Tag Archives: japanese

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. 

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。

“Here We Are” Street Art at Ships … Harajuku, Tokyo

Amid the labyrinthine back streets that comprise Ura-Harajuku are many examples of commissioned semi-legal street art in little niches of spaces. This artwork is on a wedge of dividing wall between the Ships clothing store and an adjacent building.

Japanese Election Campaign Posters on a Wall … Naka-Meguro, Tokyo

The optics and media of Japanese political election campaigns are fascinating for their restraint and orderliness. Campaign posters for the various politicians are put up in designated places in local neighborhoods and often in clusters, like the ones pictured above in Tokyo’s fashionable Naka-Meguro area. The politicians each appear in posters that are basically all the same size and visually tame. In short, as outdoor billboard advertising goes (what ad industry people call “out of home” or OOH advertising), these election posters are a relatively unobtrusive part of the cultural landscape.

Japanese Summer “Hanabi”-Themed Billboard Ad For Coca-Cola … Tokyo

Japan has a long-established, globally recognized and highly-developed sense of aesthetics, especially when it come to design and graphic communications like advertising. This large indoor billboard poster for Coca-Cola at Ark Hills Tokyo references the Japanese summer tradition of hanabi (massive fireworks displays) as beautiful flat, abstract graphics.

Hello Kitty Street Art by D-Face … Ura-Harajuku, Tokyo

 

American street artist DFace artwork often works with iconic pop-cultural imagery, often American retro-comic book styles and skeletal graphics. Here in Tokyo he’s de-constructed a Japanese icon, “Kitty -chan,” better know around the world as “Hello Kitty,” revealing her skull.

  

More Awesome Street Art by Invader in Tokyo’s Naka-Meguro Neighborhood

This example of street art by French artist Invader in Tokyo is probably one of the best we’ve seen in recent months. The pixelated Space Invader videogame icon here has been created on a larger scale than most of the mosaic artworks Invader has put up around the Japanese capital and elsewhere around the world. We found this one in the quiet cool-kids neighborhood of Naka-Meguro.

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Global Graphica in Tokyo …

We’re in Tokyo this week and as those of you who follow us on Twitter and Instagram  may have already seen, we’ve been posting some pix from the Japanese capital literally from the moment we stepped off the plane (see below). It’s good to be back in Tokyo, one of our favorite cities and a source of much inspiration in terms of great design, creativity, urban living and style. Plus there’s all the amazing food. We’ll be posting from Tokyo all this week as part of our “Tokyo 14 Project,” so look for pix and updates here, as well as on Instagram and Twitter.

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Fresh Street Art by Con Artist Collective

This boldly graphic wheat-paste street art poster by Con Artist Collective just went up on a building hoarding at the corner of Broome and Allen streets, in the art-fashion part of the Lower East Side, in New York. The artwork was inspired by the classic Japanese sci-fi comic “Akira,” and is a mash-up of Japanese manga imagery, as well as a layer of stylized Japanese-like kanji typography.

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Brooklyn Street Art … Girls Faces by Junko Shimizu

These monochromatic paintings of women’s heads form a set of murals on a series of walls in Willamsburg, Brooklyn. Japanese artist-illustrator Junko Shimuzu painted these, and we think they’re awesome. There’s a kind of vintage look to the women’s various hairstyles, and a graphic-novel quality to the line drawings that we like.

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Akane Ogura’s Awesome Vintage Denim Bag

We recently met the super-talented New York-based Japanese artist-illustrator Akane Ogura, who showed us one of the awesome reclaimed vintage denim tote bags she has designed. We hear these have been selling out. Ogura also has designed lots of other cool totes, too, all hand-made by the artist. We really like the detail in the print and logo-tag designs. Great stuff.

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Japanese Street Art Logo … Tokyo

This graphic on a wall in Shibuya, in Tokyo, looks and feels like a piece of street art and could have been created by stencil, paint-print, heat transfer or painted by hand. It may be graphical logo for a restaurant or company brand mark. Whatever it is, we think it’s frackin’ awesome. The image itself looks like a super-simplified rendering of a mythological Buddha-like character from Japanese historical iconography.

(Hey readers! If you can identify what this is, send us an email.)

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Super Cool Illustration by Yuko Shimizu

We stumbled upon this super cool drawing by the prolific Japanese illustrator Yuko Shimizu in the B&A Journal. Shimuzu’s work has been in the New York Times, the New Yorker and Rolling Stone, among other publications, and has appeared in ad campaigns for Microsoft, Target, and Visa, as well as on a line of Gap T-Shirts. Later this year, Abrams is publishing her first children’s book.

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