Tag Archives: art

Andy Warhol, or thinking about when an artist is influential and young vs when they are older


Watching the Warhol Diaries documentary on Netflix, I started thinking about when an artist is influential and young vs when they are older. Like many, I am aware of the early Andy Warhol. If you think of Andy at all, you likely have some of these  Warhol works in mind. When I read references to Warhol and his influnce, these are many of the works cited.

One of the things I liked about the documentary is that it spent time on his later works. Two later commissions in particular I did not know much about. One of these was his Last Supper paintings. And the other was a group of portraits he did called Ladies and Gentlemen.

In both commissions, the Netflix documentary dives into the complexity of Warhol’s life at the time and how it affected the creation of these works. The religious nature of Warhol and his thoughts on death in the era of the AIDS crisis really comes through in the Last Supper works. While with Ladies and Gentlemen, the paintings take on more layers of meaning when you think of all the things going on in Andy’s life at the time, from the commercial celebrity portraits he was producing to the increasing openness of being gay in NYC in the 70s to his desire to be a model.

In some ways, I prefer these later works to the paintings and sculpture he made in the 1960s. There’s a depth to what came after later, a richness. They aren’t as influential as the Brillo Boxes or the Marilyn Monroes, but they are better.

Perhaps that is the case with many great artists. Even someone like Rembrandt. There is more of the artist in the later works,  but the works that made them famous are the earlier works, and those are the works that are mostly remembered. It makes sense in some ways, and is a shame in other ways.

It makes me wonder what would have happened to Basquiat or Haring if they had survived into the 1990s and beyond. What works they would have made. How they would have matured. Perhaps we can look to Warhol for this. Warhol too should have died when he was gunned down and almost killed, only to be resurrected on the operating table. We know how he turned out. I’d like to think of Haring and Basquiat doing the same.

If you have the time, watch the Warhol Diaries on Netflix. It’s a good series.

For more on this, the Tate has a good piece on the people who modelled for Ladies and Gentlemen. The Guardian has more on Ladies and Gentlemen, here. Finally Christie’s has something here on the Last Supper paintings.

 

Like Basquiat, Keith Haring painted on walls. Now those walls are highly valued.

Years ago Keith Haring cut out a painting Basquiat created on a wall. And it’s a good thing he did! You can read about that drywall painting here.

Now Haring is getting the same treatment. The painting above was on a wall of his old home. It was cut out by the home’s new owners and sold at auction. The people who bought the house and did this have easily paid for the house many times over as a result. Quite the find!

Here’s two pieces in the Guardian on it. This piece tells the story behind the find. And this piece reflects on what it means.

On fear of art: thinking about Lum, Gaston, Schutz

So Edmonton has gotten cold feet and cancelled the installation of Ken Lum’s sculpture for reasons you can ready about here and here.

You might conclude there’s some irony here, because Lum has expressed support of toppling monuments. There is a fine distinction between the nondescript monuments of historical figures and Lum’s unique art. Too fine, perhaps. The tide sweeping out statues of Ryerson and Cornwallis have ignored such a fine distinction and swept out his work also.

This rejection of Lum is not unique. It’s one of many examples of fear of art. To be precise, fear of how some will respond to art.

For example, in reviewing the recent Guston exhibit, John Yau writes:

A lot of issues are raised by the museum’s presentation of Guston, which have been eloquently discussed by Barry Schwabsky in The Nation and Sebastian Smee in The Washington Post. My complaint is cruder. I got sick of the museum’s defensiveness, such as the “Emotional Preparedness” card by health and trauma specialist Ginger Klee, that preps visitors for the show, and of being repeatedly told by the the wall labels that Guston’s hooded figures are about America’s racist history, because I think they are more than that, and that is what makes them so powerful, necessary, urgent, and, most importantly, relevant to whatever present they live in.

Galleries are adopting a defensive crouch to avoid provoking any one from protesting the work on display. Perhaps they are thinking of what happened to Dana Schutz’s  and her 2017 work titled “Open Casket,”  of Emmett Till, and all the controversy concerning that.

Whatever is driving them, sponsors of works of art are afraid. This fear is leading them to pull works or to water them down, in a sense. And that’s a shame.

P.S. Ken Lum was recently at the AGO and it was a good show. You can see more of Ken Lum at that link.

How the Obama paintings differ (Six or so minor thoughts on the Obama portraits)

The latest pair of portraits of the Obamas were unveiled last week. This pair was hung in the White House, while the others went to the Smithsonian. Looking at them, I thought:

  1. All four paintings are great in many ways. They capture the subject well, they are strong images, and they are superbly painted.
  2. His paintings have an almost surreal quality to them: hers less so. That’s neither a pro nor con, just an observation.
  3. There is a contrast in the poses. Her hands add to the composition: his not as much. Her body is more engaged, his is neutral.
  4. His clothing is simple, almost austere. Hers are rich and eye catching.
  5. One thing that caught my eye was the finish. Both of his paintings have a gloss to them, while hers have a matte finish.
  6. I like how in one of her paintings, blue is in the background, while in the other, blue is in the foreground.
  7. Watching a video of the painters of White House paintings, I was struck by how painstaking the work was. It took them months and months to complete. It shows in the painting, but it is also a good reminder to me of how long a great work takes to do.

