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New York-based designer Mike Deal has a great project going visualizing The Beatles.
I especially like this one. It tracks the keys of Beatles’ album tracks. You can see at a glance their poppier, more harmonic albums.
The project is an offshoot of an ongoing kaleidoscopic project at chartingthebeatles.com and on Flickr.
If it grabs you, head on over and take part. See you there!
Todd Norsten's "Ceaseless Boundless Endless Joy" is displayed that the Walker Art Center. Todd is an American who was born in 1967. He has had shows in New York City, Seoul, and here in Minneapolis. He actually had a solo show at the Midway Gallery.
This is a 78 x 66" oil painting on canvas. The painted on letters are meant to appear to be masking tape. It was done in 2008.
I really do not like this piece. It seems pointless and uninteresting, but I will admit that the craft is good. Until you get right up close, it really does look like masking tape. I honestly thought it was until I took a closer look. Nonetheless, this painting says nothing to me. It doesn't even speak the words that are painted on it. There is no information available about what this work is supposed to mean. Why was it made? What is it supposed to say. It is possible that the feeling of the piece is supposed to contradict the actual text. It also could just be that the artist enjoys the idea that people generally try to read a painting as much as they try to read words on a paper. This artist has done several pieces with this theme. He uses these words over and over. In fact almost all of his work involves large, bold text on canvas. These words are meant to be dramatic and shocking. One of his paintings is called "You Fuckers." It is a 60x48" painting. The background is a mid-gray color and the words are almost white. The text takes up about 70% of the canvas. In that piece, the text is less bold because the words are. In this piece, the words are clear, but they are not as shocking. It was interesting to learn about Todd's techniques and his ideas, but I still don't believe that his work belongs in a museum. He is not saying anything Proxy-Connection: keep-alive Cache-Control: max-age=0
portant. It seems like he is just playing around with the concept of words combined with paintings. Art means more to me than that.
But what about the thoughts provoked by the piece? What is the endless joy? I really liked this piece. I felt like it brings up the feeling of joy you get with the simple things and open choices. Masking tape is something so simple and, for me, it creates a lot of joy. It does a lot and it's such a common thing. White is a simple shade. It's clean but extremely zen-like. It creates a feeling of endless possibilities and it's not overwhelming at all. It's a blank canvas (har, har), you can create anything on it. So why not use something (or represent something using something else (ie paint as masking tape)) common and overlooked on endless possibilities to create the feeling stated. Just my thought on the piece and what it means to me. Hopefully it makes the piece a bit more appealing.
Upon completion of a standard visit to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, there is one final room a visitor must encounter. A whole world and thousands of years worth of art have already been experienced, but it's always good to take one last final glance before proceeding back out to take on the rest of life. The last gallery room is a single long hallway with freestanding art pieces spaced evenly along the central line of the route – a processional of sorts, set to tell a story. The gallery is duskily lit, with a weary, end of the day feel to it, and each art piece in the room is then individually lit within the room as if to imply completely separate entities; though the separation on a narrowly directed pathway still forces one piece to lead the viewer on to the next of the journey.
Sarcophagus of Prince Cheng Ching (Yuan Mi). Northern Wei dynasty. Black Limestone.
The first stop en route is the Sarcophagus of Prince Cheng Ching from the Northern Wei dynasty in China. A beautiful black limestone sarcophagus intricately carved with landscapes and ten scenes illustrating “paragons of filial piety.” The acute attention to detail in the engraving shows the care with which this Chinese prince was buried as well as the importance of honoring family and ancestors passed on before.
Cartonnage of Lady Tashat. 1085-710 BCE. Painted and varnished linen; polychromed pine coffin.
The second display seems an easy parallel to the first, the Cartonnage of Lady Tashat (1085-710 BCE) from Egypt. This cartonnage was more than simply the means of burying an Egyptian lady; this was to be the eternal home of her ka, her immortal life-force. Both the coffin and the cartonnage, therefore, bear representations of the lady's youthful face and are inscribed with hieroglyphs and images of protection, prayers, and offerings. Her elaborate and carefully thought out burial preparations were intended to provide comfort for her ka's eternal afterlife.
Grave Stele. 9th century BCE. Marble.
The third piece is a grave stele originating from Greece in the 9th century. Unlike the previous two pieces, this stele celebrates the memory of the life of the deceased rather than what their afterlife might entail. However, there is still a sense a peace within death and honor to the dead, whether that be in memory or in an eternal afterlife. The relief carving shows the couple either biding each other farewell until they may meet again in death, or perhaps greeting each other once again in death. In either case, the Greeks, like the Egyptians and the Chinese, found the passing on of a fellow human being important enough to devote their time and carefully created artwork to.
Armor. 1520 CE. Steel, leather, copper alloy.
Continuing on, the fourth piece at first seems an odd break from the first three – a suit of armor from Germany (1520 CE). The processional has moved away from the ancient, more developed cultures to a much younger European culture. And with this adjustment of time and place, so too has the focus of the art changed. The armor develops as a parallel to fashion and warefare: the new arenas for art. The armor is designed to be defensively functional, taking blows from various weapons and protecting the wearer, while simultaneously emulating the fashion of the current time to showcase the man's high level of taste. Protection is made by men to protect from other men. The value of life is of man's world, not that of the gods and the afterlife.
Fifth is a case of six smallswords standing upright so their silver, gold, and porcelain hilts are vividly on display. They have been collected from across Europe: the Netherlands, Portugal, France, and England and ranging in date from 1650 to 1815 CE. They are all beautifully designed with precious metals and great care; a lighter and more refined gentleman's weapon for a more “civilized” age in which dueling itself had become a fashion trend and an art form of the highest regard.
