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Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Fairey

It’s interesting to me that this New York Magazine blurb opens with; “Even though Obama’s popularity has been sliding significantly…” because for me personally, it’s Shepard Fairey’s act that’s starting to wear a bit thin. Today the acclaimed artist released Art For Obama, which is a collection of Obama inspired artwork. However, I question the timing, not because of any slide in Obama’s popularity in the polls, but because Fairey is starting to flood the market a bit.

There is no doubting that Fairey has talent, his work with Obey made for some very striking images, the Hope poster was pretty much everywhere, heck, I even own a copy of his inauguration poster. However, the horse that Fairey rode in on is starting to get a bit ragged. To a degree, Fairey is starting to come off as a bit one-note, which is a shame, because I’ve seen some of his other stuff, and it’s not half bad! However, the string of Obama themed art seems to continue to be pushed, unabated. Now, I understand that the man needs to make some money at this, it’s very rare that a living artist taps into this kind of zeitgeist and achieves this kind of commercial success. Good for him, hopefully he can get enough out of it that he can spend the rest of his days making any kind of art that his heart desires. Maybe he’s even still truly inspired by the Obama phenomenon. None of this, though, means that I can’t start to get bored with it.

Now, on the surface Fairey says all the right things. The Art For Obama project, really, is about other artists after all, and not him. It’s about grassroots inspiration, art from the ground up. However, at the same time, just as much as it seems like he is pushing something inspired by the President, it seems to me that it smacks a bit of being “inspired by Shepard Fairey.” Check out the slide show on the New York website and head over to Obey’s official site to look at more and decide for yourself.

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Amador

If you head over to The Guardian you will find a great little series of photos depicting the work from artist Andres Amador.  Amador, who is based out of San Francisco, does a lot of landscape art or earthscape art.  For the purpose of The Guardian photo spread this translates into massive and intricate designs in the sand.  Follow the link over and take a look at them for yourself.

As you can probably see from the pictures, the scale of Amador’s work is pretty massive, but is also pretty beautiful.  I think my favorite part about the work is how through the use of nature as his canvas he is able to create such complex pieces of art that so perfectly capture the essence and spirit of life in California (of course, leave it to a British publication to introduce it to me).  I also think there’s something heartbreakingly beautiful in the fact that the work is so completely temporary, destined to be washed away and wiped clean by the elements themselves.  It’s the very definition of art for art’s sake, both gorgeous and fleeting.

After doing a little digging (read: typing the name into Google and clicking on the top result) I found Andres Amador’s official website. There you can see more examples of his earthscape art and check out some of his more traditional work, as well as purchase some of his work and keep up with news about the artist.  You should head on over and take a further look for yourself, it’s pretty cool stuff.

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A couple weeks back I had a post that kind of put Jonathan Jones (and the Turner prize) on blast for his, and other high-culture types, casual dismissal of the work of the street artist Banksy.  Well, being a rational and fair-minded man, I of course believe that everybody deserves their day in court.  In this instance that day in court is the shortlist of Turner prize nominees that is now up over at the Guardian website.

First off, it’s never fair to blame the artists for the whims and failings of the critics who laud them, so regardless of whether or not you think the Turner prize to have any sort of relevance over in the UK, you must judge the artists nominated on the merits of their work.  That being the case, I must admit that looking at the sampling of works that are showed in the gallery, I find the work to be pretty intruiging.  I found myself especially interested by the works that they show from Richard Wright of Glasgow- his stuff struck me as being an enjoyable combination of modern, ambitious, and subtle.  So, whether or not Banksy’s name would fit alongside these other artists (for the record, I still strongly contend that he would, and that Jones compromises his credibility some when he says otherwise) you have to give credit where credit is due, and  the nominees who were chosen certainly seem to be talented in their own right.

For people with further interest, here is the link to the official Turner prize Tate Gallery website. Take a look, draw your own conclusions, and enjoy.

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banksy-hollywood

While I was cruising around the Guardian website this morning I came across this post from arts & culture journalist/blogger Jonathan Jones. In the post Jones talks about his brief and impish consideration of nominating graffiti-artist Banksy for the Turner prize.  First I suppose I should explain that the Turner prize is a pretty high profile art award that celebrates an outstanding British artist under the age of fifty, it also comes with some kind of monetary prize (£40,000 according to Wikipedia, which, as we all know, never lies).   What made me raise an eyebrow initially was that Jones has always been a pretty vocal critic of Banksy’s work, so for him to even entertain this consideration was not what I would have expected to read.  Luckily, the universe quickly righted itself and Jones said he quickly tossed the idea aside.   Now, I don’t have any problem with that, he’s well within his rights to like and nominate whoever he damn well pleases, there’s no accounting for taste after all, especially in the art world.  What I did strongly disagree with was what Jones wrote when he was articulating his reasons for not putting Banksy’s name forward:

“Anyway, I believe in education. The reason I don’t like street art is that it’s not aesthetic, it’s social. To celebrate it is to celebrate ignorance, aggression, all the things our society excels at. For middle class people to find artistic excitement in something that scares old people on estates is a bit sick.”

