Buddhist Beer Bottle Temple, Architecture from Recycling

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

The Buddhist monks at the Wat Lan Kuad temple in Thailand began collecting empty bottles in 1984, using them to build this impressive structure several hundred miles northeast of Bangkok. Apart from the glass windows, concrete floors and a bit of extra cement to hold it all together, the building was made entirely from bottles. Small brown Red Bull bottles (the energy drink was first developed in Thailand) are the most widely used, followed by green Heinecken bottles and brown Chang (a Thai beer) bottles and clear soda bottles.

Wat Larn Kuad - Beer Bottle Temple, Sisaket

The temple has a total of more than a million recycled glass bottles. In fact, the temple name, “Wat Lan Kuad” means “Temple of Million Bottles.” Even the bathroom (pictured below left) has the toilet and sink embedded into a base made of bottles!

bathroom made of beer bottles at Wat Larn Kaud

A lawyer in case you rip the Mona Lisa

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Art in Advertising

I saw a funny ad in the New York Times, which read “Oops!” with a picture of Mona Lisa’s face ripped off (below left). The ad is for a new app which allows one to utilize the services of lawyer Sachin Gadh. Anyone can download the app and get one question answered free. But one can also pay a small monthly retainer to get a range of services via a smart phone. At any rate, I thought it was a pretty funny ad, as if one would ever be in a position to accidentally rip the Mona Lisa (since it’s quite impossible, sitting behind bullet-proof glass at the Louvre), and it also made me realize how often the Mona Lisa is used in advertising. So let’s look at a couple other examples.

two examples of the Mona Lisa being used in advertising

Above right we have a Mona Lisa look-alike in an ad for Pizza Hut which was used exclusively in Malaysia. The ad reads: “Get ready for something truly Italian: The Classic Italian Crust.” Below left we have what appears to be a Russian ad for Vidal Sassoon, with Mona Lisa sporting a funky purple-tinted short haircut. And then we go with another unexpected hairstyle with the Mona Lisa below right, sporting a big Afro for a “Gioconda” brand of chocolates. Gioconda, by the way, is the last name of the model – Lisa del Giocondo – depicted in Leonardo da Vinci’s painting.

Mona Lisa image used in advertising

We have one more example of Mona Lisa being used in advertising, a vintage ad selling Gateway Computers, along with other art-inspired ads (such as Rodin’s “Thinker” for the Honda Accord) in our feature titled “Advertising and Popular Culture Inspired by Famous Art Masterpieces.”

Andy Warhol is back, as a web designer

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

I get a lot of cold-call e-mail propositions for assistance with the Artsology website, including general web development services, search engine optimization, and so forth. But today, while receiving a similar e-mail, I noticed a strikingly different sender name: “Andy Warhol.”

Andy’s e-mail went on to say that he has been “progressively growing over my year of operation,” and that he’s been “delivering my best by pushing my creative horizons.”

So, is this to say, that even though Andy Warhol died in 1987, he’s come back from the dead and decided that his “creative horizons” are better served with web development instead of Pop Art?

He then closed the e-mail with wishing me “a great day ahead,” and signed off with “kind regards.” I decided to put together a picture below, imagining Andy Warhol at his computer workstation, preparing and sending me this e-mail.

Andy Warhol is doing web design

Abstract art found via Street View

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Finding visual references, Found art, Making an art history comparison, Photography, Street photography

Not sure what prompted this tonight, but I was in the mood to take a virtual stroll through some Newark neighborhoods via Google Street View, and see if I could find anything interesting. I did – in my last post, I found a giraffe-patterned building that matched one I saw in the Ironbound (in person) a few years ago, and now I just found this: some covered-up graffiti on a brick wall on Woodside Place near Mt. Pleasant Cemetery. My guess would be that the building owner just covered the graffiti with whatever paint was on hand, at least 3 different times, since there’s three distinctly different colors here. But these three colors and the forms that they take kind of remind me of paintings by the abstract artist Theodoros Stamos (Greek-American, 1922-1997). Scroll down to see a couple of his paintings for a comparison.

brick wall covered graffiti like abstract art

Here’s a couple paintings by Theodoros Stamos: below left, “Untitled I (Infinty Field – Lefkada Series),” circa 1977, and an unidentified title or date on a second Stamos painting, below right.

