Gallery News

WOW – Work of the Week – WARHOL, Birmingham Race Riot





Andy Warhol
Birmingham Race Riot
1964
Screenprint
20 x 24 in.
Edition of 500

About the work:

WARNING:   THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS FOUL AND OFFENSIVE WORDS AND VIEWS THAT ARE USED TO PRESENT HISTORICALLY FACTUAL EVENTS ONLY!

THE WORDS AND VIEWS USED IN THIS ARTICLE DO NOT IN ANY WAY REPRESENT THE VIEWS OF GREGG SHIENBAUM FINE ART INC. OR ANYONE ASSOCIATED WITH GREGG SHIENBAUM FINE ART INC.

This week’s Work of the Week (WOW), Birmingham Race Riot is an example of Andy Warhol’s genius, that is often very subtle to the viewer.

Civil Rights photographer, Charles Moore published a photo-essay in Life Magazine covering the brutality black protesters were facing in Birmingham. One photo in particular of a young black protester being set upon by police dogs during the unrest, caught the attention of Andy Warhol, who at that moment was preparing for his first large-scale exhibit abroad, in Paris called “Death in America”
This exhibition consisted of paintings, of subjects such as car crashes, suicides, food poisoning, the electric chair, gangster funerals, and the Atom Bomb, later to become known as the Death and Disaster paintings.

Three of Moore’s photographs were of a dog attacking a black man and although the theme was not strictly “Death”, Warhol was sufficiently aware of their power to want to include them in his exhibition, consistent with his aim of showing the dark underside of the American Dream.  The image is forceful and requires no commentary as the tension, violence and fear are palpable.

In all, Warhol made some ten silkscreen paintings on the theme. They became known as his Race Riot paintings (counterfactually, in reality the images were of a peaceful march disrupted by police), and they represent Warhol’s only overtly political statement, although he himself insisted that Moore’s photographs had merely “caught his eye”.

People who truly understand Andy Warhol, and his art, immediately see the genius of the man and his work.  He never talked about about his artwork in a very serious manner.  Mistakenly described as “aloof”, Warhol took pleasure at that description, and played it up to the critics, and media. 

A perfect example of this, is the way he spoke about the Race Riot paintings. Not speaking about them as a historical, impactful, commentary on the events in American society of the time, but rather downplaying them as images that had merely “caught his eye”, is the exact genius of Andy Warhol.

Warhol did not have to describe his art, or lecture about his ideas, but rather, he preferred that his artwork did it for him.  The idea of turning this photograph of a historically tragic dark time in America, into a work of art, presupposes the importance of the discussion or debate, of that image.

The very fact that he took this image and made it a work of art, elevated the  importance of that image, and the importance of the discussion of this image, in social and political surroundings. 

Done in a very quite manner, but heard loudly all over the world.

The Birmingham Riot of 1963

Birmingham, Alabama     May 10, 1963 . . .

Negotiators for the city, local businesses, and the civil rights campaign had completed and announced the “Birmingham Truce Agreement.”

This agreement included city and business commitments for:

  • partial desegregation of fitting rooms, water fountains, and lunch counters in retail stores,
  • promises of economic advancement for black workers,
  • release of persons who had been arrested in demonstrations,
  • the formation of a Committee on Racial Problems and Employment.

In an afternoon press conference held at the Gaston Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his team were staying, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth read a version of the agreement, after which King declared a “great victory” and prepared to leave town. However, some white leaders, including the city’s powerful Commissioner of Public Safety Bull Connor, who had used dogs and firehoses against demonstrators, denounced the agreement and suggested that they might not enforce its provisions.

May 11, 1963 . . .

State troopers were withdrawing from Birmingham under orders from Governor George Wallace. Investigator Ben Allen had been alerted about a potential bombing of the Gaston Motel by a source within the KKK and recommended that these troops stay for a few more days.  Ben Allen’s warning was disregarded by state Public Safety Director Al Lingo, who said he could “take care of” the KKK threat.    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., left Birmingham for Atlanta, Georgia

KKK leaders from across the South were assembling in nearby Bessemer, Alabama for a rally. KKK Imperial Wizard Robert Shelton addressed the white crowd, urging rejection of “any concessions or demands from any of the atheist so-called ministers of the nigger race or any other group here in Birmingham. He also said that “Klansmen would be willing to give their lives if necessary to protect segregation in Alabama.” 

