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Piet Mondrian – from De Stijl to Broadway Boogie Woogie

piet mondrian

Pieter Cornelis Mondrian was a Dutch painter, became one of the first well known Abstract art painters and with his unique style influenced many modern art creators.

Background

Piet Mondrian was born on 7th March 1872 in Amersfoort, Netherlands.

He was a second child in a family, which was filled with artists, so art became a part of Piet‘s life naturally at an early age.

His father, together with his uncle, used to paint local landscapes and even was a qualified drawing teacher. According to historians, his uncle was the person who has taught him basics of drawing.

While growing up in the Amersfoort, Mondrian saw how the whole town was changing.

A new shopping street, tramway, and railway – becoming a modern city, Amersfoort showed that the world was changing and becoming a new, industrial place with new shapes and ideas.

piet mondrian young

According to Inge Vos, who leads a guided tour about Mondrian‘s life, all these changes could have had an impact on Mondrian‘s interest in technology and change that developed his style into minimalistic and abstract.

piet mondrian self portrait

Practicing to become an artist

In 1892 Mondrian enrolled the Academy of Fine Art in Amsterdam.

At that time, he was working as a drawing teacher, but also was working on his own style by painting traditional Dutch landscapes of fields with windmills and rivers.

He was experimenting with the primary colors by combining Post-impressionism and Fauvism painting styles.

A good example of his work could be “Evening Red Tree”, created between 1908 – 1910.

Piet_Mondrian,_1908-10,_Evening;_Red_Tree_(Avond;_De_rode_boom),_oil_on_canvas,_70_x_99_cm,_Gemeentemuseum_Den_Haag

This painting combines a realistic object, a tree, and an expressive palette of colors, which was inspired by another Dutch painter – Vincent Van Gogh.

After creating this drawing, Mondrian visited an exhibition of cubists’ works in 1911 in Amsterdam.

He was so inspired by what he saw, that shortly after, he decided to move to Paris and get to know more about Cubism and meet a leader of this movement – Pablo Picasso.

In the spring of 1912, Piet painted “The Flowering Apple Tree”, which shows how Mondrian was influenced by Cubism.

the flowering apple tree 1912

This work combines his ideas of traditional painting and strict shapes of Cubism.

Thus began the beginning of his way towards becoming a painter of a totally new area of minimalism and abstract art.

De Stijl

When World War I started in 1914, Mondrian was visiting the Netherlands and he decided to stay till the conflict will end.

At that time he was describing himself as a Cubist, but he was still looking for an inspiration to convey his ideas and improve as an artist.

This is why he joined “De Stijl” (The Style) – a movement of the artists and architects, dedicated to the neoplasticism ideas.

Together with the movement, the other Dutch artist Theo van Doesburg released a magazine with the same name “De Stijl”, which gave a voice to the artists to spread their ideas and theories about the art.

De_Stijl,_Vol._1,_no._1,_Delft,_October_1917_(detail)

This activity of Mondrian is considered as interesting and unique because most of the artists didn’t write about their ideas, they used to paint as the only form to express it. That said, manifestos were becoming all the rage.

On the other hand, Mondrian was becoming an abstract painter and to avoid wide interpretations of his art, it was better to talk about his ideas to the public.

France: Evolution of an artist

The end of World War I marks Mondrian’s journey to becoming one of the more unique and modern abstract art purveyors of his time.

In 1918, when Piet returned to Paris, he started to create grid-based abstract paintings, which combined clear black lines and vivid primary colors of yellow, blue and red.

Mondrian,_Composition_with_color_planes_and_gray_lines,_1918

Between 1920 and 1921, more and more space in his drawings was changed by involving a white color, leaving bright primary colors just as details in the whole space.

London and New York

Fear of the growing power of Fascism in Europe led Mondrian to run from Paris to London in 1938.

Piet_Mondrian_and_Pétro_van_Doesburg

It was mainly because his art didn’t fit in any rules of regime, which was uprising very fast in Europe.

For the safety of expressing his ideas along with he himself, the artist left Europe in 1940, shortly after World War II had started. New York was a breath of fresh air to Mondrian.

A modern city with inspiration at every corner, fulfilled with a new culture and jazz music, which Mondrian enjoyed a lot, and the most important – freedom to create whatever he wanted and dreamed of.

Piet Mondrian was not married, but according to historians, he uses to go out to the jazz concerts a lot, where he could dance and flirt with beautiful women.

Influence of American culture: Broadway Boogie Woogie

In 1943, Piet Mondrian finished his work called “Broadway Boogie Woogie”, which was different from his abstract works.

The style of this painting was similar to previous works: he painted small and larger squares by using primary colors by invading a simple white, but the main difference was, that this works was inspired and even wanted to repeat the things of the real-life such as busy daily life in Manhattan.

Little colored squares symbolize its buildings and the whole microflora of a city.

2eb74-mondrian-broadway-boogie-woogie

Next to that, it looks very dynamic too, like a boogie-woogie dance style and what is also interesting, from nowadays perspective it looks like a scene from the 90‘s computer game, which is fascinating.

Piet Mondrian was highly influenced by the American culture, he enjoyed nights out in the jazz clubs, which clearly inspired him to live the life he wanted and to shout to the world about a new modern era.

piet-mondrian-600x420


Videos about Piet Mondrian

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Vincent van Gogh and The Path from Dying Alone in an Asylum to Most Popular Painter Ever

Vincent van Gogh was a Dutch painter, one of the most important post-impressionists of Western art history.

Vincent was immensely talented, a talent which was always known to his loyal bother Theo.  Vincent wrote to Theo at the end of his life when Vincent was institutionalized.  Vincent was always down on his luck for his entire life.

Despite his mental health problems, from which he suffered for many years, Van Gogh left many inspiring works, which shaped modern art.

Not merely shaped modern art, but Vincent’s art is actually more synonymous with fine art.   His work has been celebrated across the world by those who appreciate his color choices, and his way of capturing the world.

irises

The sad irony is that Vincent, in his own time, was a “nobody”.  If only Vincent could have seen into the future.

Vincent is known for cutting his own ear off,  and as a poster boy for the tortured artist.

Vincent-Van-Gogh-Artist-Figure-5

Poster boy couldn’t be more literal in this case.  Vincent and his hacked off ear, have appeared now on countless posters.  Many of his other posters feature views he painted while his mental state was crumbling.   At that time, Vincent was institutionalized at the Saint-Paul Asylum, in St-Remy de Provence, near Arles, in Southern France.

Here’s a video tour…

In fact, part of the journey of this blog article is to trace the interesting path from a mentally unwell person, dying alone in an asylum, to being on posters in peoples’ homes and on sketchbooks around the world.

vincent van gogh larrge sketchbook

These days, everyone recognizes his brushstrokes and the way he depicts the light in the sky, pastoral scenes, and faces.  It is as distinct to many of us now, just like a signature.  The man behind these strokes only became known in this way after his death.

But let’s travel back to his beginning…

Background

Vincent van Gogh was born on 30th March 1853, in Zundert, Netherlands. He grew up in a middle-class family and got interested in painting at an early age at his mother’s suggestion.

When Vincent was growing up, he was a serious and calm person and after he became an adult, he wasn‘t sure which path he should choose.

vincent van gogh young photogaph

In 1869 his uncle obtained a job position for him as an art dealer at Goupil & Cie in London, England.

Vincent kept a close relationship with his brother Theo, by frequently writing letters to each other.  Theo’s wife, being privy to all the correspondence between the two brothers, described Vincent’s years in London, working as an art dealer, as the best in his life.

letters to theo

He was good at his job and it brought him so much happiness. Unfortunately for Vincent, happiness was a fleeting state of mind as he suffered various mental health issues from an early age which always dragged him down.

Van Gogh‘s father was a minister of a Dutch Reformed Church, so religion had always played a special role in his life.   At one point, as a young student, Vincent tried to pass the exam for theological studies at the University of Amsterdam.   When he failed to pas the exam, Vincent was determined to seek out his path in life.

van gogh photo

Becoming a painter

 

Van Gogh birthplace Zundert via Van Gogh Museum

As he continued on his path of self discovery, never once did he stop sketching and painting those important images that surrounded him….still life and farm life.

While Vincent continually doubted himself as an artist, his brother Theo was the one, who encouraged Vincent to keep painting and become a professional artist.

vincent van gogh early work

When he moved from his parents home in Etten to the Hague, his cousin Anton Mauve gave him his first professional drawing lessons in which Van Gogh learned about perspective,  and how to apply paint in watercolor and oils.

With his basic knowledge of painting, Vincent came back to his parents’ home in December 1883, where he could practice by painting ‘peasant life’.

One of his known early works is called “Potato Eaters“, which consists of dark colors, and illustrates a  typical family of the 19th century, eating dinner.

van gogh potato eaters

In Vincent‘s letters to his brother Theo, he explained that the idea of showing peasant‘s hard work by painting their bony hands was more important than drawing everything according to art rules.

This thought of his shows that, Van Gogh from the beginning of his career decided not to be a traditional painter and create only according his own perspective and imagination.

The Path From Unknown to World Famous

Since Vincent‘s brother, Theo was living in Paris at the end of the 19th century, the painter used to spend some time there.

At that time, Paris was an important centre of art for painters in Europe.   Surrounded by modernists, Vincent honed his style one step at a time.  More color was introduced.

van gogh

In 1888, Van Gogh moved to the city of Arles, in the south of France, where his style became more and more free and expressive.

He painted local landscapes of yellow fields and beaches, when french painter Paul Gauguin joined him.  They started to live and create together.

They painted each other‘s portraits, talked about painting and art very passionately.

van-gogh-and-gauguin

From 1888 until Vincent’s death in 1890,  he created his best works of art.  It also marks an incident, which is well known and inseparable from his personality. During one of the discussions with Gauguin, Vincent injured himself and cut his ear.

After this incident with his brother, Theo knew clearly, that Vincent struggled with mental illness and for some time he needed to break with painting, and pay attention to his health.

His Last Year

Things went downhill quickly.  After the ear incident, Vincent was kept at the Psychiatric Hospital in Saint Rémy.

During this time, his brother Theo married Johanna Bonger in Amsterdam, who gave birth to a boy, who was named after his uncle Vincent.

van gogh's family

Vincent was happy for his brother and decided to give him a painting as a gift. Unfortunately, he didn‘t know then, that his painting “Almond Blossom” would become one of his most beautiful and well-known works.

It was interesting that Van Gogh was very ill at that time, but the painting was bright and peaceful, which reflects the relationship he had with his brother Theo.

almond blossoms

In early 1890, Theo was still working as an art seller in Paris when at the exhibition in Brussels, he brought six of Vincent‘s works, including “The Red Vineyard“, which was sold.

More importantly, that exhibition was official appreciation from people, including Paul Gauguin, who was impressed by Van Gogh‘s skills.

Regardless of this recognition and the public‘s positive reactions to his paintings, Vincent still struggled mentally, and couldn’t find peace within himself.

Vincent van Gogh shot himself on the 27th of July and died from injuries on 29th in 1890.

van gogh death suicide news

Morbidly ironic is that even today the gun that he used is famous…

the gun that killed van gogh

Vincent Van Gogh was looking for his path in life, and faced many challenges.  Instead of giving up, he never  stopped creating beautiful art.  Van Gogh’s style became well known all around the world and brought joy to the art lovers everywhere.

Vincent van Gogh’s tragic life still resonates today with many mentally ill people, regardless of how happy they seem, or how much people try to help them.

Vincent van Gogh was a passionate man and a very talented painter.  He was able to capture the world in a unique way, even though his life was tragically ending.

His brother Theo died only 6 months after Vincent from syphilis.

Graves_of_Vincent_and_Théodore_Van_Gogh

Recommended Videos about Vincent van Gogh



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Takashi Murakami – Everything’s Melting

“In Japan, the line (between high and low) is less defined, both by the culture and by the post-war economic situation. Japanese people accept that art and commerce will be blended; and in fact, they are surprised by the rigid and pretentious Western hierarchy of ‘’high art’’. In the West, it certainly is dangerous to blend the two because people will throw all sorts of stones. But, that’s okay- I’m ready with my hard hat.” – Takashi Murakami

Murakami’s Early Life and Intro to Okatu

Born in Tokyo, Japan, in 1962, Takashi Murakami grew up in a household that placed a high value on art. His mother, who designed textiles and studies needlepoint, had a huge influence on his interest in the visual arts.

