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.

WOW! – Work of the Week – Ed Rushca – Bliss Bucket



Ed Ruscha
Bliss Bucket
2010
Lithograph
28 3/4 x 28 in.
Edition of 50
Pencil signed, dated and numbered

About the work:
One of the most important postwar artists, Ed Ruscha came into prominence during the 1960s pop art movement. First recognized for his associations to graphic design and commercial art, Ruscha became admired for his mediations on word and image, where a word literally becomes an object.
Language has often invaded the visual arts during the past century, but no other artist uses it the way Ruscha does. His early paintings are not pictures of words but words treated as visual constructs. “I like the idea of a word becoming a picture, almost leaving its body, then coming back and becoming a word again,” he once said. “I see myself working with two things that don’t even ask to understand each other.”
This weeks WORK OF THE WEEK – WOW!!! is Bliss Bucket, a snowcapped mountain scene, bearing the words, with his self invented font.
Since the late 1990s the mountain has become one of Ruscha’s most consistent motifs. He produces classic mountains, taken either from images of the Himalayas or from his own imagination.
Ruscha has said, ‘It’s not a celebration of nature. I’m not trying to show beauty. The concept came to me as a logical extension of the landscapes that I’ve been painting for a while – horizontal landscapes, flatlands, the landscape I grew up in. Mountains like this were only ever a dream to me; they meant Canada or Colorado. I’m not really painting mountains, but an idea of mountains. picturing some kind of unobtainable bliss or glory … tall, dangerous, beautiful.”
He has used these epic backdrops to support a range of ambiguous or bland phrases such as this one here. The deliberately neutral typeface in this work has now become his trademark font, with squared off letters recalling those in the Hollywood sign. He describes it as ‘no-style’ or Boy Scout Utility Modern’
Actually, the words aren’t so much written on top of the depiction of the mountain as inscribed within the work, the crisp lettering clear, clean and as virgin as the snow itself. Each word has the momentous authority of an alp; they shout, as though to start an avalanche.
Ruscha would stumble upon these words, considering them to be his own version of Duchampian readymades. When the words began to invade his mountain paintings the result was boldly striking and beautifully absurd. The mountains receded to the background while statements such as BLISS BUCKET threw themselves at the front of the plane with big, look-at-me lettering making it impossible not to enjoy these clever combinations.
Inspired by the text based works of fellow Pop artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, Ruscha pursued a lifelong artistic exploration into the formal elements of printed text and its fluid relationship to the visual image. By culling words, images and phrases that have been imprinted in his memory and that are found in mass media (print culture, advertising billboards, etc.), his work often serves as a visual encyclopedia of American culture. These symbols of consumer culture are as deeply rooted in the American vernacular as the mountains Ruscha paints.
His clever word associations pop off brightly colored canvases daring the viewer to react. For Ruscha words are also images, in that they provoke the imagination of the viewer.
Ruscha’a mounting paintings speak to how commercialism and consumerism are slowly encroaching on the natural world. This work is about before and after and the passage of time. The presence of commercialism and consumerism is unnatural and harsh, yet they accurately reflect the effect that our consumer driven culture has on the dwindling unspoiled natural world.
Mass media, billboards, and megastores are empires in their own right and have left an indelible imprint on our world. The unblemished views of these pristine monuments are slowly being encroached upon by sprawling suburban strip malls and colossal super stores. “The buildings violate the beauty of these mountains,” The abstraction with which he renders is classic Ruscha – he doesn’t give us too much but just enough to trigger our imaginations and associations. The subtlety of this rendering allows this painting to leave a far more substantial imprint on the viewer and make a much stronger statement on the condition of our world.