The rally ended at 10:15 pm.

At 8:08 pm that evening, the Gaston Motel received a death threat against Martin Luther King’s brother,  A.D.King.

10:45 pm.   A uniformed officer got out of his police car and placed a package near A. D. King’s front porch. The officer returned to the car. As the car drove away, someone threw a small object through the house’s window onto the sidewalk, where it exploded. The object created a small but loud explosion and knocked over bystander Roosevelt Tatum.

Tatum got up and moved toward the King house—only to face another, larger, blast from the package near the porch. This explosion destroyed the front of the house. Tatum survived and ran toward the back of the house, where he found A. D. King and his wife Naomi trying to escape with their five children.

Tatum told King that he had seen police deliver the bombs. King called the Federal Bureau of Investigation, demanding action against the local police department.

11:58 pm.   A  bomb thrown from a moving car detonated immediately beneath Room 30 at the Gaston Motel—the room where Dr. Martin Luther King had been staying. The Gaston Motel was owned by A. G. Gaston, a Black businessman who often provided resources to assist the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. The motel bomb could be heard all over town. Also heard was the sound of white men repeatedly singing “Dixie”.

Bryan McFall of the FBI was expecting his KKK informant Gary Rowe to report at 10:30 pm, immediately after the end of the KKK rally. McFall searched in vain for Rowe until finding him at 3:00 am in the VFW Hall near the Gaston Motel. Rowe told McFall, his FBI handler, that Black Muslims had perpetrated a false flag bombing in order to blame the Klan. McFall was unconvinced. However, in submitting his final report to J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, McFall did not identify the KKK as potentially responsible for the bombing, nor did he question the credibility of Rowe as an informant.

Contemporary historians widely believe that the bombing was carried out by four KKK members, including Gary Rowe and known bomber Bill Holt. Rowe was already suspected by the KKK to be a government informant, and other members may have compelled him to assist with the bombing in order to test his fidelity to the white supremacy cause.

Many black witnesses held police accountable for the bombing of the King house, and immediately began to express their anger. Some began to sing “We Shall Overcome,” while others began to throw rocks and other small objects. More people mobilized after the second blast.   Many of them were already frustrated with the strategy of nonviolence as espoused by Martin Luther King, and turned to violence, and began to riot.

A crowd of about 2,500 people had formed and was blocking police cars and fire trucks from the Gaston Motel area. A fire that started at an Italian grocery store spread to the whole block. As traffic started to move, Birmingham Police drove their six-wheeled armored vehicle down the street, spraying tear gas.

The United States government intervened with federal troops for the first time to control violence during a civil rights related riot. It was also the first time the government had used military troops independently of enforcing a court injunction, an action was considered controversial by Governor George Wallace and other Alabama whites. The bombings and police response were a pivotal event that contributed to President Kennedy’s decision to propose civil rights legislation to achieve relief of injustice. It was ultimately passed under President Lyndon B. Johnson as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

WOW – Work of the Week – BASQUIAT, Rinso





Jean-Michel Basquiat
Rinso
1983
Screenprint on wove paper
40 x 40 in.
Edition of 85
Pencil signed by Gerard Basquiat and stamped by the Jean-Michel Basquiat estate on verso, numbered in pencil on front

About the work:

Art or Black Art?

Reluctant to involve himself in black politics, and despite Jean-Michel Basquiat’s own insistence that his work be evaluated in the context of all art, and himself in the context of all artists, critics have consistently focused upon race in his works, making it almost impossible to separate the artwork, and the artist from his message.

Basquiat’s work is known for its primitivist motives, combining anatomical diagrams, commercial art, Black pop cultural history and figures, charged phrases and words, and representations of the body in an emotional and psychologically explosive mixture. His use of bright colors and his line drawings brought to life his experiences in the urban landscapes.

Jean-Michel Basquiat was born in Brooklyn in 1960.  His mother was of Afro-Puerto Rican descent, his father was Haitian. He grew up in a middle class family, and in a middle class environment.  But Basquiat sought to conceal his less than underprivileged background, by not wanting to create artwork that had any reference to black disempowerment, however, the opposite seems to have been more the case. 

