Saturday, December 8, 2007

Walker Painted/Sillhouetted Big

Kara Walker was born in Stockton, California in 1969. At the age of 13 she moved to Atlanta, Georgia the pronounced racial division had a major impact on her and ultimately informed her work. She received a BFA from the Atlanta College of Art in 1991 and an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1994. In 1997 at the age of 27 Walker became the youngest recipient of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's "genius" grant. She has exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. The 2007 Walker Art Center–organized exhibition Kara Walker: My Complement, My Oppressor, My Enemy, My Love is the artist's first full-scale U.S. museum survey. She currently lives in New York, where she is a professor of visual arts in the MFA program at Columbia University.

Walker utilizes various techniques and media including painting and drawing, light projection and written text, to her well-known cut-paper silhouette installations, video and performances, like in Cut. Through her silhouetted figures she explores the representation and stereotypes of race, gender, sexuality and identity, as well as, her own place and connection to these issues. To create a silhouette Walker draws the image with a pencil and cuts the paper with an X-Acto knife and the images are adhered to paper, canvas, wood or directly to the wall with wax. The silhouettes are often part of a larger mural that creates a narrative that surrounds viewers on a life-size scale, like her piece Slavery! Slavery! The murals create a panoramic all-encompassing effect that is similar to technology that was popular at the end of the 19th century. In recent works like Darkytown Rebellion, Walker uses overhead projectors to cast color onto the walls and her silhouetted figures. When the viewer walks into the room, their body casts a shadow onto the walls becoming part of Walker’s narrative.

Walker’s work confronts the subject of race and racial stereotypes prevalent in society. For example, in Endless Conundrum, An African Anonymous Adventuress her precise and often exaggerated drawings of facial features, body shapes, and costume use line and form to signify the ethnicity of her subjects and comment on the way race is used to define, categorize and other individuals. Walker uses black paper on white walls, thus eliminating the need for her to create skin tones. This plays upon well-established stereotypical images in the collective mind of viewers that allow the race of characters to be identifiable through caricature.

Through her work Walker presents a complex exploration of taboo issues of sexuality, desire, pleasure, violence and shame. Work like Allegory and scenes within her larger narrative murals have elements or images dealing with such taboo issues. Sexually explicit behavior and violence are presented with meticulous clear imagery; which has created controversy around her work.

The historical setting for much of Walker’s work is the American pre—Civil War antebellum South. She often draws upon or references literature of the time period and minstrel shows of the 1830s-40s. The combination of the realism of slavery and its history and the fictional space created in her references to historical romance novels complicated Walker’s depiction of history. In much of her work, for example, Gone, An Historical Romance of a Civil War as it Occurred Between the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart fact, fiction, and fantasy are intertwined; exaggerated truths and fictionalized events are presented as history lessons that viewers must sort out and decide which elements are true. Through this decoding of the truth Walker comments on the way that official history is just as constructed as her stories. Issues and questions of power are raised, such as, who has the power to write history and who has the power to write others out of history? Whose voices are left out of the re-telling of history?

Walker’s tone in very satirical and critical which is evident in her use of language in the titles of her work. The titles also show the refernces to literature like Gone With the Wind or Uncle Tom’s Cabin. In The End of Uncle Tom and the Grand Allegorical Tableau of Eva in Heaven she draws upon a popular novel and re-tells the narrative to expose the complex, ambiguous and unsettling subject of racial representation and the history of slavery and racism in the U.S. She explores the complexity of race, gender and sexuality with critical commentary that forces the viewer to question and re-evaluate representation and history.

Ritchie Painted Big

Matthew Ritchie was born in London in 1964, but he has lived in New York for much of his adult life and has been very active in the art scene there. He attended the Camberwell School of Art in London, and then Boston University. He is often categorized as a painter, but Ritchie also makes light-box drawings, floor-to-wall installations, freestanding sculpture, web sites, and short stories. Drawing is central to his work. He scans his drawings into the computer, and then he blows them up, takes them apart, changes their size and shape, or turns them into digital games. Since his drawings are transformed into digital images, they can also be shared and executed by others.

Through his art, Ritchie works to describe the universe’s formation and the “attempts and limits of human consciousness to comprehend its vastness.” Much of his work is expressive of information (as subject), and in particular he deals with the idea of information existing on the surface of things. When asked what his work is ultimately about, Ritchie has replied simply, “life is as complicated as it appears.”

I think his work clearly expresses the overwhelming, sublime, complicatedness of the world. The way he works with many layers and clusters of forms that all seem different, but interweave to create a cohesive entity, is descriptive of this notion. His style has an explosive quality to it, and I think of Ritchie’s work as being at the forefront of a growing contemporary aesthetic.


