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I didn’t know what direction I should go into to describe Andy Warhol’s Shadows series.  This single work composed between 1978-1979 is comprised of 102 paintings designed to take the viewer on a journey of light and space.  While it is easy to simply write off this ambitious work as a single image painted 102 times, I found it to be an interesting self referential piece that shines a light on the man behind the artist.

When I look at things, I always see the space they occupy. I always want the space to reappear, to make a comeback, because it’s lost space when there’s something in it.”

Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol from A to B and Back Again

IMG 8317 from CultureShockArt on Vimeo.

In Shadows, Warhol took photos of two images in his studio at varying light levels.  From those pictures Warhol painted 102 panels representing how light and shadow distinctly influenced each painting.  It’s a moody piece that reads as a pictorial diary of the factory studio.  If these walls could have talked they would regale us with tales on the legendary “happenings” that took place among the bevy of artists, musicians, drag queens, drug users, socialites, shady hanger-ons, bankers and bums that were a part of the Warhol Superstars;  instead, we have an abstract work that invites us to imagine the circumstances that inspired the individual works.

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Looking at the intricate differences among the panels it became easier to see how physical and emotional environments could have shaped their artistic variance. In some the acrylic paint forming the base of each piece is the focal point, in others the silkscreened process is dominant, and in many there is a harmonious balance.  Similarly, the colorways, brush strokes and paint layering assume an energy that appeared to be either influenced by or reflective of the psyche of the artist and his environment.  There were distinctly Warholian pops of saturated color amidst muted tones and grey/black paintings.  One panel shows the hazy diffused light reminscient of an overcast day but the next panel featured the same haze but the brush strokes were decidedly more manic.  The three categories of color wove their way through the entire work in a decidedly un-patterned pattern.

The work is considered an important bridge between the two poles of his career in pop art transitioning into the abstract.

That’s why I think this work is probably more important than it’s surface view suggests. As Warhol’s work pivoted to abstraction during this time, the meaning behind the piece is veiled leading many to distill this work into a study of light, but to me the shadows hide more than they reveal.

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Leo Castelli (w/ Warhol in the background) at the opening of Shadows in 1979. Photo Credit: Archives of American Art

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”

Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol

Warhol carefully curated his public persona as the free wheeling ring leader of his own circus, and I think his foray into abstraction was a way to harmonize his public persona with his inner self.  By turning a light onto his figurative and personal shadows, he breathed life and emotion into them.  Whether or not that served as catharsis to the artist is completely unknown.

Andy Warhol’s Shadows are on view through February 2, 2015 at MOCA Grand in Los Angeles.

 

This fall is all about taking a step back in time. Between October’s Hello Kitty Con at the Geffen and Anya Hindmarch’s irreverent close to London’s Fashion Week today, I feel like my 6th grade flip top desk exploded in cloud of Crayolas, keychains, puffy stickers, jelly bracelets and Lip Smacker lip gloss (anyone know if I can still get a tube in Dr. Pepper?).

Anya Hindmarch, Spring '15 Collection at LFW.  Photo Credit Net-A-Porter

Anya Hindmarch, Spring ’15 Collection at LFW. Photo Credit Net-A-Porter

Anya Hindmarch’s Spring/Summer 2015 handbag line features customizable luxury leather stickers to add your own Chotchkie’s Flair to your satchel.  The Mickey hands are a curious choice that remind me of L.A. graf writer and designer Slick‘s L.A. hands.  These have been around for years.

 

Vinyl L.A. Hands by Slick x DISSIZIT

Vinyl L.A. Hands by Slick x DISSIZIT

When I first started collecting bags, Anya Hindmarch was one of the first true designers that I added to my collection.  I’ve always loved her more structured bags and was never a big fan of the whimsical side of her design aesthetic, but I have to admit, this collection is taking me back to the genesis of my love for handbags.