Basquiat himself observed: “I get my facts from books, stuff on atomizers, the blues, ethyl alcohol, geese in the Egyptian style … I put what I like from them in my paintings.”   However, other influences for Basquiat also included the work of Picasso, African masks, children’s art, hip-hop and jazz. The outcome itself has been described as a type of visual syncopation, or “eye rap.”

His paintings are both childlike and menacing, described as “raw”. Frenzied assemblages of crudely drawn figures, symbols like arrows, grids and crowns, recurring words in bold and vibrant colors, and depictions of violence and racial subjugation cover his canvases that is more often than not concealed beneath the competing interpretations that circulate about Basquiat as a figure.  This irony is one that has been applied to the situation of Basquiat himself in relation to a white-dominated art industry.

Borrowing elements of everyday language (brand names, trade marks, consumer clichés, political and racial slogans, etc.), Basquiat created juxtapositions that reveal latent power structures, whose realignment in turn produces ironies suggesting a fundamental arbitrariness within the institutions of social discourse. 

This week’s Work Of the Week (WOW), Rinso, a classic racist metaphor is exposed in the form of a reference to a popular washing powder. The words NEW RINSO(c), appearing above and beside three stylized renderings of Negroes, seem to point towards the word SLOGAN(c) in the centre of the artwork, which in turn gives on to an actual slogan-1950 RINSO: THE GREATEST DEVELOPMENT IN SOAP HISTORY-with an arrow pointing to the words WHITEWASHING ACTION at the bottom. In case the viewer misses the implications of this text, or the possible references to the violence of the 1950s civil rights movements, the words NO SUH, NO SUH written on the left of the work serve to lessen any ambiguity

Inevitably, it seems, these subjects became less and less distinguishable from the autobiographical elements Basquiat worked into his paintings. Success for Basquiat was always fraught with contradictions.  There is no doubt that such criticisms were fueled by the fact that Basquiat was the first black American artist to achieve international fame.  Not to play the role of noble savage or idiot savant could only reveal, to the art establishment, that Jean-Michel Basquiat would assume the position of a successful American artist, usually reserved for whites.  

Basquiat refused this role, even if at times he could be said to have exploited it. He was resented for his success, trivialized and slandered by critics. He sought fame, and like many who have achieved it, he found himself isolated in an often hostile and unpredictable environment.

Other works by Jean-Michel Basquiat available in the gallery:

WOW – Work of the Week – OPIE, Professional Series I



Professionals 2

Julian Opie
Professional Series I
2014
Inkjet on lenticular, presented in aluminum framed specified by the artist
Edition of 50
signed and numbered on label on verso

Sizes are varied, specified below:
Professional Series I – Banker
34 3/8 x 24 in.
Professional Series I – Detective
33 1/2 x 22 in.
Professional Series I – Lawyer
32 7/8 x 19 in.
Professional Series I – Nurse
32 3/8 x 20 1/4 in.
Professional Series I – Student
32 3/4 x 20 1/2 in.

About the work:

Julian Opie is a master in the reductive style in that he still manages to capture the essence and individuality of each of his subjects. His works depict the world around us sharply, truly and timelessly

The Professional Series 1, is no exception, Julian Opie observes people closely, and like a caricaturist, he has a formidable eye for foibles, idiosyncrasies and character. The paradox is that he renders these nuances in a flattened, abstract style that seems at first glance to be uniform and cold. 

In his Professional Series 1, people are portrayed in the classic Opie style, with bold black outlines, colorful clothes and no facial details at all. And yet, each professional seems individual and real. 

Professional Series 1 is printed on lenticular panels, in which a sequence of drawings are combined on tiny lenses so that as you move, you see them move. Stand still and the picture is still. Move and it is animated. These animated lenticular drawings richly analyze the nature of movement. 

WOW – Work of the Week – INVADER, Hypnosis





Invader
Hypnosis
2011
Woodcut
9 7/8 x 11 7/8 in.
Artist’s Proof, edition of 50
Pencil signed, numbered and dated

About This Work:

“Little by little, I organized a detailed process by which I explore international densely populated urban areas and “invade” them.”

