Monday, November 23, 2009

Zak Smith Artist Book: Ideas

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.

Think: Dirty Punk

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Walker Art House Ranger

Last week for my Orientation to Art and Design Class we visited the Walker Art Center. I've never left the Walker thinking anything but, "Why the hell did I want to go here... again?" I think it's a similar situation to when you get terribly drunk. The night ends with heaving while clutching a cold porcelain ring that was never meant for a face. You stare dizzily at the frayed loops in the dirty lavender shag rug, and you tell yourself stearnly, " Self, we are NEVER going to do this again." But inevitably you forget the talk you had with yourself that horrible night... while your hair dangled dangerously close to the acidy soup that filled the toilet bowl. The human memory is a fragile thing...
Fortunately this visit to the Walker was different. I wasn't left to wander aimlessly disgusted through the labyrinth. I went on a guided tour. The woman leading my group talked about several pieces, explaining their back stories. As an assignment I am supposed to reflect on the pieces I saw, and their formal qualities...

First, I want to point out a pop art piece by Jasper Johns. I'd say that this piece has very strong formal qualities. The piece is an optical illusion caused by the rigidity of line, and the artist's precise choice of color. If the viewer stares at the tiny dot located in the center of the orange and green flag, then looks down at the dot centered in the gray flag, an illusion of a red, white and blue American Flag appears. Other than the illusion (it's formal quality), for me, this piece has no meaning.

This piece was created by Shiraga Kazuo. Looking at this for the first time I was irritated, then slightly appalled. But as our guide began to delve deeper into the piece and it's origin, I became intrigued. The story goes, this was sort of a performance piece, conveying the injustices the artist felt post WWII.
The canvas is not prepped. It is slathered with layer upon layer of thick black and red pigment. In the texture of the paint the viewer can clearly see foot prints. The artist painted with his feet as he hug from a rope, which enabled him to swing emotively to conveying his inner emotion. I think this piece's content is more important to the viewer, because without knowing the story of it's creation, or about the artist's personal struggle with WWII, it is simply a canvas slathered haphazardly with red and black paint.

It's difficult for me to go into depth about this piece without becoming angry. Its by Yves Klein... one of his many sad attempts at fame. This image is a result of a performance. During the performance, the artist had nude women lay in a vat of Yves Klein Blue pigment (yes, he has a shade of blue named after him) then press up against this sheet of gauze. A orchestra played a single note "symphony" in the background, conducted my Mr.Klein himself, which was followed by a 20 min silence for reflection, and mediation. Let me just add that the artist didn't touch the paint or the canvas during the performance... So wouldn't that make the nude models the artists? I'm pretty sure they deserve the credit... or at least an applause for putting up with Yves Klein. -Does anyone else feel like this piece is a giant let down?

This is a portrait of Kiki Smith by Chuck Close. I think this piece possesses both formal qualities and important content. The portrait is composed of a grid of small squares painted individually. Each "cell" is unremarkable itself, but seen all together the cells read as a portrait.
Before Close became wheelchair bound, his portraits were remarkably realistic. His breakthrough self portrait is among one of my favorite portraits of all time. But after what he intimately refers to as the "event", Close had adapt his style, due to his inability to grasp a brush. This forced new artistic direction may have been for the better. Photo-realism is no longer as popular as it was when Close was at it's forefront. Over all this piece isn't my favorite, but I think it's use of color, and implementation, combined with Close's triumph over his disability, make this piece the most meaningful to me.

