Collage it

My best friend loves movies and all of the incredibly beautiful people in them. A couple of summers ago she set to collecting cutouts of her favorite actors and comedians from magazines, and after a while she collaged them onto this massive sheet of purple paper – hundreds of photoshop-perfected faces looking out at you with adorably quirky smiles and teeth whiter than humanly possible. They covered the entire wall, thousands of eyeballs making one-way eye contact. After a while it felt like I was best friends with Tina Fey and Aziz Ansari, but only one very specific, perfected version of them.

Cannon by Julien Pacaud. From artchipel here.

Everyone has made a collage at least once in their life, just like we all turn our hands into turkeys for Thanksgiving as a kid. So usually when I see art with “collage” listed as the medium, to me it just kinda seems like the artist was lazy and quit after the collecting ideas phase, because I find there’s always something lacking from art that didn’t come directly from the artist’s hand. If you’re just altering and combining things then how are you creating?

But while researching an article (that will be my first ever in PRINT! -so glad I made it before the industry died;) I found a number of collage or collage-type artists whose work is really powerful.

Funny Games by Julien Pacaud. From artchipel here.

Even though they’re not sketching the images themselves, they’re collaging ideas, creating something new and unexpected. A lot of the times the works gain significance because some of the pieces come from older forms of media that we’re now all nostalgic over.

Julien Pacaud‘s work uses this kind of nostalgia to its advantage, creating surreal thought-provoking scenes that seem to exist in multiple dimensions. “Funny Games” casts giant children onto a vast grass landscape, gripping guns in one hand and toys in the other.

Pacaud is a French artist and illustrator who uses his work as a way to allow viewers “to transcend and transform their world as surreal qu’onirique (dream).”

All the Sun that Shines by Richard Vergez

Richard Vergez‘s work collages on a more conceptual level, the images often left without a background to prevent idea-interference. The backgrounds are not only blank, but a warm cream color, like that of older magazines that have yellowed gracefully.

“I make collages inspired by post-punk, Dada, and Surrealism,” said Vergez. “Loose Cannon” shows the figure of a man walking, but with thick blue cloud of smoke rising from his jacket collar instead of a neck and head and billowing out of the frame He walks across his white, empty landscape casually, a universal representation of the internal mini-freakouts when we miss a deadline or forget a payment. The kind we all hope no one notices.

Loose Cannon by Richard Vergez.

Be Frank With Me by Jordan Clark.

Jordan Clark was selected as one of the four artists for SCOPE New York’s Breeder Program showcasing this May, a program now in its 13th year of introducing emerging artists and galleries to the contemporary market. His works are more simple; pixelated portraits of some of history’s most recognizable men and vast landscapes interrupted by a central out-of-place element. Inverting conventions the way Clark does wouldn’t be possible without collage.

Car Ma Ged Don by Jordan Clark.

If you’re a collage artist or a big fan of one, comment with a URL so we can all find new kinds of image & concept convergence.

Election night special!: Purple Art? A review of "Party Headquarters" at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery

Happy Election Day! I hope everyone didn’t have to wait too long in line. This was the first presidential election I’ve ever been able to vote in, so I’ve been excited all day, feverishly posting on Seeing Politics.

I’ve been spending a big portion of my time recently considering this election and the issues surrounding it, I reviewed and interviewed artists and the curator of the Pratt Manhattan Gallery’s new show, “Party Headquarters: Art in the Age of Political Absurdity.” I was really affected by the art in this show, and have been trying to get this piece published but so far have had no luck.

So in honor of election day, please enjoy learning about what 14 artists have to say about all the hullabaloo:

One Trick Pony, Jerry Kearns
Acrylic on canvas, 2012

A pretty bored-looking Jesus is slinging his guns around out in the cosmos while armed Middle Eastern travelers climb mountains in the background. Jerry Kearn’s painting, “One Trick Pony” is more than six square feet of acrylic irony that pairs comic book graphics with Jesus’ face painted in a 16th century fresco style. The bright colors grab your attention and the subject matter doesn’t let it go, no matter how much any ordinary American Christian would be offended.

