Work of the Week! WOW! James Rosenquist – House of Fire



James Rosenquist
House of Fire
1989
Pressed paper pulp in colors with lithographic collage elements
54 1/2 x 119 3/4 in.
Edition of 54
Pencil signed, dated, titled and numbered



About the work:

In 1982 The Metropolitan Museum bought its first painting by James Rosenquist. The painting was House of Fire. Museum director Philippe de Montebello said of the work “[It is] not only a major monument to American Painting but an icon of its sort.”

From September 1988 to November 1989, Rosenquist spent over 100 days at Tyler Graphics Studio. During that time, he created ten paper pulp images with collaged lithographs. In the process, he used 27,000 gallons of paper pulp; drew seventy stencils to create 720 sheets of handmade colored papers, one relief plate, and forty-four separate lithographic sections which utilized 139 colors. All images include printed elements; however, in their effect: in the saturation of their color, and in the size and scale achieved, they come closer to paintings than prints. They are most precisely described as paperworks with collaged lithographs.

All images belong to the series Welcome to the Water Planet with the exception of House of Fire, which is after the1978 painting.

This week’s WORK OF THE WEEK! (WOW!) is Rosenquist’s massive collaged lithograph on hand made pulp paper House of Fire, measuring 54 3/8 x 119 3/4 in. (just over 4 1/2 feet in height and almost 10 feet in width). It is arguably one of his top three most important graphic works.

Rosenquist’s paintings directly allude to the cultural and political tenor of the times in which they were created. Since early paintings in which he depicted the debris of a consumer culture, Rosenquist’s images have reflected man’s fate and natures in an age determined by advertising, technology, and science. When speaking of House of Fire, Rosenquist states, “This painting is a metaphor for this country.”

House of Fire is a triptych of three images with order, balance and proportion.

The heart of this remarkable work is a bucket of molten metal throbbing like a smashed thumb in the middle of an open window with the venetian blind hovering above it, showing the contradiction between the industrial element and domestic architecture.

To the left, a brown bag of groceries reminiscent of food, succor, nurturing, domestic peace, fruitfulness, and the plentitudes of suburban America. The bag hangs upside down, however, suggesting aggression infiltrating the domestic sphere. The upside down groceries threaten to drop like bombs.

Balancing out the work to the right is the three dimensional “flying lipsticks” evoking multiple references not only to sex and sensuality with its phallic shape, and the hint of a women’s moist lips, but also aggression, violence, and war doubling as missiles, anti-aircraft guns, bullets, and even a sense of futuristic designs of car tail lights, rockets, and space ships.

These two images of which objects and incidents from the every day world take on a heightened life, surrounding the glowing heart of the bucket of molten metal, thus creating the whole singular image of the “House of Fire”. It is the disruption of the calmness of society, the molten force of violence and eroticism breaking through the frame of domestic bliss.

One is awed by Rosenquist’s technical skills, and mightily impressed by his intellectuality. We are smacked in the face by the blatant commerciality of his commentaries on advertising and at the same time inspired to conjure derivative images ourselves. Rosenquist’s best work is provocative in the best sense.

Work of the Week! WOW! Red Grooms – Los Aficionados



Red Grooms
Los Aficionados
1990
3D lithograph construction in original plexiglass box
23h x 35w x 14d in.
Edition of 90
Pencil signed and numbered



About the work:

Red Grooms is renowned for his dedication to printmaking and experimentation with non-traditional techniques.

By his own account, Red Grooms was always drawn to drama and spectacle. The multimedia artist is known for his lively and colorful three dimensional pop-up, pop-art pieces portraying busy urban life scenes, characterized by his strong talent for stylization and a sharp sense of humor.

In 1973, after purchasing a hot-glue gun he started creating “sculpto-pictoramas.” These constructions are elaborate three-dimensional lithographs, pieced together into a believable space. The “sculpto-pictoramas” would eventually become the artist’s signature works.