Equally, the omnipresence of devastation and the presence of the United States in Japan after the WWII had a tremendous influence on Murakami’s artistic evolution.

During his childhood, Japan created a national identity that revived traditional Japanese culture, and put huge pressure on its workforce to produce in order to compete with the West, both culturally and economically. 

The hybrid emphasis on traditional Japanese culture and Western influences was reflected in Murakami’ childhood activities; he developed an early appreciation of both modern European art and traditional Japanese culture.

Murakami engagement with the Japanese subculture of otaku – a large group of fanatical geeks obsessed with the fantasy worlds depicted in manga, comic books, and in anime, animated cartoons, and the concept of kawaii is pretty evident during his formative ages.

As a young artist Murakami immersed himself in this world and began to draw stylistic inspiration from it and presents to viewers from a distanced and cynical stance.

Early 1980’s to 1990’s Work

In the early 1980s, Murakami enrolled in Nihonga, a nineteenth century style of Japanese painting that combines Japanese subject matter with European painting technique at Tokyo National University of Fine Art and Music, where he stayed for master’s and doctoral degree (1988,1993).

Murakami’s early works reflect the realities with which he had grown up, exploring the post-war relationship between United States and Japan (Polyrhythm, 1991, Sea Breeze. 1992.)

These works demonstrate his early development of a playful and seemingly light style that refers to a more cynical stance.

In 1994, Takashi Murakami traveled to New York to participate in P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center’s International Studio Program on a fellowship from the ACC (Asian Cultural Council).

In New York, he was surrounded by the pressures of the gallery system and American art market.

In order to succeed in this world, he realized that he had to abandon his overly-intellectual Japanese preoccupations and to present a more simplified brand of himself and his art as typical Japanese. This was a radical breaking point for his career.

In this regard, he decided to re-engage with his Japanese identity and strengthen his work’s engagement with both the pop culture forms of manga and anime and the high art form of nihonga.

The Arrival of Mr. DOB

At that time, Murakami came up with the figure of Mr. DOB, a mouse-like creature with a round head and large, circular ears, based on a cartoon character originally created in Hong Kong.

Mr. DOB would go on to become the artist’s signature character across his diverse array of artistic media.

In the center of the triptych named 727 (1996) is Murakami’s avatar Mr DOB.

The maniacal smile of Mr DOB can be seen as Murakami’s laughing stance towards the art world, but also toward the West.

The title 727 is a reference to the Boeing American airplanes that flew over his childhood home, as a direct reference to the U.S. presence in post-war Japan; Murakami is so keen to both critique and explore in his art.

The stylized wave upon which Mr DOB sits is a reference to the 19th-century Japanese woodblock artist Hokusai, who was influential for future Japanese artists and manga comics alike due to his flattened compositions and bold colors.

The abstract background is reminiscent of a Japanese folding screen done in the nihonga style.

Fine Art?

Beginning in the mid-1990s, Murakami’s works were featured in solo exhibit at museums, galleries throughout Japan, United States and Europe.

Art critics were unsure what to make of these unusual creations; they are highly original, beautifully executed, visually appealing- but can they be considered fine art?

Some dismissed Murakami’s work, suggesting that they are lovely, but lack substance, but many others have applauded Murakami’s adventurous approach, especially his ability to bridge the worlds of high and low art and to create works that appeal to a broader audience than most fine art.

In 1996, in order to produce his otaku– inspired sculpture, Murakami founded the Hiropon Factory, modelled on both Andy Warhol’s Factory, as well as on traditional Japanese art workshops- such as the ones that produced the woodblock prints from the Edo period.

At Hiropon Factory assistants trained in various areas of expertise collaborate under the artist’s supervision for large-scale, mass-market projects. In this period, the artist went on design a series of major sculptures inspired by otaku subculture including Miss ko² (1996-1997), Hiropon (1997), and My Lonesome Cowboy (1998).

Hiropon (1997) is a part of Murakami’s anime-inspired characters, which also include a masturbating sculpture of boy named My Lonesome Cowboy. 

The title itself alludes to the darker aspects of Japanese culture- hiropon is Japanese slang for the narcotic-crystal methamphetamine. This literal connection to the drug culture reveals artist’s examination of otaku subculture as an illicit form of entertainment.

This sexualized sculpture, with voluminous pink pig-tails and her tiny waist, has breasts that are so large that they burst out of her bikini top to spray a jet-stream of milk that encircles her figure.

Combining a shocking perversion and feminine cuteness this sculpture reflects Murakami’s deep engagement with otaku subculture and its pornographic underbelly known as ‘loli-com’, Lolita Complex, in which girlhood and innocence are paradoxically prized, as well as fetishized.

Kaikai Kiki Co.

In 2001, the Hiropon Factory evolved into Kaikai Kiki Co., a highly organized corporation settled in Tokyo and New York. Besides marketing and producing Murakami’s work, the corporation promotes new artists, organizes collaborative projects with individuals and companies in music, fashion and entertainment, operates art fairs, and develops animated films and videos.

The company represents a shift in the production of modern artwork where fine art and commerce are integrated, and where the artist’s physical hand in the making of the artwork no longer determines the financial value, but rather the symbolic value is created through the artist’s association with the art-commodities produced in his business-oriented factory.

In 2000, Murakami presented the theory of Superflat. The name refers both to the merging of art and commerce and the flattened compositions that lacked one point perspective of historical Japanese artistic movements, Nihonga, for instance. 

In his historic essay ‘A Theory of Super Flat Japanese Art’ he articulates desire to produce a uniquely Japanese art form that is directly related to the shadow cast by Japan’s trauma after the humiliating defeat of WWII.

Murakami explains the concept of superflatness as an original concept of Japanese, which has been completely westernized.

This theory swept across the contemporary art world, becoming a landmark movement in contemporary Japanese art, the latest major style to reach international recognition in the art-world, since the 1950s Japanese Gutai group.

Despite his art-historical and culturally-rich referents in his manifestos, art, essays, people are often immediately drawn to his work for its seeming superficiality and dazzling explosion of colors and characters.

Takashi Murakami’s projects have explored unconventional artistic media including music, fashion, public installations, films, animation. The shift between roles and disciplines reveals his ambition of redefining what a postmodern artist can be.

Mr. Pointy

In the fall of 2003, Murakami installed a public art display called Reversed Double Helix at the Rockefeller Center plaza in Midtown Manhattan.

The display featured two thirty-three-foot balloons, a number of jewel-colored mushroom sculptures that doubled as seats for visitors, and a twenty-three-foot tall sculpture of Murakami’s character Mr Pointy.

Sporting a large round head that comes to a point, multiple arms, and a brightly colored body, Mr. Pointy was described as the whimsical love child of Hello Kitty, a Buddha, and a portabello mushroom.

Two years earlier Murakami had startled and delighted commuters in Vanderbilt Hall, part of New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, with Wink (2001), a display of mushroom sculptures and huge helium-filled balloons hovering thirty feet off the floor- all of which were decorated with brightly colored eyes of all shapes and sizes as well as spirals and other designs.

This installation creates a paradoxical and ironic co-existence of the Japanese Neo-Pop and the formal elegance of the classical Beaux-Arts architecture of Grand Central Terminal.

Roberta Smith, an art critic, argues against this public project, suggesting that it was compromised by its inappropriate setting, a vast former waiting room bereft of its wood benches, which felt all wrong for contemporary art. Anyway, this strange cultural mash-up is exactly what Murakami intends.

Luis Vuitton Collaboration

In 2002, the artist began his long-term collaboration with the Luis Vuitton, the elite fashion brand. This collaboration made Murakami widely known for further blurring commercial boundaries, elevated his status to celebrity and raised economic value of his art to one that is highly prized among Western collectors.

One of Murakami’s design features The LV signature monogram in 97 different colors with his own signature jellyfish eyes repeated on white or black background.

Shortly following the launch of his line at Louis Vuitton, Murakami re-appropriated the same images printed onto bags into paintings meant for prestigious art institutions and collectors, blurring the distinction between commodity and art (Eye Love Superflat , 2006)

In Blue Flowers & Skulls, 2012, youth and death collide as smiling daisies and large-eyed skulls overwhelm the picture plane and bland together with the aid of the work’s blue color scheme.

The mix of cuteness and death are the artist’s way of engaging with the Japanese obsession with Kawaii, but also his way of critiquing it.

Everything is Transient

According to Murakami, Kawaii culture has become a living entity that pervades everything. With a population heedless of the cost of embracing immaturity, the nation is in the throes of a dilemma: a preoccupation with anti-aging may conquer not only the human heart, but also the body.

In that sense, the artist reveals a darker engagement with these juvenile flowers that takes its aim directly at contemporary society.

Throughout Western art history, the role of the skull has functioned as a memento mori, a reminder of one’s own eventual death; the Japanese Buddhist conception of Shogyo mujo is roughly translated as ‘everything is transient’.

Blue Flowers & Skulls is reflective of many of Murakami’s installations, paintings and sculptures in which smiling daisies and skulls repeat across his large oeuvre; in the obsessive repetition of these motifs his darker and more subversive themes are expanded and re-contextualized over and over to the point of visual exhaustion.

Murakami’s astronomical rise to fame in the contemporary art world has been met with both criticism and celebration.

He brings together Japanese pop culture referents with the Japan’s rich artistic legacy, effectively wiping out any distinction between high art and commodity.

Critics have mocked him as a sell-out and as playing into the art market’s increasing demands for trivial, easily consumable art from Japan.

Post-Nuclear : What Did You Expect Would Happen?

Murakami’s work must be understood as deeply critical to Western intervention.

He grew up in Japan that then faced heavy sanctions and a permanent U.S. military presence, and also was raised by parents who experienced the devastating nuclear bombings.

In his writings (differ wildly from his essays written in English) he reveals a deep cynicism toward the West, considering Japan’s contemporary obsession with youthful innocence, cuteness, violence and fetish are the product of U.S. intervention that began with the bomb.

In that sense, many believe that Murakami considers his thrusting of this art concept onto the U.S. through his elevation of it as high art as a form of some revenge.

Visit: http://www.takashimurakami.com/

Oh, and he has worked with the American provocateur himself, Mr. Kanye West.

Here’s an interesting interview video with Murakami that touches upon how he thinks about things.

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My Top 10 Best Contemporary Photographers

Photography is about a single point of a moment. It’s like stopping time. As everything gets condensed in that forced instant. But if you keep creating these points, they form a line which reflects your life.

-Nobuyoshi Araki

Photography is a medium of contradictions. It is both ridiculously easily and almost impossibly difficult. Being able to see things is easy, as we need only open our eyes for stimuli to enter, but being able to capture a very specific and meaningful moment is the difficult part.

A good photo is comprised of many things, not only one must hit the shutter at the right moment in time, but the composition, color coordination, light and perspective play a significant role too.

A photographer is an editor of reality in trying to make sense of reality; he tries to distill the essence of his subject- a scene, feeling or persona, into a single, two-dimensional image.

The work of all photograph artists is about the nature of the photographic-the making of the images, rather than the taking of a photograph. As with much conceptual art, the process seems to be as important as the end result.

We’ve listed Top 10 Contemporary Photographers who are known for their passion, dedication and style. 

Table of Contents:

Let’s go!


Annie Leibovitz

The legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz is probably the most well-known and well-respected living American photographer.

Annie Leibovitz began her career as a photojournalist for Rolling Stone magazine in 1970, and was the first woman to be named chief photographer at Rolling Stone at her early age of 24.

In 1983, she joined the staff of Vanity Fair magazine and Vogue afterwards, where, over four decades, she has developed a large body of work- dramatic, quirky and iconic portraits of actors, musicians, athletes, writers, business and political figures, offering a collective portrait of contemporary art.

Her signature style is crisp, well lighted and perfectly tailored to these celebrity-fuelled times.

Visit Annie Leibovitz on Facebook

Leibovitz deliberately conceals her subjects behind concept and costume; celebrities become sculptures or theatrical players. Her interest is not in the unguarded moment, but the staged moment; not the inner life, but the outer life.

