Possibly Etruscan horse, bronze, c. 3rd Century BCE
Over the summer I began writing for Arte Fuse with this review of Vapor and Vibration: The Art of Larry Bell and Jesús Rafael Soto at the Tampa Museum of Art. I quite like the show, and thought the curator was quite successful with this experimental pairing of two artists with no personal connection. It’s been so soothing to just sit quietly in the Animals in Ancient Art gallery at the TMA too, so I was sad to learn its last day is 1 July. The TMA also has a lovely collection of Etruscan mirrors.
While at the museum I saw for the first time some paintings of birds by Hunt Slonem. I got to observe many macaws in Miami and cockatoos, a nonnative species who have crossed the Tasman Sea to make themselves at home in New Zealand, are also very familiar. I thought the two paintings shown here used some interesting techniques to get to what’s essential about these clever and beautiful members of the parrot family. The focus on the pink tones and sociability of the cockatoos and of the strong beaks and feather structures of the macaws, absent their brilliant colors, is quite thoughtful.
Etruscan Mirror, c. 400 BCE, Tampa Museum of Art
Hunt Slonem, Habitat (Macaws), 1988.
Jesús Rafael Soto, Ambivalencia, 1981.
Larry Bell, XII HOJ, 2001.
Installation view, Vapor and Vibration: The Art of Larry Bell and Jesús Rafael Soto, Tampa Museum of Art
On view through the spring, this exhibition features 60 costumes representing characters from the Star Wars film saga from A New Hope in 1977 through The Force Awakens in 2015. These outfits are accompanied by selected accessories: props such as light sabers and artists’ sketches of how the costumes, and characters were originally envisioned and evolved. As a group the costumes highlight the intricacy of theatrical and cinematic clothing design. Membership in the cult of Star Wars is not a prerequisite for their appreciation.
These costumes and the drawings giving their background illustrate the evolution from storyboard to screen, and then of the characters who wear these ornaments and attributes. The earlier pieces from the original trilogy – The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983) followed A New Hope – are closely allied to the vaguely fascistic, neo-classical iconography favoured by creator George Lucas. These styles – Reich-referencing Imperial officer and Stormtrooper uniforms, the togas and cloaks for Jedi masters Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker – tend to be simplified and literal. As the series progressed with Episodes I, II, and II I – The Phantom Menace (1999), Attack of the Clones (2002), and Revenge of the Sith (2005) – the prequels that appeared fourth, fifth, and sixth in order of release – costumes for both the Republic officials such as Bail Organa and Imperial minion Darth Sidious tend to be highly decorated while more referentially abstract. Particularly the scarlet robe and ornate crown for Princess-Senator Padmé Amidala Naberrie’s Phantom Menace throne room garb, which greets visitors at the exhibit’s entrance, is a marvel. The dazzling effect of the wardrobe of Padmé, portrayed in the films by Natalie Portman, was achieved by the imaginative and subtle use of beads, paillettes, layers of leggings and petticoats, and embedded electronics. Her trains of shimmering brocade and elaborate ceremonial gowns and headdresses show strong influences from feudal Mongolia and Shōgun era Japan. I was astonished to see the level of handicraft and detail given to each garment, having assumed that costumes in a fantasy epic were embellished by computer-generated animations such as those that brought Katniss Everdeen’s “flame” gown to the screen in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013). Continue reading →