WOW! – Work of the Week – WARHOL, Mick Jagger



                                             Mick Jagger FS II. 139  

                                               Mick Jagger FS II. 141



Andy Warhol
Mick Jagger FS II. 139
1975
Screenprint
43 1/2 x 29 in.
Edition of 250
Pencil signed and numbered, also signed by Mick Jagger

Andy Warhol
Mick Jagger FS II. 141
1975
Screenprint
43 1/2 x 29 in.
Edition of 250
Pencil signed and numbered, also signed by Mick Jagger

About the works:

“The thing that he seemed to be able to do was to capture society, whatever part of it he wanted to portray, pretty accurately. That’s one of the things artists do, is show people later on what it was like. If you want to be reminded of a certain period, you can look at what Andy was doing then. He was very much in tune with what was going on. Of course, he was criticized for that, for being sort of trendy. But I think some people’s great forte is being so in touch.”

Mick Jagger at the time of Andy Warhol’s passing

One was the world’s greatest pop artist, the other was the signer and face of one of the most successful bands in history. Andy Warhol and Mick Jagger met at a party in 1964, when the Rolling Stones were on their first US tour. At this time, both idols were rising to fame and establishing their images. The Rolling Stones were viewed as the dirty alternative to the clean-cut Beatles and art collectors may have viewed Andy Warhol in a similar way compared to other artists of the time, such as Wayne Thiebaud, Japer Johns and Roy Lichtenstein. 

The first collaboration between the two artists was for the iconic “Sticky Fingers” album cover in 1971. Today, it is regarded as one of modern music’s more striking pieces of graphic art. The album, which went to number one immediately in both the US and the UK, resulted in a long-lasting business and personal relationship between the two icons who had a great understanding of both art and commerce. 

sticky-fingers-460x460
                                 Sticky Fingers – album cover

Portraits became big business for Andy Warhol around the time of the album release. He was a modern-day portrait painter who could capture all the high society and celebrity personalities of the time, and Jagger, who embodied the sex, drugs and rock and roll world was the perfect subject. At the request of Seabird Editions Company in London, who offered to publish the screen prints, Andy Warhol created a series of 10 portraits of Mick Jagger.

In the summer of 1975, while Mick and his wife, Bianca where staying at Andy’s house in Montauk, Andy and Mick started work on the project. Andy took the photographs of Mick himself. All 10 of the final artworks were head and bare-chested torso shots of Jagger. Andy was interested in capturing the different emotions and personas of Mick; happy, thoughtful, seductive, tough, arrogant, etc. 

Once back in the studio, Andy created the screen prints from the photographs and added hand drawn stylized lines and color patches to enhance the mood of each piece. Both Andy Warhol and Mick Jagger signed the final prints as a savvy marketing move. Jagger’s audience was much larger than Warhol’s collector base, so having Mick’s signature would help increase exposure of his work. For Mick, the portraits would help enhance his image.

Today, the portraits are as iconic as the two men themselves, immortalizing a moment in time. 

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 – 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 – 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 – Frank Stella “Sinjerli Variation IV”

Sinjerli Variation IV

Frank Stella
Sinjerli Variation IV
1977
Lithograph and screenprint
32 x 42 1/2
Edition of 100

Pencil signed and numbered

About This Work:

Frank Stella (b. 1936), an American minimalist and geometric abstract expressionist is known for producing works emphasizing the picture as object rather than as representation. He has said: “a picture is a flat surface with paint on it – nothing more.” Stella’s works do not have a clear reference to the world, they are compositions of the basics of the elements of art and geometry. Color, line, and form are what inspire him. 

The Sinjerli Variation Series of six lithographs, was published in 1977 by Petersburg Press in New York, seven years after the artist’s first retrospective at MoMA. Aged 41, at the time, he was the youngest artist to receive such an honor. 

The Sinjerli Series is derived from Stella’s original painting Sinjerli I of the Protractor Series, dated from 1967 to 1970. The inspiration of the Protractor Series, in addition to the names of the works, came from the circular shape of cities from the ancient civilizations of Asia Minor. Sinjerli was a city of the Ancient Anatolian people of the Hittite Empire, which reached its height in the 14th century BC. It is located at the foothills of the Anti-Taurus Mountains of southern Turkey. The fortified citadel of Sinjerli was outlined by an almost perfect double walled circle, which connected with the geometric inspiration of Stella’s body of work.