Flintlock rifle. John Bonewitz. 1790-1800 CE. Iron, maple, brass, silver.
In the sixth display two American flintlock rifles (1790-1800 CE) sit proudly in their case. Designed by John Bonewitz, they are considered to be the finest craftsmanship possible in this style of gun with elegant proportions and prized scrollwork and engraved brass butt plates. Across the ocean from Europe, in the great new country of America, art and the value fine craftsmanship has been refocused away from the civilized gentleman's smallsword to a form of weaponry even more brutal and distant – a humans connection to death is no more than the result of a simple pull of the trigger.
Funeral torch. 1720 CE. Gilded and painted wood, wrought iron.
One last piece stands alone at the end of the dusky hall, a bit more removed from the rest of the pieces so the details are not immediately noticeable. It appears to be nothing more than a tall stand, a 6 foot tall torch of sorts. Stepping closer, one finds that it is a funeral torch from Italy (1720 CE). So perhaps European world does honor their dead in their art just as the ancient cultures before them did. Except this sole indication of a European and American connection to funerary proceedings through art is not honorary, respectful, and peaceful vision of the eternal afterlife that came before them. This sole funerary torch is adorned with a macabre skeleton twisted around the wrought iron torch pole, seeming to smile or perhaps laugh down at the viewer from his perch. Amidst all the art pieces within the MIA and the various rituals and artistic celebrations of the ancient dead, this skeleton is what's left at the end of a trail of weaponry showing how the Western cultures see fit to celebrate the lives of their dead.
**All photos courtesy of Claire Marrinan. Art pieces all currently on display at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Dates and individual artwork details courtesy of the MIA didactics. 02.10.10
There were three pieces that caught my eye at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts that I felt could relate to one another.
The first was “Monuments” by Christian Boltanski. It is a large installation piece made up of black and white photography, lights, wires, and metal plates. They are arranged into a form that is reminiscent of a gravestone. The metal plates are stacked into a rectangular form with photos of children at the top. The lights are eerily illuminating their faces. Wires are connecting all of them to each other throughout the entire room so that the viewer is surrounded. The whole concept behind the installation work is that these children are being memorialized. In reality, these children are not dead but they are dead in a sense that they are not the same as they were when the picture was taken. The person that they were in that second of time does not exist anymore because people are ever changing. So in a way, they are dead.
“Memorial” by Christian Boltanksi.
The second piece is titled “Hunan Soldier,” by Zhang Huan. What makes this work so powerful is the particular medium it is made of. The entire thing is made of ashes that are placed in a way to make it seem as though it is an old black and white military identification photograph. That combined with the fact that the young man in the original picture died in battle is particularly haunting. Since the mixed media work is off of an id it’s a close up of the soldiers face, making his straightforward gaze undeniable.
“Hunan Soldier” by Zhang Huan.
“Sky City II” by Louis Nevelson is another piece that caught my eye. “Sky City” is a found objects sculpture made up of wood boxes stacked up on top of each other. Inside the boxes are random wood objects such as dowels and chair parts. The entire sculpture is unified by being painted a flat black that makes the piece into a strong, almost monument like structure. The black paint creates a definite depth to the work that, combined with the intricacy of the objects grabs the viewer’s attention and holds it.
“Sky Cathedral” similar to “Sky City II” by Louis Nevelson.
I chose all three of these pieces for a gallery with the theme being “Memorial.” The aim is not to completely change the content of the original pieces but to strengthen it by placing them amongst each other. They will all be shown in a long and narrow rectangular room and spread out so that each will get the viewers full attention. The room has a very cold feeling to it, because the walls and floors are left as plain concrete. Each piece will be separately illuminated by a yellow light, other than that the room will be dark. As the viewer enters the room “Hunan Soldier” by Zhang Huan will be hanging on the right hand wall. Further down, Lousie Nevelsons “Sky City II” is placed up against the left wall and at the far wall will be the installation piece, “Memorial” by Christian Boltanski. The faces being displayed in the gallery are inferred to be dead, calling for an air of respect and sadness.
PPAll of the pieces are unified in some way. None of them contain color except for the yellow light brought upon them and the shape of “Sky City” reflects the gravestone-like shapes in “Memorial”. The setting of the room is intended to make the viewer feel as though they are in a mausoleum, where they gravitate towards each lit piece of it art because otherwise they will be swallowed by the darkness. The focus is completely and entirely on the works and everything about the space is to further strengthen the entire theme, “Memorial.”
The assignment: to find something at the Walker that you didn't understand why It was art - and then justify why it is art.
Mixed Media, Multiples, Other embossed lead, oil paint, paper
Without even entering the Walker exhibits itself I was struck by something placed behind a frame at the far end of the lobby. There it was a piece of white bread behind a glass frame hung on a wall. It began to make my blood boil and think ‘why the hell am I going to art school?, If this is what makes millions of dollars. Hell any bread section of your local grocery store could be considered ‘art’ now. I began to wonder who created this so-called piece of art and the culprit is a man named Jasper Johns. Who is this so called Jasper Johns? I began my research as soon as I came home from the Walker Art Center. He was born in Georgia but spent most of his life with his grandparents in South Carolina. He attended two different colleges one being Parsons School of Design. But what made this man so worthy to be Artist of the year 1989? I began to look at John’s other works and I found them much more interesting then the one titled ‘Bread’. His paintings were beautiful and full of a physical movement to me. Jasper Johns likes to poke fun at American Culture and for that I applaud him. I now can appreciate his work, though the piece ‘Bread’ at the Walker isn’t my favorite he has done. I can at least appreciated the man who designed it.