two paintings by the Greek American painter Theodoros Stamos

Mysterious giraffe pattern buildings in Newark

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Architecture, Art That Makes You Go "Huh?", Finding visual references, Street photography

Does anyone know anything about the mysterious giraffe-like pattern painted on the exterior of these two buildings in Newark? The top building is a Baptist church located at 606 Bergen Street, and the bottom building is (at the time of this picture) an empty commercial space at 63 Bruen Street. They’re about 2 miles apart from each other, but they look like they were painted by the same person. And I think they kind of look like a giraffe pattern (scroll down below the first picture to see another with this comparison). I’m not sure why this fascinates me, other than it’s a bit weird and unexpected, but if you have any info on who painted these or if there’s a story behind it, please share in the comments below.

two paintings in Newark with weird abstract patterns

If you thought my giraffe reference was a little weird, now take a look at one of the buildings next to a giraffe … do you agree with my thinking?

building in Newark, NJ with pattern that looks like a giraffe

Remembering William Christenberry

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Art gallery exhibitions, Art News, Artist Spotlight

I’m sad to have just learned that artist William Christenberry passed away on Monday at the age of 80. While I hadn’t seen Bill in years, I had the privilege of meeting him in the early 1990s, and my memory of him is being one of the kindest, most-sincere gentlemen I’ve ever met. That’s just William Christenberry the person – he was a fascinating and multi-talented artist as well. He’s best known for his photographs of the South, in particular, Hale County, Alabama, where he grew up. As the NY Times reports in its obituary, “For more than 50 years he made photographs, drawings, paintings, sculptures and assemblages, and collected artifacts (commercial signage, bottle caps, gourds), that reflected this ambivalence [about his corner of the South]. His life’s work became a meditation on his attachment to the Alabama countryside and his reasons for leaving it.”

Below left is an undated picture of William Christenberry, alongside a photograph from 1980 titled “Side of warehouse, Newbern, Alabama.” While this might not be an example of his better-known images, it’s a favorite of mine, because the surface of this building has elements that might reflect Christenberry’s past experience studying painting and sculpture at the University of Alabama, where his teachers leaned towards Abstract Expressionism.

photographer and artist William Christenberry passes away at age 80

Christenberry was a great storyteller, and I remember on one visit, he gave an account of meeting Willem de Kooning in New York, and while I don’t recall all of the details of the story, it’s clear de Kooning had an influence on the young artist at the time, as one can see in Christenberry’s 1960 painting “Tenant House II,” below left. I think one of the reasons why this memory sticks with me is because Christenberry was known to me at the time as a Southern photographer, yet he had all these stories about being in New York City and making paintings.

I guess I’m reflecting on the lesser-known aspects of Christenberry’s work, partially because they appealed to me, but also because it’s important to see there was a lot more to his work than the photography for which he is best-known. As an extension of his photographs documenting the evolution and decay of buildings in the South over decades (returning to photograph the same locations year after year), he also built small sculptural replicas of these buildings. But what I’m showing below right is the next extension of that work, and that is the creation of “imaginary buildings,” with this one being “Dream Building II” from 1981.

example of a painting and Dream Building sculpture by William Christenberry

It’s impossible to sum up the man and artist in a relatively short blog post, but hopefully this brief reflection and sharing of his work will inspire you to learn more about William Christenberry and his work. By coincidence, his gallery, Pace MacGill Gallery in New York, opened an exhibition of his work titled “Summer | Winter” at their 57th Street gallery last month, and the show remains up through January 21st, so you have plenty of time if you’re in the NYC area and want to get a first-hand look at his work.

The Christmas Story in Art at the Philadelphia Museum

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

I just received a press release from the Philadelphia Museum of Art about an upcoming event at the museum: The Christmas Story In Art, in which one can “rediscover the story of Christmas through art in the Museum’s galleries.” It made me curious – how much Christmas-related art do they have? I did a little searching, and here’s a few examples that come up from the museum’s website. Below left we have Bringing Home the Christmas Tree, 1917, by Rockwell Kent, and below right we have The Day before Christmas, 1919, by Edward Willis Redfield. (scroll down for more …)

The Art of Christmas, a tour at the Philadelphia Museum

Here’s something unexpected, though – a Christmas art work by Paul Klee! I’ve been a fan of Klee’s work for a long time, and have never seen a specific holiday-themed art work before … this one is titled Christmas Picture, from 1923, and is a watercolor painting.

watercolor painting about Christmas by Paul Klee

The Philadelphia Museum’s “Christmas Story in Art” will operate as a guided tour, meeting in Lenfest Hall (West Entrance) on Saturdays and Sundays in December, and then offered daily from December 26-31, 2016. For more information, check out their holiday listings here.

