Friday, October 31, 2008

Keiji Shinohara, Contemporary Japanese Printmaker

Shinohara- SymphonyOn Tuesday I had the incredible experience of attending a demonstration of traditional Japanese woodblock printmaking by Wesleyan professor and independent artist Keiji Shinohara. It was amazing! He made four copies of this Hiroshige print:

Hiroshige- Myanokoshi
It's such an intricate and exact process, and really interesting to watch! Everything has to be aligned perfectly, and there are as many blocks as there are colors, so there are a lot of steps and repetitions. He didn't have enough time to finish the prints, but we got to hear a lot about his life and techniques.

After studying to be a nuclear physicist, Keiji saw an
ukiyo-e style print and decided that's what he wanted to do with his life. For five months he begged the artist to teach him, but was consistently turned down, especially after it was revealed that he was left-handed (apparently it is very hard to be left-handed in Japan). Eventually he was taken on as an apprentice and studied for 5 years. Then he worked 5 years as a master as a way to repay the years his master had given to him. He came to America in the mid-80's and worked with various other artists (including Chuck Close!) and companies, before eventually teaching at Wesleyan.

He makes reproductions of ukiyo-e prints, but also designs and creates his own pieces. During Edo Period Japan one print passed through several hands- the designer, the carver, the printer- before reaching completion. Keiji was taught only to make prints based on pre-designed and pre-carved images. However, he observed carvers while he was an apprentice, and picked it up from there.

Shinohara- Sonata
He makes beautiful and innovative landscapes, relying on expressive color to create interest. He has developed some new printing methods, including using crazy glue on the woodblock to produce subtle shifts in hue depending on where the ink sticks more heavily. This would be unachievable with just carving. I really love his combination of a centuries-old tradition and modern personal innovation, especially since woodblock printing is a dying art form in Japan.

Shinohara- Accelerando
Keiji Shinohara at DFN Gallery
More about ukiyo-e printing, with demonstrations by Keiji and high-quality images of his work
Exhibit at Colorado College's Coburn Gallery, starting November 7

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Graffiti or Art?

From the New York Times, October 24:

Banksy, the pseudonymous British artist, keeps New Yorkers guessing ab
out where his next mural or installation may pop up, a council in London has ordered that one of his works must come down there, the BBC reported. The Westminster City Council has ruled that a 23-foot Banksy mural must be removed from the wall of a building on Newman Street, in central London, as a message to discourage graffiti. The mural, “One Nation Under CCTV,” refers to the closed-circuit televisions that have become ubiquitous security devices in London. It depicts that slogan stenciled in large letters, being painted by a youth in a hooded sweatshirt, as a police officer with a camera and a dog stand nearby. “If you condone this, then you condone graffiti all over London,” said Robert Davis, the council’s deputy leader, according to the BBC.

When does graffiti become art? And, on the other hand, where is the line that separates public or street art from a community nuisance?

It depends on your perspective, I guess. I think that finding things like Banksy's murals can be one of the best parts about living in a city: you have to always look for them, but it's still surprising every time you find one. And then you have that wonderful feeling of discovery, as though you're the first and only person to ever notice the stencil or the mural or the writing on the wall.

It's also interesting that this mural was the one selected to be taken down. One of the first things I noticed about London was the prevalence of CCTV cameras. They are absolutely everywhere - I've stood on a street corner and counted 7 cameras within sight, and that was just on the outsides of the buildings. This mural is actually relatively near where I live. Although I had seen pictures of it before, the first time I walked past it still made me pause: just outside the frame of the picture is a security camera.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

HONK!: Street Art?

I suppose you could call the HONK! festival "street art", but that description doesn't quite capture the energy of this annual event. Over Columbus Day weekend, activist marching bands paraded through Mass Ave. from Davis Square in Somerville to Harvard Square: blowing trumpets, pounding on drums, circling on decorated bikes and towering above the crowd on stilts. All with different causes, it seemed that the march was not so much a focus on any particular issue, but rather a way to bring together the community in a fun, aesthetically and musically-engaging awareness of their ability to be heard. The overarching theme of this year's parade was "Reclaim the Streets for Horns, Bikes, and Feet!" Plenty of each there were, and though the tunes blasting from the horns in each band were different, each blended almost seamlessly into the next as they made their way past the crowds. Check out the photos for a taste of this eclectic event.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Open Studios: Fort Point

On Saturday the Fort Point Artist Community had an open studios event. They have a large, brick building near the Fort Point Channel with a great view of downtown. It had a vaguely winding interior layout so I felt like around any corner I could find another artist.