WOW! – Work of the Week – Robert Indiana, American Dream #2



Robert Indiana
American Dream #2
1982
Screenprint on four separate sheets
26 3/4 x 26 3/4 each
77 1/2 x 77 1/2 overall
Edition of 100
Pencil signed, dated and numbered


About the work:
On Saturday, May 19, 2018 Robert Indiana passed away due to respiratory failure. He will be missed but his art and legacy will live on
“There have been many American SIGN painters, but there never were any American sign PAINTERS”. This sums up Robert Indiana’s position in the world of contemporary art. He has taken the everyday symbols of roadside America and made them into brilliantly colored geometric pop art. In his work he has been an ironic commentator on the American scene. Both his graphics and his paintings have made cultural statements on life and, during the rebellious 1960’s, pointed political statements as well.
Born Robert Clark in New Castle, Indiana, in 1928, he adopted the name of his native state as a pseudonymous surname early in his career. What Indiana calls “sculptural poems”, his work often consists of bold, simple, iconic images, especially numbers and short words like “EAT”, “HUG”, and “LOVE”. Rather than using symbols from the mass media, Indiana makes images of words that focus on identity. Using them in bold block letters in vivid colors, he has enticed his viewers to look at the commonplace from a new perspective.
Despite his unique methods, several important aspects of Indiana’s works clearly identify him as a Pop artist. He manages to give a direct and honest description of American culture while appearing cool and uninvolved, much as Warhol did by simply reproducing images of superstars and soup can labels.
However, what distinguishes Indiana from his “Pop” colleagues is the depth of his personal engagement with his subject matter. Indiana’s works all speak to the vital forces that have shaped American culture in the late half of the 20th century: personal and national identity, political and social upheaval and stasis, the rise of consumer culture, and the pressures of history. He uses his art it to both celebrate and criticize the national way of life.
In 1961, Indiana began a series titled the American Dream, a recurring theme in his work, which along with his other famous stenciled-text images—most notably LOVE—he has used to both celebrate and criticize American life.
The American Dream is the cornerstone of Indiana’s mature work. The roots of this powerful concept pervaded the artist’s Depression-era childhood, as well as the social and political aspirations of the United States during his formative years as an artist (1940s-1960s). It was the theme of his first major painting sold to The Museum of Modern Art in 1961. He recalls, “The first two or three dreams (there were 9 American Dream paintings in total), I would say were cynical. I was really being very critical of certain aspects of the American experience. “Dream” was used in an ironic sense.
This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Robert Indiana’s American Dream #2, a 4 piece set of screenprints each hung in a diamond shape, to form a 1 piece larger diamond shape.
Indiana saw the American Dream as “broken. . .no longer in effect for us and for lots of others.” In 1960, Indiana began applying highly saturated color to his geometric paintings. By the end of the year, he was adding words to them. Three of the four panels in American Dream #2 have the words EAT, JACK, and JUKE. Despite how simple Indiana’s verbal-visual amalgams seem, they contain multiple layers of meaning; deciphering them is akin to unraveling a conceptually complex puzzle.
In this work, the words suggest multiple references—for example, the word JUKE is associated with the greed of gambling and the fraud of “tilting” or cheating the pinball machine. Thus the imagery of casino tokens which gives a false promise and fantasy of American prosperity while also acknowledging the
failures of American ethics.
JACK may refer to John F. Kennedy, the great hope for America at the time, but very flawed in deed.“I think 1962 was the last year that Jack Kennedy lived, so that usually Jack refers to the president. However, if we want to keep consistent, in ’52 I met someone named Jack Curtis, who became an important friend in my life, and so it has a dual meaning.”
By presenting familiar words in new ways, he asks the viewer to reevaluate assumptions and emotions associated with those words. For example, no longer does the word “EAT” simply describe an act, but a whole set of social conditions and practices associated with that act. Viewers might see the intimacy of eating and its central role in family, community, and romantic rituals or they might understand the negative aspects of eating in a society where high-fat and gluttonous diets are the norm.
The word EAT also goes back much further and fills a large part of his life, EAT was the last word that Robert Indiana’s mother said before she died. She told him to be sure to eat.
As a child during the Depression, Indiana’s father left his mother, and in order to support him, and herself, his mother opened a restaurant, and so for several years things like eat signs also were a prominent part of Indiana’s life. The EAT aspect of this work is also a personal thing. It’s autobiographical.
What this work demonstrates, once again, is Indiana’s considerable style as a graphic designer whose manipulation of words, symbols, colors and spaces, can be pleasing and provocative. His designs reverberate, their elements bouncing off one other in dynamic relationships as they comment on the ups and downs of American life, his own included.
Robert Indiana provided an example of how to create work that was both deeply personal and universal, work with a clear message that could also be open to interpretation, work that spoke of its own time and reflected on contemporary events, but also carried a message to future generations.
The “painter of signs”, paints “signs of the times.”

