Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Blog Assignment No. 6: The 1st 30 Minutes of the Artist Book Project

Here's some work by John Currin, the featured artist for my Artist Book Project:

"The Cripple"

"The Old Fence"


"Honeymoon Nude"

"Blond Angel"

John Currin's work is relatively new. He received his MFA from Yale in 1986, in the 90s his bold paintings drew quite a bit of attention to him, and now his work is selling for millions.
His work is influenced by Renaissance figurative painting, 50s culture, politics, and social issues. Although I have not included any of them in the images above, Currin is known for his grotesque sexual paintings. These paintings depict people having intercourse, nude women with a feel of sensuality and eroticism. Those works had a huge affect on his popularity due to how contraversial they were. I'm sure that the raise of "political correctness" also had some to do with it.
What interests me about Currins work, is not just the beautiful rendering of his forms, but the way he distorts his figures. When he began to paint images depicting high social classes of people, the figurative distortion implimented seemed to speak to the distorted, scandalous life styles the ruling class lives that are so often capitalized in our media.

For my artist book project, I plan to create ten boards. These boards will consist of images and text on paper that are attached to black mat board. These boards will be hung in two rows of five on a wall, the wall acting as the containment of the book, and the mat board, alluding to its pages. The first board will have the title of the book and a recreation of one of his paintings. On the other pages, I plan to do my own figure drawings that are influenced by Currin's style, including portraits, nudes in various positions, and the like. For the sake of the CVA foundation program, I will not do draw any figures engaging in sexual intercourse. Currently, I'm not sure if I will do any paintings. I'm hoping that in my research I'll encounter some drawings that Currin has done. If they are to be actuall drawings, I've been thinking about doing them in graphite, soft pastel and watercolor.
The drawings will be orientated towards the left side of the page, and the text will be placed opposite the image and spaced out to create a rough sense of symetrical balance that is seen in Currin's paintings. the text will, for the first half, or so, of the book be concerned with biographical information. The last half, or so, of the text will concern itself with interpretation of Currin's work.

Images taken from artstor.org

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Blog Assignment No. 5: A Trip to The Walker.

Part One: Formal

"Red Yellow Blue III" (fig. 1) is obviously all about color. Formally speaking, that's it. Seeing this piece you are faced with nothing but three large canvases, each covered in one of the primary colors. All really one can do is stand a few feet away and become lost in these fields, shifting from one to the other, and, as I've covered in my last entry, feel the emotional reactions these bold colors arouse. If anyone ever asks you to give them an example of modernist art work, point them in this direction.

Part Two: Content

"Fountain (After Marcel Duchamp: A.P.)" (fig. 2) is a prime example of art that's content overshadows its form. This piece by Sherrie Levine, taken from Marcel Duchamp, has nothing to go on but content. First of all, it's just a gold plated urinal. Whoopty-doo. But this piece is pure postmodernist feminist art theory. Levine piggybacks off the work of renown male artists and changes the idea a little bit, or makes a copy of the piece and changes its placement, as we see above, et cetera. I believe, in this instance, that's she's spitting water at the privilege that allows male artists to call a urinal art and be taken seriously, where as a woman has to do something truly magnificent for anyone to do the same for her, even though a woman can call random objects art just as well as men. The only reason that I enjoy this art, despite my devotion to realism, is because it seems like the artist is just calling bizarre things, like urinals, art just to screw with people.; which I enjoy very much.

Part Three: The Lacking

This piece, "Gray Corner Piece" (fig. 3), although strong in formal qualities such as line, shape, positive and negative space, arguably value has really no content other than an experiment in optics. This is all fine and dandy, but that's really all there is. After quickly reaching my initial conclusions concerning this piece, I immediately lost interest because it is a tad dull.