Right now this painting is sitting at the end of a gallery room filled with other startling artworks as part of the Pratt Manhattan Gallery’s new show, “Party Headquarters: Art in the Age of Political Absurdity.” Larry Litt and Eleanor Heartney have been curating a gallery of political art for every national, state, and sometimes even mayoral election in New York for the past 20 years, but in 2012 it’s all about the money; money in oil paintings, money in acrylics, and dollar bills cut up into their own little money collages.

“There’s a certain deviousness to the money in politics now,” Larry Litt said on opening night.

Duke Riley’s “Idiocracy (from the Greek ‘idiot’)”
Photo taken on opening night, 2012

Fourteen artists each gave their own interpretations on the state of things, and although you’d expect an Obama-rama from northeast artsy urbanites, nearly every piece criticized the system as a whole and sometimes just questioned establishments themselves, like “One Trick Pony’s” exploration of how our concept of Jesus has evolved over time. The more current political works always cast blame on both sides equally. There’s Gretta Pratt’s “Liberty Wavers,” a collection of photographs featuring low-income Americans in the same silly Statue of Liberty costume, and Mark Wagner’s money collages, cut up dollar bills with scenes or written messages like “Blood in the Water” and “Gaming the System.” Perhaps the one exception of partisanship is Peter Saul’s acrylic painting of a giant Newt Gingrich who is fist fighting little orphan Annie. Her little puppy even throws up all over Rush Limbaugh’s head in the corner.

The opening reception of “Party Headquarters” was bustling with artists and admirers, and the recessing rectangular gallery space just managed to fit all those people comfortably. The artists were excited to see their work so well received, and the show featured everything from installation sculpture and oil painting to photography and mixed media, so everyone seemed able to find something in their favorite medium that resonated.

Liberty Wavers, Gretta Pratt
Photographic installation, 2010-2012

The sun was setting throughout the reception, letting warm light flood the white walls and columns down a gallery space that bottle-necks at the window end, and culminates in “One Trick Pony” that stands alone, stretching across the entire back wall. Besides these truly massive works, the other pieces were clustered together in arranged framed collections, featuring multiple works by the same artist from the same sort of series. The overall effect suited the space well; you were able to get to know each artist a little more – an important quality in a gallery with fourteen different opinions competing for attention.

Hooray for Progress, Jade Townsend
installation/sculpture, 2011

In the center of the room stands a mini-popup tent that’s shaped and decorated like a Greek temple, and a table within it held four neat stacks of paper. It’s actually a functioning voter registration booth/art work called “Idiocracy (from the Greek ‘idiot’)” by New York artist Duke Riley, placing a real part of the democratic process within a reimagined Greek temple, updated for our new speedy lifestyles. Although I didn’t see anyone go near those forms on opening night, the artist’s description of the makeshift temple ends with real voter motivation: “Just as Aesop’s great fable ‘The Bat, the Birds and Beasts’ will tell: SOMETIMES YOU JUST GOTTA PICK A TEAM AND PLAY ON IT,” stressing that regardless of how disconnected we might feel from those who represent us, not voting undoes centuries of progress.

I spoke to the Pratt’s guest curator Larry Litt at the opening reception, who looked like he couldn’t have been more pleased with the turnout at the event. He was buzzing around, kissing cheeks in between answering my questions, excited to talk about this project he was still so passionate about after twenty years.

Newt Gingrich vs. Orphan Annie, Peter Saul
Acrylic and alkyd on canvas, 1995

He said this year was different from all the others though, mostly because of how corrupt our campaign finance laws have become. Although some pieces in the show diverged, most did seem to have a similar message: money is ruining everything and we’ll never get anywhere if we keep letting it. Larry talked about the fact that no one wants to donate now because your $10 or even $1,000 will be drowned out by billions and billions of donations on the other side, so only those willing to shell out six figures or more have any sort of say, because you know, money equals speech. He seemed really concerned about this exclusion of the American public from their own government and passionate about doing something to fix it. 

“We feel that this is what we can give back to the art world,” he said, going on to explain how important it is that there’s productive discourse about all the terrible places where our politics have gone wrong. Although he admitted that the artists themselves were predominately liberal, he stressed that the pieces themselves aren’t partisan, because it’s that very divide between red and blue that is stopping all the progress we could be making – and the American people know it, even if Washington is still covering it’s eyes with dollar bills.

If you’re interested in publishing, I have also written in-depth interviews with two of the artists from “Party Headquarters,” Michael D’Antuono and Jade Townsend.