Matthew Ritchie on ART 21:

“The Hard Way”:

“Proposition: Player”:

Monday, November 26, 2007

Mehretu Painted Big

Julie Mehretu was born in 1970 in Ethiopia. She was raised in Michigan and was educated at Kalamazoo College and at Rhode Island School of Design. She now lives and works in New York City where she shares her studio with her partner, who also an artist, Jessica Rankin.

Mehretu uses signs and symbols and pairs them with architectural imagery to create her elaborate paintings. Mehretu's work combines maps, urban-planning grids, and architectural forms to convey historical narratives and fictional landscapes. Mehretu creates paintings that combine abstract forms with the familiar, such as the Roman Coliseum and floor plans from international airports. She is simultaneously engaged with the formal concerns of color and line and the social concerns of power, history, globalism, and personal narrative. According to Mehretu, she is interested in "the multifaceted layers of place, space, and time that impact the formation of personal and communal identity."

The underlying structure of her work consists of socially charged public spaces, such as, government buildings, museums, stadiums, schools, and airports, all drawn in the form of maps and diagrams. After building a base of several layers of these structures, Mehretu maps out her large swirling clouds. Much like the human population of a geographical area, these large areas of marks are comprised of individuals – individuals who are capable of social change. These clouds become tribes, nations, and entire cultures capable of growth, trade, movement, conflict or extinction.

What the viewer can appreciate about the work is that in spite of its complexity, Mehretu strives to give her viewer some sort of entry point - whether it is an architectural element or a specific color or shape. The “Stadia” series does just that. The architectural elements in the “Stadia” triptych are tracings of every stadium imaginable – from ancient amphitheaters to the most recently constructed sports arenas. These structures are capable of housing an infinitely large audience and serves as the theater for some super spectacle. Because the stadium renderings are renderings not technical drawings, the Stadia series begins as literally a collection of viewpoints. Strung across the open fields are rows and rows of pennants, flags and abstract shapes and colors that reference elements from the flag of every nation on earth. There is something for all spectators regardless of city or country of origin. Somewhere in these rows of colors, there is an element or structure a spectator can recognize and relate to.


Renegade Delirium

Renegade Excavation

Stadia 1

Stadia 2

Stadia 3

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Saville Painted Big

Jenny Saville was born in Cambridge, England in 1970. She earned her BA in Fine Art from Glasgow School of Art in Scotland in 1992. During this time she was awarded a scholarship to study at the University of Cincinnati. She has been featured in multiple group exhibitions, including the Young British Artists III at the Saatchi Gallery in London and solo shows in New York. Her paintings are often of the body in some state of vulnerability, whether a nude or the body after a physical trauma. These works are monumental in scale and confront the viewer with images that contest conventional ideals of beauty, conventions of sexuality, transformation, mutilation and violence to the body. Saville states, “I like the spaces that a large scale offers. The different space of encountering a painting from a distance to being very close up to a painting, the physical relationship of your body to that scale of object and mark – making.” Looking at her work close – up the physical application of the paint can be seen. The sculptural layering of paint and color is dense and thick in certain areas as it corresponds to the density of the flesh of the subject. The marks are made in patchy and blotchy strokes that create volume and weight to the images.
The body, specifically the female body, is prevalent in her paintings. In Branded and Plan she confronts the issues of body image, gender and questions the standards of beauty in society. In Plan she uses her own body as subject with contour lines draw on the surface. The lines are to resemble the marks drawn on before the body a surgical procedure, such as, liposuction. The vulnerability of and ability to alter the body are highlighted in this work. By depicting physical imperfections Saville challenges the idea of beauty, as it is associated with the male ideal of the female form and how imperfections and individualism can be beautiful.
Saville works from photographs, textbook illustrations, forensic science books and other sources that include watching surgical procedures. She studies how the body is composed in order to paint it more accurately. In later work, Saville focuses on issues and imagery of trauma, violence, disease and death like in Knead and Reverse where the body has endured an act of trauma and Torso 2 where a carcass is seen as an example of violence that has ended in death. She paints the flesh as it has been mutilated, bloodied and bruised. The images are very intimate depicting the body in a state of vulnerability. The graphic depiction and large scale nature of the work adds to the images being aggressive and disturbing by being so large and unavoidable.
Saville also explores the body being in a state of in between-ness. In between gender like in Passage where the subject is a Transvestite and where gender is not fixed but negotiable and fluid. Also, in the Knead and Reverse the body is in a state of being in between life and death.
There is a parallel between Saville’s choice of imagery of bodies that have been altered or manipulated and the way in which she manipulates the paint to create the physicality of the body and flesh. Saville is able to use paint to create a sensory quality to her work, as well as, uses the images to explore larger themes and ideas.








