visual communication

Fall 2012

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Norman Rockwell’s “The Four Freedoms” Discussion (cont.)

Final Analysis on this piece:

    Norman Rockwell created what America needed at that time— an American art style that instilled a sense of patriotism in viewers. The idea of whether or not he created an American ‘style’ of art, however, is still up for debate. Many experts in the field believe there is still no iconic art form in America.

    My focus, however, was about the importance of these pieces back in the 1940’s compared to now. "The Four Freedoms" depicted exactly that—freedoms- creating art that could transcend time easily in the USA and still holds value to viewers today. (Nostalgia is far from going out of style.) Each piece held strong messages of freedom with a lingering thought that such freedoms could be stripped from the people of the USA if they didn’t take action. 
    Does this series of his work still hold the level of importance to viewers they did in 1943? In all likelihood, no. These were meant to rally the people in order to bring more support for war. Could they still work to gain support during war times today— I’d like to say yes. Overall, however, do they still attract an audience? Yes, but much, much smaller. Rockwell isn’t as well known of a name now, and many who see “The Four Freedoms” can respect them, and easily interpret them— but there is no passion. There is no strong desire to plaster your household in prints of these works— no strong sense of patriotism that spreads like an infectious disease. 

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Norman Rockwell’s “The Four Freedoms” Discussion (cont.)

During World War II the US Government was looking for a way to fuel citizen support for the war and raise money. After Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal initiative, they were also looking for an art style to represent the time and the people in the United States. The solution to these problems was Norman Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms.” While the impact of his work was easier to track in 1943, what impact does it sell have today? 

Each of these paintings portrays different subjects based on different themes, even though the paintings are still considered a set.

Freedom of Worship is an interesting piece to start these discussions with— note the people featured in the photo. They’re mostly middle-aged Caucasians. . At the time the country was still very racially divided, so it’s not a surprise then that Rockwell’s work features mostly Caucasian Americans. There are three main groups worth examining at in this photo. First is the man closest to the foreground, his profile darker and out of focus, he looks to be wearing a hat insinuating he’s serving. Though he isn’t the main character, Rockwell felt the need to represent those serving in his work. Second is the young woman with the golden-colored hair on the leftmost side of the photo. She’s youthful, beautiful, and is praying with a set of rosemary beads— often associated with Catholicism, the most prevalent Christian religion in the United States. Third, the main group is the older couple in the center. The elderly woman is visibly praying among the crowd, Rockwell adding in details such as her wedding band. The people behind everyone lead you to the conclusion that it’s a mass group in prayer, possibly at a church.


Freedom of Speech 
is a slightly less complex photo to look at. Surrounded by a crowd of mostly older, white males— all dressed in suits and ties— a man stands tall and proud. Unlike the others, he is dressed far more casually and the roughness of his skin suggests he does manual labor or something of the sort for a living. Taking it a step further, one could assume he’s slightly out of place there— yet everyone, regardless of their background is still granted the right to freedom of speech, which he is exercising in the painting. It expressed equality among Americans— one of the many values America was founded on..


Freedom from Want 
is perhaps the least straight-forward of all of the paintings.The first two represent amendments in the Bill of Rights, and the final represents protecting your family during war times. Freedom from Want illustrates a family sitting down to dinner together. In Franklin D. Roosevelt’s speech, he explained “The third is freedom from want — which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants — everywhere in the world” (Janairo, 2011).   The main meal, a turkey, is commonly associated with Thanksgiving (A national holiday that celebrates when the pilgrims landed in Plymouth, settling in what is now the US). Making this connection, it’s easier to understand how a painting such as this ties to people’s values and emotions in the US.

Freedom from Fear is a relatively simple piece depicting a couple putting their child to bed. At first it’s a very pleasant simple picture of the average American family. At a second glance, however, the paper the man’s holding becomes much more obvious. The paper, in bold headlines, mentions horror and bombings— insinuating the family is in an area currently at war. While Rockwell could have created several different depictions of what fear represents, he went with what was most relevant to the American people at the time. Naturally, they fear for their children and family as a whole. This piece in 1943 was extremely relevant  and quite possibly the most straightforward of the four pieces created during WWII.


References: 
Janairo, M. (2011, January 9). 70 years after FDR’s ‘Four Freedoms’ speech, Norman Rockwell’s iconic images still inspire. Times Union. Retrieved October 27, 2012, from http://www.timesunion.com/entertainment/article/70-years-after-FDR-s-Four-Freedoms-speech-946472.php

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Art During Times of War: Rockwell’s Image and How He Sent the President’s Message Visually into Households Across America.

