Archive for the ‘Design’ Category


Nick Cave Soundsuit. Phtography James Prinz.  Photo Credit:  Jack Shainman Gallery via Atlanta Magazine

Nick Cave’s soundsuits are wondrously colorful, captivating, sculptural pieces that amplify the beauty of the human body in motion.  In 1992 Cave created his first soundsuit out of twigs and discarded items found in a park and conceived the suit in response to police brutality after the Rodney King beatings in Los Angeles. That first soundsuit was a commentary on the detachment between the human body, how it is perceived and how it is treated.

“I was thinking about, looking at, trying to find that element – as a black man, what does it feel like to feel discarded, viewed as less than, dismissed, devalued? That’s what inspires this work.” Nick Cave, Orlando Weekly

What happens when you eliminate the possibility to perceive, judge and devalue?  By repurposing discarded items into a new context, the viewer is ultimately forced to experience them in a new light.  The transformative power of repurposing and seeing everyday objects in a new context forces a shift in perception for the wearer and the viewer.  This characteristic of Cave’s art is present in his performance work today.   The soundsuits conceal race, gender, class, sexuality and transform the wearer and the experience of the viewer.


Nick Cave Soundsuit.  Photo Credit, Opening Ceremony

You simply have to see the soundsuit in motion. I completely get lost in my own imagination watching these performances.


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The graphics were bold, the symbolism was strong and the messages were provocative.  Emory Douglas’ graphic design work became the visual voice of movement dedicated to the fight for civil rights and social justice.  As the “Minister of Culture” for the Black Panther Party, Emory Douglas used punchy printmaking to tell captivatingly strong stories that depicted the urgency and tension behind the Black Power movement.


Photo Credit:  Graphic Arts News

Douglas studied graphic design while at San Francisco City College where he was one of 2 African American students in his program.  He created the Black Panther Newspaper along with Eldridge Cleaver with a mission to carefully control and distribute the message of the Black Panther Party.  His graphic style and ability to elicit an emotional response in the viewer were techniques that are emulated by artists like Shepard Fairey today.  In 2015 Emory Douglas became an AIGA medalist recognized among design peers for his “powerful use of graphic design in the Black Panther party’s struggle for civil rights and against racism, oppression, and social injustice.”


Photo Credit:  Whitehot Magazine

On the power of graphic design in storytelling, Douglass believes that “art has relevancy, whether it’s to pacify you or enlighten you and inform you. It’s a language, that’s the power of it.”



The “Artist a Day Challenge” celebrates Black History Month by highlighting Black artists and diverse forms of cultural expression across the African diaspora.  

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My new site is officially up!  I’m excited about trying something new and I invite you all to continue to follow my journey into contemporary art on TONDI.  I truly value all of my followers on WordPress and have learned so much from this first blog.  Cheers to a new beginning!

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Last year I went to a meeting at the CleanTech Incubator near the L.A. river and I was surprised to see how much development has gone into the Arts District.  Over the last few months I’ve been getting acquainted to L.A.’s latest gentrified, “it” neighborhood.  Here’s what I LOVE about it:  The energy is phenomenal (I think that has to do with the fact that there are amazing coffee houses on every corner).  The murals are stunning.  The designers and artists that created this community (and lived here before it was trendy) are still here.

The Arts District is nearing a tipping point. The money has moved in but not the pretentiousness and congestion that plagues other nearby communities (sorry Silverlake and Atwater) and again, the bonus is that the artists are still hanging in.  It is my favorite neighborhood in L.A.

Here are some pics of my favorite spots:


Gifts galore at Poketo

Gifts galore at Poketo

Click here for more pics on Steller.

