Artwork Courtesy: Edgar Cleijne & Ellen Gallagher. Special Thanks: New Museum. Theme Music: Peter Foley.

“Ellen Gallagher: Don’t Axe Me” at the New Museum, New York
June 19–September 15, 2013
http://www.newmuseum.org/exhibitions/…

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Watery abstraction: “Osedax,” a 2010 film installation by Ellen Gallagher and Edgar Cleijne, in a Gallagher retrospective at the New Museum.  (below)

Ellen Gallagher | Art21 | Preview from Season 3 of “Art in the Twenty-First Century” (2005)

Uploaded on May 28, 2008

Repetition and revision are central to Ellen Gallagher’s treatment of advertisements appropriated from popular magazines. Although her work has often been interpreted as an examination of race, Gallagher also suggests a more formal reading—from afar the work appears abstract and minimal, and employs grids as both structure and metaphors for experience.

Ellen Gallagher is featured in the Season 3 episode “Play” of the Art21 series “Art in the Twenty-First Century”.

Learn more about Ellen Gallagher: http://www.art21.org/artists/ellen-ga…

© 2005-2007 Art21, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Ellen Gallagher: Projections | Art21 “Exclusive”

Uploaded on Apr 30, 2009

Episode #054: Artist Ellen Gallagher recounts her childhood obsession with projecting films, paired with documentation of her work “Murmur” (2003-04) installed at Gagosian Gallery in New York.

Repetition and revision are central to Ellen Gallaghers treatment of advertisements appropriated from popular magazines. Initially, Gallagher was drawn to the wig advertisements because of their grid-like structure. Later she realized that it was the accompanying language that attracted her, and she began to bring these narratives into her paintings—making them function through the characters of the advertisements as a kind of chart of lost worlds. Upon closer inspection, googly eyes, reconfigured wigs, tongues, and lips of minstrel caricatures multiply in detail. Although her work has often been interpreted as an examination of race, Gallagher also suggests a more formal reading- from afar the work appears abstract and minimal, and employs grids as both structure and metaphors for experience.

Learn more about Ellen Gallagher: http://www.art21.org/artists/ellen-ga…

VIDEO | Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Susan Sollins. Camera & Sound: Tom Hurwitz, Eddie Marritz, Mark Mandler, and Roger Phenix. Editor: Jenny Chiurco and Mary Ann Toman. Artwork Courtesy: Ellen Gallagher & Edgar Cleijne. Special Thanks: Gagosian Gallery, New York and Two Palms Press, New York.

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Ellen Gallagher: Master Printer Craig Zammiello | Art21 “Exclusive”

Uploaded on Jun 4, 2009

Episode #059: Master Printer Craig Zammiello and artist Ellen Gallagher discuss their working relationship during the process of creating “DeLuxe” (2004-05), a suite of 60 individual works employing both traditional and non-traditional printmaking techniques.

Repetition and revision are central to Ellen Gallaghers treatment of advertisements appropriated from popular magazines. Initially, Gallagher was drawn to the wig advertisements because of their grid-like structure. Later she realized that it was the accompanying language that attracted her, and she began to bring these narratives into her paintings—making them function through the characters of the advertisements as a kind of chart of lost worlds. Upon closer inspection, googly eyes, reconfigured wigs, tongues, and lips of minstrel caricatures multiply in detail. Although her work has often been interpreted as an examination of race, Gallagher also suggests a more formal reading- from afar the work appears abstract and minimal, and employs grids as both structure and metaphors for experience.

Learn more about Ellen Gallagher: http://www.art21.org/artists/ellen-ga…

VIDEO | Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Catherine Tatge. Camera & Sound: Mead Hunt and Mark Mandler. Editor: Mary Ann Toman. Artwork Courtesy: Ellen Gallagher. Special Thanks: Craig Zammiello of Two Palms Press, New York.

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Travelling Lines Conference 2011: Ellen Gallagher in Conversation with Tanya Barson

Published on Mar 25, 2013

Travelling Lines brings together scholars, artists, curators and collectors to create an international forum to consider three key themes: itinerant modes of drawing by Latin America based artists that prioritise investigation and exploration; how the nomadic practices of artists necessitate conceptual and low-key strategies associated with drawing, an especially portable medium; and how itinerant and other modes of drawing circulate within the transnational circuits of the globalised art world. Focusing on one medium, speakers address how visual languages participate in, depend on, and travel across local as well as global territories.

The conference is organised by TrAIN in collaboration with the Drawing Room. It coincides with the exhibition at the Drawing Room entitled The Peripatetic School: Itinerant drawing from Latin America, curated by Tanya Barson, international curator, Tate Modern. Artists whose work is in the exhibition are among the speakers. The exhibition includes art by Brigida Baltar, Jose Tony Cruz, Andre Komatsu, Mateo López, Jorge Macchi, Gilda Mantilla and Raimond Chaves, Nicolas Paris, and Ishmael Randall Weeks.

