Art Society Conflict: Ruth Shmueli

My name is Ruth Shmueli and I am a Junior studying International Business and Management at Florida International University. My goal is to help companies expand and grow in international markets. I love exploring different cultures through food, art and interacting with people. I am passionate about traveling, photography, and culinary arts. Photography is one of the main ways that I express myself creatively and I want to make it possible for other people to view the world from a new perspective through my photography. I believe that the world is not black and white and being able to expose the grey areas in my photography is my mission.

Norton as text:
The link between love, death and sensuality by Ruth Shmueli of FIU in the Norton Museum on 9/22/2019

Out of all the extensive and diverse collections at the Norton Museum I chose Jeff Koons painting “Antiquity” to analyze. What initially captured my attention was its large size and how it spoke to my sensibilities for classical and abstract art. It was interesting to see these both combined in a harmonious way that doesn’t clash with one another. The size gives it an air of grandiose that imposes on the viewer. My initial observations without any context was that Koons is making an overall statement with Ancient, formal and abstract techniques to represent female form and anatomy. He shows how people view the female form throughout different time periods.

After gaining more information about Koons and the painting I developed some different views of the artwork. In the background we see Pablo Picasso’s Le Baiser from 1969 which depicts Picasso’s kiss with his final wife Jacqueline, while Titan’s Venus and Adonis from 1554 shows Venus holding on to her lover before he goes to war and eventually die in battle. Then, the sculpture with an exposed front and back that we see were not a mere rendering of renaissance era sculptures but a sculpture of Aphrodite (the goddess of love, beauty and pleasure) from 100-200 CE. Lastly, the “tribal” sculptures are known as Uli, which are funerary sculptures in Papua New Guinea. After learning that most of the components of the painting were renderings of famous artwork, I think it diminishes the level of originality that I initially thought the painting possessed. However, there is a very clear use of skill and technique throughout the entire work of art as well as a very moving and well thought out message behind the painting. Through the image of Aphrodite there is a representation of love and passion, while in the middle we see the Uli which represents death. Then under the painting we see the patchwork of Le Baiser which depicts a final kiss and Venus and Adonis which depicts a final embrace before death. Koons then paints an abstract rendering of female anatomy to portray sensuality. We realize that there is an overall message that love, death and sensuality are all interconnected. Before death, Koons shows us that there is some force within us- either love or sensuality- that draws us closer into the person for the comfort of a final connection and final touch between two beings. This final interaction before death is seen with tension, love, and passion because of the fear of finality. It is interesting to see how differently we interpret things with and without context.

Deering as Text:

A Journey of Civilization and Nature By Ruth Shmueli of FIU in The Deering Estate on 10/02/19

The Deering estate brings together many different aspects of cultural connections within a civilized society and an untamed ecosystem . Nature comes together with art, history, and architecture in one condensed area, allowing for the perfect environment to take a cultural journey where one can take stops along the way to explore each subject. When you first enter the property of the Deering estate you are welcomed by nature in all its glory. As you walk further you will be in the presence of a beautiful house with Spanish architecture. The house was built for Charles Deering who had a specific taste that was inspired by the Spanish architecture of Maricel, enhanced by Moorish influences throughout the structure of the house. Art comes into play with Charles Deering’s extensive collection of Spanish paintings. In the theme of decadence and luxury, Charles Deering housed paintings of famous artists, El Greco and Goya. Currently the paintings are not present at the house, but we can see other paintings hung on the walls of the estate. The Spanish art blends perfectly with the Spanish architecture, furthering the connection of Charles Deering’s heritage.

After visiting the estate, we ventured out to explore the history of the area surrounding the estate. After a long hike through undisturbed nature, we arrived at a spot were the remains of Paleo-Indians were found. That exact spot is a revered archaeological spot due to the fact that many fossils from the paleolithic era were found there. Standing in the sinkhole, I was able to see history and nature interacting with one another and I felt as if I could now more fully understand our part within the environment.

We then hiked to other sights where we explored the history of the Tequesta’s at the Tequesta burial mound. This was one of the last remaining burial mounds of the Tequesta’s, but we see nature yet again overpowering the historical sight. There were overgrown trees and debris from one of the last hurricanes to hit Miami. We see through these historical sights that no matter how intensely we attempt to preserve history, nature will take its course. As much as we think that we have dominated nature, at the end of the day, nature dominates us.

