Category Archives: Art

Street Art on Cars: “Lamest of Lame Sauce” or “Coolest Thing Ever”?

Artist Kenny Scharf is, as Ron Burgundy might say, kind of a big deal. Actually he really is a big deal. His artwork has appeared in the streets and on the walls of galleries and museums worldwide in a career that has spanned nearly four decades.

Scharf has got an iconic body of work, mostly paintings of often contorted retro-futuristic comic heads and faces in a style like those of 1960’s-era Hanna-Barbera cartoons “The Jetsons” and “The Flinstones.”

We’ve documented some his artwork over the years, from the streets of NYC to a recent exhibition at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles (another example here and here).

Now his artwork is also appearing on a late model Honda Fit in the greater LA metro area. LA being LA, that Honda is most likely crawling at 10 miles-per-hour in bumper-to-bumper traffic on a SoCal freeway right now.

Artwork on cars has always left a funny taste in our mouth. When we say “artwork,” we’re not talking about the kind of decorative flourishes of paint and decals that adorn classic cars, low riders, racing cars or hot rods. That shit is legit.  It’s for the car. It’s part of the car as an expression of the car’s owner in service of the vehicle’s style. It’s decorative and artful and a craft that is a byproduct of car culture itself.

No, what we’re talking about here is when an artist that has nothing to do with cars puts their artwork on a moving vehicle, merely using the car as a canvas on wheels. Sometimes it works amazingly well and can stop us in our tracks and put a smile on our face. And sometimes it doesn’t and we’re recoiling from the sight.

In other words, it can be really lame. In fact it can be the lamest of lame sauce. (That’s pretty fucking lame!) Or it can be the coolest thing E-V-E-R. 

Kenny’s artwork has never resonated with us in a big way in terms of aesthetic, but we like his work and we’ve always enjoyed and appreciated his art and style. His site-specific painting on a massive set of walls in the lobby of the Hammer Museum was AWESOME.

But seeing one of his iconic painted cartoon faces blazing on the side of a compact sedan parked on a Santa Monica side street just kind of made us die a little bit inside. It felt cheap. It felt too easy. It looked lame.

Maybe it was simply a matter of aesthetic: That hue of red for the face on that electric-midnight blue of that car just doesn’t feel right.

That said, street art evovled on the foundation of graffiti art, which started the tradition of “getting up” large, visually stunning graffiti on trains and commercial trucks — perfect canvases for exposing one’s work to a large citywide audience in New York back in the day. At the time, many recoiled at the sight. It was considered an eyesore. Now, we look at it differently.

Yet, for Scharf, we expect the art to be more hallowed and to look better. That might be wrong, but it’s just us. So, Kenny, dude, step away from the vehicles, bro! Step away from the vehicles.

Of course, if that Honda Fit is Kenny’s, then everything we just said above doesn’t matter. What you do to your car is your business. And more power to ya’!

New “Thought-Provoking” and Possibly Phallic Artwork Joins Hammer Museum Collection

Hey, look! The Hammer Museum of Art in Los Angeles has some new artwork! The museum, more often referred to by locals simply as “The Hammer” (and, by the way, how fucking cool of a name for a museum is that?) recently acquired some new art. It’s mostly of the contemporary variety, which regular readers of Global Graphica will know, we L-O-V-E the most. 

As an art museum is wont to do, the Hammer has put on an exhibition of these newly acquired works in a show titled “Living Apart Together.” Among the standout pieces in the show (and there are many) is Los Angeles artist Barbara T. Smith’s “Field Piece,” a small forrest of 16 tall, narrow resin trunks (described by the museum as fiberglass “blades”) that are not too dissimilar to — dare we say it — male genitilia. A.k.a., dicks! In other words, some people might call these “phallic.”

But, we dear reader, are not one of such people. We don’t think these are phallic at all, and we do believe that it was not in the mind of the artist  to create something as such at the time (that time being between 1968-1972, when Smith created “Field Piece”).

But no matter. Because “Field Piece” is thought-provoking, as all rewarding encounters with art should be. It’s that … Aaaaaaaaand it’s also something that would look fantastic in our living room!

Precious Contemporary Artwork Practically Invites Art Museum Newbies to Damage It

Pity the beleaguered museum gallery attendants who get assigned the shift to keep watch on the art installation by artist Carmen Argote at LACMA. The art in question is titled “720 Sq. Ft.,” and for good reason.

