Work of the Week! WOW! Alex Katz – White Visor



Alex Katz
White Visor
2003
Etching Aquatint
33 3/8 x 67 in.
Edition of 75
Pencil signed & numbered



About the work:

Blue Umbrella, Orange Band, Plaid Shirt, Red Coat, Black Scarf, and Wedding Dress . . . These are all titles of prints by Alex Katz.

Although, they look like a typical Alex Katz portrait, these works do not focus on what the subject looks like, but rather all these works (and others) give us a glimpse into the subject’s personality. These works also portray another very important element in Katz’s works, fashion.

Fashion, and what a person wears gives us a sense of a person’s personality, their style, their tastes, their likes and their dislikes. Some are simple, and other are more eccentric, daring, and even over the top. But fashion is also dictated by a time and place. We dress according to the occasion, the place, the atmosphere if you will.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW!, White Visor, gives us a sense of just that.

Emblematic of Katz’s use of cinematic cropping and broad areas of color, this simplistic image in typical Alex Katz flatness, the white visor, a specific type of hat, is what provides the primary environmental context to this work. Katz takes the viewer to the very place that he has depicted his subject. Bare shouldered, set in front of just a clear blue sky, sporting nothing but a white visor, we do not know if the woman is on the beach, on a boat, or by a pool, but the artist engages us, and we feel as if we are sitting there right next to her.

White Visor was one of the prints selected to be featured in a 2012 Katz retrospective at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

Below is a photo of the artist Alex Katz and his wife Ada as they look at his work White Visor during a media preview of a retrospective of Katz’ prints at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts April 23, 2012. The exhibit’s introduction explains that the retrospective of more than 100 of Katz’ printed works shows “images that chart the people, fashions, landscapes and poetry that have caught his eye across a long artistic career.”

Work of the Week! WOW! Joan Mitchell – Bedford III



Joan Mitchell
Bedford III
1981
Lithograph
42 1/2 x 32 1/2 in.
Edition of 70
Pencil signed and numbered



About the work:

Joan Mitchell is one of the great American artists of the 20th century. A “second generation” abstract expressionist, she was one of the few women to gain critical and public acclaim. While best known for her work as a painter, she also dedicated herself to the creation of prints, often collaborating with Tyler Graphics studio, which at the time was located in Bedford, NY.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Mitchell’s Bedford III, from the Bedford series (a series of 3 works).

Ken Tyler the founder of Tyler Graphics had approached Mitchell about collaborating together. He was interested in the challenge of capturing her painterly vision through the process of lithography. The partnership resulted in a number of series of works, including Bedford, named after the location of the studio.

The writer Barbara Rose described the lithographs being as “concerned with calling attention explicitly to the nature of the medium. The greasiness, grittiness and oiliness of the lithographic crayon and the quicksilver liquidity of the tusche are as much the ‘subjects’ of her lithographs as the loaded brushstroke is the ‘subject’ of her paintings.

Bedford articulates a landscape distilled by the artist’s eye and skill, but also brings forth the vigor and assertiveness of Mitchell’s work.

The Baltimore Museum of Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art have recently revealed plans for a Joan Mitchell retrospective slated to open in 2020.

Work of the Week! WOW! Victor Vasarely – Papillon



Victor Vasarely
Papillon
1981
Silkscreen on Arches paper
30 7/8 x 37 3/8 in.
Edition of 250
Pencil signed & numbered



About the work:

Art historians credit Victor Vasarely with creating some of the earliest examples of Op Art in the 1930s. He experimented with techniques decades before the establishment of the movement in the 60s, and is widely regarded as the Father of the Op Art movement.

“Op Art” is short for Optical Art, which was coined by Time Magazine in a 1964. It is a style known for creating optical illusions from extremely precise repeating patterns, interlocking shapes and vivid yet strictly defined color palettes.

The genre marked the first time in Art History that the Theory of Visual Perception would be systematically studied and applied by artists. In this theory, psychologists distinguish between two types of processes in perception; the first caused by our purely physical optical sense and the second by our subjectively learned world view. Op Art was therefore driven by artists who were interested in investigating various perceptual effects; effects that confuse and fascinate.

This week’s Work Of the Week! WOW! is Victor Vasarely’s Papillon.

