Using a chunk of snow as a prop in my own Barbieri scene

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Art project, Art That Makes You Go "Huh?", Found art, Photography

When I get a little bored with my day job, I am prone to finding excuses for creative distractions, and I’ve got one for you today. I was taking out the garbage, and found a chunk of snow/ice positioned between my garbage cans that had some clean edges and looked like a mini mountain, so I picked it up and placed it on my deck table to get a better look at what I had.

block of snow that looks like a mini mountain

Even though this chunk of snow is only about 8 inches tall, there was something about its shape and the way the light created shadows that put the idea in my mind that if taken out of context, this form could look a lot more massive than what it really is. Considering that I was just writing about the artist Olivo Barbieri the other day, I thought it might be fun to see if I could make a convincing Barbieri-like image in Photoshop. I can’t say that I consider this a wildly-successful attempt, but here’s what I came up with:

Photoshop created scene of mountain climbers in the Alps

This is not the first time I’ve procrastinated by playing around on my deck in the winter … here’s a look at my “frozen bubble experiment,” and here’s my discovery of an ice spike, and here’s some additional ice art, all on my covered deck table.

It’s also not the first time I’ve created a Barbieri-inspired image from my immediate surroundings – here’s one I made from snow on the skylight in my office.

Okay, I think it’s time to get back to work now.

Anna Betbeze turns shag rugs into art

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Artist Methods, Artist Spotlight

I saw these paintings on shag rugs at the Independent Art Fair booth of dealer Jay Gorney a few weeks ago, and wanted to learn more. They’re the work of Anna Betbeze, an artist who received her BFA from the University of Georgia in 2003 and her MFA from Yale University in 2006. Betbeze currently lives and works in Brooklyn. I read several places that a prime source of inspiration for Betbeze is the work of Robert Morris, but these pieces also had a feel of abstract expressionism, in my opinion. She paints the wool rugs with watercolor and acid-based textile dyes using brushes, buckets, and even her hands, and – in the case of some of her older work – she has left the acid dyes on the rug long enough for them to burn through the surface. (the artist is pictured in front of some of her work, lower right).

I can’t find a personal website for the artist to share here, but here’s her page on the Yale University School of Art website.

wool rug art by Yale lecturer and artist Anna Betbeze

Peanut Butter and Jelly Art

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ESPN had a fascinating story on how players throughout the NBA are obsessed with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and the image created by Dwight Eschliman (pictured below) reminds me of Wayne Thiebaud’s series of paintings about food. It got me wondering, is there other peanut butter and jelly art out there? Scroll down for more.

trend of having peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the NBA

Sure enough, there is some entertaining peanut butter and jelly art – let’s take a look. One of the first ones I found – and a new favorite right away – was this “Double Mona Lisa (Peanut Butter and Jelly),” 1999, by artist Vik Muniz.

Double Mona Lisa with peanut butter and jelly by Vik Muniz

Below left we have Margaret Thorn’s watercolor painting “Peanut Butter and Jelly,” from 2013. Below right is “PB & Jelly! (#29),” by an artist who goes by the name … “Sunny Avocado.” Really? Yes!

paintings of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches

Starry Night by Van Gogh, both inside and outside MoMA

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As I was making the rounds of the permanent collection at MoMA last weekend, I found a big crowd congregated around Vincent Van Gogh’s masterpiece, “Starry Night,” 1889, below left. This was literally as close as I could get to the painting, standing 3 deep with a limited view … it’s not like these people were looking and then moving on to the next painting, they just stood there, and stared, and took pictures, and stood there some more.

Meanwhile, a reproduction of a detail from “Starry Night” has a nearly unobstructed view (other than those tree branches) outside of the museum, acting as a mini-billboard in front of some scaffolding on the building next door. No crowds standing in front of this view!

Vincent Van Gogh painting Starry Night, on view at MoMA

Getting close for the details on a Rothko

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When I was at MoMA for the Picabia show the other day, I also wandered around the other floors to see the permanent collection. I’ve always liked Mark Rothko’s work, and had an opportunity recently to see a big Rothko show at Pace Gallery last fall, but there was something about this one at MoMA that really pulled me in. What was nice was that I had a chance to get up close and see the brushwork clearly without any interference from other museum visitors (or from the security guard – although I was at a safe distance, so he had nothing to worry about). There’s a big difference between seeing a Rothko from afar and seeing one up close.

painting by Mark Rothko with a close-up detail

This particular painting is titled “No. 10,” from 1950, and is an oil on canvas. From a distance, the painted rectangles seem to float above the background surface, but up close one can see how the paint is applied in a way that the edges kind of bleed into each other – it feels much more flat up close.

I think another thing I liked about this particular Rothko was – compared to most Rothkos where the floating rectangles are relatively even, this one’s bottom white rectangle seems to have a chunk torn out of the upper right side of it. Whereas the rest of the canvas has the rectangles floating out close to the edge of the canvas, this open space reveals much more of the background … you can see two more detailed views of this area in the images below.

two detail views of Mark Rothko No. 10 at MoMA

The stylistic versatility of Francis Picabia

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I’ve had an interest in the work of Francis Picabia for a while, but never had the opportunity to see his work on a comprehensive scale before going to see his exhibition at MoMA this past weekend. The exhibition, which just closed, was titled “Francis Picabia: Our Heads Are Round so Our Thoughts Can Change Direction,” and it was the first exhibition in the United States to chart his entire career.