 

“The Four Freedoms” are a set of paintings created by Norman Rockwell in 1943, during World War II. Initially each painting was reproduced for the Saturday Evening Post, where a corresponding essay accompanied each piece. The paintings were released two years after Franklin D. Roosevelt’s address to the nation, which had that same title. In Roosevelt’s speech he explained,  “We look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way— everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want … everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear … anywhere in the world.” The Government initially rejected Rockwell`s offer to create paintings on the ‘Four Freedoms’ theme. Disregarding their lack of interest, Rockwell was still inspired enough to create them for The Saturday Evening Post (National Archives).

Rockwell, who started working for the Post in 1916, is well known for his thought-provoking paintings that were often littered with details— and “The Four Freedoms” was no exception.  “Millions of Americans viewed and read, and the images were received ‘to wild acclaim’ as a ‘nationwide triumph’” (Segal, 1996, p. 633). Rockwell, who first published the four paintings as covers for the Saturday Evening Post was then approached by the government, which took the pieces on a 16 city tour as propaganda for the war effort(Janairo, 2011).  People who bought war bonds received prints of "The Four Freedoms," raising almost $133 million (Frascina, 2003, p. 102).  

“The images served to build consensus and to boost American confidence in a period of rapid growth and changing mores” (Ceglio, 2002, p. 298).

According to Stephanie Plunkett, the deputy director and chief curator of the Norman Rockwell Museum in Massachusetts, “For Rockwell, the Four Freedoms presented an opportunity to make a larger statement. They really became images that inspired the nation at that time— So I think that as we look at them today and we notice that — when we have schoolchildren at the museum talk about freedom — these are images that still resonate” (Janairo, 2011).


References:

Ceglio, C. (2002). Complicating Simplicity. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Frascina, F. (2003). The New York Times, Norman Rockwell and the new patriotism. ThousanOaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Janairo, M. (2011, January 9). 70 years after FDR’s ‘Four Freedoms’ speech, Norman Rockwell’s iconic images still inspire. Times Union. Retrieved October 27, 2012, from http://www.timesunion.com/entertainment/article/70-years-after-FDR-s-Four-Freedoms-speech-946472.php

National Archives. (n.d.). Powers of Persuasion. National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved October 27, 2012, from http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/powers_of_persuasion/man_the_guns/man_the_guns.html

Segal, E. J. (1996). Norman Rockwell and the Fashioning of American Masculinity. New York: College Art Association. 

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 Wildenhain Exhibit at RIT 2012


I recently visited the Wildenhain exhibit at RIT this past week, granted I only visited the portion in the Bevier Gallery. Unfortunately I didn’t make it to the Dyer Arts Center before the collection finished its run.  


It was interested to take in the layout of the gallery from both above and on floor level, taking note of displays. There was an interesting mix of pieces displayed on islands in the center of the gallery, in addition to pieces on walls or on podiums set against walls. The over all flow of the exhibit was very open, welcoming to large crowds, but at the same time, was so open that there was no strict flow in place. It was interesting to note that some pieces were placed behind glass, while others were fully exposed to viewers. Also some pieces were placed high at eye level or waist level, while others were on podiums low enough a viewer could easily trip against the podium if shoved in a crowd. Also the tags on the art pieces lacked names, and instead simply told how the piece was created. They also lacked specific years. The curator, Bruce Austin, provided reasoning for both of those decisions when speaking with him, but when I initially visited the gallery prior to speaking with him, I was a bit surprised at the lack of information. Helmer’s fifth step mentions when deconstructing a piece, some times this is done because otherwise it might “date” a piece. In the case of this exhibit, however, it wasn’t the case, but instead a lack of details about the pieces from the time of the exhibit’s previous owner’s purchase.
I found it interesting what pieces grabbed my attention the most— pieces that reminded me of home. My parent’s home has a number of hand made crafts, including hand crafted candlestick holders and pots. Needless to say, the photo above with the candlestick holders was the very first piece that I spent time examining at the gallery.  At the same time, I know I don’t have a piece preference to abstract art, so when I ran into the 2nd piece listed above, a sculpture of the human body— well, needless to say I obviously found it strikingly out of place! In comparison to the rest of the exhibit, the piece literally is very different, and that in itself draws attention to it. I also spent some time with it while visiting Bevier, simply because I knew it was one thing I disliked in comparison to other pieces I favored. 

Overall I enjoyed the exhibit— quite possibly a lot more than other works that Bevier has hosted in the past four years. I’ve always enjoyed pottery and clay-related exhibits, because to an extent, everyone can draw. It’s something we’re taught from a young age. (At very least, people can draw stick figures and we recognize them as representations of people.) Pottery and using a pottery wheel on the other hand, is a much more complex art form that also has a very physical aspect to it. It requires traits such as patience in addition to upper body strength and a different type of hand-eye coordination when compared to drawing or painting. 3D art, such as the Wildenhain exhibit, requires the open spaces Bruce Austin provided for it, allowing these pieces to be viewed from all angels, with spotlights showing off the color gradients on key pieces. Also the simplicity of the white walls/ podiums and brown floors in Bevier work as an excellent setting for almost any gallery— not taking any attention away from the art. 