In this work, Vasarely draws his viewer into a geometric realm, a grid-like composition that appears to warp. The vertical centre point seems to recede backwards, away from the viewer, with the left and right sides of the image swelling outwards in a bulbous spherical distortion. The French word “papillon” means butterfly which is represented in the linear symmetry of the work.

The feeling of movement and depth are created by Vasarely’s use of lines decreasing in scale towards the central line. Vasarely’s masterful use of warm and cool colors across the field also serves to provide the viewer with the feeling of kinetic energy, depth and space. These optical games physically affect the viewer, the results of which are timeless, exciting and innovative as they engage and captivate the viewer with depth perception and spatial distortion.

Vasarely truly created “an art for all.” An art that the viewer can appreciate without the knowledge of art history, an art in which the final image is the product of the viewer’s own eye without contemplation.

As Vasarely stated: “What is at stake is no longer the ‘heart’ but the retina, and the connoisseur has now become a study object for experimental psychology. Harsh contrasts, the unbearable vibration of complementary colors, the flickering of linear networks and per mutated structures…all these are elements in my work whose task is no longer to plunge the viewer into a sweet melancholy but to stimulate him.”

Work of the Week! WOW! Larry Rivers – Stencil Camel



Stencil Camel
1978
Color stencil and pochoir printed on acetate and color lithograph on two sheets
25 x 21 1/2 in.
A.P. of 25
Pencil signed & numbered



About the work:

Although controversial today, cigarettes were once main-stream. The three iconic American brands that almost anyone can identify based on branding are Marlboro, Lucky Strike and Camel. The Camel pack was long a subject of interest for Larry Rivers. Rivers was one of the first to merge non-objective, non-narrative art with narrative and objective abstraction. Reproducing everyday objects of American popular culture was the foundation of Pop, and Rivers was at the forefront.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Larry Rivers’ Stencil Camel, a lithograph color stencil and pochoir.

Stencil Camel is a single work of art comprised of two pieces; cotton rag paper superimposed with acetate on top of it. The cotton rag paper makes up the background, with the lithograph creating the landscape, setting the tone for the front piece which is the acetate that bares the stenciled camel. The acetate (front piece) contains the main image in which Rivers uses the pochoir technique, a method by which the pigments are applied by brush or sponge in the negative spaces of the stencil. Rivers’ artistic thoughts and ideas of merging non-narrative and narrative served as an inspiration to many artists that came after him such as Rauschenberg, Johns, Warhol, Dine and Lichtenstein.

Work of the Week! WOW! David Hockney – Early Morning



David Hockney
Early Morning
2009
iPad drawing printed on paper
37 x 25 1/2 in.
Edition of 25
Pencil signed, dated and numbered



About the work:

David Hockey is a big deal. Just six months ago, the British Pop artist broke the auction record for a work by a living artist with a $90 million sale at Christies, and at 81 years old, is one of the most innovative artists still working today. Throughout his career, he has never shied away from using different types of mediums to push the boundaries of his artistic expression, making use of color photocopy machines to create original work, or sending an entire body of work for a gallery show via fax.

Approximately a decade ago, Hockney started using a tool familiar to us all to explore the act of drawing: the iPhone. When the iPad became available, he transitioned to that device. Of the switch, he said “I thought the iPhone was great, but this takes it to a new level – simply because it’s eight times the size of the iPhone, as big as a reasonably sized sketchbook.”

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is the iPad drawing Early Morning.

After spending about 25 years living in California, the source of inspiration for his famous pool-side paintings, Hockney returned to his native seaside town of Bridlington, on the north/east coast of Britain. It is in Bridlington that he started experimenting with Apple technology and the application called Brushes.

Flowers are a frequent subject of the iPad drawings. John Fitzherbert, Hockey’s partner buys a different bouquet every day – roses, lilies, lilacs – and places them on the windowsill of their bedroom. Early Morning was created at dawn, drawn from the comfort of the artist’s bed, however, the real subject of the work is light and the role the iPad plays in capturing fleeting moments.