After taking this journey exploring how art, history, architecture and nature coincide with each other, I was able to then incorporate these concepts into a photograph I took on the trip. The photograph above brings together history and nature by showing that when an animal passes, their remains stay but nature will eventually prevail and assert its dominance. Art and architecture are also tied into this photograph through the distinct structure and “architecture”’ of the leaves and the animal’s body, as something that should be admired and something that is unique. By appreciating these connections, these objects and concepts that we see everyday are transformed to art. My visit to the Deering Estate allowed me to take a cultural journey where the path taken, and the stops made along the way, broadened my perspective of how interconnected civilization and nature really is.

Wynwood as text:

Contemporary Art and Productivity by Ruth Shmueli of FIU in the Margulies collection and the De la Cruz collection on 10/16/2019

Through our visit to the Margulies collection and the De la Cruz collection we were able to explore the progression of contemporary art through time and the usage of various mediums. Each collection held pieces monumental to the contemporary art movement which shaped the conceptual understandings that we have of this type art. Mr. Margulies mentioned something that really resonated with me. He stated that in reference to the sculpture of a white cube: “this piece of art is considered contemporary art, but, what is so special about it isn’t always the sculpture itself, rather the concept behind it that makes it special.” This is true for many contemporary art pieces where there is a movement of people who are interpreting the world through art with several visual representations. The context of where the art is exhibited is also relevant. Wynwood has been a hub for contemporary art with a pension for turning old things into new works of art. This results in the perfect setting for collectors to showcase their collection due to the continuous theme of “concepts in creation.”

I saw this for myself in a piece that stood out in the De la Cruz collection made by Cosima Von Bonin called “In the Grip of a Lobster”. This piece was made entirely out of German dishrags that were carefully stitched together. On top of these dishrags were hands on a raised surface. Additionally, stitched in the bottom left corner was the phrase “Tomorrow we have go to get organized” with two figures that have their feet on a table. My interpretation of the painting was that Cosima Von Bonin was giving a metaphor of productivity in the modern age. With the placement of the German dishrags on the painting and the hand doing various movements, this shows a person productively cleaning and executing certain actions which make the hands an asset of productivity. The size of the phrase stitched on the canvas is a motif for how small our motivation can be in relation to the gargantuan tasks we have in front of us to complete. This piece was exactly the concept that Mr. Margulies was teaching us. The piece itself was not made with classical mediums such as oil paint, nor does it have techniques we would typically see, rather this work of arts’ value comes from the message it conveys.

Vizcaya as text
Art as wealth by Ruth Shmueli of FIU at Vizcaya museum and gardens and the LnS Gallery on 10/30/19

Vizcaya is the essence of opulence and wealth and it is elegantly displayed in the architecture, sculptures and landscaping. South Florida at the time that Vizcaya was built, was highly segregated in terms of class and race. With this in mind, we are able to get a better understanding of the architectural planning of the estate. Outdoors there is an area called the secret garden. This place was used for rendezvous between people of different classes and races. Sporadically throughout the estate there are benches set up for people to go about their affairs. There is also a lot of artistic European symbolism throughout the estate. We see European statues as well as portraits in the same style of European monarchs, however the people in the paintings were not James’s family. He also had many different pieces in the house that were imported from Europe like the curtains, furniture and art.

Some of the European symbolism includes the Deering crest of the sailboat that has a very Spanish trademark of conquest associated with it. Additionally, entertainment was the main goal of the estate. There was a secret door to hide alcohol during the prohibition era, designated areas for affairs, boat rides through the mangroves, a maze, and a barge. Every one of these aspects of the estate alludes to a lifestyle of grandeur and opulence in a time when the surrounding people had nothing. James Deering took note of that fact and placed a moat around the estate to make sure unwanted people could not get in. With this all in mind James created Vizcaya as a haven for people to express their inner desires and live in an environment isolated from the realities of the world around them .

At the Lns gallery we were able to explore the industry of selling art. This is a new perspective, being that it is not a private collection, nor is it a museum, so this allows for art to be sold commercially. Most times we see art as a sign of wealth and prestige, and we see the same approach in art galleries. The main consumer base for these galleries are people 40-50 years old with a very large income. Even though in today’s society art is more easily accessible to the normal consumer, we can still see the difference in class structures and income through commercial art sales.