It was my first time ever going to one, and I was a little nervous but really enjoyed it. For those of you who haven't heard of this, open studios events are when a group of artists in a certain area organize a free showing of their works inside their studios. This gives them a chance to share their art without gallery liaison, focusing on whichever they choose to exhibit and sometimes including in-progress pieces as well. It's pretty laid back; you can look around quietly or interact with and question the artists (I shyly opted for the former). Some people had free food and drink (lots of Halloween candy!), and some economically-savvy girls were selling baked goods in the hallway. Open Studios take place in cities all over, so if get a chance look for events in your area.

My first stop was to see my drawing professor, Bob Siegelman. He works in different media, first showcasing large abstract prints with beautiful colors and a mesh of twisty splotchy lines. Then on to small ink-and-oil paintings with evocative atmospheres. Sorry, I have no pictures of these.

He also works in photography, trying to "express the need gay men often feel to create a sense of identity, within one's self and culture." They often focus on graphic sexual imagery, but the graininess of the shots lends them a certain softness.

I popped by the studio of Linda Huey, whose gorgeous, organic sculpture caught my eye from the hallway. She has small- and medium-sized pieces that draw from natural, floral forms thematically influenced by "the relationship between growth and decay". Many of her pieces are intended to be in gardens, shown by accompanying photographs of them within different leafy locations. Many of them had an almost alien feel, due to the larger-than-life bulbs and glossy vibrant colors.

Painter Dan Osterman has lovely, expressive landscapes of beaches and mountains. His slightly abstracted viewpoint and free linework make for very striking images. He also had this awesome spinning metallic sculpture hanging from his ceiling that I found fairly mesmerizing.

Bruce Rogovin creates surrealistic self-portraits by repeating his body multiple times in one image. My favorite was one of him sitting on a couch in a rather dank living room, with several nude, translucent versions of him placed around the room. It was sort of Sandy Sklogund-ish, with that suggestion of parallel dimensions. Of course I could find no pictures of them, I'm sorry, but keep an eye on him I guess and hopefully he'll put some on his website.

Bubble World! Martin Berinstein takes bubbles and fluid movement as his inspirations, photographing the effects of dyes and air in liquid mediums. Their extreme close-up compositions make for detailed, intriguing images.
His series "Air, Water and Dyes" was put on large display, as well as a mix of other works, with several focusing on spheres.

Though Laura Davidson works in a variety of media, most of her pieces on display all took a travel theme as the subject. Upon entering a wooden case with many little shelves hanging on the wall caught my eye. It featured little wooden birds and small objects scattered throughout, reminiscent of a Joseph Cornell assemblage but more twee. She had lovely small mosaics of buildings and ancient pottery in etched copper frames.

Her main output seemed to be hand-made books and cut-paper tableaus, or "tunnel books". One book I flipped through, called Mapping My World, Buildings and Bridges, illustrated various places she'd visited. It had hand-drawn maps and pop-up bridges sprawled across almost every page, along with icons of monuments and found vintage stamps.

The tableaus were multi-layered in the way of Dali's Little Theater. Laura was probably my favourite of the artists I visited; the love and attention she put into every piece was to me very apparent, so I could not help but love it too.

The last leg of this artistic journey was a visit to Lenore Tenenblatt's studio, within which I saw wonders done with wood and paint. Her assemblage-like sculptures are full of texture and depth, with interesting shapes and interplay of color. They seemed to have a comfortable familiarity that istantly drew me in, probably due to the materials she uses.

She works with both wall-mounted pieces as well as freestanding. She had some photography and painting on display as well, but I was mostly focused on the sculpture. Also the room smelled like chicken soup. Mmmm.

