Thursday, February 26, 2009

Carnivale in Venice

Check out these lovely photos Jess took while attending Carnivale in Venice!

"Venice: A Visual Treat"

Monday, February 23, 2009

Shepard Fairey Mural at Tufts

I'm not sure how this happened, but apparently Shepard Fairey wanted to do a piece around Boston and chose Tufts University to do it! This is a fantastic mural positioned right outside the campus center on Talbot Ave. I love the limited colour palette and bold, patterned composition. The smaller, tiled images are great too, reminiscent of a city "Post No Bills" construction wall covered in advertising posters. I believe the piece is in conjunction with his new exhibit Supply and Demand at the ICA, which I hope to visit the next time I'm up there in March.

Here are some images of him installing the piece.
Here is information about his recent arrest during the exhibit's opening.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Tufts University Art Gallery: Dinh Q Lê and Christian Tomaszewski

Two new exhibitions at the Tufts Art Gallery debuted at the end of January. Exciting!

The main one, housed in the Tish Gallery (top floor), is titled A Tapestry of Memories: The Art of Dinh Q Lê, a survey of the Vietnamese-American artist's work. He and his family were forced to leave Vietnam when he was young, subsequently living in Thailand and the US. He has since moved back there, and much of his work examines the relationship between America and Vietnam and their images of one another.

Much of average Americans' knowledge of Vietnam of course relates to the Vietnam War, and much of that information comes from films and books relating to the event. Lê uses a lot of imagery from Apocalypse Now and Platoon to illustrate this point. In the video installation From Father to Son: A Rite of Passage, two screens positioned next to each other show footage from these films, one highlighting Martin Sheen and the other his son, Charlie Sheen.

The accompanying photo tapestries involve weaving images of films and the actual war. These tapestries are the main event of the exhibit, popping up in both rooms and incorporating multiple subjects.

Many focus on the Vietnam War, while others blend Eastern and Western religious iconography.

These works are really exceptionally pieced together. One must shift his or her eyes in different ways to see each layer. At first it can seem like a semi-abstracted mess but upon closer inspection each section comes together across multiple levels to form a complex and intriguing image. Unfortunately I couldn't get any decent photographs, but I feel it's impossible to see their full effect without being physically there, anyway.

The exhibit also showcases two embroidered canvases, a very subtle technique with figural subjects. Again, these definitely benefit from being seen in real life.

The largest piece is a "quilt" compiled from photographs that hangs from the ceiling. It is Lê's attempt to reconstruct the lost history of his own family by meshing together found postcards and photos of anonymous Vietnamese families.

As much as I enjoyed Lê's work, Christian Tomaszewski: Hunting For Pheasants

In the sculpture court are hung bold spheric lights.

The floor-to-ceiling windows are painted with thick piebald stripes, transforming the room when sunshine floods in. It is very pretty. (Images from Quabit's Flickr.)

Inside, the space has been transformed into a knee-level maze. The stripes continue all around the walls, serving as backgrounds to his imaginative portraits of people, real and imaginary, who have been assassinated, often with political motivations.

He incorporates techniques of silkscreening, collage, painting, and drawing to create eye-catching pieces resembling movie posters.

Neon lights and blocks of text pop up here and there, as well. They're all housed in the same-small-sized white frames but the images vary in measurements. I could lose myself in this room, easily, trying to piece together the stories Tomaszewski is trying to tell as a part of his wacky pop labyrinth.

The Tufts University Art Gallery is open every day except Monday from 10-5, and until 8 on Thursdays. It's free (but please donate!) and the people who work there are super nice! Both of these exhibits will be open until March 29, 2009.

Further Reading:
Boston Phoenix
Tufts Daily

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Whitney: Alexander Calder's Paris Years

To me, Calder's name has always denoted whimsy and innovation. I got to see that and much more in Alexander Calder: The Paris Years, 1926-1933 at the Whitney. Loaded with wire portraits and figures, abstract sculptures and paintings, sketches, illustrations, film footage, and of course Calder's Circus, the exhibit is an exciting and busy experience.

First I was met with a wall full of contour-drawing-like wire faces of his friends and some famous people. Many were hanging, slowly spinning and casting crazy intersecting shadows. The shadows of Calder's wire pieces are a big part of the fun, so I think they should always be highlighted. Unfortunately the lighting didn't make for the boldness I would have liked, but still a cool collection of unique portraits.

Several rooms were dedicated to his abstract sculpture, many of which mechanical in some way or hung to encourage movement. Not too many mobiles, as I believe he began working on those more in the 30's. He seemed fascinated by the interaction of line and sphere, even devoting a series of large paintings to abstract studies of the subject. (I had never really seen his paintings before so I found these particularly interesting.) There were also some paintings and cartoons relating to the circus, which remained a pervasive subject for Calder.

A lot of miscellaneous wire sculptures were on display, including portraits of the singer and dancer Josephine Baker and an cute movable fish bowl. His understanding and use of line is marvelous. Several of them were abstract, complex, and movable, which was cool but I wish I could have seen them in action. There was a video showing one in motion but I was left to imagine how the rest functioned, which was too bad.

The largest room was a showcase for Cirque Calder, with several pieces of the set arranged in a glass case beneath videos of the pieces in motion. There were tight rope walkers, a bucking bronco, a belly dancer, a lion tamer, and various other excitements. Each wonder was mainly composed of wire and bits of fabric.

The walls were lined with even more circus-related sculptures and preliminary sketches. There was a small viewing room with a video of Calder performing his circus in the 1961. It is adorable. He operates his many delights with deftness and joy, controlling them with string and wire to entertain an unseen but laughing audience: a very early example of performance art. His ingenuity seems boundless, engineering scenarios I couldn't have imagined. One of my favourites was a large wire woman to whom small birds sailed down on plastic strings. There was also a little man who could smoke a cigar and blow up a balloon.

