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Abstract Painting: Rich in Content

Posted by pangaeaa on November 13, 2008

Written by Staff Writer for PaintingTechnique.Org

Abstract painting should contain subject matter that will hold the attention of the beholder and should evoke an emotional response. Abstract art evokes many different types of reactions in people that include derisive remarks such as even a ten year old could have done that. To this the artist may retort that it requires some degree of mental ability to appreciate abstract paintings.

Abstract Painting Technique One needs to comprehend the elements as well as color and textures used in the abstract painting and also understand how all these elements interact with one another. Viewers of abstract paintings should try to figure out what the painting represents or looks like instead of finding something that ought to emerge out of the painting Also worth considering is whether the title is appropriate to what the painting is all about..

Thought Provoking Work of Art, But Frequently Depicting Beauty as Well

The abstract painting artist should worry about making the painting look beautiful as well as making the intentions of the abstract painting convey something special. The abstract painting should also be able to get the beholder to view the abstract painting and extract a meaning from it and also try to get the anticipated interpretation of the painting conform to the title.

It may not be widely known but abstract painting is not an invention of the twentieth century, as one would imagine. Early Jewish as well Islamic religion prohibited depicting human beings. This resulted in Jewish as well as Islamic cultures developing a different standard of decorative arts and calligraphy is one example of this.

Abstract painting artists have been influenced by theosophy that concerns itself with thought forms used to illustrate the psychic forces that are a result of emotions, music and other events.

Abstract painting artists place emphasis on visual sensations in their abstract paintings frequently through included harmonious arrangements of colors.

Abstract painting is a form of art in which the objects in the real world are not depicted and instead use is made of color and form in non-representational ways. Abstract paintings may elucidate real forms in simplified or reduced ways that keep only the illusion of the original subject and are often claimed to set in color something of the immutable and intrinsic aspects of the depicted object.


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With Software, Artists Put Yet Another Spin on the Presidential Debates

Posted by pangaeaa on October 8, 2008

Published: October 6, 2008,
NY Times

For the audience who watched the first presidential debate from the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston last month, no post-debate analysis was necessary.

As the candidates spoke, brightly colored columns of type floated across the screen, zipped from side to side and broke apart to form complex shapes, like molecular models. All the data you could imagine about the conversation, and more — from how many times the candidates used the word “finance” to their favorite pronouns — were instantly collated and shuffled. It could have been a hyper-detailed PowerPoint presentation.

The visuals were the work of Sosolimited, three young media artists who present live “remixes” of the debates between Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama, using software they wrote to rearrange and display information culled directly from the broadcast. They are on a short tour to remix the broadcasts of the two remaining debates, coming to the Art Directors Club in Manhattan on Tuesday and the Corcoran Gallery in Washington on Oct. 15.

For the members of Sosolimited, their remix, called “ReConstitution 2008,” is an act both of political engagement and mischief, examining the language of politics while gently mocking its repetitious nature with a kind of scorecard.

“In a sports broadcast, there’s the idea of the playback, where these statistics are flashed up on the screen,” said Eric Gunther, 30. “We do a similar thing here, but more along the lines of language. You’re watching these words getting cataloged as they’re coming out of their mouths.”

Mr. Gunther and his colleagues, John Rothenberg and Justin Manor, are graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and work at the same Boston design firm, where they create what they call dynamic interactive installations for museums and corporate clients. Others might call it magic: For a Beatles-theme bar at the Mirage in Las Vegas (where Cirque du Soleil’s Beatles show, “Love,” plays), they created an interactive display that allows patrons to draw light patterns on their tables.

“When our clients come to us,” said Mr. Manor, 30, “that’s how they see us: O.K., you guys are the geeky M.I.T. magicians who make the impossible happen.”

The members of Sosolimited perform around Boston as high-tech D.J.’s, mixing visuals with music, and four years ago they came up with the idea of doing instant data analysis on the Bush-Kerry debates, likening their work to an instantaneous version of interactive infographics on the Web. “It maintains the immediacy of TV,” Mr. Gunther said.

It caught on, and for the current election cycle they have overhauled their software for an array of new tricks, like displaying antonyms of the words the candidates say. (“General Petraeus” becomes “Specific Petraeus.”) They often alter or remove one visual element of the broadcast while keeping others intact, making animated silhouettes of the candidates, for instance, to draw attention to their body language. Other times they are more playful, turning the candidates’ heads into sky-blue bubbles that move around the screen.

The members say they are nonpartisan.

“We don’t approach this show with a specific bias, other than that we want to present the underlying information,” said Mr. Rothenberg, 29. “If there’s any real attitude behind it, it’s about exposing you to what’s beyond the media, stripping away the production that goes into politics.”

David Henry, director of programs at the Institute of Contemporary Art, said the performance exposed layers of media between the viewer and the candidates, like CNN’s graphic that showed how Democrats, Republicans and independents in the audience reacted to each candidate’s words.