Art is a show of wealth and James Deering made sure to make a point of that in the landscaping of the gardens, the art in the house, and the design of the architecture. We see art as a sign of wealth at the Lns gallery due to the varying price points and sales structure of the gallery.

Design District as Text
State of Mind by Ruth Shmueli of FIU at ICA and Wynwood Walls on 11/13/19

When first entering the neighborhood that the ICA is located in, I realized that it has a very affluent atmosphere which affects the mentality of those that congregate there. Thus, this allows for the setting to affect the way we perceive things. We then entered our first stop, the Kusama exhibition. Her work and personal life is riddled with the complexities of the mind. Throughout her life, Kusama had been in a mental institution and her work reflects an existentialist state of mind. She explores something that I think of as interactive conceptuality. In my eyes this type of art allows you to interact with it to understand a concept. The exhibition makes you feel small in a world where we perceive things as vast, even though, in reality, our world is smaller than, and not as daunting as we think. This is exemplified with the infinity mirrors covering the walls of the box the exhibition is placed in.

At the ICA, we encountered contemporary art by Sterling Ruby that was conceptual in nature. Conceptual art is made for those that want to explore a deeper meaning in something that might not otherwise have meaning. That is exactly what Sterling Ruby has done. He just created art pieces with no meaning and has allowed the world to pin their own ideas to it. If you consider this, it very likely that how we decide to interpret the art is reflective of our state of mind and biases. Thus, how we chose to interpret the art is reflective of ourselves and calls into question the validity of our interpretations.

Lastly, we visited Wynwood walls where we encountered political and philosophical art. In Wynwood, street artists paint beautiful murals that convey political ideals or philosophical satire. It is not made solely for the aesthetics even though that it what we, the consumer, has made it. Not only that, but the wealthy that developed Wynwood, converted a rebellious street art movement to one that increases tourism to increase profit. People can pay to have specific ideas conveyed through art to the masses and that can create waves in political movements. Understanding how vital our own state of mind is to how we see the world, can allow us to understand how others think and how they translate and manifest their thoughts into their creative processes.

Miami Art as Text

The Concept of Time through Art and Traditions by Ruth Shmueli of FIU at Untitled and Art Miami on 12/4/19

Miami art week is quintessential to the contemporary art world. There are various gallery’s exhibiting artists work to celebrities, the public, collectors and museum directors. Each of these groups of people are important to the survival of art in a modern era. The two satellite fairs we visited were Untitled and Art Miami. Each had an extensive collection of contemporary artworks that is extremely relevant to our modern era. A constant theme I saw throughout the fair was time.

This was seen through the art exhibited at the fairs, and the overall structure of the fairs. There is the concept of time being explored in different settings and contexts, so it gives it different meaning depending on each scenario.  We see an emphasis of this theme in a specific gallery’s exhibition of artist, Faig Ahmeds, rugs woven in distorted shapes that utilize different aspects of space, yet they are very traditional in nature. By doing so, Ahmed is questioning the juxtaposition of the fluidity and uniformity of time.  The picture above shows a rug that looks as if it is a traditional Persian rug, however it has been changed to a more contemporary rendering of the original form. Some view his artwork as surrealist in nature. His work also challenges time in the context of history. When introducing new concepts to a culture with strong traditions it can very well be rejected by the people of that country. He explores these concepts in the context of history and the progression of one state of being to another as a result of time. Additionally, the introduction of art into the marketplace needs to be timed perfectly. If one were to introduce a piece of artwork that is too radical it will very likely be rejected automatically. However, contemporary art has already seen some radical artwork so Ahmeds rugs will not be seen as something too out of the ordinary.

The theory of time is also relevant in the conception and construction of the satellite fairs during Miami Art Week. There is a large amount effort put into the planning process of the fairs that requires precision and punctuality. A gallerist from Ghana told us about a past struggle that she endured, which involved the artwork arriving only thirty minutes before the opening of the fair. When the pieces arrived, everyone came together to help her hang up the paintings and set up her booth. We can see the importance of time when it comes to the planning and procurement process.