Other artists I checked out were bookmakers Mary McCarthy and Philip Manna and painter Caroline Muir. I picked up a pile of artist post cards, so all in all a day well spent! If you're in the Boston area, keep an eye out on these artists for future exhibitions. They're having a group show until October 24 in their gallery. Several of the Fort Point artists also teach and run workshops at the Fort Point Studio School.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Short Film: "Falling..." by Dustball

I really enjoy this short animated film by Dustin McLean, also known as Dustball. The wire figures' movements are so fluid- when they fall their bodies bend softly and bounce as they hit the ground, and when the hero creates a bouquet out of paper it's assembles like clay. The concept is cute as well as disheartening- a combination I like. He composed the music too, which I find whimsically beautiful, reminiscent of Yann Tiersen. Mr McLean says of the work, "I wrote and started animating this in 2004 when I felt sadness for not being able to be with the girl I loved. The good news is I eventually DID end up marrying her and we are living happily ever after, but this animation was never finished. During the summer of 2007 I set out to finish it. The first 50 seconds are the original animation, everything else is new." I was expecting a much more happy-go-lucky tale based on the description so the ending was a nice surprise. Enjoy!

You can find a lot of other films, animated and live-action, at his website. Most seem to be comedic, with the tour de force of course being the genius "Literal Take On Me" video. My god. Amazing.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

SoWa First Fridays

Last Friday I had the opportunity to check out the SoWa (South of Washington Street) studios for their October installment of the First Fridays event. Located at 450 Harrison Avenue in Boston, the SoWa Artist's Guild is essentially a gigantic warehouse, but one full of stylish and fascinating contemporary work. The three-story building is home to over 50 studios, and they open their doors to the public on (yup, you guessed it!) the first Friday of each month. Take away the formality and cost of a large museum and you get the open studio experience: people mingle in the hallways holding plastic cups of wine, artists speak directly to the viewers about their artwork (and about anything worthy of some small talk, for that matter!), and unfinished paintings sit right beside polished and mounted works. It's fun, casual, and as interactive as you'd like to make it.

Linda Cordner was one of several artists who specializes in encaustic painting, a technique which involves creating an image from multiple layers of hot wax and pigment. As the wax hardens quickly, the painting process must be extremely efficient and exact.

In another room, 50 cents bought you an ominous fortune cookie from a vending machine. The words "YOU WILL DIE." marked the wall behind it, and the little slips of paper inside answered how. I'm going to have to appreciate silence from now on, as mine told me that my iPod would spontaneously burst into flames and ignite my clothes, burning my body to a crisp.

There are also some fantastic jewelry studios and one woman creates a whole bunch of bright hats-think feathers, vintage veils, and cozy knits. Here are some samples of some stunning contemporary earrings and a necklace by Sophie Hughes.

Another artist was busy making portraits and had an audience of people in folding chairs examining him as he worked with a live model. A friend and I both spied finished paintings of our studio art class models-sometimes Boston is a smaller place than you'd think!

One of the most popular rooms is always the wire sculpture studio of Brian Murphy. He has a wonderful sense of humor and cunning perception of presence and absence of forms in the pieces of "Totally Wired." His lighthearted works include clever titles sure to delight anyone who looks closely at the details.

Equally popular was the newer "Architecture of Bones" gallery. Haunting (and sometimes politically explicit) images of buildings constructed from human skeletons lined the walls. In the center, artist Shaun Lynch displayed several miniature monuments made to look as if they were pieced together with skulls, ribs, and other body parts. The implications? Definitely worth exploring.

One of my personal favorites was the studio in which Barbara Glee Lucas showcased her large naturalistic paintings featuring glass. A fusion of landscape and still life, Lucas's pieces show a masterful rendering of distortion and details. She's set up in a number of locations, including Australia and France. She talked with some of us about potential locations in Boston for her upcoming projects. I'd love to see her tackle a darkly lit place (maybe a nightclub or bar) and capture the reflections of light on the glassware from neon signs and such. Look for more work from her this year as she explores Boston!

First Fridays is a great way to get to know the South End galleries and have a one-on-one connection with the artists and their work. Head to SoWa with some friends and fellow art enthusiasts on November 7th from 5-9pm for the next event if you're interested in checking it out for yourself. Free artwork, food, wine, and shmoozing abound!

I Want: Dadadreams Story Bracelet

My goodness, these bracelets by dadadreams are beautiful! They're made of comic strip panels that are adhered to a multi-faceted bracelet so that it tells a story as you rotate it. So cool! They're a little big but I think it's totally worth it. You can buy them here. People who are looking for my Christmas present can especially buy them there.

