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.

WOW! – Work of the Week – Jeff Koons – Balloon Animals



Jeff Koons
Balloon Animals – Swan, Monkey & Rabbit
2017
Porcelain with metallic finish
Dimensions vary, see below
Edition of 999
Signed and numbered on bottom of each piece
$100,000 for the set of 3
Swan 8 1/4 x 9 1/2 x 6 3/8 in.
Monkey 9 7/8 x 15 3/8 x 8 1/4 in.
Rabbit 11 1/2 x 8 1/4 x 5 1/2 in.


About the work:

Jeff Koons has cemented his position as the heir of the Pop Art movement by creating works that play with banal and familiar objects from our everyday lives through industrial methods. Koons’ reproductions of balloon animals are amongst some of his most recognizable pieces. The works reflect an element of childhood play and disposable culture but in an art-form meant to last.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Koons’ set of three porcelain, metallic finished Balloon Animals – the Swan, the Bunny and the Monkey.

Koons’ ballon animals tap into our memories and our emotions, in the eerily familiar and trustworhty form of a party favor. They are a symbol of our youth and they toy with our inner child’s fascination with a structure that is temporary. The emotional reaction that many of us have to an object that reminds us so vividly of the magic and charm of childhood is palpable, yet these are objects that one would never think of as a work of art.

Like his idol Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons has mastered the practice of taking a concept or idea and transforming it. Koons’ works are conceptual, and while they may prove challenging to grasp, they have definite aesthetic qualities and are subjected to intense attention to detail.

The balloon animals are intrinsically optimistic works. They remind the viewer of a birthday party or a clown, but to the artist they are also representative of life. As a viewer, we obviously observe the outermost elements of a work, yet, there is an interior to the work, a void full of air. To Koons, the interior of the piece is important, because it is just like the inflatable balloon animals of our youth, neither can exist without the air forming the interior element. It also symbolizes us individually, since as living beings we inhale air. To Koons, the act of inhaling air is life.

WOW! – Work of the Week – Andy Warhol – Dollar Sign FS II.278



Andy Warhol
Dollar Sign FS II.278
1982
Screenprint on Lenox Museum Board
19 5/8 x 15 5/8 in.
Edition of 60 unique works
Pencil signed and numbered


About the work:

Power, Greed, Wealth, Success, Strength, Capitalism, Consumerism, Materialism; what symbol represents all these better than the US $ (Dollar Sign)?

“It’s all about the Benjamins!!!”

This weeks Work Of the Week (WOW!) is Andy Warhol’s Dollar Sign ($), FS II 278. When it comes to a symbol of a world currency, none is more iconic the the US $ (Dollar Sign). No one thinks of the British Pound, the Euro, or the Yen. It is the US Dollar, and the dollar sign $, that is known and desired all over the world.

Art is always a extension and representation of the times. Andy Warhol began creating money imagery as early as the 1950’s. After WWII, America had solidified her position, strength, and power in the world. Here at home, America was entering the most financially sound period in her short history. Americans were experiencing a modern industrial revolution in manufacturing, home buying was at the highest level in history, television was new and advertisements were pitching the latest and greatest to a ripe audience, who for the first time had money to buy, and the growing middle class was the strongest it has ever been. American was flying high, and money was flowing.

The pop artists saw this, and their art reflected exactly what was going on. Jasper Johns’ American flag was an artistic symbol of patriotism. Robert Rauschenberg’s photo-journalistic style artistically documented the times, and Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Indiana, James Rosenquist, and Andy Warhol used their advertising backgrounds to create art that represented the influx of money, capitalism, consumerism that the American culture was experiencing at the time.

Yet it is timeless, just as it rang true over 50 years ago, it holds true today. Warhol’s Dollar Sign ($), is not just a cool image that was meant to hang behind the desk of some important CEO. It’s a statement. It’s an abstract statement, or concept if you will, on what money represents, and how this tiny piece of paper rules the world, (for better or for worse). Abstract in the sense that Warhol does not come right out and list the positives and negatives of money, he leaves that up to the viewer to form his or her own interpretations. To some who see the genius of Warhol it may seem deeper that what is looks like on the surface, and to some it may seem simple or obvious. But after all, Warhol’s take on Pop Art is in many ways, overstating the obvious.

WOW! – Work of the Week – Roy Lichtenstein – Nude, from Brushstroke Figures



Roy Lichtenstein
Nude, from Brushstroke Figures
1989
Lithograph, Waxtype, Woodcut and Screenprint
56 1/4 x 32 1/2 in.
Edition of 60
Pencil signed, dated and numbered



About the work:

The Nude and the Brushstroke are two classic and timeless pillars of Art History. The Nude figure has been used throughout time in art to express the ideals of the female and male bodies. The theme might evoke Boticelli’s The Birth of Venus or Michelangelo’s David, masterpieces for their representation of anatomical proportions as well as the technical skill required to produce them. The Brushstroke can be deemed the most basic and central element in two-dimensional art, yet it is hardly the first technique that comes to mind when considering Pop Art.