The thing that I took from the exhibition was a new appreciation and admiration for Picabia’s ability to create and excel in multiple artistic styles. His versatility is amazing, from abstractions to realism to machine art and so much more. These four examples of his work can give you a basic idea of his artistic range … would you have guessed that these were all by the same artist if you just saw the images with no background info?

Clockwise from top left we have: “Dances at the Spring,” 1912; “Gabrielle Buffet, She Corrects Manners While Laughing,” 1915; “Gertrude Stein,” 1937, and “Woman with Pink Gloves [Man with Gloves],” circa 1925-26.

4 paintings showing the artistic versatility of Francis Picabia

Hieronymus Bosch: The Garden of Earthly Delights, brought to life

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I happened upon this video for the band “Odonis Odonis” which takes Hieronymus Bosch’s masterpiece “The Garden of Earthly Delights” and brings it to life via animation. I can’t find specific information on who did the animation, but the video was directed by Lee Stringle for Odonis Odonis, an industrial punk combo out of Toronto.

It’s pretty cool to see a painting that previously only existed in a static, two dimensional format suddenly come to life via this animation:

Cats at the art fairs

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Art Fairs, Art That Makes You Go "Huh?", Kitsch Art, Sculpture

I’m still sorting through pictures from going to a number of the art fairs two weeks ago, and noticed two artists making work with the theme of cats. The first, which you can see below, is a piece featuring three white cats on a pedestal by Alix Pearlstein. The title of this piece is “Cat Object-1 (adrift), Three white supremacist cats set adrift on a new iceberg in a warming ocean … a fragment from Larsen C …somewhere near Antarctica,” 2017. It’s not just a long title, it’s political commentary. But I’m not sure I understand the use of cats to make this political statement … it’s like an internet cat meme come to life as a sculpture.

Alix Pearlstein Cats Adrift

The next artist working with cat imagery is Ryosuke Kumakura, whose t-shirt paintings we saw the other day. I would guess that the placement of these paintings on top of the piles of stacked papers and canvas stretchers is part of the work, but the meaning is not clear, just like the meaning of the t-shirts were not clear. But there’s something about the little black cat painting that I like, the sentimental style of this cute little kitten with a focus on its eyes and white patch of fur on its chest brings to mind something like a feline-only Margaret Keane painting.

cat paintings at NADA art fair by Ryosuke Kamakura

Radamés “Juni” Figueroa and his Clemente jersey

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Art and Sports, Art Fairs, Artist Spotlight

I saw a series of paintings on cut-out wood shapes by Radamés “Juni” Figueroa at the NADA Art Fair a couple weeks ago, and there’s something about their bold simplicity that still appeals to me. As you can see from the first picture below, he has a range of subjects, from a New York baseball hat, prescription drug bottle, a cigaratte, a guitar, and a Pittsburgh Pirates jersey. Scroll down for more …

paintings by Radames Juni Figueroa at NADA 2017

I especially liked the Pirates jersey, and the way the spot light created a dark halo around it. The “halo” effect gives the effect of a somber tribute, which seems appropriate since this represents the jersey of Roberto Clemente, who died in a plane crash while en route to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. I don’t know if the lighting was done this way on purpose, but it works for me. As I looked for pictures of Clemente, I noticed that most of them showed him wearing a sleeveless version of the jersey, which I think was more-common in the late 1960s before the short-sleeved jerseys became common in the 1970s (baseball fans, feel free to correct me here if I’m wrong).

I like this painting even more since it’s just the jersey, and not a full portrait of Roberto Clemente … it allows the viewer to mentally fill-in the rest. At any rate, you can see more of Radamés “Juni” Figueroa’s work at his gallery’s website here.

Robert Clemente and a painting of his jersey

A darker Gauguin: art by Alan Prazniak

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Art Fairs, Artist Spotlight, Finding visual references, Making an art history comparison

I saw some paintings by Alan Prazniak at the NADA Art Fair, and there was something about this one in particular that felt like a darker, people-less Gauguin … I think a big part of the Gauguin feeling is that the texture of the canvas (or is it burlap, as Gauguin sometimes used?) comes through the paint, so the painting has a strong tactile presence.

painting by Alan Prazniak

Since I’m making the comparison to Paul Gauguin, I should show you a few Gauguin landscapes, so you can make your own judgement. Below left is “Tahitian Landscape,” 1891, and below right is “Landscape from Tahiti (Apatarao),” 1893.

landscape paintings by Paul Gauguin

I can’t find the title for Prazniak’s painting, but you can see more of his work here. As you will see at that link, not all of his paintings are dark, and not all of them look or feel like Gauguin … it was primarily my reaction to this one painting above … but I do like the work and would like to learn more about this artist. I find it a little surprising, though, that the artist’s website doesn’t give any information about the artist – no bio, no explanation of the work, no mention of gallery representation … but it is a beautiful collection of paintings.