She has been designated a Living Legend by the U.S. Library of Congress and has received many honors including The American Society of Magazine Editors’ first Creative Excellence Award, the International Center of Photography’s Lifetime Achievement Award and the Centenary Medal of the Royal Photographic Society in London.

Read our full article on Annie Leibovitz here

Up next, Lee Jeffries…


Lee Jeffries

Jeffries is a self-taught and self-founded photographer based in Manchester, England. His striking series of black-and-white portraits of homeless women and men has surprised the insular photography world.

His subjects came from London, Paris, Los Angeles, Rome, New York and other urban areas whom he gets to know by living rough with them; the relationship between them enabling him to capture authenticity and intimacy in his portraits.

Jeffries takes close-up head shots on his subjects, capturing the emotional expression of those who are often invisible to a majority of the population. He uses light and shadow in a religious way, and his images have been described as ‘religious iconography’.

Visit Lee Jeffries’ official website here

Lee has also been on a mission to raise awareness of, and founds for, the homeless. He has published two acclaimed fund-raising books,

Homeless and Lost Angeles and donated thousands of pounds of his own money to help those he photographs.

He has taken the gold, silver and bronze titles in the annual Amateur Photographer magazine competition over the last three years, but despite the recent recognition his work continues to be self-funded.

Read our feature, “Lee Jeffries – Portraits of the Homeless

Up next, Timothy Hogan…


Timothy Hogan

American photographer Timothy Hogan is award-wining photographer well-known for his lighting mastery, craftsmanship and uniquely precise still-life images.

Over twenty years he shoots for international brands and advertising agencies in the beverage, technology, beauty, fashion fragrance and design industries including Chanel, Calvin Klein, Budweiser, Target, Tommy Hilfiger, Visa among numerous other companies.

His photographs integrate his impeccable eye for design, the California lifestyle with his passion of surfing and exploration.

Visit Timothy’s official website here

Creative and inventive since childhood, Timothy’s history of taking things apart yields a unique ability to create elegant solutions to even the most complex image request.

His work can be dramatic and his images filled with a wealth of symbols and a vivid play of lighting and colors.

He keeps things creative but takes a craftsman’s approach to setting up the shoot; this, coupled with support from the best producers, retouchers and studios, allow Timothy to produce incredible results in photography in the high-pressure advertising world.

Hogan is one of two Hasselblad Ambassadors in the U.S. with work featured in Communication Arts, Graphics, Victor by Hasselblad and many other publications all over the world.

Read our feature article, Timothy Hogan – When Art and Commerce Collide

Up next, Réhahn Croqueville…


Réhahn Croqueville

A French born photographer based in Hoi An, central Vietnam, Réhahn Croqueville is particularly known for his portraits of Vietnam, India and Cuba.

His passion for photographic art started a crescendo line after his first journeying to the northern regions of the Vietnam making his way down; he published his first book ‘Vietnam, Mosaic of Contrast in January 2014.

It aims to show Vietnam in a natural and spontaneous light. By capturing images of these exceptionally contrasting cultures of Vietnam, he has witnessed the complex diversity and fragility of some ethnic groups’ cultural heritage.

Collecting their traditional costumes and artifacts, he has built up the Precious Heritage Collection, which is now the core of the Art Gallery Museum in Hoi An, central Vietnam.

Réhahn was described as the photographer ‘who captures the soul of his models’; his photos is the random and natural moment, of which he captures when spending his time with his subjects.

Réhahn collaborates with BBC, Travel Live, Conde Nast Traveler, The Times, National Geographic, among others top media, on a regular basis for the purchase of his photos.

Visit Rehahn’s official website here

He is very active on social networks and today he is one of the most featured photographers of the last five years, having amassed a serious following.

Read our article, “Réhahn Croquevielle – Making It Personal

Up next, Steve McCurry…


Steve McCurry

Documentary photographer and storyteller Steve McCurry is one of the iconic figures in contemporary photography for almost forty years, best known for his evocative color photography.

His work spans conflicts, ancient traditions and contemporary culture from six continents and countless countries capturing the essence of human struggle and joy.

McCurry has covered many areas of civil and international conflict, including, Pakistan, Beirut, Cambodia, the Philippines, the Gulf War, the former Yugoslavia, Tibet and Afghanistan.

He focuses on the human consequences of war, not only showing what war impresses on the landscape, but rather, on the human face.

Visit Steve McCurry’s website here

His work has been featured in every major magazine in the world; a high point in McCurry’s career was the rediscovery of the previously unidentified Afghan refugee girl that many have described as the most recognizable photograph in the world today.

McCurry has received some of the most prestigious awards in the industry, including Robert Capa Gold Medal, four first prize awards from the World Press Photo contest, Olivier Rebbot Award, and a Centenary Medal for Lifetime Achievement from the Royal Photographic Society in London.

Read our full article, “Steve McCurry – Revealing The World’s True Colours


Jason M. Peterson

As the Chief Creative Officer for Havas North America, Jason M. Peterson’s work in advertising impacted his photography enhancing his ability to tell a story through monochromatic imagery.

From stunning cityscapes to candid street photography, Peterson aims to evoke emotion through his work. His work is moody, but crisp and clear. He works with shadows, lines and angles to draw out unique forms within composition.

His photographs, juxtaposing urban architecture with human silhouettes have a bold, graphic quality that is immediately recognizable.

Visit Jason Peterson’s Instagram here

The Chicago based photographer has been taking pictures for over 25 years, but recently started sharing his work widely; his alluring black and white photos have earned him an unparalleled 1 million followers on Instagram.

Read our feature article, Jason M. Peterson – High Contrast Hustler


Joe McNally

Joe McNally is a long-time photojournalist and internationally acclaimed American photographer.

Although the majority of his career has been spent shooting for magazines, such as National Geographic, Time or Sport Illustrated during the 90s, McNally served as Life magazine’s staff photographer, the first one in 23 years.

The photographer is known for his ability to produce technically and logistically complex assignments with expert use of light and colour, but his charming demeanour, humour and confidence make him a sought-after choice from CEO’s to celebrities to commercial and magazine clients alike.

Visit Joe McNally’s official website here

He is one of the rare photographers who have bridged the world between advertising and photojournalism. One of McNally’s most notable projects, Faces of Ground Zero, has become known as one of the most significant responses to the tragedy at the World Trade Center.

McNally’s impressive marketing, advertising and promotional work has amassed the top-rated clients including FedEx, Adidas, Bogen, American Ballet Theatre, Nixon, Sony, General Electric, Epson, New York Stock Exchange, MetLife, Beijing Cultural Commission, and so on.

Up next, Boogie (Vladimir Milivojevich)…


Boogie (Vladimir Milivojevich)

Serbian photographer Vladimir Milivojevich, well-known as Boogie, is considered as ’one of the most influential photographers of street culture in the new millennium’.

Since his first book “It’s All Good” published by PowerHouse in 2006, Boogie has been granting his audience with rare access into a world defined by poverty, violence and disarray. His pictures of heroin addicts and gang members were pretty shocking at times.

The streets of the world are his playground. Rarely romanticizing the origin of intent behind his work, Boogie’s intimate images offer a vivid portrait of metropolitan cities around the world.

From Belgrade to Brooklyn he is a dedicated documentarian of street culture; according his own world, he isn’t trying to change the world just document it honestly. He captures human fragility with sensitivity, while his straightforward compositions submerge us into the bleak reality of the time.

Visit boogie’s official website here

Boogie has also shot commercial work for various clients including Nike, Lee jeans, Puma, Element skateboards and HBO and his work was appeared in numerous publication from New York Times to even Playboy. He’s had six book published so far.

Read our feature article, Boogie – Showing the Dark Side of Street Life

Up next, Tomasz Gudzowaty…


Tomasz Gudzowaty

Tomas Gudzowaty is a Polish documentary filmmaker, portrait and art photographer based in Warsaw who began his career with nature photography, and eventually turning to social documentary and sports photography.

For the past few years, Gudzowaty has resolved to focus on sport-related issues grounded in an idea of a long- standing project in which he aims to show dynamic images of people of all ages involved in sports.

Gudzowaty has made a name for himself documenting popular sports in far corners of the world, which depict a rare blend of modernity and tradition in global cultures.

Visit Tomasz’s official website here

He is particularly interested in atypical, non-commercial sports, outside the media mainstream such as sage yogis in India, amateur drag racers in Mexico, child polo players in Mongolia, Japanese sumo wrestler.

The Sport Features’s photographs series depicts a striking humanity, as if delving deep into each individual personality.

His works have been published in mainstream publications including The Guardian, Newsweek, Time, Photo, L’Equipe; he has exhibited worldwide and published several photo books.

As a multiple winner of the profession’s premier contests, he gained international recognition; some of these awards include Pictures of the Year, NPPA Best of Photojournalism and World Press Photo award.

Read our article, “Tomasz Gudzowaty – Iron & Sinew


Nobuyoshi Araki

If Araki is known for one thing in particular, then it his highly sexual and controversial black and white photography.

Throughout a prolific career, Tokyo-born photographer Nobuyoshi Araki has delved perhaps further that any other Japanese photographer into the themes surrounding death, sex, domination and Tokyo street scenes.

His work over a 48-year span has seen him publish more than 450 photobooks tackling a variety of subjects such as prostitution, sadomasochism, love and intimacy.

The ideas of submission, control and eroticism that are found in Kinbaku-bi, the Japanese art of rope-tying, make it the most alluring of subject matters for Araki, and the practice of depicting women in these positions has been an obsession of his throughout his career.

One of Japan’s most fearless photographers the 78-old’s skill behind the camera is still very much in demand.

His personal and sometimes voyeuristic photographs have sparked much controversy, but his graphics use of imagery has been an instrumental force in breaking taboos surrounding nudity in modern Japanese culture.

Visit Nobuyoshi Araki on Artsy

Born in Tokyo in 1940, Nobuyoshi Araki has been active in publishing, photography and filmmaking since his first solo exhibition in 1965 in Japan. Some 400 books about Araki and his work have been published to date, a testament to his prolific output and energy.

Read our full article on Nobuyoshi Araki


Conclusion

Thank you for reading this article.  If you disagree or think that someone was glaringly missed, please let me know.  I love to hear peoples’ thoughts.

Of course, like all lists, this one too is subjective and simply based on what I’ve seen and what I appreciate.  I do think, however, that much like any other kind of artist, a great photograph taken by someone with the right eyes can make your average person stop and take stock of their own situation, and perhaps think of things in a different way.

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Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – Tremblement de Terre

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was a painter, illustrator, lithographer, poster artist and illustrator. Born on November 24th,1864, in Albi, France, Henri died on September 9th, 1901, at Malromé Castle, at Saint-André-du-Bois.

Youth

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was the son of Count Alphonse de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa (1838-1913) and Adèle Tapié de Céleyran (1841-1930), and was born into one of the oldest noble families in France. He was indeed in line with the great counts of Toulouse, who were, despite their illustrious name, were known to pass on health conditions due to selective inbreeding.

In the 19th century, marriages within the nobility were routinely between cousins, in order to avoid the division of assets and the diminution of fortune. This was the case of Henri’s parents, Alphonse de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa and Adele Tapie de Céleyran, they were cousins in the first degree.
 
They had two boys, Henri, the eldest and, four years later, his brother Richard-Constantin, who died a year later.

Henri grew up between Albi, the castle of Bosc (home of his grandparents and also of his childhood) and the castle of Celeyran. The incompatibility between his two parents caused their separation and Henri remained in the care of his mother.

Health Problems

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec had a happy childhood until the discovery in 1874 of a disease that affects the development of the bones, pycnodysostosis, a genetic disease caused due to the consanguinity of his parents. His bones were fragile, and on May 30th, 1878, he stumbled and fell.
 
The doctor diagnoses him with a broken left femur.

Between May 1878 and August 1879, he suffered from this fracture of the bilateral femur, which then aggravates his stunting: he will not exceed the size of 1.52 m or 4′ 8″. Doctors tried to cure him by means of electric shock and placing on each foot a large amount of lead.

Due to his various medical conditions, his torso is of normal size, but its legs are short. He has thick lips and a thick nose, and hypertrophied genitals. Henri made himself a provocateur at the salons.
 