Okay, this isn't currently on display at the Walker, but on a previous trip, this piece was part of a series of hundreds of images by Zak Smith (this isn't my favorite) illistrating the book 'Gravity's Rainbow'. The images were all the same size, about 4x6 inches, and were laid out on a wall about 1/2 inch apart. This collection caused me to get up close to the individual drawings, and really look. After I left the gallery, his images were stuck in my head. I was later possessed to look up the artist, and find out more about him. Which made me like his work even more. (he has a collection called"100 girls, 100 octopuses".. need I say more?) His work is mostly pen and ink portraiture of girls, but contains some amazing oddities too. I recommend his work to anyone who loves portraiture/weirdness. You can explore his gallery on his website:

Friday, October 2, 2009

Russ Mills: My dirty little digital secret

As traditional art continues to be elbowed aside by works composed digitally, my distain for computer generated art grows ever more fierce. Just as I thought all hope for traditional art was lost... I stumbled upon Russ Mills.
At first glance, I was intrigued by the flowing, spattered, complex and interesting application of paint, but upon further investigation... I mean CLOSE inspection, I noticed the image was altered in a computer program... Sirens began to go off in my brain as the realization hit me that I liked a digitally composed piece... Shame! Shame! Shame! I was TRICKED by his exquisite use of clean technical drawing! The spontaneity of his brushwork! The boldness of his subject choice! “HOW COULD I BE SUCH A FOOOLL!!!???!?” I shrieked. (okay, I really didn’t shriek.) But just as my mouse was reaching across the browser to delete all record of his site in my web history... I felt compelled to read Mills’ Bio.
Through the tears of humiliation welling in my lower lids I read about his process. It said the images were drawn then scanned in... sniffle. He also compiled random marks, scribbles and textures, then scanned them in as well. My guilt began to fade as I read on... “I keep the amount of layers to a bare minimum so the results are as spontaneous as possible. I don’t use any filters at all to keep the 'digital' nature of the image to a minimum.” Finally my scared, betrayed feelings diminished.
After being liberated of my own ignorance, I was able to browse his gallery guilt free, absorbing the elegance and spontaneity of all his work.
I’ve chosen two pieces to concisely represent his style.

The first piece, House Anthems 99, is composed of two black line figures highlighted with gold expressive brushwork, laid on deep, almost blood red ground. Both figure’s bodies are clearly human. The left figure is topped with a scull, and the right has the face of a fierce dog. Animals frequently occur in Mill’s pieces, and are usually accompanied by humans and/or have human bodies.
In contrast to his seemingly brutal and intense, masculine pieces, Mill’s portfolio has an equal emphasis on beauty and elegance. In Aeonium, the artist uses his trademark frantic brushwork to imply the woman’s figure, but describes her striking face with caution and clarity. The piece is set off with a diagonal splatter of bright red paint.
Russ Mills holds onto the traditional values of art while keeping current with ever-evolving contemporary tastes, using innovative ways to digitally compose his pieces. I recommend Mills’ work to anyone who is having a difficult time accepting technology’s influence on art. You can dip your toe in the pool, and test the digital artwork waters at Russ Mills’ web site His gallery is stunning... and I can now admit that without guilt.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Larry Clark: Tulsa

This is a drawing I did of one of the photos in the collection. It depicts a reclining man smoking a cigarette with a baby laying on his stomach.

My first collision with Larry Clark was through the 1995 movie ‘Kids’ which he directed. I was about 13 at the time, and anxious to do anything rebellious. I’ve always been intrigued by oddities, so when a friend told me about Clark’s movie, which depicted teen drug abuse and sex... it became my mission to watching it. Through covert operations (since I wasn’t yet able to rent Rated R films) I attained a copy, and finally viewed the film. I was changed. At 13 I became enthralled with drug abuse, and glorified the life style that surrounded it. Clark showed both heads of the drug abuse coin... yet I still was captivated by it.

Now, many years later, I have seen and experienced the negative effects of addiction. So when I walked into the Midway Museum of Contemporary Art, and saw Larry Clark’s collection of photographs, “Tulsa”, I was immediately drawn to it. As the co-owner of the museum explained the pieces in the the exhibition, and how they were taken from private home collections, I had a hard time wrapping my mind around Clark’s collection hanging in a living room. (Youth amphetamine addiction seems to clash with conventional family art standards) Then the guide told us the photos were kept in a separate room in the collector’s house.