All in all it is a lovely exhibition, a testament to an incredibly talented man's gleeful imagination and penchant for entertaining. The sheer amount of pieces is very impressive, ensuring visitors a lengthy stay. I saw several children there and they seemed to be having as much fun as the adults. It's only up until Feb 15, so get yourself there as soon as you can! You can watch the circus video below.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

I Met Greg Horn Today

Gorgeous portrait of PsylockeLet's take a turn and talk a little about comic art, a topic dear to my heart but one which I haven't had much chance to discuss here.

I went to the NY Comic Con for the first time today and am still sort of reeling. So much going on all at once! But it was very fun, despite feeling pretty unorganized. One of the highlights was meeting Greg Horn, one of my favourite comic book cover artists. He was so nice! Unfortunately I missed the opportunity to get a personal sketch drawn because I was partying with Joss Whedon. Le sigh, priorities.

He signed my issue of Emma Frost #14, an excellent but short-lived series through which he first came to my attention.

I purchased this print, which he signed as well! And he showed me pictures of his son!

His work is just so stunning, incorporating fantastic angles and posing for really eye-catching pieces. Any comic with his image on the cover is instantly something I'd like to read. He works in an impressive near-photo-realism uncommon to the over-the-top genre. He seems to often drift into made-for-pinup mode and characters, but that's cool considering his main audience. Check out some images I dig below, and be sure to keep an eye on his website. He updates it pretty frequently with images and commentary about his process as well as personal news.

He did a cover for one of my favourite series ever, Mystique (the first issue of which I searched tirelessly and fruitlessly for while I was there).

He's known for the numerous Elektra covers he's done. A lot of tactful maneuvering to avoid showing her bare behind.

Invisible Woman Skrull
Dr. Doom is totally a Skrull!More recently, he did a series of promo images for Secret Invasion, with a bunch of popular Marvel characters turning into Skrulls. Badass.

I don't even know what this is from but damn if it isn't an awesome image to end with.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Poster Boy is Caught, or is it a Stand-In?

Doesn't the NYPD have more important things to do, instead of stomping out street artists? Good luck, Poster Boy!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Whitney: William Eggleston, Democratic Camera

I will tell you honestly that I am not very well-informed in regard to photography of any sort. There are several photographers I like, but I have never studied the art form and confess it intrigues me much less than painting, drawing, or installation. Of course, this doesn't mean I can't have opinions about it!

A few weeks ago I ventured to the Whitney to see the haps in contemporary American art. I had never even heard of William Eggleston, but figured if he had a whole floor dedicated to him he must be pretty special. The exhibit, titled Democratic Camera: Photographs and Video 1961-2008, separated this prolific artist's photographs by various time- and subject-related constructs. Included were several southern America-themed series, black and white portraits, selections from his visit to David Byrne's True Stories film shoot, a visit to Graceland, and some home video-type footage of his friends.

Eggleston is known for taking the seemingly mundane and unexpectedly immortalizing it as art. His camera captured everything from untidy storefronts to lonely diner patrons to vast midwestern expanses: very much the iconic low- to middle-class America. He also pioneered colour photography as an art form (then largely identified with advertising), experimenting with dye-transfer printing. He made good use of colour in most of his work, encouraging interest through high saturation and bold tones in the absence of specific focus or more structured compositions.

Here's one of his earliest experiments with dye-transfer.

I really enjoyed his portrait series, done in striking, high-contrast black and white. They were long and fairly large, housed in their own room away from the smaller colour works. They stood out to me instantly, partial as I am to figural subjects, but also because I felt that the inundation of Eggleston's colour photos in the other rooms was a bit much. I liked the works a lot but there were so many of them, and all packed together fairly closely due to their small sizes, it was hard to handle them all at once. I suppose there would be no better way to display such a large collection of small pieces, though.

Another really cool part of the exhibit was the selection from David Byrne's book, True Stories, a collection of images and writings he put together while working on the movie of the same name. Eggleston is pals with Byrne and photographed a lot of the Memphis area while visiting the movie set. Unfortunately the book is out of print and I can't find much information about it, or even which specific Eggleston photos are in it. Oh well, search for yourselves, I suppose.

I enjoyed his quintessentially American snapshots, glorifying simple places and objects by insisting they qualify as art. He doesn't do it in a documentarian way, he isn't trying to show high-brow audiences how the other side lives or how conditions vary across the nation. I think he just wants to show us the little things he finds interesting and noteworthy.

His work is said to employ "democratic objectivity"; he has stated that he endeavors to make it look "as if a human did not take them". I like that concept a lot.

I was much more swept up in his figural compositions (as I said, it has always held my interest more). He employs odd angles and interesting framing, often combined with vibrant fabric patterns (a lot of these are from the 70's and 80's, after all). He doesn't fetishize or beautify; the people in his pieces are decidedly normal looking, furthering his role as glorifier of the average. In his photographs, anyone can suddenly be a model, and is worthy of becoming art.

Unfortunately the exhibition just ended, but I believe it is traveling the US, so if you see a William Eggleston show popping up anywhere near you, be sure to check it out!

Monday, February 2, 2009

An Apology

For the past several months I have not really done anything art-related, caught up in school work and general malaise. This is my excuse, anyway, for not having written anything here since Halloween. I am here to make amends! I am trapped home in New Jersey for a while before I go abroad, and will be attending as many museums and galleries as I can while I'm here. So stay tuned for richly textured memories from the Whitney, MoMA, the Frick, the Brooklyn Museum, and of course the Tufts Art Gallery. I hope to get to the Rose before it closes, as well.