The blog is pretty cool, too. Lots of satirical and/or silly collage constructions. Check it out!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Tufts University Art Gallery: Empire and Its Discontents

Despite the fact that I am a fairly gung-ho employee of the Tufts Art Gallery, I'm sure I would have written about its marvelous current exhibit "Empire and Its Discontents" even if I didn't work there. Inspired by Edward Said's 1978 book Orientalism, it features contemporary artists from countries that have been affected by colonialism, and whose work examines the mixture of Eastern and Western cultures. There are ten artists in all, with a related exhibition downstairs, "Contrapuntal Lines: Rania Matar and Buthina Abu Milhem" that has been similarly inspired. Most of the pieces use traditional mediums like painting, ink, photography, video, and sculpture, with one site-specific installation and one cardboard construction. It runs until November 23, and admission is free! If you're in the Boston/Cambridge/Somerville/Medford area, definitely check it out.

Kamrooz Aram has several paintings in the show, including this large-scale abstract narrative piece. You can really lose yourself in it.
I really dig Andisheh Avini's work. He has patterned sculptures that highlight the layering of Persian and American cultures over and under one another.

He also does really interesting collage-paintings that incorporate bleach to achieve a ghostly effect.

Pakistani artist Saira Wasim makes really complex miniature paintings in the Mughal style, with highly satirical political subjects. Her skill and humor shine equally.

One of my favorite works in the show is Egyptian artist Laura Baladi's photographic series The Surface of Time. There are about eight pairs of photos whose compositions depict the ruin and decay she has seen in Egypt since the rise of its current president, Hosni Mubarak, 25 years ago. I love the high saturation and sense of abandonment she captures in these empty rooms and vacated exteriors. I couldn't really find any other images online, unfortunately. You'll just have to see for yourself!

My other favorite piece is a video by French-Algerian artist Zoulikha Bouabdellah titled Black & White #2. In close-up, stop-motion-ish slowly fading shots, it depicts a woman in high-contrast black and white performing Muslim prayer motions with her hands. Google maps shift in the background with locations like Baghdad pin-pointed. In the background is heard "The Star Spangled Banner" in an accented voice. It can be oddly mesmerizing.

Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung has the most visually stimulating piece with his audacious Presidential Erection, a cardboard cut-out focusing on Democratic and Republican presidential candidates and their supporters, with images entirely appropriated from the internet. It's really complex and bawdy, with tons of layers and little hidden images. I find myself staring at it unconsciously when I'm working, trying to identify all of the people and symbols. I like its double-sided aspect too. Apparently there's a video component (not in the exhibition, but it's on his website). He also has a pretty funny video/online game, Gas Zappers, on the New Media Wall.

Other artists include: Seher Shah, with stark black and white photo reconstructions focusing on religious iconography; the graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi, with some enlarged pages from her comic Persepolis; Mark Shetabi, whose installation A Persian Garden recalls his childhood memories of Iran in the late 1970's; and Farhad Moshiri and Shirin Aliabadi, who take common food and cleaning items and re-brand them with thought-provoking messages.

Further Reading:
Tufts Daily
Boston Phoenix

Blog Personality: Julie

Hello! I'm Julie, the third blogger on this site, and I guess I'm a few days late with this introductory post. I'm also a junior at Tufts, also an Art History major (and maybe an English major as well, but that's a bit unclear at the moment), and also in love with all things art, style, and culture related. I really like finding big things in small moments, and generally I believe that we should all aim to make our lives a bit more like this picture:

Unlike Jess and Alex, I'm not currently in Somerville, since I'm spending the year abroad in London. Expect many, many London related posts, from the basics of the city's art and architecture to more specific discussions of fashion, street art and graffiti, European aesthetics, and the problems of having to go to class when there are so many other things to do instead. Since I'm here all year, I also plan to travel quite a bit, so there will eventually be posts about other cities as well. Yay Europe!
I love modern art. There are many reasons why, but I think two of my favorite artists epitomize most of them...Mark Rothko, because of his exploration of color (and the intersections and overlaps of colors), and his presentation of color as an almost tangible, physical space.

And Joseph Cornell, because of the ways in which he links art to the temporal, the fleeting, and the ordinary, somehow finding immortality in ephemera.

I think our blog will be pretty exciting, especially when we all start posting regularly, so please keep reading. There will be all kinds of adventures, some strange and wonderful things, and if nothing else, some pretty fantastic pictures.