I am still thinking of them. I’ll come back her later if I have any more insights.

Thanks to this piece in Hyperallergic for the images (links) below.

It’s Labour Day. Put away that computer and make something creative

It’s Labour Day. Take a well earned break from your work. Perhaps you plan to relax and take it easy. That’s a good choice. If you are itching to be more active, though, why not do something creative?

If you are looking to make something, the Washington Post has a section on beginner diy projects.

Perhaps you always wanted to learn to paint? If so, Domestika has this creative watercolor sketching for beginner course.

If you have already started painting and you want to improve your skills, these
YouTube videos by Ian Roberts on Mastering Compostion are good. Likewise, if you can go to the artistsnetwork.com and get guides like this: how to thin acrylic paint and more.

Another source of education is My Modern Met Tutorials.

If you fantasize about going to art school but can’t imagine how you could pay for it, read this: Don’t Want to Pay for Art School? Here’s a Streamlined Syllabus for Getting your MFA.

If you want to do something musical instead, check out patatap, a fun way to make noises and visuals with your keyboard.

Finally, if writing is your thing, you can start a blog here at WordPress. If you want more people to read you though, consider writing for a larger audience and see if they will still take first person articles at The Globe and Mail.

There’s lots of ways to be creative. Have fun!

Jeff Koons is going to the moon! Also Katz, Bacon, Guston and Taueber-Arp

Jeff Koons is going to the Moon, according to the NYTimes. Which knowing Koons, is not that surprising. He’s doing more things that are fascinating as well. Read that Times piece for all the details.

I love this work by  George Shaw. They make me think of Christopher Pratt in some ways. Worth a look. Also worth a look are the  Visual Diaries of Pep Carro.  Fascinating.

Here’s two good pieces on Sophie Taeuber-Arp. One is from the perspective of a reviewer and one from the perspective of a viewer. In both cases, they are raising the question of why did the curators not bring forth the African and other influences that infuse her work? I was unaware of that, and I think anyone who loves the work of ST-A would benefit from knowing that.

Here’s a good piece on “The Brilliantly Nightmarish Art & Troubled Life” of Painter Francis Bacon. I put quotes around that because I felt that was over the top. But yes.

This, on Alex Katz is good. I find it hard to believe anyone thinks he is anything other than great, but there are such people. And such people inspire him in an interesting way.

A good critique on curators who would put blinders on gallery visitors witnessing the later work of Philip Guston.

You may not know this artist, but I love his work: Pavement Picasso…on the trail of London’s chewing gum artist.

On the lost work of gay artists of the AIDS era. Sad but worthwhile.

Flaming heck! Damien Hirst is setting his art on fire. A public service, no doubt.

Finally, the Rosalind Hobley Flower Cyanotypes are gorgeous (see below). See Collosal for more.

Sunday reads: on how to deal with racist art, Critical Race Theory, and more

I collect thoughtful pieces on a wide range of topics to educate myself, to change my mind, and to see the world in a new and better way. Pieces like those below that revolve around race, racism, anti-semitism, and related topics. They are not easy reads, but worthwhile ones, I thought.

On the topic of Critical Race Theory and educating students on race and racism,  this was good: Inside Mississippi’s only class on critical race theory – Mississippi Today, as was this Teaching about racism. More on CRT, here: What CRT is.

You may not think too much about this incident, but this essay on it is very good:  Whoopi Goldberg’s American Idea of Race in The Atlantic.

This was insightful:  Slavery and the Rise of the Nineteenth-Century American Economy. As was this: Why Southern white women vote against feminism in The Washington Post.

Speaking of race and education, this was informative to me: Segregated schools in Ontario.

There was a discussion earlier this year on whether or not Darwin was racist. On the surface, he may seem so. But to me it doesn’t seem to be the case when you dig down deeper. You can read this and judge for yourself: Was Darwin a racist and does evolution promote racism? – #DarwinDay, and Quote-mining Darwin to forward a political agenda?

Here were two pieces on anti-semitism I found worthwhile:  Art and anti-semitism and Socialism without anti-semitism.

Finally, this piece got me thinking about racism within art: Tate’s “unequivocally offensive” mural to have new work alongside it. I don’t have a problem removing public statues. For art, I think it is better to put it in context. That seems to be what the Tate is doing.

(Image: link to the image in the piece on the Tate).