Each Sinjerli variation is composed of two semi-circles, or protractors and positioned to the left of the sheet, slightly lower than midlevel. Each lithograph is composed of elaborate patterns of intersecting circular forms, arranged in a manner that removes any indication of depth. While at first, the form is seemingly symmetrical, the interweaving of the arcs also gives the illusion of unending line-work. 

For the series, Stella made use of bright and vibrant colors. The hues are not tinted as a flat application, but rather have a painterly texture and this result was accomplished by a three-step process. The first step required the deposition of a toned ground, the result of a broadly drawn plate, also known as “full crayon.” Secondly, a looser, textured drawing was applied, the “smear crayon.” Finally, the finishing touch was a high gloss glaze, named “loose crayon.”

Today, Frank Stella continues to live and work in Manhattan and commutes to his studio in Rock Tavern, NY on the weekdays. His most recent retrospective took place at the Whitney in NYC from October 30, 2015 to February 7, 2016.

WOW – Work Of the Week – Claes Oldenburg “Geometric Mouse Scale E Desktop”

Geo Mouse

Claes Oldenburg
Geometric Mouse Scale E “Desktop”
2013
Painted aluminum sculpture on painted aluminum base
6 1/2 x 8 1/4 x 6 1/2 in.
Edition of 50

Signed and numbered in ink on base

About This Work:

Claes Oldenburg is an American sculptor, best known for his public art installations typically featuring very large replicas of everyday objects. 
Born in 1929 in Sweden, Oldenburg spent much of his adolescence in the United States, before moving permanently to New York in 1956. Oldenburg studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and subsequently started his career in New York City, where he used to participate in the array of happenings that began to take place in the late 1950’s.

Many of Oldenburg’s works depict ‘mundane’ objects and, at first, they were ridiculed before being accepted by the art world – but they were also defined “brilliant”, due to the reaction that the pop artist brought to a ‘tired’ abstract expressionist period.
Oldenburg first orders his impressions of the world through sketches and writings in his ever-present notebooks; then he creates models and drawings form another layer of thinking.

The purpose of Oldenburg’s art is to uncover the mystery and power of commonplace objects by morphing their scale, shape, and texture, embracing what he calls “the poetry of everywhere”. As source of inspiration, the artist always uses things made and utilized by human beings. Used, out-of-date or simply banal, they look rescued from oblivion by the artist. While recreating objects, Oldenburg alters their specifics, transforming them through changes in material, scale, context and exaggerations of forms that lend them more than one identity. 

This week’s Work Of the Week, Geometric Mouse Scale E “Desktop”, is a great example of Oldenburg’s personal way of making art.
The source of inspiration for making this mouse is an old movie camera. The mouse form is combined with that of an old movie camera, whose square box and two circular film spools mimic his face and ears, while the grip is the nose of the mouse.

As in Oldenburg’s other artworks, this image blends high and low art, but is more personal. The artist has even suggested that the Geometric Mouse is his alter ego, stating that he first took the subject of the mouse from one of the most iconic and popular characters ever: Mickey Mouse. The mouse is an extremely recurring subject in Oldenburg’s body of work. It is considered his artistic symbol par excellence, for his typical humor and use of obsolete objects and iconic characters as main source.

The concept/name of the mouse ‘desktop‘ also plays on the concept of fast paced movement toward technology in today’s world, but is a nod to the past of how fast the world is actually moving. The Desktop Mouse can also be seen by today’s generation as a play on a computerized mouse on the old style green mouse pads. A mouse on a mouse pad.

By deforming and decontextualizing the object, Claes Oldenburg helps it to become estranged, so that we are finally able to look at it in a different perspective: as a work of art. This happens because the artist believes that this object possesses a certain aesthetic quality, stemming from its appearance, and therefore displays it for the appreciation of others.

Oldenburg has said himself that “If I didn’t think what I was doing had something to do with enlarging the boundaries of art, I wouldn’t go on doing it“.

To watch the video of Claes Oldenburg explaining the Geometric Mouse, click on the image below:

mouse