For more pictures of the gallery, check out my Flickr set here.


Times Square Art Square 2012

Times Square Art Square is this fantastic art organization that’s working to replace the billboards in Times Square with dedicated art installations for one whole year of every month. I’m not sure if that means the art will replace the lights or have to incorporate them, but it’s also working to conserve energy so at the very least I imagine the artworks will involve less light.

This is the ultimate goal of the organization – right now they’re raising money on Kickstarter and going through the proper permit channels to be allowed a semi-permanent takeover of Times Square. According to their FAQ page their hoping to be able to launch something in spring 2013 so fingers crossed!

Wouldn’t you much rather see beautiful art on an impossibly large scale instead of girls dancing in American Eagle jeans and Coke bottles fizzing? It’s interesting to compare the two tourist spots: iconic ad-ridden places like Times Square and museums or galleries like the Met. I imagine the way people think they ought to view the two outings would be very different. After all, you go drinking in Times Square and enter with hushed tones in most museums. But either way you’re looking, and you’re there to look – and if people were more laid back in museums the way they are in Times Square I bet more people would actually want to go. No Elmos or other costumed creepers allowed.

For more check out the Times Square Art Square site here.
Donate to the project through their Kickstarter page here.

Art thieves in real life: Rotterdam

The empty space where Matisse’s “La Liseuse en Blanc et Jaune” used to be.
Next to a painting by Maurice Denis.

Turns out the life of an art thief might not be all that glamorous after all. The problem with stealing something so rare, is that it can be very hard to get rid of when it’s something everyone is looking for, plus close to impossible to sell for all the money it’s really worth.

In the recent heist at the gallery in Rotterdam, the thieves stole seven works by Picasso, Monet, Gauguin, Matisse, and others estimated at being worth more than $100 million at auction. This article today on Fox News doubts whether the thieves even have a plan. If they don’t the works they stole can become more of a burden that they were worth to steal in the first place.

“Reading Girl in White and Yellow”
Stolen Matisse work from 1919 

One illegal art trafficker tried for 20 years to sell a statue of Nero’s mother stolen from Pompeii before it was announced as recovered last Thursday.

After drugs and illicit arms sales, art theft is the third most profitable crime in the world. A lot of stolen art is never found, and experts say that for criminals with connections, the lesser known pieces hardly have any trouble making a return for the thief who stole it.

But according to a recent CBS article, these thieves weren’t the savvy type, and mostly managed success through brute force, yanking the paintings from the walls, leaving only white space and broken hanging wires behind.

“Charing Cross Bridge, London”
Stolen Monet from 1901

They set off the alarm at 3am on Tuesday morning, and even though officers were on the scene within five minutes, the thieves were already gone. Some say this is probably due to the location of the gallery, placed right next to three main highways. Tire tracks were visible outside the emergency exit that played a part in the supposed getaway route.

Twenty-five officers have been assigned to the case but right now the getaway car hasn’t been found and there are no suspects. The Kunsthal museum was shut down only the day of the theft. The director of the museum, Emily Ansenk released this as a part of her statement Tuesday:

“These are unique works which have already been exhibited all over the world, are well documented and were now being exhibited together for the first time ever. We, the Kunsthal, and the Triton Foundation Board are deeply shocked by what has happened, but we will not allow it to defeat us. We have all decided that the exhibition will go ahead as usual tomorrow.”

All images from this NYTimes slideshow.

Google, what’s my masterpiece? Round two: Jacques-Louis David

Even though Jacques-Louis David (pronounced Daaav-EED, I know, it’s French and weird) was considered to be the greatest painter of the 18th century. A Frenchman who worked mostly in a neoclassicist style, he’s not much discussed in my art history classes aside from “the guy who painted ‘The Death of Marat’.”

Surprisingly though, his history painting “Oath of the Horatii” is what comes up first under his Google artwork page, depicting a scene in early Rome where three brothers agree to sacrifice their lives for the city, placing civic loyalty over everything else. These historical themes were useful for David, as a vehicle to actively support the French Revolution, since loyalty to state is what’s most important here too.

