Bruce Nauman, One Hundred Live and Die, 1984
"One Hundred Live and Die" marries declarative ease and an uncompromising toughness. Mounted on a black, free-standing wall are 100 phrases in vivid colored block letters, arrayed in four neat columns. The words in one column — "Eat and Live," "Fear and Live," "Pay and Live" and so on — are echoed in the next ("Eat and Die," "Fear and Die," "Pay and Die"). Nauman’s inventory of options sticks for the most part with verbs (sing, suck, scream, try, lie, kiss) but evolves into colors as well ("Yellow and Live"). Some of his choices form rhyming couplets (tell/smell) or paired opposites (come/go, rise/fall). They blink on singly and in patterns, and ultimately all are illuminated.The piece couldn’t be more clearly presented, but its meaning is neither fixed nor stable, so it has that spiral-like elusiveness. A verbal/visual chant, a recitation, a rant, it is dense with contradiction — a poem of existence constantly rewriting itself.Nauman’s adoption of an advertising medium to express conditions other than promise and certainty is savvy, and its subversive power threads through all the neon work. John Baldessari’s early text paintings, executed by a commercial sign painter, are comparable in their wit and the way they undermine and redefine the artist’s role.

Bruce Nauman, One Hundred Live and Die, 1984

"One Hundred Live and Die" marries declarative ease and an uncompromising toughness. Mounted on a black, free-standing wall are 100 phrases in vivid colored block letters, arrayed in four neat columns. The words in one column — "Eat and Live," "Fear and Live," "Pay and Live" and so on — are echoed in the next ("Eat and Die," "Fear and Die," "Pay and Die"). Nauman’s inventory of options sticks for the most part with verbs (sing, suck, scream, try, lie, kiss) but evolves into colors as well ("Yellow and Live"). Some of his choices form rhyming couplets (tell/smell) or paired opposites (come/go, rise/fall). They blink on singly and in patterns, and ultimately all are illuminated.

The piece couldn’t be more clearly presented, but its meaning is neither fixed nor stable, so it has that spiral-like elusiveness. A verbal/visual chant, a recitation, a rant, it is dense with contradiction — a poem of existence constantly rewriting itself.

Nauman’s adoption of an advertising medium to express conditions other than promise and certainty is savvy, and its subversive power threads through all the neon work. John Baldessari’s early text paintings, executed by a commercial sign painter, are comparable in their wit and the way they undermine and redefine the artist’s role.

Diane Arbus, A very young baby, NYC 1968
A Very Young Baby is somewhat unremarkable compared to other Arbus photographs, but the back story is just as interesting. The photograph was one of several Arbus took of babies for Harper’s Bazaar in 1968. The baby in question is Anderson Cooper, current CNN correspondent and son of Gloria Vanderbilt. Prior to publication, an editor called Vanderbilt to make sure she didn’t mind the printing of her son’s name with the photograph. They were worried she might “find the picture a little disturbing.” She gave the okay, and today it hangs in the bedroom of Cooper, who thinks it’s “great.”

Diane Arbus, A very young baby, NYC 1968

A Very Young Baby is somewhat unremarkable compared to other Arbus photographs, but the back story is just as interesting. The photograph was one of several Arbus took of babies for Harper’s Bazaar in 1968. The baby in question is Anderson Cooper, current CNN correspondent and son of Gloria Vanderbilt. Prior to publication, an editor called Vanderbilt to make sure she didn’t mind the printing of her son’s name with the photograph. They were worried she might “find the picture a little disturbing.” She gave the okay, and today it hangs in the bedroom of Cooper, who thinks it’s “great.”

Diane Arbus, Jewish giant at home with his parents in the Bronx, NY, 1970
Arbus captured Eddie Carmel crammed into his parents’ living room. Carmel was actually normal height all through his childhood. As a teen, though, he began to grow uncontrollably as a result of acromegaly. The condition, then incurable, was caused by a tumor that had developed on Carmel’s pituitary gland. He grew to be 8’9” and received some fame for his condition, starring in B-movies, putting out two 45 records, and appearing in the Ringling Brothers Circus as “The Tallest Man on Earth.” He died at age 36, only two years after Arbus took his photo.

