Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
It's amazing the numbers of painters there are in the world. I was just recently introduced to this artist by a friend of mine, Anna, who is taking what sounds like a very scintillating painting class at the local art college.
Frank Auerbach is a German born painter who was sent to England during the early years of WWII to escape the threat of extermination. His parents stayed behind and were killed in a Nazi concentration camp because they were Jewish.
After the war Frank stayed in England.
These portraits are of his lover Stella, his wife Julia and a professional model named Juliet.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
And Jackson Pollock.
What caught my attention though was this...
In 1974, Ms. Benglis, tired of the sexy girl syndrome and the over abundance of men men men running the world of art, created and placed a series of advertisements in Artforum magazine.
This one was the piece de resistance and very controversial. People said her art mustn't be too good if she had to resort to behaving like this!
It reminded me of some work I did way back in art school when we were assigned to draw folds.
Any other girls out there making art with dildos?
Let me know. We could have a dildo show!
Monday, May 11, 2009
When writing about art, actually when writing about anything, one must first have something to say. Having something to say is the point. Listen to me. I have something to say.
Perhaps it's not just having something to say. Perhaps it's also how one says it.
And how about when we paint. Must we have something to say then too?
But what can I say when I'm writing about art and the art is so complete and so thrilling in it's completeness, that I, the writer, cannot possibly say anything?
How about this: Where have you been all my life, Cy Twombley?
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
The most recent thread I've come across is Kara Walker. I took a look at her work a few weeks ago after reading about her in an article. I had to resort to online perusal of her art since I live in the sticks, relative to New York or Vancouver or even Victoria, for god'sakes. And probably because it wasn't live art- looking I couldn't really get behind what I was seeing. So I put her name on a post- it note and stuck her to the wall above my computer and then moved on to someone else. However, I saw her name again, this time in the context of controversial and offensive art and I decided I better really pull that thread this time.
Kara Walker is a contemporary African American artist working on "telling the story of racism". She uses black cut paper silhouettes and projections to create room sized narratives revolving around slavery, murder, rape, stereotypes and caricatures. In doing so she also manages to evoke the romance of the southern USA, pre-Civil War. Think Scarlett O'Hara with her Mammy and her dresses and her beaux. Think William Faulkner and his mournful tales of a lost generation of genteel ladies and gentlemen. But don't forget about the chains and the killing and the young girls up for sale.
Kara Walker plays a very interesting game with this work. The black silhouette is in itself an innocent folk inspired art form. How often have you seen little oval portraits of children in silhouette? Or the Chinese paper cuts, or the colourful Ukranian paper art? Very charming. And it's true in this case too. At first glance Kara Walker's work is all theatre and childrens' stories. It's beautiful and feminine, it's a delight. Until you see the ugliness. The heads on stakes. And then it gets kind of uncomfortable. It doesn't seem like a pretty, magical fairy tale anymore.
But is it real? Is it anymore real than any other version of the American slave trade? Was the violence really so lavish? So easily overlooked? I mean Mitchell and Faulkner don't seem to dwell too overwhelmingly on the violence of white on black. How could whites have lived in such close proximity to such savage cruelty. What did the despair, surely palpable do to them in their white finery? They must have been not much more than actors. Playing their roles. And the violence, itself, was all encompassing. The white boys and men died in droves defending the southern states. Certainly no one denied the existence of slaves and of owning slaves. Certainly no one can deny how necessary is violence to keep the strong bowed down in slavery. To keep the strong afraid. Dependent.
That is what is real. Fear and violence and dependence. That is what the Southerners did to the Africans, and that is what the North did to the South, and that is what the US wanted to do to Iraq. I could go on. It is a human drama. Power and powerlessness, for all kinds of reasons, but mostly economic.
In the Confederate South, there was also theatre and Kara Walker has taken a place among the great story tellers of the last century, taking for her own version the grandeur, the depravity, the truly complex society of black and white who lived and died for freedom.
Monday, May 4, 2009
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Claude Cahun is a "sexually ambiguous psuedonym" for a lovely little lady by the name of Lucy Schwob. She was a French artist and writer who died in the mid 50's after living a very inspiring life that included working for the Resistance during the German occupation of France during WWII.
Claude and her lover/wife/partner Marcel Moore, otherwise known as Suzanne Malherbe, lived and worked in Paris, and later Jersy, becoming well known mostly for the Surrealist self portraits of Claude, Claude's published writings and for their artists' salons.
Claude is the original Cindy Sherman, although there are forerunners even to Claude. She began photographing herself, with Marcel as the camera woman, when she was 18 years old, in a series of elaborate and always seriously deadpan disguises. And she continued to do so for the next 20 or so years.
The photographs, many of which you can see on the web, are fabulous. They look so homemade and human. Claude and Marcel did not even develop their own film; they sent it off. There is something so vulnerable in that kind of small art making. The point was not to create a colossal plastic industrial piece of art, the point was the human being in all her/his/our complexity and bravado and self importance.
I think it's sometimes easy to scoff at the artist, to think of the work as being silly. I think even artists can and do turn against themselves and each other in this way. It's like the gay man who has internalized a perceived cultural homophobia and who hates himself and his lovers because of it. Looking at Claude's photos after reading about her reminds me of the first time I was introduced to Frank Zappa. I heard the music and I thought it was funny. Kind of sick and over the top but funny. Period. And then I saw a video of Zappa and the Mothers, and I suddenly realized that these guys were deadly serious. They were artists completely engaged in making art. And it changed the music for me. It became something to consider, to discuss, to be concerned about.