Hockey has said that the medium is perfectly suited for the study of light. The color wheel in the app supplies every pigment on demand, making it possible to capture the dawn light rapidly before it shifts. The device’s backlight, has proven to be useful too, allowing the artist to draw at any time of day, even in dark settings, enabling him to work in almost any circumstance. Lastly, the very nature of the medium allows the artist to be able to draw as soon as inspiration hits, without having to worry about having the necessary materials at his immediate disposal.

Hockney’s iPad has effectively replaced the sketch book. In all his suits, the artist has always requested that his taylor insert a large internal pocket, which in the past, would be for a sketch book, but now holds his electronic device. For an artist who is so inspired by the outdoors, the tool enables Hockney to work in “plein air” easily and efficiently.

David Hockney is a big deal. He is an innovator, unafraid to experiment and explore the technologies at his disposal. He has said “I just happen to be an artist who uses the iPad, I’m not an iPad artist. It’s just a medium. But I am aware of the revolutionary aspects of it, and it’s implications.”

Work of the Week! WOW! Salvador Dali – Rowena, from Ivanhoe Suite



Salvador Dali
Rowena, from Ivanhoe Suite
1978
Lithograph
29 1/2 x 21 1/2 in.
Edition of 250
Pencil signed and numbered; certified authentic by Frank Hunter of the Salvador Dali archives in New York on verso



About the work:

Salvador Dali often explored literary characters in his works. Tristan and Isolde or Don Quixote are well-known series of work by the artist. He also created work based on the romantic novel Ivanhoe.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Rowena, from Ivanhoe Suite.

Ivanhoe was written by Sir Walter Scott in 1819. The story was set in medieval England during a time of political tension between the Anglo-Saxons and Normans. This created a divide between the protagonist Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe and his father. Ivanhoe, the son of a wealthy nobleman and of Anglo-Saxon descent was disinherited by his father Cedric of Rotherwood for supporting a Norman king, and for falling in love with Lady Rowena whom Cedric looks after.

Ivanhoe and Rowena are in love throughout the novel, however Cedric forbids their marriage as he would like Rowena to marry Lord Athelstane, a powerful Anglo-Saxon contender for the crown. During a jousting tournament, Ivanhoe is wounded and his healer, Rebecca falls in love with him.

So many obstacles lie in the path of Ivanhoe and Rowena to marry, which Dali captures through symbolic images. Rowena is seen holding a melting clock, one of Dali’s most iconic images, which symbolizes the lost time for the two lovers. Rowena is holding a single rose, which symbolizes Ivanhoe and his love for Rowena. Another meaningful image is the presence of a seahorse with Dali’s ever so famous stork legs. The seahorse was considered a good luck charm in many old cultures, symbolizing the strength of the subconscious and persistence, which is relevant to the two lovers character and their desire to be together.

Despite the obstacles, Ivanhoe and Rowena are together in the end. Rebecca leaves England to study medicine in Spain, and Cedric of Rotherwood gives his blessing for the two to marry.

Work of the Week! WOW! Walton Ford – Suite of 6 Etchings



Benjamin’s Emblem, 2000

Compromised, 2003

La Historia Me Absolvera,1999

Swadeshi-cide, 1998

The Tale of Johnny Nutkin, 2001

Visitation, 2004

The following details apply to each piece:

6 color hardground and softground etching, aquatint, spit-bite aquatint, drypoint and roulette on Somerset satin paper
44 x 30 1/2 in.
A.P.
Pencil signed, dated and numbered



About the work:

Walton Ford is a contemporary American painter and printmaker who draws on the visual and narrative language of traditional natural history painting. He examines how animals exist and survive in relation to human activity, many of the animals he depicts being extinct. Although human figures rarely appear in his work, their presence and effect is always implied.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is a suite of 6 etchings by Walton Ford.

Ford’s color etchings are deeply inspired by 19th century American ornithologist and painter John James Audubon, but they aren’t just a celebration of the natural world like Aududbon’s works. Ford’s paintings are meticulous, realistic studies of flora and fauna, filled with commentary – symbols, clues and jokes referencing text ranging from colonial literature, to folktales, to travel guides. His works are complex, allegorical narratives that critique the history of colonialism, industrialism, politics, natural sciences and humanity’s effect on the environment.