Photo Credit: Anya Hindmarch, Instagram

Photo Credit: Anya Hindmarch, Instagram

Let’s rewind the time machine to 1982.  I was all about anything Lavender, the show Dallas, leg warmers, L.A. Gears, rainbows and Unicorns… One day, while shopping at the mall, I saw a small nylon duffel purse embossed with a Unicorn.  The bag had an accompanying coin purse attached as a keychain to the outside of the purse.  I HAD to have that bag.  Being an entrepreneurial young spirit back then, I somehow managed to convince my friends to hold a yard sale (consisting of their stuff, not mine), with a portion of the proceeds going to my Unicorn bag purchase (I think I considered it a consulting fee for coming up with the brilliant idea of selling their possessions to aid in my conspicuous consumption).  Sadly, we didn’t make quite enough for me to purchase the bag, and my Grandma bought me one.  Once I got a taste I was hooked.  I had to have purses that would take me through the seasons, and when it was all said and done I had three Unicorn bags (Lavender, Burgundy and Black–Perfect for Summer, Fall and Winter!).

So there you have it.  This is where my true obsession with handbag hoarding began!

Photo Credit: Anya Hindmarch, Instagram

Photo Credit: Anya Hindmarch, Instagram

I don’t think I’ll fully re-live those memories by adding a new Anya Hindmarch to my collection, but the collection is cute (I need the “I Shot JR” coin purse chain thing)….and I have to admit, I have a big smile thinking about those Unicorn bags…

Photo Credit: Etsy

Photo Credit: Etsy (NOT mine, but I wish it was)

 

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Remember when that photoshopped picture of Michael Jackson wearing a Joy Division shirt made the rounds last year?  I was bummed when I realized it wasn’t real, because there’s a part of me that loves the juxtaposition of two disparate worlds colliding in perfect chaos. When I first saw it I was taken back to musical youth.  As a black teen I wasn’t supposed to listen to Erasure, the Smiths and Joy Division…and I certainly wasn’t supposed to listen these groups AND Public Enemy… but I did.

So when I came across the video about Unlocking the Truth (this video went viral last year, but I guess I was too busy doing the Harlem Shake to notice), I was immediately captivated.  The band was created by two black tweens from Brooklyn who formed a basement bound rock haven (complete with an imaginary tour schedule/vision board) where they wrote their own lyrics and composed their own music.  As self-taught musicians they marched to the beat of their own drum and forged their own path in music rooted in Heavy Metal.  They are, in a word, awesome.

Malcolm Brickhouse (a guitarist with a name destined for greatness) and Jarad Dawkins (a writer who plays drums) have been friends since they were young children.  Since this video was published the band added a bassist (Alec Atkins), they have been signed to a label, and are currently playing the summer festival concert circuit (Coachella, the Vans Warped Tour, and the AFROPUNK Festival to name a few).  Clearly the vision board tour schedule manifested in greatness for the band. The trio played the Troubadour in West Hollywood last night which was their first headliner performance and a good litmus test for staying power. Their show is already getting rave reviews.

Unlocking the Truth-Photo Credit: New York Times

Unlocking the Truth-Photo Credit: New York Times

I knew I had to write about these guys when I saw one of them flying their nerd flag high (I have the same “Black Nerds Unite” shirt), and Unlocking the Truth shows us that being yourself is the key that unlocks your truth. These dudes speak it and live it.

 

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While the thought of a snow day during the waning days of summer seems absurd, please indulge me in this post because I’m going to share the most charming snow day you’ll likely experience.

The Skirball is wrapping up their 6 month retrospective on the art of Ezra Jack Keats. The Snowy Day is an homage to it’s namesake book about a day in the life of a young boy from Brooklyn who experiences the first snowfall of the year.  This delightful book captures the boundless energy, excitement and pure delight of a child exploring nature.  The book was originally published in 1962 and it made history by featuring the first non-caricatured African-American protagonist in children’s literature.  As a result, the Snowy Day was released amid tremendous controversy on artistic and socio-political levels.

