Monthly Archives: April 2018

THE STUNNING PHOTOS OF SLAIN AFGHAN PHOTOJOURNALIST SHAH MARAI

Agence-France Presse photojournalist Shah Marai was among those killed by two suicide bombers in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Monday. Marai’s photos, like the one of the balloon vendor above, were stunning, powerful and among the best photojournalism we’ve seen. His work revealed life and war in Afghanistan as seen from the eyes of one of its own people. The New York Times has an excellent article and photo gallery of some of Marai’s work. Shah Marai, rest in peace.

THE CUTENESS! STENCIL STREET ART APPEALS TO BASE EMOTIONS

Ah, so cuuuuuuuuuuuuute! This street art in Venice, Los Angeles, depicts an almost life-sized, stenciled, spray-painted image of a man hunched over as he pours water (or is it milk) from a kettle into a bowl where black cats sip. It’s so … Banksy-esque, but it’s not by Banksy. It’s faux-Banksy, though it was never intended nor pretended to be a Banksy painting in the first place. Stencil street art pre-dates Banksy. The stencil artwork sure is cute and puts smiles on our faces. But what does it say? What does it mean? Nothing. Sure, it doesn’t have to mean anything. But if it doesn’t say anything is it then really no more than mere decoration. And if it’s artwork as just decoration can it really be even called “art”? 

BRUTALISTS IN LEGOLAND!

You, savvy reader, are probably a fan of architecture. If not of architecture in and of itself, then perhaps as an extension of being a fan of design. Or at the very least you appreciate architecture, after all, you most likely live in a building. 

Maybe you are an architecture tourist — an “architourist” — who seeks out contemporary, architecturally significant buildings on your globe-spanning travels. Such that when you visit, say, Barcelona, you get excited about going to take a look at the Torre Agbar, designed by Jean Nouvel, whereas the package tourist hordes are bee-lining for the popular cathedrals like Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia.

You may have even read a few books about architecture. These books are not just enormously heavy coffee-table tomes filled with beautiful photos of great buildings, but rather books filled with texts, long-form prose about architecture, books with actual chapters that require actual reading. Books like the excellent and amusing  “From Bauhaus to Our House” by Tom Wolfe.  

You may even be a fan of specific architectural design styles and movements: Modernism, International Style, Googie, Mid-Century Modern, Art Deco, the aforementioned Bauhaus, and Brutalism. These mean something to you. Or at least you’ve heard of them.

There’s also a possibility you like Legos.

The person who runs the Instagram account @brutsinlego is a lover of Legos, is a fan of architecture, is a fan (we presume) of Brutalist architecture, in all its minimalist, fortress-like, gray-concrete socialist-tinged glory.

And now we are a fan of him and his Insta account, which is devoted to showcasing the small Lego constructions he and his children make of famous Brutalist buildings around the world.

A small sample of these is posted here for your delight and review.

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.

SO EXTRA! SUPER STREETSY ALL-STAR STREET ART

Talk about piling on. We snapped this pic in the back alley (are there other kinds?) than runs behind row of fashionable shops on Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice, Los Angeles. It shows mostly wheat-paste street art (a.k.a., “wheaties”) by what appears different artists.

It’s a real mix of content and subject matter and visual styles. There’s a half-ripped yellow poster of a lone eye looking out at you. There’s a wheatie image of a man wearing a tie  — a “businessman,” perhaps — with his hand on his forehead as if weeping or experiencing a massive migraine headache. Perhaps he’s a day trader who has just lost everything.

There’s a small cut-out of a silhouetted person riding a bicycle through the sky with a loaded basket — the iconic image from the film “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.” There’s a poster of some comically drawn sketchy dude wearing a beanie and smoking something, maybe a spliff.

These paste-ups are across a set of doors to a storage cabinets covered in painted graffiti that appears as weathered abstract lines. We love stuff like this, when a spot gets bombed with a lot of different piece or artwork

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 1960s is 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 scarcer and more 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 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.