Category Archives: Art

PERPLEXED: COLUMBUS DAY, STATUES AND MORE

We’re back after a “few days” hiatus. The break was in part due to Columbus Day, a U.S. national holiday, that for many people, including us, is not a holiday at all. More on that later.

But first … Did you miss us? NO? Well, we missed YOU, savvy reader!

What with the Columbus Day non-holiday stuff and — more to the point — really good surf arriving these past couple of weeks in California after a month of no good surf, we took a few days off from posting.  

And then those few days became a week. A week became weekS!

All that time, roaming up and down the SoCal coastline hunting waves AND trying to get work done. Emphasis on “trying.” We didn’t get a lot of work done, at least in terms of posting to this site.

But we did take lots and lots of pix for this site and saw a lot of art in the service of reporting it on this site.

So, Columbus Day non-holiday holiday.

The U.S. government and its related entities, as well as all banks, take this day off. They shut their doors, let their calls go to voicemail, and fuck-off for a Monday.

In the process, they extend their weekend for additional and various weekendy non-work activities like …

  • Day drinking
  • Home improvement/DIY stuff
  • Catching up on and binge-watching their favorite TV shows
  • Epic shopping excursions to big-box retailers like Costco and WalMart.
  • Road trips up the coast
  • Road trips down the coast
  • Road trips to the coast …
  • Road trips away from the coast
  • Supplemental day drinking

That kind of stuff.

Some public and private companies observe the holiday and give their employees the day off, too. But it’s kind of scattershot.

When we were working in the advertising and branding agency world in New York City, most of the companies gave us Columbus Day off.

Not so at our current company or most of the same kind of advertising and branding agencies here on the West Coast.

Columbus Day is kind of a bigger deal in NYC. There’s an annual Columbus Day parade there that celebrates the legacy of Italian Americans.

There are statues of Columbus, and in Midtown Manhattan especially, steps away from Central Park and the Trump International Tower and a Whole Foods, is a traffic circle (what Brits call a “roundabout”) named Columbus Circle. In middle of it is a tall column topped by a statue of Columbus. See photo above.

Columbus is a controversial figure as a symbol of historical celebration, which is understandable. The Italian navigator who sailed for Spain and discovered the “New World” is a symbol of imperialism, colonialism, and genocide for some. Increasingly, It seems the statue’s days may be numbered.

His legacy, however, can’t be denied, for good or ill. And one byproduct of his legacy, in the U.S., at least, is an annual national holiday that befuddles a nation of gainfully employed populaces who just want some clarity on whether they get the day off from work and can spend that day off to go day drinking, etc. (see bullet list above).

Another byproduct is the amazing on-site art installation by artist Tatsu Nishi in 2012 titled “Living Room,” wherein the Japanese artist constructed a temporary apartment living room around the that statue of Columbus atop the column in NYC’s Columbus Circle, making it the centerpiece of a living room.

Let’s be clear, we want the day off. So how about calling it “Controversial Historic Legacies Rememberances Day” or something like that? And then go day drinking? Or to WalMart.

Whatever it’s called, either everybody should get the day off or nobody should. Consistency, folks. Consistency! (Granted, unlike our posts … but we’re working on that.)

 

RADICAL: ARTIST SELF-PORTRAIT REVEALS POSSIBLE IDENTITY CRISIS

When you hear the words “self-portrait” you think painting or image by an artist or photographer of him or her self. In modern parlance, that’s a selfie, if you will.

It’s straightforward. A picture … of your self, by your self. Usually, there’s just one of you. It’s pretty narrowly defined.

Unless you’re the Venezuelan artist who goes by the name Marisol, who has recently blown our mind with her sculptural artwork titled “Self-Portrait.” Back in the ancient times of the late 1960s she created a three-dimensional selfie in wood that expresses seven versions of herself. Yes, SEVEN!

Now you, savvy reader, may be thinking what we’re all thinking here now, that this reveals some fucked-up shit. You may be right about that or you may be completely wrong.

You may be formulating an off-the-cuff interpretation that the artwork is telling you the artist had an identity crisis of some sort. You may be right. Or not.

You may be thinking, “What kind of wood is that? That wood is beautiful! Can I find that type of wood at a Home Depot?” And, ok, sure, whatever, that’s fine. 

Marisol’s wood sculpture may well indeed be a self-portrait of a troubled mind or an expression of multiple identities. But aren’t we all at any given moment just revealing one facet of the many versions of our inherently complicated human selves? 

Marisol’s artwork brilliantly gives us pause for thought, perhaps even grave concern coupled with a heady stew of awe and wonderment. Perhaps it even raises questions we never thought we’d ask, like Does our healthcare plan cover the cost of professional counseling? (And, if so, what’s the co-pay?)”

But seriously, that all said, real mental health issues are nothing to joke about.

Back to the artwork at hand. In an interesting twist, three of the depictions of Marisol’s face are close representations of the artist’s actual likeness, and in this way capture various states of her real physical appearance.

The other “portraits” are mysterious, weird, more deeply subject to interpretation and disturbing, and a little grotesque. These look nothing like the artist but instead suggest a more complicated expression of her intention, her personality and state of mind.

The sculpture could also be interpreted as a catalog of roles the artist plays or roles that have been assigned to her by a society and culture at the time that could be seen as more patriarchal and chauvinistic than it is today.