I just had to comment this again. I was talking to my friend about how much I love pissing people off with art and music and this piece was brought up. I still think this piece is absolutely genius. I think pissing people off and making them pull their hair out over one simple thing and having them want to scream, "THIS ISN'T ART! THIS IS CRAP!" is just awesome (especially if there can be meaning about it). I think that's what art should be. Pushing the envelope, pissing people off and making them ask why it's art. Plus if you think about it, pieces that tend to make people's blood boil will make them talk and that's some great free publicity.
From all original intents and purposes, “Empty Room” by Peter Fischli and David Weiss should not be considered art. Shoved under a small staircase and almost completely hidden from view, the piece goes by practically unnoticed unless one happens to bend over and realize something is in fact piled under those stairs. There is a moment of question as to whether or not the objects piled there are intentional or not. The piece consists of paint cans, stir sticks, brushes, spare sheetrock, and other various construction tools all replicated from the Walker installation crews' materials. It amounts to the understanding that a work crew was half finished with an installation set up and shoved the whole process aside, hidden under the stairs in hopes of not being noticed. Is the audience supposed to notice it? Is it really even supposed to be here? And if it is intentional, who's going to bother to see something under stairs that shallow? Obviously, it is supposed to be there. If the fact that nothing in the Walker is ever accidental isn't reason enough, then the discovery of the plaque that accompanies every piece in a museum gallery certainly is. But even accepting that this collection of in-progress construction equipment is an intentional piece of art still leaves doubt as to its value as art. Just another one of those readymade art pieces that involve absolutely no work. That sort of modernist style is a cop-out and riddled with hypocritical standards - it's art for art's sake and no outside information should be necessary; but if you're not up on your modernist lingo and political philosophies that fight for the cause, it's just too bad. You're out of luck and not cultured enough to participate in the art world. It's a style and belief system that basically exists to serve and preserve the elitism of cultured “high” art while exercising the power of the museum gallery and critic politics to regulate the value and sales of the “preferred” form of art. So why should Fischli and Weiss's work be considered any different? The first hint is in the gallery's plaque accompanying the art work. The installation is a French artistic tradition called trompe l'oeil – to deceive the eye – in which objects in a piece are handcrafted to resemble everyday objects. Which means there's something more to this installation than just kicking some paint cans under the stairs – actual work went into this piece. Further study finds that Fischli and Weiss are far from the elitism of modernism and the found objects style. Time and time again, it seems that really what they're here to do is play. The world – and art – is a playground filled with creative imagination, conversation, and time-wasting strategies that are basically meant to ask the question of where the line between reality and the stage is drawn. Their subject matter is not outrageous or taboo with the intent to shock or disgust. Rather, they work just below the radar of people's everyday lives to bring a sort of irony into focus. It spikes a calm sense of curiosity and humor – after all, “Empty Room” is a piece of installation art about creating installation art. There is interest, too, in the idea that they've created a piece about creating a piece – that isn't even finished considering they're “hiding” the work-in-progress under the stairs - and they actually built it. “Empty Room” is constructed out of polyurethane, a styrofoam-like material, when by the found object standards, they could have just used premade materials. Instead, they built everything, and there's something curious about that. To an extent, it does seem to be a bit of a challenge against “high” art. Fischli and Weiss use a wide range of materials for their various works from this polyurethane to photography to film to human sized animal suits to food to clay. And they've stated that one of the reasons for these choices in materials is simply because they aren't considered high art. Clay and styrofoam are a far cry from acceptable in the art world – they're handicrafts and toy school materials that are generally considered taboo, or at the very least “lesser” art forms. Any yet Fischli and Weiss have no problem adopting these materials, as it fits with the fantastical playground world they have created. It also adds a touch of a smirk to the piece as they have ultimately just created a teasing statement about the idea of highly cultured found object art by building found objects out of a taboo material in an art piece about building art.
I'm so upset that I had missed this when we went! First off, goodness gracious, Claire. Your writing is always flawless and interesting. Just had to say that. Second, "Empty Room" almost seems like a sarcastic remark - it could be totally misinterpreted and confusing but the underlying meaning is pretty witty. -----------------------------------------------------------------
The painting, “Cherry’s Jubilee,” is hard to pass by. I found it immediately striking the first time I saw it. The content shows a young, tattooed women. Her appearance is the first thing to introduced opposing themes. She is dressed in a dress that looks like it came from a theater costume closet. The black and white stripped dress is met by two matching bubble gum pink bows at her waist. She is wearing black and white fingerless gloves, which accentuates the way she is biting on her pinky finger. The gloves are offset by a shrunken black and white stripped top hat with a black bow and feather slouched to the right side of her head. She is an attractive girl. Her black bob frames her face perfectly contrasting her porcelain skin and her crimson colored lips. Her eyes draw you into a dark abyss of wonder and question. Her arms, both covered with tattoos of music notes, a palm tree, a harp, a flamingo, a band-aid, among others, are pulled into her chest.
If the viewer is not immediately intrigued by her appearance, one would want to question her surroundings. She seems to have made her way into a carnival. Her cropped body, from the waist up, is framed between a ferris wheel and a carousel painted in grey hues with a powdery blue sky.
This painting interests me, like I already said, for a number of reasons. Of course my eyes like the colors and the content of the piece but the longer I look at it the more I want to know her story. I begin to ask myself a lot of questions. Who is she? Where is she from? Why is she at an empty carnival? Why is she dressed like that? Of course these questions I can only speculate at? But the fact that I am not quite sure what to make of this women leads me to something. She doesn’t look out of place in the painting but when you ask why would she be there, you don’t know? Everyone has their own story and people always surprise you. You can never think that everyone fits into certain guidelines. It’s better when they don’t. Perhaps that’s why she is called “cherry’s Jubilee.”
