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photo credit: I.Theorin, Artist Unknown
South Slope, NY from 2011


photo credit: I.Theorin, Artist Unknown
South Slope, NY from 2011


May 13, 2011

Street Art continued...

"The Eye" strikes again. I am still not sure who the artist is behind the eyes. And I am still fine with it being a mystery. Judging from the discoloration around the farthest left eye, there must have been a fourth tire at some point. I wonder if the artist put the tires there, then painted the eyes, or vice versa. Probably the latter, it does look like a loading dock...so where is that fourth tire? Hmmm...well, does not matter. Loving that the artist is making work using found objects. Clever.



Banksy's works
Notting Hill London, UK from my 2006 archive


April 27, 2011

Street Art continued...

In anticipation of The Royal Wedding, I am sharing work from Banksy. He is after all British, and has made work using THE QUEEN as inspiration...wonder if he is invited to the wedding...

Back in 2006, on my first trip to London, I had the opportunity to buy a Banksy for £200. I was in the Tate Modern gift shop, and nestled in amongst other posters were original silkscreened works by him. I was shocked to find them there because (1) he was a street artist and (2) he was still relatively unknown. I had only known of him through a friend who had studied abroad in London for a semester several years prior. I debated between one poster with a young girl hugging a bomb and another which was similar to the Chimpanzees shown above except they said, "Laugh now, but one day we'll be in charge." The works were not signed and I hesitated. I emailed two artist friends back home and asked for their advice. One said it did not matter, the other said it did.

I ended up not buying either one. I cannot describe the regret I have felt over the years at my poor choice. The initial £200 investment would have been the best return on any investment I have ever made. It would likely be valued at tens of thousands of dollars or pounds today. So, next time I get the opportunity to buy work from an artist before their fame skyrockets, I promise myself not to hesitate. At the very least, I would have had an artwork which I loved. I have also wondered all the years if the posters were placed there as a stunt, by Banksy himself.



Kara Walker and friend
Chelsea Gallery District, NY from my 2011 archive


April 21, 2011

A sighting and two openings

I had my third Kara Walker sighting about a week and a half ago. I went to check out a show at the gallery that represents her, and she was there checking out the show with a friend. Last time, I spotted her waiting in line at the Paula Cooper Gallery.

Tonight she has two concurrent show openings. One in the Chelsea Gallery District at Sikkema Jenkins & Co. which will be drawings, and the other at Lehmann Maupin's Lower East Side location which will be videos. The exhibitions are titled, "Dust Jackets for the Niggerati-and Supporting Dissertations, Drawings submitted ruefully by Dr. Kara E. Walker" and "Fall Frum Grace, Miss Pipi's Blue Tale," respectively. Her titles are works in themselves, something to think over carefully.

I plan to go see the drawings tonight, that way I can cruise around and pop into other openings as well. Looking forward to another mini gallery run.



studio of Steve DeFrank
Brooklyn, NY from my 2011 archive


gouaches, studio of Steve DeFrank
Brooklyn, NY from my 2011 archive

detail, "Diga, Diga, Doo"
Brooklyn, NY from my 2011 archive
"I Was Here"
Brooklyn, NY from my 2011 archive

Steve DeFrank's wood and paper plank works
Brooklyn, NY from my 2011 archive


April 12, 2011

A studio visit with Steve DeFrank

The first time I met the painter, Steve DeFrank was several years ago when I was sitting and waiting for The Swede in a sculpture workshop. Steve came up to me and asked, "Do you have any chocolate?" I was without chocolate and Steve moved on. The question was innocent enough but it caught me off guard, he did not know me. On the way home, I told The Swede the story, and he chuckled, "That's Steve DeFrank."

Fast forward a few years to late March of 2011. The Swede and I went to visit Steve's studio in Brooklyn. We arrived toting red velvet cupcakes topped with raspberries hoping to satisfy Steve's penchant for chocolate. When we arrived, he greeted us in Spanish. My instinct was to reply, "Como estas?" but I stalled, a bit embarrassed that my Spanish was not up to par. (It once was, in high school.) Steve is an avid student of Spanish and that is the thing about him, he does everything with enthusiasm and with openness. He is an artist and an educator. And very funny, an opinion many people share.

His 500 square foot studio is spectacular. It is spacious and filled with natural light from a set of large windows on one end. Scattered throughout the space are works in progress and finished works hung on the walls. Steve is gifted with the ability to be a great conversationalist and an even better listener. He can speak endlessly about any subject. We were able to move from talking about his artistic process, to politics, to Powerpuff Girls, to families, to religion, and to travels.