Kiefer Painted Big

Anselm Kiefer was born on March 8, 1945, in Donaueschingen, Germany, during the final days of the collapse of the Third Reich. Being a boy growing up in postwar Germany, he would then use these feelings and influences of the German burden of the Nazi legacy in his work. As a young man, he studied French and law, but then persued art as an academic study in Freiburg in the late 1960’s. He is well-known for a favorite technique of pouring a blob of melted lead onto an ashen canvas to heighten suggestions of incineration, and in making works in attempt to process the past, he has been liked to the movement called New Symbolism.
One of Kiefer’s most controversial of works is a series called Occupations, in which he portrayed himself dressed in a military uniform giving the Nazi salute. It was unsure whether Kiefer was alluding to the past with nostalgia or satirizing dreams for the Nazi empire. Kiefer says, “I do not identify with Nero or Hitler, but I have to reenact what they did just a little bit in order to understand the madness. That is why I make these attempts to become a fascist.” Occupations signaled Kiefer’s endeavor to use his vocation as an artist to explore his own identity and heritage, which is prevalent in most of his works.

Winter Landscape, 1970
Watercolor on paper, 16 15/16 x 14 3/16"

Heroic Symbols, 1969
Watercolor and gouache on paper, 6 1/2 x 6 3/8"

Heroic Symbols, 1969
Watercolor and gouache on paper, 22 x 16 1/2"

Kiefer’s early watercolors were an exploration of his identity, and a representation of his own human suffering and loneliness. Heroic Symbols consists of a self-portrait of Keifer giving the Nazi salute pasted on the same sheet as an image of the sky “wounded by shots.” Winter Landscape depicts a human head over a winter scene stained in blood. It was meant to represent the land stained by events in human history, perhaps also portraying Keifer’s painful personal guilt.

Father, Son, Holy Ghost, 1973
Oil and Charcoal on burlap, 114 x 74 3/4"
Ressurexit, 1973
Oil, acrylic, and charcoal on burlap, 114 3/16 x 70 7/8"
In 1972 and 1973, Keifer then started moving away from forest themes to taking up the physical surrounding of his studio as a motif. In Father, Son, Holy Ghost, He uses the structure of the attic or schoolhouse. The burning chairs are meant to represent the holy trinity. The spaces depicted in works such as are very psychologically charged and are a metaphor for the artist’s mind, where “conflict and contradiction are resolved through creation.”
Kiefer studied with Joseph Beuys in the 1970’s, and from him he learned the art of transforming materials such as straw, clay, lead, and shellac. Beuys also influenced Kiefer’s desire to create a dialogue with history and to employ myths, metaphors, and symbols as a means to engage and understand.
Your Golden Hair, Margarete, 1981
Oil, Emulsion, and Straw on Canvas, 51 3/16 x 67"

Margarete, 1981

Oil and Straw on Canvas, 110 x 149 5/8"

Shulamite, 1983
Oil, acrylic, emulsion, shellac, straw on canvas with woodcut, 114 3/16 x 145 11/16

Interior, 1981
Oil, acrylic, emulsion, straw, and shellac on canvas with woodcut, 113 x 122 7/16"

Kiefer also was very much influenced by Paul Celan’s writing, in terms of displaying German history and the horrors of the Holocaust. Celan’s “Death Fuge,” written in a Concentration Camp, was an influence for Kiefer’s work in the 1980’s, such as Margaret, Your Golden Hair, Margaret, and Shulamite. He would also write the titles large across the canvases in paintings such as these. The poem talks about the contrast between the blonde hair of the Aryan Margarete, and the dark ashen hair of the Jewish Shulamite. In Your Golden Hair, Margarete, straw is used to symbolize the German love of the land, but also to show the Nazi blonde ideal as grotesque. These natural elements also show fragility, which is in contrast to the stark subject matter. Shulamite shows a hellish environment of a Nazi memorial hall, the environment that consumed the girl Shulamite. Kiefer uses fire, both literally with the use of ashes, and representationally, in many of his works, as a theme as a destructive and redemptive force. In Interior, Kiefer painted the Mosaic room in Hitler’s Chancellery which has been charred with smoke, representing a direct descendant of the burned landscapes depicted in works such as Your Golden Hair, Margarete.
Kiefer has been compared to Jackson Pollock, in that his mature works were painted in an expressive style on a large scale. Margarete has been compared to Pollock’s Blue Poles (1952) in terms of composition.

