Tag Archives: contemporary art

Revealed: Pablo Picasso was “Bad Hombre”

There’s that famous song by every hipster-music-nerd’s favorite band the Modern Lovers with the remarkable observation that Pablo Picasso, one of the greatest artists of all time, was “never called an asshole.” 

We highly doubt this. But put that aside for a moment and assume that, in fact, the artsy Spaniard was never called an asshole.

But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t — as Trump might say — “a bad hombre.”

The street artist collective that works under the moniker Decisions & Review has put up this fresh artwork depicting Picasso wearing a cowboy hat and brandishing a pistol. He looks like a badass, albeit an artsy badass.

It’s food for thought, which is maybe why the word “think” is painted above Pablo’s head.

So what does it all mean? It means Pablo was a bad hombre. And, let’s face it, he probably an was asshole, too, even if you accept that he was never called that. (But we assure you, he was called that. Maybe not to his face everyday, but often.)

What do you think? What’s your interpretation of this artwork? Tell in the comments section below! We really want to know! 

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.

 

Here Comes the Neigborhood: Mural of Basquiat Ups Real Estate Values in Hip Gentrifying Hood

There’s a pattern of tell-tale signs that indicate that a once-undesireable neighborhood is undergoing gentrification. One of these signs is the changing nature of street art, and, more tellingly, the arrival of public art.

Although street art is kind of constant throughout the gentrification process, it’s usually in abundance in the neighborhood pre-gentrification and continues to pop up more frequently and blossom as the process unfolds. What’s different over time is the type of street art and its content and how it changes as the neighborhood gentrifies.

As the process plays out and rents and condos become more expensive, the street art becomes “neater,” bigger, less controversial, broader in appeal, and more referential of the established traditional post-modern and contemporary art canon.

More importantly, the street art you see starts to be commissioned rather than illicit. Galleries pop up. Art “events” appear. There’s public art. There are bigger and bigger murals. The “street art” at this stage is increasingly really officially developer-approved mural work by established street art figures and established non-street artists instead of “guerilla” artworks painted in the dark of night. 

The mural pictured here in the Los Angeles Arts District depicting the late, great artist Jean-Michel Basquiat seems to fall somewhere in between the official and unofficial, a signpost somewhere in the middle of the gentrification-process spectrum. In and of itself, it is not significantly remarkable. In the context of the streets, it’s awesome, it’s cool, and will add to the area’s cachet for would be home buyers and investors who love it and want to tap into the “cool” of the Arts District.

The artwork is adding value. Rents will go up — ARE going up — and fast!  (In fact, since you started reading this, the average monthly listing price on a 400 square-foot studio apartment in the area has probably increased by $2,416.39, to the penny.)

The painting is by the very talented artist Alex Ali Gonzalez, and it’s self-referential for the art world and also a kind of visual, symbolic creative cue, an homage to an important beloved artist and what that artist represents — Basquiat started out by creating graffiti and street art in what at the time were the derelict streets of downtown Manhattan, an area of New York City that is now completely gentrified and unaffordable for most people.

Basquiat symbolizes something for both the struggling young artist being priced out of the Arts District and to the property developer turning a textile warehouse or widget factory into multi-million dollar condos affordable by only the wealthy, who it has been observed are often people who are not professionally creative and often lack imagination in a way that is inversely proportional to their wealth.

Neighborhoods pass through phases of gentrification, from pre- and “pioneer” phases through to “early hipster,” “late hipster” and “second,” “third,” “fourth” waves, etc., and finally “establishment” phase. (You’ll know the last phase because hipsters are no longer moving to the neighborhood and there’s at least one condo with its own private elevator.)

The Arts District of Los Angeles, which is really the industrial area that’s psychologically an extension of Downtown LA (DTLA) is not at the establishment phase of gentrification, but it’s very close, or rather at least pockets of it are really close. Other areas, not so much. It’s a vast area that could easily be divided up in to two or three distinct neighborhoods.

But there’s more and more large-to-epic scale commissioned street art. Look for more images of the Basquiats and Warhols and others of the artworld Pantheon in the future and fewer “Kook Streets” and “Wrdsmths” and “Banksys” (although, given the monetary and cultural value of a Banksy artwork at this point, it would actually be a welcome addition even on an expensive DTLA condo, maybe it would be painted inside that private elevator.) 

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.

 

Street Art Begs Passersby to “Stop Making Stupid People Famous” – We Disagree!

On the surface, the sentiment seems straightforward, sensible and pleasantly righteous enough: “Stop making stupid people famous.”

That sounds like a great idea. After almost two decades of Hiltons, Karadashians, a Richie, assorted “House Wives of …” and bearded redneck dynasties AND Honey Boo Boo, as well as countless reality shows of the type that require participants to compete not on vocational skill, but on guile, personality and the whims of flaky group politics, well, we’ve easily seen a lot of stupid people made famous.

And it seems just plain wrong that stupid people should be famous, that idiocy and narcissism, and bad behavior should be rewarded with the financial spoils and celebrity that most hard-working people will never even get close to in their lifetimes, even if they aspire to it.

So the sentiment to stop making stupid people famous is well-placed and understandable.

But we’re going to disagree.

Making stupid people famous is an industry and it’s not going to stop in the foreseeable future, not until people (audiences) lose interest in watching stupid people. It’s the watching of them that makes them famous. Yes, they may be stupid and undeserving and crude and base, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not interesting. In fact, they can be very interesting. #sad.

At minimum, in the lowest-common denominator way, stupid people doing stupid things on TV is very entertaining. Packaged the right way, a lot of people will want to witness all the above variations of stupid-famous-people behavior (what we refer to as “SFP bevavior”).

This entertainment just can’t be “created” in the same way as a TV comedy or drama is. Though the set-ups, scripting and scenes may be planned ahead of time by a cadre of writers and producers, and reality TV shows are full-scale “productions,” and though reality TV stars are playing to — or are at least aware of — the camera, their behavior, even when easily predictable, is unscripted and often hammy and this can be fascinating, entertaining, cringe-worthy, amusing, laughable, intriguing, offensive and simultaneously all of above rolled into one. Because they’re not actors and because they’re not “acting.” And maybe because they’re a little stupid.

The sentiment  and argument doesn’t just apply to reality TV stars, of course, but to others in the industrial-entertainment-media complex: Super models, film and television actors, musicians, politicians. Not all, not most, but a damn lot.

Takeaway: We need somebody to unassailably, righteously roll our eyes at and laugh at, somebody who is a deserving target, and somebody we can point to as a cautionary tale and as a teachable example of how not to be, how not to be an intelligent, decent human being.

Full disclosure: We once appear on a very popular mid-2000s reality TV show with Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie called “The Simple Life 2: Interns.” We appear on camera with these stars for less than 15 seconds.

 

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.

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!