This week’s Work of the Week! (WOW!) is Grooms’ sculpto-pictorama, entitled Los Aficionados.

Printmaking for Grooms, became a vehicle to disseminate his vision of urban life as a site of invigorating chaos. Many of his works are composed as if they were stage sets. Red Grooms clearly “sees” from several points of view and wants viewers to experience scenes from noticeably unusual angles. Every print features a different aspect of the image Grooms is portraying, which is underscored by the different vantage points:

Los Aficionados is a dynamic piece depicting a fictional bullfighting scene at a bullring in Spain, attempting to recapture the motion lost in still images. The work is a warmhearted parody and satirical observation paying homage to Spain and its culture while celebrating some of the artist’s idols.

In this case (starting from the back of the Stadium), we see the cobble stone street leading up to the bullring, with food vendors, and spectators around the arena. Grooms even takes the viewer down the stretch of the passage way where you enter the stadium, and the viewer can see the other side of the bull ring with the spectators, and the bull fight with the matador, which is the image on the front. So in other words, he puts the same image that we see from the front on the back.

The work is even curved into a circle to represent the three dimensionality of the bullring

As for the front of the work, the main focus of the work, Grooms incorporates “cameo” appearances of important art historical figures and even includes his printmaker comically in harms way.

“Los Aficionados” in Spanish means The Fans.

In the audience the spectators include (from left to right) Pierre Levai of New York’s Marlborough Gallery, artist Francisco Goya, Ernest Hemingway, Francisco Goya, Pablo Picasso, and first wife Olga Khoklova, and famous Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca. As for the Matador, that is Bud Shark, Red Grooms’ long time print maker and friend, whom Grooms puts in most of his sculpto-pictoramas. Here we see the funny comical side of the artist, having a laugh at his friend’s expense.

Work of the Week! WOW! Tom Wesselmann – Monica Lying on One Elbow



Tom Wesselmann
Monica Lying on One Elbow
1986-1998
Alkyd oil on cutout steel
8 x 13 in.
Edition of 25
Signed and numbered on verso



About the work:

Considered by many to be a Pop artist, Tom Wesselmann would rather be called an artist of the post-Matisse era, according to his wife Claire. His works recall Matisse, in a contemporary setting.

Nothing can be truer, as evidence by this week’s Work of the Week! WOW! Monica Lying on One Elbow with Robe by Tom Wesselmann is a steel cut out painted alkyd oils created in 1986, and the edition was completed in 1997. We can see how it can be compared to Matisse’s Odalisques.

In the 80’s, Wesslemann started toying with the idea of capturing the spontaneity of his sketches, complete with false lines and errors, and realize them in the permanence of metal. He called these cut outs “Steel Drawings”. When the first steel cut was realized, Wesselmann commented, “I anticipated how exciting it would be for me to get a drawing back in steel. I could hold it in my hands. I could pick it up by the lines, off the paper. It was so exciting. It was like suddenly I was a whole new artist.”

Odalisques were the most popular subject of Matisse’s Nice period, during the 1920s. They appear in diverse poses in innumerable canvases: reclining, lounging, seated, or standing, frequently with their arms raised or folded behind the head. Dressed or semi-dressed in exotic attire, they are placed against a decorative background of richly patterned fabrics and oriental rugs and surrounded by oriental accoutrements. Matisse’s primary model for these depictions, from 1920 to 1927, was Henriette Darricarrière, a young woman skilled in the arts of ballet, piano, violin, and painting who lived near Matisse’s studio.

The model’s sculpturesque body, languorously stretching across a couch, exudes sensuality and carnality, enhanced by her seductive attire or painterly patterned backgrounds. The mood is clearly palpable. Yet, contemplating the work, one gets the impression that the artist somehow distanced himself from the erotic content of the picture while leaving the excitement of recognition to the viewer.

All this can be said of Wesselmann’s images of Monica, who was Tom Wesselmann’s favorite muse. This steel drawing cut out, Monica Lying on One Elbow with Robe, is a modern day Odalisque.