“On CNN there’s already a kind of manipulation,” Mr. Henry said. “Sosolimited are drawing your attention to it, and doing more so.”

Sosolimited’s sophisticated programming begins with low technology: the broadcast’s closed caption feed. From it words are sorted and rearranged, guided by their computer to follow certain words and phrases.

“We have a list of topics and keywords that we expect the candidates to talk about that was culled from their Web sites,” Mr. Rothenberg said. “Then we look at all the instances of a keyword, like health care, jobs, weapons. And spending — spending was a big one in the first debate.”

While performing, the members of the group appear in black suits and black sunglasses. They said their intention was to look like omniscient news anchors, but with the shades they look more like secret agents or spies.

“It’s a little bit of a clue to the audience about our mischievousness,” Mr. Gunther said. “It’s saying that yes, the stakes are high, and this is a serious subject matter. But we’re still going to have a little fun.”

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Painter Eyes Hip-Hop’s Titans

Posted by pangaeaa on August 29, 2008

Painter eyes hip-hop’s titans

Los Angeles Times
by Lynell George
August 31, 2008

The Forum Gallery
STATURE: Hip-hop artist Kanye West is among the subjects of painter Alex Melamid, previously renowned as a conceptual art rebel in Soviet Russia. His large paintings of the rappers are cast in amber light, recalling the work of Old Masters.
From Soviet realism with a twist to portraits of American rap stars might seem something of a leap — but not necessarily for Alexander Melamid.

The Russian-born artist has often been interested in creating more than a bit of political havoc. Known for decades for work that was both bold commentary and incisive satire, Melamid and his creative partner, Vitaly Komar, were renowned as conceptual art rebels in Soviet Russia and were also considered to be the architects of the Soviet Realist Pop Art movement. But in 2003, Melamid parted ways not just with Komar but also, it seemed, with the international scene.

As it happened, Melamid had simply turned another creative corner. His son, Dan “The Man” Melamid, a video director, had introduced him to hip-hop’s royalty — literally. From 2003 to 2005, Melamid spent time with a dozen of the business’ most famous icons, including rappers Kanye West, 50 Cent, Lil Jon, Snoop Dogg and Reverend Run and entrepreneur Russell Simmons. During their sessions together he both photographed and drew them, providing the basis for what would become a new series of paintings.

“Holy Hip-Hop!” is the result of Melamid’s close study and conversations. The portraits — rendered larger than life and cast in an amber light that references the Old Masters — find the figures all about their business: on the telephone, at the computer, ready to take a meeting, poised for performance. They are decorated with the trappings, or iconography, of their time — diamonds, cellphones, designer watches and shoes. The show, which premiered at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, is Melamid’s first solo exhibition and will be on view at the Forum Gallery in Los Angeles from Sept. 12 through Nov. 1.

— Lynell George

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Ancient Art, Served on a Present-Day Platter

Posted by pangaeaa on August 27, 2008

Monica Almeida
The New York Times

LOS ANGELES — The Latin American collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is back on view after three years’ absence. And the reinstallation opens with a piquant flourish in a display of ancient

Entrance to the newly installed “Latin American Art: Ancient to Contemporary” exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

The artist, Jorge Pardo, who was born in Cuba, is well known for blurring the lines between art, architecture and design. Several years ago he turned the lobby of the Dia building on West 22nd Street in Manhattan into an all-over grid of brightly colored tiles: it was like a bathhouse conceived by Mondrian. The Mountain Bar, a music club he opened in this city’s gallery-packed Chinatown, is distinctive for its blood-red walls and a hanging garden of sculptural lamps.

In his design for the Los Angeles museum’s Mesoamerican collection, he has outdone himself in buzzy inventiveness. He has also, to some degree, done in the art consigned to his visual care.

For the new setting, Mr. Pardo, 45, has covered the lower walls of three galleries with units of stacked fiberboard sheets. The horizontal sheets, thinly cut, alternate with empty spaces of the same size to create a continuous light-dark stripe pattern running through the rooms. The sheets have in addition been shaped with curves and undulations, so the cavelike walls swell organically outward and recede into niches that become display cases. A few free-standing stacks suggest biomorphic sculptural forms that are also pedestals for other sculptures.

Finally, Mr. Pardo has accessorized the space with complicated colors (yellowish burgundy, electric green), zany little chandeliers and thick curtains of a taffeta-type fabric. All have counterparts in his bar design.

As an introduction to the rest of the more straightforwardly presented Latin American collection, Mr. Pardo’s extravaganza does what it is supposed to do: pull you in the door. The stripes and bulges grab and hold the eye. The colors and curtains are like cartoon versions of the faux-period embellishments we’re used to in museums. Here those conventions assume a goofy, festive air, which makes you realize how tacky the originals can be.

