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In a series for the first day of each month, Hyperallergic is exploring some firsts in art, from the earliest known depictions of things to pioneers in the visual fields.
The Virgin Mary is often depicted in Renaissance paintings draped in a robe of blue, chosen not just for its heavenly tones, but for the rarity of the lapis lazuli pigment that colored her clothing. Yet long before this hue of ground semi-precious stones, there was a synthetic blue pigment widely used in ancient Egypt. This blue’s creation, loss, and rediscovery cover centuries of human history, from the tombs of Egyptian kings, to the 19th-century archaeological digs at Pompeii, to the modern forensics lab.
Egyptian blue is the earliest-known synthetic pigment, meaning it was not a color already found in nature (such as the precious lapis lazuli, which was mined in today’s Afghanistan). It was formed by heating quartz sand, copper, an alkali, and lime (or lime-heavy sand) into calcium copper silicate, a highly stable chemical compound. The Pigment Compendium: A Dictionary of Historical Pigments states that it was “used extensively from 4th dynasty Egypt until the end of the Roman period in Europe, as well as in certain other rare exceptions.” So after such a long use, including tomb ceilings as the night sky and the blue skin of the god Osiris, why did such an innovative hue disappear?
Partly it was the fall of the Roman Empire, but even before then it had gone slightly out of favor. Roman Egyptian artists tended to use more reds, yellows, and whites, sometimes even painting over preparatory blue drawings. Egyptian blue is believed to have vanished during the Dark Ages, except for strange, sporadic survivals, like in the blue of a 1524 painting by Giovanni Battista Benvenuto. Finally, as the Royal Society of Chemistry explains, samples of the pigment were found in 1814 at Pompeii, leading researchers to link the Roman ruins to this rediscovered Egyptian invention.
The reason it’s easily identified is it has a distinct optical property. According to Yale University, Egyptian blue “fluoresces in the near infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum when irradiated with visible light.” The unique quality has resulted in scientists considering contemporary applications, like as an ink for use at a nanometer scale, or as a luminescent dusting power for forensics on complex surfaces. A couple of centuries after its retrieval from history through Pompeii, this blue may have its own scientific significance as a material of discovery.
Every utopia is a social experiment, the artist suggests in this commission for the Performa performance art biennial, and we’re ultimately the guinea pigs.
“You can’t live in a house that’s built upon your back.” This is one of the more memorable phrases spoken by the scripted lovers of Tschabalala Self’s Sounding Board, what Performa describes in its promotional materials as an “experimental play.” That phrase, uttered by one romantic partner to the other, operates as guidance, warning, dictate,…
Two K-12 art teachers will each receive a $1,000 cash gift and an additional $500 to put toward classroom art supplies. Nominations are due October 31.
A commitment to trans subjects, and their queer communities, is manifested as a holding environment made approachable by our concern, grounded in intimacy and legacy, enfolding any viewer who will stop, listen, and receive love.
Todd Chandler’s documentary Bulletproof looks at the many people monetizing the societal rot of school shootings.
In Philadelphia, a series of solo shows delves into the interdisciplinary practices of graduates whose work explores identity, familial bonds, political constructs, and nature’s fragility.
On November 14, join Columbia University School of the Arts for virtual information sessions with the program chair, faculty, and staff.
The artists released the risograph-printed booklet series Organizing Power to assist in the arduous process of assembling a bargaining unit and negotiating.
From 1963 through 1968, Warhol produced nearly 650 films, including hundreds of Screen Tests and dozens of full-length movies.
Melvin Edwards, Maren Hassinger, and Alison Saar are among the artists kicking off the Destination Crenshaw initiative.