Invader is the pseudonym of a French urban artist, born in 1969, whose work is modeled on the crude pixellation of 1970s–1980s 8-bit video games. He took his name from the 1978 arcade game Space Invaders, and much of his work is composed of square ceramic tiles inspired by video game characters.

Although he prefers to remain incognito, and guards his identity carefully, his distinctive creations can be seen in many highly-visible locations in more than 75 cities in 33 countries. He documents each intervention in a city as an “Invasion”, and has published books and maps of the location of each of his street mosaics.

Invader likes tiles for their robustness and permanence.  Video games of the era were constructed with 8-bit graphics, and so it lends themselves well to the mosaic treatment, with each tile representing one pixel.

“In my own eyes, they are the perfect icons of our time, a time where digital technologies are the heartbeat of our world. As these creatures are made of pixels they are in some sorts ready-made for tile reproduction. Finally, their names are literally predestined for the project I have pioneered: they are “Space Invaders!”

Invader’s idea is to bring the virtual world into reality.  He sees himself as a hacker of public space, spreading a virus of mosaics;[the streets are his canvas, his invasions are gifts to the city and its people. One can see many things in it, but it refers to the early days of digital and the video game.

His first mosaic was installed in the mid 1990s in his home city. It was a sleeper for several years before the full “invasion” program was conceived in 1996.  This was the first wave of the “invasion”.  By 1998, it had spread to 31 other cities in France.

Today, 77 cities have been invaded, 2,692 Space Invaders placed comprising some 1.5 million ceramic tiles; 19 invasion maps have been published.  He has invaded New York five times, Miami twice, and Hong Kong on three separate occasions.

This week’s Work of the Week (WOW) is called Hypnosis.

In this work, Invader channels the work of the Norwegian painter and printmaker, Edvard Munch.  Munch was greatly influenced by the German Expressionists in the early 20th century.  Many artist in this genre used the woodblock process in print form, to capture the angst of the times.

Hypnosis is a woodblock print done is Munch’s German Expressionist style. Here we see Munch’s typical figure and his familiar wavy lined background. The work is very dark, as is the work of the German Expressionists.  We see the effects of war through the eyes of these artists.

Here is where Invader starts to have fun with this work.  He uses the dark, depressed like image of Munch’s work, and inputs his space invader figures  making this work fun. However, upon further examination, we see the play on the idea that the space invaders are invading these villagers or the village.

This is, and has always been his concept, THE INVASION.  This is a great example of an extreme and obvious invasion.

WOW – Work of the Week – KAWS, Warm Regards





KAWS
Warm Regards
2005
Screenprint
20 x 16 in.
Edition of 200
Pencil signed and numbered

About This Work:

“When I’m making work, I’m always thinking how can I communicate within these avenues [of art] to make those bridges for kids and pull them out of their holes into other worlds?”

– Brian Donnelly aka KAWS

Brian Donnelly aka KAWS is a is a pop artist and designer who started his career as a graffiti artist in New York. moving on to subvertising.  Subvertising is a portmanteau of subvert and advertising. It refers to the practice of making spoofs or parodies of corporate and political advertisements.  Subvertisements may take the form of a new image or an alteration to an existing image or icon, often in a satirical manner.
It cuts through the hype and glitz of our mediated reality and, momentarily, reveals a deeper truth within.

Fascinated with how cartoon shows, such as The Simpsons or Sponge Bob Square Pants, can have such an impact on people’s lives and minds, Kaws’ imagery are subverts of American Icons and cartoon characters.  They are universally understood and go above and beyond language and culture.
The Kimpsons
The Kimpsons
For example, Kaws has a painted a series called The Kimpsons a subvert of the popular cartoon The Simpsons. Kaws explains that he “found it weird how infused a cartoon could become in people’s lives; the impact it could have, compared to regular politics.

This week’s Work Of the Week (WOW), Warm Regards is another example of a subvertisement that speaks to society’s use of emojis, as an every day visual language, in which people communicate and express emotions and feelings.  Emojis have replaced our words.  Can we write a story with emojis?  Can we read a book filled with emojis?  Is that what’s next?