 

 

 

 

 

On the exciting White Album exhibit at the AGO

Almost a decade ago I read about this project Rutherford Chang: We Buy White Albums over at hyperallergic. I remember thinking at the time: I would LOVE to see that. 

Back in 2013, Chang had set up a store/exhibit in Soho, NYC, where

the only thing in stock here is the Beatles’s White Album, and the store doesn’t sell any of them, it only acquires more….(it included) 700 copies of the 1968 double-LP first edition of the White Album, all the personal collection of Chang. Each album is marked with a distinct serial number on the bottom corner of the starkly designed cover by Richard Hamilton, a totally white cover that’s readily attracted the wandering drawings of (possibly stoned) listeners, the visible stains of coffee cups, and some mold.

I never did get to see it, but the idea captivated me and I never forgot it.

Needless to say, I was excited and delighted to see that it was on the road and recently at the AGO! You can see part of the exhibit above. It wasn’t the same as being in the store, but it captured the essence of that 2013 event. Chang even made a new recording that consisted of 100 copies of the album all playing at the same time. The AGO had it on display and for sale, too:

 

As a big fan of conceptual art and the Beatles, I loved this project. I’m glad I could experience it through the AGO.

For more details, I recommend you go to that hyperallergic link and read more about it. You can also read more about the exhibit at the AGO, here.

(Images: top two mine, bottom image is a link to the hyperallergic article)

On art, being rescued, and George Westren


You could say art rescued George Westren. In discovering op art, he found a way to deal with his addiction troubles and get his life to a better place. The idea of being rescued plays out again in his life, when his neighbor saves his artwork from being thrown in the trash.

It’s a remarkable story. I highly encourage you to read about it, here: the  rescued works of George Westren, at the Washington Post.

Then go check out his work, here: georgewestren.org

(Image: link to an image in the Washington Post)

One way to be an artist is to add extra to the the ordinary

There is no particular way to be an artist and to make art. There are many ways. One of those ways is to add extra to the the ordinary to make it extraordinary. (See what I did there? :))

I thought of it when I came across this post on Cup of Jo called Four Fun Things. Among other things was a feature on an Instagram account:

The Instagram account Subway Hands by Hannah La Follette Ryan is surprisingly moving, don’t you think? (This one looks like a Michelangelo sculpture.)

I agree: the photo on the bottom left does look like sculpture! But all the images are good. What Ryan does, by paying extra attention to the ordinary (“hands on the subway”) is make something extraordinary. That is her art, and it is fine art indeed. She pays extra attention to something common and gets us to pay attention and think more about it. If you can do that too, you will be making fine art, indeed.

As Austin Kleon wrote: “The ordinary + extra attention = the extraordinary”.  (He writes about the concept in a few posts.)

P.S. Now, this is a formula, but if you just use a formula without putting much of your heart and head into it, then you will get art that is formulaic. And that ain’t good. So keep that in mind.

On the Basquiat work at the AGO in 2022

The AGO had a good show called “I AM HERE” packed with a great many works, including the one above. There were some other works like these…

There were even some drawings of food

For a Basquiat fan such as myself, it was all very exciting to see so much of his work here in Ontario.

It wasn’t until sometime later that I noticed the fine print besides the work:

That doesn’t mean to say that these are forgeries. It just says his family doesn’t vouch for them.

I can’t say one way or another. Basquiat was known to draw on all sorts of things, which made the food drawings seem real enough. To me only the head / portrait painting seemed a bit off. Not his typical pallet. But I think it seems like him in many other ways.

Given how much his work goes for and how much he produced, I think we might see more potential issues with works of Basquait on display. something to keep in mind the next time his work is on display.

On art and artists being bad. From Gormley, to Hirst and more


So Antony Gormley is in the news for his  “phallic” statue which students are worried about. This is not the first time he’s made statues associated with sex, as this piece shows: Sex on the beach? This could be made into a story about artist freedom and prudishness, but I think the easier case could be made for communities being forced to deal with ridiculous sculptures of oversexed middle aged artists. It’s like the artist is an exhibitionist and what he flashes his stuff, tries to make it about you being a prude. Anyway, stuff like this makes me grumpy. Stick the goddamn stuff in a garden or something. Sculptures like Gormley and Serra who subject the public to their difficult work are jerks.

That’s Sex. Moving on to Death, Damien Hirst recently got into trouble for a work that consisted of killing flies. He really should avoid dead things and stick to what he is good at: money. Here he is burning his art to show art as currency. When it comes to money, that’s where his true talent lies. Stick to that, Damien.

Speaking of money and greed, you can read about how a company is trying to trademark a colour. Just what we need. We can thank Anish Kapoor for fostering that bad idea. Thanks, Anish.

How about some art and racism? Here’s a story of how art critics perpetuated racism with their reviews. And here’s a piece on a white artist stealing the work of a black photographer. Not surprising; still awful.

