Header Image: Judy Pfaff, Scene I: The Garden, Enter Mrs. Barnes (detail), 2015. Installation view: The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, PA. Image: ArtNews.
The Lost Squares
In Modern Magazine’s article, “Lost and Found”, David Hay explores the history of a legendary Stefan Knapp mural. The article explains that in 1963, Polish born artist Stefan Knapp installed a mural on the side of an Alexander’s department store in New York city. This installation was revolutionary both because of the process and because no one had ever installed a sculpture piece that was quite that large in an urban area. The installation consisted of more than four hundred square panels that each had various colored domes and rings on them. Paul Goldberg, a well known architecture critic, described them as “…a billboard filled with eyeballs or hubcaps or salad bowls.”
The process of making each panel differed from any other process that had been done at that time. Instead of mounting enamel on traditional copper, Knapp found a way to mount it on zero carbon steel. His wife described that his process began with cleaning the steel chemically, washing it and then spraying it with a cobalt enamel group coat. He would then fire the piece and then coat it with white enamel. Knapp’s ability to use steel added an extra durability that enabled him to experiment with scale.
The article continues to explain that after years of partnership with Alexander’s the department store declared bankruptcy in 1992 and their buildings, along with Knapp’s murals were on their way to the dump. However, a building salvage company known as Olde Good Things were able to secure a large number of the panels. Throughout the years, people have been on the hunt for the remaining squares. Some have been purchased by private museum dealers and collectors but the majority remain on display in the Olde Good things building with the price tag of $26,500.
I think this article was very interesting because Knapp’s mural was not only groundbreaking in the 1960’s but it continues to live on today. In a sense, these individual squares that made up a much larger work of art have become an interactive piece. What was once stationary on the side of the building, can now be found in smaller pieces in multiple locations. People given these squares new life and have in turn created a new work of art.
In the New York Times article “A ‘Nasty Woman’s of Contemporary Art Fearlessly Renders the Body, author Roberta Smith very eloquently illustrates the contemporary stylings of artist Marilyn Minter. At this time in our nation, women and activists of women’s rights are more nervous than ever that what had taken years to construct so quickly has turned into ruins. Women of all cultures who were born in America and those who immigrated to this once great nation have ultimately been let down by fellow American citizens by electing a presidential candidate who so bluntly disgraced and emasculated women all across the world.
This article explains how Ms. Minter, for nearly 40 years, has worked so hard to gracefully exploit how women see themselves. “Over the last three decades Ms. Minter has operated in the gap defined by feminism, painting and pop culture, carving out a place as one of contemporary art’s bad girls,” states Smith. Minter strived and still strives to express “the ways women do and do not own their bodies”. Her greatest known art works are of close ups, displaying every blemish, imperfection, and to the anti feminist, “the ugly” detail.
In one work by Minter, “Wettest Pam” featuring Pamela Anderson, she shows a very risqué photo/painting that displays how women feel and how it appears to the male audience. But by knowing the background of Minter, how women want to feel without being labeled and judged for being who the world wants them to be. As stated before, she shows every imperfection of the female body in many of her works. In “Shinola” from 2008, she shows a close up of a freckled face woman with a seductive look on her face.
Like most contemporary artists, Minter provokes the viewer to think. I believe that she wants her viewers to feel the seduction in each of her works, but to see the women she portrays as both humans and sexual beings and not just sex objects. Women should not have to demand respect from their male counterparts. It should come with the fact that we were all born the same way, by a woman.
“Getting Contemporary Art”
The article I read, “Getting Contemporary Art” is meant to be sarcastic. This article was published by Virginia B. Spivey on https://www.khanacademy.org. Spivey speaks her mind about contemporary art. Contemporary art is much different then the Tombstone paintings or Greek sculptures back in the day before Jesus Christ was born.
Contemporary art is going on right now. Nevertheless, contemporary art is struggling to establish itself in our society. The main issue that is discussed in this article is that it seems to be difficult to people to understand what contemporary art truly is and to categorize today’s art.
To me, contemporary art is fun and takes abstract art to a whole new level. I think of Pop Art, which this article talks about Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans that was made in 1962. I have learned a lot about Andy Warhol this year and in the past too. He likes to create an image and repeat it over and over again in this art works. If you compare art like Andy Warhol to Michelangelo’s David back in the Renaissance time period 1501-1505 you see two completely different artists but great and unique in their own way. I know it may seem unfair because they are not the same medium and I am comparing the two, however, that is not my point here.