Saturday, September 12, 2009 Sept 15th Assignment "I Love New York"
Created by Milton Glaser, the "I Love New York" symbol has become a renown and iconic symbol of our generation. Not only has it originated and created a wide band of merchandise, it's become the beginning of a new era. Following the "New York" image, comes a long line of successors and look-alike images.
One wonders why the "I Love New York" symbol is so iconic in the first place. Is it the simplicity of the symbol itself, and in being so simple embeds itself in the minds of anyone who sees it? It's a symbol that sticks with you once you see it, and continually recognize throughout the rest of your life. The symbol has grown to worldwide infamy and status. It's no longer available just to New Yorkers, but everywhere around the nation, and from there, the world.
When I first saw this piece I was hypnotized. It caught my eye while I was rifling through the magazine stand at a Barnes and Noble. She was on the front cover of American Art Collector, which is not a mag I typically indulge in, so I desperately persuaded myself not to buy the issue, and walked out of the store. I exited the mall, and carried on with my daily business. However, much to my dismay the painting haunted me. For hours I felt regret for having not snatched up the publication. Over the next three hours this woman's image and I developed an emotional relationship.
Why was her face burned into my brain? It's simple really. The artist of the piece is Malcolm Liepke. I'd read about him about a year or two earlier, and was intrigued with his style, but now, because of the new direction he was taking, I had grown obsessed. Needless to say I returned to the store, found the most pristine copy (not the copy everyone mistreats on top of the pile with the bend pages and the torn cover, and definitely not the one behind that, which get's second-hand mistreatment, the one in the back...the virgin literary treasure), and purchased it.
I bought the magazine for reasons only a psychologist could explain. What I can convey is how the painting captivates me still as I reflect on it over two months later. To me, that defines great art. Great art can lock in a viewer, no matter if they like the piece or not...the artist wins.
In this case the artist is Liepke. His pieces in the past usually have had narrative atmospheres, and generally contain more than one subject. In his new work Liepke has zoomed in, cropped, and simplified to achieve a collection of portraits that convey not only clear emotions, but a strong cohesiveness as an entire collection. They were exhibited in New York, New York at the Arcadia Gallery, http://www.arcadiafinearts.com , from July 23rd through August 6th.
In his 48'' x 48'' oil painting, Sideways Glance, the artist, in my opinion, strikes gold. The focal point of the painting are the subject's eyes, that sensually gaze back at the viewer. Her pale face is framed by a mop of careless brown hair, as her arm gracefully closes off the left side of the piece. Liepke has stripped the image down to the components that are most essential to captivate a viewer. His new artistic deviation has not only gained him new fans and collectors, but also new buzz... and no press is bad press.
Monday, September 21, 2009 MIA- What the heck were you thinking??
I can’t believe that the people at MIA are actually paid to screw things up the way they have.They blatantly placed a few works of art in obviously incongruous spots in the museum without regard to their correct configuration and mojoistic relationship with the universe.I can’t believe the world has not imploded.This travesty must be corrected immediately.Thankfully I am here to set things in order.
I have constructed a hermetically sealed installation inside of a tapered, sloping tunnel built into the side of the Mississippi river bluffs. The opening is 50ft by 50ft and is made entirely of prismatic glass sections that throw kaleidoscopic beams of sunlight into the atrium. My first work of art is placed in just a few feet inside this entranceway.
Your Dog. Yoshitomo Nara. Japan 2002. 72 x 51 x 108 inch. Fiberglass sculpture. Photo courtesy of Adam Fuchs.
This is the first piece in my new collection due to the sense of fun and life that the art brings to the viewer. As the artist probably intended, you can see a sort of joy and pent up excitement in the posture of the dog, especially with it’s erect tail and closed eyes. This reminds me of the look a puppy gets when your hand is just about to pet it’s back. The choices of white fiberglass for the body and the bright red nose give it a sleek and streamlined look for the new millennium, imparting a sense of fun and life.
MIA Gift Shop Doll collection. Unknown Artists. Unknown Medium. Photo courtesy of Adam Fuchs.
About ten feet farther into the exhibit you come across a 48 x 72 inch display case filled with shelves of stuffed dolls. The collection of gift shop dolls tossed on shelves without regard to the joy that they might bring someone provides the eye with a riot of color and perceived textures. The bright colors and soft appearance of the pieces contrast with the unblinking eyes and slightly malevolent stares to leave one unsure of the comfort given by these creatures. Their proximity to Your Dog implies a sense of continuity in the joyous celebration of life, yet the fact that one cannot touch or seek comfort from walled in softness of these glaring beasties imparts some caution and maybe a little foreboding.
Pillow. Unknown Artist. China, Ch’ing Dynasty 17th-18th Century. Greenish-White Nephrite. Photo courtesy of Adam Fuchs.
As you proceed another few steps into my exhibition you meet a stark white pedestal 24 inches tall by 12” square. The height of the pedestal and small size of the piece force one to stoop uncomfortably in order to obtain the best viewing. The hardness of the pillow combined with the soft rounded appearance continues the juxtaposition of comfort and unease stemming from the gift shop dolls. The uncomfortable looking position of the figurine combined with the facial expression that could either be pain or pleasure, and the severe white pedestal and washed out colors of the piece reinforce this idea.