Roy Lichtenstein, one of Pop Art greats, strove to leave as little a trace of his hand in his work. His works carry a distinctive, mechanical style derived from mass printing, leading to his name becoming synonymous with popular comic-book imagery, Ben-Day dots and a primary color palette. Ironically, Lichtenstein began his career exploring abstract expressionism, a movement he would revisit at great length.

Abstract expressionism employed the brushstroke as a vehicle to communicate feelings with spontaneous motion. Lichtenstein, who always approached his art-making with humor, turned the spontaneous brushstroke on its head.

In 1989, the artist released his Brushstroke Figures series, from which this week’s Work of the Week! (WOW!) Nude stems.

Nude, from Brushstroke Figures is a playful balance between Abstract Expressionism and Lichtenstein’s brand of Pop, making the techniques used to be the focal point of the work over the subject. The center piece of Nude is composed of brushstroke-like elements, depicted as though created with a brush. These strokes, however, are the complete opposite of the abstract expressionist stroke. They are a methodically planned artistic operation, a time-consuming task made to appear as if produced in an instant. The painterly-like strokes lend to the piece a dense abstract complexity, which emphasizes the brushstroke over the subject it is used to depict.

The work also carries the unmistakable trademark characteristics of a Lichtenstein: Ben-Day dots and slanted, alternating white and red lines, in addition to Lichtenstein’s interpretation of the brushstroke, simulated in a uniform color and flat finish.

Lichtenstein takes away from the subject matter through the painterly brushstrokes, but simultaneously brings our attention back to it through his use of the slanted red and white lines as a background. This feature has an optical effect of making the subject appear as though it is floating in a three-dimensional space, entirely detached from from its setting. Every element of this work is calculated and placed.

Lichtenstein was a was very innovative printmaker, and never shied away from experimenting. Nude, from Brushstroke Figures makes use of a variety of printing methods, lithography, woodcut, screenprinting, and waxtype, a process similar to screenprinting, where beeswax is used, rather than traditional printers ink. Lichtenstein experimented with materials to create more depth and interest, and in this case, asks the viewer to reconsider their preconceived notion of the nude.

WOW! – Work of the Week – James Rosenquist – 1, 2, 3 Outside



James Rosenquist
1, 2, 3 Outside
1971
6 color lithograph with embossing and debossing
40 1/2 x 31 in.
Edition of 70
Pencil signed, dated, titled and numbered


About the work:

“Popular culture isn’t a freeze-frame; it is images zapping by in rapid-fire succession, which is why collage is such an effective way of representing contemporary life. The blur between images creates a kind of motion in the mind.”

James Rosenquist is best known for his colossal collage paintings of enigmatically juxtaposed fragmentary images. These images, brought together and enlarged overwhelm the viewer,  through their sheer scale which makes them difficult to discern at first glance. They are mostly fragments of enlarged, photo-realistic images done in the advertising style of the emergence of consumer culture in America during the 1960’s. This is no accident, Rosenquist started out his career as a billboard painter, and was among this first of the classic pop-artists to directly address the persuasive powers of advertising, highlighting the omnipresence of ads.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Rosenquist’s 1, 2, 3 Outside

1, 2, 3 Outside was originally painted in 1963 in a manner that denies each of the three panels immediate recognition due to the scale of each fragmented image, so enlarged that they are each removed from their original context. This is where Rosenquist’s fascination with subliminal persuasion through advertising becomes evident. Each image is artistically packaged based on defining characteristics and incorporates as much visual imagery as possible onto the picture plane. Together, however, they form a bombardment of information without any kind of visual relief.

The imagery is on such a monumental scale that it gives the impression that it is coming straight at the viewer and suggests a strong socio-economic commentary, implying that the work itself is a starting point for deeper reflection. “I wanted the space to be more important than the imagery,” James Rosenquist said. “I wanted to use images as tools.”

Rosenquist used generic imagery, no brand names, and created a new kind of picture. He described the effect: “People can remember their childhood, but events from four or five years ago are in a never-never land. That was the imagery I was concerned with—things that were a little bit familiar but not things you feel nostalgic about. Hot dogs and typewriters—generic things people sort of recognize.” Rosenquist reminds us to observe more intently and become more self-reflective, taking our time with the experience of looking.

As such, 1, 2, 3 Outside exemplifies Rosenquist’s contribution to Pop art: grand scale, fragmented composition that encompass an amalgamation of consumer imagery and evokes visual memory flashes of consciousness.

“WOW! – Work of the Week – Paul Jenkins – Celestial Wink



Paul Jenkins

Celestial Wink

c. 1970

Watercolor

14 5/8 x 22 1/2 in.