“The Death of Marat,” number two for David according to Google, also has ties to the Revolution and is said to be the most well-known image that came from it. Jean-Paul Marat was a French revolutionary leader and journalist who had a skin condition that was helped by a bath. Which is why here he lies in the tub, holding out a piece of paper that in French reads, Because I am unhappy, I have a right to your help.”

Marat was stabbed in the bath by his political enemy Charlotte Corday who did not bother fleeing and was eventually tried and executed for his murder. You can’t see her here in the painting, but her name is also written on the piece of paper Marat holds, as he’s writing with his last breaths – a martyr for the Revolution.

Napoleon Crossing the Alps comes in at number three for David on Google, showing the breadth of his political alignment throughout his career and life – he aligned with the new ruler after being imprisoned.

Oath of the Horatii, 1784, Louvre

Death of Marat, 1793,  Royal Museums of the Fine Arts of Belgium

Napoleon Crossing the Alps, 1800, Château de Malmaison

And now it’s a happy art history Sunday!

My weekend wrapup: Picasso & Bernini

This weekend was a busy one. So much art in so little time wears me out, and I’m a firm supporter of the Put-More-Benches-In-Museums Movement, but the ones that the museums actually do have are never at great vantage points anyway. On Saturday we saw the Picasso Black and White exhibit at the Guggenheim and this morning it was the Met’s new Bernini: Sculpting in Clay show. I’m taking a whole class on the latter, which made it cool to actually be able to put all that tuition money to good use.

Picasso Black and White was a whole lot of the same, but not in a bad way – they almost saturate you in his shapes and forms till you feel like you have to shake it off to keep your face from getting out of whack. And although most of it was kept to the two shades listed, there were quite a few works that were colored everything from purple to blue to yellow, to the point where it might have been more appropriate to call it Picasso in Monochrome – although I suppose “black and white” sounds classier.

Pablo Picasso, The Maids of Honor (Las Meninas, after Velazquez)
August 17, 1957

Most of the pieces were profiles of women or girls “seated” or “reclining,” and it was so interesting to see him move from beautiful realist portraits to skewed, geometricized, sexualized ones, as his interpretation of the human form grew into abstract shapes both two and three dimensional. The three dimensional ones were some of my favorite, where the profile was constructed as a grouping of deep shapes, stacked and hanging on top of each other, sometimes with little eyes peeping out from somewhere unexpected and usually an obvious nose protruding.

Diego de Velazquez, Las Meninas, c. 1656

There were also beautiful renditions of compositions taken from artists that came before him, like “Las Meninas” by Velasquez and the “Rape of the Sabines”story that so many artists have interpreted since Rome’s founding. So many of the pieces looked like the roughest of sketches too, and some were only completed on one half of the canvas. The whole time I couldn’t stop wondering what Picasso would think of this great triumph he’s been built up into; if he’d be proud or embarrassed that all of us were looking at something he made on an unconscious whim that was never intended as a finished product.

They do a pretty good job letting you know that in the exhibit, but it still feels like so much of it is prep work for masterpieces we can’t see.

Bernini: Sculpting in Clay was a whole different universe of art – although both exhibits are heavily idolizing one individual’s contribution to the scene. It could just be because his 17th century time period can’t help but leave him wrapped up in mystery, but I’d choose Bernini over Picasso when it comes to inherent talent. I wish he could’ve lived in a different era though, outside the pope’s reign of power, but maybe then it would’ve turned out much differently and he wouldn’t have had the resources he did to create all that he was able to.

Faun teased by putti

This exhibit is the best you can do without actually going to Rome – on the wall are giant black and white photographs of the massive sculptural programs that actually made it into the palazzos and churches in Rome, out of the bozzetti planning stages on paper and in terracotta before you. The gallery is laid out underground, with two rows of lights above strategically pointed at each glass case containing a little red-brown masterpiece.

The curators did a really great job explaining everything to the viewer. You can see the thought process behind each piece as it develops from sketches to bozzetti to the giant black and white photographs on the walls. Because the sculptures are in the middle and the sketches are hung on the walls, the gallery ends up grouped into little clumps of the same character or type.

The angels that line the back aisle of the exhibit was one of my favorite groupings, since walking through these sculptural pairs that face each other and face you creates the greatest sense of environment, giving you one little glimpse of how it woulda-coulda-shoulda felt to see these pieces in all their finished-product marvelousness in Rome.