About This Work:
Alex Katz is an American painter of portraits and landscapes. He started working on these themes during years dominated by non-figurative art, which he always strongly avoided.
As for his portraits, the people he depicts are colleagues that surrounded him during his career, members of his family, friends or neighbors. Alex Katz’s portraits are always very recognizable. They are all characterized by an unmistakable flatness and lack of detail. Color and light play a central role in his works and the design of his pictorial reality always appears with sharp, clear edges.
Well known for his many portraits of his wife and muse, Ada, Katz has also dedicated himself to printmaking and freestanding sculptures of cutout figures painted on wood or aluminum. This is the case of this week’s Work Of the Week, Ariel.
Ariel is a three piece aluminum cut out set, created after a painting and a screenprint that he did in 2016 of the same name, that depicts a woman in three different perspectives in a sequence. This idea, the theme of variation, is very important to the artist. According to Katz, he was the first artist to start using the technique of repetition in his works, before the other artists of the time. He even says that Warhol took this concept from him. His studies on repetition start with a work called Ada Ada, which is one of his earliest work, and continue until today with this week’s Work Of the Week, Ariel.
One can see how Katz’s highly graphic depiction of his subjects adds a strong sense of individualized personality to his paintings, and his attention to details, particularly when it comes to fashion, firmly characterizes the work in his own unique aesthetic.
Alex Katz’ works convey a surprisingly seductive detachment from his emotions and personal references. For example, Ariel is a recurring subject in his most recent works. But who is Ariel? Is she someone relevant to the artist or is she only a model? The answer, in the end, is not important. These portraits do not own a clear narrative – it is not important for the viewer to know the person or the story behind the artwork. What Katz tries to emphasize is actually the beauty of the subjects. The use of gentle colors, the emphasis of fashion details in his paintings turn the coldness of the sharp lines, lack of detail and flatness into an artwork warm for the viewer to enjoy.
In many ways, both conceptually and technically, the art of Alex Katz can be considered to be the bridge that gaps the traditions of abstraction and figurative art.
About This Work:
Son of a taxi driver and a housewife, Murakami grew up in Tokyo, then attended Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music, the country’s most prestigious arts institution. He holds a Ph.D. in Nihonga – the refined hybrid of European and traditional Japanese painting that was invented in the late 19th century. Nihonga paintings are employed to render likenesses of bouquets and landscapes, in accordance to traditional Japanese artistic conventions, techniques and materials, to suit the influx of European tourism and an export market to the West.
Prior to 1868, Japan’s Meiji period, the word for “fine art” did not exist in the Japanese language. It was only after this time that the country imported this foreign ”art” notion and created a vocabulary for it. The blurring of high and low, of West and East, remains characteristic of Japanese society.
Takashi Murakami is the one that, better than any other Japanese artists, has been able to incorporate all the cultural contradictions and influences of Japan that even today permeate the Japanese society. He is one of the most well-known Japanese contemporary artists.
Murakami aligns himself with the geeky, obsessive fans and collectors of the Japanese manga, anime and animations, whose name is ‘otaku’. By combing Nihonga painting with otaku aesthetic, merging tradition with contemporary, he has literally changed the face of Japanese art. Some years ago Murakami elaborated a theory under the clever rubric ”Superflat”, linking the flat picture planes of traditional Japanese paintings to the lack of any distinction between high and low in Japanese culture. On stylistic grounds he grouped together some traditional artists of the Edo period (1603-1868) with the creators of modern-day animated films, arguing that there were important formal similarities in the flatness of their work. Now, having analyzed Japanese pop culture aesthetically, he is turning his scrutiny to the function that superflatness might be serving in contemporary Japanese society. Superflat can be described as a flattening process that conveniently released both the artist and the viewer from grappling with the contradictions of Japan’s wartime experience as predator and victim and postwar status as economic rival of, and political subordinate to, the United States.