He is at some point photographed naked on the beach of Trouville-sur-Mer, as a bearded choir boy, or with the boa Jane Jane (called “Melinite”), while simultaneously being very aware of the discomfort aroused by his exhibitionism.

A student at the Condorcet high school, he failed in 1881 at the baccalaureate in Paris, but he was fortunately received in Toulouse at an October session. That’s when he decided to become an artist.
 
Supported by his uncle Charles and Rene Princeteau, a friend of his father animal painter, he finally convinced his mother it was a good idea.

Back in Paris, he studied painting with René Princeteau, in his studio at 233, Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré, then in April 1882 in Leon Bonnat’s studio, and in November 1882 in Fernand’s studio, where he stayed until 1886.
 
He then befriended Vincent Van Gogh, Émile Bernard, Louis Anquetin, and Adolphe Albert.

 

Parisian Life

Toulouse-Lautrec lived for his art. Painter in the post-impressionism style, illustrator of the Art Nouveau, and lithographer of remarkable skill, he embraced the lifestyle of Bohemian Paris at the end of the 19th century.
 
In the mid-1890s, he contributed illustrations to the comic weekly Le Rire.

Considered “The Soul of Montmartre “, the Parisian neighbourhood where he lived since his arrival in 1884 at 19 Bis, Rue Fontaine, his paintings describe life at the Moulin Rouge and other cabarets and theaters in Montmartre or Paris.

He paints Aristide Bruant but also in the brothels he frequented and where, perhaps, he contracted syphilis. He had a room in residence at La Fleur blanche. Three of the well-known women he has represented are Jane Avril, singer Yvette Guilbert, and Louise Weber, better known as La Goulue, an eccentric dancer who created the cancan.

Toulouse-Lautrec gave painting classes and encouraged the efforts of Suzanne Valadon, one of his models and probably his mistress.

Alcohol

An alcoholic for most of his adult life, he used to mix cognac with his daily absinthe, in defiance of the conventions of the time. This drink, a favourite of his, was called an “earthquake” or Tremblement de Terre, which was mixed in a wine goblet.
 
He also used subterfuge in the form of a hollowed out cane to hide his alcohol, which he walked around with constantly so as not to ever need to do without his vice.

He was admitted to a sanatorium shortly before his death at Malromé, his mother’s property, following the complications of this alcoholism and also syphilis. Dying at 36, he was buried in the Verdelais ( Gironde ) cemetery a few kilometers from Malromé.

His last words were to his father, present at the time of his death, referring to the likes of this whimsical and hunting enthusiast aristocrat: “I know, Dad, you do not miss the kill.”
 
He also cited his lapidary reaction to seeing his father, a hunter at heart, trying to hit a fly that flies on the deathbed of his son with the elastic of his boots: “The old fart!”

At the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum in Albi, reference is made to the last words of the artist addressed to his mother. Lautrec’s relations with his father were subject to many ramblings.

The painter was not an artist cursed by his family, on the contrary. His father wrote to Gabrielle de Toulouse-Lautrec, his mother and thus the paternal grandmother of the painter, on the night of the death of his son: “Malrome, September 9, 1901: Ah dear Mother, that sadness.
 
God did not bless our union. May his will be done, but it is very hard to see the order of nature reversed. I am anxious to join you after the sad spectacle of the long agony of my poor child, so harmless, having never had for his father a bad word.
 
Pity us. – Alphonse”

After the death of Toulouse-Lautrec, Maurice Joyant, his close friend, protector, and merchant of his paintings wanted to highlight his work with the endorsement of the Countess Adele of Toulouse-Lautrec. They gave the necessary funds for a museum to be created in Albi, the city where the artist was born, and offer their superb collection of paintings.

His Art Works

Despite a short life marked by illness, the painter’s work is very vast: the catalog of his works, published in 1971, lists 737 paintings, 275 watercolors, 369 lithographs (including posters ) and about 5,000 drawings.

In his youth, horses were his usual subject. Since childhood, he loved riding and had to give it up because of his illness. He continued to live in his works with his passion for horses.

At the beginning of his career, he painted some nude men as exercises, but his best nudes are women. In general, he preferred to start with sketches, but many of his nudes must have been made from nature.
 
Usually Henri’s models are not beautiful girls, but women who are starting to grow old. To paint this kind of paintings he was inspired by Edgar Degas.

He kept drawing: some drawings are works in themselves, but many are sketches for paintings or lithographs. Sometimes his drawings resembled caricatures which, in a few lines, rendered a gesture or an expression; to realize them, he used various means (pencil , ink , pastel and charcoal).

Although not practicing photography himself, his friends and fellow entertainers include professional photographer Paul Sescau and amateur photographers Maurice Guibert and François Gauzi. He is photographed regularly by them and liked to dress up.
 
He used pictures of his models or characters as the basis of some works. Spontaneity and the direction of motion of his compositions often come from the photographic instant.

Lithography

He created 325 posters and lithographs, inventing a technique of spray original, consisting scratch a toothbrush charged with ink or paint with a knife. As an illustrator, Toulouse-Lautrec has made famous posters and, less known part of his work, he also illustrated some forty songs, successes mainly interpreted in the two big Parisian cabarets of the time: Le Moulin Rouge, and The Mirliton by Aristide Bruant.

As he did not need to always subject himself to pleasing everyone by focusing on the nobility as past artists needed to to get by. No, Lautrec chose subjects he knew well or faces that were of interest to him, and as he frequently met people of all kinds, his paintings covered a wide range of social classes: nobles and artists, writers and sportsmen, doctors, nurses and picturesque figures of Montmartre.

Many of his paintings (such as the Salon des Moulins street) show prostitutes because he saw them as ideal models for the spontaneity with which they knew how to move, whether they were naked or half-dressed.
 
He painted their lives with curiosity, but without moralism or sentimentality and, above all, without trying to attribute to them any fascination. Going the brothel as much by pleasure than necessity (because of disability, there is true affection, so it stands out by giving to see images without trial and without moralistic voyeurism).
 
Truly a friend to prostitutes, they gave him the nickname “coffee maker” because of his priapism or the proportion of one of his sexual organs.

The Circus

At the end of 19th century, the circus shows were very numerous in France, and Toulouse-Lautrec regularly visited traveling circuses in Paris. In the popular neighbourhoods of Paris, only two circuses were present: the Cirque D’hiver de Paris, and the Cirque Fernando in Montmartre.
 
In the upscale neighbourhoods of Paris, several circuses offered spectacular stagings such as the Hippodrome with its famous chariot races, the Cirque D’été near the Champs-Élysées, the Circus Molier Rue Benouville and the Nouveau Cirque, where Chocolat is produced, on Rue Saint-Honoré.

René Princeteau, deaf-mute painter and friend of the family circle of Toulouse-Lautrec, is charged by the father of the artist to teach him the art of painting and drawing. Indeed, René Princeteau possessed an exceptional gift for painting and drawing horses and dogs.
 
In the early 1880s, he discovered Toulouse-Lautrec circus Fernando, located at the top of the rue des Martyrs in Paris. The father of Toulouse-Lautrec, an aristocrat passionate about the world of horses, had taken his son frequently to the Circus Molier when the family moved to Paris in 1872.

Toulouse-Lautrec was passionate from then on for the circus. This environment reminds him of the unconventionality of his family circle. He is also drawn to these shows by the moving bodies, the athletic performances of the artists and the postures of the animals.
 
The world of the circus was also interesting because of the links that can be made with the ancient circus and its presentation of bruised and tortured bodies in the show.

The other attraction of the circus experienced by Toulouse-Lautrec is the parallelism that can be drawn between the bodies of performing circus artists and his own body. “It is a suffering body, which draws suffering bodies”, as one of the editors of the catalog of the exhibition “Circus in the time of Toulouse-Lautrec”, said, at the Raymond Lafage museum, which took place in Lisle-sur-Tarn from June 18, 2016 to October 31, 2016.
 
“The number imposes its daily pain at the mercy of repetitions: muscular hypertrophy of the arms, legs, arched back, limbs, rickets, on the contrary, bodies dedicated to the aerobatics, with imposed levity. “However, Toulouse-Lautrec does not wish to inspire complacency towards circus artists.
 
“The show must be easy, graceful and happy. ” As noted by one of the editors of the exhibition catalog, “is it for the show to hide … the show, I mean, the intimate, that of his own life?”

Toulouse-Lautrec feels as close to values related to this universe with the notion of freedom.

In early 1899, Toulouse-Lautrec was hospitalized because of several mental disorders related to various ailments including alcoholism. He is interned in the clinic of Dr. Sémelaigne in Neuilly. In February 1899, to prove that he had recovered his mental health and his ability to work, he drew from memory in black pencil and crayons a series of 39 drawings on the circus.
 
There are amazons, trapeze artists, clowns, bear and elephant trainers, horses, and learned dogs. The stands are drawn empty. The audience is absent as if to show that the painter is there against his will.
 
The doctors, dazzled by the coherence of these works and the dynamics of the movements represented, let him out on May 17, 1899, thus recognizing the perfect state of his memory and his remarkable technicality.
 
As Toulouse-Lautrec so poetically said: “I bought my freedom with my drawings.”

From Memory

Federico Fellini, about this set of works, had compared Toulouse-Lautrec to Mozart. Indeed, when Mozart was 14, he once listened Gregorio Allegri’s “Miserere” in a the cathedral in Rome, copying it down with only minor corrections when he got home.
 
Later, Mozart was summoned to Rome once he was discovered to have stolen the sacred work, only to be praised and vindicated by the Pope for this apparent miracle.

Other painters became interested in circus as well. The painter Degas made Cirque Fernando famous, with his painting, Miss Lala at Cirque Fernando. Subsequently, several artists will be interested in this Circassian universe, like Chagall, Matisse and Picasso.

The Seaside

Lautrec first stayed in Arcachon in 1872, then aged 8, with his mother Adèle. At this time, his uncle Ernest Pascal being prefect of Gironde, he enjoyed the presence of his three cousins, rented in Arcachon or staying at the Grand Hotel, to play on the beach and swim, despite his disability, especially with his cousin Louis who was the same age as him.

At adulthood, he visited the Bay of Arcachon almost every summer where he devotes himself and his friends to fishing, sailing, swimming, and other seaside pleasures, taking advantage of the healthy air gracing his fragile lungs.

In 1885, he discovered, thanks to the medical officer of health Henri Bourges, who shelters him in Paris, the village of Taussat (commune of Lanton) while this doctor joins a colleague Dr. Robert Wurtz who stays in the vast family property extending between Andernos and Taussat.

While the Pascal family, following a reversal of fortunes in 1892, no longer comes to Arcachon, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, arranged otherwise and enjoyed the same year the hospitality of Louis Fabre (1860-1923), magistrate originally from Agen, whom he met in Paris probably around 1890, and to whom Lautrec bought in Taussat the villa Bagatelle and a sailboat called “Belle Hélène” in tribute to the bride and future wife of Fabre, Hélène Estève (1859-?) .
 
Lautrec will become friends with Fabre until his death in 1901.

His friend and photographer, Maurice Guibert often accompanied him to Arcachon or Taussat. Henri was there in 1896, fishing with cormorants that his father Alphonse de Toulouse-Lautrec, authentic master falconer, taught him to train in his youth.

Lautrec knew for a long time a shipowner, Paul Viaud (1846-1906), 18 years his elder who will be charged in 1899 by the family Toulouse-Lautrec watch over Henri, become alcoholic, undermined by absinthe, and who has had to be locked in a health house that same year in Neuilly.

It is indeed in the villa Bagatelle, in August 1901, that, strongly emaciated by a tuberculosis contracted a few months before, the painter appears on a last photograph. Victim of nervous attacks that paralyze him progressively, he is taken to Malromé, where his life was extinguished on 9 September 1901.

Away from Parisian places of pleasure, the painter came to perform a kind of cure, forgetting his physical disability and finding another joy of life. The paintings made during his stays are far from the Montmartre subjects that made his fame and were intended to thank his hosts for their hospitality.
 
The reconstituted history of its resorts on the Arcachon Basin gives us a much healthier vision of this character.

