Empty picture frames at the White House

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Art That Makes You Go "Huh?", Photo of the day, Political Art

I was watching some political coverage on CNN last night about President Obama’s last night at the White House and the transition for President-elect Donald Trump, when this image of empty picture frames popped up on the tv screen. They explained that there had been pictures of President Obama there, and they had been removed in advance of Trump’s moving in today (this view is in the West Wing. The Oval Office can been seen down the hallway).

It struck my curiosity in a couple ways: how many pictures of himself did Obama have hanging around the White House? Is it just me, or does it seem a bit strange to have galleries of images of yourself in your residence?

On a more-practical level, did they really have to unframe everything? Does this mean that these picture frames are always here, waiting for each President to load up with pictures of themselves? I know there are plenty of things accumulated by the Presidents over the years that must remain in the White House as permanent property, it just seems weird to me that a bunch of simple black picture frames need to stay on the wall.

Obama removed his pictures and left these empty frames at the White House

Hair of the Presidents drawing needs an update

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Art and Fashion, Art project, Historical Figures in Art

Back in 2010, artist Christina Christoforou published an Op-Art piece in the New York Times which featured the hair of the Presidents, minus the faces … a fun illustration which forces the viewer to determine how many Presidents one can identify by just their hair.

It would seem, on the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration as 45th President of the United States, that this focus on Presidential hair deserves an update, considering the Donald has some of the most-outrageous hair of them all. I’ve picked out a few of my favorite Presidential hair portraits by Christoforou (in black and white, below), followed by a trio of Trump hair portraits that I just found online. Click here to see Christina Christoforou’s original drawing with all 44 Presidents leading up to Trump.

A little help with ID for the “Heads of State” below – from top left, going row by row: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama, followed by our threesome of Trump heads.

Presidential hair drawings

Science experiment sculpture shaped by chance

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Art project, Art That Makes You Go "Huh?", Artist Methods, Sculpture, Videos

Here’s a series of sculptures by artist Dylan Lynch that have an interesting process. They are smashed-up 55-gallon oil drums, but there’s something unusual about the process in which they are crushed. It’s a very scientific process, not accidental at all … scroll down for more.

oil drum sculptures by Dylan Lynch

Lynch refers to these as “imploded drums” — and his process includes adding water to the 55 gallon drum first, then heating it, followed by piling ice on top, and then waiting until a violent shift in pressure causes the drum snap into its crumpled shape.

imploded oil drums by artist Dylan Lynch

My opinion, however, is that maybe the process is more interesting than the final result, even though the oil drums have a crisp and clean paint job after the crushing procedure has taken place. They’re not as complex as a John Chamberlain sculpture, and it seems like there’s no control over how they implode, the final shape of the sculpture is the result of chance. With my curiosity about the process, I was surprised to find a video documenting an experiment of the exact same process done by “Chief Scientist” Carl Nelson of the Toledo “Imagination Station.” Watch it below:

Agan Harahap’s revisionist history

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Art History, Art project, Artist Spotlight, Historical Figures in Art

Indonesian artist Agan Harahap has created a series of images where he imagines how historical events might have transpired if superheroes really existed. Here’s a pair where World War II events get a boost from some of our favorite comic book characters: at left, Superman assists the Allies with recovering art stolen by the Nazis at the Castle of Neuschwanstein in Bavaria in 1945; and at right Spiderman explains to an Allied soldier how he’s going to use his webbing during the Battle of Cherbourg in Normandy, June 1944.

Superheroes in historical settings by Agan Harahap

I’ve had my own fun Photoshopping things into pictures where they don’t belong, like my Picasso street art, or having Obi Wan Kenobi as an art thief. But I appreciate the great care and detail that Harahap has put into making these superheroes look like they belong, with lighting and shadows to match the original pictures. Speaking of which, I couldn’t resist tracking down the originals so that we can make a comparison between them and Harahap’s versions.

famous photographs from World War II

Here’s one more by Harahap that I really like, showing the Incredible Hulk in Afghanistan circa 1986. The real picture shows Afghan resistance fighters returning to a village destroyed by Soviet forces, but Harahap’s version with the Hulk, I like to imagine that the Hulk is explaining that his rage caused him to destroy these buildings with his bare hands.

The Incredible Hulk destroys an Afghan village

To see more of Agan Harahap’s superhero pictures, check out his Behance page here.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim-style car showroom

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Architecture, Art History

Years ago when I worked in NYC, I used to walk north on Park Avenue (between 42nd and 57th Streets) every day to get to work, not realizing I was walking past a unique architectural landmark: The Hoffman Auto Showroom, a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed auto showroom at 430 Park Avenue. It was significant for three reasons: one, it was the architect’s first permanent work in the city; two, it was his first constructed automotive design; and three, it was one of his few interior-only projects.

I’m referring to it in the past tense, because – believe it or not – it was demolished by the owners of the building in 2013! Reportedly, as soon as the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy suggested the possibility of a landmark hearing for the showroom, the building’s owner obtained a demolition permit and took immediate action. I guess the value of a raw commercial space on Park Avenue was greater than the prestige of maintaining a historical interior.

Hoffman Auto Showroom on Park Avenue by Frank Lloyd Wright

In the pictures above, we’ve got the showroom as it appeared in 1955 (at top); Frank Lloyd Wright’s conceptual sketch for the space (bottom left); and the space as a Mercedes dealership as seen in 2012 (bottom right). The fascinating aspect to this is the circular ramp; this space was built in advance of the Guggenheim, so in a way it was a mini-Guggenheim before New Yorkers would ever experience that museum. While the idea of a Wright-designed circular ramp dates back to the 1920s, when Wright was commissioned to build a mountain resort which included a spiraling automobile ramp, that commission was never realized. The ramp idea therefore had been percolating for a while until Wright had the opportunity to have it built with this project for the European auto importer Max Hoffman in 1954.