The trouble is that the pre- Columbian art gets lost in the décor. The museum’s collection, though relatively new, is very fine. It has superb holdings in ceramics from West Mexico and individual objects from across the Mesoamerican world that would shine in any North American institution. Virginia Fields, the museum’s curator of pre-Columbian art, memorably showcased the collection in “Lords of Creation: The Origins of Sacred Maya Kingship” a few years ago, and has taken an intriguing thematic approach to it here.

But the logic of her arrangement becomes hard to follow because the art itself is hard to see. The stripes and curves distract from objects; the colors suddenly change their look. The green in particular leaches visually into terra-cotta sculptures, giving them a liverish cast. And why this green anyway? To evoke a primal jungle setting à la Quai Branly in Paris? If so, bad idea.

These days, design is a mainstream art-world hobbyhorse and political correctness is seriously uncool. (It always has been; people are just more relaxed about dissing it now.) So we’re probably not supposed to ask questions like: How come self-aggrandizing designs like Mr. Pardo’s, which obscure rather than enhance objects and their meanings, end up being applied to non-Western objects but only rarely to their Western counterparts?

Would the museum hang, say, Rembrandt or Degas or its stunningly yawnsome Broad collection in Mr. Pardo’s clamorous setting? If the answer is yes, great. By all means do it. Truly break some museological ground. But if the answer is no, or if there’s even a hesitation, the problem becomes obvious.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, like other museums, has begun to invite artists to design and organize shows. This is a fantastic idea, and the results can be inspired. John Baldessari’s “Magritte and Contemporary Art” there was; so was Kara Walker’s “After the Deluge” at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. With Mr. Pardo the case is both less and more complicated. He was asked only to provide a visual context, not to choose what it would hold. This may help explain why his installation seems detached from the art it is meant to serve and overwhelms it, producing the equivalent of a Mesoamerican group show inside, and a subsidiary to, a contemporary solo exhibition.

None of this amounts to a crisis. It’s just revealing about where we are now on the politically correct front, and it’s part of one museum’s learning curve. I like Mr. Pardo’s vivacious sensibility; I just think it is misapplied here. And there are many models available for how it might have been done otherwise. The last few decades have seen a revolution in Western institutional approaches to presenting non-Western cultures. The Museum for African Art in New York has led the way. So has the Fowler Museum at the University of California at Los Angeles, one of the city’s major and undersung cultural resources.

The Fowler’s recent “Mami Wata: Arts for Water Spirits in Africa and Its Diaspora,” organized by Henry John Drewal, was an object lesson in how exhibition design can be visually magnetic, object-centered and idea-clarifying; how it can deliver both a big thrill and a hard think. The Los Angeles museum is aware of this gold mine of a resource — it recently invited a Fowler curator, Mary Nooter Roberts, to create its first African art display. Perhaps it will encourage its future artist-designers to pay the Fowler a visit. Artists, more than any art lovers on earth, will love what they see.

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Great British Watercolors

Posted by pangaeaa on August 25, 2008

August 2, 2008;

New Haven and New York

An English friend maintains that the British are not a visual people. “We like words,” he says, “and gardens. That’s why all those British conceptual artists who do things with trees and rocks are so popular. But what we’re really good at is language. Look at our novelists and poets.” He may have a point, but visitors to “Great British Watercolors From the Paul Mellon Collection,” at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Conn., through Aug. 17, may have reason to doubt his pronouncement.

Seen last year at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, and the Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia, the exhibition was organized to honor Paul Mellon, the founder of the Yale Center, on the centennial of his birth (he died in 1999). Yet what the show really celebrates is not a connoisseur’s passion, nor even British mastery of a particular kind of painting, but the importance of English artists in transforming a medium once thought of as purely utilitarian into something appropriate to the demands of ambitious art — all in purely visual terms.

[Go to slideshow]

“Great British Watercolors” can be enjoyed simply as a miscellany of prime examples of the discipline. More than 80 works from the mid-18th to the mid-19th centuries provide a great deal to delight the eye. Some of the best-known British artists are represented: Richard Parkes Bonington, John Constable, Thomas Gainsborough, Thomas Girtin, Samuel Palmer and Joseph Mallord William Turner, for example, along with the satirist Thomas Rowlandson. But the Mellon collection is notably broad — only a fraction is represented in the exhibition — so the selection also pays homage to less familiar figures, known for their contribution to the evolution of the medium, artists such as Alexander Cozens, Cozens’s son John Robert, Paul Sandby and John Cotman. And there is a host of obscure but often gifted painters, including the irresistibly named Julius Caesar Ibbetson, Michael “Angelo” Rooker, and Anthony Vandyke Copley Fielding; the last, christened in honor of the Flemish-born 17th-century master and the Boston-born 18th-century portrait painter, was clearly destined for his chosen profession.