“Self-Portrait” is on view as one of hundreds of artworks by various Latin American women artists at the Hammer Museum called “Radical Woman: Latin American Art, 1960-1985.”

Like with all great artwork, “Self-Portrait” makes the viewer ask questions and search for answers we may never know. We become more curious. In trying to understand what it all means, we look for context, we want to know about the artist, her experiences, her points of view and background. We look for patterns and clues in her other works.

So who is Marisol? She may be one of the most important pop artists you’ve never heard of. Her full name was Marisol Esobar, and she passed away in 2016 while living in New York City. She’s included in the Hammer exhibition as a Latina artist, but she was born in France to Venezuelan parents who spent many years in Europe, traveling frequently there and in the U.S. and Venezuela before settling in the States.

Reading her biography, two things stand out about her background. One, her parents died while Marisol was still a child. She eventually spent most of her formative teenage years at boarding schools in New York and Los Angeles. The second thing is that she was a deeply religious Catholic. 

No doubt these experiences informed her body of work over a career that spanned six decades.

. . . . . .

ロサンゼルスのハンマー美術館でベネズエラのアーティストMarisol Escobarによる木彫り。アートワークのタイトルは「セルフポートレート」です。アートワークは、1960年から1985年の間にラテンアメリカの女性が作ったアートワークの展示品です。

Mysterious: Why “Judith” is Painted on an LA Warehouse Door

The “Judith” in question here is artist Judith Bernstein. The roller shutter with her name painted on it in a rough handwritten style is at the influential art gallery the Box in the Art District of Los Angeles, where Bernstein has had many exhibitions.

Shocker: “Flooded McDonalds” Video Forces Rubes to Question What is “Art”?

Question: Have you ever had a dream where you were in your favorite fast-food dining establishment and suddenly it starts flooding?

Have you ever entertained the thought “Wouldn’t it be cool if Burger King got flooded?”

Is it — or has it ever been — your burning desire to see a KFC deluged to the rafters?

Have you wondered aloud (or in private, for that matter) what it would be like if McDonalds was overrun with a rushing torrent of H20?

You have? (Uh, really, you have?). Ok.

Well, guess what, kids, the short film “Flooded McDonalds” is for YOU!

Created by artist collective Superflex, “Flooded McDonalds” documents the flooding of what appears to be an actual, operational McDonalds restaurant.

At first the restaurant is shown as totally ghosted, dry and in its ordinary state but devoid of customers and staff, as if everyone who was there suddenly rushed off in a panic. There are still trays of food on tables and just-prepared burgers in wrappers in the kitchen.

Then slowly we see a little bit of water seeping through under a door. Over the next ten minutes or so the water rises, as we anticipate and bear witness to the various affects of the water on the restaurant’s interior.

Chairs get moved around, a ubiquitous Ronald McDonald statue is lifted by the tide and eventually gets toppled and ends up floating aimlessly. Some things sink, some things float. A pot of coffee still filled to the brim moves like a bouncy submarine through the flood waters. Cash registers and backlit signs short circuit.

The film is mesmerizing, strangely compelling, and positively droll. At times, it is laugh-out-loud funny, though there there are no jokes.

In fact, the film has no dramatic music, no dialogue, no explanation, nothing but the arrival of more water into what is actually a faithful and convincing reproduction of a working McDonalds restaurant.

“Flooded McDonalds” is entertaining with a nod and a wink. And it is absolutely and truly, to use a favored expression of critics everywhere, “thought-provoking.”

It forces the viewer to ask questions, and not just the kinds of “They call that ‘art’?”- or “What the hell is that?”-type questions that the non-art-appreciating rubes from the sticks would ask.

No, no, you, savvy reader, are pondering thoughtful questions like What the fuck does this say about globalization or the impacts of massive corporations on the environment? Or something like that.

The film draws viewers in with the familiar. The “golden arches” of the McDonalds logo are among the few graphic symbols easily grasped by almost every living human on the planet.

This locks in your attention and forces you the viewer to consider the impending disaster. You know what’s coming, but how exactly it’s going to unfold is the burning question on everybody’s mind.

Eventually, the McDonalds is submerged and destroyed by the deluge, which has now become a filthy stew of flotsam and half-sunken debris. The film captures the event from various camera angles, including from under the water.

This may be art and as such a fiction, but we can only imagine that what we see in the film is how it recently must have played out in real-life in places like Houston, Texas, which experienced massive flooding as a result of Hurricane Harvey and where no doubt there are many McDonalds.

“Flooded McDonalds” was first exhibited in London in 2010, but the film is now showing on a loop at the Hammer Museum of Art in Los Angeles and you can watch an edited behind-the-scenes version online below. GO SEE IT!

Superflex: Why We Flooded McDonald’s from Louisiana Channel on Vimeo.

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 produced a biopic about him with Jeffrey Wright, Dennis Hopper, and David Bowie (who played artist Andy Warhol in the film).

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.

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

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.”

Banksy’s artwork here is fucking brilliant. It’s a collision of high-brow and low-brow in a way that makes so much sense and says so much.

Basquiat, a street artist who became a legit art star and darling of the art world, if he were alive today and walking down the streets of central London might not be able to go see his own exhibition at major museum without being stopped by police or racially profiled as suspicious. There’s some bitter irony here.

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.