Kaws’ point is further brought out by the specific use of one emoji in particular, the Poop emoji, with a very witty title, Warm Regards.  It is left up to your interpretation.   The simplicity of this image of just the emoji centrally located on the paper, with Kaws’ iconic “XX” for eyes really says it all.

The effectiveness of this simplistic style to make a statement about society is not one that we have not seen before.  Kaws‘ artistic idol is Andy Warhol.  Warhol’s use of a single pop image on a canvas or sheet of paper, to convey a message on society was not only groundbreaking, but also extremely effective in getting its point across.

A few perfect examples of this are the Electric Chair, Mao and Marilyn
One simple image, can say some many things.
Warm Regards 2    Andy Warhol - MM Pink

KAWS – Warm Regards                                           Andy Warhol – Marliyn Monroe – FS II.31 

Kaws not only recognizes this, but employs this technique with admiration, as he carries the torch continuing to create art in a manner that speaks volumes about the world and its societies.

WOW – Work Of the Week – John Baldessari “Large Door”

Hegel s Cellar Portfolio -  Large Door

John Baldessari
Large Door
1986
Photogravure and aquatint on torn Rives BFK aper
20 x 38 in.
Edition of 35

Pencil signed and numbered

About This Work:

“Fingerprints and footprints can be repeated, and that’s why I make prints endlessly”  – John Baldessari

John Baldessari has created a formidable body of editions and artist’s books in his lifetime. His irreverent and playful prints require an intellectual workout as rigorous as any other medium in which he chooses to work.

A self-described “failed writer” who “builds with images the way a writer builds with words”, Baldessari’s work is concerned with the idea of visual information as signifier and a means of communication, combining stock imagery, colors, and text to create intricate and taut visual ambiguities. His aim is to create enough “tension” between found images in order to illicit questions and curiosity.

Using found photographs as source material – primarily stock images from early Hollywood films, newspaper photographs, and postwar advertising –  Baldessari was drawn to the generic nature of such images, their role in creating a shared visual culture, and the power they have to reveal subconscious thoughts and uncover the viewer’s “emotional baggage”.

In 1986, Baldessari created a series of 10 prints, to do just that. This series, entitled Hegel’s Cellar, used stock imagery in montages to examine Hegel’s theory of an “abyss (or cellar) as a psychic space where one preserve[s] images unconsciously” (Wendy Weitman in The Prints of John Baldessari: A Catalogue Raisonne 1971–2007, pp. 23-24).

The idea was brought out while Baldessari was in psychotherapy at the time, and he had started to let emotion (but not his own emotions) into his work. The presence of fear, anxiety, lust, horror, and other states was a new element, but their frequently jarring context was not; he was on the lookout for the unexpected associations generated by random images in close proximity.

This week’s Work Of the Week (WOW) is Large Door, from Hegel’s Cellar.

Faced with the dilemma or option of either being killed or stepping into the abyss, represented by a large black rectangle of equal proportion as the men on both sides carrying pistols, Baldessari is challenging the viewer to fill in the blanks.

WOW – Work Of the Week – Shepard Fairey “Ramone Canvas”

Ramone Canvas

Shepard Fairey
Ramone Canvas
2002
Screenprint on canvas
24 x 18 in.
Artist’s Proof (A.P.)

Pencil signed and numbered

About This Work:

“Most of my heroes don’t appear on stamps or in art galleries.  No matter how much I love art, or try to convince myself of its relevance in society the fact remains that music is a lot cooler and way more able to reach people’s hearts and minds”  – Shepard Fairey

Music has always had a huge influence on pop culture. Every generation had a defining genre of music.  Music, like art speaks volumes about the times in which we live in. Just as art, music is constantly changing.  Shepard Fairey’s brand of art is Street Art. Real street art touches upon the pulse of the everyday person, whose perception of what art is about is not in a museum, but rather on the street. Music touches the everyday person, much like the street art of Shepard Fairey and his contemporaries.

Society emulates musicians, society hums their music, society sings their lyrics. Fairey’s art is an extension of what music does to society. His work talks about the social, environmental, political, and every day issues that concern the everyday person.

His work became more widely known in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, specifically his Barack Obama “Hope” poster. The New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl called the poster “the most efficacious American political illustration since ‘Uncle Sam Wants You‘”.