Here the viewer is drawn to Monica, by her seductive reclining position, and her half opened robe, exposing just enough, suggesting sensuality. Leaving no attention to detail behind, Wesselmann goes through great length to make sure that Monica’s robe is a full of little details such as the multicolored flowers on the lapels, and cuffs. This can be thought of as a contemporary tip of the hat to Matisse’s patterned backgrounds in his painting.

It is this detail that makes this particular steel cut the most rare and desirable of all the editioned steel cutouts. Monica Lying on One Elbow with Robe is considered the most sought after steel cut.

Work of the Week! WOW! Banksy – Grin Reaper (Red Reaper)



Banksy
Grin Reaper (Red Reaper)
2005
Screenprint
30 3/8 x 19 5/8 in.
Unique Artist Proof (A.P.) outside of the regular edition of 300
Pencil signed, dated and annotated A.P.

*Accompanied with a COA by Pest Control



This week’s Work of the Week – WOW!!! is the Grin Reaper. Only this work is a rare one of a kind unique Artist’s Proof.

There are quite a few differences between this version of Banksy’s Grin Reaper, and the regular edition version. (See photos below). This version of Banksy’s Grin Reaper, is an extremely rare unique one of a kind screenprint.

The differences are:

– The Reaper’s cloak is red, instead of black

– His scythe is red, instead of black, and the blade has metallic silver highlights

– The clock is metallic silver, instead of white

– The Reaper’s bones (skeleton) is also silver instead of white

– There is a matching silver border around the print

– This work is untrimmed, and larger measuring 30 3/8 x 19 5/8 in. (77 x 50 cm)
– The regular edition is 27 1/2 x 17 5/8 in. (70 x 44 cm)

This work is certified authentic by Pest Control, and is even titled the “Red Reaper” on the COA. It is an Artist’s Proof (AP), outside of the edition.

This is a rare, unique, one of a kind print

Unique Artist Proof

Regular Edition of 300

Banksy’s “Grin Reaper” is one of the artist’s most iconic images. Banksy’s original regular edition print was first released in 2005, as an edition of 300 pieces, and existed as a graffiti piece on Old Street, London. The work was originally part of ‘pop up shop’ exhibitions by Banksy.

This screen print by Banksy shows a grim reaper, with a comical twist. The reaper holds his traditional scythe, and he is sitting, casually on the top of a clock. It is five minutes to midnight, presumably the reaper is awaiting for the clock to strike twelve, before enacting his grim duties! However, instead of the usual skeletal features associated with the reaper, his face has been replaced with a bright yellow smiley face.

This piece plays with the boundaries between good and evil, by taking a typical symbol of something ‘bad’ (the reaper) and countering that with something considered to be good… a smiley face. The bringer of Doom, is now perhaps, not so bad after all. Almost welcoming you to your fate.

Work of the Week! WOW! Ellsworth Kelly – Red, Yellow, Blue



Ellsworth Kelly
Red Yellow Blue
1999-2000
Lithograph
31 x 30 1/2 in.
Edition of 40
Pencil signed and numbered



About the work:

Ellsworth Kelly’s works emphasize the basics of color, form, and shape. He is considered one of the great American artists of the 20th century for his pioneering works in hard-edge minimalism and colorful abstraction that explored the essence of their subjects.

Kelly spent time in Paris in the late 40s where he became influenced by Picasso and Matisse. Upon his return to New York, he carved out his own niche, paring down architecture, images and other visuals, turning them into abstractions. Using basic colors, he created statements that were “less descriptive than evocative.” Compared to other artists of his generation, Kelly’s works are far simpler.

His works take time to look at because what they portray is reduced to the basics, but they are all depictions of something we have already seen, and Kelly invites us to see what he sees.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Red Yellow Blue.

