Inspired by Philip Guston

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Finding visual references, Making an art history comparison

The NY Times recently had an article on the experiences of being a substitute teacher, by Nicholson Baker. I liked the accompanying illustrations by Zohar Lazar, but as soon as I saw the image of the kid with the huge eye looking down, it made me think of Philip Guston, and his “Head and Bottle” painting from 1975. Do you think Lazar took some inspiration from Guston’s classic painting?

drawing by Zohar Lazar inspired by Philip Guston

Drawing in space: Alexander Calder wire sculptures

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Artist Spotlight, Sculpture

I love the way this Alexander Calder wire sculpture is installed at the Whitney Museum in New York. The piece is titled Varèse, and dates from circa 1930. It’s hanging in a corner, suspended from the ceiling, and its corner position allows you to move around it and see it from different viewpoints. As you can see from the shadow being cast upon the wall, it looks completely different when seen from another angle. The installation of this piece also perfectly fits Calder’s description of this body of work, which was that the wire sculptures were like “drawing in space.”

Just for fun, we created a coloring page which features Calder’s wire sculptures. Check it out and get a printable PDF to color here.

wire sculpture by Alexander Calder at the Whitney Museum

Ernie Barnes and the joy of movement

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Artist Spotlight, Making an art history comparison

I saw an image by the artist Ernie Barnes titled “Ring Around the Rosie,” (below, top left), which made me think of Henri Matisse’s “Dance II” (below, top right). But Mr. Barnes has several art works that seem to suggest joy through movement; below bottom left is “Springboard” and below bottom right is “Head Over Heels.”

Ernie Barnes compared to Matisse Dance

Does Ernie Barnes’ work look familiar to you? If not, you might still know one of his most-famous works, “The Sugar Shack.” It gained international exposure when it was used on the 1970s television show “Good Times,” as well as being used as the cover art for the 1976 Marvin Gaye album “I Want You.”

Ernie Barnes The Sugar Shack Good Times Marvin Gaye

Thomas Hart Benton’s America Today

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Artist Spotlight, Making an art history comparison

Below we have 3 different views of Thomas Hart Benton’s series of paintings from 1930-31 titled “America Today.” If you look closely, you’ll see views of American shipbuilding, railroads and trains, New Yorkers riding the subway, and iron workers, among many other things.

My question is: if you were to pick an artist or an art work to sum up “America Today” in 2016, what might you suggest? Send us your ideas and we’ll share our favorites.

America Today, by Thomas Hart Benton at The Met

Politics, Cereal, and Art

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

Back in 2009, the artists Ryan Alexiev and Hank Willis Thomas collaborated on an art work which they titled “Breakfast of Champion,” which featured the likeness of President Obama made out of cereal, which you can see below.

In advance of tonight’s first political debate between 2016 Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, we ask you: what kind of cereal would you use to create their respective portraits? Scroll down below the Obama cereal portrait to see some Trump and Clinton ideas that we came up with.

Obama cereal portrait by Ryan Alexiev, and Hank Willis Thomas.

With Donald Trump’s famous hair, we thought the descriptive name of “Honey Comb” cereal fit him pretty well. As far as Hillary Clinton, the idea of being an enthusiastic “Trix Rabbit” hopping around and reaching for a bowl of the White House seemed like it could work.

If you have any different ideas for Presidential-candidate cereal portraits, please send them to us.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as cereal icons

Picasso’s Electrician and the art stash in the garage

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Art News

60 Minutes opened up their 49th season on the air last night with an arts segment on Pablo Picasso’s former electrician and the mysterious collection of Picasso originals which were suggested (by the electrician) to have been a gift from the artist and his wife Jacqueline. This “gift” of Picassos included collages, sketches, drawings, and lithographs, and they had reportedly been stored in a cardboard box in the electrician’s garage for close to 40 years. 60 Minutes reporter Bill Whitaker interviewed the former electrician Pierre Le Guennec and his wife Danielle, pictured below.

Pierre  and Danielle Le Guennec

I’m not going to re-iterate the whole story, as it’s a bit complicated and you can see a video and read more about it here. But the thing that confuses me is: why is 60 Minutes running this story now? The story first came to light when the electrician brought the work to the Picasso Estate to be evaluated in 2010, and the couple were found guilty of being in possession of stolen art in the spring of 2015. But from what I can gather, they were given a suspended sentence, and the guilty verdict was appealed, so perhaps the case will be undergoing trial again? 60 Minutes didn’t do a very good job explaining why this was “current” news.

