holditnow

Month: August, 2013

Waterfalls

Waterfalls 2013

Waterfalls 2013

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Wild Raspberries

wild raspberries 2013

Wild Raspberries   2013

Acrylic sketch on wood panel.

W.T.G.A.: Bacon vs Basquiat

bacon vs basquiatThe art world has never seen anything like them, before or since. Both of their work exposes a nerve and breathes with raw vitality. What on the surface appears to be slapdashery actually on further investigation reveals a surgeon’s precision. For two artists who received no formal training they are in complete control of their materials. One was born from the ashes of World War II and the other from the urban street art scene of NYC. In their lifetimes, both men wrestled with addiction and sometimes could be swept under by its weight. They never pulled their punches, they embraced their outsider status and could somehow wring the beauty from the ugliness of the world. Both their legacies have changed the face of art forever, but who is the greater artist?

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Francis Bacon Three studies for figures at the base of a crucifixion 1944

They say that if you have a dream that all your teeth fall out; that you are worried about an issue in your life that is out of your control. According to dream logic; teeth represent power. No one knew this better than Francis Bacon, he was fascinated by teeth; actually the whole mouth in general. The mouth is the gateway into our insides. We can greet people with a smile or ward them off with a snarl. We can laugh or scream. In the paintings of Francis Bacon, it is that silent scream that we hear above all others.

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Jean-Michel Basquiat Museum Security (Broadway Meltdown) 1983

The sound we hear from Basquiat is that of a myriad of words all spoken at once; poetry applied to the canvas, scrawled on and then crossed out. It is stream of conscience word association that acts as the mouth of the artist. It lets us in then spits us out again. Basquiat began his career with words as the graffiti artist SAMO. He reacted to the city he lived in by writing social commentary onto its walls. Text became a visual element that he carried with him throughout his career.

Bacon Study for a Bullfight #1 1969

Francis Bacon   Study for a Bullfight #1 1969

As Basquiat fragments words, Bacon fragments visual space. Often times in his paintings, two objects can occupy the same space combining to create a symbiotic entity. People and things seem to penetrate one another leaving them altered. Bacon sets his narratives into a world that is both flat and has depth all at the same time. There is a dramatic quality to his players that seem to find themselves performing for the viewer in an unforgiving arena. His subject matter can seem very harsh, but then he baths his paintings in vibrant flat fields of brilliant colour that radiate beauty. He entices and repulses in equal measures.

Advantage: Bacon

Jean Michel Basquiat Trumpet 1984

Jean-Michel Basquiat Trumpet 1984

Unfortunately throughout  their careers, both artists experienced the ugly sting of bigotry. It is hard to fathom that even as late as the eighties that some people had a hard time accepting a black contemporary artist. Throughout his career, Basquiat experienced many obstacles in being recognized by the art community as a serious painter. His radical style was too extreme for many and misinterpreted as naive. His freshness and freedom eventually prevailed but the pressure he felt throughout his career may have contributed to his short time with us. In the end, Basquiat refused to be marginalized as a novelty act and wore his much deserved crown with pride.

Francis Bacon  Triptych Studies from the Human Body 1970

Francis Bacon Triptych Studies from the Human Body 1970

Considering the idiotic resurgence of homophobia the world is now experiencing we are reminded that prejudice is still alive and well. Francis Bacon didn’t hide his homosexuality in real life or his work in a time  when that was not the norm. He helped to break down barriers and provide a much needed voice . His life was laid bare on the canvas. A few years ago while touring the Vatican  I walked around a corner and came face to face with Bacon’s Study for Pope II from 1961. Considering Bacon’s sexual orientation flies directly in the face of the Catholic Church along with the fact that the majority of his Pope pictures show the pontiff in less than a flattering light, I find it an odd choice for inclusion in their holdings. I guess art trumps all.

Jean Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol Arm and Hammer II 1985

Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol   Arm and Hammer II 1985

Basquait’s star burned brightly and attracted the attention of many in the New York art scene including Andy Warhol.  What tragically turns out to be the end of Andy’s career, the two artists did a series of collaborative paintings together sharing the same canvases.  Although none of their combined pieces ever rose to the height of their individual works, the juxtaposition of Andy’s mechanical process with Basquiat’s expressive touch was quite complimentary. They developed a strong friendship through their partnership. The two would speak daily on the phone to one another and Andy was concerned with Jean’s drug abuse and health. In 1987 Andy’s untimely death due to complications from a routine surgery really hit Basquiat hard.  Less than two years later, he too would die suddenly, this time of an overdose at the age of 27.

Francis Bacon Study for a Head of George Dyer 1967

Francis Bacon  Study for a Head of George Dyer 1967

Basquiat’s career was ended before it really got started. He accomplished an incredible amount in a very short  time. His painting instincts were always immaculate. You can witness the act of painting on his canvases and relish in his choices. All his paintings are masterfully executed but I would be hard pressed to find a definitive masterpiece among them. We never got a chance to experience him at the full height of his powers. Bacon has the advantage here by default. He had the opportunity to develop. One look at a painting like Study for a Head of George Dyer and you can see an extraordinary  technique and touch that has been cultivated and honed over decades. Bacon’s legacy is impressive, as is Basquiat’s. But in the end, we are left with only one question: poor Jean-Michel, what might have been?