This week’s Work Of the Week (WOW) is a very rare silkscreen on canvas of one of Shepard Fairey’s favorite Punk Rock icons, Joey Ramone. The Ramone Canvas as it has come to be known, was done in 2002. There are only 2 of these pieces ever made, plus 1 AP (artist’s proof) and 1 PP (printer’s proof).

Needless to say, this work is extremely rare.

In 2002 – 2003 Fairey produced a Punk Pioneers suite. The first piece of this series was Joey Ramone, lead singer of the Ramones. Despite others that had come before him setting the stage for the punk rock genre, such as Iggy Pop or the Stooges, the Ramones, according to Fairey “really set the wheels in motion” in the realm of punk music.

The other icons in Punk Pioneers suite are Johnny Rotten, Joe Strummer, Glenn Danzig, Henry Rollins, and Ian MacKaye. However, the only work on canvas was of Joey Ramone. All the other icons were silkscreen on paper and in an edition of 300.

The whereabouts of the 2 editioned Ramone Canvas are unknown. The printer’s proof has been found, and archived, but has a tear to the canvas. Thus, leaving the Artist’s Proof left, which belongs to Gregg Shienbaum Fine Art, the only known work in mint condition.

WOW – Work Of the Week – Mel Ramos “Zebra”

Zebra 2

Mel Ramos
Zebra
1979
6 color lithograph
25 1/2 x 20 1/2 in.
Edition of 250

Pencil signed and numbered

About This Work:

Mel Ramos (born 1935) has been an American Pop master of the erotic nude female figure since the 1960’s. Mr. Ramos’ art captures the enticing ideals of femininity through bright saturated colors in the aesthetics of pin-up magazines and famous nude paintings from art history. As many of his Pop artist contemporaries, Mel Ramos started his career in commercial art, making neon signs and also took courses in typography. Under the wing of his mentor, Wayne Thiebaud, Mel Ramos eventually dedicated himself fully to fine art. 

Wonder Woman, Sheena – Queen of the Jungle, Camilla, Roma, Cave Girl, and Nile Queen were the female inspirations for the artist. Strong women from distant times and exotic places endowed with magical powers and overt physical charm were the heroines of body of work. 

As his East Coast contemporaries, the artist also featured the branding of products and advertising in his works, addressing American post war consumerism but in a lighter, more playful manner. The woman figure, however, always remained the centerpiece and focus of the paintings. 
Mel Ramos’ first solo exhibition took place at Bianchini Gallery in 1964 and soon thereafter, in 1967 had his first museum show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. 

In 1979, the artist produced a series of fine art lithographs based on a suite of “Animal Paintings”, which depicted a nude woman with an animal. In each of these paintings, the artist chose strong, exotic, and erotic animals, such as a rhinoceros, curassow or ocelot to feature alongside the nude female.

This week’s Work Of the Week is entitled Zebra, and it was part of the “Animal Paintings” suite. It is a fine example of the playful imagery of Mel Ramos’ work. A sexy,  young, nude woman sits atop a zebra, looking directly at the viewer. Her hairstyle, yellow ribbon and tan lines add to the cheekiness of the image and also depict a more innocent era in which women were more coy and demure, leaving more to the imagination. The later works of Mel Ramos are more revealing and “in your face,” which reflect the shift of society’s acceptance of a more sexualized culture today.
The charm of the artist’s earlier work bring us back to a more innocent, nostalgic, flirtatious time. 

WOW – Work Of the Week – Banksy “Grannies”

Grannies close up

Banksy
Grannies
2006
Screenprint
19 3/4 x 27 1/2 in.
Edition of 150

Pencil signed and numbered; accompanied with COA by PEST Control

About This Work:

Banksy is a British street artist and activist who, despite worldwide fame, has maintained anonymity. Although details of the artist’s life are largely unknown, it is thought that Banksy was born in Bristol more or less around 1974, and started his career in this city as a graffiti artist. 