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The exhibit features original artwork from the book alongside some of editorial ephemera (including letters that supported and lambasted the book) that accompanied its release.  In addition to the Snowy day, Keats’ work includes numerous works that reflect the cultural diversity of New York in the 1960’s.  He didn’t sugar coat economic conditions, yet as an illustrator his art deftly taps the heartbeat and spirit of the communities he portrayed.  Keats grew up as a Polish Jew living in tenement housing in the Bronx during the Great Depression.  He had trained as an artist before and after enlisting in the Army and became an illustrator in the 50’s.  The Snowy Day was Keats’ first solo authored/illustrated book and the inspiration to use an African-American child came from a 1940’s magazine clipping featuring a child who experienced the emotional roller-coaster of a needle prick blood test.  The child in the photos became his creative muse.  The hero in Keats’ book was named Peter.

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Excerpt from a Life Magazine shoot featuring a child who was given a blood test. The range of emotion expressed in the pictures served as an inspiration for Peter in Keats’ 1st book “The Snowy Day”.

I remember reading The Snowy Day, and as a black child in the 1970’s and I certainly had a visceral connection to Peter in the book.  I grew up an only child and related to Keats’ depiction of joy in solitude; to be able to see a Snowy Day through the eyes of Peter who looked like me this gave me a sense of belonging.  In addition to the Snowy Day, many of Keats’ other books were featured and the exhibit explores the depth and range of his artistic style which had been influenced by Japanese and Chinese art.  The works he produced during that phase of his career delved into spirituality and nature, with many of his paintings taking a sharp departure into abstraction (at one point he studied with Jackson Pollock).

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“The heavens declare the glory of God.. (Judiasm)”, Ezra Jack Keats

This exhibit is an absolute delight and one that I wished I had seen sooner (The Snowy Day closes in one week on September 7th).  As an auntie I bought a few copies of Keats’ books and cannot wait to gift them to the young Peters in my life.  While the book has a strong resonance with children of color, the basic theme at the core of this book transcends race.  According to Keats, the book simply shares “the joy of being a little boy alive on a certain kind of day, of being for that moment.”

http://www.skirball.org/exhibitions/the-snowy-day

More images from the exhibit:

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The Snowy Day will be on view at the Skirball Cultural Center through September 7, 2014.

 

Grump

Illustration Credit: Artist Noli Novak

File this in: “random knowledge that may impress”:

  • your 1%er friends
  • your boss
  • artsy folk that you would rather talk Pop Culture with but instead pontificate on the latest Christie’s auction…
  • people who read the Wall Street Journal
  • the one person you know that has been on Jeopardy

Alternative File:  “random knowledge that will likely render you a geek to most people which ok, because you like to drop obscure facts and non sequiturs on people and leave an air of awkward in your wake”

Anyway, I frequently read the Wall Street Journal and I love their use of illustrative portraits instead of photography.

Last week I came across a beautiful illustration of Thelma Golden, the Director of the Studio Museum in Harlem on Instagram.  The piece was featured in the September issue of the Wall Street Journal Magazine.

Photo Credit: Thelma Golden, Instagram

Photo Credit: Thelma Golden, Instagram

 

I loved it and quickly learned that it’s called a “Hedcut” (aka stipple drawings).  Hedcuts are the ink dot illustrations that are synonymous with the Wall Street Journal’s brand identity, but are also used in a variety of artistic mediums. While the picture itself is called a “Hedcut”, the process of creating dot ink illustrations using shadows and contouring is called “stippling”.

Literally within 10 minutes of learning these fun facts last week, I walked by this mural that looks like they used the same type of gradient shadowing, resulting in a short stroke, graf equivalent of stippling!

Mural by Zio Ziegler at the Standard, Downtown Los Angeles

Mural by Zio Ziegler at the Standard, Downtown Los Angeles

Consider me fascinated.  I now want a stipple avatar!

For more on Hedcuts , Stipple and the artists that create them, check out this article by the Wall Street Journal.

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052748704207504575129961786135180

 

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The National Women’s History Museum isn’t even a museum.