Then there is sexism, such as this: The female body under the female gaze poses a monster problem

Finally there is ridiculousness: artist asks $10,000 for McDonald’s burger ingredient flung to the ceiling.

Art can do many good things for us. But not everything about art is good, as these pieces show.

On the late great Claes Oldenburg

The great sculpture artist Claes Oldenburg died recently. He was a fine artist, and I was always pleased to see his Floor Burger sculpture when I went to the AGO in Toronto.  His work seems so pleasant and carefree now, but back in the day it provoked controversy.

For more on him, the Times has a good write up here, Claes Oldenburg Captured a Carefree (and Consumerist) America.

For a good review of some of his sculptures, check out this in the Guardian, Claes Oldenburg’s most incredible sculptures.

(Image is of Binoculars Building, a collaboration between him and Frank Gehry and taken by Bobak Ha’Eri)

On the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square in London

I am fascinated by the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square in London. While there has been many a fine artist and their work displayed there, I am especially glad to see the work Antelope by Samson Kambalu going up next. To see why I think so highly of it, read this: Anticolonial hero statue to occupy Trafalgar Square fourth plinth from September in The Guardian.

The Guardian has been covering the work that has been placed on that plinth for some time. You can read about that, here: Fourth plinth in the Art and Design section of The Guardian. I was recently in London and saw The End by Heather Phillipson and that was good, but I’d love to see this work by Kambulu.

To learn more about The Fourth Plinth, go here. It started off empty due to lack of funds for a sculpture of William IV to fill it. I’m glad that happened. Londoners and tourists have benefitted ever since. (No offense to William IV.)

My belief is that a statue of Elizabeth II will go there once she dies. We shall see. Meanwhile check out the various artists who have had pieces there.

 

On General Idea at the National Gallery of Canada


One of my  favorite Canadian artists are General Idea. Living in Toronto in the 80s and 90s, there work was often on display and often on my mind. If you want to see how great they are for yourself, the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa has a big exhibit of their work that is running until the Fall of 2022. Well worth a visit to take that in.

For details on it, go here: General Idea | National Gallery of Canada

On Fountain, and the power of Duchamp, a century later

I witnessed the power of Duchamp recently when I came across the above piece at Tate Modern in London. There was an show of surrealism with dozens of works, but that work, Fountain, had people stopping and talking as they came across it. The talk was a mix of shock and humour and admiration of the chutzpah of it.

Fountain is coming up on its centenary. Despite a century of art, this readymade still has the power to have people talk about art and aesthetics in a way few other pieces can do. It’s remarkable to me that an object so low in everyday status has such a high place in the history of art. Perhaps that’s part of its power. I think Duchamp would smile at that.

For more in the history of the piece, see this.

Still Life is underrated. Let this interactive piece help with that

Still life is underrated. You won’t see crowds of people blocking the view of paintings of food and drink and plates. That’s somewhat understandable, but also too bad. To help promote the greatness of this painting genre, I’d encourage people to take this in:  Dutch Still Life – an interactive guide from the New York Times. It’s a fantastic study of one painting and what it can tell us. What all still life can tell us, really. A feast.

(Above image of Dutch still life taken at the National Gallery in London by me.)

Two pieces on people Doing the Thing despite Difficulty

Some people find it motivating to see people doing the thing (in this case art and running) despite challenges. If that’s you, then you may find these pieces worthwhile:

I admire people struggling and working to do the thing they love, despite their physical challenges. But I don’t romanticize the physical challenge. And I wish them (and all of us) the best of good fortune in overcoming it.

On Cabaret, 50 years later

1972 was a very good year for film. Many of the films listed at that link are now seen as classics. One of them, The Godfather, is getting much of the focus this year for its 50th anniversary. While I’m glad people are revisiting and paying attention to that great film, another great film celebrating that milestone that people should also revisit is Cabaret.

Like The Godfather, Cabaret is a period film set in around World War II. Perhaps because of that, neither film feels dated / stuck in the 70s, the way a film like The Candidate might. You can watch them as if they were made in any decade. You can also watch and rewatch both of them because they remain great, half a century later.

To get a sense of what makes Cabaret so special, I recommend this piece: Cabaret at 50: Bob Fosse’s show-stopping musical remains a dark marvel. For fans like me, here are two pieces that allow you to do a deeper dive on the film and its background: 1) Is Bob Fosse’s Cabaret An Unfaithful Adaptation? | by Keith Schnabel | Medium and 2) That Controversial Cabaret Lyric Change – The Official Masterworks Broadway Site.

If you want to stream it but don’t know how, check this out: Cabaret streaming: where to watch movie online?

 

The Surprise of Rousseau (be surprising too)

Henri Rousseau is the Great Outsider. An outsider to the Establishment of the Art World, from the Salons to Picasso. Despite rejection and mockery, he persevered and painted and exhibited.