Whether plastering cities with his trademark gangsta rat, painting imagined openings and building hotels in the West Bank barrier in Israel, or stenciling “we’re bored of fish” above a penguins’ zoo enclosure, Banksy creates street art with an irreverent wit and an international reputation that precedes his anonymous identity. “TV has made going to the theatre seem pointless, photography has pretty much killed painting” he says, “but graffiti has remained gloriously unspoilt by progress”.

Banksy’s work features striking and humorous images, occasionally combined with slogans. The message is usually anti-war, anti-capitalist or anti-establishment. Subjects often include rats, apes, policemen, soldiers, children, and the elderly.
As all Banksy fans know, the artist can be extremely edgy, political, satirical, and in the case of this Work Of the Week, Grannies, humorous as well. A humor that plays upon the evident contrast and contradiction that lays in the image of two old, extremely British ladies knitting sweaters that say PUNK IS NOT DEAD or THUG FOR LIFE.

Banksy’s works need no explanation. Through his crafted signature and his immediately identifiable graphic style, he critically examines contemporary issues of consumerism, political authority, terrorism, and the status of art and its display. Grannies is another perfect example of how Banksy’s work can be thought-provoking, intense, shocking, intriguing and funny.

WOW – Work Of the Week – James Rosenquist “Marilyn”

Marilyn stock

James Rosenquist
Marilyn
1974
Lithograph
41 3/4 x 29 1/2 in.
Edition of 75

Pencil signed, titled, dated and numbered

About This Work:

With the recent passing of James Rosenquist, Gregg Shienbaum Fine Art is dedicating this week’s Work Of the Week to the icon and pioneer of Pop Art. 

James Rosenquist started his career as a sign painter of commercial billboards, which is often reflected in his large-scale paintings through a flat, uniform, and graphic style. Much of his inspiration was drawn from the advent of large-scale advertising and mass media. The bright hues and precise renderings convey the new, clean, and sterile environments so often used in advertising. However, while on the surface, his works appear to suggest the American Dream of the 1950’s and 1960’s, an underlining message addresses the potential issues American society will confront, and be confronted with, during this emergence of the thriving economy of the postwar.  

One of Mr. Rosenquist’s most famous painting, F-111 is an 86-foot-long commentary on the duality of Americana in 1965 at the height of the Vietnam War. 23 panels juxtaposed a mushroom cloud, a smiling girl, a bomber jet, a beach umbrella, among others. Debuting at the Leo Castelli Gallery in NYC, the piece caused a sensation in the art world. 

Another well-known work is Marilyn Monroe I. Measuring 7’ 9” x 6’ ¼”, this large-scale oil and spray enamel on canvas is a tribute to the sex symbol, created shortly after her sudden death in 1962. Through this work, Rosenquist took upon himself to share with his viewers a more sophisticated message – one that consisted of more than the usual glamourous image of Marilyn Monroe so many artists have utilized. The imagery we are so accustomed to associate with the movie star was transformed, and Rosenquist chose to present her in a manner that denied the immediate recognition, while preserving her coquettishness. One must observe the piece very closely to understand who it is the viewer is confronted with. Monroe’s face is divided into six panes removing her instant recognition, however, Rosenquist demonstrates a unique ability to transmit her spirit. All of Monroe’s features, her eyes, lips and hand, have been fragmented and placed together in an incoherent manner, with bold lettering painted on top in the same disjointed configuration. 

Clearly visible, but also in a fragmented manner, is the Coca-Cola logo, but on closer inspection, overlaying letters of Marilyn Monroe’s name also become apparent. James Rosenquist, being very familiar with the force of branding, mass-production and popular culture, was able to draw attention to the idea that Marilyn Monroe was as important to commercialism and industry as any every day products such as Coca-Cola, drawing upon the message beyond her as a person, but as Marilyn Monroe packaged in the mass media and marketed based on her sex appeal. Rosenquist’s painting of Marilyn Monroe is one of countless others painted by his contemporaries, including Andy Warhol and Willem de Kooning, that attest to the increasing power of mass media and its impact on art production during the 1960’s.

The Marilyn lithograph became available in 1974 and was published by Petersburg Press Inc. in an edition of 75. It is housed in the MoMA and Tate, among many other prominent collections. 

Rosenquist was born in 1933 and passed away in New York City on March 31st 2017 after an illustrious career, which cemented him as one of the most important and influential American artists of our time.