The closest we get to the words and language my friend claims dominate the British consciousness are the works by William Blake and Edward Lear, both equally accomplished as artists and writers. The exhibition’s Blakes include several sheets from an illustrated version of Thomas Gray’s poems, prepared as a birthday gift for the wife of the neoclassical sculptor John Flaxman; Blake surrounded pages from a printed edition of the poems, pasted on larger sheets of paper, with sinuous images tenuously related to such themes as “The Progress of Poesy.” Lear is represented by two fluent records of his travels in Egypt and the Holy Land, one with color notes written in for future reference.

[Watercolor Image]
Yale Center for British Art
William Blake illustrated Thomas Gray’s poems — such as ‘Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College,’ above — as a gift for the wife of the sculptor John Flaxman.

The subtext of “Great British Watercolors” is a history of the medium itself, in terms of both its reputation among artists and its technical possibilities, during the crucial century spanned by the selections on view. While water-based paint has a long history in Britain — the lavish manuscripts produced by English and Irish medieval monasteries were illuminated with watercolor — the earliest works in the exhibition demonstrate that in the 18th century, the medium was subservient to drawing. Renderings of picturesque landscapes, towns and monuments, both at home and abroad, executed with meticulous line, are enlivened with tinted washes.

Against these sharply focused images, Alexander Cozens’s washy, direct “fantastic landscapes” signal the beginning of a new way of painting on paper. A theorist, painter and teacher, famous for advocating working from the imagination, rather than from observation, Cozens suggested inventing images through free association. He advised starting pictures by laying in broad, monochrome washes and than turning the “blot,” as he called it, into an ideal landscape. (There’s an echo of Leonardo da Vinci’s recommendation that artists study the stains on walls for inspiration.) Cozens’s work was crucial to the acceptance of watercolor painting as serious art.

The exhibition’s lively Gainsboroughs, their loose strokes and washes heightened with chalk, further advance the cause of watercolor as a responsive painting medium, rather than as an adjunct to line. These improvisational landscape fragments, punctuated with sketchy carts and country folk, are both demonstrations of virtuosity and embodiments of the cult of sensibility — feeling — that dominated Britain in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and was mercilessly pilloried by Jane Austen.

Watercolor’s enhanced status was officially announced in 1804 with the first exhibition of the newly formed “Society of Painters in Water-Colours.” The exhibition makes clear the ambition of the society’s members. British watercolor painters used their portable, quick drying medium to address everything from domestic interiors and English beauty spots to still life and scenes of exotic travel. The best exploited the transparency of the medium to evoke the pale sun of an English spring, the cloudy skies of Northern Europe, the brilliance of the Mediterranean — and more, including the agonies of the Crimean War.

Constable and Turner are the stars of “Great British Watercolors,” their paintings tributes to the evocative power of pools of tone and subdued color. The Constables are sketchy studies, the Turners usually more finished, but both depend on rapid gestures, bold overlays, and, often, wiping or scraping. The luminosity and audacity of the Turners make their rather conventional subject matter irrelevant. A study of Crichton Castle, amid mountains, with a rainbow, is so apparently spontaneous that it’s like watching the artist at work.

In a sense, Turner’s whole career illustrates the thesis underlying “Great British Watercolors”: An accomplished recorder of notable places in Britain transformed himself into an internationally acclaimed painter of romantic, often fantastic, landscapes and seascapes. Until Sept. 21, that evolution can be traced in the retrospective “J.M.W. Turner” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. There’s a splendid selection of Turner’s paintings, including a stellar group of his uninhibited watercolors, both public and private, many of them even more brilliant and remarkable than those in New Haven, good as they are. See both exhibitions and then try to decide if the British are better at words than images.

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The art of naked vs. nude

Posted by pangaeaa on August 17, 2008

By Lennie Bennett, Times Art Critic
Is Carla Bruni naked or nude? • This photograph of her unclothed body has been widely circulated through the media and the Internet since it was sold to an anonymous collector at a Christie’s auction on April 10 for what was considered the wildly inflated sum of $91,000, after Christie’s estimated its worth between $3,000 and $4,000.

Naked versus nude may seem like a small, irrelevant distinction in a debate over the propriety of the photograph’s sale. But those two words represent important and very different ways not only in how we look at an image but how we judge its value and the value of those involved in its creation. And a recent shift has occurred in how we might perceive and judge the photograph of Carla Bruni.

It was taken in 1993 by Michel Comte, a respected commercial photographer, when Bruni was a top model. Many months ago, it was a minor player in the sale of 135 photographs owned by the distinguished German collector Gert Elfering, not in the same league as, say, those by Richard Avedon or Irving Penn, both of whom were also represented and whose photographs were valued in the $100,000 range. Christie’s assessment of the Bruni-Comte photograph seemed spot-on because Comte is still living, he isn’t in the highest ranks of photographers and the Bruni photo isn’t from a special or limited-edition. And several months ago Bruni, 40, was just an ex-model with a fairly successful singing career and a string of famous lovers (e.g. Mick Jagger). Then in February she married Nicholas Sarkozy, president of France.

You can guess what happened next.

