Tag Archives: contemporary art

BROMANCE: THAT TIME WHEN MICHAEL AND BUBBLES WERE BESTIES

In 1988, the artist Jeff Koons created the  brilliant porcelain sculptural object “Michael and Bubbles,” a kitschy, super-sized 3D depiction of late man-child and mega-pop-star Michael Jackson and Bubbles, his famous chimpanzee pet-as-sidekick.

Michael and Bubbles were kind of like best friends for a while. Human and chimp as pals. Cross-species buds. Besties. BFFs way before BFF was even a term that would be abbreviated. Continue reading

LOVE: ELI BROAD’S DECADES-LONG LOVE AFFAIR WITH BASQUIAT

Among the vast art collection of billionaire businessman, philanthropist and art collector Eli Broad is a large collection of artworks by the late, great artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Pictured here are a handful of those Basquiats currently on view at the eponymous Broad Museum of Art in Los Angeles. (Note: You’ll see round, blurry shadow in the lower left of each image. Sorry, that’s due to dust in the camera of our iPhone. Time for a new iPhone!).

Broad is one of the biggest art collectors in the world  and has one of the world’s greatest private art collections, especially of contemporary art, post-modern and pop art. Most of it at his museum in LA. 

Broad was one of the early collectors of Basquiat and has many of the artist great works. You could call it a keen eye for a great artist and great artwork.Or you could call it a love affair.

EPIC : MURAL ATTEMPTS CHEERY POSITIVITY AMID GRIM DEPRESSING VIBE OF WINTRY DOWNTOWN NYC

The current mural at the “Bowery Wall” (a.k.a., the “Deitch Wall”) in downtown New York City is an epic, colorful composition of 3D block letters and abstract 2D graphical shapes.

The massive painting is by the artist Lakwena and its message “Lift you higher” could be describing the artwork itself. It’s a bright, aesthetically cheery artwork that has all the right pleasure-centering amounts of visual flavor crystals added to it.

Continue reading

OBEY: THE WABI SABI OF OLD SHEPARD FAIREY STREET ART POSTERS

Like a vintage wine, some street art ages remarkably well. Others not so well.

Take for example most wheat-paste street art posters like the one pictured here in Venice, Los Angeles, by artist Shepard Fairey (see all Shepard Fairey posts). It’s classic Fairey. 

But it’s showing its age. It’s worn, fading, and a little tattered from the elements. Although the physical integrity of artwork has degraded, it’s actually made the poster more interesting in a way that’s similar to the way patination on a bronze statue gives it more character or the way a pair of Japanese RPM selvedge denim jeans develop a distinct shape, fade and crease when worn everyday and left unwashed for a year.

Part of street art’s magic is that it’s ephemeral. It comes and goes. It disappears. And part of that ephemerality is seeing it age, bearing witness to its slow destruction.

As Fairey’s Venice Beach poster continues to come apart and fade, it’s takes on a new aesthetic. It becomes more beautiful as it degrades and loses the perfection of it’s original state. The artwork is humbled by the elements and by time. Yet it remains a remarkable image and retains the unconventional nature inherent in art that’s “in the streets.”

Looking at it this way is like the Japanese concept of wabi sabi. And yet the core image persists on the landscape, provoking thought , remaining a subject of appreciation. 

ADVENTURES IN NEON: HOW “DOUBLE AMERICA 2” IS THE PERFECTLY SYMBOLIC ARTWORK FOR THE TRUMP ERA

Artist Glenn Ligon‘s “Double America 2” is among the most profound works of contemporary American art, and it is profoundly American. It’s absolutely brilliant.

The artwork can read on several levels. At its core is the idea of there being two different Americas or American experiences largely due to race, and, more pointedly, to racism, discrimination and its place in the nation’s history.

It points to the psychology of identity, the sense of black and white, rich and poor, haves and have-nots, exterior image and interior reality, something bright — and brightly lit — and ideal versus something gravely wrong, upside down, dark and flickering.

We’ve seen this artwork several times over the years elsewhere in museums around the U.S. and the world. We recently viewed it at the Broad Museum in Los Angeles (pictured here). It’s the first time we’ve seen Ligon’s artwork since the U.S. Presidential campaign and election of Donald Trump, an event that brought the startling breadth of the nation’s cultural, economic, racial and political divides into the sharpest focus. 