Part 4: Form and Content

Here we have Chuck Close's "Kiki" (fig. 4). "Kiki" is filled with quite a few formal qualities that include shape found in the grid underlay, color of the random forms found in the individual squares of the grid, and line used to create the grid underlay itself. What makes this piece really neat is that formal qualities can be identified that are pure optical illusion when seen from a distance. For example: the color, value, and pixelated texture of this piece is simply made up of individual squares filled with seemly random spots of color and when viewed from a distance, the eye blends it all together so you see the image above. You can see below what I'm talking about in figure 5, a detail of the piece.

The content of this piece can be found in a small history lesson on Photorealism. Here goes: After Pop Art, there grew a response movement called Photorealism in the late 1960s. Chuck Close, an obvious Photorealist, made these gigantic portraits of people, but he chose to canonize people unfamiliar to the public or media with his monumental portraits in order to avoid the Pop Art that would've ensued if he painted famous people. This piece, and the many others like it, is also a major turn in Close's style of painting. this is why: in 1988 close became paralyzed from the neck down due to a spinal artery collapse. After some time, Close regained movement in arms and started painting again by taping a brush to his wrist. This severely limited his ability to paint as realistically as he did before, what he refers to as, "The Event." Although I enjoy to see all this in an piece, I would prefer to see more in the content category, which I try to achieve in my own work.

Part Five: My Two Cents on the Trip

Although I enjoy trips to the Walker and find the work interesting and fun to think about, there is nothing much there that I am truly passionate about and nothing that really inspires me to create art of my own. Being a realist, I enjoy spending time at the M.I.A. a bit more. I also find that the art shown at The Walker doesn't challenge any views on art that I harbor. I'm pretty accepting of all forms of art and willing to spend time considering them, except for contemporary mixed media art which I really, really, really don't like at all. (That's because the majority of it appears to be just craft. In my opinion, the artists are just "making things." But that's a whole other topic on its own and I'm not nearly in mood to rant about it. Anyway.) These reasons are why I neglected to select an image to talk about for this last part. Nothing really moved me in any profound way.

Image Citations:

Figure 1
"Red Yellow Blue III," 1966
Ellsworth Kelly
70.5 x 70.125 inches each
Oil on Canvas

Figure 2
"Fountain (After Marcel Duchamp: A.P.)," 1991
Sherrie Levine
14.5 x 14.25 x 25 inches

Figure 3
"Gray Corner Piece," 1970
Fred Sandback
72 x 72 inches
Elastic Cord

Figure 4
"Kiki," 1993
Chuck Close
100 x 84.125
Oil on Canvas

Figure 5
"Kiki" detail

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Blog Assignment No. 4

This morning's topic is "Unpainted Sculpture" by Charles Ray. Let me tell you a story: Once upon a time this artist-fellow, named Charles Ray, bought a demolished Pontiac from an auction. The Pontiac he bought looked just like the one in the picture above. Then Charles Ray took it completely apart and made fiberglass casts of each piece, each little painstaking piece. Then he put it back together, painted it gray (which is funny because of the title), and got the mess you see above. The end.
So other than the obvious pain-in-the-ass the process probably was, you might find yourself wondering: so what's the big deal? It's just a completely trashed car. Well, let's do a little experiment. Take a look at this car:

Now look back at "Unpainted Sculpture." Now look at them again, and one more time just for the hell of it. What do you notice? What is the major difference between these two images? Emotion.
Usually when people see a wrecked car, or an image of one, there is some sort of emotional reaction that takes place. The reaction could be one of depression, pity, or even excitement. However, when you look at "Unpainted Sculpture," chances are, you experience no emotional reaction. Why is this? Could it be because you're looking at something that you know is supposed to be art? Because you're getting a secondhand look at disaster? Though these are all valid reasons, I believe the main reason is because of color. That's right, color. It's a proven fact that certain colors provoke psychological reactions in people. Typically you'll find that cool colors arouse calmer feelings and warm colors arouse more energetic feelings. A few examples: Blue can make people feel calm, where yellow can make people feel more aggressive. People in a blue room are less likely to argue than if they were in a yellow one. Red is an interesting one because not only are its effects psychological, but it can even have physical effects. It can raise someone's heart rate and is even said to make people hungry. Hence fast food companies using it in their logos.
So what am I getting at? Charles Ray chose to paint his sculpture of the demolished Pontiac gray because of its effects on people. Gray is a neutral color and raises indifference and boredom because--well, gray is boring when standing up against other colors. Look at the two images again: the completely and utterly destroyed van V.S. the gray Pontiac. The image of the van causes some reaction with the completely smashed front, bent up frame, and shattered windshield. You wonder about the situation of the crash: what happened to the driver? How did the crash happen? Where as, because of the gray, "Unpainted Sculpture" just becomes something to look at in passing with no particular care, unless you admire the meticulous process of its assembly. That's what "Unpainted Sculpture" is, a psychological experiment.