Murakami maintains that respectable Japanese artists largely ignored the horrors of World War II and the humiliations of the postwar occupation, relinquishing the subjects to the ‘otaku’, who transported these tough realities into the realm of cartoon fantasy. In many of the classic manga and anime stories the plot revolves around a bomb or radiation device that devastates Tokyo. ”I thought: why does otaku culture so many times have an explosion that looks like an atomic bomb? I was trying to find out why otaku people are always repeating the same scene and why I was so interested in it myself“. He concluded that otaku raised ”a mirror” to a reality that the larger culture preferred to ignore. In childlike animated forms, anguished truths were stripped of their historical context.
This week’s Work Of The Week, KiKi With Moss, is from a two parts suite consisting of Kiki and his counter partner KaiKai. KaiKai and KiKi loosely translate into good and evil or the Angel and Devil. These characters have come to be seen as avatars of the opposing aspects of Murakami’s own character and they can be interpreted to be his ultimate self-portrait.
KiKi With Moss and KaiKai With Moss, 2004
Murakami’s work embodies some interests that extend far beyond Japan. It’s a blend of fantasy, apocalypse and innocence. He speaks about important themes such as the atomic bomb, the war, the issues that are affecting Japanese culture and society past and present, the relationship between the Western world and Japanese culture – and he does it through colorful, cartoon-like characters that at times have smiling faces and mesmerizing flowers, and at times have disturbing jagged teeth like fangs, making the cute violent. It’s all the disparate elements combined that speak to the moment and reveal a deeper meaning to a culture that Murakami sees as divided, confused, confident and progressive. A culture full of hope for the future, but one that needs to remember and embrace its past.
This must be sold as a set of 4 only.
About This Work:
Keith Haring was born on May 4, 1958 in Reading, Pennsylvania. He started developing a love for drawing at a very early age, learning basic cartooning skills from his father and from the popular culture around him, such as Dr. Seuss and Walt Disney.
Though many associate the artist Keith Haring with his seemingly innocuous images of barking dogs, crawling babies, beating hearts and flying saucers, his work often tackled social justice issues – from nuclear proliferation, to AIDS, to the environment to racial and income inequality.
In April 1986, Haring opened his first Pop Shop, a retail store in Soho selling T-shirts, toys, posters, buttons and magnets bearing his images.
Pop Shop prints were released as a set of four individual pieces or one quad of the different images.
While his human figures generally depict people and players in society, human figures depicted upside-down, like the one in Pop Shop II, are usually B-boys and B-girls, the dancers of hip-hop, doing the iconic move in which they spin on their head. Figures contorting in backbends or jumps are also depictions of break dancers, some of the most iconic cultural figures of the New York City of the 1980’s.
In the Pop Shops, Keith Haring always kept imagery accessible and easy to understand, in order to grab the eyes and minds of viewers and get them both to enjoy themselves and to engage with important concerns.
About This Work:
One of the twentieth century’s most profound Abstract Expressionists, American artist Sam Francis (1923-1994) is noted as one of the first post-World War II painters to develop an international reputation. Regarded as one of the leading interpreters of color and light, his work holds references to New York abstract expressionism, color field painting, Chinese and Japanese art, French impressionism and his own Bay Area roots.
Francis was initially influenced by the work of Abstract Expressionists such as Mark Rothko, Arshile Gorky and Clyfford Still. He later became loosely associated with a second generation of Abstract Expressionists, including Joan Mitchell and Helen Frankenthaler, who were increasingly interested in the expressive use of color.
His paintings of the 1950’s evolved through a series of stages, beginning with monochromatic abstractions, followed by larger richly-colored murals and “open” paintings that feature large areas of whiteness.
He traveled and studied extensively, maintaining studios in Bern, Paris, Tokyo, Mexico City, New York and Northern and Southern California. Through his travels he was exposed to many styles, techniques and cultural influences, which informed the development of his own dialogue and style of painting. Francis possessed a lyrical and gestural hand, enabling him to capture and record the brilliance, energy and intensity of color at different moments of time and periods of his life. His paintings embody his love of literature, music and science, while reflecting his deep range of emotions and personal turmoil.