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About Ellen Gallagher

Ellen Gallagher was born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1965, and lives and works in New York and Rotterdam, Holland. She attended Oberlin College and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Repetition and revision are central to Gallagher’s treatment of advertisements that she appropriates from popular magazines like “Ebony,” “Our World,” and “Sepia” and uses in works like “eXelento” (2004) and “DeLuxe” (2004–05). Initially, Gallagher was drawn to the wig advertisements because of their grid-like structure. Later, she realized that it was the accompanying language that attracted her, and she began to bring these “narratives” into her paintings—making them function through the characters of the advertisements, as a kind of chart of lost worlds. Although the work has often been interpreted strictly as an examination of race, Gallagher also suggests a more formal reading with respect to materials, processes, and insistences. From afar, the work appears abstract and minimal; upon closer inspection, googly eyes, reconfigured wigs, tongues, and lips of minstrel caricatures multiply in detail. Gallagher has been influenced by the sublime aesthetics of Agnes Martin’s paintings, as well the subtle shifts and repetitions of Gertrude Stein’s writing. In her earlier works, Gallagher glued pages of penmanship paper onto stretched canvas and then drew and painted on it. In “Watery Ecstatic” (2002–04), she literally carved images into thick watercolor paper, in her own version of scrimshaw, from which emerge images of the sea creatures from Drexciya, a mythical underwater Black Atlantis. Gallagher received the American Academy Award in Art and a Joan Mitchell Foundation Fellowship. Solo exhibitions include Whitney Museum of American Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami; St. Louis Art Museum; Des Moines Art Center; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston.

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Charles Darwent on Ellen Gallagher: AxME – The dog ate my homework, Miss Gallagher

Why does this highly-rated American artist ask so much of us before we even look at her work?

Saturday 04 May 2013

JF (alarmed): “Uh, I’m not sure ‘like’ is a word that can be used in critical discourse these days.”

So it goes. Once upon a time, long, long ago, there was nothing wrong with work that pleased, in whatever way it contrived to. Then someone invented critical theory, art schools became university departments, and pleasure went out of the window. Good painting might do a whole  thesaurus of things — ironise, deconstruct, conceptualise, “reference its own process”, etcetera – but it must on no account be likeable.

I have no doubt, by these lights, that Ellen Gallagher is a very good painter. The 47-year-old American is best known for her canvases, although, this being 2013, she also makes films and sculptures: one, Jungle Gym/Preserve, is in the new show of her work, AxME, at Tate Modern. There is nothing wrong with making art in different mediums – see Michelangelo. But it is the idea of Gallagher as a painter, of the kind of painting she does, that bothers me.

Let’s start with Double Natural (2002). This vast, yellow canvas, perhaps 7ft high and 10ft wide, is Gallagher’s best known. On it are pasted, in a grid 33 squares wide and 12 high, advertisements and cuttings from American black lifestyle magazines. (Gallagher’s father’s family came from Cape Verde.) All of these offer perfectability of a kind, or at least an idea of self-improvement. One woman beams at us from under a headline that says, unconvincingly, “I Am Happy”. Another asks, “Do you want men to OBEY YOU?”, while a third advertises an Amazing Liquid That Removes Corns.

It is hair that is Gallagher’s particular focus, though, as it is of the small ads she uses. The majority of these are for hairstyles or hair products. To these the artist has added plasticine hairdos – straightened bangs, cornrows, dreadlocks, flicks – moulded by hand and painted yellow. Gallagher has also blanked out her subjects’ eyes, turning them into zombies. Her point seems clear. Black women are sold a dream of white womanly perfection. She has taken that process to its deadening extreme by turning her women blonde.

To say that Double Natural is dislikeable is to state the obvious.  Its subject – the exploitation of racial insecurity for commercial gain – is not a pretty one, and Gallagher’s image would have no business being pretty. But the problem is that it isn’t anything else, either. Other than an immediate hit of macabre glibness, Double Natural just doesn’t deliver. The longer you look at it, the less you get back. Vacuousness in art can be extraordinarily powerful: Andy Warhol made an entire career out of it. But Gallagher’s painting isn’t empty in a good way. It is just empty.

Let me see if I can be clearer. Another work in this vast, 11-room show is called Bird in Hand. It, too, is vast. Like many contemporary artists, Gallagher has created her own myth-world, one figure of which is a one-legged tap-dancer called Pegleg. (Pegleg actually existed — one of the ads in Double Natural is for his show.) In Bird in Hand, he mutates into a pirate, his hair and half-leg doodling out to fill the canvas in tendrils that might be seaweed.

Gallagher is part of her own mythology. Prior to being an artist she studied marine biology, and did research into pteropods. The many works in her Watery Ecstatic series, given a whole room in this exhibition, start from an interest in sea-life – eels, urchins, octopi. The pictures are largely in watercolour and cut paper, and, as compositions, appear less to evolve than to mutate. You can see the reasoning. Life starts at Point A and wanders off where Darwin takes it: so why not art? Bird in Hand grows, pictorially, out of Gallagher’s own history and interests.

But does that make it a good painting? The abstract works of the Jerwood painter I spoke to stood on their own as images: you didn’t need to know his life story or theories on art to respond to them. To get Gallagher, you have to have done your homework. Her art is about understanding, not seeing; when she paints, she paints incidentally. Any other medium might have done – actually, her films seem to me far better than her canvases (Murmur: Super Boo is annoyingly unforgettable). But then many people disagree with me, and you may well be one of them.

 

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