Jerusalem, 1986
Canvas (in two parts) with steel and lead, 150 x 220 1/2"

Kiefer was interested in alchemy, or the attempting to change base materials such as lead into gold. Kiefer believed that the artist was an alchemist, with the ability to use raw materials such as paint and canvas to create profound and monumental works. After a visit to Israel, he painted Jerusalem, which can be seen as a metaphor for the city itself in that physically the painting has gone through many stages of life. Kiefer explained that he first created a “landscape painting” then covered areas with hot lead and more paint. He then peeled of much of the lead several months later, taking away color and leaving patches. The effect is of “skin that has been violently torn away in a fetishistic or even maniacal activity.” Iron skis come from the canvas symbolizing the “New World,” with gold leaf depicting the cosmos.
Jerusalem, with its use of gold leaf and allusion to the celestial and mythic, showed that by the mid-1980’s, he moved away from specifically German subject matter to more universal themes, such as the mythological.

To the Unknown Painter, 1983

Oil, emulsion, woodcut, shellac, latex, and straw on canvas

"A complex critical engagement with history runs through Anselm Kiefer's work. His paintings as well as the sculptures of Georg Baselitz created an uproar at the 1980 Venice Biennale: the viewers had to decide whether the apparent Nazi motifs were meant ironically or whether the works were meant to convey actual fascist ideas. Kiefer worked with the conviction that art could heal a traumatized nation and a vexed, divided world. He created epic paintings on giant canvases that called up the history of German culture with the help of depictions of figures such as Richard Wagner or Goethe, thus continuing the historical tradition of painting as a medium of addressing the world. Only a few contemporary artists have such a pronounced sense of art's duty to engage the past and the ethical questions of the present, and are in the position to express the possibility of the absolution of guilt through human effort."

Zim Zum, 1990

Acrylic, oil emulsion, shellac, ashes, and canvas on lead

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Rosenquist Painted Big

Rosenquist was considered an abstract painter, but not in the sense that we’ve been studying thus far. Early in his career, abstraction emerged as a sense of detachment, specifically the detachment that occurs in forgetting. Examples of his identity obscuring can be seen in Marilyn Monroe I and President Elect. Rosenquist believed that this process made his work both nonobjective and abstract, even though we was using imagery that was directly representational.

Rosenquist was born in 1933 in the Midwest, and grew up there most of his life. When he was a teenager, he was awarded a scholarship to study art at the Minneapolis School of Art at the Minneapolis Art Institute. From there he went on to the University of Minnesota, and received another scholarship to the Art Students League in New York.

Rosenquist soon became bored with his classes, since he already had the technical capabilities. He began work painting billboards for the next three years in Times Square and other areas of the city. This heavily influenced his work. Rosenquist had always believed he had an All-American background growing up, and this exposure to pop culture and the American economy runs through his body of work. It also allowed him to be comfortable working on such a large scale, generating some paintings that are over 86 feet long. (See F-111).

Rosenquist’s paintings have been seen as social and political commentaries. The President Elect was painted when John Kennedy was running against Eisenhower—Rosenquist wanted to ask what Kennedy was offering the American public, juxtaposing his next to “middle class” imagery. F-111 is often seen as an anti-war painting. Joan Collins Says is inspired by a personal encounter between the artist and the actress—she had promised a group of artist’s a show sponsored by Pepsi, and never followed through on it.

During the late sixties and early seventies, Rosenquist began creating full room installations deemed by some critics as “wrap around paintings”. He wanted to emphasize the mass of pop cultural images and advertisements we are bombarded with everyday. He also has an interest in sculptures, which he occasionally incorporates into his paintings, and is said to be a skilled printmaker as well.

In the 1980’s, Rosenquist transitioned into “crosshatched” paintings, which he saw as a more “collision-like” juxtaposition of images that his previous work. Partially inspired by Duchamp and Fontana, who literally slashed their canvases, Rosenquist believed that this effect would similarly give the illusion of a three dimensional space.

James Rosenquist’s career began in the age of abstraction and transitioned into the pop art movement. Even today, Rosenquist continues to create large scale paintings with cultural references in both advertising and the art world.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Salle Painted Big

Old Bottles, 1995
Oil and Acrylic on Canvas, 96 x 128"

Picture Builder, 1993
Oil and Acrylic on Canvas, 84 x 114"

Angels in the Rain, 1998
Oil and Acrylic on Canvas, 96 x 132"

Angel, 2001
Oil and Acrylic on Canvas and Linen, 72 x 96"

Full Swing, 2006-7
Oil on Linen, 85 x 64"