WOW! – Work of the Week – Ed Ruscha, Main Street



 

Ed Ruscha
Main Street
1990
Lithograph
8 1/2 x 10 1/4 in.
Edition of 250
Pencil signed, dated and numbered



About the work:

Ed Ruscha can be called the Jack Kerouac of art. Since his first road trip from Oklahoma City to Los Angeles in 1956, West coast Pop artist Ed Ruscha has been influenced by themes and icons surrounding America. The drive, which he took with his life long friend, classical guitarist and composer Mason Williams took about three days in a 1950 Ford sedan.

At the time, Ruscha, who has since become an avid photographer, did not own a camera and the only record of the trip is a log that the artist has kept over the years. The two friends, who were still teenagers at the time, used the log to keep track of their expenses as they were trying to stick to a budget. The log tells the story of their journey. Ruscha has said: “My art, really my life, evolved out of that trip. […] The log took the place of photographs. I got a camera soon after arriving in L.A.” American landscapes and text are what the artist is best known for, both of which emerged from from his cross country experience.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Main Street, by Ed Ruscha.

“Main Street” is part of the iconography of American life.
The “Main Street of America” branding was used to promote U.S. Route 66 in its heyday. Main Street is a generic phrase used to denote a primary retail street of a village, town or small city.

In small towns across the United States, Main Street is not only the major road running through town but the site of all street life, a place where townspeople hang out and watch the annual parades go by. In the general sense, the term “Main Street” refers to a place of traditional values. However, in the America of later decades, “Main Street” represents the interests of everyday people and small business owners, in contrast with “Wall Street”, symbolizing the interests of large national corporations.

Ruscha treats words as visual compositions which are typically categorized between pop and conceptual art. Works feature a word with strong connotations and a powerful visual impact. Ruscha uses the multiplicity of meaning to encourage the viewer to consider all the subconscious connotations of the word. This could be expanded to an exploration of the subconscious meanings hidden in all forms of language. The words elicits a mixed response within the viewer in which preconceived ideas about the subject are confronted and either validated or challenged.

Noting the transformation of Main Streets in American cities from small “mom and pop” businesses, ice cream parlours, and public square gatherings, to big box stores, chain restaurants, and consumers jay walking across the street, while burying their heads in their cell phones, the words Main Street takes on a much diff erent meaning than it once did. Ruscha’s Main Street, not only takes us back to the days of nostalgia, but also to modern times where Main Street meets and flirts with Wall Street. Innocence and American values are overshadowed by greed and technology. Overshadowed is the key word, because not only is Ruscha’s Main Street a sign of modernism replacing the past, but it also implies a sense of hope, that one day the traces of the past will lead to a happy memory, and a wanting to inject the future with the values of the days of old.

Rather than simply painting a word, Ruscha considered the particular font that might add an elevated emotion to the meaning much like the way a poet considers a phrase. By painting a word as a visual, he felt he was marking it as offi cial, glorifying it as an object rather than a mere piece of text.

The typography of the words in Main Street sets this piece apart from the majority of his work because it is not done in “Boy Scout Utility Modern.” Inspired by the Hollywood sign, the artist invented “Boy Scout Utility Modern” in 1980, and uses it regularly in his works. In this case, rather, the font seems closer in nature to “Times.” “Times” is a classic font, designed for its legibility so it is an obvious choice for a representation of the most famous street name in America: Main Street. Main Street is an ode and textual portrait of an American symbol.

Ed Ruscha is fascinated with the streetscape as a subject matter, and over the span of his six-decade career, Ed Ruscha has shaped the way we see it – depicting gas stations, signs or continuous photographs of Hollywood Boulevard. His works convey a distinct and bold brand of Americana. Ruscha explains. “I take things as I find them. A lot of these things come from the noise of everyday life.”