Francis returned to California in 1962 and was then influenced by the West Coast School’s preoccupation with mysticism and Eastern philosophy. Blue had become a more dominant feature of his work since 1959 inspired by personal suffering and the great joy of becoming a father for the first time in 1961. This led to combinations of hard color and more disciplined structures with centrally placed rectangles during the 1970’s. Eventually these more rigid structures gave way to looser configurations sometimes of snake-like forms with web-like patterns. Blue, sometimes brilliant, remained an important part of many later works.
Remarkably, Francis has been able to transfer this same combination of spontaneous gesture and signature abstract forms to graphic media, which appear to be as intuitive and direct for him as painting.
One of his most important contributions was the establishment of his own print shop. He was extremely active as a printmaker, creating numerous etchings, lithographs and monotypes, many of which were executed in his Santa Monica print shop, the Litho Shop.
Ahol Sniffs Glue
About This Work:
This work presents Ahol Sniffs Glue’s famous lovable characters in a completely different light than what we are used to. For a very long time Ahol has been working in a completely different style and medium, but was never fully confident in showing that work. Not because the style was not good, or the work was not of the highest caliber, but because for as long as he can remember, his artistic career was built upon a certain style, that everyone has known and loved for so long. This is a drastic change in style that, the artist feels, “feeds his soul”.
Tropical Depression in Paradise is made of collaged elements of cloth, felt, thread, wood, a Crown Royal sack, Kool cigarettes, and even beard hair, to name a few. With his recent success, his work can sometimes become glamorized. While the whole time, Ahol maintains that his work is the exact opposite of glamor.
The central figure is his well known figure of an atypical, typical person standing on the street, perhaps Biscayne Boulevard. Looking closely at her, one can see she is created with many different unique elements, from her weave of thread to her face of a Crown Royal sack, wearing a body suit of jute, and gold trim, down to the wood veneer chancletas, (and if you look real closely at her, you can even see part of Ahol’s beard). She is standing next to a beautiful, most creative version of a Miami Palm tree constructed of Kool cigarette packages, and pencil sharpening for a trunk.
It is the background of this work, that allows the viewer to get a true sense of the artist, and the real city that he calls home, Miami. Filled with cigarettes, Taco Bell packets of hot sauce, cocaine baggies, pills, and Chinese fortunes, intertwined with spliced collaged photos of random people, palm trees, la Virgen de la Caridad de Cobre, his bus pass and jury duty notices, we see how the artists lives, and shows off the city that he loves. You will see something different every time that you look at it.
About This Work:
Chuck Close is an American photographer, photorealist painter, and printmaker. Most of his works are large-scale portraits based on photographs of his family, friends, himself, and fellow artists. His works hang in the world’s most prestigious museums, and he is considered to be one of the most influential people in the art world.
Close always liked to draw, and at age of 4 he knew he wanted to be an artist.
Having a difficult time with academics due to dyslexia, although teachers were often impressed with his creative approach to projects, made his decision to become an artist that much easier. Once in college, and upon deciding to make a career in art, he excelled.
In 1962, Close received his BA from the University of Washington, in Seattle. He then attended graduate school at Yale University, where he received his MFA in 1964. After Yale, he lived in Europe on a Fulbright grant. When he returned to the U.S., he worked as an art teacher at the University of Massachusetts. In 1969 his work was included in the Whitney Biennial, and he had his first one man show in 1970. Close’s work was first exhibited at the New York Museum of Modern Art in early 1973.
Chuck Close is globally renowned for reinvigorating the art of portrait painting from the late 1960s to the present day, an era when photography had been challenging painting’s former dominance in this area, and succeeding in steadily gaining critical appreciation as an artistic medium in its own right.
Close emerged from the 1970’s painting movement of Photorealism, also known as Super-Realism, but then moved well beyond its initially hyper-attentive rendering of a given subject to explore how methodical, system-driven portrait painting based on photography’s underlying processes (over its superficial visual appearances) could suggest a wide range of artistic and philosophical concepts.