Recently the Guardian featured one of his masterpieces, Tiger in a Tropical Storm (also known as Surprised!). It is seen here. (That National Gallery link provides a nice interface you can use to zoom in and out of.) You can read more about the painting here. I highly recommend you check both of those sites out.

In some way Rousseau surprised his fellow artists. Artists like Picasso were fans but mocked him too. You can read about that here (Le Banquet Rousseau: Picasso and Rousseau’s Friendship) and here (When Henri met Pablo, The Guardian).

Keep Rousseau in mind whenever you are doing something you love with little encouragement and even mockery. You may not be making something great, but you never know. Keep going nonetheless. Surprise them.

 

 

 

On the great painter, Christopher Pratt

Last week the great painter and printmaker Christopher Pratt died.

I was going to say Canadian or Newfoundland painter — for he was that — but it is better to leave off the modifiers. His greatness can stand against any painter of any time or place.  I am especially drawn to his hyperrealist paintings of roads and boats and houses. How the light in them changes, how your mood changes as you absorb them. There’s an abstraction to them, despite clearly recognizable imagery.

I’ve been a fan of his ever since I read Jay Scott write so eloquently of him back in the late 80s, early 90s and which was captured in this book, The Prints of Christopher Pratt 1958-1991 by Jay Scott; Christopher Pratt – 1991.

Canada has had many great painters. While many people say Colville is their favorite — especially when it comes to east coast artists —  I have always preferred the work of Pratt.

Though he lived and painted in Newfoundland, for decades he’s been represented by the Mira Godard Gallery in Toronto. If you want to read more about him or see his fine work, go there.

(The image above, Summer on the SouthEast, is a link to the Mira Godard website. I can just feel the heat of the east coast summer as I look at it. I can hear the drone of flies, see the brightness of the sun. It’s perfect.)

 

 

The water works of Maya Lin


The last few days have been taken up with blogging about artists. Here’s one last one from Colossal: The Precious Nature of Water Ripples Through Maya Lin’s Sprawling Installations.

You may know Lin through her memorial work, but she is a brilliant artist as well. The image above is just a taste of her work featured in Colossal: you really want to go to that site to get the details.

After that, go visit her site for more fine work.

 

Six pieces on six fine artists


Sticking with yesterday’s them, here are seven good pieces on artists that I’ve read recently that are good and worth reading:

  1. Unlike the Basquiats, these art works of  Francis Hines really were found in storage and have been released to the public (hooray)
  2. This is a happy story:  Ernie Barnes’s Sugar Shack Painting Brings Big Price at Auction
  3. This is a sad one: Matthew Wong’s Life in Light and Shadow.
  4. David Shrigley is always interesting. I see his work everywhere on social media. You may have as well.
  5. Gilbert and George, here talking about their epic Covid artworks are also interesting, not the least because of their conservative views. Unlike most conservative artists, they’re brilliant.
  6. Last but not least,  Ema Shin. That beautiful image above is of her work. You can click on the link to see more of them and to learn what is the thought behind them.

On Basquiat and Recent Crimes

Basquiat has been in the news this week on account of two alleged crimes: theft and fraud. In the first instance, this “Brazen” Couple Tries to Walk Out of Manhattan Gallery With a Basquiat. Nice try, brazen couple.

The other alleged crime is fraud, although the owners of these works deny that in this instance: Is the Orlando Museum of Art Displaying Fake Basquiats?

All I can say is to anyone buying these “new” Basquiats: caveat emptor.

(Image from this tumblr, which has quite a few good images of the man, including the one above.)

July 1, 2022: update. Looks like the FBI have decided to step in and deal with the works at the Orlando Museum. You can read about that here and here.

Basquiat 101

People in New York City have the great pleasure of having not one but two exhibits dedicated to him at the moment. (Not to mention his works being on display at MoMA.) If you are not familiar with him or would like to know how to better appreciate him, this piece, How to Look at a Basquiat in The New York Times is worth a read. It’s like Basquiat 101.

Better still, read it and then go check out the shows.

On the Smiths and those album covers

The Smith’s were (are?) great for many reasons. One reason in particular was their album covers. Looks like the folks at NME agree, because they put together

an exhaustive guide to each and everyone of their 27 single and album releases’ sleeves, and what they mean

You can find here. Fans of the band will enjoy that. I did.

Speaking of the Smiths, this piece by Doug Coupland, Morrissey will never be cancelled is worth a read.

On Maud Lewis and the art world and Henri Rousseau too


This is an interesting but odd view of the great Canadian artist, Maud Lewis. It’s somewhat about her, but really it’s more about the art world and how they go about. In short, it’s about how the paintings that she used to sell for a few bucks to buy food are now worth many thousands of dollars. It proceeds to speculate if they will continue to go up in value.