The title references the 720 square feet of carpeting ripped from the artist’s childhood home and displayed on the wall and floor of a high-ceiling BCAM space as what some might like to call a “sculptural object.”

About half of the artwork lies on the floor like a … well, like a carpet. This can cause confusion for some museum visitors, unsure whether they’re allowed to — or are supposed to — walk on the carpet (you know, the one that’s on the floor, as it were).

Sometimes for certain kinds of works, artists encourage or expect viewers of their work to physically interact with it — to touch it, walk on it, sit on it and so on. But not here. Not for “720 Sq. Ft..” Casually sauntering across the re-purposed and modified floor covering would amount to vandalism. It’s verboten.

The gallery attendants have their work cut out for them here, ’cause a lot of museum visitors think they can and should walk on carpet or don’t even realize it’s a work of art. There are many “Excuse me, sir”s and “Please don’t walk on the artwork!”s uttered in the cavernous white space where “720 Sq. Ft.” is on view.

These utterances are often spoken quickly, firmly but politely. But on occasion you sense the exasperation in the attendant’s voice and a curt and mildly-aggressive tone seeps in. It’s kind of #sad but a little entertaining too.

But take note: Encountering this adds yet another dimension to the experience of Argote’s artwork (though it may not have been intended). This makes “720” one among our favorite set of artworks on view at LACMA. 

Bed, Bath & Beyond or Art Museum? You Decide.

Take a look at the photo below. Well, the answer is pretty fucking obvious, right? This colorful selection of curtains pictured below is at the Bed, Bath & Beyond on Pico Blvd. in West LA.

“No! I don’t believe you!” you exclaim with a healthy dose of culture-savvy skepticism tinged with seen-it-all world-weariness.

Ok! So we’re joking! You’re right. It’s NOT at BB&B, clearly. (And, take note, if it was it wouldn’t be at the one on Pico in West LA. We mean, c’mon … blech!) But, admit it, for a hot sec, we had you.

The curtain is in fact a sublime and subtly evocative site-specific installation artwork (<— BTW, that’s a bit of IAE … “International Art English”) at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. The work is titled “For Instance” and is by the artist Yunhee Min, and we love it. It’s the kind of contemporary art that not only invites contemplation but also searing, snarky jokes about how it could be on sale at Bed, Bath & Beyond.  

“Transparent Migrations”

The LACMA exhibition “Home – So Different, So Appealing” is turning into something of a landmark show with all the buzz from critics and patrons alike. The exhibition features a sprawling collection of artwork from Latin American and Latino artists since the 1950s to the present. As the shows title suggests, it explores themes of home, aspirations and identity,  as the collection reveals, it’s in the context of immigration, socio-economic hardship,  and the personal bi-cultural experiences that come with migration and transience. Contemporary art figures prominently. There are many art-installation pieces and many worthy of attention. One of the more striking and evocative works is “Transparent Migrations” (2001) by the American Latina and Californian artist Amalia Mesa-Bains, who is now in her seventies. The work is beautifully mysterious and sublime shrine.

Unbearable Cuteness x Freakishness: Artwork at a Venice Beach Surf Shop

Mollusk is the wonderful name of a wonderful surf shop in Venice Beach, Los Angeles. It’s one of three such shops – the others are in San Francisco and the LA neighborhood of Silver Lake. These locations should tell you a lot about Mollusk. There’s a willfully underplayed and potent hipster factor at work here, and the shop has got a reputation for being intimidatingly cool for a certain subset of young adult and teenage surfers, who can sometimes be found lingering outside, tentative before entering this small but influential shrine of good-taste surf retail. (Clearly these kids have issues, but, hey, that’s on the kids, right?)

Mollusk is no ordinary surf shop and thank god for that, because comparatively speaking most shops suck in their seen-one-you’ve-most-certainly-seen-them-all ordinariness. Mollusk has fucking style. The gang that run it have taste, grit, and a keenly curated collection of hand-shaped surfboards. This taste extends to the decor and the artwork of the shop, like the painting pictured below of an unbearably cute if freakish half-furry creature and half-neoprene-clad humanoid surfer smoking a pipe while cruising a wave. The artwork is in the surfboard loft of the Venice shop, and it speaks thick volumes about Mollusk’s style.

Truly Awesome Photos of Empty European Libraries

French photographer Thibaud Poirier has created a series of photos documenting 25 of Europe’s grandest and beautiful great libraries. Poirier’s images capture the vast interior spaces of what he calls “temples of cultural worship.” In all of the these images the libraries are empty.