 

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Yayoi Kusama – Polka Dot Madness

Yayoi Kusama’s work has transcended two of the most important art movements of the second half of the 20th century: minimalism and pop art. Plagued by mental illness as a child, and thoroughly abused by a callous mother, the young artist persevered by using her hallucinations and personal obsessions as fodder for prolific artistic output in various disciplines.
 
This has informed a lifelong commitment to creativity at all costs, despite the artist’s birth into a traditional female-effacing Japanese culture, and her career’s coming of age in the male dominated New York art scene.

Her extraordinary career spans paintings, performances, room-size presentations, literary works, outdoor installations, sculpture, fashion, films, design, and intervention within existing architectural structures, which allude at once to a microscopic and macroscopic universe.

Early Life

Yayoi Kusama was born on March, 22, 1929 in Matsumoto, Japan, as the youngest of four children in a wealthy family. However, her childhood was less than idyllic or perfect. Her parents were the product of a loveless, arranged marriage.
 
Her father, emasculated by the fact that he had to take his wife’s surname as a condition of marrying into the wealthy family, spent most of his time away from home, womanizing, leaving his angry wife to physically abuse and emotionally torment her youngest child.
 
She would often send her daughter to spy on her father’s sexual exploits.

When Kusama began to see vivid hallucinations at the age of 10, her way of coping with the bizarre phenomena was to paint what she saw. She says that art became her way to express her mental disease.
 
For Kusama, art-making became a fundamental survival mechanism; it was her sole tool for making sense of a world in which she dwelt on the periphery of normative experience, and as a result, became the very thing that allowed her to assimilate successfully into society.

Disobeying her mother (who wanted her to simply be an obedient housewife) Kusama studied art in Masumoto and Kyoto. She had little formal training, studying art only briefly, 1948-49, at the Kyoto City Specialist School of Art.
 
At that time, there was a movement to reject the influences of Western culture in Japan, so Kusama was forced to only study Nihonga, which consisted of creating paintings using 1000-year-old traditional Japanese techniques and materials.

Move To United States

The conservative Japanese culture, and her abusive mother proved too much for Kusama, and 1957, she moved to the United States, settling in New York in the following year. Before she left, Kusama’s mother handed her some money and told her to never set foot in her house again.
 
In response, Kusama destroyed hundreds of her works.

In the United States, Kusama was free to explore her artistic expressions that were censored while living in Japan. With the help of artist Georgia O’ Keeffe, who Kusama had started a friendship with while still in Japan, she was able to secure exhibitions and also some sales, leading to interest in her work right from the start.
 
Also, there was a fascination with the foreign artist herself, and she struck up a deep relationship with her fellow artist Donald Judd and the middle-aged assemblage artist Joseph Cornell, who was also infatuated with Kusama, often writing her love letters and sketching her in the nude.
 
Because of her anxiety and fear of sex, both relationships, while very close, were strictly platonic. Kusama and Cornell developed such a close bond (allegedly, he shared her sexual aversion and hated sex) that when he died in 1972, she began creating collages to honor his work and cope with his passing.

In this period, Kusama worked feverishly, embracing the hedonist, free-spirit hippie culture of the 1960’s, which also included patriarchy, protesting war and capitalist society. Combining these themes with her personal anxieties, she created deeply intimate art, but also spoke to the injustices of the times.

Watercolors

The first works she exhibited in New York were her watercolors. These first works on paper showed the artist breaking free from traditional Japanese artistic practices and she was thought as a child and embracing Western artistic influences, especially in regards to abstraction.
 
The piece named The Woman, from 1953, is one of these earlier abstract works. The watercolor depicts a singular biomorphic form with subtle dots in the center floating in a seemingly black abyss. The form is reminiscent of female genitalia with red spikes surrounding it.
 
The overall effect: bizarre and aggressive.

Infinity Net

Her early work in New York included what she called “infinity net” paintings. Those considered of thousands of tiny marks obsessively repeated across large canvases without regard for the edge of the canvas, as if they continued into infinity.
 
Kusama’s Infinity Net series marks the beginning of a radical shift in her work from the singular abstract, biomorphic forms she painted during her youth to the more obsessive, repetitive works that would define her career.
 
They also showcase the way she used art to process her mental illness.

No. F. from 1959, is one of Kusama’s first works from the celebrated series. From a distance, the painting looks monochromatic and delicate, but when viewed up close, the complexities of the canvas’s surface become apparent.
 
The bluish-gray underlay is almost completely obscured by small, white semi-circles, which consume the entire canvas and only allow the gray underlay to be visible in the form of tiny dots.

no. f

The organic arched shapes all curve in the same direction, creating an undulating net that would continue on indefinitely if not for the edge of the canvas. This endless repetition caused a kind of dizzy, empty hypnotic feeling; the hypnotic feeling is furthermore translated to the viewer as they are invited to the artist’s mind.

The Nets are both minimal and expressive, bridging the two opposing movements. For Kusama personally, her Infinity Nets have become central to her practice, and continue to influence her work.

Minimalism / Pop / Avante Guarde

Her paintings from that period anticipated the emerging Minimalist movement, but her work soon transitioned to Pop and Performance art. She became a central figure in the New York avant-garde.

Accumulation No.1, from 1962, is the first in Kusama’s iconic Accumulation series, in which she transforms found furniture into sexualized objects. This piece, consist of a single abandoned armchair painted white and covered with soft, stuffed phallic protrusions, while fringe encircles the base of the sculpture.

No longer limited by the pictorial plane of the two-dimensional canvas, the stuffed sculpture continues Kusama’s repetition compulsion in three-dimensional form. The piece is both humorous and aggressive and works to confront with Kusama’s sexual phobias.

You Know You’re A Great Artist When…

Critics didn’t know what to make of this innovative art, and very soon the struggling artist went from obscurity to notoriety; her fame rivalled that of some of the most famous Pop artists, and Kusama enjoyed the attention.

In the Sex Obsessions Food Obsession Macaroni Infinity Nets & Kusama from 1962, she splayed naked on one of her famous soft sculpture furniture pieces laden with phallic accumulations and surrounded with macaroni pasta which forms her familiar pattern of repetition.

By inserting herself into the piece- on top of an object that represents a manifestation of her sexual aversion, Kusama attempts to subvert her own discomfort, in effect, to conquer it. It is a visual juxtaposition of her direct confrontation of a lifelong sexual aversion with the recognition of her nude self as an unmistakable, even if unwilling, object of sexual desire.

Although she is slim and stylish, positioned amongst a groovy psychedelic scene with strong visual impact, the rendering of her signature polka dots across her skin reminds the viewer that she is most comfortable when allowed to be seen as an intrinsic part of the artwork.
 
This brave presentation of herself in physical dialogue with her fears positions Kusama as a participant in the Feminist art movement of the time and also foreshadows her work in the late 1960’s in which she would use her body and the body of others in public performances.

 

Happenings

Starting in 1967, Kusama made fewer art objects and began experimenting with the performance art of the moment, ‘’happenings’’. Her first Anatomic Explosion (on the Wall Street) took place on October, 15th, 1968, opposite the New York Stock Exchange.
 
The performance was in opposition of the Vietnam War and was prefaced by a press release that stated that the money made with this stock is enabling the war to continue. The work featured nude performers dancing to the rhythm of bongo drums, while Kusama painted blue dots on their naked bodies.
 
For Kusama, nudity represents love and peace and was used to counter the tragedies and horrors of war. After 15 minutes the police came, putting an end to the spectacle.

Growing up in militaristic Japan during the World War II led Kusama to vehemently oppose social injustice and war. Her absurdly theatrical happenings, which were always overly political, were an expression of this opposition.

Mental Exhaustion

Her artistic output during this 15-year period was prolific and diverse, experimenting with various mediums. Sometimes, she would work up to 50 hours without rest. Eventually, the workload coupled with a lack of financial security and Cornell’s death took its toll, and in 1973 she move back to Japan to seek treatment for her mental exhaustion and declining physical health.
 
She began focusing on her surreal writing and avant-garde clothing line.

In 1977, after being diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive neurosis, Kusama checked herself in to the Seiwa Mental Hospital and has been living and working there by choice ever since.

When Kusama moved back to Japan in the 1970’s, she was all but forgotten by the Western art world. In Japan, she was mostly known for her violence-soaked writings, but that changed in 1993 when she was invited to represent Japan at the 45th Venice Biennale.

Pumpkin

The piece named Pumpkin from 1992 is one of Kusama’s first forays into outdoor sculpture. The giant yellow pumpkin sculpture is painted with rows of black dots fanning out from large to small around the gourd.
 
The pumpkin’s organic form and grand scale gives the work a cartoonish appearance, highlighting how strange the natural world appears in modern culture. Created in Japan, the work also reflects a shift in Kusama’s practice from her earlier aggressive and politically works to the more kitsch works that consume her art later in life.
 
The shift can be also attributed to the transition in Japanese culture from rigid and militaristic to a full on embrace of the ridiculous and tacky, as seen in the Hello Kitty cuteness in Kawai culture.

OCD Catharsis

Kusama’s art is fundamentally about obsession and the need, born of anxiety, to repeat certain acts in an attempt to free herself from that obsession. Since childhood, her art-making has been a private atavistic ritual, a necessary inducement to repetition that leads to catharsis.

Obliteration Room ( 2002-present) starts out as a blank canvas. Set up to resemble the interior of a domestic environment, the floor, walls, ceiling, furniture and little knick knacks are all painted sterile white.
 
Visitors to the room are handed a sheet of round stickers of various shapes and size determinate by Kusama, and invited to affix them to any surface in the room. The interactive installation was the first time Kusama moved away from creating passive environment to creating an environment in which its realization required participation from visitors.

Here’s a video showing Obliteration Room in action:


 

Hello Capitalism

In 2008, one of Kusama’s Infinity Nets, the same one once owned by Judd, set new art auction price records for a living female artist and led to collaboration with luxury fashion retailers like Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs.
 
Ironically, the woman whose art once protested capitalism and materialism, now fully embraces it.

Kusama began her Infinity Mirror Room series in the 1960’s, and so far has created twenty distinct rooms. They are culmination of her repetitive paintings, soft sculptures and installations into an immersive environment. The piece Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away from 2016, is her most recent iteration.

Each Infinity Mirror Room consists of a dark chamber-like space completely lined in mirrors. This particular room consists of small LED lights hung from the ceiling and flickering in a rhythmic pattern creating pulsing electronic polka dots.
 
The lights reflect off the mirrors in the intimate room creating the illusion of endless space; only one visitor at a time can experience the installation with the singular visitor becoming integral to the work, as his/or her body activates the environment once in the room.

Kusama’s far-reaching influence can be attributed to the fact that she has always been a step ahead of her time, with her art being at the forefront of many major artistic movements. Yet, her art-making process is so personal, and both a cure and a symptom of her mental illness; it does not fit into any of these defined movements.

Influence

More important than the impact her diverse work has on the art market is its influence on other artists and movements, which spans generations. Her work inspired Feminist artists, Pop artists like Andy Warhol, Performance artists like Yoko Ono, but also contemporary artists like Damien Hirst.

To this day, she represents herself as a lone wolf most comfortable with being known as independently avant-garde; her life is a poignant testament to the healing power of art and the study of human resilience.

Nowadays, Kusama reigns as one of the most unique and famous contemporary female artists, operating from her self-imposed home in a mental hospital.



 

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Yves Klein – Master of the Color Blue

yves klein

I was an extreme element of society who lived in space and who had no means of coming back to earth.

Yves Klein, one of the most prominent and controversial French artists, emerged in the middle of the XX century and is remembered above all else for his use of a single color – a rich shade of ultramarine that he made his own: International Klein Blue.

Serious Circumstances

Klein´s art emerged from serious circumstances. In the late 1940s, France was still a nation traumatized by World War II. The cultural center of gravity had moved across the Atlantic to New York. The artists who remained in Paris, or at least the good ones, were producing post-apocalyptic work, and out of the same rubble came the much younger Klein.

The abstract painting that dominated French art in the 1950s was invariably premised on the notion that an artist could communicate with the viewer through the power of abstract form. But the skeptics of modern abstract art have always alleged that the viewers, like the faithful devotees of a false god, do more of the than the artist, investing the forms with their own feelings rather than discovering the artist’s.