I think it’s worth reading. Her life and work are interesting. I still don’t think the art world knows how to think or talk about her.

If anything, she makes me think of the work of Henri Rousseau. They didn’t quite know what to do with him either. But eventually they did. I think the same is happening with Lewis.

Regardless what they think, I hope you will think she is a fine artist and seek out her work. (And Rousseau’s.) Your life will be enhanced the more you know of their work.

(Image links from Canadian Art and ibiblio.org)

Jeff Koons, skiffle, and other things You may find interesting about art, May 2022

How to: If you want to make cartoons & comics but you have no idea where to start!, read that. If you want to draw a head, read How to draw a head: A complete guide. If you want some good books on art, there is this, 16 Best Books for Learning to Paint of 2022 and this Top 10 Best Books on Painting. Click these links if you want to draw fabric or draw glass. If you want to go to OCAD and study art, click on this or this.

Artists: if you want to read about artists, here some pieces on Jeff Koons, Marcel Duchamp, Keith Haring, James Castle‚ Richard Serra and Jeff Koons again.

Thinking: if you like to think about art, then you might want to read, is my art good enough, What Does It Really Mean to Make Art?, When art transports us where do we actually go? and 24 Hours in the Creative Life.

Music: if you prefer music over the visual arts, here’s some good stuff: Guitarist Randy Bachman Demystifies the Magical Opening Chord of The Beatles‚ Hard Day’s Night. Speaking of the Beatles, here’s a piece on Skiffle. And if that inspires you: How to Play Guitar Without Learning How to Play Guitar.

Writing: if your thing is writing, here’s a piece on Essay writing. This was fun: a defense of the em-dash. This may discourage you: No one will read your book. This may encourage you: Dagny Carlsson Centenarian Blogger Dies at 109.

P.S. The good rules you see above are from that link to Swiss Miss.

On Jim Jarmusch, the king (to me) of indie films

Last week I had to chance to watch a number of indie filmmakers back to back. Besides Jarmusch,  I saw Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” and The Coen Brothers “Hail, Caesar”.  (Not too long ago I also watched “The Squid and the Whale” by Noah Baumbach.)

He has a fair number of things in common with them  besides being an independent filmmaker. He can get big name actors to work with him and he often hires some of the same actors (Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Adam Driver).  He’s older and has a number of films under their belt. His films have  a certain deadpan style to them.

While they are all fine filmmakers, Jarmusch is my favorite. I especially enjoy his characters more than those of the other filmmakers. There’s something deeper in them. Anderson’s characters are often flat, while those of Birnbach are often unlikable to me. Characters in the films of the Coen Brothers are there to be tossed and smashed about like toys.

Artistry asid, one striking thing about his films is that they make way less than the other directors.  Their films can gross nine figures worldwide. For his latest film, he grossed 45 million. Not bad, but that is an exception.  More typical is a film like Mystery Train from the 1980s. It made under $400,000. Even adjusted for inflation, that ain’t much.  (More details, here: Jim Jarmusch – Box Office – The Numbers).

All of this is a long way of saying you should watch more of his films. His latest from 2019 is now on Netflix. If you need details, here’s A.O. Scott’s review: ‘The Dead Don’t Die’ Review: Zombies Gobbling Up Scraps of Pop Culture – The New York Times. I enjoyed it and I think you would too. See it if you have an evening free soon and check it out.  Besides Netflix, you can find his films streaming elsewhere on sites like the Criterion Collection.

I’ll close by leaving this quote from Adam Driver, who has been in a number of his films. In interviews with the cast about How Jim Jarmusch Made an All-Star Indie Zombie Movie, he said:

But at the same time, he’s one of the most unpretentious people. He always used to say on [the 2016 film] “Paterson,” “We have to get it right, because dozens of people watch my movies.”

I like that. Jim Jarmusch is a cool guy. He hires cool people and he makes great films with them. Join the dozens of us who love them and go watch some of them soon.

It’s time for spring cleaning. That includes the art on your walls. Here’s what you should do.

Art work for sale from 20x200
It’s spring cleaning time. No doubt you will be tossing out things from your house as you clean. While you clean and purge, consider tossing some of the things hanging on your walls* that you no longer look at because frankly you are tired of them.  (Yes, you are.)

Now that you have bare walls, I recommend you get some new art for them. If you are not sure where to do that, I recommend one of the sites listed here: 12 Great Places to Buy Art Online | Cup of Jo. I am a fan of one of them, 20X200.

Twelve is a great set of options to choose from, but let me make it a baker’s dozen by adding this place to the list: Art Interiors / Toronto Art Gallery. I’ve been a fan of Art Interiors for some time. They have fine art that’s affordable. If you live in Toronto, you can even visit their gallery. The people there are fine too.

