Monday, April 27, 2009

ICA: Shepard Fairey's "Supply and Demand"

I caught this exhibit at the ICA Boston just before I left for Germany. It serves as a general overview of the now-infamous Shepard Fairey, whose work ranges from public murals to comedic stencils to book and album covers to political posters.

By creating a set of specific, easily recognizable images and repeating them throughout much of his work, Fairey merges artistic design with self-branding. He often limits himself to a red, black, and white palette, resulting in distinct and bold pieces.

The exhibition traces his earliest artistic endeavors of Andre the Giant imagery stamped around Providence while he was attending RISD and follows them through the years of celebrity portraits, anti-war canvases, and numerous public art campaigns, landing on a gorgeous large-scale mural he created just for the show.

I enjoy Fairey's work a lot. I know that there is a lot of controversy over his appropriation of photographs and what not, but I still think he has a lot of talent with design, stenciling, and layering. His technical ability cannot be denied, even if some portions of his pieces were brought in from other sources. Many artists appropriate from photographs or film stills, but it's the way they incorporate them into original works that matters.

I love the variations in tone and texture Fairey has developed in a lot of his larger pieces. They make quite an impact.

All in all, an interesting and diverse collection of works by an already-prolific artist. It's really cool to see a street artist receive such a high-profile exhibition, lending legitimacy to the art form.

Shepard Fairey: Supply and Demand is up until August 16 at the ICA. Also keep an eye out for some public works he installed around the Boston area in honor of the exhibition, like the one above I spotted in Harvard, and the now-defunct mural at Tufts University.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Street Art and Graffiti around Europe

I have been living in Tuebingen, Germany for about a month now, and I've found the large amount of graffiti around here very interesting. It's a very old city, so the contrast between brightly coloured, rebellious tags and quaint, historical buildings on cobblestone streets took a little getting used to, but I really like it. I've taken to photographing anything I find cool or funny as I walk around, and did the same while recently visiting Paris and Barcelona (the latter had much less in the way of graffiti, perhaps due to the already-established artfulness of its architecture and sidewalks). While I'm not a big fan of generic tagging (it's just sort of boring), I think that more thoughtfully rendered stenciled images and text, whether humorous or political, can really add beauty to an urban area. It's fun to walk around and see constantly fluctuating imagery in public spaces. Here are some of my favourites so far:

Falafel is the Enemy of all Currywurst
I'll be sure to post more as I see it!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Neue Galerie: Die Brücke

To prepare for my trip to Tübingen (and also because I love German Expressionism), I caught the Brücke: The Birth of Expressionism in Dresden and Berlin, 1905-1913 exhibition at the Neue Galerie in Manhattan. It's a fairly large two-floored space, housed in a gorgeous Classically-inspired building which includes a grandiose staircase and a good amount of marble. The exhibit took up the entire third floor and part of the second (the other rooms contain some Klimts and Kokoshkas along with several pieces of furniture and other objects). I have to say, I really enjoyed it. This is the largest collection of Expressionist art I've ever seen in one place, which I found very exciting. Everything is just so colourful and loose! It's like a fairytale, complete with the sinister undertone. Paintings were organized into several rooms by subject matter: urban scenes, landscapes, and figures.

Street, Dresden by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1906The urban room was pretty much just Kirchner, but that's ok, since his street scenes are fabulous. They even borrowed Street, Dresden from MoMA, one of my favourites of his.

Trees in Autumn by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1906Landscapes from the likes of Kirchner, Max Pechstein, and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff were featured. The latter two I didn't know very well before the show, but ended up liking both a lot.

Country House in Osterholm by Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, 1906Much of Schmidt-Rottluff's work is very textured and abstracted. I just wanted to reach out and touch it.

March Snow by Max PechsteinPechstein's is more understated, but still plays with colour in interesting ways. His later pieces are more blocky and primitive, playing with thick outlines and simplified forms.

And here's Heckel's Landscape in Dresden, 1910. Love the spindly bridge.

Young Girl with Doll by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1911The figural room was the biggest and, of course, my favourite. Several large canvases of portraits and nude studies were presented around several pieces of sculpture in the middle of the room. Here we can see the effect of the all-male group's "muses", with several young women popping up multiple times as subjects. It all seems a very laid back, free-love commune type of situation.

Bowl of Oranges (Woman Peeling Oranges) by Max Pechstein, 1910Young Woman with a Red Fan by Max Pechstein, 1910Pechstein painted his wife Charlotte Krapolat often, along with various other women. I love the posing of these pieces, and the heaviness of her face. I am admittedly unsure if this particular model is his wife. I don't think it is.

Marzella (Franzi) by Kirchner, 1909-10Fränzi in front of Carved Chair by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1910Meanwhile Kirchner became fixated with his lover Dodo and a 13-year-old girl named Fränzi. It's a little creepy to think about, but I still really like the paintings he did of her.

There were also some portraits by Heckel that I'll admit to not really liking, and some stunning large-scale full-body nudes by Kirchner that unfortunately I can't find pictures of. Schmidt-Rottluff's figural pieces were quite wonderful, heavily textured and puzzle-like, but I can't find pictures of them either, sadly. I wish more museums allowed photography.

A hallway and opposing narrow room showcased some woodblock prints and exhibition posters, along with photographs of each artist and short biographies. There were some excerpts from Kirchner's history of the group, Chronik, and their artistic manifesto, as well. Some timely German music played in the background, which I enjoyed a lot. The space was so small that it easily became overcrowded, though, which I found quite frustrating while trying to read about the different artists or puzzle through the German written on the prints. Lots of know-it-all senior citizens were there the day I went.

The lower floor had a room dedicated to crayon, pencil, and charcoal drawings. I always like to see the sketchier, unfinished works by artists who are primarily painters, so I found it quite interesting. It was oddly darkly lit, though.

Corner of a Park, by Karl Schmidt-Rotluff, 1910Overall I thought this exhibit was excellent. It was well-organized and very informative. I think it'd be hard to really mess up a Brücke show- their art is so exuberant and fun, how could anyone looking at it in any context not have a good time? I liked seeing so much of their work in one place, as I could get more of a feel for their group mentality of freedom in love, life, and art. I noticed an odd lack of Bleyl, Nolde, and Müller (in the paintings, anyway), but I'm not particularly into them so it wasn't a big deal for me personally.

Check out it out for yourself at the Neue Galerie, on view until June 29.

Back to the Grindstone

Hello, everyone. I'm totally in Tuebingen, Germany for the next several months, and I plan on doing many art-related things! For now, here are some photos I've taken of a nearby Gothic monastery and the plentiful local street art. More updates coming shortly!

Street Art/Graffiti
Bebenhausen Monastery