Klein was fascinated by mystical ideas, by notions of the infinite, the absolute, the indefinable and his use of a single rich and suggestive tone of blue might be seen as an attempt to free the viewer from all imposed ideas.
 
But he would turn out to be a very worldly mystic- a merry prankster and shrewd self-publicist, Klein was a unique combination of spiritual seeker and shameless showboat, an artist of metaphysical bent.

yves klein

Background

Yves Klein was born on April, 28, 1928, in Nice, France to an artistic family, the son of two painters. His father, Fred Klein, a Dutch-Indonesian, worked in a figurative Post-Impressionist mode while his mother, Marie Raymond, a Frenchwoman, was a successful School of Paris abstractionist and a leading figure in the Informel movement.
 
Klein grew up shuttling between his parents in Paris and his grandparents in Nice.

Although Klein grew up in an artistic family, he did not receive formal artistic training. Between 1942 and 1946, he studied at the Ecole Nationale des Langues and the Ecole National de la Marine Marchand; during this time he became close friend with Armand Fernandez, a promising young sculptor, and Claude Pascal, a young poet.
 
The friends shared common interests of jazz music, literature, esotericism, Eastern religions and martial arts and judo especially. Klein´s sport was judo, which he wrote a book about, after studying it at Kadokan Institute in Tokyo (from 1947 and 1952/53) and earning a black belt.
 
Klein is certainly the only 20
th century artist to have published a book titled The Foundations of Judo.

Thwarted By Judo

The refusal of the French Federation of Judo to recognize his Japanese diploma, in 1954, frustrated his career plans in that direction to the benefit of his career in art. An academic failure, Klein began making art on his own while taking odd jobs.

According to a story, Klein’s major artistic breakthrough happened in 1947 while lying on a beach with Pascal and Arman. The three friends divided the universe between themselves: Arman claimed the materiality of the earth, Pascal appropriated language and words and Klein possessed ‘’the void’’-the planet empty of all matter.
 
Klein embarked on a realistic-imaginative daydream into the depths of the universe, where he claimed to have inscribed his name in the sky.

The void enlightenment in the sky led Klein to experiment in painting, music and performance. The Monotone-Silence Symphony from 1949, a piece containing a single chord sustained for twenty minutes followed by twenty minutes of meditative silence.
 
It symbolized the sound pitch emitted from the monochrome blue sky, or the void emphasizing universal harmony.

 

 

New Sensations

In the period between 1848 and 1952, Klein lived in London and began to assist in London frame shop of Robert Savage, learning basic painting techniques and using raw pigments and gilding. He was determined to evoke sensations and emotions independent of line, abstracted symbols or rendered objects, believing the monochromatic surface released the painting from materiality through the totality of pure pigment.

In 1956, Klein had a controversial exhibition at the Galerie Colette Allendy in Paris, established himself in the Paris art scene. The exhibition titled Yves: Propositions Monochromes displayed twenty monochromatic paintings rendered in tones of blue, red, orange and yellow.
 
He received a pretty disappointing reaction from the public, who viewed the exhibition as a new form of interior abstraction rather than an infinite journey into the immateriality of the surface. After considering the public´s misinterpretation, Klein decided to push the monochrome a step further by focusing on his favorite color-blue.

Klein’s Blue Period

And, in 1956, he succeeded in suspending his favorite ultramarine pigment in petroleum extracts, which allowed the pigment to maintain its brilliance and something of its powdery texture without dulling. He named the substance International Klein Blue – IKB.
 
It was the beginning of the Klein´s Blue Period.

The piece Blue Monochrome, from 1957, is one of the Klein´s first monochromes featuring International Klein Blue. He depicted his vision, using only one color, a vibrant shade of ultramarine, which he later perfected for use with the aid of chemist. The painting contains no trace of imaginary or line, encouraging the viewer to immerse herself in the color alone and to experience its evocations.
 
Symbolic of the sky and sea had resonances in Klein´s own religion, Catholicism, as not only a symbol of the Holy Ghost, but also as the shade traditionally used in the depiction of the Virgin Mary’s robes in the Renaissance paintings.

In 1957, in Nice, Klein met the young beautiful German painter Rotraut Uecker, who assisted him on a huge decorative project for the Gelsenkirchen opera house, in Germany, involving canvases and sponge reliefs imbued with I.K.B.

Invisible Works

To further his artistic vision of the immaterial, he created Le Vide, or The Void (1958). He removed everything from the gallery space (Iris Clert Gallery) except for an empty cabinet; he also created a dramatic entrance for the opening show, in which visitors were welcomed into empty room.
 
In regards to the work, he stated that his paintings were invisible and he would like to show them in a clear and positive manner. The Void, like much of his work it might be read in a slightly contradictory manner, as a political attack on the traditional art object and the gallery system that supports it.

yves klein le vide

Venus Blue

In the Venus Blue, from 1960, Klein applied his signature International Klein Blue to a plaster cast of the famous Venus de Milo sculpture, pushing the monochrome into the three-dimensional field and establishing a relationship between the infinite cosmos and the human form.
 
By appropriating the famous Greek sculpture and painting it IKB, Klein gives the dated masterpiece a kind of kitsch and commercial appeal, making it a precursor to Pop Art.

venus blue

Anthropométrie sans titre

After concentrating on the monochrome canvases, Klein made a new departure with his signature IKB color, using his brush and nude models. In Anthropométrie sans titre, 1961, he covered nude females in blue paint and had them press, drag and lay themselves across canvases to create bodily impressions.
 
The piece was inspired in part by photographs of the body-shaped burn-marks on the earth, which were caused by the atomic explosion at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Klein crafted this idea into a performance piece, hosting a formal event where guests observed the nude models executing the piece; although the events could be at times bizarre and comic, the resulting pictures represent a fresh and vivid approach to the idea of figurative painting darkly influenced by the threat of the Cold War.

Anthropométrie sans titre

In this period, Klein became fascinated with natural elements and usually incorporated water, fire, sea sponges and gravel into his sculptures and canvases. This resulted in a series of fire paintings and monochrome relief paintings, as well as IKB sculptures that expressed cosmological ideas and infinite space.

After the exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York, in 1961, he received a poor response and his paintings failed to sell.

Marriage to Rotraut Uecker & Death

The next year, he married Rotraut Uecker, several months before he died of a heart attack at the young age of 34.

Yves Klein and Rotraut Uecker

In France, Klein perception of reality was significant forerunner of Nouveau Réalisme and a French strain of Pop Art. His work represents one of the most important responses to the monochrome in the art of the twenty century, and has joined the contributions of others such as Aleksander Rodchenko and Kasimir Malevich.

Yves Klein was a consummate trickster and more than a half of century after his death, we are still not sure how seriously to take him. As with Marcel Duchamp before him and the conceptual artists who came after, Klein believed that the idea behind a work was more important than the execution.
 
Among his earliest projects were two booklets he produced in 1954 that contained plates of his monochrome paintings – canvases covered over entirely in a single color. But while Klein by that year had produced some small monochromes, the particular paintings the booklets pretend to reproduce probably never existed.

 

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Cindy Sherman – Essay On Her Famous Works

cindy-sherman-untitled-film-still-3

The work is what it is and hopefully it’s seen as feminist work, or feminist-advised work, but I’m not going to go around espousing theoretical bullshit about feminist stuff. – Cindy Sherman

A contemporary master of social photography, Cindy Sherman is a key figure of the Pictures Generation, a loose circle of the most influential and productive American Artists who came to artistic maturity and recognition during the early 1980s, a period notable for the rapid and widespread proliferation of mass media imagery.
 
For the most of her remarkable artistic career, she has been the face of postmodernism.

 

Early Life

Ms Sherman was born in January, 19, 1954, in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, as a youngest of the five children, and shortly after her birth, the family moved to Long Island where she spent her early childhood.
 
Her father was an engineer and her mother a reading teacher, but although her parents shared a general disinterest in the arts, Cindy chose to study art in college, and afterwards, studied at Buffalo, at the State University of New York, in the early 1970s.

In this period, from 1972 to 1976, she began as a painter in a super- realist art style in Buffalo. The 1970s was an eclectic era for painters working in the aftermath of Minimalism, and feeling as though ‘’there was nothing else to say’.
 
But very quickly after, she found herself frustrated by the certain limitations of the medium and shifted her attention to photography, toward the end of 1970s, in order to explore a wide range of common female social role or personas.
 
Owing to a widely influential art instructor, Barbara Jo Revelle, she was exposed to conceptual art and other progressive media and art movements.

As Sherman came of age in the art world, the prevailing visual mode was painting dominated by ‘bad boy’ expressionist and figurative painters like David Salle or Eric Fischl. Photography was still thought to fall below painting in the hierarchy of mediums, but it granted women artists a mode that was relatively free from the heavy, conservative and male- dominated history of the painted canvas.
 
Many of the women artists adopted the camera and ‘’there was a female solidarity’’

 

Untitled Film Stills

After graduation, Sherman moved to New York in order to pursue her artistic career. In 1977, in her downtown residential and loft studio she started taking a series of photographs, a project she would eventually refer to as the Untitled Film Stills.
 
This series, 1977-80, is considered an early cornerstone of postmodernism.

In Untitled Film Stills, Ms. Sherman embodies the character of ‘Everywoman’; the artist served as both photographer and subject, transforming herself into the guise of various female archetypes, re-fashioning herself repeatedly and played the film noir siren, the prostitute, the girly pin-up, the housewife and the noble damsel in distress, also the movie stars of an earlier generation: Monica Vitti, Brigitte Bardot and Sophia Loren.

For about three years, she was occupied by black-and-white series, so that by 1980, Sherman had exhausted a myriad of seemingly timeless clichés referring to the ‘feminine’. This photographs of women by woman quickly gained attraction within the feminist community. A theorist Laura Mulvey, in one of her essays, contextualized Sherman’s work within the prevailing feminist modes of thought at the time.

End Of An Era

When Ms. Sherman arrived on the scene, it marked ‘the end of the era in which the female body had become, if not quite unrepresentable, only representable if refracted through theory’. Rather than sidestepping, Sherman reacts and shifts the agenda; she recuperates a politics of the body that had been lost or neglected in the twists and turns of 70s feminism.
 
It is easy to see some of the way Sherman’s representations of women avoided the proclivities of the day. The high heels and the heavy makeups, as well as the bullet bras of the film stills, harken back to the 50s rather than the au naturel look favored in the 70s.
 
It is not just a range of feminine expressions that are shown but the process of the ‘feminine’, as an effect, something acted upon.

Posing And Pretence

Museum of Modern Arts announced, in 1996, that it had just acquired Sherman’s Untitled Film Still series, the curators knew they had laid claim to one of the most representative works of the early 1980s American movement of ‘simulationism’ and ‘appropriation’; both terms refer to American artists’ mimicking, in the first half of the 1980s, widely circulating images in the mass media or former art masterpieces, and critically reworking them to arouse a sense of unease in the viewer, indeed often suggesting that culture had become a game of theatrical posing and egoistic pretence.
 
In Untitled Film Still #21, from 1978, Sherman takes on the role of the small- town girl just happening upon the Big City. She is, at first, suspicious of the metropolitan shadows and lights, only to be eventually seduced by its attractions.

 

Untitled Film Stills was Sherman’s big artistic break which secured her position in the New York art scene.

Debate

In 1981, the Arforum’s editor Ingrid Sischy commissioned a series for the publication, and that Sherman’s work took hold of the feminist imagination. The artist planned to riff on the Playboy centerfold with a pair of horizontal photographs showing women in intimate states of repose.
 
But, the Sherman’s women were all clothed, unlike Playboy’s women though. These works were never printed in Artforum, and it was the first time Ingrid Sischy refused to print a commission. She worried that the series would be misunderstood by militant feminists since they looked ‘’a little too close’’ to the pinups in actual men’s magazines.
 
However, Metro Pictures showed them and Calvin Tomkins noted, in the New Yorker, they were, in fact, ‘’ misunderstood by a number of political-minded art students (male and female), who accused Sherman of undermining the feminist cause by depicting women in ‘vulnerable’ poses’’.