Bonus: Another idea is to check out bigcartel. For example, I found this artist online and she has her work there:Painterlady.

* If you can’t bear to toss your old art, at least store them for awhile and freshen up your walls with new work. But do consider putting things out on the curb for someone else to have. For them it will be fresh and new and valuable. Everyone benefits.

(Image from a link to the blog Cup of Jo)

On Auden, Brueghel, and the brilliant way the New York Times combines them

I’ve posted before on The very cool AR/VR (augmented reality/virtual reality) section of the New York Times. That time it was concerning their exploration of the Apollo 11 mission.

The folks at that section have done it again, this time with a poem from W.H. Auden titled Musée des Beaux Arts. It’s a beautiful poem, and simply reading it by yourself is a fine experience. But click here and immerse yourself into it, with the richness of analysis provided, and you will come away with a deeper level of understanding and appreciation of the work both of Auden and Brueghel.

Five great links on three great (and one not so great) painters

  1. Duchamp:  I visited the Duchamp Research Portal and it is full of everything a fan of Duchamp like me would want. If you are a fan too, you have to check it out.
  2. Bacon: Francis Bacon: Man and Beast review. Bacon has a new show with a new angle and while I am not supportive of the review, I am highly supportive of new displays of Bacon’s work. If you can, check it out
  3. Hirst: Damien Hirst and the Art of the Deal. Unlike Duchamp and Bacon, I am not a fan of Hirst. I think this piece misses the point though. What Hirst is great at is not painting or sculpture. He is great at making money. That’s his art: money making.
  4. Thiebaud: Wayne Thiebaud Whose Paintings Were (Almost) Good Enough to Eat Dies at 101. RIP Mr Thiebaud. Unlike Hirst, you were a great painter who filled up the world with great paintings.
  5. Anonymous:  So many great paintings are actually painted by anonymous painters you never know. Here’s a good piece on them:  Without these assistants many famous artists would never complete their masterpieces.

(Image from atlasobscura.com)

On one of the best twitter accounts there is, Canadian Paintings

The twitter account devoted to Canadian Paintings is one of the best twitter accounts there is. Several times a day it will tweet out a great Canadian painting from artists famous and not so famous. It covers such a range of paintings too. Some days they will have something painted recently, other days something from decades ago. There are paintings from men and women, all regions, all eras, and just about every group of people in Canada you can imagine. I just love it.

Someone finally wrote about the account, and you can find it here: Canadian Paintings tunes out the noise of social media with its contemplative feed of visual art – Winnipeg Free Press

(Image from the Free Press article).

 

 

Happy Boxing Day! Go have a snowball fight! Here’s some inspiration!

Happy Boxing Day to those that celebrate. It’s always a good day to go outside after all the festivities of Christmas. If you are fortunate to have snow, maybe you can go have a (gentle) snowball fight. Either way, this link is a collection of Snowball Fights in Art (1400–1946) over at The Public Domain Review. Dive in.

 

 

Make art so you can appreciate art and the world around you

I love this from The Art of Noticing: TAoN #28: Make It Art . I encourage you to read it. You will soon be seeing “art” everywhere. Actually take the quotes off art: as Duchamp showed, once you put an object within a certain context, it becomes art.

Of course you can use your skills to make art in practical ways. Here’s 6 Reasons Why Making Art is so Good for You , in case you need encouragement.  If you need more guidance, the great Lynda Barry lectures  are captured here: Making Comics: Lynda Barry and Drawn & Quarterly Bring a Magnificent Lecture on Art to Life.

P.S. Many artists are underappreciated and usually obscure. Rockwell is underappreciated and well known. He needs to be appreciated more. Pieces like this can help: Opinion: Why Norman Rockwell left Thanksgiving Americana behind.

(Image above from here: A ‘Staircase to Heaven’ Installation Ascends into the Sky as a Trippy Optical Illusion)

 

On how to make a cover illustration for the New Yorker

What goes into making a cover illustration for the New Yorker magazine? Well if you are Adrian Tomine, quite a lot. In this piece he breaks down the process he followed to make the above cover, now famous: Making a Cover – by Adrian Tomine – ADRIAN TOMINE. He really puts a lot of thought into making such an image, and a description of the tools and materials that he uses as he works on different versions is interesting, especially to fellow artists, I’m sure.

 

What do Kent Monkman and Christopher Pratt have in common? (or what I find interesting in art, November 2021)

Well besides being Canadian artists, they are both featured in this post! 🙂

In addition to those great artists, here are other things I’ve found interesting in art recently.

Artists: Here’s a strong story: Julie Green Artist Who Memorialized Inmate’s Last Suppers Dies at 60 . I was really struck by this piece about her. She did important art and it’s well worth reading about her and her work. More on that here: Dish by Dish Art of Last Meals.