Red Yellow Blue is based on a painting created in 1963 which is part of the Marguerite and Amié Maeght Foundation collection. The Galerie Maeght was an avid supporter of Kelly’s work, giving him his first solo exhibition in 1958. The artist spent the summer of 1963 with the Maeght family at their residence in Saint-Paul de Vence and Red Yellow Blue is inspired from his walks in the flower and vegetable gardens of the estate. The colors are reduced to the three primary colors, flatly applied without any nuance or value. Once the subject of the work is identified, it is easy to see that the work is a bird’s eye view of a well-manicured French garden.

Work of the Week! WOW! In Memory of Mel Ramos



California Pop Icon, Mel Ramos has passed away at the age of 83 of heart failure, on Sunday Oct. 14, 2018.

As a tribute to Mel Ramos, this week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Verna Burger, Ramos’ first print, created in 1965.

Mel Ramos
Verna Burger
1965
Lithograph
21 1/2 x 17 in.
Edition of 500
Pencil signed and numbered


About the work:

Few things are more appealing to a man than a sexy seductive pinup model and a good old fashion cheeseburger.

In his own way, Mel Ramos, a pioneer of American Pop Art on the west coast, captured American thought, fervor, and society of the times.

To the outsider looking in, Ramos’ art was nothing more than a hot naked woman coming out of an unwrapped candy bar, lying with an exotic animal, or in this case, sitting on a cheeseburger. However to the insider, Mel Ramos’ art is the juxtaposition of naked women with larger than life commercial products, and represents issues of the times.

The 1950’s and 1960’s brought innovation, and commercialization, tied with consumerism to America, and on the flip side brought a break with traditional values and a loss of innocence, a “breaking out of its shell” if you will. The birth of television, and movies, helped bring about both consumerism, and sexuality to the forefront of every American.

Advertisements shaped our culture of what society “needs” and “wants”. The rise of pinup calendars, Playboy Magazine, and the Hollywood sex symbols in the movies, shaped our youth, moving them forward into a more rebellious and break from traditional thinking as a society as a whole.

Many of the Pop Artists, like Johns, Rauschenberg, Rosenquist, and Lichtenstein, all painted about the same topics as Ramos, but Mel Ramos’ art was more direct, and less abstract. There was no room for interpretation. It was what it was! And that is perhaps why Ramos never achieved the same level of appreciation of fame as his contemporaries. However, Ramos was one of 12 artists, along with Andy Warhol, and Roy Lichtenstein, in the Los Angeles County Museum, of the Arts 1963 Pop art show that showcased the burgeoning new movement.

Verna Burger is the prime example of Ramos’ brand of Pop. The work has all the allure of a pinup with the vintage 1960’s look and sexual undertones. There is a delicate femininity to Verna in the way she is seated, playing with a long string of pearls and her 1960’s inspired bob hairdo. While the sex appeal is obvious, it is more coquettish than images we may see today.

Mel Ramos’ work did evolve to be more flashy or showy over the years, but Verna Burger brings viewers back to different era and represents the epitome of what Ramos collectors are after: a style of subtle suggestiveness and innuendo, paired with a commercial product that is nostalgic of a different time.

WOW! – Work of the Week – Lawrence Schiller – Marilyn Monroe Birthday Cake



Lawrence Schiller
Marilyn Monroe Birthday Cake
1962-2007
Silver Gelatin Print
30 x 40 in.
Edition of 75
Signed and numbered in ink



About the work:

Lawrence Schiller began shooting Marilyn in 1960 on the set of “Let’s Make Love” when he was just 23 years old and he would be among those who took the very last stills of the actress.

As a model, Schiller has recounted, the Monroe was very easy to photograph, a “dream subject.” Their first time working together, she even coached him, saying: “That’s not the best angle for me. If you go over there the light will be better.” She knew what to do and understood light, as though she were both the shooter and subject.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Lawrence Schiller’s iconic photograph Marilyn Monroe Birthday Cake.