Steve draws inspiration from Pop Culture; referencing song titles, graffiti found on bathroom walls, cartoons, NPR, and other forms of media. He plays with the idea of faux, with layer upon layer of simulacra. He paints wood grain and carvings upon real wood and on pieces constructed from heavyweight paper made to look like wooden planks. Adding to the playfulness and attention to detail, Steve added to one work, faux planer marks, further challenging the viewer to guess what is real and what is fake.

After being in the studio awhile, the enjoyment, passion, and satisfaction the artist feels became evident to me. I was able to see it in the work. This is not an easy place for an artist to reach. Steve agreed, he spoke about being in a place where he feels he should be and how it feels good to be there. This fall, Steve will have a solo exhibition at the Margaret Thatcher Projects. I am already looking forward to another studio visit and to his show, whichever comes first. We spent the last half hour of our visit saying, "We should go, let you work," but continued to chat. In the end, we did peel ourselves away from Steve and his work, after a four hour visit.



Roa's work (Title Unknown)
Williamsburg, NY from my 2011 archive


Roa's work (Title Unknown)
Astoria, NY from my 2011 archive


April 5, 2011

Street Art continued...

I used to think a work near my community garden by the Street Artist Roa was of a rat. I was wrong. I went back recently to take a better photo of it, and I realized it is a badger, I mean ferret...according to The Swede. Now he thinks it could be a weasel, who really knows. I came to the conclusion it was not a rat after noticing its tail, which is cut off in the photo because of that van. I was lucky however, normally cars are completely obstructing its lower half.

On an outing to get coffee from my home state, The Swede and I came across another of Roa's work in Brooklyn. I was able to get the shot of the squirrel just as the sun was going down. By the time I finished taking six or seven photos, it was nearly dark out. The shots nearly made us miss our chance to get coffee. When we arrived, they had closed. Persistence paid off, I knocked on the glass door and convinced them to let me at least buy a bag of beans. Thank you Blue Bottle.



"Infinite Variety: Three Centuries of Red and White Quilts"
Collection of Joanna S. Rose
Upper East Side, NY from my 2011 archive


"Infinite Variety: Three Centuries of Red and White Quilts"
Collection of Joanna S. Rose
Upper East Side, NY from my 2011 archive

Collection of Joanna S. Rose
Upper East Side, NY
from my 2011 archive
Collection of Joanna S. Rose
Upper East Side, NY
from my 2011 archive

"Infinite Variety: Three Centuries of Red and White Quilts"
Collection of Joanna S. Rose
Upper East Side, NY from my 2011 archive


March 31, 2011

Red and White

Speaking of collections, can you imagine owning more than one thousand quilts? Joanna S. Rose has such a collection of red and white American quilts. I cannot imagine owning more than one thousand of anything. Not that I would not love to have a large collection (artwork), but the issue is how to store and care for those items. Six hundred and fifty quilts in her collection were on display at the Park Avenue Armory for six days. I wish it had been on exhibit longer, but the admission was free as a gift to New York City, so I understand it could not have gone on forever. Thank you.

The Park Avenue Armory is an incredible space. It has a 55,000 square foot drill hall, perfect for massive installations. When the space is used effectively, it has a jaw-dropping, wow factor. I could have spent hours looking at each quilt, each pattern, each stitch, at each arrangement of quilts, and at the installation as a whole. The installation had so many visual layers and was an artwork in itself.

It was great to witness so many people excited about quilts. I am sure they will never look at one in the same way. Quilts are one of the forgotten craft objects that you do not spend much time with in a museum, unless you are genuinely interested. I saw a show back in 2006 at the de Young Museum that I credit for bringing this art form back into the spotlight.

After we returned home, I mentioned to The Swede that I thought it was amazing that only red and white quilts were on display, what restraint by the curator and the collector. He said, "Well no, I did see one quilt that had small yellow squares on it, about thirty to forty of them." What? Where was I? I wish I had seen that quilt and to of course, photograph it. I wonder how many other quilts had surprises on them.



photo credit: I.Theorin, Maira Kalman's "Herring and Philosophy Club"
Upper East Side, NY from 2011


photo credit: I.Theorin, Maira Kalman's
"Crosstown Boogie-Woogie"
Upper East Side, NY from 2011
photo credit: I.Theorin, Maira Kalman's
"Abraham Lincoln"
Upper East Side, NY from 2011

March 28, 2011

Language

Take advantage of Free Saturdays at The Jewish Museum and see Maira Kalman's first museum survey. (Note: the gift shop is closed because of the Sabbath, no cash transactions.)

She and I have something in common, a fondness for Presidential Portraits and language. During a critique in graduate school, it was debated whether language and visual art could or should be combined. Some people argued yes, and others no. Maira Kalman illustrates that it can be done and should be done if you can do it like her. Everything is deliberate, each letter, each line break, each bit of punctuation. One room in the exhibition is dedicated to a collection of items from her home that she curated herself. In a glass case sits an assortment of rags with a typed index card that reads:

paint rags
on
linens taken
quietly from
hotels.

