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Children Can Tell the Difference Between Abstract Art and Kids' Paintings

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Some might argue that a Jackson Pollock painting looks like something a preschool kid could do, given a canvas and some paint. But abstract art is definitely distinct from the random splatters of a child, a new study finds. In research published in the Journal of Cognition and Development, children as young as age 4 were able to distinguish between the paintings of abstract expressionists and paintings by other kids and animals with similar compositions. 

The study, conducted by a team of Boston College psychologists, involved about 130 kids between the ages of 4 and 12 years old. They were asked to evaluate 18 paintings by abstract expressionist artists paired with 18 similar paintings done by preschoolers or zoo animals (chimps, apes, monkeys, and gorillas, in this case). Some pairs were unlabeled, and some pairs were labeled with one painting marked “artist” and the other marked "monkey," "child," or "elephant." Some kids saw unlabeled paintings, some saw paintings that were correctly labeled, and others saw paintings that were incorrectly labeled (for example, a painting by a monkey labeled as being by a human artist). 

The researchers found that even the youngest kids were able to successfully discern the work of a professional artist and a painting by a kid or a chimp in the unlabeled experiment. However, they didn’t necessarily think that made the art more appealing. When looking at unlabeled paintings, the 4- to 7-year-old kids preferred the work of other kids or animals, judging them as more appealing than the artists’ paintings. 

Both age groups were more likely to choose the artists’ paintings when asked to judge quality than if they were asked to pick the painting they personally preferred. But when the paintings were correctly labeled, the 8- to 12-year-olds tended to say they preferred the work of the artists. This suggests that not only does professional abstract art have qualities that sets it apart from superficially similar work, but that even young children see a difference between what they prefer and what is considered high quality. 

[h/t BPS Research Digest]

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Ape Meets Girl
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Pop Culture
Epic Gremlins Poster Contains More Than 80 References to Classic Movies
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Ape Meets Girl

It’s easy to see why Gremlins (1984) appeals to movie nerds. Executive produced by Steven Spielberg and written by Chris Columbus, the film has horror, humor, and awesome 1980s special effects that strike a balance between campy and creepy. Perhaps it’s the movie’s status as a pop culture treasure that inspired artist Kevin Wilson to make it the center of his epic hidden-image puzzle of movie references.

According to io9, Wilson, who works under the pseudonym Ape Meets Girl, has hidden 84 nods to different movies in this Gremlins poster. The scene is taken from the movie’s opening, when Randall enters a shop in Chinatown looking for a gift for his son and leaves with a mysterious creature. Like in the film, Mr. Wing’s shop in the poster is filled with mysterious artifacts, but look closely and you’ll find some objects that look familiar. Tucked onto the bottom shelf is a Chucky doll from Child’s Play (1988); above Randall’s head is a plank of wood from the Orca ship made famous by Jaws (1975); behind Mr. Wing’s counter, which is draped with a rug from The Shining’s (1980) Overlook Hotel, is the painting of Vigo the Carpathian from Ghostbusters II (1989). The poster was released by the Hero Complex Gallery at New York Comic Con earlier this month.

“Early on, myself and HCG had talked about having a few '80s Easter Eggs, but as we started making a list it got longer and longer,” Wilson told Mental Floss. “It soon expanded from '80s to any prop or McGuffin that would fit the curio shop setting. I had to stop somewhere so I stopped at 84, the year Gremlins was released. Since then I’ve thought of dozens more I wish I’d included.”

The ambitious artwork has already sold out, but fortunately cinema buffs can take as much time as they like scouring the poster from their computers. Once you think you’ve found all the references you can possibly find, you can check out Wilson’s key below to see what you missed (and yes, he already knows No. 1 should be Clash of the Titans [1981], not Jason and the Argonauts [1963]). For more pop culture-inspired art, follow Ape Meets Girl on Facebook and Instagram.

Key for hidden image puzzle.
Ape Meets Girl

[h/t io9]

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Kehinde Wiley Studio, Inc., Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
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presidents
Barack Obama Taps Kehinde Wiley to Paint His Official Presidential Portrait
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Kehinde Wiley
Kehinde Wiley Studio, Inc., Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Kehinde Wiley, an American artist known for his grand portraits of African-American subjects, has painted Michael Jackson, Ice-T, and The Notorious B.I.G. in his work. Now the artist will have the honor of adding Barack Obama to that list. According to the Smithsonian, the former president has selected Wiley to paint his official presidential portrait, which will hang in the National Portrait Gallery.

Wiley’s portraits typically depict black people in powerful poses. Sometimes he models his work after classic paintings, as was the case with "Napoleon Leading the Army Over the Alps.” The subjects are often dressed in hip-hop-style clothing and placed against decorative backdrops.

Portrait by Kehinde Wiley
"Le Roi a la Chasse"
Kehinde Wiley, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0

Smithsonian also announced that Baltimore-based artist Amy Sherald has been chosen by former first lady Michelle Obama to paint her portrait for the gallery. Like Wiley, Sherald uses her work to challenge stereotypes of African-Americans in art.

“The Portrait Gallery is absolutely delighted that Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald have agreed to create the official portraits of our former president and first lady,” Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery, said in a press release. “Both have achieved enormous success as artists, but even more, they make art that reflects the power and potential of portraiture in the 21st century.”

The tradition of the president and first lady posing for portraits for the National Portrait Gallery dates back to George H.W. Bush. Both Wiley’s and Sherald’s pieces will be revealed in early 2018 as permanent additions to the gallery in Washington, D.C.

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