How is that possible?  On Saturday I attended L.A.’s “Women Making History” Brunch to support and bring awareness to this museum’s heroic efforts to be recognized on the Mall in Washington D.C. Whenever I attend events like this I try to do my homework beforehand:  I pulled the website and scanned the list of trustees, board members, honorary board members and ambassadors to see how they are raising awareness and funds for the museum.  While doing so I was stunned…  The NWHM isn’t a museum yet.  (more importantly, I was embarrassed that I wasn’t aware of this fact). During the brunch the hosts showed a video featuring the hilarious duo Frangela, who wryly made the same observation.  Turns out I was in good company. Among the professionals, documentary film makers, actresses and writers that I met this weekend, many were unaware of the fact that a quiet political battle was being fought to break ground on an important historical cultural institution.

The Mission of the National Women’s History Museum is to “educate, inspire, empower, and shape the future of women by integrating our distinctive history into the culture and history of the United States”.  This got me thinking about how poor my knowledge of Women’s History is.  I grew up going to very conservative schools where African-American and Women’s History were completely ignored in my textbooks.  In college I became a sponge making up for lost time by learning and embracing my history as an African-American, but I never gave significant thought to the fact that I hadn’t done the same with Women’s History.  Sadly in the 25 years since I’ve graduated from High School, not much has improved. In fact, only 10% of the historic figures represented in history textbooks are women, despite women comprising 51% of the population.

While this disparity is daunting it need not be debilitating.  I am encouraged by the inroads the STEM community has taken to reach out to girls and encourage them to explore careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.  While our girls need to be encouraged that they CAN do whatever they want, they also need to be shown that they DID. They need to know about those that paved the way like Grace Murray Hopper, the creator of one of the earliest computing programming languages, COBOL, or 30’s Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr who had a surprising side hustle of creating anti-jamming communications technology that served as a conceptual foundation for WI-FI (enabling wireless communication technology used today).

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Back to the museum.

In order for a museum to be built on the National Mall, it must pass through Congress. For the NWHM to even be considered, a commission must be formed to establish site specifications, organizational governance, operational protocols and fundraising (coincidentally the NWHM would be solely funded through private funds without taxpayer dollars).  A bill to create the commission was overwhelmingly passed by the House, yet is apparently stuck in the Senate with two holdouts.

While the brick and mortar efforts appear to be in temporary stasis, their digital repository is robust and includes bios of pioneers in Education, the Arts, Politics, Civil Rights, Activism, Technology, the Military, etc.  This effort should be celebrated on its own.

I’m a firm believer that roadblocks present opportunities and I think the NWHM has a unique opportunity to leverage technology to encourage dynamic engagement and exploration of its site to fulfill the museum’s mission.  In the meantime I applaud the efforts to expand awareness through the museum’s ambassador network, and yesterday’s event honored 3 women who have made history in their own unique ways, with each one making a difference in the lives of others.

Why do we need a Women’s Museum?  Because we are organizers, innovators, supporters, moguls, trailblazers, soldiers and creators whose stories and contributions to the world deserve to be told, heard and never forgotten.

For more on the museum and how you can get involved, click the link below.

http://www.nwhm.org/about-nwhm/

I’m dedicating this Rewind to someone who despite the gravity of recent days, had a GREAT week.

Jeff Goldblum has had a bit of a Renaissance of late.  For me I guess it goes back 10 years when he played Alistair Hennessey in “The Life Aquatic” wearing that fabulous “I’m a Pepper” shirt.

From then on, I’ve been utterly smitten with the quirky, campy roles that he convincingly plays with unbridled enthusiasm.

I’m still trying to find artisan knots…

Earlier this week I came across the picture he took with the wedding party that re-created Jurassic Park. Classic.

Today, NPR’s Morning Edition re-aired a piece about Goldblum’s Jazz band that regularly performs in Los Angeles.  Of course he’s a Renaissance man!  I’m now on a mission to catch one of these performances!

http://www.npr.org/2014/08/14/340289238/you-know-him-as-an-actor-but-jeff-goldblum-is-a-musician-too

Cheers to Jeff Goldblum!

 

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