You can read more about the original showroom and its demise in this newspaper article from 2013.

Kerry James Marshall and the portrayal of sound

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Art Museum exhibitions, Artist Methods, Artist Spotlight

I really enjoyed the Kerry James Marshall exhibition at the Met Breuer – it’s only up for a couple more weeks (until January 29th), so if you’re in the NYC area, I’d highly suggest that you go see it.

One thing I noticed was the interesting way that Marshall portrays the sound of music in his paintings. In this detail from Past Times (1997), you can see how Marshall paints musical notes emanating from the earphones perched on the head of this golfer.

musical notation as sound in Kerry James Marshall paintings

Here’s another example where several apartments in a building are showing musical notation coming out of the windows … this one is a detail from 7 am Sunday Morning (2003). I don’t recall another artist integrating the suggested sound of music into his or her paintings this way.

musical notation coming from apartment windows in Kerry James Marshall art

Where’s Waldo? He’s been found, and apprehended.

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Art books, Graffiti, Photo of the day, Street Art

You’re probably familiar with the series of picture books called “Where’s Waldo,” by the English illustrator Martin Handford, where one is given a vast, visually-busy picture (such as the one below left), with the challenge to find the “Waldo” character in the drawing. The graffiti artist “HiJack” had his own take on the Waldo theme (below right) – in his case, Waldo has been found, and apprehended. I guess Waldo’s days of being on the run are over.

For more on HiJack, check out his Instagram feed here.

Where's Waldo graffiti by HiJack

Scientist by day, Artist by night

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Art News, Artist Spotlight

I saw an interesting article on artist Ulysses Jackson, whose day job is working as a “paint formulator” for Golden Artist Colors in New Berlin, NY (upstate New York, west of Albany). The job description has as much, if not more, aspects of chemistry as it does art, with Jackson working with binders and dispersants. What is a dispersant, you might ask? “A dispersant is processed to deflocculate solid particles excellently and lower the viscosity of dispersion. These dispersing agents are essentially used to produce stable solution without leaving space for viscosity instability.” If that makes sense to you, then I guess you’re qualified to work alongside Ulysses Jackson.

The article linked above discusses the job with Jackson, and briefly asks him about his own artwork. When he said that his work resembles “blackboards in a chemistry lab,” I had to take a look for myself, since the original article doesn’t show any of his art. (scroll down for more, below this dual picture of Jackson at work, and more-mysteriously, a blurry shadow of Jackson in his art studio)

artist Ulysses Jackson at work and in the studio

The other thing that Jackson mentioned that captured my interest is: “Some works look like what you might find in New York City alleys, with torn posters and graffiti and the history of the culture. People ask where I get my collage materials even though it’s all paint.” Since I have taken a lot of pictures over the years of torn posters and graffiti, I was curious to see what these works looked like. Here’s a few examples of his work below: at left, “Ivory Song,” 2006; at right, “Restless Wave,” 2007. I wish I could see these up close and in person, because they do look like actual torn posters … it’s amazing to think these are only paint!

collage paintings by Ulysses Jackson

To learn more about Ulysses Jackson and his art work, including some great paintings that are more-current than the ones posted above, check out his website here.

Andy Warhol and WWE Wrestling

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Art and Sports, Art That Makes You Go "Huh?", Videos

I just happened upon a very unexpected video which shows Andy Warhol hanging out back stage at a WWE Wrestling event in 1985. I had never heard before that Warhol took any interest in professional wrestling, but it seems he made occasional appearances at events at Madison Square Garden in the early 1980s. The video shows Warhol standing in the midst of a crowd featuring Hulk Hogan, Mr. T, and Cyndi Lauper, when interviewer Mean Gene Okerlund decides to invite Warhol over for a somewhat bizarre interview. Check it out here:

Blurring a line between science fiction art and fine art

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Art That Makes You Go "Huh?", Finding visual references, Making an art history comparison

I was doing a Google search for something – I don’t remember what, exactly – when I happened upon a science fiction image that struck me as extremely artistic. I wished I had saved the picture on the spot, but I didn’t – but the thought stuck with me: why can’t fantasy art, or science fiction art, be held in the same esteem as some art historical art works? If the artist’s talent is there, if the skill is impressive, why does a robot in the field become less “artsy” than a girl in the field?

Here’s our first example using exactly that argument: two boys and a robot in a field by Simon Stålenhag (below left) has a pretty similar feel to Andrew Wyeth’s “Christina’s World,” below right, which hangs in the collection at MoMA. Are they really that different? Why is Wyeth’s work a world famous icon and Stålenhag’s image less well-known?

paintings by Simon Stålenhag and Andrew Wyeth

Here’s another side-by-side comparison: below left, some random fake photo of a UFO hovering over a field with dramatic dark skies; below left, a painting from April Gornik’s recent exhibition at Danese/Corey Gallery in New York City. One might be used to illustrate a segment on a science fiction tv show while the other hangs in a prestigious Chelsea art gallery.

UFO photograph and April Gornik painting

As I was thinking about these comparisons, my thoughts shifted to the playful thought of mixing known art history paintings with a science fiction theme, so here’s a couple mash-ups I made using paintings by Vincent Van Gogh:

mixing Van Gogh with Science Fiction and astronauts