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Growth (1967) by Josef Albers

"Originally painted in acrylic latex, this two-part mural in the lobby of the Eastman Building, entitled Growth (1967), is one of two major commissions given to the artist Josef Albers by the Rochester Institute of Technology." 

These paintings in RIT’s Eastman Building are by far two of the largest pieces of 2D art on the college’s campus. Commissioned, Josef knew he would be designing two large pieces that complimented each other— but few students actually take time to read a plaque in the building describing his back story. Instead, the paintings are often viewed in a only a few quick seconds as students and faculty leave and enter the building. (To clarify the above photos, these paintings site on opposite walls in the same large entrance area to the building.)
They make use of warm shades of orange and yellow, and if you look closely you’ll notice the paintings are exact opposites of each other in terms of the color order. They are the exact same size, and the squares in each are identical in terms of size also— but on one the center square is a dark, burnt orange, and on the other it’s a bright, solid yellow.
For me, I instantly viewed this as a pair of suns— a sunrise and a sunset. Regardless of the clear, sharp lines along the edge of each square, my idea was backed further by the fact that during the day light from outside shines in on the first painting shown above, of which I regarded as a sunrise. Meanwhile, little light shines on the second painting listed during daytime, however, I hypothesize that during the evening, due to the direction of the building and layout of these paintings, light will likely shine on the second painting then. Meanwhile, in the evening, the light will fade away from the first painting. As mentioned by Helmer, suns often represent power and universality — concepts fitting for one of the main academic buildings on campus, the current location of President Destler’s office. 
Was this Alber’s intention— that the paintings were suns and the light would play off them correspondingly during the day? No. Happy coincidence and how I unintentionally interpreted his piece? Yes.
Interesting enough, warm colors such as these often make rooms appear smaller. I found this statement almost humorous considering how large the paintings and room itself are. Not as humorous is the fairly well known idea that warm colors evoke a warm (in terms of temperature) feeling to viewers—something direly needed during the long winters in Rochester. They’re also thought to be energizing. Helmer personally recognized that colors tend to be less symbolic than intended in most cases, but also did acknowledge they do sometimes have meaning. “Red can mean passion or anger. Yellow often connotes joy and optimism.” I would think with such a simple (in terms of details) painting, color would highly play into the meaning for these two pieces.   

References:
 http://www.feng-shui-and-beyond.com/color-psychology-warm.html

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TR5, TR3ABurton Kramer 2009Acrylic on Canvas36 x 54 inches 


Burton Kramer was on my campus (RIT) this past week to discuss his vast array of work, in addition to displaying paintings he’s created as a hobby in retirement. It was interesting hearing about how he got started in graphic design, especially considering he entered the field when it was brand new, and there was nobody to look to as a role model, nor dozens upon dozens of publications explaining the art form (as there are today.) I also got a kick out of his distaste for the complexity and variety that computers now offer graphic design— and to a degree, I had to agree with him. Graphic design has changed rapidly due to the transfer to digital creation, and designers now in days often don’t understand the concept of “less is more.”In relation to Helmer’s third principle of design, I got a kick out of Kramer’s paintings.  I briefly chatted with Burton Kramer about the positioning of his art in the gallery, and the intended flow for viewers. The piece that struck me most was actually one entitled ”Flicker Yellow” because it didn’t follow the similar patterns of the rest of his work. I chose to throw in two of his pieces portrayed above, however, because I felt they represented the overall feel for the gallery. His work focuses entirely on geometric shapes with sharp lines on them. Often there was 2-3 pieces of work that closely resembled each other, such as in the photo above. Minor differences in positioning and white space, in addition to color distinguished the paintings. What I found extremely interesting, however, was the texture of the paintings when viewed closely. Acrylic paintings often rely on translucent layering to create shades, so in paintings such as these, the layers often are applied directly on top of another in order to create the bold, solid colors. Burton layered paint so thickly on each of these paintings that you can visibly see the thickness of each portion on the canvas. At first glance I almost thought the paint was a different, thick material that he had glued or painted with a glaze upon the canvas in order to get it to stick! Taking a guess, I’d say Burton did these paintings in dozens of layers, laying down something similar to painter’s tape on the canvas in order to create his sharp, clean edges on shapes. 