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Photo Credit: Natural Hair Hats, Zazzle

Photo Credit: Natural Hair Hats, Zazzle

In 2015, “Cultural Appropriation” has replaced 2013’s “micro-aggression” as journalistic code for bias and ignorance. Notice I didn’t say racism, because in many cases I don’t think that cultural appropriation is deliberately borne out of racism, but it is certainly symptomatic of it. This week’s lesson in cultural appropriation came to us via Black Twitter and their strong reaction to a post by hair blog Mane Addicts, labeling this summer’s “it” hair style as “Twisted Mini Buns”, when in actuality they are Bantu Knots. To add insult to injury, Mane Addicts, in an attempt to lend fashion street cred to this proclamation, credited Marc Jacob’s Spring 2015 runway show as the originator of the look.  In actuality, Bantu Knots have been beautifully worn for centuries by African and African-American women across the diaspora.

The debate is a heated one that speaks to the cultural filters that we wear.  On one side you have folks that say that black people are too sensitive and feel that we are heaping a burden on everyone to properly credit cultural sources of trends in fashion and beauty, and on the other side we have black folks desperately trying to shed light on the sensitivity of the perverse forms of racism of a society that denigrates, surpresses, and ignore our beauty only to find it co-opted, repackaged and submitted to the masses as their own.

By no means am I saying that white women cannot rock bantu knots.  For me, the only thing Mane Addicts had to do was include a line citing the original source of the hairstyle.  Right or wrong, Black Twitter jumped on Marc Jacobs quicker than they did the originator of the article (and likely the originator of the style’s label).  Surprisingly Marc Jacobs has been conspicuously silent about the whole thing, which makes all of this problematic to me.

Jacobs is no stranger to artistic appropriation.  Art and design are so self referential that most works of art can be distilled to another.  When I think of this I am reminded of Marc Jacob’s 2013 show which featured an homage to Philip Glass.

Ultimately when a piece is inspired by another work of art it should inspire us to learn more about the original piece. (In my case, I sat through Philip Glass’ Einstein on the Beach, when it was performed in Los Angeles. That was a 5 hour endeavor).

Sadly, as much as I enjoy Marc Jacobs artistry, three years ago I was perplexed by a visit I made to one of his bookstores and this Bantu Knot controversy immediately took me back to this puzzling memory.  I drafted a post about the event and never chose to post it until now. Again, the specter of cultural appropriation, ignorance and the sensitivity of trigger words illuminates the fact that this dynamic manifests itself in many ways.



            “Digitus Infamous”, Photo Credit: High Snobiety

I love bookstores and gift shops, so the idea of a Marc Jacobs inspired book store complete with art/fashion books, unique gifts, and accessories sounded like the perfect match for me.

I went there specifically asking for a photography book by one of my favorite street bloggers.   The sales associate nonchalantly replied that they didn’t carry the book–as if this question was annoyingly stupid and beneath her–after all, I was disturbing her hard at work (reading) and I was the only customer in there.

Despite my disappointment, I decided to browse for something else that might catch my eye.  No less than 30 seconds later I hear over speakers some yelling and the “N” word…twice.

I quickly shut the book and look behind me… the source of the yelling was coming from a mid-day screening of “Shaft” (It could have been”Superfly” or ‘Dolemite”; I’m not up on my 70’s Blaxploitation flicks).

If I’m hanging out in a bookstore, I’m not trying to hear all of this as part of my shopping entertainment-despite my being de-sensitized by an earlier viewing of RZA’s “Man With the Iron Fists” that afternoon.

The whole scenario just turned me off.  I pulled out every move from my heavy arsenal of passive aggressive tricks: slamming the book closed, shaking my head, giving the salesclerk EXTREME side eye while hightailing it outta there with a heavy sigh.

I’m a huge fan of Marc Jacobs and would really hope that he wouldn’t be cool with this (artistic expression or not), and a recent Pharrell book signing doesn’t give you a pass either.  So, I sadly have to give a big “Digitus Infamis” to BookMarc in West Hollywood for shopping experience that was a non-starter.