After the Bruni-Sarkozy wedding, Christie’s suddenly elevated the image to the small group of special photographs used to promote the auction. Bidding at the event went through the roof with the anonymous collector finally snagging the print for $91,000. And Madame Sarkozy’s birthday suit was posted far more frequently on Web sites than the little gray suits from Dior she wore on a state visit to Britain that same week.

She and her husband reportedly feel victimized and exploited by the sale. Knee-jerk reaction would concur.

But let’s look at her response through the prism of art history. The naked/nude question is a subcategory of — and inevitably leads to — the Big Question: What Is Art?

Bruni’s photograph has made it a more potent question not based on the photograph’s merits or even who she was in 1993. Its value now seems based on who she has become, a personage rather than a person, someone with the potential to exert influence, even power, on an international, political level.

Here’s what the late Lord Kenneth Clark, one of the most respected art historians of the 20th century and maybe of all time, said about naked versus nude in his classic book from the 1950s, The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form:

“To be naked is to be deprived of our clothes, and the word implies some of the embarrassment most of us feel in that condition. The word ‘nude,’ on the other hand, carries, in educated usage, no uncomfortable overtone. The vague image it projects into the mind is not of a huddled, defenseless body, but of a balanced, prosperous, and confident body.”

The bottom line for Clark was that nude is art and naked is not: “… in the greatest age of painting (the Renaissance), the nude inspired the greatest works.”

Nude confers power; naked implies helplessness. In an ironic coda for Bruni, the elevation that has given her access to a power base has also been the agent of its potential loss.

If we believe she is naked, we agree with her that she has been victimized and exploited; if she is nude, we view her as the fortunate subject of a work of art whose physical form is celebrated and glorified. And, it’s important to remember, that in 1993 she was at the top of her game and had collaborated often with Comte for fashion magazines such as Vogue. She was no desperate naif persuaded to remove her clothes by a cheesy adventurer.

The Medicis, an Italian renaissance family who had their own broad power base, were unequivocal about the woman Botticelli painted for them in The Birth of Venus (c. 1482-1486) which you see here in a pose similar to Bruni’s. It’s believed to be a homage to Simonetta Cattaneo Vespucci, the greatest beauty of her day who was loved by Giuliano de Medici. Like Bruni, she wears no clothes. Unlike Bruni, Simonetta — and her rich and famous boyfriend — would have considered the portrait and public interest in it honorable things.

“Look at my woman!” it proclaims. “Isn’t she gorgeous!”

President Sarkozy has made, at the time of this writing, no comment about his wife’s portrait.

Lord Clark, in discussing naked and nude, did not take very seriously the ascension of photography as an art form in the latter part of the 20th century and the role it would play in the genre of nude portraiture. As we all know, a photograph today can be manipulated every bit as much as a painting. But it has the illusion of unadulterated reality which affects our sensibilities about it, especially in this instance, with an immediacy and intimate directness. A photograph can convey a feeling of voyeurism far more often than a painting or sculpture. That and its potential to be endlessly reproduced often distinguish it in people’s minds from paintings and sculpture.

Nor did Clark reckon with the pervasive influence of popular contemporary culture. I can’t think of any women who look more “balanced, prosperous or confident” than Playboy centerfolds and the gals who happily pull up their shirts on their Web sites. And the highly paid models who remove their clothes for respected photographers.

And while I would disagree with those who claim a Hustler photograph as art, I would argue their right to have different definitions of art from mine, just as I would defend others at the opposite end of the spectrum in their right to believe that no representation of the unclothed body is art, that Botticelli’s unclothed Venus is as naked as Venus the Stripper on MySpace.

More common is the middle ground of those who would be enchanted by Botticelli and appalled by Helmut Newton’s provocative, subtly sado-masochistic photographs that have been published in every high-end magazine in the world.

As a point of reference, Newton’s Tied-Up Torso, a photograph of a bare-chested woman in semi-bondage get-up, went for $109,000 at the auction.

I am, of course, using a few words out of context from Clark’s lengthy discussion of a classic art genre to make a point about how personal our ideas are about the question, what is art?

This auction was not about prurience or aberrant tastes. It contained some true photographic masterworks, some of them nudes, along with landscapes, portraits and still lifes.

Examples from the auction and what they sold for:

• Irving Penn’s portrait of a nude Gisele Bundchen, $193,000

• Avedon’s Bridget Bardot (face only), $181,000

• Horst’s unidentified model wearing a Mainbocher corset, $133,000

• Penn’s portrait of Picasso (fully clothed), $133,000

• Richard Avedon’s semi-nude of Lauren Hutton, $127,000

• Penn’s nude of Kate Moss, $97,000

• Herb Ritts’ nude of Alek Wek (probably the most revealing nude in the group), $25,000

• Albert Watson’s nude of Kate Moss, $21,250

• David Bailey’s portrait of John Lennon and Paul McCartney (fully clothed), $16,250

• Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s documentary photograph of the moon’s surface from their Apollo craft, $6,250

• Garry Fabian Miller’s seascape, $6,250

• Michel Comte’s portrait of Jeff Koons (fully clothed) $3,250

• Comte’s nude of Carla Bruni, $91,000.