Gift Shop Bone Doll. Unknown Artist. China 2009. Unknown Media
At the very edge of where the fairy-tale patterns of dappled sunlight hit the floor, poised at the brink of darkness a few more feet into the tunnel you come across this colorful, defiant, disturbing piece. The walls have slowly tapered in toward each other at this point, and the slight downward slope of the floor is all the more noticeable as one makes the transition from light to dark, life to death. The tunnel is now 30 ft across and 30 ft high. Here, on the edge of the shadows, moving into the increasingly constrictive maw of the exhibit, you are confronted by the celebration of death and the afterlife in the form of another gift shop doll. Does it say something that this piece is posed alone? Sitting, slouched in the corner of two 36 x 36 inch black painted walls in the center of the tunnel, you are reminded of discarded trash and of things once bright and joyous, now past their prime and fading to shadows. The dim lighting exaggerates the faded impression of her bright robes as we continue our exploration of the decline of life and society.
Triptych; Prisoner’s of the Mountains of Mist (Center Panel). Giovanni Battista Crema. Italy 1910. Oil on Canvas. Photo courtesy of Adam Fuchs
This piece is in shadows, light from below by a single bulb. Located 10 ft farther down the exhibit from the Bone Doll, just around a 90 degree right turn in the tunnel; the triptych raises a lot of questions. Are the male and female subjects simply sleeping lovers, sated after an afternoon of passion? Are they dead, cast aside, souls fled with the phoenix being held by the male? Does the fact that the phoenix is spread in much the same posture as the man and women, yet appears to be held by the man imply that there can be no rebirth due to the sins of the young and seemingly innocent? The fact that this painting is presented in the darker recesses of my gallery would imply some aspects of the transition from nubile young life and the hope of salvation to the cold stagnancy of death.
Female Acrobat. Pavel Tchelitchew. Russia 1930’s. Oil on Canvas. Photo courtesy of Adam Fuchs
This paintings placement 15 ft beyond Crema’s triptych takes Pavel Tchelitchew’s graceful and erotic picture of a female acrobat and brings out what might be a truer meaning deep within the artwork. The air in this deeper part of the gallery is more stifling due to the airtight sealing of the entrance. The illusion of openness imparted in the radiant atrium is no longer in sight. The work is light from below by a single bulb. The dim light combined with the dull colors and stretched pose of the subject imply a sense of strain and painful, tormented struggle. Is she perhaps now striving to ascend to the afterlife rather than swing on the trapeze? Is she trapped in purgatory, begging for release? Is there no light, no heaven, no fluffy clouds and harps? Is there simply atonement and anguish?
Carcass of Beef. Chaim Soutine. Russia 1925. Oil on Canvas. Photo courtesy of Adam Fuchs
As we proceed another 20 ft into our exploration of the transition from 3D life to flat 2D death, we come across this painting. Lit from below, as with the previous two, the contrast of flesh tone with the deep reds and blues in this piece immediately draw our eye. Another foray into the idea that we are but meat, with nothing beyond our vibrant lives, this is perhaps the most disturbing piece in the collection. Given the previous human figures shown in various stages of deathlike and tormented poses, you can’t help but question- is this beef, or is it actually a rendering of the upside down carcass of a two legged creature cast aside after it’s moment in the sun.
Lyuba Rorschach. Roxanne Jackson. United States 2009. Unknown media.
Thirty feet beyond the painting of the Carcass of Beef, at the very end of the tunnel, one is confronted with the Lyuba Rorschach. The tunnel at this point has narrowed to 20ft by 20ft. The piece is lit by cunningly hidden inset ceiling lighting, so as to give the impression of cold, sourceless mist. The black walls of the tunnel strengthen the impression of exanimate form. This tells you unquestionably that there is nothing else. There is no color, no life, no joy, no love, no feeling, no hope. This is the end.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009 ADD ELEGANCE TO YOUR POVERTY
Monica Bonvicini, ADD ELEGANCE TO YOUR POVERTY (2002) Collection of Kati Lovaas. Image taken from Premier Art Scene. (http://premierartscene.com/uploads/pics/ArtBasel2009_Bonv400.jpg)
Bam. These bold, black words spray-painted on a clean white wall immediately captured all of my attention. Monica Bonvicini, an Italian artist, used this phrase and drew a simple picture of a fence on a large white wall in 2002. The words are all capitalized and are handwritten, looking as if someone quickly, and somewhat unevenly, wrote this message. The phrase is written as such:
TO YOUR POVERTY
Below this phrase, a rough sketch of a simple fence is drawn. The two lines of text and the fence all line up at the left. The lines of the words and drawing slightly vary with thickness and size. The spray-paint also gives a very blurry and diffused look. The phrase and picture of the fence are large, taking up much of the wall. There is no exact size of the piece because the dimensions vary. Since the work is directly spray-painted on the wall, the gallery will use the original drawing and project its image onto the wall it is to be displayed on. Someone then traces the image as accurately as possible.
We live in a time where we often see graffiti in urban areas, on public and private property. This work suggests that people use graffiti to enhance the appearance of run-down or derelict places. Bonvicini probably used the drawing of the fence to show how it is so much cheaper and easier to just spray paint one, than rather build a fence, costing a lot more money and time.
I love the simplicity of both the drawing and text. The phrase reminds me of something Jenny Holzer would write. The statement might imply that you can make anything elegant and that you don't need money to make it that way. Maybe it is saying we live in a culture where we can take something and make it brand new by adding our own flare. Or, maybe the statement is mocking our culture with graffiti and its destruction to public places. Many would argue that graffiti only satisfies the artist who makes it and ruins the space for the rest of the public.
