Portal:The arts

T H E   A R T S   P O R T A L

The arts are a very wide range of human practices of creative expression, storytelling and cultural participation. They encompass multiple diverse and plural modes of thinking, doing and being, in an extremely broad range of media. Both highly dynamic and a characteristically constant feature of human life, they have developed into innovative, stylized and sometimes intricate forms. This is often achieved through sustained and deliberate study, training and/or theorizing within a particular tradition, across generations and even between civilizations. The arts are a vehicle through which human beings cultivate distinct social, cultural and individual identities, while transmitting values, impressions, judgments, ideas, visions, spiritual meanings, patterns of life and experiences across time and space.

Prominent examples of the arts include architecture, visual arts (including ceramics, drawing, filmmaking, painting, photography, and sculpting), literary arts (including fiction, drama, poetry, and prose), performing arts (including dance, music, and theatre), textiles and fashion, folk art and handicraft, oral storytelling, conceptual and installation art, criticism, and culinary arts (including cooking, chocolate making and winemaking). They can employ skill and imagination to produce objects, performances, convey insights and experiences, and construct new environments and spaces.

The arts can refer to common, popular or everyday practices as well as more sophisticated and systematic, or institutionalized ones. They can be discrete and self-contained, or combine and interweave with other art forms, such as the combination of artwork with the written word in comics. They can also develop or contribute to some particular aspect of a more complex art form, as in cinematography.

By definition, the arts themselves are open to being continually re-defined. The practice of modern art, for example, is a testament to the shifting boundaries, improvisation and experimentation, reflexive nature, and self-criticism or questioning that art and its conditions of production, reception, and possibility can undergo.

As both a means of developing capacities of attention and sensitivity, and as ends in themselves, the arts can simultaneously be a form of response to the world, and a way that our responses, and what we deem worthwhile goals or pursuits, are transformed. From prehistoric cave paintings, to ancient and contemporary forms of ritual, to modern-day films, art has served to register, embody and preserve our ever shifting relationships to each other and to the world. (Full article...)

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Featured picture

"After the war, a medal and maybe a job"
Credit: Artist: John French Sloan; Restoration: Lise Broer
"After the war, a medal and maybe a job", an anti-World War I editorial cartoon showing a soldier who is missing the lower half of his body dragging himself along with his hands, with his intestines trailing behind him. A fat capitalist sitting in a chair offers him a medal for his service.

Did you know...

Teuchitlan scale model

  • ... that the conical step pyramids (reconstruction pictured) and circular public architecture of ancient Mexico's Teuchitlan tradition were unique in Mesoamerica?
  • ... that in Korean cuisine, dishes made by steaming vegetables stuffed with seasoned fillings are called Seon?
  • ... that the SC Johnson & Son-produced film To Be Alive! was the first non-theatrical production to receive an award from the New York Film Critics Circle?

In this month

Fred Rowntree

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Featured biography

Henry Moore in workshop by Allan Warren

Henry Moore was a British artist and sculptor. Born into a poor mining family in the Yorkshire town of Castleford, he became well-known for his large-scale abstract cast bronze and carved marble sculptures; substantially supported by the British art establishment, Moore helped to introduce a particular form of modernism into Britain. His ability to satisfy large-scale commissions made him exceptionally wealthy towards the end of his life. However, he lived frugally and most of his wealth went to endow the Henry Moore Foundation, which continues to support education and promotion of the arts. His signature form is a pierced reclining figure, first influenced by a Toltec-Maya sculpture known as "Chac Mool", which he had seen as a plaster cast in Paris in 1925. Early versions are pierced conventionally as a bent arm reconnects with the body. Later, more abstract versions, are pierced directly through the body in order to explore the concave and convex shapes. These more extreme piercings developed in parallel with Barbara Hepworth's sculptures. Hepworth first pierced a torso after misreading a review of one of Henry Moore's early shows. (Full article...)

Featured audio

  • The first movement of Mozart's Serenade No. 13.
  • Selected quote

    Karel Čapek
    Karel Čapek, R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots), 1921

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    A Drawing keats rendered of an engraving of the Sosibios Vase
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    Photography of the Czech author Karel Čapek.
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