I expect you’re seeing a pattern. Except for the last example, which is the anomaly.

It’s an undistinguished photograph of a pretty girl in an awkward, postmodern pose, taken after a shoot for Italian Vogue according to Comte, the kind of outtake common with models and photographers who are comfortable with each other. It looks quickly and casually made with none of the care taken to pose and compose an image that you see in many other photographs from the auction. And, according to a description by Christie’s, it is unsigned and has no reference to the number of prints Comte has made of the image, unlike almost all other high-priced photographs in the auction which are part of very small, beautifully made limited editions. It was in the lowest category of Christie’s estimates for those reasons.

When my editors and I talked about this story, I argued hard for inclusion of the complete photograph of Carla Bruni. They decided against it (the naked/nude thing again).

Now I believe they were right.

I can only hope Anonymous Collector bought it for the best reason in the world, because he loved it.

I’m skeptical.

I can imagine a scenario in which the French president and first lady go on some state visit and encounter Anonymous Collector who will say to her, “Oh, Carla, how nice to see you in clothes!”

I can also image a scenario in 10, 20 or 30 years, when Carla Bruni is no longer a personage and Anonymous Collector will realize that this was not investment art.

If the photograph had sold for $4,000, Carla Bruni would be nude.

At $91,000, Carla Bruni is naked.

Lennie Bennett can be reached at (727) 893-8293

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Nike’s New Community of Artists

Posted by pangaeaa on July 27, 2008

Posted by: Helen Walters


Everyone’s been talking about the Nike Plus community of runners and athletes for years now. It was a really smart use of technology which displayed its creators’ grasp of how to tune into social networks in an appropriate and useful fashion. Now Nike’s at it again, with the 1/1 program.

This is more of a stretch — an attempt to build a community of artists around the Nike brand and the theme of football (soccer). People join the 1/1 community and submit a football-themed piece of artwork which is then displayed in the online gallery (which has a bit of an annoyingly complex interface, but bear with it). 11 winners will be shown at a real-world exhibition in Basel, alongside the work of 11 professional creatives. One will be used on a limited edition pair of shoes.

The whole thing is being curated by the uber-hot fashion/design/creative site, ShowStudio, pioneered by photographer Nick Knight, which has been at the forefront of multimedia experimentation for many years now. They picked the 11 pros, including the designer, Dominic Wilcox, whose stunning case for a pair of Nike shoes and sculpture (both made from toy plastic football figures) are shown above and after the jump.

It’s a smart move for Nike, whose brand has worked hard to align with the creative community. In this instance, the community aspect of the program is hosted on Myspace, so no need to build a costly backend system. And while the quality of the resulting artwork will surely be mixed, it’s a really fun, loose and open project. Meantime, check out another of Wilcox’s pieces here…


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National Endowment for the Arts Announces New Artists In The Workforce Study

Posted by pangaeaa on July 24, 2008

Study provides the first look at 21st century labor trends among working artists

For immediate release
June 12, 2008

Sally Gifford

Washington, DC — Today, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announces the release of Artists in the Workforce: 1990-2005, the first nationwide look at artists’ demographic and employment patterns in the 21st century. Artists in the Workforce analyzes working artist trends, gathering new statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau to provide a comprehensive overview of this workforce segment, its maturation over the past 30 years, along with detailed information on specific artist occupations.

“Artists now play a huge but mostly unrecognized role in the new American economy of the 21st century,” said NEA Chairman Dana Gioia. “This report shows how important American artists are to both our nation’s cultural vitality and economic prosperity of our communities.”

Numbering almost two million, artists are one of the largest classes of workers in the nation, only slightly smaller than the U.S. military’s active-duty and reserve personnel (2.2 million). Artists now represent 1.4 percent of the U.S. labor force. While Artists in the Workforce is not an economic impact study, it does report the average income of various artist categories. Based on those statistics, artists earn an aggregate income of approximately $70 billion annually. The study compares artists with the labor force in general, reporting on factors such as geographic distribution, racial, ethnic, and gender composition, employment status, age, and education level. Among the key findings:

Demographic trends

  • Between 1970 and 1990, the number of artists more than doubled, from 737,000 to 1.7 million – a much larger percentage gain than for the labor force as a whole. Between 1990 and 2005, the growth of artists slowed to a 16 percent rate, about the same as for the overall labor force.
  • Women remain underrepresented in several artist occupations. Men outnumber women in architecture, announcing, music, production, and photography. Women outnumber men in the fields of dance, design, and writing.
  • Like the larger labor force, the artist population is becoming more diverse. The proportion of Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian artists grew from about nine percent of artists in 1990 to almost 15 percent by 2005.