Diane Arbus, Jewish giant at home with his parents in the Bronx, NY, 1970

Arbus captured Eddie Carmel crammed into his parents’ living room. Carmel was actually normal height all through his childhood. As a teen, though, he began to grow uncontrollably as a result of acromegaly. The condition, then incurable, was caused by a tumor that had developed on Carmel’s pituitary gland. He grew to be 8’9” and received some fame for his condition, starring in B-movies, putting out two 45 records, and appearing in the Ringling Brothers Circus as “The Tallest Man on Earth.” He died at age 36, only two years after Arbus took his photo.





Bruce Nauman, The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths, 1967
The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths  was the first of Nauman’s many neon sculptures. He selected neon because he wanted to find a medium that would be identified with a non-artistic function. Determined to discover a way to connect objects with words, he used the method outlined in Philosophical Investigations, in which the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein encouraged contradictory and nonsensical arguments. Nauman’s neon sculpture spins out an emphatic assertion, but as Nauman explained, “It was kind of a test—like when you say some- thing out loud to see if you believe it… . [I]t was on the one hand a totally silly idea and yet, on the other hand, I believed it.” 

Bruce Nauman, The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths, 1967

The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths  was the first of Nauman’s many neon sculptures. He selected neon because he wanted to find a medium that would be identified with a non-artistic function. Determined to discover a way to connect objects with words, he used the method outlined in Philosophical Investigations, in which the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein encouraged contradictory and nonsensical arguments. Nauman’s neon sculpture spins out an emphatic assertion, but as Nauman explained, “It was kind of a test—like when you say some- thing out loud to see if you believe it… . [I]t was on the one hand a totally silly idea and yet, on the other hand, I believed it.” 





Rachel Ruysch, Flower Still Life, after 1700





Flower paintings were very popular in the Dutch Republic. Rachel Ruysch achieved international renown for her lush paintings of floral arrangements, noted also for their careful compositions. 

Rachel Ruysch, Flower Still Life, after 1700

Flower paintings were very popular in the Dutch Republic. Rachel Ruysch achieved international renown for her lush paintings of floral arrangements, noted also for their careful compositions. 





John Henry Sylvester, Portrait of Te Pehi Kupe (detail), 1826
The European artist included the head and shoulders and underplayed the tattooing. The tattoo pattern is one aspect of the likeness among many, no more or less important than the chieftain’s European attire. Sylvester also recorded his subject’s momentary glance toward the right and the play of light on his hair, fleeting aspects that have nothing to do with the figure’s identity. 

John Henry Sylvester, Portrait of Te Pehi Kupe (detail), 1826

The European artist included the head and shoulders and underplayed the tattooing. The tattoo pattern is one aspect of the likeness among many, no more or less important than the chieftain’s European attire. Sylvester also recorded his subject’s momentary glance toward the right and the play of light on his hair, fleeting aspects that have nothing to do with the figure’s identity. 





Josef Albers, Homage to the Square: “Ascending,” 1953 




Albers created the series Homage to the Square—hundreds of paintings, most of which are color variations on the same composition of concentric squares.. The series reflected Albers’s belief that art originates in “the discrepancy between physical fact and psychic effect.” Because the composition in most of these paintings remains constant, the works succeed in revealing the relativity and instability of color perception. Albers varied the hue, saturation, and value of each square in the paintings in this series. As a result, the sizes of the squares from painting to painting appear to vary (although they remain the same), and the sensations emanating from the paintings range from clashing dissonance to delicate serenity.  

Josef Albers, Homage to the Square: “Ascending,” 1953 

Albers created the series Homage to the Square—hundreds of paintings, most of which are color variations on the same composition of concentric squares.. The series reflected Albers’s belief that art originates in “the discrepancy between physical fact and psychic effect.” Because the composition in most of these paintings remains constant, the works succeed in revealing the relativity and instability of color perception. Albers varied the hue, saturation, and value of each square in the paintings in this series. As a result, the sizes of the squares from painting to painting appear to vary (although they remain the same), and the sensations emanating from the paintings range from clashing dissonance to delicate serenity.