TR5, TR3A
Burton Kramer 2009
Acrylic on Canvas
36 x 54 inches 

Burton Kramer was on my campus (RIT) this past week to discuss his vast array of work, in addition to displaying paintings he’s created as a hobby in retirement. It was interesting hearing about how he got started in graphic design, especially considering he entered the field when it was brand new, and there was nobody to look to as a role model, nor dozens upon dozens of publications explaining the art form (as there are today.) I also got a kick out of his distaste for the complexity and variety that computers now offer graphic design— and to a degree, I had to agree with him. Graphic design has changed rapidly due to the transfer to digital creation, and designers now in days often don’t understand the concept of “less is more.”
In relation to Helmer’s third principle of design, I got a kick out of Kramer’s paintings.  I briefly chatted with Burton Kramer about the positioning of his art in the gallery, and the intended flow for viewers. The piece that struck me most was actually one entitled ”Flicker Yellow” because it didn’t follow the similar patterns of the rest of his work. I chose to throw in two of his pieces portrayed above, however, because I felt they represented the overall feel for the gallery. His work focuses entirely on geometric shapes with sharp lines on them. Often there was 2-3 pieces of work that closely resembled each other, such as in the photo above. Minor differences in positioning and white space, in addition to color distinguished the paintings. What I found extremely interesting, however, was the texture of the paintings when viewed closely. Acrylic paintings often rely on translucent layering to create shades, so in paintings such as these, the layers often are applied directly on top of another in order to create the bold, solid colors. Burton layered paint so thickly on each of these paintings that you can visibly see the thickness of each portion on the canvas. At first glance I almost thought the paint was a different, thick material that he had glued or painted with a glaze upon the canvas in order to get it to stick! Taking a guess, I’d say Burton did these paintings in dozens of layers, laying down something similar to painter’s tape on the canvas in order to create his sharp, clean edges on shapes. 

Filed under burton kramer art visual analysis visual communication

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Visual Analysis #1:

(Focused primarily on 2nd photo) 

I’ve always been a fan of food. (I know. I’m just asking to be called a ‘fatty’ or a ‘glutton’ with a comment like that— but it’s true! Specifically, I love baking. Narrowing that category even further, I enjoy baking cookies and decorating cakes. Making visually appealing sweets has always been a hobby of mine that’s led to being volunteered to run countless bake sales while at RIT in addition to being the ‘cake baker’ for friend’s birthday parties. I love the aspect of combining something visually appealing that also simultaneously is pleasing to the taste buds. 

Often I’ll use Tumblr to look at pictures of other people’s creations in order to get inspiration when I’m trying to come up with a new cake design etc.. I ran across this photo earlier this week, and thought it would be a great picture to analyze! The point of sweets is to create something delicious (though generally unhealthy) that people enjoy. Because sweets are enjoyed by the majority of people, it’s not uncommon to associate them with happiness and special occasions. When I saw this photo, initially I saw myself glancing over Pillsbury’s famous presliced holiday themed cookies, a must for any mother who doesn’t enjoy baking from scratch. (Or has limited time and too many youngsters running around— heck— who am I kidding? This cookie dough is delicious to eat raw even. I still make these on occasion.) The cookies, still on the tray, are eye-popping on the photo, as the beige cookies stand out in contrast to the silver pan and mostly dark background. While the cookies are the focus of the photo, hinting that this picture was taking some time in December, and that the baker celebrates Christmas, it’s the child— eagerly hovering over the cookies in the background— that illicit warm feelings of happiness in a viewer. The child’s excitement over the cookies is very obvious to the viewer from his body language, and helps to create a nostalgia when viewing the photo, along with a slight craving for something sugary! While this photo would work great as an advertisement for Pillsbury’s holiday cookies, it’s likely to be a personal photo, likely taken by an adult— based off the positioning of the photo and the image quality. (Taken from an above viewing, insinuating the photographer was taller than the image subjects. Also there is no logo, insinuating this is an advertisement.) It’s also highly likely this image was edited in digital software, considering the top photo looks touched up around the child’s arm placing the dough on the baking sheet. Taking a stab in the dark, I’d guess a mother or father took these pictures of their son while baking, and planned to send them to some relatives, so they took the time to edit/ touch up the photos a bit before sharing. If this image was created as a Pillsbury advertisement, however, it definitely does the trick! 

(One random thing I did notice, however, is that the trays from both pictures are not the same— that is, the cookies are not from the same batch! Look closely at the bottom picture, specifically the cookies int he top right. It’s a deer surrounded by trees. If you look at the top photo, no corner is like that! Was this intentional? A slip up? Does it simply not matter at all? Likely yes in response to that last question, but a fun thing to notice, none the less.)


Joelle

(Source: cosmicsyzygy)