Geographic distribution

  • Opportunities for artistic employment are greater in metropolitan areas. More than one-fifth of all U.S. artists live in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Washington, and Boston. Half of all artists live in 30 metropolitan areas.
  • Unique regional concentrations emerge. New Mexico has the highest share of fine artists, Vermont has the highest proportion of writers, and Tennessee, the highest proportion of musicians.

Employment and income

  • Artists are entrepreneurial – 3.5 times more likely to be self-employed.
  • Artists are underemployed – one-third of artists work for only part of the year.
  • Artists generally earn less than workers with similar education levels. The median income from all sources in 2005 was $34,800 for artists, higher than the $30,100 median for the total labor force, and lower than the $43,200 for all professionals.

Education level

  • Artists are more educated. Artists are twice as likely to have a college degree as other U.S. workers.
  • The share of degree-holding artists rose between 1990 and 2005.
  • Among artist occupations with the highest educational attainment levels are architects, writers, and producers.

In addition, the report profiles 11 artist occupations, including actors; announcers; architects; art directors, fine artists and animators; dancers and choreographers; designers; entertainers and performers; musicians; photographers; producers and directors; writers and authors. Each occupation profile describes key characteristics such as median age and income, and includes data on employment sectors, such as non-profit, business, or self-employed. Artists in the Workforce also features 60 supporting tables with detailed information about artists by state, region, and metropolitan areas, gender, racial, and ethnic designations, and other categories.

“This report brings cohesion to a large, diverse, and important constituency served by the NEA,” said Sunil Iyengar, NEA Director of Research and Analysis. “It recognizes artists as a distinct and dynamic component of the total labor force.”

Artists in the Workforce assembled data from primary sources such as the U.S. Census Bureau’s 1990 and 2000 decennial censuses and the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) averages for 2003-2005. This report is the first attempt to study artists by using ACS data. The study focuses on Americans who named an artist occupation as their primary job. It is estimated that 300,000 Americans have secondary employment as artists.

NEA Office of Research and Analysis
Artists in the Workforce is the latest offering from the NEA Office of Research and Analysis, which has conducted authoritative and comprehensive research on artist workforce patterns and other subjects for more than 30 years. The NEA Research Division issues periodic research reports and briefs on significant topics affecting artists and arts organizations. Artists in the Workforce and other reports are available in print and electronic form in the Research section of the NEA website,

About the National Endowment for the Arts
The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the Arts Endowment is the largest annual national funder of the arts, bringing great art to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities, and military bases.

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A Canvas of Wood, Chain Saws as Brushes

Posted by pangaeaa on July 23, 2008

Chris Becker for The New York Times


Published: July 23, 2008

HANCOCK, Me. — Ray Murphy’s art is dirty, dangerous and very, very loud.

Using only a chain saw, Mr. Murphy creates animals and figures from huge tree trunks and meticulously carves numbers on toothpicks and Popsicle sticks. When he is finished, so is the piece — he refuses to sand, varnish or paint anything he makes.

“I am a sawyer, period. I use chain saws and refuse to pick up carving tools,” said Mr. Murphy, 65. “Real chain saw art is done with a chain saw.”

And for $10, anyone can see him make that art.

Mr. Murphy started a nightly chain-saw show last year, a 90-minute performance where he attacks pieces of wood with one of three chain saws. At each show he recruits a volunteer from the audience and makes him wear a belt with a wooden buckle, from which he carves something. So far everything has turned out fine.

The indoor show has an M.C. and is set to blaring music. Mr. Murphy works in a soundproof booth with clear plastic on one side; a suspended camera broadcasts close-up shots onto a projection screen. The chain saw comes precariously close to his long, wiry gray beard.

“It’s so unique that people don’t quite get it,” Mr. Murphy said.

His show comes as chain-saw carvings, and carvers are increasingly popular.

Jen Ruth, who books dozens of chain-saw artists at carving competitions across the country, said there were about 8,000 carvers nationwide.

“As an agent, I’ve seen a massive explosion in chain-saw art,” Ms. Ruth said. “A lot of people want to get into it because they think it’s cool and they’ll get rich real quick, which is not true.”

Most artists make their creations year-round and perform at competitions and fairs in the summer. But no one is doing the same thing as Mr. Murphy, Ms. Ruth said.

Mr. Murphy claims that he invented chain-saw art in 1953, when as an 11-year-old in a Wyoming logging family, he started carving animals from logs. He kept carving through his teenage years, in college, during stints at various logging companies and in the Forest Service, and ultimately at his own logging business.

Mr. Murphy and his wife settled in the Black Hills of South Dakota. In 1972 he bought an old Greyhound bus and hit the road, driving all over North America to make and sell his wares.

The front of the bus was a showroom; the back was a bunk; the chain saws were kept below. Mr. Murphy hooked a trailer holding logs to the back because not everywhere had an abundance of timber.