Image citations:

Unpainted Sculpture, 1997
Charles Ray
Fiberglass and paint

Van image taken from: http://www.physics.hku.hk/~phys0607/images/crash1.jpg

Monday, September 28, 2009

Blog Assignment No. 3: "Tulsa" from "The Secret Life of Objects" at Miday Contemporary Art

"Tulsa" is a body of photographs on silver gelatin print taken by Larry Clark. The forty-four total photo graphs are all black and white, 11''X14'', and, despite their variation in between vertical and horizontal orientation, form, an overall rectangle on the wall.
According to the International Center Of Photography's information on a Larry Clark Exhibition, on, which can be found here on their website, the photographs were "taken in three protracted series between 1963 and 1971." (par. 1)
Looking at all of photographs, I felt a little overwhlemed, mainly due to subject matter, but also because it seemed hard to pick out the formal elements of the principles or art and design. But after continued veiwing, I began to pick out an overall sense of unity amoung them. All were black and white, had the same amount of contrast, and the same size. This is all about light, contrast, and value. Although orientation varied, it did not take away from this unity (which one might call unity within variety). There was also untiy and repitition amoung subject matter.
While I gazed at this monumental collection of work on the white wall of the Midway Contemporary Art gallery, I was dragged into the house in Tulsa, Oklahoma and stood in the midst of Clark's world of sex, violence, and drug use that occurred there. The snap shots of all this bore down on me and leave me strangely interested instead of anxious or disgusted, as some might have been. It almost makes a person feel guilty for being so enthralled with these raw images. I found myself curious as I stares at a middle-aged man, smoking a cigarette and lightly holding a baby wrapped in a blanket, or a young man sitting shirtless on a bed, holding a gun, looking away from the camera with the facial experssion of a young hollywood rebel, or the myraid of naked women shooting up herion while enagaging in sexual acts. I couldn't help but wonder what day to day life was like in this house: who owned it?; how many people legitamately lived there?; did anyone have a job?; why are there babies in the house? These questions pressed my mind as I kept gazing, my eyes shooting between images, pausing briefly at the ones that caught my attention. As I continued on thinking about these images, I began to ponder what does all this has to say. Could Clark be telling us that we all have the potential to reach this dark side of humanity be baraiding us with these photographs? Is it a warning? Is he saying that it's harder to achieve a successful life than to throw away everything and spend your days in a drug induced blur? But even that life can be a hard one. One must worry about getting their next high; when money is low, getting that next high becomes a desparate enough goal that you may engage in violence and demeaning sexual acts. Maybe Clark is just stating the facts. Maybe he's just saying that this is going on and this is the way that it is, interpertations are open.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Blog Assignment No.2, "Mining the MIA"

What I was primarily interesting in finding at the Minneapolis Institute of Art were examples of figurative work over the years. We were to take photographs of a few pieces and, with them juxtaposed differently then they were in the Institute itself, analyze the "conversation" between them that arouse. Although I'm terribly interested in the pieces themselves, I found myself more curious about the great differences they held. I was pretty sure an interesting conversation about art movements could arise from them as well.
Let's start with this familiar face:

This is "Frank" by Chuck Close (1969) done in Acrylic paint, something not often seen in figurative work. Close uses a grid system to create his paintings from a photograph and uses an air brush to apply the paint to the canvas. He uses a razor blade to cut into the paint to get fine lines to describe hairs, or wrinkles, or whatever. Close was considered to be a Photorealist. (Goddamn, right!) This was a small movement that took place in the 60s and 70s as a reaction to Pop art, so it's safe to say that Photorealism was a postmodernist thing. However, one could make the argument that Photorealism could be considered a little on the modernist side because, although it has heavy emphasis on subject matter, is all about the paint.

Next we have a piece by Egon Schiele:

This is "Portrait of Paris von Gutersloh", 1918, done in oil. This subject of this piece seems crazed sitting there with his claw like hands awkwardly in the air. The tone of the ambiguous background really matches that of the subject's emotional state. Let me provide you with a detail of this piece that really allows you to better see the brush work:

Although any images of this piece does not do it a bit of justice, from what we have here, you can see the messy brush strokes and mingling drab colors and how they lends themselves to the erratic state the subject is in. This interpretation does gray the line between modernism and postmodernism, with equal emphasis on the subject matter, but based on the date of this piece and the paint work, I'm sure we can lean towards modernism.

This next piece was done several years later by Milton Avery, in 1940:

As a realist painter, when I look at this, I really don't know what to think. Realistically, this piece is highly lacking. but what do we have? This is "Seated Nude" done in oil in a modernist era. If we were to look at this as a contour line study, we have very elegant lines, despite them being grossly hyperbolic. Other than that, everything is very flat (no rhyme intended). Although the value of the figure suggests depth it is, again, very flat. The only that suggests the figure is really even seated are the dips in her thigh, but other than that value has not been used for any sense of grounding. It's much like a field painting. The paint has been applied to look very uniform so it is hard to see brush strokes, but despite that, we can still draw a line towards modernist paint experimentation. No pun intended.

And finally (finally) we have "Head of a Young Woman" by Pierre Auguste Renior:

This piece was done in the late 1800s in oil. Although done in the late 1800s, we can still see that this was before modernism; that's right, this was Impressionism. We can really see, however, the influence work like this had on modernism. We can link the Impressionists love of brush work to that of the modernists. Here, I'll show you:

Although, you can see a distinct difference in paint application between the two movements. In this piece, the paint was treated more like soft pastel than oil. We see hard edges, but like soft pastel, the individual strokes are blurred together. But despite the visual distortion up close, standing back, the images comes together as incredibly realistic, something we've seen before in Jenny Saville's work.

So what do we have? We have here, four pieces placed side by side in an imaginary gallery that show definite change in art movement. All these pieces, placed in chronological order of completion, are approximately 30 years apart. Although they can be categorized into different art theories that dictate what they're all about, one thing is still a constant: Painting is still all about paint. We see an example from Impressionism, that focuses on subject, but the paint still has its emphasis. We have two very different works from the Modernist era may clash with the modernist idea of "just paint" but they still show interesting brush work. Then we have a photorealist piece, coming from a movement that isn't supposed to like the idea of Modernism, but despite the overwhelming emphasis on subject matter, uses paint in a total and completely different manner.
For me, anyway, this brings up a philosophical question: Why do we have to put ourselves into labels? Is it for understanding? Self-validation? Who knows... Looking at the pieces, especially the first three (those are easier because they're all more accessible for my generation), I see differences within a movement. Schiele and Avery are dabbling in subject matter within a movement all about paint, and Close--well, he just kind of came out of no where. But the question that this brings up is now, is: where artists caught in a movement trying to escape it? Or where they all thinking similarily. I think only time can help me answer this one. I, myself, am probably caught in a new art movement right now and totally unaware of it. The only thing I think I could do would be to evaluate the remnants of postmodernism, my work, and the work of new active artists around me. But I think I can be certain of one thing in the years, and movements, to come: Painting will always be about the paint.