Art’s meaning and logistics are all intertwined with time and we see it all come together in Miami art week, specifically through the satellite fairs. This is something important that we must consider when going forward in our lives. Time is something that many of us take for granted or its something that we don’t consider when making decisions. There are many instances where we look at a tradition and try to reinvent it or we see a tradition and we try to abide by it, due to its historical importance. But as generations change, and as times change, we must consider if we should be reinventing or preserving history both in traditions and in art. We also need to explore how we are at the mercy of time and its uncontrollable nature.

Bakehouse as Text

Effects of Opacity on History Editing By Ruth Shmueli at Bakehouse Art Complex on 1/15/20

Alder Guerrier explores the line between the legible and opaque in the context of a place in his curation of the exhibition, Between the legible and the opaque: Approaches to an ideal in place at Bakehouse Art Complex. Bakehouse is an organization that provides studios to artists to fulfill their creative journeys and have a platform for freedom of expression. One of their artists in residence is Adler Guerrier who curated their current exhibition and whose personal artwork incorporates elements of nature and bright colors. The exhibition calls attention to opacity and legibility  in the context of “place”, however, a place can mean many different things. A place can be a physical location, state of mind, or a stage in time.

The piece that compelled me the most was The Malediction of Cham by Marielle Plaisir which explores the opacity of time (history). This series of art utilizes inks, pencils, and gold thread on paper. Each one shows a rendering of a monarch during the renaissance era. They wear the same garments as would be seen in classic portraiture, however it is represented through abstraction. It brings current and modern painting methodologies like, watercolor and gold stitching within the sketch paper, while applying them towards historical subjects. It makes one expand further about the opacity of time in the context of historical facts and data. Many times, because we do not have any concrete  facts about historical figures we unconsciously attach our own modern perceptions to facts so that we can relate to the historical figure better. This causes an opacity in our history and calls into question the validity of our so-called facts. In this context, opacity of a place does not have a positive connotation to it. There are other problems that arise with opacity as it allows the distortion and manipulation of history and facts by oppressive leaders. For example, if there was a period of time within the history of a particular country, in which people were mistreated by a governmental leader, we would not want there to be an opacity of history, because it allows oppressors to edit history and add their own modern spin to something that happened in the past. It is important in this modern era of misinformation to become aware of opacity in history.  Legibility of something is crucial to history. If there is no clear and legible fact of the past then can it still be considered history, or is it a mere concept of what the past was? 

There was even a level of opacity needed to curate this art collection. If artists made a concrete meaning and definition of their work they might not have been included in this exhibition. The opacity was needed to attach the theme of the exhibition to the art being considered. Therefore, you come to realize that different levels of opacity are seen in different levels and forms in the context of place.

Rubell as Text

Exploration of the Child Psyche by Ruth Shmueli of FIU at the Rubell Museum on 1/29/20

The Rubell Museum has a coveted collection of both up and coming artists and world-renowned contemporary artists. Their collection embodies the entire contemporary art era and what it represents. The artist whose work compelled me the most was that of Takashi Murakami. Murakami was born and raised in japan and his style is identified as Pop Art/ Manga. He is also known as the “Warhol of Japan” due to his struggle with the western interpretation of fine art. The Rubell Museum features two of his works, one is a sculpture, while the other is a painting. The sculpture is called “DOB in The Strange Forest” while the painting is called “Po+Ku Surrealism (Blue)”.

Both of the pieces present a surrealist expressionism of Pop Art that explores the child psyche. There are bright colors and cartoonish characters drawn vaguely like Manga cartoons. The sculptures consist of mushrooms with painted eyes obscurely shaped and a character seemingly dancing. This looks like something straight out of a children’s cartoon. However, the painting features the same characters in a different format. The child psyche is one that live in the clouds, dreams of the future and can see things in their simplest form. This is also what Murakami present sin his art. As an adult, people tend to shy away from seemingly childish narratives so that they can appear “grown up” to fit in with this society. However, Murakami seems to challenge that by showing that this art may seem childlike, but it is also fine art that should be appreciated in the adult world. We tend to want to grow up and attempt to become more refined and sophisticated that we forget the inner child and many times abandon our creativity in the process. His work represents the conflict between fine art and society’s interpretation of the child psyche.

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