I recently had the opportunity to visit the Midway Contemporary Art gallery in Minneapolis. I was part of a group that received a guided tour by a founder of the gallery and in depth analysis of many of the piece’s on display. One artwork in particular struck me. In a small room that goes by the description of “Gallery 2”, I was confronted by a massive blue rectangle that measures 94 x 17 x 4 inches leaning up against the wall.
My first impression was that someone had left one of their child’s building blocks in the gallery and that evil aliens had enlarged using cosmic rays to ridicule the foundations of American childhood. It was smooth and sleek, with perfect corners, clean lines, and was the color of the Pacific on a bright 90 degree day in 1965. I am not a fan of the modernist movement at all. The extreme emphasis on form and medium being art is so a little ridiculous to my frame of mind. If that was all that art was, than the people at Sherman Williams who make hundreds of colors of acrylic house paint should be heralded as the new masters. I am more about content, subject matter, feeling, motivation.
After a brief glance and a little shake of my head at how much time must have gone into the construction of a gigantic blue rectangle, my thoughts turned to the next piece. Big blue was gone from my mind in an instant because my uneducated non-modernist viewpoint suggested that it was just that- a big blue rectangle. Who cares about a big blue rectangle? As I went on to the next piece I heard the gallery operator mention that they had to increase their insurance due to the fact that the big blue rectangle was worth $200,000. Are you serious? I could finish my education, travel the world, and feed the homeless for months off $200,000. If someone wanted a rectangle, go to IKEA and buy some storage totes- you’d have enough for a Ferrari left over. I instantly hate big blue, which I found out is named “Sound”, by California artist John McCraken. The fact that an inanimate object that is so plain could excite that amount of interest was ridiculous in my opinion. The gallery owner went on to inform us that “Sound” was handmade fiberglass with high gloss lacquer. Given his southern California background, the artist likes to use the same materials that go into surf board construction. John McCraken also treats color as a material in his art. His decision to lean his objects against the wall rather going for a more conventional instillation was in his own mind the best way to reduce the forms down to their utmost basic abstract concept. (John McCraken Sketchbook: Interview with Neville Wakefield 15)
All of this basic went over mind head. I still could not wrap my mind around a blue rectangle supposedly worth $200,000. A classmate of mine tried to put it into perspective by informing me about the amount of time and meticulous craftsmanship that must have gone into a handmade perfect rectangle of that size. McCraken could have just sent his piece of to the factory to get machined, but instead he loving crafted his art by hand, just as the surfboard masters of old produced individual boards that combined perfection and personality. I was not ready to hear it. My mind still kept shouting $200,000, $200,000, $200,000! This morning, as I was researching the piece to write a very nasty critique, I was listening to my roommates talk about a friend of theirs from college who had moved to Vegas and tried to make a life for herself far away from friends and family in Minnesota. Long story short, she ended up prostituting herself and then got hook on drugs. I instantly felt sorry, not for the girl who I didn’t know, but for “Sound” who I came to know through indifference, fierce hatred, pity, and then finally a bizarre sort of love. It brings to mind an overpriced streetwalker, told by society that her purest essence is to lean against the wall with cold, deep, perfect beauty to wait for the highest bid. Pared down to her barest form, with nothing left but that which the viewer gives, she emanates reflects of our own desires and needs. She is lost, alone, powerful, and abused. She needs love, but has nothing left for love to cling to. Perfection, gloss, sleek beauty…. Nothing.
The piece I chose that I believe has strong formal qualities is Hippopotamus by Paul Thek. This piece is very interesting to me because of the media he used and the effect it has on the viewer. He used beeswax, plexiglass, metal and rubber in order to create a faux slab of hippopotamus flesh. If his intent was to rear the media into appearing like an actual hippopotamus he comes eerily close. Although you can see drips of wax, you still cannot help but be thinking that you are staring at raw flesh pierced by rods of metal. I highly doubt he was going for beauty in this piece but because of its strong formal qualities it will make just about anyone stop and look and wonder about the hippo in a glass box.
The piece that I chose for strong content was the piece done by Lucio Fontana called Concetto Spaziale (Spatial Concept-Expectation). Lucio Fontana challenged the ideas behind painting when he created this piece. I can imagine many people who look at art and the first thing they say is "I could do that" would most likely have that reaction to this piece. But even though it appears to be a painted black line down the middle of a canvas, there is a lot more to it than that. By doing this painting, Fontana was challenging and experimenting with space. When I look at this piece I am intrigued that space or rather a blank, white canvas can be tweaked in a way that may not seem that dramatic but the concept behind that step is packed with dramatic elements. The reason I liked this piece so much is because, exactly as the title says, you are expecting something, you are quetioning and you are curious about that black puncture on the canvas.
The third piece at the Walker that we were told to look at was one that lacks both formal and content qualities. I am not sure that I saw one that struck me as lacking in both these categories. Even though there are some artworks that do not thrill me as much as others do it does not mean that I find them lacking in formal qualities or content. For example, I was going to say that Black Curve by Ellsworth Kelly was lacking in formal and content qualities but then you hear the background or find something out about the artist's concepts and or other background information and it completely changes your mind about it. So, I honestly can't write about a piece that was lacking because there were not any that I thought were. However, this does not mean that I liked all of them.
The piece that I chose that carried both formal and content qualities was Untitled by Shiraga Kazuo. This painting resinates texture. When we were on the tour everyone said that they wanted to reach out and touch it. Now if a painting makes people what to do that, then i must have very strong formal qualities. This painting was all over the place, the colors and textures were active and alive. I could picture in my mind the artist making this piece, I could imagine his movement across the canvas or perhaps where he might have sat down or smeared an area with his hand. The content was powerful as well. Although the tour guide said that Kazuo had no reference to war when this piece was made, he painted it in 1959 right at the beginning of the war in Vietnam. This painting looks like an explosion with dark colors of blood red, deep purples and blues to add to that image. Even though an artist does not intend for their artwork to come across or be read in a certain way it doesn't mean that it won't happen.
