HAVE WE REACHED “PEAK” YAYOI KUSAMA?

We saw this cool street-artsy mural portrait of the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama in Santa Barbara, California, while visiting there this past Monday. Kusama is a major international art star who has blown up the past few years as blockbuster exhibitions of her artwork and installations have popped up in art museums around the world and collaborations with brands like Louis Vuitton have made her work more visible to a broader, global audience. That said, we were a bit surprised to see her portrait in a town like Santa Barbara. Which got us wondering, in 2018 have we reached “peak” Kusama? The answer is, yes. Maybe. If not this year, then perhaps next.

MINIMALISM 101: “WHITE” PAINTINGS … OR “I COULD DO THAT!”

This video on Vox does a great job of explaining so-called “white” paintings by artists like Robert Ryman, Agnes Martin, Cy Twombly, and so on, as examples of Minimalism and where these fit in the story of modern and contemporary art. Some of these paintings — including one that was essentially a blank white canvas — has sold for tens of millions of dollars at auction in recent years. It sparks the never-ending debate about what is and isn’t “art” and brings up the the often expressed sentiment of “I could do that” among the skeptical art-viewing public.

ARCHITORTURE: WHEN DESIGN WENT GOOGIE-EYED

Architectural styles are subject to the tastes, fashion and trends of a given era. Some architecture stands the test of time. Some age less gracefully and can quickly, embarassingly look dated. Sometimes these become the targets of aesthetic derision, only to become “re-discovered” and re-appreciated decades later and once again deemed “cool.”

The futuristic “Googie” architecture of the 1960sis one example. It is both loved and loathed, but its historical significance cannot be overlooked, especially as time passes and surviving examples of it become fondly familiar landmarks. 

Many examples of Googie can be found throughout Los Angeles and Southern California in the form of homes, diners, motels, gas stations, and car washes, like the one pictured here in Santa Monica. The car wash, that essential feature of L.A. car culture, was especially prone to expressions of Googie style.

Googie originated in Southern California, where it was influenced by the emerging space age, jet travel and ever more reliance on the car in the American post-War era. The style is a modern architectural offshoot of the Futurism and part of the American Mid-Century Modern style.

QUIZZICAL: ART MUSEUM OR HOME DEPOT?

It’s quiz times once again, savvy readers! Look at these photos. Is this a Home Depot or an art museum?

If you said art museum, you are correct. The third photo in this post is the giveaway and the wall placard in the first photo is a clue that this is a gallery in an art museum. 

But without that context, this could be a Home Depot or a Lowes or whichever American DIY home-improvement superstore chain you prefer.

These wooden objects are part of a series of sculptural works by the German artist Imi Knoebel titled “Vivit” and “Vivimus” and are part of the permanent collection of the Broad Museum of Art in Los Angeles.

LOLS: WILL FERRELL & JOEL MCHALE VISIT CONCEPTUAL ART EXHIBITION, HILARITY ENSUES

This is brilliant. In this short promotional video for the Hammer Museum of Art in Los Angeles, actor-comedians Will Ferrell and Joel McHale take a VIP tour of a conceptual-art exhibition at the museum with its curator. The exhibition is called “Stories of Almost Everyone.” Ferrell and McHale are funny as they’re introduced to various artworks, make comments, and ask questions. The larger gist of the video short is that contemporary — and especially conceptual art — and art museums can be approachable for everyone and are places to ask questions and start conversations about what you see, rather than feel intimidated or confused by the art.

MOVIES: CLIPS RELEASED FROM UPCOMING DOCUMENTARY ON DESIGN GOD DIETER RAMS

Documentary filmmaker and producer Gary Hustwit has a new film about German designer Dieter Rams coming out in 2018, and we can’t wait to see it. The director of the doc films “Helvetica,” “Objectified and “Urbanized” has released some teaser video clip online for this new documentary, which is titled “Rams.” Brian Eno has reportedly created the original soundtrack music for the film. Rams’s always has something interesting to say, but one quote that struck us is when he said: “If I had to do it over again, I would not want to be a designer … There are too many unnecessary products in this world.”

STREETSY: IS NEW BLACK-AND-WHITE PHOTO STREET ART BY JR OR JR WANNABE?

Hey, you know JR, right? The French street artist who has become something of a worldwide phenom over the past decade?

Yes, that JR. The one who takes black-and-white photos of people, their faces, close-ups of their eyes and mouths, and then prints them up at massive, mega-blown-up scale and wheat-pastes them on the sides of entire buildings, on the roofs of houses and on the sides of trains.

Yes, that’s the JR we’re talking about.

Well, that JR is the subject of some local speculation with regards to a recent work of street art that appeared on fashionable Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice Beach. See pic above.

Or, rather, the speculation is about who put up this street art. It has all the makings of “a JR.” But is it? Is it some other artist? Is it a JR wannabe? A copycat?

And who is the subject of this artwork? Is it, as one commenter on our Instagram feed asked, a photo of octagenarian French filmmaker Agnes Varda?  The face, the eyes and the haircut — especially the haircut — have all the makings of Varda.

These are questions we want answers to, savvy reader. And we have answers! 

The art was put there by JR (or by his assistants / minions / 3rd-party contractor). The image is of Agnes Varda. It’s placement and timing are not an accident.

As some of you savvy readers may already well be aware, JR and Varda collaborated on a documentary film project called “Faces Places.” The film was a critical success and garnered a 2018 Academy Award nomination. The street artwork appeared around the time of the Awards ceremonies in March, which, of course, are held each year in Los Angeles. Varda herself was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Academy last year.

So there you have it.

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