The main issue is that people are much rather focusing on recognizing the beauty of art that happened centuries ago, like Rembrandt’s or Giotto’s art for example. Instead of giving today’s artist credit for what they are doing, our society still focuses on the art in the past due to their historical value. As a modern society, we need to stop paying too much attention to art that already happened and try to appreciate our contemporary artists more. Trying to understand the different types of art we have right now could help to establish a whole new era of brilliant artists. Giving the contemporary artists a true chance and understanding their art could bring them to the same level as the artists from the past that we adore so much.
– Caroline Booth
Emily Mae Smith character
The contemporary artist I choose goes by the name Emily Mae Smith who is born in 1979. This Austin Texas native has created a feministic phenomenal character that’s featured in Christopher Priest’s 1995 novel The Prestige. It is stated that the scientist in the storyline build an unintentionally flawed machine that’s meant to allow physical teleportation for a staged act during a magician debut. Unfortunately the machine creates duplicates of the original person (Emily’s Telsa Girls). Emily unique character is integrated with feminist theories about corporeality, on a futuristic sci-fi background.
Her paintings are considered to be linked back to a larger body of work that questions the woman’s corporeality. Emily’s new series of pieces manages to incorporate a particular sign system that reveals important messages. . Her characters are placed within deceptively beautiful places, soft environments that actually suggest a sense of no space. Embracing movement in majority of her piece at a time where the digital era displays images with flatten subjects, Emily smooth the bodies of here figure’s surface creating a brilliant disconnect from the construction. Using the platform of her figures to dig deeper, Emily inscribes something new in the sign system to convey a message. Example, the close up of a pretty face is a familiar sign system to sell makeup, beer, insurance, or any product that comes to mind. Emily uses that method to conduct space for interiority, psychology, and subjectivity.
In western culture interiority, psychology, and subjectivity are completely absent as a visual language. Smith replays the romanticized forms of the female body from pre modern visual styles like Surrealism or Art Nouveau and recreates the notion of the icon that becomes an avatar or self-portrait with the innocently sexual charge of a fairytale character. The tedious details of oil paint reveal several layers of meanings, and in some cases the water paint is a metaphor for paint itself. The front view of her subjects blends painting with the visual vocabulary of new technologies, creating a clear and lucid take on a period “that’s ripe with debate over what it means to be a human in one kind of body or another” as the artist herself puts it.
The Different Sides of Abstraction
Josef Albers, Homage to the Square, 1962. Oil on Masonite, 24 x 24 inches (61 x 61 cm). © 2016 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Joseph Albers is considered to be one of the most influential painters in the abstract movement in art within the twentieth century while also being an important designer and educator most noted for his rigorous experimental approach to color theory and relationships between different spatial planes in art. In fact, the title of this piece was taken from a passage in his book Interaction of Color, which was written in 1963. Within this text, Albers chronicled his studies in chromatic interaction, in which the visual perception of a color is affected by those adjacent to it.
If this concept sounds familiar, that is because it might seem like an idea that was explored by Mark Rothko in works such as Number 14. However, while they might be aesthetically similar—especially since they both worked in the realm of the abstract—their motivations for creating these pieces could not be more polar opposite to each other. Rothko used the abstraction within his pieces to express human emotion, and he even went so far to say that the viewers who broke down and wept before his paintings had had the same religious experience he had when creating his paintings.
That isn’t to say that these two artists should be viewed in completely opposite lights. Rather, it would be better to view them as two sides to the same coin, or even as the different hemispheres of the conceptual brain that covers the idea of abstraction. Albers represents the left side of this brain: the logic, the science, and the mathematics. He relied on theories to bring his points across and did so splendidly. Rothko, on the other hand, represents his opposite by relying on emotion and raw creativity to bring his message across.
Since it’s so easy to separate logic from emotion and vice versa, it isn’t out of the question to view these artists in opposing lights, but when viewed under the same spectrum—that spectrum being abstraction—it creates a much broader image with so many more possibilities that can be explored.
The Contemporary and The Message
I looked at Monika Baer at Kestner Gesellschaft in Contemporary Art Daily: A Daily Journal of International Exhibitions. I was first drawn to the bright colors placed in small areas on otherwise pale, washed out backgrounds. My favorite image in the exhibition was three overlapping circles (blue, yellow, and pink) that created different colors where they overlapped. In the bottom right corner of the painting is a cigarette. I found it simple but profound. That is how I ended up seeing the whole exhibition: simple but profound. The exhibition was of three series of works by the artist Monika Baer, all centered on alcohol. Her artworks, whether they are black and white sachets, bold dark backgrounds, or pale stained washes; the bottles of different alcohol are always the most prominent part of the piece. The press release talked about how Baer used a wide range of techniques in her artworks, playing with soft gestures (mostly seen in her pastel colored backgrounds) against her sharp outlines (like those in her alcohol bottles). The underlining theme of alcohol that can be found in all of these paintings reminded me of Art 21’s Vancouver episode that I recently watched. That may seem like an odd thing to say, by simply looking at the artworks in the GroBe Spritztour exhibition and the artworks by the four Vancouver artists – Liz Magor, Stan Douglas, Brian Jungen, and Jeff Wall – the only thing that appears similar is that they are all contemporary artist. Their artworks are in different mediums and focus on different subjects.