His portraits are exquisite, exacting realism from photographic sources, playing with ideas of scale, color, and form. The artist builds his iconic paintings through a signature grid system where each square is individually marked and colored, corresponding with a cell marked in his photographs, which, although abstract up close, form unified, highly realistic images from afar.
Close’s dependence on the grid as a metaphor for his analytical processes, which suggest that the “whole” is rarely more (or less) than the sum of its parts, is a conceptual equivalent for the camera’s analytical, serial approach to any given subject. Every street-smart, colorful Polaroid is as much a time-based and fragmentary gesture as any more laborious stroke of the painter’s brush in the cloistered studio.
Close’s artificially restrictive painting techniques stem in part from physical limitations. He was diagnosed at a young age with prosopagnosia, also known as face blindness, in which he is unable to recognize faces. Then, in 1988, Close had a spinal artery collapse that left him a quadriplegic. Many thought his career was over, but not only did he return to painting, he returned with a new style that has kept his place as one of the great American painters of our time.
In 2000, Chuck Close was presented with the prestigious National Medal of Arts by President Clinton. Close is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, has served on the board of many arts organizations, and was recently appointed by President Obama to serve on The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.
THE SELF PORTRAIT:
Abandoning the full-body view, Close turned to one of the oldest traditions anywhere in art history, the self-portrait. Close had partially set out to refute the critic Clement Greenberg’s claim that it was impossible for an “advanced” artist to work in portraiture. Closes’s untraditional approach involved conceiving of and creating a unique kind of “mug shot”, that exacerbated the subject’s blemishes and the original photographic distortion caused by the camera.
This weeks Work of the Week is Self Portrait, 2015. This work is a perfect example of Chuck Close creating a “mug shot” of himself by using grids of colors, forms and shapes, that he is so famously known for. When viewing a Self Portrait by Chuck close, the viewer witnesses the development of Close’s artistic style and the change of his own identity and way of looking at himself over the years.
About This Work:
Richard Pettibone is one of the pioneers of appropriation art. The artist helped set the stage for 80’s appropriation art by recycling the pop culture appropriations of Pop Art.
Creating small ‘pocket size’ paintings from Pop Art images already made famous, Richard Pettibone does artwork that is described as “cloning”, which has resulted in art that he can call his own.
It all started in 1964. When he was 26 and living in Los Angeles, he produced two tiny, exquisitely made copies of Andy Warhol’s 1962 painting Campbell Soup (Pepper Pot), one in green, the other in gray, both stamped with Warhol’s name and his own.
Marcel Duchamp, along with Andy Warhol, were of significant influence.
Between 2005-2006 the artist had a retrospective of approximately 200 paintings and sculptures at the Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, California and The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs.
About This Work:
For some years now, the streets of Miami have been covered with enormous posters bearing the CLANDESTINE CULTURE hallmark. They are works that stand out not only because of the anti-establishment message implicit in them, but also due to their artistic quality.
His work acts as visual cultural criticism and commentary, with established social and political agendas serving as targets for a unique style of illustration made using several different media, such us canvas, neon and banners.
On July 20, 2013, one of his most important projects, The Banner Project, started.
The flag on Julia Tattle Causeway, Miami – July 20th, 2013.
By the summer of 2014 another The Banner Project took place, this time in the Miami Marine Stadium. The size and materials were similar to the one used on the Julia Tuttle Causeway.
Approaching December of the same year, Culture acted again, on this occasion in front of the Miami Beach Convention Center, during Art Basel Miami Beach 2014.
The police removing the banner at the Miami Beach Convention Center, Art Basel Miami 2014
Many other “street pranks” have occurred. For example, during the NBA Finals in 2013 Miami Heat vs San Antonio Spurs, CLANDESTINE CULTURE placed a sign that read “CITY HALL” and has arrows pointing to the sewer in the street.