Marilyn Monroe celebrated her last birthday on June 1, 1962 with the cast and crew of her final movie “Something’s Got to Give” in which she costarred with Dean Martin.

Three weeks prior to that, on May 17th, 1962, during the shooting of the movie she showed up and completed all her scenes by noon in order to secretly fly out to New York and sing “happy birthday” to President Kennedy on May 19th. Fox studios would then sue the actress for breach of contract. Despite the suit, filming continued, even on Marilyn’s birthday.

Marilyn Monroe Birthday Cake was shot on set after a day of filming. Fox studios did not even so much as give Marilyn her birthday cake, which was purchased by her stand in. The actress, smiling broadly in front of the cake topped with sparkling candles commands all the attention. Set lights, ladders and props in the background are barely visible yet symbolic of the personal and professional turmoil of Marilyn Monroe’s life.

The actress was fired from the movie one week later on June 8th and Fox sued her again in an attempt to recover damages. Two months later, on August 5th, she would be found dead, in her home, at the age of 36.

Marilyn Monroe Birthday Cake, which was purchased directly from Lawrence Schiller was released in 2007, the 45th anniversary of her passing. It comes with the hardcover book by the photographer documenting this photo shoot.

WOW! – Work of the Week – Robert Rauschenberg – Soviet/American Array VI



Robert Rauschenberg
Soviet/American Array
1988-1990
Intaglio in 16 colors on Saunders paper
88 1/2 x 52 in.
Edition of 59
Pencil signed and numbered



About the work:

Robert Rauschenberg was endlessly curious, creative and politically-minded. He is one of most influential artists of the post-war era and is credited with a revival and redefinition of printmaking. His aesthetic strategy included assemblage and collage of images of the everyday world, the juxtaposition of which, enhances their effects on each other to form a narrative.

Rauschenberg used his art as a means to depict political experiences of the time, which in turn allowed him to process them internally. Much of his political work is not only a meditation on the state of the nation but also on the state of the nation in relationship to the world.

For a conscientious citizen like Rauschenberg, who served in World War II, the overwhelming rise of the Cold War between post-war superpowers America and Soviet Union could not be ignored. He later explained that he had felt assaulted by current events. His resolution to this was undertaking and fostering cultural exchange through his ROCI (Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange) initiative. Among his projects for the initiative was the Soviet/American Array series.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Soviet/American Array VI.

For Rauschenberg, current events directed his thinking and emotions of the time. Despite seemingly different worlds on opposite sides of the Iron Curtain, Soviet/American Array VI reveals a surprising display of visual similarities across the Cold War divide. The piece was most likely inspired by Russia poet Andrei Voznesensky’s 1981 work entitled “Russian-American Romance:”

In my land and yours they do hit the hay
and sleep the whole night in a similar way.
There’s the golden Moon with a double shine.
It lightens your land and it lightens mine.
At the same low price, that is for free,
there’s the sunrise for you and the sunset for me.
The wind is cool at the break of day,
it’s neither your fault nor mine, anyway.
Behind your lies and behind my lies
there is pain and love for our Motherlands.
I wish in your land and mine some day
we’d put all idiots out of the way.

This work interweaves images of American life and Soviet life through the intaglio process in 16 colors. The work is very large, standing 88 1/2 in. high by 52 in. wide and was done in a very limited edition of 59 pieces. Some images are obvious such as the silhouette of a statue of Lenin and other, less recognizable images were taken from Rauschenberg’s travels throughout the Soviet Union and America. What is most interesting about the work is how difficult it is to discern which images represent the USSR and which represent the U.S.A.

In this piece Rauschenberg turns images from the two Cold War nations, which stressed their differences for over forty years, into a montage of an inextricably interconnected life, neither Soviet nor American, but an array of both.

Rauschenberg’s effort was to break through the pain. He stated in 1989: “My goal is to open people’s eyes to the surrounding reality, to deepen mutual understanding between people and to aspire for peace.” The aim of these works was “to shake people awake,” to the fact that despite ideological differences, people across the world are not all that different.