WOW! – Work of the Week – Keith Haring – Untitled C & D



Keith Haring
Untitled C
1987
Lithograph
11 x 14 3/4 in.
Edition of 100
Pencil signed, dated and numbered
Keith Haring
Untitled D
1987
Lithograph
11 x 14 3/4 in.
Edition of 100
Pencil signed, dated and numbered

About the work:
1987
The nation of South Africa was in a state of emergency. Serious political violence had arisen over Apartheid and the National Party had won an election, yet again.
41,027 people had died of AIDS complications in America, and another 71,176 people were diagnosed with the disease. After 6 years of silence, then-president Ronald Reagan finally used the word “AIDS” in public for the first time.
Crack-cocaine incidents in the US had increased to 94,000 from 23,500 only 2 years prior – a 300% jump.
_______________________________
Keith Haring’s work sums up New York cool. He was friends with Madonna, Andy Warhol, David Bowie, among many others who represented the 80’s culture boom. By the start of the decade, the artist had developed a fresh aesthetic, with roots in punk, hip-hop and graffiti. His strong lexicon of caricature-like images in flat, bold colors, are so deceivingly simple and joyful that it is easy to be blinded to its political and activist content.
Keith Haring was a fierce and tireless socio-political activist throughout his life, and had a rational of intervention and standing up for oppressed communities. He was opposed to the institutionalized racial segregation in South Africa, fought for increased sexual education for the gay population in the face of the AIDS epidemic and was determined to raise awareness of the effects of crack-cocaine which ravaged the disenfranchised black society of the US.
This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Untitled C & D, from the untitled suite of 4 lithographs created in 1987. This suite was purposely done as a lithograph and not a silkscreen, the dimensions of the works are slightly smaller, and the edition size is smaller. It is limited to only 100 pieces. This was done so as not to be confused with the Pop Shop series, which were released on a more commercialized level. As with the vast majority of Haring’s work, this 4 piece suite of lithograph references deep commentary on societal unease.
Throughout Keith Haring’s work, the image of a television represents the mass media. The character depicted in Untitled C is on TV covering his eyes. At first, the saying “See no evil,” comes to mind. This is quite the opposite. Haring wants us to open our eyes and speak out against these evil atrocities, and not to cover our eyes, or turn a blind eye to it. Thanks to Haring’s repetitive use of symbols referencing different ailments of society, we know what he is critiquing.
In Untitled D, the yellow character seems to be tossing, or pushing away, another figure in blue that bears an X on his belly. The X is symbolic of the crack-cocaine epidemic that ravaged mostly impoverished segments of the country. Today, it is widely accepted that this particular pandemic was ignored by the media, at the time, in light of the people it was affecting. This is something that Haring was acutely aware of, and through this work, he gently provides a humanizing context that not only speaks to the situation, but also to his position.
Despite being one of the most influential and sought after artists of the 20th century, Keith Haring always remained true to his beliefs and humanity. He used his voice and platform for those who needed a supporter and champion. Untitled C & D are a clear wake-up call to the public to be aware of the problems society at large. This is what Haring’s art was about, it is not only colorful, whimsical characters that makes people smile. His entire body of work spoke volumes of the socio-political issues plaguing the world at the time.

WOW! – Work of the Week – Leon Polk Smith, Volair, from Constellation Series





Leon Polk Smith

Volair, from Constellation Series

1975

Screenprint

41 1/8 x 29 1/2 in.

Edition of 80

Pencil signed and numbered

About the work:

Considered one of the founders of the hard-edge style of abstract art, Leon Polk Smith rose to prominence in the 1960s with his distinctive shaped canvas series — the “Constellations”.

This week’s Work Of the Week (WOW!) is the 1975 screenprint Volair, from this important Constellations Series

It was in 1936, while attending Columbia University’s famed Teachers College, that Smith was introduced to the geometric works of contemporary European artists. The works of the Dutch artist Piet Mondrian caught his eye during his studies. He was deeply inspired by Mondrian’s aesthetics, if not fully convinced by the philosophy behind them. A pragmatic American in his approach, Smith took what he wanted from the aesthetic experience and discarded the theorizing.

However, it would be another few years before the influence of De Stijl, the movement inspired by Mondrian in which pure abstraction is achieved through form and color, clearly manifested itself in Smith’s work. His perceptions of artistic space led to a quest to make color and form one. This quest consisted of a series of intuitive decisions rather than the theoretical, ruminative creative process that preoccupied Mondrian and other members of the De Stijl group.

Smith established his key motif while perusing an athletic catalogue in the late 1940s. Examining the pencil drawings of baseballs and tennis balls in it, Smith began to imagine that from these simple shapes he could create a new kind of space.