Yet, through these moments, Ms. Sherman remained unwilling to directly tie her work to feminist theory. This tension became especially clear with her Untitled #93, from 1981, a centerfold featuring a tearful girl drawing her bedsheets close.
 
The girl was interpreted by the many critics as a survivor of sexual assault. But, according to the Sherman’s state, the inspiration was a woman who had gone to bed moments before the sun rose, following a night of debauchery.
 
This example is typical of the debates that have surrounded Sherman and her work: the artist’s account of her own intentions often conflict with the scholarly debates about feminism and the role of the women in her pictures.

Disasters and Fairy Tales, from 1985 to 1989, much darker endeavour than its prettified predecessor; he gloomy palette and scenes strewn with vomit and mold challenged viewers to find the unqualified grotesque and the beauty in the ugly.

Her photographic portraiture is intensely grounded in the present, but also extends long traditions in art, that force the audience to reconsider cultural assumptions and common stereotypes, among the latter political satire, the graphic novel, caricature, stand-up comedy, the pulp fiction and the other socially critical disciplines.

History Portraits

Sherman’s History Portraits, again presented herself as a model, but this time, she assumed the air of European art history’s most famous leading ladies. Leaving in Europe at the time of its creation, she was absorbed in the West’s great museums.
 
That interlude gave way to Sherman’s Sex Pictures, in 1992, in which she substituted her own figure for that of a doll, and her main intention was to shock and scandalize the public; the images present close-ups of doll-on-doll sex scenes and prosthetic genitalia.

untitled #250 1992

Theatre

Over the last decade, Sherman dons clown’s make-up in a series of still photography, in 2003, and even more recently, she explored carefully staged female suburban identities in solo show in New York, in 2008.
 
Also, in her latter series, she photographed herself in various states of awkward make-up, superimposing stodgy, highly-conscious portraits over contrived domestic and faux-monumental backdrops.

Recalling a long tradition of theatrical role-playing in art and self-portraiture, Cindy Sherman uses the camera and the various tools of everyday cinema- costumes, makeup, stage scenery to re-create common illusions, or iconic ‘snapshots’, that signify very different concepts of self confidence, entertainment, public celebrity, and other socially sanctioned, existential conditions.
 
Although they constituted only a first premise, these images begin to unravel in various ways that suggest how self identity is often an unstable compromise between personal intention and social dictates.

Yet, with each passing year, Ms, Sherman’s art deviates more noticeably from a basic postmodern tenet and the so-called ‘death of the author’, but this idea holds that there is no such thing as originality, that we are all formed by external forces and that identity is completely constructed, which implies that it is also completely de-constructable.

Appropriation

Many variations on the methods of self-portraiture share a single, notable feature: in the majority of Sherman’s portraits, she directly confronts the viewer’s gaze in order to suggest that an underlying penchant for deception is perhaps the only value that truly unites us.

Many critics and art historians have explored the idea of Sherman’s appropriating the ‘’male gaze’’ and the voyeuristic feeling of the works. The artist twists the traditional formula of pin-up shots, and plays into the male conditioning of looking at photographs of exposed women, but she takes on the roles of both, male photograph and female pinup.

Critical

Cindy Sherman epitomizes the 1980s technique of ‘image-scavengering’ and ‘appropriations’ by artists seeking to question the so-called truth-potential of mass-imagery and its seductive hold on our individual and collective psyches. Sherman depersonalized approach to portrait photography has suggested a new, socially critical capacity for a medium that was once presumed a tool of documentary realism or aesthetic pleasure.
 
This ‘readymade’ quality of the critically applied photograph, whereby a preexisting image or convention is appropriated intact by artist and turned into something more conceptually problematic, if not psychologically disturbing, has come to characterize much work of a new generation defying easy categorization.

 

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Artemisia Gentileschi – Famous Women Artists In History

Susanna and the Elders by Gentileschi

By virtue of the excellence of her work, the originality of her treatment of traditional subjects and the number of her paintings that have survived, Artemisia Gentileschi was the most important woman painter of Early Modern Europe.

She was both disdained and praised by contemporary critics, recognized as having genius, but also seen as monstrous, for she was a woman exercising a creative talent thought to be exclusively male. She “has suffered a scholarly neglect that is almost unthinkable for an artist of her caliber’’ (Mary D. Garrard).

Artemisia Gentileschi, Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting, 1638-9
Artemisia Gentileschi, Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting, 1638-9

Artemisia Gentileschi was born in Rome on July, 8th, 1593, as the eldest child of the Tuscan painter Orazio Gentileschi and Prudentia Monotone Gentileschi. Her mother died when she was twelve.

Artemisia was introduced to painting in her father’s workshop, showing much more talent than her brothers, who worked alongside her. Her father trained her as an artist and introduced her to the working artist of Rome, including Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, whose chiaroscuro style greatly influenced Artemisia Gientileschi’s work.

She had little or no schooling, other than artistic training; she did not learn to read and write until she was adult. Orazio was a great encouragement to his daughter; during the seventeenth century women were considered lacking the intelligence to work.

At the same time, Artemisia had to resist the traditional attitude and psychological submission to this brainwashing and jealousy of her obvious talent.

Susanna and the Elders by Gentileschi
Susanna and the Elders by Gentileschi

By the time she was seventeen, she had produced one of her best known work, a stunning interpretation of Susana and Elders, from 1610. The painting shows how Artemisia assimilated the realism of Caravaggio without being indifferent to the language of the Bologna school, which had Annibale Carracci among its major artists.

It is one of the few paintings on the theme of Susanna showing the sexual accosting by the two elders as a traumatic event.

Among those with whom Orazio Gentileschi worked was the Florentine artist Agostino Tassi, whom Artemisia accused of raping her in 1612, when she was nineteen. When her father found out, he filed suit against Tassi for injury and damage, and, remarkably, the transcripts of the seven-month-long rape trial have survived.

According to Artemisia, attempted to be alone with her repeatedly, with the help of family friends, and raped her when he finally succeeded in cornering her in her bedroom. He tried to placate her afterwards by promising to marry her, and gained access to her person and her bedroom repeatedly on the strength of that promise, but always avoided following through with the actual marriage.

She was examined by midwives to determine whether she had been ‘’deflowered’’ recently, or a long time ago. The trial followed a pattern familiar even today- she was accused for not having been a virgin at the time of the rape and of having many lovers.

Artemisia Gentileschi, Esther before Ahasuerus (detail) (c 1626-9)
Artemisia Gentileschi, Esther before Ahasuerus (detail) (c 1626-9)

Probably more galling for an artist like Artemisia, Tassi testified that her skills were so pitiful that he had to teach her the rules of perspective, and was doing so the day she claimed he raped her.

Tassi denied having had sexual relations with Gentileschi, brought many witnesses to testify that she was ‘’an insatiable’’ whore. Their testimony was refuted by Orazio, who brought countersuit for perjury. Artemisia’s accusations against Tassi were corroborated by a former friend of his who recounted Tassi’s boasting about his sexual exploits at Artemisia’s expense.

Tassi had been imprisoned earlier for incest with his sister-in-law and was charged with arranging the murder of his wife. He was convicted on the charge of raping Gentileschi and he served under a year in prison and was later invited again into the Gentileschi household by Orazio.

During and soon after the trial, Gentileschi painted Judith Slaying Holofernes (1612-1613). The painting is remarkable for its technical proficiency, but also for the original and impressive way in which Gentileschi portrays Judith, a pretty popular subject for art; her first Judith beheading Holofernes painting, clearly a cathartic expression of her rage and violation.

She drew all faces of Judith as hers face and Holofernes are Tassi on her painting. Unlike other ‘Judith Beheading Holofernes’, Judith looks like a strong woman and she has a tenacious grip.

Judith Slaying Holofernes, Artemisia Gentileschi
Judith Slaying Holofernes, Artemisia Gentileschi

In November of 1612, after the long trial, the pregnant Artemisia was married to a Florentine artist and family friend Pietro Antonio di Vincenzo Stiattesi. They moved to Florence and Arthemisia gave birth to a daughter named either Prudentia or Palmira.

In Florence, Gentileschi returned to the subject of Judith, completing Judith and her Maidservant in 1613 or 1614. During this Florence period of her life, she became the protégé of Michelangelo the Younger, nephew of Michelangelo, who favored her and paid her well for her work on the life of Michelangelo for the Casa Buonorotti.

Artemisia and her husband worked at the Academy of Design, and Gentileschi became an official member there in 1616. It was a remarkable honor for a woman of her day, and probably made possible by the support of her Florentine patron, the Grand Duke Cosimo II of the powerful Medici family.

During her years in Florence, he commissioned quite a few paintings from her, and Gentileschi left Florence to return to Rome upon his death, in 1621.

Afterwards, she probably moved to Genoa that same year, accompanying her father who was invited there by a Genovese nobleman. In Genoa she painted her first Lucretia (1621) and her first Cleopatra (1621-1622), the impressive pieces of artwork.

Artemisia Gentileschi. Lucretia. 1621
Artemisia Gentileschi. Lucretia. 1621

She also received commissions in nearby Venice during this period and met the great Anthony Van Dyck, a very successful painter of the era, and Sofonisba Anguissola, a generation older than Gentileschi and one of the handful of women who worked as artists.

Gentileschi soon returned to Rome and lived there as head of household with her daughter and two servants. Evidently, she and her husband had separated and she eventually lost touch with him altogether. Gentileschi later had another daughter, and both are known to have been painters, though neither their work nor any assessment of it has survived.

During this stay in Rome, a French artist, Pierre Dumonstier le Neveu, made a drawing of her hand holding a paintbrush, calling it a drawing of the hand of “the excellent and wise noble woman of Rome, Artemisia.”

Her fame is also evident in a commemorative medal bearing her portrait made some time between 1625 and 1630 that calls her pictrix celebris or “celebrated woman painter.”

Forever in search of patronage, she lived again in Florence and Rome during the 1620s, and then moved in 1630, to Naples, the second largest city in Europe, where commissions were available. During this time, she was struggling to reconcile her own artistic preferences with the preferences of her patrons, who made her livelihood possible

She collaborated with a number of the male artists while in Naples. In this period, she painted her great Self-Portrait- the Allegory of Painting (1630), a work unique in its fusing of art, muse, and artist, than another Lucretia, The Annunciation (1630), another Cleopatra, and many other great works.

Artemisia Gentileschi / Артемизия Джентилески (1593-1653) – Minerva (Sapienza) / Минерва (Мудрость) (около 1615)

Around 1637, desperate for money to finance her daughter’s wedding, Gentileschi began looking for new patrons. And she found him, eventually. It was King Charles I of England. She was in residence at the English court from 1638 to 1641, among the many continental artists invited there by that art-collecting king Charles I.

She may have gone specifically to assist her father, Orazio, in a massive project to decorate the ceilings of the Queen’s house at Greenwich.

For that commission, Artemisia painted the Allegory of Peace, including most of its Muses – and most notably, Clio, Muse of History. Her ailing father died in 1639, but Artemisia continued to work in England until 1642.

Artemisia returned to Naples, around 1642, where she lived until her death. She remained very active as a painter there, producing at least five variations on Bathsheba and perhaps another Judith.

Artemisia Gentileschi - Bathing Bathsheba
Artemisia Gentileschi – Bathing Bathsheba

During her last ten years, her primary patron was Don Antonio Ruffo; more is known about these years than any others because 28 of her letters to him which still survive.

The timing and the cause of Artemisia’s death is not known, but she most likely died in 1652.

Unfortunately, the rape trial, her unconventional life as a female painter, and her numerous paintings of powerful women struggling against male dominance did not endear her to the male aristocracy.

The only record of her death are two satiric epitaphs–frequently translated and reprinted that make no mention of her art but figure her in exclusively sexual terms as a nymphomaniac and adulterer.

Those derogatory epitaphs were published about her in 1653, such as: “By painting one likeness after another/ I earned no end of merit in the world/ While, to carve two horns upon my husband’s head/I put down the brush and took a chisel instead.”

According to Art historian Charles Moffat, Artemisia may have committed suicide, which would explain why the cause of her death was not recorded.

Thirty four of her paintings survive today, as well as the transcript of the rape trial, published in full in Mary Gerrard’s ‘’Artemisia Gentileschi, The Image of the Female Hero in Italian Baroque Art’’.