Signed

About the work:

As a member of the Abstract Expressionist movement, Paul Jenkins was renowned for his technique of controlled paint pouring and use of translucent colors. He came of age during the heyday of the New York School and was deeply influenced by his interest in Eastern religions and philosophy, the writings of Carl Gustav Jung, and Goethe’s color theories.

These influences, prompted him to turn toward inward reflection and mysticism, which dominated both his aesthetic and personal life. The artist had studios and homes in New York City and in France (both Paris and St Paul de Vence), in which he displayed a vast collection of decorative items that he gathered for their mystical powers.

This mysticism translated to his work through billowy and undulating forms of color resulting in psychedelic-looking landscapes or cosmic realms, what Stuart Preston, of The New York Times, described as “Abstract Expressionist rococo.” Jenkins preferred to describe himself as an “abstract phenomenist.”

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Celestial Wink.

Though his approach to paint application may seem driven by chance, and could be compared to the ancient craft of marbling – making colored paper in a tank in which liquid paints have been poured in the water – his methods were in fact very controlled. His favorite tool was an elegant ivory knife, which he used to guide the flow of paint. Of his unorthodox technique he said: “The ivory knife is an essential tool in this because it does not gouge the canvas, it allows me to guide the paint.”

Celestial Wink is a beautiful example of Jenkins’ work in watercolor. The work features every color in the rainbow with a strong balance of motion and blending. His colors seem to be moving, misty or fully liquid, billowing, surging, flaring, breaking up, capturing the semblance of shifts in direction. The composition as a whole confirms that the paint application was not left up to chance. There is a perfect amount of negative space (the white background), at angles that follow the strokes of color, allowing the work to flow harmoniously.

Jenkins also had a process when finding titles for his creations. “I try to find the identity word that will secure an attitude toward a painting rather than provoke a visual object that the eye will seek out.” The title Celestial Wink speaks to this attitude, just like the occurrence of a rainbow, only visible through reflection of water droplets directly opposite the sun, it is an ephemeral phenomenon, only possible under certain conditions. The title also echoes back to Jenkins’ interest in mysticism and suggests a surrender to the spiritual or outer-worldly. Celestial Wink does seem like a force of nature.

WOW! – Work of the Week – Keith Haring – Fertility #2



Keith Haring
Fertility #2
1983
Silkscreen
42 x 50 in.
Edition of 100
Pencil signed, dated and numbered



Throughout his work, Keith Haring was never afraid to confront the socio-political challenges of his time. He was an outspoken and ardent activist against racism, homophobia, the apartheid in South Africa and AIDS.

Despite that Haring addressed difficult topics in his work, he always approached these subjects with high energy and optimism. He was heavily influenced by graffiti writers and street art in New York City, and created what would become his signature style, composed of the heavy use of line drawing, vivid colors, and simplified humanoid and geometric forms. These glyphs that could be read, like an urban, tribal language were accessible to all, and easy to take in by a wide audience.

“Art is something that liberates the soul, provokes the imagination and encourages people to go further.”

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Keith Haring’s Fertility #2.

Fertility #2 is the second work in the Fertility Suite of 5 works. Created in day-glow pigments, the piece is exceptionally bright, which conveys a warm and happy message, and evokes the New York club scene that Keith Haring was a part of.

It is a work that captures both the mysteries of ancient civilization with the representation of the pyramid, but also the imagination of extra-terrestrial civilizations through the flying saucers. The pyramid was a common theme in Haring’s work, simultaneously referring to antiquity and symbolizing eternity. It is also connected to the hieroglyphic language that Haring employs throughout his body of work, and the notion that images are a universal language. The UFO on the other hand represents a cosmic energy and suggests supernatural forces or people who were situated outside of social norms. They always symbolize positive energy and empowerment.

Lines and circles have a darker connotation in Haring’s work, they refer to the lesions of HIV and AIDS victims. These threats are surrounding a pregnant woman who is in distress, agitating her arms, trying to get attention.   

Combined, what does all this imagery stand for?

In the 1980’s there was a high prevalence of HIV infection among pregnant women in Sub-Saharan Africa. It was a terrible epidemic that devastated vast regions. The 1980’s were characterized by an insufficient response (both in the US and abroad) by government leaders in response to the AIDS epidemic. Ronald Reagan, the US president at the time, did not address the issue until over 21,000 Americans had already perished from the virus. Haring was a staunch activist and leader in promoting awareness about the virus and Fertility #2 is a centerpiece in his fight in relation to the transmission of the virus from mother to child, a particularly common problem in southern Africa.

The lesions, or dashes and circles have infected all the land in his depiction of the African landscape, and the pregnant mother is terrified for her unborn child. Keith Haring, loved the hope and innocence of children inspired. To him, they represented a better humanity: color-blind, unprejudiced and caring, uncorrupted by greed and hatred towards others. This work represents the saving of children and human kind from the evils of illness and inactive leadership.