I think the biggest questions coming out of the original details of the case include: if this collection of works were indeed gifts, why were they all given as unsigned works? It has been said that Picasso always signed and dedicated his gifts, even when he was under the impression that the recipient might sell it for money. But even if Picasso was giving away unsigned works, what could possibly inspire him to give away 271 pieces at once? Doesn’t that number seem a bit odd – and a big high for a gift?

Also, Le Guennec explains his possession of this art by saying that Picasso’s second wife Jacqueline had one day simply handed him a box with the works enclosed. So another question would be: if indeed it was Jacqueline who presented Mr. Le Guennec with this box of art as a gift, why would she have taken the time to go through Picasso’s work and selected only unsigned art works ranging from a time period between 1900 and 1932 and collected them all together to give away? That seems like a lot of trouble for her to go through to simply give a gift to a helpful electrician.

Whatever the answers to these questions may be, the artworks have since been returned to the Picasso Estate’s administration as their rightful possessions. 60 Minutes didn’t explain this point, and didn’t explain whether a new trial is coming soon, or what exactly is going on now. It’s an interesting story, but not a full-explained one.

Two different views of the same neighborhood: Chelsea, NYC

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Architecture, Photo of the day, Street photography

I was wandering around the Chelsea neighborhood of NYC, going to art gallery shows, as well as seeing what things around me on the street were catching my attention. I don’t remember the exact location, but within the same block I found a view filled with glass, as evidenced by the high-rise buildings, below left, as well as a medley of old brick buildings, including a faded mural for “S & E Motor Hire Corp.,” below right.

glass high-rises and old brick buildings in Chelsea Manhattan

Peel the tape to reveal the painting

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Art Museum exhibitions, Art News

I saw a small write-up about the Carmen Herrera exhibition that recently opened at the Whitney Museum, and there was a tondo painting pictured that really grabbed my attention (below left … “Tondo” is a Renaissance term for a circular work of art). I really like this painting, so it inspired me to look up the artist and try to learn more.

As I looked around online, I realized Herrera was the same artist whose exhibition I saw at Lisson Gallery in NYC last summer … I just didn’t put the name together with the exhibition I saw, pictured below right.

tondo painting by Carmen Herrera and installation view at Lisson Gallery

But here’s the thing that seemed a bit unexpected from my online research about Carmen Herrera … I found several images showing her peeling the protective layer of tape off of the surface of the canvas, to reveal the hard edge of a painted area on the canvas. It struck me as a little odd, because how often have you ever seen a photograph of Sol LeWitt or Ellsworth Kelly peeling back the tape on one of their hard-edged abstractions? Is it just me, or does this revelation about the process of the work lessen the level of appreciation for the making of the art work? Is there a double-standard here in how the woman artist is portrayed vs. the male artists who make similar work? How come we don’t see Herrera with a paint brush in her hand, or a paint-splattered studio?

At the same time, Carmen Herrera turned 101 back in May 2016, so she can do whatever she wants … it’s amazing that she’s still actively making work. She was quoted as saying, “I do it because I have to do it; it’s a compulsion that also gives me pleasure.”

Carmen Herrera in the studio

If Picasso was a graffiti artist

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

We’ve been having fun imagining what it might be like if Picasso were alive now and doing street art or graffiti. In our latest entry to the series #ifpicassodidstreetart, we imagine Picasso tagging this metal roll-down gate in the Bronx with a version of his Weeping Woman masterpiece from 1937, which portrayed his then-mistress, Dora Maar. We think Picasso would have street cred in the Bronx with work like this …

Imagining Picasso's Weeping Woman as graffiti art

High School students seeing art in a new way via filmmaking

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Art History, Art Museum exhibitions, Art project

I happened upon an interesting podcast about public high school students at The Cinema School in the South Bronx who are doing an interesting project at the Frick Collection in Manhattan. The kids come in on Mondays, when the museum is closed to the public, allowing them to have the run of the building. A curator from the Frick leads them through the collection, talking about works by artists such as Rembrandt, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, and Jacques-Louis David, among many others. The students are then encouraged to write screenplays based on the paintings.

Click the arrow below to listen to the podcast, courtesy of WNYC, with reporting by Jessica Gould.

high school students learn about art via filmmaking at the Frick Museum