This was an amazing story: Art Enthusiast Spots Long-Lost Sculpture by Black Folk Artist in Missouri Front Yard. I liked this story:  The Gilded Age painter devoted to scenes of every-day life around him. Also this one was good:  A TikTok Subway Artist Finds His Way to the Lower East Side

This made me sad: Bernini Bust of a Woman He Abused Exhibited Alongside Photographs of Survivors . I have always been a fan of Bernini. That he was brutally cruel to Costanza Buonarelli (the woman who was the victim) is not something I can ever reconcile with how much I love his work.

This is a good little piece on a work by  KENT MONKMAN: “DANDY”. And here is a great study of how Christopher Pratt created one of my favorite works: Pedestrian Tunnel”.

How-to: I’ve been doing some drawing and watercolor these days. I’ve moved on from being a frustrated artists to actually making some basic art. This is a good tool for that: Free Interactive 3D Model for Drawing Figures Dynamic Poses and More Online Drawing Mannequin.

Relatedly, I found these useful. Here’s some good tips so you can get Better at Drawing. This helped: Learn how to draw a face in 8 easy steps: Beginners. So did this:  Draw a Self-Portrait. As did this: Human Anatomy Fundamentals: Basic Body Proportions .

I’ve been interested in multimedia, so I was into this: Using Acrylics in Collage, and this: How to Adhere Paper to Canvas, and also this: The Best Paint To Use For A Beautiful Collage Painting.

Music:  most of my art interest is visual, but I also like these music links:  Guitar Trainer by Acoustro, and The Complete Beginner Saxophone Course, 
and this 5 Minutes That Will Make You Love Bach.

Finally: this looks like a good book: Your Art Will Save Your Life

(Image is a link to the piece on Pratt.)

Something calming for a Sunday: the Zen Gardens of Yuki Kawae

Over at Colossal they have a good piece on the Zen Gardens by Yuki Kawae. Check it out: it could be just the thing to calm your mind.

For example, practice slow breathing and watch this:

 

On Barbara Kruger and her 2021 show

Barbara Kruger

There is a new show of Barbara Kruger’s work called: “THINKING OF YOU. I MEAN ME. I MEAN YOU.” It’s playing from now through to Jan. 24, 2022 at the Art Institute of Chicago.

I had a few thoughts on it. One thought: I believed I had two favorite artists from the 80s (Basquiat and Haring) but it turns out I have three (Kruger).  I had mistakenly not placed her in that era. But as the Times shows:

Since the early 1980s, the engine of her work, and its effectiveness, has been formatting — the candy apple red bar containing white sans serif type, rendered in Futura Bold Oblique, conveying aphorisms that could be taunts or pleas.

also

(her work started) much more humbly, as paste-ups made by hand, an extension of Kruger’s work as a graphic designer at Condé Nast magazines. Twenty of her 1980s originals are displayed in a suboptimally lit walkway. Up against the room-size works, they feel like modest afterthoughts. But up close they are deeply moving, almost innocent. Each juxtaposes a gnomic phrase with a stark black and white image, but at this scale, they scan more as private entreaties than global dictates — rave fliers for young agitators.

Second thought: just like Basquiat and Haring took their art from the street to the galleries and museums, so did Kruger.  And just like the two men, she is now a dominant part of our culture. Back to the Times:

And that underscores the complexity of revisiting Kruger at this moment in image dissemination: Her strict-rule paste-up approach to interrogating groupthink has become so defining, so signature that her innovations are now core grammar. Her art is recombinant. It exists whether or not she’s present.

Which brings me to my final thought. Sure it is easy to use elements of her work to mimic her (waves to the folks at Supreme). But looking at the work on display I can see it has power in a way that those who copy her do not. The scale, the colour, the composition: they all demonstrate the qualities she has as an artist that has made her influential and deserving of such a show.

For more, see the Times piece: Barbara Kruger: Infinitely Copied, Still Unmatched – The New York Times. Better still, go to Chicago and see the show while you can.

The wonderfully abstract sculpture of Louise Durham


Over at Colossal they have the stunningly beautiful sculpture of Louise Durham. Here’s their intro:

Based in the coastal town of Shoreham-by-Sea, England, artist Louise Durham creates towering wooden sculptures of reclaimed sea defense timber and vibrant stained glass. She embeds stripes and circles in a full spectrum of color within the totem-style works, which when illuminated, cast kaleidoscopic shadows on their surroundings. “It is all about the light,” she says. “That’s the magic of glass and the magic of all living things.”

In some ways they remind me of stained glass windows in churches. There is something spiritual to them, though in an abstract way. You can bring your own spirituality to them, whatever it is. Regardless, they are beautiful and a feast for the eyes.

You can find a selection of her work at Colossal, as well as on  her site and Instagram. Go and enjoy.

(Image via Colossal)