Ai Weiwei wallpaper and Greek black figure painting

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

The first thing one notices when entering the Ai Weiwei exhibition at the Lisson Gallery on 24th Street in NYC is the collection of large cast-iron tree trunks, nearly sixteen feet in length, and a series of iron root sculptures that cover the floor, as you can see below. But in this case, I found myself attracted to the wallpaper, and went in for a closer look (scroll down for more …).

Ai Weiwei exhibition at Lisson Gallery

The wallpaper includes images of military personnel and refugees next to barbed-wire fences with messages such as “open the border,” “safe passage,” and “no one is illegal.” My first thought was that the imagery related to Donald Trump and the U.S. election and the topic of illegal immigration, but in fact that is not the case. I guess I’m guilty of having a U.S.-centric mindset when seeing those phrases, but Weiwei is using them along with the imagery to create a visual dialogue about the immigrant situation in Europe. It makes more sense if one uses an art history perspective, because don’t those figures look like ancient Greek black figure paintings found on vases and other pottery? Lisson Gallery director Alex Logsdail explained, “This particular work is based around his research and experience in and around Greece relating to the Syrian refugee crisis. They’re in the style of a Greco-Roman frieze but with a modern twist. There is this foreshadowing and repetition of figures behind other figures. It marries the artist’s interest in design and art and humanitarian issues.”

For a comparison between Ai Weiwei’s wallpaper and some actual examples of Greek black figure painting, check out our collage of images below.

Comparison between Ai Weiwei wallpaper and Greek black figure painting

Here’s another view of Ai Weiwei’s wallpaper, including a section with some of the phrases that I mentioned above. The exhibition is on view at Lisson Gallery through December 23rd.

art by Ai Weiwei about Syrian refugee crisis

Harlequin Romance Cover treatment for Donald Trump

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Art books, Art That Makes You Go "Huh?", Political Art, Products we'd like to see

I saw the picture, below left, of an idealized Donald Trump portrait as part of a story in the New York Times … it’s a triple portrait from a bar in Moscow, featuring from left: Marine Le Pen of France, Donald Trump, and Vladimir Putin of Russia. My first thought was, “looking at that dashing, heroic-looking man in the middle … he looks like a Harlequin Romance novel cover version of the real Donald Trump,” pictured below right. So, just for curiosity’s sake, I thought I’d see how this younger, raffish version of The Donald might look on some Harlequin Romance book covers. Scroll down for more …

Marine Le Pen, Donald Trump, and Vladimir Putin

Below left we have another look at the original portrait found at the Union Jack pub in Moscow, Russia, along with Trump gracing the cover of the book “Lord of Chaos,” followed by “Flowers from the Storm.” What do you think? Does Fabio have some new competition for modeling jobs?

Donald Trump as romance novel cover model

A collector’s tableau at the Newark Museum

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Art History, Art Museum exhibitions, Ceramics, Interior Design

I saw this installation in the permanent collection galleries at the Newark Museum this past weekend. I thought it was an interesting way for the curator to present three items from the collection, because they’re set up in a tableau as if they were being viewed in a collector’s home rather than in a museum. Most museums would have these three items in 3 different collections for viewing – ceramics, painting, and decorative arts or something related to design. But having them together like this is a refreshing change and actually lets one get a sense of each piece in relation to the other objects. It would be interesting to see more installations like this.

Painting by Hans Hofmann at the Newark Museum

At any rate, what we have here is: “Bough pot with two necks,” 1957-58, by Katherine Choy; “Hanging Wall Cabinet,” 1958, by George Nakashima; and “Laburnum II,” 1959, by Hans Hofmann. I think you can probably see the Hofmann well enough in the picture above, but here’s another look below to get a better view of the Choy ceramic piece and the Nakashima cabinet.

Katherine Choy ceramic and George Nakashima cabinet at Newark Museum