In the work entitled Visitation, for example, Ford’s scene of a large flock of passenger pigeons can be seen eating corn and nuts, and recalls a written description by Audubon, “Whilst feeding, their avidity is at times so great that in attempting to swallow a large acorn or nut, they are seen gasping for a long while as if in the agonies of suffocation.” The overwhelming amount of birds feasting on the bounty of the land could symbolize the exploitation of natural resources by European settlers in the New World, which ultimately led to the extinction of the passenger pigeon.

Another American bird represented in this series can be seen in the piece Benjamin’s Emblem. This is a direct reference to the myth that Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey as the emblem of the Great Seal of the United States – his proposal for the seal was in fact devoid of birds completely. The turkey in Benjamin’s Emblem is asphyxiating a small Carolina Parakeet, an extinct bird, once the only parakeet indigenous to North America. The wild turkey was the very first print created for Audubon’s Birds of America, celebrating wild American birds. The wild turkey was Audubon’s most idolized, writing about it more than any other in his Ornithological Biography. He sealed letters with a seal bearing the likeness of a turkey and the words “America My Country,” even adopting one as a pet.

Each bird of the series has a story related to human activity such as Colonialism, Imperialism and even Communism, and their ecological effects on nature, specifically birds.

Walton Ford’s work can be found in many public collections in the US, including the Museum of Modern Art, NY; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C.

Work of the Week! WOW! Andy Warhol – Brooklyn Bridge



Andy Warhol
Brooklyn Bridge FS II.290
1983
Screenprint
39 1/4 x 39 1/4 in.
Edition of 200
Pencil signed and numbered



About the work:

When you were young did your parents ever say . . . If your friends jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge would you follow them?

Mine did all the time, and we did not even live in Brooklyn, let alone New York.

Along with the Golden Gate Bridge, The Brooklyn Bridge is the most well-known and beloved bridge in America. It is an American Icon, representing American ingenuity, American grit, and American pride. The is why Andy Warhol chose to paint fantastic modern day marvel.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Andy Warhol’s Brooklyn Bridge.

Completed on May 24th 1883, after 14 years of construction, the Brooklyn Bridge set many records, it was the world’s first steel-wire suspension bridge, the first fixed crossing across the East River, and at the time it opened, the longest suspension bridge ever built by 50%, it is also one of the oldest roadway bridges in the US. In 1964 The Brooklyn Bridge was designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service, and in 1972 became a New York City Landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

In 1983, The Brooklyn Bridge celebrated its centennial anniversary. Exhibitions, lectures and performances were organized, including a 9,600-rocket firework display. President Ronald Reagan was also part of the festivities, leading a formal procession of cars along the bridge to mark the start of the celebrations. The entire production was put together by the Brooklyn Bridge Centennial Commission, which produced a brochure listing all the related activities taking place from May through October of 1983. It seems only fitting then that the Commission approached another American and New York City icon to create the official celebration image: Pop Art star, Andy Warhol.

Warhol’s depictions of iconic American symbols are what lead to his rise to the most famous American artist of the 20th century. He captured the political and commercial strength of the post-war American era and gave them an artistic platform.

As with most of his work, the imagery of Brooklyn Bridge is based on actual photographs. What is different in this case is the use of multiple images, as opposed to just one. The juxtaposition of the two images better captures the power and symbolism of the Brooklyn Bridge as one of the greatest American engineering feats of the 19th century. To create a visual 3D effect of the bridge on a 2D medium, Warhol used color block techniques and multi-layer superimposition of colors, tricking the eye to think the bridge is popping out of the sheet.

Work of the Week! WOW! Damien Hirst – Mickey and Minnie Mouse



Damien Hirst
Mickey & Minnie
2016
Silkscreen and glitter
Available in the following sizes:
34 1/2 x 27 1/2 in. each
Edition of 150
60 x 48 1/4 in. each
Edition of 50
Pencil signed and numbered on verso



About the work:

Mickey and Minnie Mouse are probably the most iconic duo of Pop culture. Developed as the official mascot of the Walt Disney Company, in the 1920’s, Mickey’s celebrated status and universal appeal has inspired many artists to depict his likeness, very few however, have also created Minnie.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! are Mickey and Minnie by Damien Hirst.

The key defining factors of both Mickey and Minnie Mouse are the three circles that form their head and ears. It seems only fitting then, that the Walt Disney Company would approach Damien Hirst, widely known for his spot paintings, to create his own take on the beloved characters.