– Danielle Riggs
Blog Post 4: In the News with Black Contemporary Artists
Markus Prime is best known for his unique style that centers on enlightenment and social issues within the Black community. He is also known for adding his own personal spin on well-known characters, allowing them to be more relatable for people of color by making them African American. One piece that I believe many POC can relate to is a drawing titled, “Complexion.” It shows women ranging from darker tones to lighter tones, and from straight hair to kinky hair. Even within the Black community there has always been an obvious discrimination towards those with darker skin. Those with a fairer or lighter skin tone are typically [subliminally] viewed as more idealized for their more European-like features. Prime expresses gratitude to all of the various complexions, shapes, and hair styles that people of color come with. Although Prime tends to show Black people in a more uplifting light, not all Black artists tend to do the same.
Take Robert Colescott for example—his painting titled, “George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware: Page from an American History Textbook” displays Blacks in a more racially offensive manner. The subjects within this painting consists of darker skin tones, which ties back to what I stated previously—those with darker skin tones are typically associated with the more negative aspects and stereotypes of being African American. Although some may find the image disturbing or offensive, Colescott uses this painting to bring awareness to the effects that stereotypes and racism can bring upon others. His use of familiar faces, such as Aunt Jemima, assist in highlighting the achievements of African Americans. It is safe to say that this painting is what some would call “nice-nasty” in the sense that it is racially offensive while simultaneously uplifting Blacks in the sense of their successes.
Prime is slowly but surely gaining the recognition that I believe he deserves. I appreciate the fact that his art concentrates on current social and justice issues that are taking place within America. Below is a prime example of what I am talking about (all pun intended).
Art and Power
In the ArtReview article, Trevor Paglen, the author, Oliver Basciano, has a deep and detailed interview with the American artist, geographer, and journalist, Trevor Paglen. In this interview, Basciano is fascinated by Paglen’s art and his subject matter about the property owned by the government or the state to control and monitor the public, taking large-formatted photographs of baseball stadiums, surveillance bases, and even the moon with drones. Paglen even learned how to dive in the ocean just to be able to take photographs of the transatlantic cables that connect the Internet. Therefore, Basciano asks question about Paglen’s perspective on politics, power, art in marketing, and art’s future in technology to have better idea of what his mission truly was when taking these photographs.
Basciano starts off the first part of the interview straight and to the point. He asks Paglen, about power and politics. In a sense, this would probably be my first set of questions as well, because I would want to know what he thinks about art, activism, and government. Paglen says that the point of his art is not about “standing up to power(government)”, that is basically just an end result when the audience sees the era of History we live in. He goes on to say that his activism is political in the sense that his art gives attention to one subject matter over another. As the interview goes on, Paglen gives a description what he thinks power really is. To him, it is not government; it is just a system that we are all a part of. He says that power is basically “trying to do things in the world”. I think of this “power” when seeing Paul McCarthy wanting to offend people with his Buttplug Santa.
The second part of the interview is Basciano asking him questions about the balance between art and business. Paglen says that we still barely use technology as a means of business. He says that inefficiency comes from the marketers being art historians, critics, etc. that do not understand marketing tactics. I think his point is somewhat true because of the fact not many are using art for business. One of the only people that use art as a brand and marketing tactic is Takashi Murakami. One example would be from his 13 year collaboration with Louis Vuitton.
Trevor Paglen, National Security Agency Surveillance Base, Bude, Cornwall, UK, 2014, c-print, 122 × 163 cm. Courtesy the artist; Metro Pictures, New York; and Altman Siegel, San Francisco
Berserk, Bizarre, Boundary
Source: Scher, Robin. “Americana gone a bit weird”: Valerie Hegarty on her new ceramic still lifes. 2016. Web. 10 Nov. 2016
For those who don’t know who Valerie Hegarty is, you could say that she compromises boundaries with the best of them. In the exhibition, Damage is Love ,Hegarty’s interest in transforming nature and mimicking decay allow for the particular boundaries of traditional art to be blurred and forgotten. This same notion also can be seen in her most recent exhibition, American Berserk.
