Addressing the ever-shrinking credibility of rock journalism since 2007. With a sasquatch.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Off the Shelf: Simon Schama's Power of Art

Schama and Serkis conduct a 'friendly' staring contest.

Simon Schama and Andy Serkis conduct another 'friendly' staring contest.

Artists are, in a long and time-honored fashion, pigeon-holed as dopes. They, and their profession, are regularly thought of in terms of wild cliches and then brushed off. The conception is: artists are lazy, effeminate, weak-willed, unstable, notoriously flaky and completely irresponsible. Artists are said to be idle geeks who spend their time sipping espresso while painting skewed unintelligible pictures of dandy lions in their aunt's basements. While this is a very entertaining picture - it's all a lie.

Traditional fabrications about art and artists are challenged in Simon Schama's ground-breaking documentary series The Power of Art - a series originally broadcast in the fall of 2006 on the BBC and brought to the US in 2007 by PBS.

Schama, who narrates the series in mixture of introspective analysis and dry humor, is a hard-nosed art professor who has taught at Harvard and Columbia University. As a widely respected expert in art, education and documentary film his opinion is to be comes from decades of study and practive. In the tradition of rough and tumble fellow Brit and ex-footballer Gordon Ramsey, Schama makes a strong case for the validity and vitality of his life's work: art and artists.

Van Gollum is all ears.

Andy Serkis as the world's most famous manic-depressive, Vincent Van Gogh.

Schama offers a stark and compelling insight into these subjects. He brings to life the horrible vison of the expert duelist and painter Michelango Carravagio. He explores the search for the transcendent in the life and painting in the manic-depressive episodes of Van Gogh. Schama confronts the ponderous and the inexplicable Francis Bacon. The series' tone is done in the clear, calculating tones of a cantankerous yet insightfull art professor who has taken great pains in preparing his slides into a visual lecture that paints art as a living thing that breathes through those who make it.


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