“There was a lean-to shade off to the side, and I set up work between the two doors. People went in the front door and out the back door,” Mr. Murphy said. “People knew who I was. In some backwoods places, people stopped me along the way to buy sculptures in the middle of the night, 3, 4 in the morning. It’s a strange thing.”

Mr. Murphy went on to fame, appearing on “Wide World of Sports” on ABC in 1982 and carving the alphabet into pencils at the Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The museum still displays many of them, its archivist, Edward Meyer, said.

Mr. Murphy returned to the Black Hills in the early 1980s, but the area had become more commercial. He and his family decided to drive east to “wherever God takes us,” which was this town of 2,100 that serves as one of the gateways to Acadia National Park.

Business in Maine went well — so well, he said, that people bought his creations faster than he could make them. He socked away the money he made to fulfill his dream of performing with a chain saw every night.

He moved his shop from a side street to busy Route 1, and spent $250,000 building a theater for his shows. Rows of bleacher seating look onto Mr. Murphy’s plexiglass-covered stage.

“This is my dream,” Mr. Murphy said outside the bus, which now holds newspaper clippings, awards and other memorabilia from his carving career. As 7 p.m. — show time — approached, Mr. Murphy got antsy.

“Anyone here yet?” he asked.

So far this summer, attendance has been sparse, but the show goes on. On a recent Tuesday night, the Schaffers, a family from Virginia who know Mr. Murphy, stopped by to say hello and stayed for the show.

“The dude knows his stuff,” said Peter Schaffer, who attended with his sons, Jesse, 13, and Harris, 15, and his wife, Lindsay Harris.

Mr. Murphy got into the booth and started carving. Soon, a large log became a table and chairs, with a hamburger and fries atop the table. Then he meticulously tackled a piece of wood using a smaller chain saw, his face close. Out popped a small ladybug, which Mr. Murphy brought out and put on a dime.

The show continued for about an hour and a half, with Mr. Murphy carving initials on a nervous photographer’s belt buckle, a moon and a sign that said “the end.” The show was not his best, he said, because the sound system failed and he was a bit nervous about it.

Mr. Murphy is not worried about attendance, though. If last year is any indication, the crowds do not really start until mid-July, and at one 2007 show there were 50 people. But regardless of the number in the audience, Mr. Murphy will keep performing.

“It’s experimental, nobody’s done this before,” Mr. Murphy said. “I’m kind of one of them characters willing to step off the deep end of the plank and test the waters.”

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Beginning to Draw

Posted by pangaeaa on July 19, 2008


Acquiring a solid foundational skill-set for drawing takes about three to six months of dedicated study and practice.

In your initial study the most important skill to be developed is the ability to strike the arabesque with a consistent accuracy of shape and proportion.

Everything else builds upon and is a refinement of this one all-important skill.

The critical matrix of skills that the beginner artist needs to acquire is the ability to accurately assess proportion and shape and the understanding of rendering plastic form (which is the illusion of 3-dimensionality in realist drawing).

Accurately assessing and drawing an object’s outside shape is called striking the arabesque.

Other terms for this are contour, mise en trait, and outline. I prefer the term arabesque as it implies a dynamic gestural rhythm imparting a sense of life into one’s drawing.

Acquiring the ability to consistently strike an accurate arabesque is the singular foundation upon which your drawing and painting skills are subsequently built and honed.

For the beginner this is the first important skill to be learned.

This all-important skill is easily learned by working through a series of deceptively simple exercises that quickly build up your powers of observation and spatial awareness.

The next drawing lesson for the beginner is to learn how to accurately gauge the internal proportions of their subject. This is establishing, or fixing, the placement of the major land-marks. In portrait drawing this would be the features (eyes, nose, hairline, etc.).

Once the beginner has a working competency in striking the arabesque and fixing the landmarks in their drawing the subsequent skill to be developed is rendering tone. Rendering tone, more commonly known as shading, is what creates the illusion of 3-dimensional reality in your drawing.

Rendering tone convincingly requires the drawing skills of blocking in, cross-hatching, edging (soft & hard), understanding the effects of light, lifting out and stumping in.

This illusion of 3-dimensional reality is called plasticity. Plasticity is defined as giving form to an object.

The artist lacking these skills will quickly realize their importance as they continue to struggle with their drawing over and over again.

Do you find yourself struggling with the same issues in every drawing? Is the proportion in your drawing always a bit off, or the shape doesn’t look quite right. Is your shading (tone) scratchy and unconvincing? These drawing problems are the same for every beginner.

The critical foundational skills of accurately striking the arabesque and convincingly rendering tone can be acquired – when properly taught.

And this is the important distinction.

As a beginner your initial focus should be on acquiring the drawing skill of striking the arabesque. This is a two-part process: first, you need to learn how to accurately adjudge proportion; second, assessing shape is the next step.

Possessing the singular skill of accurately striking an arabesque is the most important lesson the beginner can acquire. It is this skill that most people equate with drawing ‘talent’. Yet striking an arabesque is easily learned.

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