The last piece that had to be chosen was one that changed our view of what art is. Also, I chose a piece that made me want to go experiment and try different things. I really was impressed with Robert Irwin's piece Untitled. I am not quite sure why I was taken by this piece. It expressed a sense of calm quiet. Those expressions were created by Robert Irwin's use of synthetic fabric, wood, flood and florescent lights. This piece made me really excited about the endless possibilities in creating art and what art means. The power of art also is shown in his piece because it seems so simplified but at the same time so complex.
This first piece from the Walker's permanent collection I chose is by Jasper Johns titled "Flags". It is a color lithograph of two American flags. One of the flags has green and black stripes with thin white lines between them. The background for the now black stars is light orange. The other flag that this piece features is very monochromatic, and is varying shades of light gray. The entire piece is on a dark gray background. The strength of this piece is in it's formal elements, because it is all about color theory at work. Everyone is familiar with the rectangles and stars that make up the American flag. This entire piece is technical. If the viewer stares at the black dot in the colored flag for a while and then looks at the gray flag, they will see the American flag the way it normally is, in red, white, and blue. I decided that I like this particular piece even though I really don't know anything about color theory, I can still tell that it works. I would consider it art because it has an aesthetic value, though I would say the concept behind this piece may not be very "deep".
The piece I chose that has a high conceptual value is "Suspense". I do not know the artist's name, but I will post it when I get to the Walker next. The piece has little aesthetic value because it is an empty rectangular room with two black curtained doors that the viewer of the piece walks through. When the viewer opens the first curtain and steps into the room and begins to walk forwards, suspenseful, eerie music starts to play. The music rushes to a climax and stops like the worst cliffhanger ever, and then the viewer realizes that they are next to the exit curtain. The first time I experienced this instillation, I laughed because the way it made me feel was so intense. The conceptual value to this piece is very high because the viewer is so affected by it. We are in the palm of the (unknown) artist's hand. I think it does work in this case to have little aesthetic value because this piece is so intense. It is art though? I would say so, but perhaps my definition of "art" is more broad than others'.
The piece I chose for one with low aesthetic and low conceptual value is "Black Curve" by Ellsworth Kelly. It is an oil painting from 1962. I suppose one (namely Ellsworth Kelly) could say that this piece does have some aesthetic value, because it's "beautiful". However, this doesn't really do it for me. Yes, Ellsworth, it is a black curve. This means absolutely nothing to me, and I get nothing from it aesthetically. Maybe if I chatted with the artist I could get where he is coming from. I can certainly respect it, but I do not like it at all.
The piece I chose that has both conceptual and aesthetic value is "Bust of Diego" by Alberto Giacometti. It is a bronze bust from around 1954. To me, this is a very nice thing to look at which is why I would call it aesthetically pleasing. It is interesting the way the head is so narrow and long, Diego's expression is somewhat blank, but he is clearly looking at something. His body is huge in proportion to his teeny head. The texture of the piece also is nice, being made with bronze, the way the light bounces off all of the different textures made by Giacometti. The reason I would say it is conceptually pleasing to me is why on earth did Giacometti choose to portray someone in this particular way? I wonder if the reason for all of the interesting textures and proportions has something to do with Diego's personality, the vibes one gets from him, or something about the relationship between artist and subject.
The final piece I chose that has an influence on how I look at art altogether was Untitled by Robert Irwin. I've only seen this piece once in person about a month ago when I went to the Walker with a few friends, and I remember I was the only one who seemed to have an interest in the piece. Maybe they had seen it before, but I was so intrigued by how the artist just claimed this huge area in a museum as his own. I guess I'm not as impressed with the actual art piece as I am in how the artist chose to execute his vision. It's just so amazing to me how large his piece is in this huge room where his is the only one. It jsut blows my mind and I love it.
This piece has very strong formal qualities that grab your attention right away. Just as the title states, this piece is an interpretation of an artist’s studio. The room consists of a mirror on the left wall with a small table for a phone. In the left corner is a door with a small canvas facing away to the left side. On the right of the door is a potted plant and there is fruit on the striped floor. Three various sizes of paintings hang on the wall with a couch beneath it. On the right side we see a small statue or end of a table. Most all of the forms in this painting are rectilinear except for the potted plant, fruit, and phone. A large portion of this painting is also white. The small table, the pot for the plant, couch, and back wall are white. Each color is very pure and bold. The colors also stay consistent. For examples, all of the yellows used in the painting are the same yellow. This stays true with all of the other colors as well. The only other colors used are red, black, green, and blue. There are not many shadows, but the shadows that you see are solid black. The reflections in the mirrors are either solid black chunks or little specks of black, closely placed together. The outlines of all the forms are very thick and precise. The only shading in this piece is on the ceiling where you see gray turn to white very subtly. Every other part of the painting is distinct and sharp.
Forever, artists have done still life’s or studies of their studios. Lichtenstein wanted to follow this tradition, but pursue the idea in his own style. This piece should be recognized for its precise formal qualities. The painting is visually striking because of its sharp rectilinear forms and bright bold colors. The style should also be recognized for its originality. Lichtenstein appropriated this comic-book style from popular culture and made it into a true fine art.
Here are the sketches for my cover... Kind of.