I stared, reread, reread again, smiled, reread, then immediately ran around looking for The Swede and our friends to show them. "It says quietly, isn't that so clever?" They did get a kick out of it, but not as much as I did.

I learned of Kalman through a Colleague while browsing through a bookstore to pass the time while waiting for a train. I instantly forgot her name, but not her work. Lucky me, I came across her books again and again until her name stuck. Her latest book is generously filled with works of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, two Presidents I use as inspiration in my own work. On a separate work trip to The Capital, I debated for far too long about whether or not to buy a George Washington cross-stitch kit for $12. I decided against it, never forgot about it, then bought it one year later when I returned. Maira would be proud.



screenshot of Vik Muniz in "Waste Land" on Netflix from my 2011 archive

March 25, 2011

"Waste Land"

I have been a fan of Vik Muniz since 2007 when I saw his exhibition, "Vik Muniz: Reflex" at MoMA PS1. A friend of mine knew his work and thought I would be interested, she was right. He is the kind of artist I describe as clever. He uses a range of materials such as: chocolate, sugar, diamond dust, trash, peanut butter and jelly, toys, floor sweepings, and spaghetti and meatballs to speak about social conditions.

Last summer/fall, a documentary about one of his projects was playing at a few independent theatres around town. The Swede and I kept saying to each other, "Let's go, let's go." We never did and regretted it. We put it into our Netflix queue straight away and waited. It was recently released and even better is available on Netflix's "Instant View."

We finally watched "Waste Land" (while we played The Settlers of Catan because we are serious about our multitasking). It is powerful in its content. In terms of its creativity as a documentary, it has room for improvement. I would have liked to see more of the making of the artworks. Nonetheless, the story of the "pickers" is moving and speaks of dignity in the face of abject poverty.



Tara Donovan's (Untitled) Mylar, 2011
Chelsea Gallery District, NY from my 2011 archive


Tara Donovan's (Untitled) Mylar, 2011
Chelsea Gallery District, NY from my 2011 archive


Tara Donovan's (Untitled) Mylar, 2011
Chelsea Gallery District, NY from my 2011 archive


March 23, 2011

"...greater than the sum of its parts"

It was either last year or the year before last when I saw a piece by Tara Donovan at The Armory Show. I never forgot the piece because (1) the work was by Tara Donovan (2) the piece failed to impress me. I remember being so disappointed because normally her work resonates strongly with me, emotionally and intellectually. Now I understand why. As soon as I walked into the gallery on West 22nd Street, everything became clear. The piece that previously failed to impress was a very small fraction of a larger installation that is now on exhibit.

The work is breathtaking. The Mylar (like the other materials she uses: toothpicks, tape, Styrofoam cups, pencils, buttons) was transformed until it became something else. The reflective surface on the piece gives a great illusion of depth, and the installation as a whole reminds me of mercury drops. I witnessed many people enter the gallery, turn to their companion and just smile. Love that. It is a piece you want to stay with and remember forever.

At one of The Pace Gallery's other locations on 25th Street, Tara Donovan's Drawings (Pins) were on exhibit. Unfortunately, that show has closed and another show is in its place. Her pin drawings are equally impressive and were a hit with the crowds. Each large scale drawing is covered with hundreds/thousands/tens of thousands of nickel-plated steel pins. The work reminds me of Agnes Martin but still uniquely Tara Donovan. There were a large number of school groups (which I think is great and educational), and I saw a few teens getting up close and personal with the work. They were touching the pins in one drawing, pulling and pushing the pins in and out. Oh no! I had to say something and I did. I glanced around for their chaperone who was nowhere in sight, and the museum guard was texting on his cell phone. I cannot really blame the students for wanting to touch the work. The materials are familiar, and Donovan's work always plays exactly on that--the viewer's familiarity with the materials. She then surprises the viewer by transforming everyday materials into something unexpected, precious topographical landscapes that are great works of art.



Artist Unknown, Astoria, NY from my 2011 archive

Artist Unknown
Astoria, NY from my 2011 archive
photo credit: I.Theorin, Artist Unknown
South Slope, NY from 2011

March 20, 2011

Street Art continued...

Look what appeared, artwork from the same Street Artist I discovered last month. The name of the artist remains a mystery to me. I kind of like it that way, (s)he is "my new Banksy."

I came across two works walking home from the garden, and a few days later The Swede found another work in the South Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn. I hope to see a lot more of this artist's work and to discover what other neighborhoods/cities/states/countries are adorned with it.