The CITY HALL sign next to the sewer placed by the street artist during the NBA Finals, American Airlines Arena, Miami 2013
As for the name, the artist explains: “When I first wrote this phrase on the street six years ago, it was very personal, I was not happy with my life and the way society treated me. It seemed as if ‘they’ thought they were right and I was wrong. ‘They’ always told the truth and you had to obey them. ‘They’ never asked how do you feel, or if you agree with what ‘they’ are suggesting. ‘They’ are always correcting you. One night I was walking on the street by a commercial area close to my neighborhood. I passed by a big garbage container. I stopped, and with an oil stick I wrote, “I’M CLANDESTINE CULTURE. WELCOME TO MY WORLD.” I did not know why I did it, I just did it and it worked. I was feeling better after that. I released all my anger and all my frustration in just one phrase: CLANDESTINE CULTURE“.
Still today, the artist chooses to remain anonymous. He hits the street with his face and head completely covered. He believes that the painting and the message is more important then the artist. He uses the faces of everyday people, images and words, to show that in the end, we the people are all part of one world wide culture… a clandestine culture.
About This Work:
Born Robert Clark in New Castle, Indiana, in 1928, Robert Indiana adopted the name of his native state as a pseudonymous surname early in his career.
Robert Indiana is one of the six original pop artists. 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 issues, the rise of consumer culture, and the pressures of history. Rather than using symbols from the mass media, Indiana makes images of words that focus on identity, enticing his viewers to look at the commonplace from a new perspective.
This work of the week, KVF I, is the first one of a series of 10 prints called Hartley’s Elegies. The series was inspired by Mardsen Hartley’s painting Portrait Of A German Soldier, that is exhibited in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum Of Art, in New York City. Hartley was an American painter who executed this painting as a tribute to the young German soldier Karl Von Freyburg, who died during World War I and with whom Hartley had a deep friendship/relationship.
This is Indiana’s personal reinterpretation of Hartley’s painting. Indiana’s Elegies not only retell Hartley’s story but also provide us with a glimpse of his own story, with allusions to himself, his peers, places and historical events with overlapping symbolic meanings, forming a web linking his life to Hartley’s life. There is even a guide to decode Indiana’s Elegies.
For example, “7 October 1989” is the date in which Indiana began the Elegies series, 75 years after Von Freyburg’s death; it is also the year of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Another very interesting fact is that in the other prints of the series one can see the recurring word “Ellsworth”. Ellsworth is the town in Maine where Hartley died, but it is also a reference to Ellsworth Kelly, the famous artist and influential former partner of Indiana in New York.
KVF I is the most similar to the original painting of the series, keeping the original image, colors and theme. It is not a reinterpretation of Hartley’s painting, as the other prints of the series are.
Robert Indiana’s Hartley’s Elegies series is very complex, introspective, intellectual and cerebral. The beauty of Indiana’s work is indeed the beauty of taking one’s time to quietly look at something that is not new, but just part of someone’s daily life. It is the beauty of balance and harmony, contemplation and knowledge, the beauty of pure reflections translated in conceptual images.
Indiana captures the complexity of Life in the enigmatic intricacies of his compositions. He is a Pop artist but, from this particular point of view, he can also be considered fully conceptual for his hermetic style, which represents an evident break from the “lack of message and superficiality” of the Pop Art movement.
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.
His satirical street art and subversive epigrams combine dark humor with graffiti executed in a very personal and distinctive stenciling technique.
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.
This work, Donut (Chocolate), needs no explanation. It is simply a spoof on the stereotype that American policemen are infatuated with donuts.
In 2014, Banksy was regarded as a British cultural icon, with young adults from abroad naming the artist among a group of people that they most associated with UK culture, which included William Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth II, David Beckham, The Beatles, and Elton John.
His works of political and social commentary have been featured on streets, walls, and bridges of cities throughout the world. As of today, his work can be found in countless cities, from Vienna to San Francisco, Barcelona to Paris and Detroit.