I'd like one large portrait of Zak with his name going down the left side of the page, with lime green highlights.
The small pixel-looking image that my drawing is on top of is on of his installations at the Walker. I'm using the size and configuration as inspiration for the pages in the book. I'll have possibly 6 or 8 sections per page.
The smaller sketches on this page might do a
better job of explaining how I want my page
Overall, I'm really excited about the project. I've read several interviews, and am currently reading his memoir.
Robert Rauschenberg "Storyline I"
Four Color Lithograph (1968)
21 ½ x 17
Image taken from www.Artstor.org
To be honest, this wasn’t the piece I was going to choose from Robert Rauschenberg. I went searching for a certain piece, but could not find a picture of it. I saw the piece originally at the Walker Art Center when they had an exhibition on his works. As I looked through Artstor.org to find this certain artwork, I kept finding more and more pieces I loved from Rauschenberg. It was so hard to choose even one artwork to focus on for this blog.
Finally, I settled on Storyline I (1968). This 21 ½ x 17’ piece was created using a four-color lithograph using only red, yellow, navy, and green. The individual images are placed in a haphazardly and sloppy way, over-lapping one another. Overall, you can somewhat see a grid. The images’ square shape and color placement gives the piece a grid-like feel. The arrangement of the images tells us a story. At the top are a red square and a green square. In the middle, there are two separate green square shapes. At the bottom, there is a navy and yellow square. The lithographed images are put on the paper in a very messy way, all smudged. In some places, it looks like too much ink was used and in other places not enough ink was used. The images look like they are from a film. In the top left red square, there is a face of a woman looking mischievous or disgusted. In the green square next to it, there is an image of a man hold a woman’s face. The woman is facing the other way so we cannot see her face. The man is looking straight at her very anxiously. It is uncertain what emotion he is conveying to the woman. He could be concerned with her, or angry with her. In the green area below the red woman, is an old (1930s/1940s?) car. Next to the car, there seems to be another image I cannot make out. Below the car, in the navy square is a person dead on the ground. Again, I cannot make out the yellow image.
The subject matter of this piece was to tell the viewer a story. It is not exactly clear what happens in the story or what the relationships are like, however we know some of the order and it’s progression. The placement of the images is displayed in the same type of sequence of a movie or a book. You look at one image at a time, going in order. The messy chaos in the placement of the images suggests to me that the story was complex. The images also overlap, creating layers. This reminds me of peoples’ emotions, and, actions caused by those emotions –like a chain reaction. This piece reminds me of how our lives progress one day at a time, but sometimes with multiple problems and many emotions. Our emotions and actions are so complex, that they overlap and connect, influencing the decisions that make up our lives.
I recently went MIA at the MIA to check out the Asian collection. With some extra time on my hands before closing, I wondered into their Contemporary Art section. Like picking at the scab of skinned knee when I was a kid, I just can’t leave the modern art works alone. Knowing it will most likely be painful and will set back the healing of my aesthetic standards for uncountable years, I climbed to the third floor to see if maybe I could prove wrong my long held belief of the massive con game that is modern art.
From room to room, I wandered. I tried to at first to really find some redeeming qualities in the works hanging around me. Over and over, I was confronted with things I am pretty sure I once saw on an old girlfriend’s refrigerator, held in place with alphabet magnets. She had a daughter in kindergarten that loved to show off her art. As my steps got faster and faster and I both mentally kicked myself for my won stupidity and deplored the future of art and mankind, I came across a show stopper.
120 x 240 in, dominating an entire wall of one of the gallery rooms, was a work by Frank Stella. Entitled Tahkt-I-Sulayman, Variation II, this brightly colored behemoth was an obvious attempt at formalism. Eight rectangles, each a different color, and each containing 7 concentric quarter circles partially overlapped by 6 concentric arcs springing from the opposite corner like boxers in a title fight at Madison Square Garden; this massive work at first reminded me of the Simpson’s episode where they went to Japan and the anime cartoons instantly sent them into seizures.
I ran to the wall plaque, hoping that some background information would help me put the piece in perspective. Painted in 1969 (hence the flower child colors), acrylic on canvas, this is part of Stella’s prolific Protractor series. Stella insists that his paintings are merely formal. In his own words, “My painting is based on the fact that only what is can be seen there is there. It really is an object. You can see the whole idea without any confusion” (Museum plaque- MIA, G374).
If that is the case, why name the painting after an ancient shrine in Azerbaijan, Iran? Stella traveled there in 1963 and in order for him to choose that name six years later, there had to be some strong personal connection between the painting and that place. His other paintings in the Protractor series are also all named after other Mid-East cities and archaeological sites.
Why the protractor in the first place? Is it just a simple tool to make half circles, or is Stella really a closet mathematician? I’m pretty sure that most people don’t wake up in the morning and think- “I’d like to paint a protractor, to attempt to capture the essence of a plastic half circle!”
Stella’s demands that his work is purely formal are also a big detractor from the work actually being formal. I believe it’s a case of the girl protesting too much. Anytime you have to state three times in one paragraph what your art is, chances are that’s what it isn’t. A standard criterion for the formalist school is art for art’s sake. Aesthetic value is all there is.
While there is some aesthetic value in the awesome size (can anyone say over compensation), the bright colors, and the mechanical lines of the piece; Stella’s need to attach a personal connection as well as his obsessive declaration of what his work is makes me believe that he is attempting to ride the coattails of the hugely popular formalist school that flourished at the time he produced this piece. I think that at heart Stella is an expressionist who lacks the imagination to paint in the expressionist style, so he tries formalism but falls short of the mark. He has been weighed, measured, and found wanting.