Tag Archives: modern art

QUIZZICAL: ART MUSEUM OR HOME DEPOT?

It’s quiz times once again, savvy readers! Look at these photos. Is this a Home Depot or an art museum?

If you said art museum, you are correct. The third photo in this post is the giveaway and the wall placard in the first photo is a clue that this is a gallery in an art museum. 

But without that context, this could be a Home Depot or a Lowes or whichever American DIY home-improvement superstore chain you prefer.

These wooden objects are part of a series of sculptural works by the German artist Imi Knoebel titled “Vivit” and “Vivimus” and are part of the permanent collection of the Broad Museum of Art in Los Angeles.

LEGENDARY: GODDAMMIT DON’T ASK ARTIST JASPER JOHNS WHAT HIS ARTWORK MEANS — NOBODY KNOWS WHAT IT MEANS!

One of modern art’s greatest painters and arguably America’s greatest living artist, Jasper Johns is a giant of the contemporary art world. Recently on the eve of “JasperJohns: Something Resembling Truth,” a massive new exhibition of his work at the Broad Museum in Los Angeles, Johns was interviewed by the New York Times. As he has explained in previous interviews, he doesn’t like offering explanations of what his artwork means. The Times article underscored his sentiments and revealed John’s jokey side with what is now one of our favorite quotes.

Mr. Johns himself is loath to offer biographical interpretations of his work — or any interpretations, for that matter. He is famously elusive and his humor tends toward the sardonic. He once joked that, of the dozens of books that have been written about his art, his favorite one was written in Japanese. What he liked is that he could not understand it.

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.

CAPITALISM: JEFF KOONS AND LOUIS VUITTON MAKE A BABY BUNNY

The unthinkable has happened. Yes, savvy reader, bona fide post-modern rockstar artist and art-world darling Jeff Koons has collaborated with major, global luxury brand Louis Vuitton, installing his iconic stainless-steel inflatable-bunny “sculptural object” titled “Rabbit” in the brand’s boutique display windows alongside special-made stainless-steel balloon versions of the LV logo. Pictured here is his studio’s handiwork as it currently appears in the display window of a store in Newport Beach, California.

Ahh … And with that we say “Good-bye 2017! Hello, 2018! Happy New Year!”

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.”

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。

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.

What is Miracle Mile?

We never tire of revisiting this minimalist masterpiece by artist Robert Irwin at LACMA in Los Angeles. The colorful installation of fluorescent lights has a permanent home in a large ground-floor gallery at LACMA’s Broad Contemporary building. The title of the artwork is “Miracle Mile” and it is specific to its location.  

The museum is on Wilshire Blvd. at the heart of an area named Miracle Mile, which was originally planned as an alternative urban district to Downtown LA in the 1920s. Wilshire eventually became one of LA’s main east-west traffic and business corridors and the “mile” area has since become a kind of “museum row” for the number of other large galleries and museums nearby.

Irwin’s artwork, in its length, geometry and brightly illuminated presence, is a visual metaphor for the commercial strip and aptly is displayed on a wall that faces and runs parallel to Wilshire Blvd itself. A long floor-to-ceiling window in size and proportion similar to the artwork separates the gallery from the boulevard and makes “Miracle Mile” a kind of symbolic mirror.

Hot Mess

“Hot Mess” is the title of an artwork by Doug Aitken that features a beautiful photograph showing an aeriel view of the Las Vegas strip at night.  The image is displayed as a back-lit circular framed object mounted to the gallery wall. At the center of the photo, just above the bright lights of the city, is the title of the artwork in a standard serif font.

There’s humor in this artwork, one of dozens currently on view as part of the artist’s massive retrospective exhibition “Electric Earth” at the Museum of Contemporary Art, a.k.a., MOCA, in downtown Los Angeles. “Hot Mess” is part of series of circular photographic works that marry text and image in intriguing and ironic ways. In the case of this piece, the words evoke and connect several notions about Las Vegas.

Vegas is a unique and strange city among America’s big cities, and for that matter it’s unlike any city in the world in ways that are both obvious and not-so-obvious. As a tourist  in the unlikeliest of geographical places, Vegas has traded on its image of being home to several forms of legalized vice, and an image of moral laxity when it comes to this. Gambling, partying, hotel resort travel, and various types of adult entertainment (in addition to entertainment in general), plus a slew of massive trade shows and conventions, and flamboyant, whimsical architecture — all in the middle of the desert — make the city singular and a kind of “mess” culturally and symbolically.

The term evokes the idea of somebody or a thing that is scattered, disorganized, troubled and possibly pathological. Vegas can seem like that. And much like a freshly spewed pile of vomit — for which the term “hot mess” can also be applied — reeking on the pavement steps from its source, a drunken college student who’s chugged too many Jager shots at a strip club, Vegas is very much like that, too. But, hey, that’s only one facet of this multi-faceted metropolis.

And yet, it has its own beauty. Seen from afar, like many cities and in the photo in Aitken’s artwork, Vegas appears like a glittery jewel, a Milky Way galaxy of neon and LED coalesced into a distant blur of energy, enterprise, and urbanized humanity. From a distance, un-vomit-like.

Entrance to MOCA / Geffen Contemporary 

We’re not religious. But museums are our cathedrals, our churches and temples, our shrines. MoMA may be the modern art world’s Vatican, but in terms of pure open space, MoCA’s Geffen Contemporary in Los Angeles comes closest to a giant cathedral like Notre Dame with its massive, cavernous structure. We’re not saying that this museum is equivalent to Notre Dame as far as degree of architectural achievement and historical significance. We’re saying that it is a big fucking space and one that invites reflection and a kind of awe.

The Geffen was kind of a happy accident. The building wasn’t purpose built to be a contemporary art museum. The structure is in LIttle Tokyo in Downtown LA and was originally built in the 1940s for the city as a warehouse and LA Police Department garage accommodating hundreds of vehicles. At the time, MoCA’s use of the space was purely practical.

While the main landmark MoCA branch was being built on nearby Grand Avenue in the early 1980s, the warehouse/garage in Little Tokyo was used as a temporary exhibition space dubbed the “Temporary Contemporary.” Its purpose was to host art shows until construction of the new main MoCA would be completed. The acquisition of the building made sense. The Temporary Contemporary was a success.

It was repurposed as a permanent exhibition space and extension of MoCA. Architect Frank Gehry led the effort. The Geffen’s location is walking distance to the main MoCA location in Downtown LA, and the former LAPD garage offers the kind of space that allows for sprawling exhibitions and epic, large-scale sculptural artworks and installations that might be more diffciult or impossible to mount in other museums.