Today she is regarded as one of the most progressive painters of her generation; an artist who fought with determination—using the weapon of personality and of the artistic qualities—against the prejudices expressed against women painters; being able to introduce herself productively in the circle of the most respected painters of her time, embracing a series of pictorial genres that probably were more ample and varied than her paintings suggest.

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Concerning The Spiritual In Art With Vassily Kandinsky

yellow-red-blue by vassily kandinsky

Perhaps the greatest meditation on how art serves the soul came in 1910, when Russian painter and art theorist Wassily Kandinsky published The Art of Spiritual Harmony, an exploration of the deepest and most authentic motives for making art.

Uber Das Geistige in der Kunst (Concerning the Spiritual in Art) completed in 1910

A pioneering work in the movement to free art from its traditional bonds to material reality is one of the most important documents in the history of modern art. It explains Kandinsky’s own theory of painting and crystallizes the great ideas that were influencing many other modern artists.

Kandinsky’s words were written in the period between the Industrial Revolution and the rise of the consumer society, ring with remarkable poignancy today.

Kandinsky’s ideas are presented in two parts. In the first part called “About General Aesthetics’’, issues a call for a spiritual revolution in painting that will let artists express their own inner lives in abstract, non-material terms.

Just as musicians do not depend upon the material world for their music, so artists should not have to depend upon the material world for their art. In the other part, “About Painting’’, Kandinsky discusses the psychology of colors, the language of form and color and the responsibilities of the artist.

 

Several Circles - Wassily Kandinsky
Several Circles – Wassily Kandinsky

He begins by considering art as a spiritual antidote to the values of materialism and introduces the conception of ‘’stimmung’’, an almost untranslatable concept, best explained as the essential spirit of nature. He considers that in great art, the spectator, as a viewer, or a witness, does feel a corresponding thrill in himself.

Such harmony or even contrast of emotion cannot be superficial or worthless; stimmung of a picture can purify the spectator. Such works of art at least preserve the soul of coarseness, they ‘’key it up’’ to a certain height, as a tuning-key the strings of a musical instrument.

Regarding the tendency of the general public to reduce art to technique and skill, Kandinsky argues that its true purpose is entirely different and adds to art history one of the most beautiful definitions of art:

“In each picture is a whole lifetime imprisoned, a whole lifetime of fears, doubts, hopes, and joys. Whether is this lifetime tending? What is the message of the competent artist? … To harmonize the whole is the task of art’’

the blue rider by wassily kandinsky
The Blue Rider – Wassily Kandinsky

Kandinsky admonishes, the conception of l’art pour l’art– art for art’s sake, produces a neglect of inner meanings, a lament perhaps even more sad and ominous in our age of permanent commodification of art as a thing to transact around- to own, to purchase, to display, rather than an experience to have.

The spiritual life to which art belongs and of which she is one of the mightiest elements, is a complicated but definite and easily definable movement upwards and forwards. That movement is the movement of experience, it may take different forms, but it holds at bottom to the same inner thought and purpose.

As an explanation, Kandinsky offers a visual metaphor for the spiritual experience and how it relates to the conception of genius:

’The life of the spirit may be fairly represented in diagram as a large acute-angled triangle divided horizontally into unequal parts with the narrowest segment uppermost. The lower the segment the greater it is in breadth, depth, and area.

The whole triangle is moving slowly, almost invisibly forwards and upwards. Where the apex was today the second segment is tomorrow; what today can be understood only by the apex and to the rest of the triangle is an incomprehensible gibberish, forms tomorrow the true thought and feeling of the second segment.

At the apex of the top segment, only one man often stands. His joyful vision cloaks a vast sorrow. Even those who are nearest to him in sympathy do not understand him. Angrily they abuse him as charlatan or madman.

(—)In every segment of the triangle are artists. Each one of them who can see beyond the limits of his segment is a prophet to those about him, and helps the advance of the obstinate whole.

But those who are blind, or those who retard the movement of the triangle for baser reasons, are fully understood by their fellows and acclaimed for their genius. The greater the segment, so the greater the number who understand the words of the artist…’’

 

sky blue kandinsky
Sky Blue – Wassily Kandinsky

For Kandinsky, art is a kind of spiritual anchor when all other certitudes of life are unhinged by social and cultural upheaval:

“When religion, science and morality are shaken … and when the outer supports threaten to fall, man turns his gaze from externals in on to himself. Literature, music and art are the first and most sensitive spheres in which this spiritual revolution makes itself felt.

They reflect the dark picture of the present time and show the importance of what at first was only a little point of light noticed by few and for the great majority non-existent. Perhaps they even grow dark in their turn, but on the other hand, they turn away from the soulless life of the present towards those substances and ideas which give free scope to the non-material strivings of the soul.’’

But, despite this eternal spiritual element, Kandinsky recognizes that all art is inescapably a product of its time. Examining the music of Wagner, Debussy, and Schoenberg, each celebrated as a genius in his own right, he wrote that “the various arts of today learn from each other and often resemble each other… The greatest freedom of all, the freedom of an unfettered art, can never be absolute.

Every age achieves a certain measure of this freedom, but beyond the boundaries of its freedom the mightiest genius can never go. But the measure of freedom of each age must be constantly enlarged’’ and he also adds that the cross-pollination of the different arts can inform and inspire one another… “The arts are encroaching one upon another, and from a proper use of this encroachment will rise the art that is truly monumental.

Every man who steeps himself in the spiritual possibilities of his art is a valuable helper in the building of the spiritual pyramid which will some day reach to heaven.’’

 

yellow-red-blue by vassily kandinsky
Yellow-Red-Blue by Vassily Kandinsky

Wassily Kandinsky was synesthetic, greatly influenced by Goethe’s theory of the emotional effect of color. He considers the powerful psychic effect of color in the cohesive spiritual experience of art: “Many colors have been described as rough or sticky, others as smooth and uniform, so that one feels inclined to stroke them (e.g., dark ultramarine, chromic oxide green, and rose madder).

Equally the distinction between warm and cold colors belongs to this connection. Some colors appear soft (rose madder), others hard (cobalt green, blue-green oxide), so that even fresh from the tube they seem to be dry.

The expression “scented colors” is frequently met with. And finally the sound of colors is so definite that it would be hard to find anyone who would try to express bright yellow in the bass notes, or dark lake in the treble…Color is a power which directly influences the soul.

Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand which plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul.’’

Considering the color and the form, and defining form as ‘’the outward expression of inner meaning”, Kandinsky examines their interplay in creating a spiritual effect: “This essential connection between color and form brings us to the question of the influences of form on color.

Form alone, even though totally abstract and geometrical, has a power of inner suggestion. A triangle (without the accessory consideration of its being acute — or obtuse — angled or equilateral) has a spiritual value of its own.

In connection with other forms, this value may be somewhat modified, but remains in quality the same. The case is similar with a circle, a square, or any conceivable geometrical figure, a subjective substance in an objective shell-The mutual influence of form and color now becomes clear.

A yellow triangle, a blue circle, a green square, or a green triangle, a yellow circle, a blue square—all these are different and have different spiritual values.’’

 

Composition-VI
Composition VI – Wassily Kandinsky

Considering the inherent aesthetic intelligence of nature, he returns to his piano metaphor: “Every object has its own life and therefore its own appeal; man is continually subject to these appeals. But the results are often dubbed either sub- or super-conscious.

Nature, that is to say the ever-changing surroundings of man, sets in vibration the strings of the piano (the soul) by manipulation of the keys (the various objects with their several appeals)’’

There is no ‘’must’’ in art, because it springs from an inner need – the psychological trifecta built up of three mystical elements:

  • Every artist, as a creator, has something in him which calls for expression( the element of personality)
  • Every artist, as child of his age, is impelled to express the spirit of his age( the element of style), dictated by the period and nationality to which the artist belongs
  • Every artist, as a servant of art has to help the cause of art( the element of pure artistry); it is constant in all ages and among all nationality
Improvisation 28 (Second Version)
Improvisation 28 (Second Version) – Vassily Kandinsky

Sharing in Schopenhauer’s skepticism about style, Kandinsky predicts that only the third element “which knows neither period nor nationality’’, accounts for the timeless in art:

“In the past and even today much talk is heard of “personality” in art. Talk of the coming “style” becomes more frequent daily. But for all their importance today, these questions will have disappeared after a few hundred or thousand years.

Only the third element ( pure artistry) will remain forever. An Egyptian carving speaks to us today more subtly than it did to its chronological contemporaries; for they judged it with the hampering knowledge of period and personality.

But we can judge purely as an expression of the eternal artistry.

Similarly — the greater the part played in a modern work of art by the two elements of style and personality, the better will it be appreciated by people today; but a modern work of art which is full of the third element, will fail to reach the contemporary soul.

For many centuries have to pass away before the third element can be received with understanding. But the artist in whose work this third element predominates is the really great artist.’’

Furthermore, Kandinsky points out, the true artist gives credence only to that inner need, and not to the expectation and conventions of the time. “The artist must be blind to distinctions between “recognized” or “unrecognized” conventions of form, deaf to the transitory teaching and demands of his particular age.

He must watch only the trend of the inner need, and hearken to its words alone. Then he will with safety employ means both sanctioned and forbidden by his contemporaries.’’

 

decisive pink kandinsky
Decisive Pink – Wassily Kandinsky

This is the reason why theory invariably fails to capture the essential impulse in art, and he offers a beautiful disclaimer of his own theoretical treatise: “It is impossible to theorize about this ideal of art.

In real art theory does not precede practice, but follows her. Everything is, at first, a matter of feeling. Any theoretical scheme will be lacking in the essential of creation — the inner desire for expression — which cannot be determined.

Neither the quality of the inner need, nor its subjective form, can be measured nor weighed.’’

He also considers the paradox of what we refer to us as ‘’beauty’’, which is more of a theoretical agreement based on convention, rather than a true spiritual response ‘’ “Outer need” … never goes beyond conventional limits, nor produces other than conventional beauty.

The “inner need” knows no such limits, and often produces results conventionally considered “ugly.” But “ugly” itself is a conventional term, and only means “spiritually unsympathetic,” being applied to some expression of an inner need, either outgrown or not yet attained.

But everything which adequately expresses the inner need is beautiful…which is produced by the inner need, which springs from the soul’’.

 

movement 1 wassily kandinsky
Movement 1 – Wassily Kandinsky

Reflecting on the birthplace of art, Kandinsky return to the conception of a creative freedom: “The work of art is born of the artist in a mysterious and secret way. From him it gains life and being.

Nor is its existence casual and inconsequent, but it has a definite and purposeful strength, alike in its material and spiritual life. It exists and has power to create spiritual atmosphere; and from this inner standpoint one judges whether it is a good work of art or a bad one.

If its “form” is bad it means that the form is too feeble in meaning to call forth corresponding vibrations of the soul… The artist is not only justified in using, but it is his duty to use only those forms which fulfill his own need… Such spiritual freedom is as necessary in art as it is in life.’’

Eventually, he brings everything full-circle to the metaphor of the spiritual triangle, reexamining the essence of art and the core responsibility of the artist:

‘’Art is not vague production, transitory and isolated, but a power which must be directed to the improvement and refinement of the human soul …If art refrains from doing this work, a chasm remains unbridged, for no other power can take the place of art in this activity.

And at times when the human soul is gaining greater strength, art will also grow in power, for the two are inextricably connected and complementary one to the other. Conversely, at those times when the soul tends to be choked by material disbelief, art becomes purposeless and talk is heard that art exists for art’s sake alone…

 

braunlich
Braunlich – Wassily Kandinksy

It is very important for the artist to gauge his position aright, to realize that he has a duty to his art and to himself, that he is not king of the castle but rather a servant of a nobler purpose.

He must search deeply into his own soul, develop and tend it, so that his art has something to clothe, and does not remain a glove without a hand. The artist must have something to say, for mastery over form is not his goal but rather the adapting of form to its inner meaning.

(…) The artist is not born to a life of pleasure. He must not live idle; he has a hard work to perform, and one which often proves a cross to be borne. He must realize that his every deed, feeling, and thought are raw but sure material from which his work is to arise, that he is free in art but not in life’’.

More On Kandinsky:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edVdgH-pgZ8