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In anticipation of the Broad Museum’s opening in 2015, the museum is hosting a lecture series called the Un-Private Collection.  The sessions are designed to introduce the public to the Broad’s collection and the corresponding artists behind the works. The latest installment in the successful series featured a discussion with Kara Walker hosted by Director Ava DuVerny.  It was an incredible look at Walker’s creative process, and more importantly it was a unique deep dive into the psychological dynamic behind the public’s reaction to her work. This sold out talk was streamed on-line and available via video playback (which I enjoyed this afternoon).

DuVerny and Walker dove right into a lengthy discussion of the creation of “A Subtlety”, Walker’s ambitious, large-scale installation of the Sugar Sphinx in the abandoned Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn this Spring.  Walker discussed the political and historical context behind the production of sugar and its representation of wealth and power.  The sculpture is a creative departure from her cutout silhouette work that explores themes of race, power, sexuality and violence.

When I see people being inappropriate I don’t think of them as being uncomfortable.”

Walker diplomatically tackled the issue of “selfie-gate”, and the public’s cavalier, disrespectful response to the gravity of the piece.  There have been numerous critiques specifically addressing how this work was viewed, and I found her dismissal of the immaturity of visitors refreshingly centered and grounded.  She distilled this dynamic into a fascinating byproduct of the human story behind the piece.

What I found more surprising is that Walker wanted to experience the work as it was being shown, but quickly found that her presence at the exhibit changed the entire tenor of the piece. To her, the dynamic of being confronted with people’s reactions and their expectation that Walker draw herself into their experience was draining process that ultimately impacted the work for her at a subconscious level.

Walker’s transparency around how she processed and dealt with her very vocal critics was also compelling:

When you besiege a viewer with this imagery, it just sits there being, and it’s unsettling, and a viewer needs to be able to talk back to it.”

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I do what I’m feeling and what I’m feeling is, I think monstrous; so I do it in the nicest possible way and I think that’s what’s unsettling…  The one thing I can give that seems like a gift is the part that looks pretty and the other part that feels like a curse is the part I was feeling in the first place.”

The discussion ended with DuVerny asking 5 questions that no-one ever asks Kara Walker.  This was an compelling, thought provoking discussion.  I love listening to Kara Walker because she takes a very relatable approach to express her process in a way that is very accessible, yet challenging at the same time.

 

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Edgar Degas’ love for the ballet is prominently featured in his body of work and one of his most iconic works is “The Little Fourteen Year Old Dancer”.  This piece has been reproduced in all mediums and has served as an artistic inspiration for artists and dancers around the world.

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Edgar Degas, Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen at the Norton Simon in Pasadena

The Kennedy Center will bring the story behind Little Dancer to life in a musical directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman.  The piece will be performed by Tony award-winning performers and a principal dancer from the NYC Ballet.  Tonight the Guggenheim features a panel discussion about the musical and inspiration behind it.

Degas’ Little Dancer is one of my favorite bronzes.  I simply liked the piece, and never knew its history.  My initial reaction to his work was that I remember being struck by the way Degas captured the fluidity of movement.  In Little Dancer however, the rawness of her facial expression juxtaposed with the strength of her carriage was always so striking.

No Pressure, No Diamonds. ~Thomas Carlyle

No Grit, No Pearl ~ Anon

I want to peel back a few layers of the Little Dancer that I found interesting. The first is not too surprising: When Degas’ originally showed the wax mold of Little Dancer in 1881 it was met with the extreme, unrelenting criticism at the Sixth Impressionist Exhibition.  Critics found Degas’ use of clothing and hair to adorn the sculpture cast “ugly and degenerate” ; many derided the physical features of the subject, calling her a “flower of the gutter”.

Edgar Degas, Little Dancer Aged Fourteen

Edgar Degas, Little Dancer Aged Fourteen

I find this critique interesting because it sits square at the center of the dichotomy of the cultural zeitgeist at the time.  Degas’ chose to feature all aspects of Parisian life during the Belle Époque, including the economic underclass necessary to maintain the affluence of the wealthy elite.  The Paris Opera Ballet was a mirror reflecting both of these worlds.  Many dancers were plucked from underprivileged families who saw ballet as a gateway to a better life.  The career track for these dancers was quite limited.  They performed and frequently became mistresses to wealthy male benefactors.

Degas’ muse for Little Dancer was Marie von Goethem, a 14-year-old daughter of a deceased father and a laundress.  Her mother sent her to the Paris Opera Ballet at 13 in hopes that she would find a better life and escape a life of poverty.  The act of artistically revealing this very unseemly aspect of the Belle Époque in lieu of the gilded, pristine facade of the ruling class, was viewed as an anathema to critics.

Tonight’s panel discussion along with excerpts of the musical will be live streamed on the Guggenheim’s website. The museum will also host extended hours to view some of Degas’ works exhibited in the Thannhauser Gallery.  I’m looking forward to learning more through this musical and discussion!

http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york/calendar-and-events/2014/10/05/the-kennedy-center-little-dancer-with-susan-stroman/3948

 

 

 

 

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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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