All photographs taken by William Lindau at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, 2009.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Blog Assignment No.1, Part 2

I forgot to mention: Here's the citation for the image of "Hyphen" in my last post, "Blog Assignment No.1."

Jenny Saville
Oil on canvas
9x12 feet

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I've been assigned to blather on a bit about a piece, and I have chosen this one: "Hyphen," by Jenny Saville. She is by far my favorite artist and "Hyphen" is pretty high up on my list of "Paintings that I think are pretty neat."
I wanted to talk about this piece for my first assignment because, as stated above, of my admiration of Saville and her work. Not to mention that, I'm sure if I ever saw this piece in real life I would probably immediately cream my pants in admiration. I own a book with a lot of her work in it, and I can barely contain myself while looking at the close up photos that really allows you to see the brush strokes.
I know what you're thinking, and the answer is "no."
That's just plain weird.
I don't think that I'm going to go into much of an analyzation because this assignment doesn't really call for that, and that's a good thing because Saville's work, especially the early stuff like this one, has a lot to do with Feminist Theory. Before you get angry: I'm not trying to bash Feminism, I'm just saying that it is fortunate that I don't have to analyze it because I am a guy. And being a guy, my capability to properly analyze Feminist Theory is about as good as a roofer's shot at being a proctologist.
Anyway, aside from Feminist Theory, which dominates most of Saville's early work, she works a lot with paint itself. Her later work provides better examples of this, works like "Passage," and "Torso 2," but they seem to loose their realistic quality, which I am most interested in. But I feel that this "realistic quality" is something that Saville grew less interested in as her interest in paint itself grew. "Hyphen" is however, a prime example of her ability to combine abstract brush work and realism.
Saville thinks of paint as flesh and uses it accordingly. Looking at "Hyphen" you can see the seemingly frantic, bold brush strokes and how they, despite their untidiness, inform the shape of the faces allowing you to really see their form. All of this really shows our own patches of flesh poured over our bodies. The brush strokes themselves could also speak to the imperfection of our flesh and bodies, which is another theme that can be identified in Saville's work.
The color choices found in the analogous scheme of this piece also present the illusion of flesh, especially in the possible use of burnt sienna and blue mixed with white to present, although subtle, the value of skin. This drab color, juxtaposed, with the warmer vibrant colors is just like the wide ranges of colors that can be found in everyone's flesh.
As previously stated, "Hyphen" is just one of my favorite examples of Saville's work, and although this was not very in depth, I would like to invite anyone who's interested to check out more of her work because it is all really neat. Her work has evolved quite a bit since the early 90s when Charles Saatchi bought her senior show, in its entirety, and set her career on its way. I am quite interested to see where she goes next.

Blog Introduction

I'll say it out right: I never thought it would come to this, and by "this," I mean blogging.
I feel like a hypocrite, to tell you the truth. I've rejected blogging for quite some time due to various reasons. One of the big reasons is because the internet is full of self-righteous idiots throwing their opinions around in blogs without out so much as a cited source anywhere.
Now I really feel like a hypocrite.
I often hear people talk about things they have read on blogs; crazy things like, "Obama is trying to shut down the internet," or, "to prevent pregnancy, stand on your head and drink a 12 ounce glass of cold water," or-- well, I'm sure you get the idea. After hearing people talk about these things, I am a.) nearly certain that they've confused the blog with 4chan, but primarily b.) amazed and saddened that they have taken what they have read for fact.
I suppose this all sumounts to my dissapointment in the ignorance of people. And believe me, I'm not trying to say that I'm better than anyone. I'm just as ignorant as everyone else, I'm just more sneaky about it. But I'm sure there are bloggers out there who do what the hell they're talking about.
Anyway, since I have to start this blog for one of my classes, I'll say this:
To any readers: I plan on only addressing things I know as fact (except for a few jokes), and if you're unsure about the validity of anything I say, you can either assume that it is gospel truth or complete bullshit.