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Mickalene Thomas, "Mama Bush (your love keeps lifting me) higher and higher"  Photo c/o Lehmann Maupin

Mickalene Thomas, “Mama Bush (your love keeps lifting me) higher and higher” Photo c/o Lehmann Maupin

Mickalene Thomas has a unique style that is nothing short of bodacious. Her colorful, glitter infused portraiture work is commands your attention and invites you delve into a deeper understanding of the person that is being portrayed.  Her use of interiors and recent pivot to abstract portraits were a mystery to me because I couldn’t connect the dots to the disparate mediums she employs in her practice.

Today I watched Thomas’ ode to her mother/muse in HBO’s 2014 documentary, “Happy Birthday to a Beautiful Woman”.  It was such an amazingly beautiful tribute that exemplifies the complexities of our relationships are and how those relationships shape who we are today.

I also saw an old ArtNet interview with the artist and it perfectly connected the dots between the work that defined her career, what inspired it and how it influences other areas of her creative practice.

I could pull from my own imagination, but I think reality is so much more raw and there’s so much more information and discomfort and excitement and happiness and beauty and all of these layers that you can pull from that I find exciting.”

In researching Thomas I learned that her interior work, which is strongly rooted in 70’s wood paneling, colorful, floral tapestries, shag rugs and dayglo, played a critical role in her photography and paintings.  The artistic forms are so strongly linked together that Thomas felt the need to recreate the conditions under which her portraits were created.  This was a critical element in understanding the portrait as a whole.  In this sense the surroundings were as much of a creative muse as the subjects themselves.

The documentary is under 30 minutes, if you don’t have access to HBO Docs, find a way to subscribe!

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Some people see things as they are and say, why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?”~George Bernard Shaw

You know, some people may say it is unreasonable to charge a fee to attend an early preview of a museum that still doesn’t have operable indoor plumbing (especially when said museum will be free to the public when it opens in the fall), but Eli Broad prefers paths that lead to unconventional thinking.

(That’s why this George Bernard Shaw quote is one of his favorites.)

On February 15th, 3,500 lucky people seized the opportunity to get a glimpse inside Grand Avenue’s latest architectural showpiece (tickets for the preview sold out in 30 minutes).  After experiencing the space I am looking forward to seeing the Broad’s complete vision come to fruition in the fall.  Here’s what I love about the space in its current state after attending the preview last Sunday:

1.  The Veil (“The Honeycomb”, “The Asian Pear”, “The Cheese Grater”): The natural light that floods the 3rd floor gallery from the hundreds of skylights that span the acre of column free space was stunning and to see the expanse of the space really gives the Broad a tremendous amount of flexibility for curating The Broad’s collection in the future.

2.  The Glass Elevator (“The Shaft”):  If you’ve been up the BCAM elevator at LACMA then you know that Eli Broad has a preference for grand entrances.  The Broad features a tubular glass elevator and a cavernous escalator that takes visitors from the 1st to the 3rd floor.

3.  The Oculus (“The Glory Hole”). While the Honeycomb veil is a distinctive architectural feature, the fluidity of the veil forming the eye on the southern wall is an unexpected focal point.  While attempting to get a picture of this, a lamp-post was blocking the shot.  As two gentlemen were admiring the view across Grand Avenue I proclaimed “they gotta get rid of that lamp-post.”  At that point one of the men said, “yes we need to work on that”.  And in a classic case of hindsight, I now realize that I may have inadvertently offended Charles Renfro, one of the named architects at Diller Scoffido + Renfro,  the firm responsible for the building’s design.  Just add that to the long list of awkward art moments I’ve amassed over the years, but that’s a post for another day…

Perhaps the most unconventional aspect of the space was how the museum chose to highlight it.  While the Glass Elevator and escalators were not operable, visitors rode an enormous freight elevator that opens up to a panoramic view of the 3rd floor gallery.  The temporary exhibit “Sky-Lit”, Volume, Light and Sound offered two different mediums for the public to physically transform the space into a dynamic organism.  Speakers flanked the southern end of the gallery space where various recorded sounds played softly in the background both competing and harmonizing with the hollow sounds of the  gallery and the enthusiastic chatter among visitors meandering around the expansive space.


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