“Double America 2” seems a perfectly pointed and symbolic visual meme for the times, for the condition of the United States in the politically divisive, ugly “Trump Era.”

SIDE HUSTLES: WE LIKE TO SKETCH

Yes, it’s true, savvy reader. Sometimes we here at Global Graphica like to pick up a pen, pencil or, preferably, a Sharpie and make little drawings of things, everyday objects, people, faces, and so on. We have a habit of making sketches of surfboards and surfers riding waves, as in the example pictured here. And we do so in our Moleskine notebook or on any available paper surface. In the case of the surfer in the sketch above, we drew that on a paper tablecloth while dining out and killing time as we waited for post-dinner dessert to arrive.

SEEN: MASSIVE CONTEMPORARY ART EXHIBITION AT MOCA CREEPY AF! AND WE LOVE IT!

Some will hate it. Some will love it. Many will be confused. More to the point, it’s creepy AF! But “The Theater of Disappearance,” a recently opened exhibition by the Argentine artist Adrian Villar-Rojas at the MoCA Geffen Contemporary in Los Angeles, is a stunning, ambitious, intriguing and unsettling show on a massive scale and must be seen. Or rather, it must be experienced. The exhibition amounts to a giant art installation of geological and human cultural artifacts presented in some post-human future. Villar-Rojas presents stark vision of humankind’s legacy that is fascinating and terrifying.

PINKISH: PORTRAIT OF ROBED ELEPHANT-HUMAN STREET ART BEFUDDLES PASSERSBY

Street art often provides many unanswered questions, not only about the artwork itself, but also who created it. There’s seldom clear authorship for most street art and usually no contextual information about the artwork or artist in the way there is for in a museum of gallery. That can make it difficult to attribute the artist or read the artwork, though that’s also part of the allure of street art. Continue reading

KNOWLEDGE: STREET ART EXPLAINS RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FINANCE AND LOVE

Art can do many things. It can provoke, teach, offend, inform, comfort, inspire, scare, stimulate and bond us.

Street art, can possibly do even more things. Its public nature — in “the streets” —  gives it more reach and exposure to a much larger, broader audience than most of the art confined to the indoors of a museum or gallery. That said, most of the audience exposed to street art do not care for street art.

That public may not “get it” nor like it nor think of it as “art,” but as they drive by or walk by street art, they cannot unsee it (at least not without some kind of head-trauma induced amnesia or decades of expensive professional psychological counseling).

In this way, street art is like a billboard, or what people in the ad agency business called “OOH” for “out of home” advertising.

So any explicit message contained in the street artwork has as much power or influence as a billboard, which itself may be inconsequential or great depending on the content, images and message. In any case, while that influence can be hard to precisely measure, nobody is in doubt, however, about its visibility and potential.

Occasionally street art, or art in general, imparts some gem of wisdom and understanding in the viewer. Often, depending on the media, it’s nuanced, subject to interpretation and open to speculation. But sometimes it’s clearly stated, expressed using the power and clarity of the written word, relying more on text than image.

No money, No honey” (our comma) is the message in the stencil street art pictured here on a stretch of pavement in the Downtown Los Angeles Arts District. The stenciled art provides a pithy, hyper-concise breakdown of the relationship between purchase power and sex (preferably of the hot kind).

The statement is a generally understood observation, and an unethical and shameful popular notion, that has existed since the beginning of time. To put it another way, it’s saying there’s a relationship between money and love, or the facsimile of love.

Is there a real-world example that might illustrate this relationship? Why, yes, there is, savvy reader! Yes, there is!

Take the case of Melania and Donald Trump. Melania here is the “honey” in the equation. The Donald has the “money.” If Donald does not have the money, it’s quite likely he wouldn’t have the “honey” (that’s Melania — c’mon folks follow along!). Because, really … Melania would give up the honey for this without the money?

Under any circumstances, the image of Melania giving up the honey for Donald Money is something we can’t unsee. It’s like street art. Or a billboard. Or street art ON a billboard. A really frightening billboard. 

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.

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!