Hirst initially painted Mickey in household gloss on canvas in 2012, with a white background, auctioned at Christies to raise money for Kids Company, a children’s charity. The work sold for close to 1 Million Pounds and led to the creation of “blue glitter” Mickey and “pink glitter” Minnie.

Both figures are created solely by the use of circles, striking compositions reducing the mischievous mice to their basic elements, capturing their essence through shape and color. Even in their reductive states, Mickey and Minnie are such powerful icons that they remain highly identifiable and universally recognized. Mickey only required 12 spots and Minnie 19, attesting to the power of Hirst’s style and composition.

Both pieces are entirely covered in glitter which enhances the timeless star-power of the enduring and beloved personalities of Mickey and Minnie.

Work of the Week! WOW! JASPER JOHNS – Untitled 1977-1980



Jasper Johns
Untitled 1977-1980
Lithograph
34 1/4 x 30 1/4 in.
Edition of 60
Pencil signed, dated and numbered



About the work:

In the mid 1950s Jasper Johns, one of America’s most renowned artists, began experimenting with symbolism in the form of flags, targets, numbers and text in his work. His use of symbols was in stark contrast to the predominant introspective abstract style at the time. Johns’ formula examined representation, revealing the ways in which the art object itself expresses meaning.

In representing symbols, that were not usually represented in high-art, Johns challenged the viewer to see something new, to question accepted conventions and be inquisitive as opposed to complacent, transforming the ordinary into rich visual objects. He explored the impact of changes in color, scale, sequence, and medium, favoring subjects that “the mind already knows” but overlooks.

This week’s Work of the Week! WOW! is Untitled 1977-1980, a work that encompasses 3 recurring symbols of Johns’ body of work: the device, text and numbers.

This work came to be by Johns’ famously use of Savarin cans to hold his paintbrushes. One day while looking at the can, Johns realized that the label printed and affixed to the cylindrical can, transformed from a flat sheet when wrapped around the form. The label runs around the form in a continuous band suggesting that some of Johns’ work can be seen from the same perspective.

Starting with the two half circles that create most of this image, the easiest interpretation can be that these half circles represent the actual Savarin can, which in one way it does. However, upon a deeper interpretation of work, we come to see many different representations of these half circles.

These circles were created by a device that Johns invented by which he attached rulers to each side of a wood frame, and used the rulers as a pendulum which will spread the paint over the work in a semi-circle. This device removes the hand of the artist, and forces us to see the artwork for what is it, and not for who painted it. It bears a Duchamp like quality, an idol and huge influence on Johns.

The two-dimensional nature of the sheet, plays into what the mind already knows, but overlooks. Although divided in half, appearing in reverse order in the representation, the stroke that the rulers create look like the bottom of the cylinder Savarin can, and when the paper is rolled with the two edges touching, the two half circles create the single image of the cylinder. The composition of the piece is extracted from an everyday object transformed into art.

Written words are where the worlds of thought and representation meet. The use of text automatically invites the viewer to read from top, left to right, downwards (which “the mind already knows”), giving the work the preconceived notion of direction. The words and colors red, yellow and blue take on meaning of their own, as primary colors they are the foundation on which all other colors are created.

This is addressed in the lower portion of the work. As previously stated, in considering this work as a flat cylinder the edges are supposed to connect as if three-dimensional. In connecting the two edges of the sheet, the color wheel takes shape. In the numerals portion, the blue at the extreme left is separated form the green at the extreme right. In between, we have the additional colors and shades completing the color wheel.

The numbers represented in the color wheel at the bottom of the work address perception and representation. Each number from 0 to 9 is superimposed one over the other, scaled to fill the delineated space in 6 rectangles. While each number is visible, each is difficult to discern individually. Their forms are created from stencils, further challenging perceptions between the connection of high-art with the banal.

Johns’ transformation of everyday symbols into art objects reflects his interest in the nature and connections between “what the mind knows” and what the eye sees. His technical expertise in exploring these concepts results in this stunning and captivating work.

In the Fall of 2020, both the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Philadelphia Museum of art will be collaborating with the artist in an unprecedented joint retrospective of Jasper Johns’ career.