As he described:

“It was flat and the same time it was curved. It was like a sphere. The planes seemed to move in every direction, as space does. And so I thought, maybe that is because that’s on the tondo. I’ve got to find out if that is true or not. I’ve got to do some on a rectangle to see if the form and the space still moved in every direction. And it did. So it was exciting to do a painting on a rectangle that seemed to have a curved surface. It was the first time, you see, that I had made an important step myself, or contribution in art.”

While his Minimalist peers during that time were shifting away from Modernism and rejecting relationality, Smith was wholeheartedly advancing the formal and rational elements of the Modernist tradition. By introducing a single curving line, Smith created two pictorial spaces, allowing for the interchangeability of positive and negative space. He developed his signature hard-edge style over the following decade, beginning with creating a series of paintings in which he explores the circle by developing a curvilinear shape within it using two colors, and later experimenting with more colors in oval, rectangular and square shapes.

By 1967, Smith’s circular explorations introduced additional panels and defined his shaped, multi-part “Constellation” series of paintings and drawings, among his most exuberant and inventive compositions.

WOW! – Work of the Week – ALBERS, White Line Squares (Series II) XVI





Josef Albers
White Line Squares (Series II) XVI
1966
Lithograph
20 3/4 x 20 3/4 in.
27/125
Initialed in pencil, dated, numbered and titled

About the work:

“The perception of color is deceiving, we may perceive two different colors to look alike, or two equal colors to look different. This game of colors – the change of identity – is the object of my study.”
Josef Albers

Accomplished as a designer, photographer, typographer, and printmaker, Josef Albers is best known for his work as an abstract painter and color theorist. His approach to composition was very disciplined. He spent 26 years creating and mastering thousands of paintings and prints that make up his series “Homage to the Square.” Through this series, Albers explored chromatic interaction with nested squares. 

His works were always created using the same process: he painted mostly on Masonite, using a palette knife to prime the surface with layers of white gesso, then applying each oil color minimally for maximum effect. He would paint one coat of pure color directly to the canvas from the tube, unmixed, starting from the centre and working his way outwards, just as his father, a house painter, carpenter, plumber and general technician, had taught him – a technique that ‘catches the drips of paint and keeps cuffs clean’ he used to say.

He was known to meticulously list the specific manufacturer’s colors and varnishes he used on the back of each work, as if the colors were catalogued components of an optical experiment. Each painting in the series was composed of either three or four squares of solid planes of color nested within one another, in one of four different arrangements and in square formats. 

Despite their name, the Homages  seem to be less about squares within squares than about the infinite possibilities of the chromatic spectrum. Every last one is an exercise in visual juxtaposition, an exploration of the effect that colors have on the eye and on each other. The size and proportion and the number of the squares vary, but they are always offset towards the bottom of the frame  The arrangement of these squares is carefully calculated so that the color of each square optically alters the sizes, hues, and spatial relationships of the others, and this tricks the eye into a figurative response: they look like luminous corridors receding to a vanishing point.

Our Work Of the Week! WOWWhite Line Squares (series II) XVI is from the “Homage to the Square” series. Its color composition is comprised of three surrounding squares in colors cream, warm ochre light, and brown with a white line square in the middle square of ochre.  The ochre on either side of the thin white line is actually the same hue, however, the placement of the white line creates a shift in color on both sides so that the single color appears as two different colors. 

Albers wrote: “A white line within a color instead of as a contour may present a newly discovered effect: when the line is placed within a so-called “middle” color, even when the color is very evenly applied, it will make the one color look like two different shades or tints  of that color.”

An Interesting Note:  Transferring this idea to lithographs was a complicated process, because the white line was created by the unprinted paper. The square containing the white line could not therefore be printed over an underlying color area. Accordingly, the well known printmaker Kenneth Tyler devised a way to print on plates that accurately abutted one another with no overlap.

Having studied and later taught at the famed Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany prior to fleeing to the US, Albers’ work represents a transition between traditional European art and the new American art. It incorporates European influences from the Constructivists and the Bauhaus. His influence fell heavily on American artists of the late 1950s and the 1960s. Hard-Edge abstract painters drew on Albers’ use of  patterns and intense colors, while Op artists and conceptual artists further explored his interest in  perception. 

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.