Your eyes and ears on the world of art and culture

I'm sure you are aware of the Nobel Peace Prize in Literature that was awarded to Bob Dylan, an unpected and great surprise. At this site the Guardian brings us some of Dylan's best lyrics.

Another surprise came to us this month from the field of astronomy. As if the universe were not already blowing us away with its complexity, scientists have now figured out that there are about 2 trillion galaxies in the cosmos, far more than was earlier estimated. They also describe a distinct pattern in the way stars and planets relate to each other, and were able to create a 3D model of the early universe as it existed roughly 3 billion years ago.

Those of you who have enjoyed the original material on Amazon's Prime were no doubt delighted by last season's "Mozart in the Jungle", with a second season highly anticipated this winter. A new offering, by the brilliant TV writer David E. Kelley, has just reached us. Called "Goliath", it delves once again into the dark jungle of law and (in)justice. You will remember Kelley as the author and producer of such gems as "Ally McBeal", "Boston Legal", and "Picket Fences", to mention but a few. In "Goliath", Kelley, along with writer Jonathan Shapiro, has produced a taut, gripping crime/mystery marked by brilliant casting and cinematography. Especially noteworthy are the portrayals by William Hurt and Billy Bob Thornton. Consistently noir throughout, the ending is nonetheless shocking: Kelley's worldview reminds me of William Faulkner's Nobel Prize acceptance speech, which spoke of "man's puny, inexhaustible voice, still talking". But Faulkner's speech goes on to praise man's soul, "a spirit capable of compassion, sacrifice, and endurance". "Goliath" offers no such compensation but is rather relentlessley dark. Bingeworthy nonetheless.

The Guardian's Hannah Gadsby takes us into the art history of Jan van Eyck"s Arnolfini Portrait painted in 1432. An enigmatic image of two figures, a dog, and a pair of slippers, it has gripped the imagination of centuries of art lovers. Whether the woman is pregnant, whether this is a nuptial scene, questions like these are secondary to the magnificently rendered details of the room and the clothing. But Gadsby takes us further into art history with a tale of art criticism published in 1934 by Erwin Panofsky. I won't spoil the surprise, but it makes me take a cautious view of later thoughts about what an artist really meant. In fact I'm not even sure that an artist really knows what she or he has created, simply that they had to create and this particular voice had to be revealed.

71 years ago two creative geniuses got together and planned an animated feature called Destino. I can think of no more inspired combination of exuberant minds than that of Savador Dali and Walt Disney. Although Dali worked on the project for some 8 months in 1945, it never came to life until now. Fortunately Disney's grandson Roy found the material and produced it in 2003, directed by the French animator Dominique Monfery. The brief fantasy, without dialog but with lively music, is a surrealist treat.

Valerie Jaudon participated in a movement called Pattern and Decoration, once proudly followed and eventually dismissed as mere decoration. That designation strikes me as particularly Western-biased, since in the hands of other cultures it encompasses a wide variety of spectacular work. In Jaudon's case, she has based her paintings on the flowing lines of Islamic architecture and writing. Art Forum describes them as similar to works by Jasper Johns and Frank Stella. Approached by an open mind, they are fascinating and visually compelling. A further description of her work is available at Von Lintel Gallery.

The Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles features the phantasmagorical paintings of Hannah Yata. Yata combines plants, female bodies and animal parts to create lush surreal images. She draws heavily on psychology, feminism, and forms in the natural world.

The works of Max Beckmann form part of the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Beckmann, who died in 1950, was a painter, printmaker and portraitest who came to prominence in Berlin in 1910. In 1937 the Nazis removed over 500 of his pieces from public collections. MOMA has over 200 of his works, which you can view online. You can see more images at Artsy.net.

Born in Vietnam and working now in the United States, artist Binh Pho creates elaborate designs in wood and glass. He bases his pieces on philosophy, story telling, fantasy and myth. You can see more of his elegant work at Habatat Galleries and Adam Blaue Gallery.

"The Art of Romaine Brooks" has been showing at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D. C. Their website gives an extensive overview of Brooks' life and work at the end of the 20th Century. She was part of a subculture of women that maintained an independent life style when it was clearly misunderstood. She also had to fight against the mainstream art fashion of abstract expressionism. The images shown here are stiking in their elegant severity. At the Smithsonian Magazine site you can find more information about her.

Tate Britain has sponsored a competition to investigate the intersection of art and artificial inteligence. The winning proposal, called "Recognition", came from a group of researchers in Treviso, Italy, at a center called Fabrica. Their project scans roughly 1000 news photos provided by Reuters each day and compares them to the 30,000 British artworks in the Tate's permanent collection. The idea is to find similarities between today's publicity and images from the past. You can judge some of the results for yourself.

c. Corinne Whitaker 2016