Winner: Bacon

Must-have Summer Accessory: Performance Art

10427531-marina-abramovic-portrait-with-scorpio Breaking Bad‘s back and Shark Week has come and gone. These are summer traditions that people have grown to anticipate and cherish. Unfortunately it will be our last with Walt and Jesse and the Lemon Shark never gets enough play, but these are part of the things that make the summer; the summer. Every summer has its blockbusters along with its soundtrack. Summer also brings us some ubiquitous hot fad or in rare cases a timeless classic (I’m looking at you Daft Punk). For 2013, this summer’s must-have accessory is of course: performance art. Wait what?!? jay_rob_1 It all started a little while back with Jay-Z’s art film Picasso Baby. Wait what, this is an art film?!? Let’s see, it does have Picasso in the title and he was an artist, so that is definitely related to art. The lyrics also name check Rothko, Basquiat, Bacon and Leonardo Da Vinci- ok. It also subscribes to the pile of bricks theory of art: a pile of bricks in a parking lot is a pile of bricks, a pile of bricks in a gallery is art. The institution endorses the object or in this case the video. If this video was shot anywhere besides the Pace Gallery, for instance a grocery store; could it still cling to the art moniker? Last but not least, to argue the artfulness of the video is its inclusion of many real life visual art personalities. Some of the people that appear in Picasso Baby include: Jerry Saltz, Marcel Dzama, George Condo, Wangechi Mutu, and of course Marina Abramovic. jay Marina Abramovic is the current reigning queen of performance art and her inclusion here seems to signify art status. At this point I’d like to say that I like Jay-Z and admire his effort but this is a music video and not art. The filming of the video involved performance in front of people in a gallery but the minute it was edited into an easily digestible product it planted itself firmly in the music video camp. The song is all about status and so is the video. The guest list had a very studio 54 velvet rope vibe. Jay-Z parades art-stars and celebrities like the new must have accessory. You gotta love him for it. Marina Abramovic was the jewel in his crown or was Jay-Z the pop star boost to hers.

Relation in Time 1977

Relation in Time 1977

Marina Abramovic has enjoyed a lasting and illustrious career as a performance artist and most of her work succeeds at challenging the viewer and expanding upon the story of art (Picasso Baby – not so much). Some of her work I like and some of it I like less. This is an excerpt from her An Artist’s Life Manifesto:

1. An artist’s conduct in his life:

– An artist should not lie to himself or others
– An artist should not steal ideas from other artists
– An artist should not compromise for themselves or in regards to the art market
– An artist should not kill other human beings
– An artist should not make themselves into an idol
– An artist should not make themselves into an idol
– An artist should not make themselves into an idol

OK, what if an artist just associates themselves with an idol? Is that acceptable, and if so why not two? Enter Lady Gaga hugging a giant crystal.

lady-gaga-leaves-nothing-to-the-imagination-during-the-the-abramovic-method.-600x335

I’m sorry but, the short The Abramovic Method starring Lady Gaga is not only bad art, it’s just plain silly. It feels like a first year art school project. At least Jay-Z’s Picasso Baby had a genuine sense of fun and playing with convention. This is drowning convention in an isolated river weighed down by cliche and contrived notions of solipsism. It thinks itself very poo-poo clever. I’m afraid this is the kind of bad art that gives all art a bad name.

Marina goes on to say:

4. An artist’s relation to suffering:

– An artist should suffer
– From the suffering comes the best work
– Suffering brings transformation
– Through the suffering an artist transcends their spirit
– Through the suffering an artist transcends their spirit
– Through the suffering an artist transcends their spirit

The Artist is Present 2010

The Artist is Present 2010

I don’t believe in this notion that only good art can come from suffering.  (Lady Gaga and Jay-Z seem to be doing OK at the moment.)  Art is definitely difficult and an incredible amount of work but it shouldn’t be torture nor only used as catharsis. The mystique of the tortured artist is based more on the fact that we like to torture our artists, rather than this is their magical source of inspiration.  Being an artist is equal amounts play and equal amounts hardship. On the one side, you get to do whatever you want, exercise your mind and spirit and make cool stuff and on the other you are constantly faced with an ocean of apathy and indifference with a pinch of rejection. Hopefully you can swim through it and keep your head above water, because it can weigh you down like Marina prescribes. Every single artist who has picked up a brush, chisel, camera, pen or microphone has had to make that swim, some in rougher waters than others.

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This guy gets paid to stare blankly and not react.

Marina’s view on work:

13. An artist’s conduct in relation to work:

– An artist should avoid going to the studio every day
– An artist should not treat his work schedule as a bank employee does
– An artist should explore life and work only when an idea comes to him in a dream or during the day as a vision that arises as a surprise

I hate to burst the bubble, but being an artist is a job like any other. Inspiration doesn’t come from a dream or from on high, it comes from showing up.

Lastly she says:
– An artist should not repeat himself
– An artist should not overproduce
– An artist should avoid his own art pollution
– An artist should avoid his own art pollution
– An artist should avoid his own art pollution

With Jay-Z we’ll give it a pass, Lady Gaga -not so much.

