Tag Archives: los angles

STREETSY: ARTWORK ON A BILLBOARD – WHEN CAPITALISM AND ART MAKE A BABY

Capitalism and art. They’re not the best of friends. Sometimes they look at each other with roiling contempt. The fact is they need each other, albeit, to a point, and — deep down — they’re in love with one another, because each has something the other desperately wants: Money and cultural cachet. They help each other out in a symbiotic relationship that brings funding and artists together and makes culture happen on a grand scale.

Go into any major art institution and there are the plaques and signs on the walls and in the beautifully printed exhibition programs with the names of billionaire industrialists and entrepreneurs who have become art-world philanthropists, and see those names next the corporate sponsors and logos of the various companies — often Wall Street powerhouses and global Fortune 500 corporations — and the words “made possible by” or “with the generous support of.”  At the major museums, at art fairs and events, that sponsorship and acknowledgement of support is par for the course.

Indeed, money makes the art world go around, though not necessarily art itself. The streets are a different matter. The very fact that street art is often illicit and seen “in the streets” is because there is no financial support or patronage or sanctioned art space for that work. Street art largely bypasses the gatekeepers, the curators, collectors, gallerists, and financial patrons. Granted, that the work of many street artists does not have a home in the galleries and museums is often because most street art is not great. Really, it’s mostly kind of lazy and sucky. From an art world perspective, it doesn’t warrant being on a gallery wall unless it is really great or there is at least the potential to co-opt it for financial gain or cultural profit in doing so. And if it is really great, it often only works in the context of the street. Once it’s on a gallery wall, most street art loses part of what made it special in the first place. It loses that context and its inherent subversiveness, aside from whatever its content  or message may be. In any event, capitalism is not in a direct  agreement or relationship with street art.

But sometimes artwork that is on the street is in a direct relationship with commercial patronage, for example, when it’s commissioned and given a dedicated commercial space well-suited for exhibiting the artwork. An advertising  billboard is such a space, and it’s the location of the wondrous and evocative images of Taiwanese artist James Jean, whose painting “Schrodinger’s Kitten Rescue” has been rendered on a large billboard above in the Sawtelle neighborhood (a.k.a., Little Osaka) of Los Angeles. Here capitalism and art have come together to make a cultural baby, a creator’s commercial-free vision imposed on the urban landscape in what is otherwise a commercial-filled space.

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.

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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。