My first reaction would be that I  don’t think street art is ignorant so much as it’s subversive.  Well, allow me to amend that statement, some of it is subversive and not ignorant.  I will be the first to admit that random defacement of street signs or indiscriminate posting of tags or gang signs is for the most part pretty ignorant, but I would also argue that such things aren’t street art but just graffiti.  Real street art, meanwhile, is subversive and not ignorant,  and I would say that while Banksy isn’t the end-all and be-all of street art (nor would I expect him to claim he is), his work certainly is street art.  To say that his work (or street art in general) is ignorant and aggressive is to attempt to trivialize and demean it, and worse than that, it’s wholly inaccurate and unfair.

Looking at Banksy’s work specifically, I would say that it falls into two categories, that which is politically charged and markedly anti-establishment, and that which is merely mischievous (and still pretty anti-establishment).  I would like to think that the picture at the top of this post is pretty characteristic of what his work looks like when it falls into the latter of these two categories (I took it on Melrose Ave. in Hollywood for those who are curious).  While it doesn’t carry much of a political message, I certainly wouldn’t call it aggressive or overly ignorant so much as I would call it playful.  Even if you were to take to take some leaps of faith and describe it as being ignoranct, it’s ignorant in a pretty harmless “slacker-uprising” kind of way (and I personally would call it more aesthetic than social).  Now, I can understand it not being Jones cup of tea.  I can even understand how he can look at such pieces in Banksy’s body of work and describe social but lacking social value. However, I don’t see anyway this description could fit when describing Banksy’s more political work, it is without a doubt both aesthetic and social (just stay with me here), but with a strong emphasis on social value.  It is precisely because of this that I think Jones is very much in error, both about Banksy and street art as a whole.

In it’s very name street art is working class and proletarian in nature, that is to say that it’s of the streets.  As such, I find it interesting that Jones should choose to bring class into the discussion.  When he describes middle class enjoyment of Banksy’s work as “sick” or talks about it frightening the elderly, what he’s unintentionally channeling is the anti-establishment undercurrent to the art, its impatience with injustice and expressions of societal angst.   I mean, what other than the middle class and elderly could possibly better serve as a tangible representation of the status quo?  Now I’ll admit that street art often aims to disrupt, or at least interrupt, the status quo– what’s ironic, though, is that it’s precisely such tones of frustration and rebellion that gives street art, and Banksy’s work specifically, most of its value.

If you take a closer look at Banksy’s more political works you will see that it’s not celebrating ignorance and aggression in society, but rather it is railing against it.  Like all good street art it’s the manifestation of a working-class feeling of helplessness, of frustration at being overlooked, it’s giving a voice to those who might not otherwise be heard.  What we are then celebrating is not society’s ignorance and aggressiveness, but rather it’s independence and durability, its stubborn refusal to quit and continued ability to strive for more (and these things are universal, kids).  There are many better examples of this (many of which can be found here on Banksy’s official website), but not wanting to violate copyright law I’m only going to post photographs that I’ve taken myself.  Still, I think that the photo below can serve as an excellent example of the point I’m attempting to illustrate.

banksy-new-york

This is a piece that was up in New York City in the fall of 2008 (I’m pretty sure it has been painted over now).  I wonder how could this possibly be interpreted as anything other than a sad and frustrated statement against the culture of greed and injustice in America?  Look at the image of the trademark Banksy rat in a power suit, blood on his hands, briefcase spilling money into the air, his message of apathy scrawled on the wall.  If you place this in the context of the failing American economy, where millions of people are losing jobs, and remember that it was largely caused by greed and irresponsibility on Wall Street, than the statement that the piece is trying to make is pretty clear.  Sure it may be a bit frightening to the establishment, but it’s only frightening because the image is so powerful and because it calls attention to the failings of the establishment, its greed and its disinterest in the well being of the common man.  Is it a little aggressive?  Maybe.  Is it justified?  Probably.  Does it have social and artistic value?  Undoubtedly.

Art created by the working class has often lacked understanding from the “mainstream” at it’s inception.  Blues music, pop art, much of independent cinema, hip hop music, all of these things took time before they were appreciated certain portions of so-called high culture.  That didn’t make the work any less important or any less beautiful, though.  I would argue that this is also the case with street art.  Banksy’s work may not always be an example of the best street art has to offer, but it’s often very smart and is certainly the highest profile example at the moment, and as such it deserves some recognition and credit.  Jonathan Jones may not get it, but somehow I think most good street artists would trade recognition and accolades for their work serving to generate discussion and maybe even change.  I suppose in that sense the mission has already been accomplished.

I suggest that anybody who is interested follows the link above to Banksy’s website and decide for themselves.  His work in Palestine includes some of my favorite pieces.

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lissitzky2

The focus of this feature over at The Atlantic is a pair of exhibits in Paris and London that are showing collector George Costakis’ massive collections of early 20th century Russian Art.  As the article describes him he seems like a pretty normal dude who just has a passion for the preservation of art, or “art for art’s sake.”  What I think is particularly interesting is how his collection is described as being apolitical in nature, at a time when Russian art was, clearly, drenched in political propaganda.  I think that it’s an important cause as artwork is such a crucial part of cultural history.  In the case of this particular art movement in this country and  period, I think, it is especially unique.  The experimentation in graphic art and propaganda was very exciting and interesting, and in my estimation was pretty ahead of its time.

I would go on but I’m not educated enough on the subject to do it justice.   The article, meanwhile, is full of info on the exhibits, names of the artists, and some links.  Be sure to look for the mention of El Lissitzky, the picture above is by him and he’s always been one of my favorites, as a matter of fact, I am pretty sure I chose to do a graphic art project on him way back when I was in high school.  So read the article and enjoy.

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