Category Archives: Art

How High-Low Can You Go? New Banksy Mural in London Rips Basquiat for Basquiat’s Sake

There’s a new Banksy in London!   Okay, okay, okay — calm down! We know how exciting this must be for you. Us, too! But let’s take a moment and catch our breath, ’cause this is no ordinary new piece of street art from the world’s most mysterious artist.

The latest Banksy is ripping off one of the most famous and original popular post-modern artists to emerge from New York City in the heady 1980s.

You know the ’80s, right? It’s that era when people did lots of coke and wore lots of pastel-colored clothing in America, say, like a a pink linen blazer with the sleeves rolled up past the elbow (’cause in the ’80s they figured out that wearing your blazer that way made it all the easier for you to drive your convertible white Ferrari Mondial around the broad and desolate mean streets of Miami at midnight with a moody expression on your face).

Anyways, that important ’80s artist was the late, great Basquiat, as in Jean-Michel Basquiat. In the 1990s, Hollywood released a biopic about him with Jeffrey Wright, David Bowie and Dennis Hopper in starring roles.

So Banksy is ripping off Basquiat for his latest work. Well, “rip off” is a harsh term. Did we really say that? Kind of, maybe, not really. We meant “riffs” off. (Or is it “riff on”?). Or rather what we meant was Banksy is giving “a nod” to Basquiat.

Let’s clarify. Banksy has created an original Banksy artwork that depicts two police officers in his usual style of monochromatic black and gray graffiti-painted stencils.

The police are patting down and writing a citation for a very authentically-rendered impressionistic black figure painted in a style that is mind-blowingly like a Basquiat painting.

Nearby is a painting of a very Basquiat-esque dog growling, as well as a mash-up of a very Keith Haring-esque (as in Keith Haring, another late, great ’80s NYC art star) and a very Basquiat-esque human figure leaping into the air.

It’s fucking brilliant, really. It’s a real collision of high-brow and low-brow in a way that makes so much sense.

Is Banksy ripping off Basquiat (or Haring for that matter)? No. Unequivocally “no!”

The artwork is an homage and a site-specific work referencing a new massive exhibition of Basquiat’s work at the Barbican Centre in London. The show is awesomely titled “Boom for Real.”

Go see it while it lasts or before the neighborhood becomes so much more expensive that you’ll need to take out a mortgage to buy a flat white coffee.

 

Artsy: The Mysterious Dog Painting of Artist Morex Arai

Mysterious Honolulu-based artist Morex Arai painted this strangely compelling and intriuging artwork depicting a pensive dog (to the extent that a dog can even  be “pensive”). The dog stands on a shaded patch of green, sloping lawn that stretches down a hill to a parking lot in the distance.

The image begs a lot of questions and invites speculation on many possible narratives, which make this painting so interesting and rewarding. Why is the dog on a leash but nobody is holding his leash? Why is the dog standing there? What is the dog looking at? Are they at a park? Is this in Hawaii? Where is the dog’s owner? Did something happen to his owner? Should I get a pet? What is the meaning of life? And so on.

The painting is on view as part of a group show at Ars Cafe & Gallery in Honolulu.

 

Art Installation of Giant Cigarette Butts Elicits Barely A Remark at Whitney Museum

News flash, kids! Times change! What was shocking once, now evokes a weary “Meh!” When that crushing realization is made, it can be kind of depressing for some, forcing people to ask themselves “What’s it all mean?” and to think really hard for a moment about one’s ever-shrinking relevance and relative smallness in the scheme of the Universe.

Or, to put it another way: Some shit just don’t resonate anymore and nobody gives a flying f*ck.

The artist Claes Oldenburg and his chief collaborator Coosje van Bruggen, a GIANT of post-modern pop art probably best known for his literally GIANT artworks, may have elicited “Oohs” and “Aahs” when his art installation of a GIANT ashtray overflowing with GIANT cigarette butts hit the public back in the day. The artwork is titled “Giant Fagends” (which might be funny to some subset of rural American teenage boys) and was created way before our time in 1967. (In case you didn’t know, “Fagends” is the British English word for cigarette butts.) It is a major artwork by a major artist that any major museum or serious major collector would be stoked to have in their major collection.

But spotting this fun and playful artwork with a sudden rush of art-nerd enthusiasm in the Whitney Museum in New York City, we were a bit surprised to see so many museum visitors — uh, almost everybody, actually — walk by it with scarcely an intrigued glance during a 10-minute period.

First, this says something about Whitney Museum visitors, which is a mix of aforementioned art-nerds, art-worlders, hipsters, students and tourists. Art-nerds and many art-worlders aside, lot of them don’t know shit about art, or they’re tired or bored and don’t even want to be at the museum.

And, for the art-nerds/-worlders and hipsters and those who are interested in art and do want to be at the museum, there’s just so damn much to see at the Whitney. Sure, it’s not the gargantuan MoMA, but it’s still huge. It’s a treasure trove of an art collection and is among the finest in the world. But it can be exhausting. (Granted, this is pretty much true for any major museum.) 

More importantly,  it says something about where art is at, mon amis!  With each passing hour, “Giant Fagends” has to compete for human attention with an ever-faster, ever-growing body of artworks and media, in the museum, in the city, on the streets, in other galleries, on the Internet, on your iPhone, in your InstaSnapFaceTwitter feed.

But don’t despair. In the five decades since Oldenburg birthed “Giant Fagends,” contemporary art as we know has evolved and arrived in greater volume, in more mediums (media?), at greater scale and in more surprising ways, in an exponential explosion of richly diverse creative output, that is more than we can keep track up in our present uber-information-over-loaded era. Hooray and awesome!

And this is a testament to the power and influence of Oldenburg’s work and other artists and artworks like it. It was ground-breaking, pioneering, original and genius, and it opened the minds of creators and viewers alike to the possibilities of what art was and could be, where it was going, where it could go.

Sooooooo. Amen. Word. #shook. Go to the Whitney — and if you’re lucky! — “Giant Fagends” will still be on view.

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.