The collection was composed of 44 black and white photographs documenting the artist, and his friends’ amphetamine use. Through the photographs, Clark captured the highs and lows of drug abuse. Some pieces, if taken out of context, would seemingly depict everyday life, such as a photo showing a person with a toothy grin laughing, or a gorgeous woman seductively smoking a cigarette. Others however show a sad and destructive side. In a striking photo, a pregnant woman inserts a needle of amphetamine into her arm. A few photos down, is the image of an infant in a coffin. The viewer is lead to believe it is a casualty of the mother’s abuse.

Overall the collection reads as a strikingly intimate view on amphetamine abuse in America. As an adult, I have a different perspective on Clark’s work than I did when I was 13. I’m suited with a better grasp on the value of life, and how my actions have a direct effect on me tomorrow. Depicted in Clark’s photos, are young people who are unable to employ such insight. The depictions are tragic because the viewer can see into the future. We want to tell that pregnant mother her baby is going to be a casualty of her selfishness, but we can’t.

There is still a part of me that glorifies the life that surrounds drug use, and I felt it blazing when I stood head on to Clark’s collection, but because of the indiscriminate documentation the artist employs, the viewer is graphically confronted with EVERY aspect of addiction. There is no way to escape the caverns of depression, danger and panic experienced by his subjects. I commend Craig for publishing the series. It’s authenticity is striking.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Frank: Ex-Alpha Male

All images are photos taken by Angie at The MIA

Meet Frank. Although he may look humble, I'd encourage the viewer to consider the following.

Frank shares a flat with two other guys... The seemingly spontaneos Paris von Gutersloh and...

Ruggero Leoncavallo... the composer.

Now you may ask yourself, "what's the problem here?" Which is a legitimate thing to ask. So I'll give it to you straight.... Frank is a huge jerk.

Story goes-The three gentlemen met at an art gallery about a year ago, and they hit it off. They enjoyed each other so much in fact, they decided to move in together. That's were I enter the picture. I'm their landlord.
Not even a week after these fellas settled in I began to hear fights. I could tell by the thumps and bumps, crashes and screams, Frank was causing a bit of havoc. But I keep to my own business. If my tenants pay rent, I don't complain... Plus Frank is a big guy. His 9 feet tall and 7 feet wide were enough encouragement for me to keep quiet. But one day there was a knock on my door. It was Paris von Gutersloh. He was looking a bit stressed. He said he couldn't deal with Frank anymore, and he wanted out of the lease. It was at this point in his story I stopped him.
"Paris" I said... "You guys were three peas in a pod when you moved in here. What could be the problem with cute and cuddly, straight forward, black and white Frank?"
Then he proceeded to tell me how Frank was always taking up the entire couch, never allowing them to watch the shows they wanted to watch, and continuously GLARED at them from across the flat, claiming he was, "a photo-realist image created by the living legend CHUCK CLOSE!".
Paris and Ruggero took issue with photo-realists. Paris was painted by Egon Schiele, a cohort of Gustuv Klimt. Ruggero was of considerably prestigious lineage. His painter was Giovanni Boldini of Italy, famous in London for his expressive portraiture.
He through up his hands in defeat. I could tell by the guy's tone he wasn't going to stay, no matter what I said. So I told him... in a whisper,"I've heard you straight laced guys being pushed around by that over grown photocopy. If you keep paying rent, I won't bother you. And I'll turn a blind eye if you and Ruggero haul a couple of 9 foot stretcher bars and a flaccid rolled up canvas out to the dumpster..."
A devious smirk crawled across Paris' lips as he quietly nodded his head, turned and closed the door behind him.
They've been quiet as mice ever since.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sidways Glance by Malcolm Liepke

Image taken from Arcadia Gallery Web Site

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, , 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.

HElllooo Webworld!

This is my icebreaker first web-log post ever. I've been assigned to create a blog for a class and attempted to jump right into the assignment, but found it a bit awkward. I was told that the class used to be assigned a Zine... and now it's been flung onto the medium of paperless virtual interweb... which is sad, but the show must go on! So the following entries will be assignments from my Orientation to Art and Design class.