American Berserk is quite different from her previous works. Hegarty usually works with papier-mâché, allowing her to create intensely, detailed depictions of transformational displays of organic nature. In Berserk, however, she uses glazed ceramics. This use of ceramics totally changes her entire aesthetic, and not in good way. The execution seems so unrefined that it’s hard to believe that Hegarty produced them at all. The individual pieces look poorly crafted and juvenile in most aspects. Hegarty had begun to take ceramics classes before she began work on the exhibition. Perhaps she should have taken a few more.
Despite her lack of execution in the exhibition, Hegarty has still managed to push the boundaries of traditional art in terms of medium and subject matter. When asked about her piece, George Washington on a Horse as Topiary, she states,
“Those were slightly inspired by my dad. I had explained to him what conceptual and installation art were and, in response, he made this really crude smiley face in a bush. I have a picture of him standing next to it with a chainsaw, and I remember thinking, “That’s brilliant, I’m going to steal that.” I think it’s a funny sculptural medium—to carve something out of a bush seems kind of silly. As for George Washington, I was thinking about how some of my previous work talked about nationalism and manifest destiny being embedded in landscape painting. It’s a complete melding, like Mount Rushmore.”(Scher)
Most ceramics professionals could barely imagine making anything outside the realm of planters and pots let alone trying to accurately recreate a detailed Topiary of a man on a horse. Once again, Hegarty is taking traditional practice and transforming the outcome into something more.
– Joseph Warren
In Robin Schers’ article for ART News entitled, “Americana Gone A Bit Weird: Valerie Hegarty on Her New Ceramic Still Lifes” the author interviewed artist Valerie Hegarty about her new exhibition, American Berserk, that will be up until December 5. During the interview, Scher asks about the title of her show, which uniquely enough, the title of her show comes from a “Philip Roth novel American Pastoral.” According to the article, it is featuring a suite of watercolors and four series of ceramic sculptures, American Berserk is the first solo exhibition of the artist’s artwork in New York. What is even more unusual about this show is that the medium that she uses. She is known for making her pieces out of papier-mâché. However, recently she decided that she wasn’t going to make sculptures anymore out of papier-mâché and just began doing watercolor paintings. Hegarty didn’t stop there, though. One day she was trying to make a painting bigger, she realized that is would be better as a sculpture, so she took up a ceramics class and morphed the two ideas together.
Scher tells us that throughout Hegartys’ career she has explored themes of American history and particularly the legacy of 19th-century American art in her work. An example of this, which is discussed by Scher in this article, is George Washington on a Horse as a Topiary. The inspiration for this pieces and many of her other works, came from her immigrant family, but more so her father. When she was growing up, their house was filled with “patriotic ephemera.” According to Hegarty, as she got older, she came to the realization that most of the items that her family owned “were fake, made out of plastic, or, in the case of some idyllic historical landscape paintings, purchased from the local hardware store. From those realizations, the seeds of Hegarty’s future art practice grew.” Hegarty has always been interested in transformation and as you can tell from just the title of this article itself, Hegarty likes to use “satirical means to construct” her pieces. She likes to describe her pieces as “morbid answer to kitschy centerpieces of yesteryear, now robbed of their evergreen freshness.”
Robin Scher interview with Valerie Hegarty was truly interesting to me. Learning about Hegarty and her life and how she got her inspiration for her work is completely unique and different from past artists that I have learned about. Hegarty comparing her work as a morbid, satirical version of kitsch, is brilliant. Kitsch “is a low-brow style of mass-produced art or design using popular or cultural icons.” That is exactly what Hegarty makes, except warped and not as cliché or cheesy, if you will. One artist, that I could sort of compare Hegartys’ work to is Karlis Vitols, Heathen, 2006. I say this because his works are considered kitsch, but they are not the normal type of kitsch, such as Frederick Dielman’s, The Widow. From this interview you also learn that Hegarty plans on sticking with ceramics because she says “it is a good fit” and she feels like she can be herself more with that medium. I can relate to this because I have worked with clay. It is easier to work with, even though really messy at times. You can mold and warp it into any shape or form that your imagination thinks of.
I loved learning about Valerie Hegartys’ work and wish that I could go see her pieces in person to be able to truly appreciate what she has to offer. Maybe one day I will get the chance to do that, but for now I will just have to admire it from afar. I related a lot with this artist, because she has a similar style of art to my very own. The one difference is that I show my style through Graphic Design and she does her’s through ceramics, watercolor, and previously papier-mâché. It just goes to show you, no matter what your medium of choice is to create your artwork, you relate to other artists in one way or another.
Scher, Robin. “ARTISTS ‘AMERICANA GONE A BIT WEIRD’: VALERIE HEGARTY ON HER NEW CERAMIC STILL LIFE.” Artnews.com. November 08, 2016. http://www.artnews.com/2016/11/08/americana-gone-a-bit-weird-valerie-hegarty-on-her-new-ceramic-still-lifes/.