WOW! – Work of the Week – John Baldessari – Zorro (Two Gestures and One Mark)



John Baldessari
Zorro (Two gestures One Mark)
1998
Offset lithograph with screenprint and offset flip book
Sheet: 10 x 8 in.
Book: 3 7/8 x 5 7/8 in.
Edition of 60
Pencil signed and numbered


About the work:

John Baldessari pledged, in a 1970 groundbreaking work “I will not make anymore boring art.” This pledge was addressed to both his viewers but also to himself. He has remained true to his word, never shying away from new media, allowing his works to always retain a freshness and relevance that many younger artists struggle to match. Through his experimentations, he became responsible for the way many artists use appropriation in their work today. Kruger, Sherman and Salle are among the many that cite him as an influence. He is a giant of contemporary art.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Baldessari’s Zorro (Two Gestures and One Mark).

Zorro (Two Gestures and One Mark) is a lithograph with screenprinting accompanied by an artist flip book without commentary. The combination of the two brings to life trademark Hollywood imagery.

Baldessari is best known for works that blend photographic materials which are taken out of their original context and rearranged. He has spent his entire life living and working in California so it is not surprising that much of his works incorporate Hollywood film stills and other cinematic references. This particular piece features actors Jean-Paul Belmondo and Humphrey Bogart and the character Zorro.

This work requires the participation of the viewer, to take the book and flip it, which in turn reanimates the gestures of Humphrey Bogart and Jean-Paul Belmondo from movie stills. It is not a static piece.

The end result of flipping through the book is the actual artwork of art in which we see the imagery of Belmondo smoking a cigarette, and rubbing his lips with his thumb, Humphrey Bogart laughing before slowly becoming serious, and Zorro marking the Z on a wall with his sword.

Thus the work becomes two-part. The genius of the work is that it is a combination of film stills that the viewer has to flip through the book to get to the end result image, which is the artwork itself. A remarkably smart conceptual piece!

WOW! – Work of the Week – Frank Stella – Jasper’s Dilemma



Frank Stella
Jasper’s Dilemma, from Jasper’s Dilemma
1973
Offset Lithograph
16 x 22 in.
Edition of 100
Pencil signed and numbered



About the work:

Frank Stella defiantly departed from Abstract Expressionism through a complete restructuring of the idea of painting. He revolutionized the field and inspired changes still felt today.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Stella’s Jasper’s Dilemma, an homage to fellow artist Jasper Johns who he admired greatly.

Jasper’s Dilemma is formed of two “mitered” mazes as Stella called them. Mitered joints are joints that are beveled, usually at a 45 degree angle to form a corner, such as standard picture frame edges. Both mazes seem identical in structure, divided into 4 triangles whose points don’t quite meet at the center, however, the colored maze spirals outward in a counter-clockwise path from the center and the black, while the black and white maze follows a clockwise route.

Stella eliminated subjectivity in his work through using arbitrary mathematical measurements, forcing the viewer to think about the relationship between color and form. Johns on the other hand, created compositions of recognizable items, closing the gap between the object and its representation, transforming an object into art.

Johns would often create a work in color, then reexamine it in shades of grey. This “dilemma” is posed in Stella’s tributary work (which holds both the representation in color and in grey), between the “seduction of the spectrum against the rigors of the grey scale.” The title of this work and its color scheme make explicit reference to Johns’s statement that the more he worked in color, the more he saw gray.

For Johns, the use of grey was a means to think about color through its absence. Johns initially used grey tones as a statement of skepticism or anticipation, but it evolved into a profound examination of the meaning of color itself. Grey was the most appropriate hue with which to present “conceptual” art since it is less stimulating, allowing for more space for ideas.

In removing color, the artists refocus the viewer’s attention to consider the means of representation, over what is represented and, to consider how does something come to have meaning, rather than what does it mean.