Just reading about Claude and her lady Marcel and the idea of dressing up like men and other creatures for the camera, really struck me as a little bit, I don't know, cheesy, maybe. I mean it has been done a lot. Role playing for cameras. And then I looked at the photos and I saw that sincerity, that earnestness that makes the art more than role playing. It's real. Claude in all her forms is real. And she opens the door for us, the lookers, to feel for ourselves our own shapeshifting possibilities. Our range. That is what artists do. That is what Claude and Marcel have done.
Friday, April 17, 2009
The Grange Prize is an annual photography competition with an award of 50,000 being given out to one of 4 contemporary and international artists.
This year the short list includes Lynne Cohen, Marco Antonio Cruz, Frederico Gama, and Jin Me Yoon.
You can see their work and actually vote for your favourite by going to The Grange Prize.
I voted for Frederico Gama, who's super colourful images of kids hitting the streets in full punk and gangsta regalia brings to mind a lost nation of tribal warriors, among other things. The images are surprisingly timeless and sociologically complex.
My second choice was Marco Antonio Gama who's black and white photos of the blind are obviously poignant and meaningful. The best image is of a small boy in the swimming pool. The shot is half submerged and the child is an ethereal little creature, not quite of this world. Very lovely.
Lynne Cohen doesn't appear to do portraiture. Her photos show some really funky and unusual interiors. It looks like she built them herself for the sake of the photo, but no they are real places that she has been fortunate enough to find.
Last is Jin Me Yoon, who's work on the Grange prize site consists of stills from videos and so is probably not well represented here since videos are meant to move. Her work seems to be concerned more with action and experience rather than the more traditional subjects, by which I mean landscapes and portraiture. It also seems a lot less accessible and is therefore probably well worth investigating.
Any hoo, you can vote too. And you can leave a comment on the Grange Prize blog explaining why you chose who you chose. Have fun! It's not everyday that these fat cats bother to ask our opinions, is it?
The prize is sponsored by the Art Gallery of Ontario and Aeroplan.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
A couple of months ago I sent a proposal for a show out to several galleries. Within days of mailing my stack of envelopes I received a reply from one Liz Wylie at the Kelowna Art Gallery. A rejection. I emailed her to ask Hey! Why the rejection? She replied that far from being good the proposal lacked "intellectual underpinnings". Although I was totally pissed and also a leetle disgusted by the academic non-speak, I pressed on, pointing out to Ms. Wylie that indeed the proposal had plenty of underpinnings in the form of ideas! several layers of them, but no no no, that wasn't what she meant. She meant that I hadn't gone full circle by referencing art history with my art. It wasn't enough to make art about current issues surrounding climate science and biology and human psychology. The work needed to more than art, it needed to be about art. ha ha.
Later I took a closer look at the work they were showing at the Kelowna gallery and low and behold, there was one fellow who had drawn the route of his recent motorcycle trip onto a series of Matisse prints. Neat hey? And it had Matisse in there too!
Now I'm not saying that my proposals were any good or anything. I'm just saying that maybe there is more to art these days than Matisse or anyone, actually, who isn't living and working in the here and now. There is a lot going on these days. It's not really boring rich times anymore. Everything is under threat. And artists, I thought, were historically people of visionary talent. People able to absorb and communicate the danger and the beauty of our shared lives. What good is art when it's about nothing relevant to now, especially when the only people who appreciate it are the academic baby boomer generation?
Anyway, enough from me. The point of this post is to turn interested readers onto Jerry Saltz, a New York art critic writing for Vulture. His last article deals with a show called The Generational: Younger than Jesus, which was showing in N.Y. city @ the New Museum. Among other things he says about the artists, " they're investigating the whole world, not just the art world. Their work is less about how we affect time and people than about how time and people affect us". He says a lot more and he says it well, so check it out!
Friday, April 10, 2009
Eggery as a title is an interesting comment on the past traditions involving work and family and lifestyle, because as a word eggery suggests a factory like production. It conjures the old manner of shared labour where members of a community or a large family would gather together to create and celebrate everything from egg dyeing to pyrogy making. Also there is the baby making that went on amongst married men and women (and unmarried men and women) before the age of birth control, the egg of course being a very ancient and powerful symbol of fertility. And then there is the lifestyle itself which would most certainly include the manufacture of homegrown food, like duck and chicken eggs.
Eggery speaks of an organic, physical and human factory. Of lives spent creating families and children and art and food. Of living with and of struggling with nature, not so much for domination but for survival. Of course back in those days, before science found better ways to live and before the advent of Safeway and The Gap, before even giclee prints, men and women had everything to work for and to strive towards creating for themselves and their people. Looking back, one cannot help but think of the work, but also of the sense of purpose and how that must have infused those long ago ladies and gentlemen with an awesome sense of optimism and promise.
Do we, the post baby boomer generations, have that same sense of purpose and optimism? In general our struggle is not physical or organic. In this, the digital age, it rarely seems human. The pre boomer generations are all dying off now. My own grandfather, aged 97, died just two years ago. Our connection to that long ago way of living is disappearing. How can we continue to be human when being human has changed so drastically since our grandparents and great grandparents worked the earth and themselves? How do we continue? Do we fully embrace our technological evolution or do we reinvent the old ways of living through environmental activism and the slow food movement and etsy?
Jocelyn Beyak's Eggery project is conceptually vital to our future. She has delicately reworked an ancient and beautiful form of folk art and called into question some very serious modern concerns, all without forsaking that old promise.
A broken egg is still an egg.
Eggery is showing at Xchanges' new gallery space at 2333 Government St., suite 6E, until April 25th.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Monday, April 6, 2009
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