Nostalgia Project : Digital painting

Nostalgia Project 2013

Nostalgia Project 2013

Seinfeld Movie Poster: Sack Lunch

sack lunch-1

Probably one of the greatest movie titles of all time; here’s another Seinfeld movie poster.  Sack Lunch – a surprising alternative to the English Patient.

Here’s also  Rochelle Rochelle.

W.T.G.A.: Da Vinci vs Duchamp

Da Vinci vs DuchampBoth Leonardo and Marcel could be considered the elder statesmen of art. They are a thinking person’s artist. Their ideas transcended their products. As it turns out, the world has a scarce amount of products from the both of them to ogle at in our cultural institutions. In the case of Leonardo he only completed 15-16 paintings over the course of his life. I find it funny that not even art historians can agree on the exact number, as well it seems  lost Da Vincis keep resurfacing all the time.  Duchamp’s output  was minimal as well because he divided his time between art production and chess. He famously turned the game into  performance art on a lecture circuit with his friend Man Ray. We are only left with a handful of pieces, but oh what a handful. They both had too much to think about, rather than spending all their time fabricating. When they did make things, their touch was masterful. Both of them changed art forever; not just the process of making art but nothing short of the idea of art all together. But who is the greater artist?

da Vinci  The Virigin of the Rocks (detail) 1486

Leonardo da Vinci  The Virigin of the Rocks (detail) 1486

He was born out of wedlock, as a young man he was arrested for sodomy and as an old man died in the arms of a king: Leonardo da Vinci is probably the most recognized artist in the history of mankind. He is definitely the author of its most famous painting. But why that painting? A more appropriate question might be: why not that painting? Of the 15-16 paintings he completed over the course of his lifetime is it even his best? Does the most famous painting in history have to be the best painting in history? Is there any way to actually quantify that or who the greatest artist of all time is for that matter? (Probably not… but let’s crack on shall we.)

Duchamp Fountain 1917

Duchamp Fountain 1917

If Leonardo’s Mona Lisa is the world’s most famous piece of art than Marcel’s  Fountain would be the world’s most infamous. Almost a hundred years old and it can still offend and infuriate. So called art lovers will throw their hands up in disgust. This is the ultimate ready-made: a urinal tipped on its side signed by the fictitious R. Mutt. Duchamp didn’t even make it, he didn’t have to, but his power as an artist made it art. The role of the artist was irrevocably changed . He had turned lead into gold.

Advantage: Draw

Da Vinci  skull drawing 1489

Da Vinci skull drawing 1489

Leonardo on the other hand had no desire to dabble in the alchemy of the natural world. He believed man could not replicate nature but rather should observe it and possibly create inventions and understandings to better navigate it. His explorations into medical science and aerodynamics among others are centuries ahead of their time. It was his thirst for knowledge and excellence that helped to define the Renaissance. A favourite story I can neither confirm nor deny is:  Leonardo was a workaholic and knew he had too much to do and discover and found sleep just got in the way of this. To prevent himself from sleeping too long he devised a special bed.  The bed was hooked up to large weights on one end that would slowly be filled with water. When the weights were heavy enough they would tip the bed forcing the occupant up and out of it. An ancient alarm clock that delves into the realm of mythology but is aligned with the larger than life persona that is Da Vinci.

Advantage: Leonardo

Duchamp The Large Glass 1923

Duchamp The Large Glass 1923

The illustrations on the The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors Even (The Large Glass) evoke Leonardo’s diagrams for future machines. Duchamp’s machine painted on glass, that runs on love gasoline is planted more in the arena of satire than science. He painted it on glass so it would constantly change depending on what’s on the other side. The glass was broken during transportation in 1927. Instead of discarding the broken piece, Duchamp famously glued it back together claiming the accident had vastly improved it.

Da Vinci The Battle of Anghiari 1505

Da Vinci The Battle of Anghiari 1505

A piece we have lost to time is Leonardo’s Battle of Anghiari. The mural may in fact lie behind another fresco by Giorgio Vasari in the hall of Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio. This is a testimony to Leonardo’s power. Art historians were willing to remove and damage a centuries old masterpiece in the off chance that a Da Vinci lies behind it. The original plan for the hall was to have facing frescoes, one by Leonardo and the other by Michelangelo. That would have been some room, but alas it did not come to pass.

Duchamp L.H.O.O.Q. 1919

Duchamp L.H.O.O.Q. 1919

With no more than a postcard and a pen Duchamp delved into the iconoclastic. By subverting Leonardo he only gave him more power. Dada exclaimed that the artist only need to recognize something as art in order for it to be art. So in this little contest Duchamp himself tips his hat to the victor. Marcel Duchamp’s contribution to art changed the game completely and injected a much needed sense of mirth and play. Marcel elevated art to the heights of what it is capable of being and Leonardo shone a light on what mankind is capable of achieving.

Winner: Leonardo da Vinci

Unphotographable: Cordoba

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Dream Logic: Digital Painting

Dream Logic 2013

Dream Logic 2013