The Snapshot: Maya Bloch, Steve Kim, & Irina Werning

"The modern artist is working with space and time, and expressing his feelings rather than illustrating." Jackson Pollock

These three artists re-invent snapshots, which are images that people take of everyday life in order to preserve memories.
Untitled, acrylic and oil on canvas,  157.7 x 130 cm, 2010
Untitled, acrylic and oil on canvas, 120 x 110 cm,  2010
Maya Bloch lives and work in Tel Aviv, Israel. She is represented by Thierry Goldberg Projects, which is a gallery in NY that exhibits the work of a range of local and international artists working in a variety of medium.

Maya works with the themes of memory and estrangement. She often paints groups of people who could either be friends or family in compositions that evoke snapshots. For example, the first painting is a family dinner scene. Yet, the figures seem to be removed from their surroundings and in a zombie-like trance. They directly confront and look at the viewer. Maya bases her paintings off found photos. Her paintings capture the inconstancies and gaps in memories even though the purpose of snapshots is to capture a moment in time.

leashed dogs, oil on canvas, 36 x 36 in, 2008
trio, oil on canvas, 24 x 34, 2009
Steve Kim is a Korean American painter who lives and works out of LA. He graduated from Art Center College of Design in 2006 and received his MFA from Claremont in 2010. Steve has exhibited work around California and was featured in New American Paintings.

Steve also paints from snapshots. He depicts everyday scenes but removes information and renders large portions of the canvas blank. His paintings evoke the fluidity of memory. For example, when remembering an event you may remember one detail clearly (like the Nike symbol in the top painting) while the rest is a haze.

Ben and Dan in 1979 and 2010, London
Flo, Maria & Dolores in 1979 & 2010
Irina Werning is a photographer from Buenos Aires. His project "Back to the Future" has received much acclaim on the internet through art websites like Boooooom.

In "Back to Future", Irina invited friends to reenact childhood portraits and in essence re-live old memories. It's interesting to see how much has changed and stayed the same when comparing the two photos.


Stockholm Design Fair and Tobias Wong

Mop Chandelier in the Berns Hotel, Stockholm 
Two weeks ago, there was a large design conference in Stockholm called the Stockholm Furniture Fair. The four-day annual fair is the largest meeting place for Scandinavian furniture and textile designers. It showcases the work of approximately 650 exhibitors.

The chandeliers in the image above were created as a group project by first-year form design students at Beckman's College of Design, which is in Stockholm. The students were given a tight budget, a short time frame, and the prompt to transform a series of historic chandeliers in the lobby of a hotel. They choose to embellish the ornate chandeliers with white mops found at a local hardware store. A group of twelve students worked together to soak each mop in a flame retardant solution and assemble the mops on to a chicken wire frame, which was then attached to the chandeliers.

The decision to embellish the chandeliers with mops is an interesting play on materials since mops and chandeliers have very different connotations. Mops are commonplace, simple, dirty, disposable while chandeliers are expensive, fussy, up high in the air. The act of covering the chandeliers with mops is subversive yet visually stunning. Many other artists work in a similar fashion, in which the purpose of an object is transformed because it is covered by a different material.

For example, the recently deceased designer Tobias Wong created work that questions concepts like consumerism and luxury even though he worked in an industry that fetishizes material objects. Wong studied sculpture at Cooper Union and was influenced by subversive art movements such as Dada and Fluxus.
Tobias Wong & Ken Courtney (Ju$t Another Rich Kid). Coke Spoon #1. Bic pen top covered in gold. 2004
He created "the hidden diamond ring" in which the diamond is embedded on the inside of the ring band, dipped Tiffany's pearl earrings in black rubber and sold them in Tiffany's boxes, and fashioned a duvet cover out of kevlar.  He transformed Philippe Stark's iconic Bubble Chair into a lamp and cunningly displayed his version of the chair the night before the actual Stark chair was presented to the public. He participated in an art exhibition in Kennedy International Airport, curating for a gift store that sold cashmere sleep masks and designer air-sickness bags. He sold iPhones curated with music and other media for $2,000.
Killer Ring. 2004.
Can be used as a weapon or to scratch graffiti.                   
Wong has exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art and the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. He has completed projects for Colette, Comme des Garcons, Prada, and Capellini. He was know for doing rebellious stunts in his personal life as well. For instance, the soft-spoken Wong baffled the audience at a design conference when a friend pretended to be him and gave his lecture. Wong's apparent suicide this past summer had a similar aura of mystery since Wong was diagnosed with a sleep disorder that allowed his to perform complex functions in his sleep.
Wong's tattoo that reads "Protect Me from What I Want", which is taken from the work of contemporary installation/text artist Jenny Holzer
This idea of covering/transforming objects can be used as a thought-provoking lesson plan in the classroom. In my form study class freshman year, we were given the prompt to cover an object in two different materials. I covered one mallet in egg shells and another with cotton swabs. Other artists who work in a similar fashion:
Meret Oppenheim. Object. Fur-covered cup, saucer, and spoon. 1946.

Damien Hirst. For the Love of God. Human skull, diamonds, platinum, human teeth. 2007.


Juan Perez and Paul Goodnight

Yesterday I made a quick trip to Dick Blick to pick up some glitter pens for a class I'm teaching and I met the painter Juan Perez. He was a visiting artist of sorts; he had an easel set-up outside and was working with oils.

There's examples of his work on his website, but the images are displayed in a Quicktime slideshow and I can't find images through Google.

Juan was very friendly and told me about his experiences as a professional artist. He has an interesting life story; he was born in the Dominican Republic, got a scholarship to study at SMFA, taught art in schools and prisons, and then worked in gourmet restaurants in Boston. Currently, he is a chef at Fenway Park.

When I went to Dick Blick, Juan was painting portraits of Red Sox players with the goal of capturing specific gestures. He had several insightful comments on the seeing part of portraiture. He said when observing a sitter to mostly study the bone structure because that will capture their likeness. Also, he suggested not to get lost in the process of observing and figuring out proportions because painting is about capturing what you see in the first 30 seconds of looking at something.

Juan told me about the painter Paul Goodnight, who is a MassArt alum. Paul similarly has an interesting life story. He is a Vietnam vet and started making art after losing the ability to speak as part of post-traumatic stress. Paul's paintings are about capturing and documenting African culture in a way that is full of movement and energy.
Black Butterflies, glicee, 36.75 x25 inches.
Oddly enough, the medium of television jump started Paul's career as an artist. He had a show in California where a representative from The Crosby Show saw his work and decided to feature it on the set. Since then his work has been featured in the TV shows ER, Seinfield, and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and the movie Ghost. His work is also collected by many African American celebrities such as Halle Berry, Maya Angelou, and Wesley Snipes.

Paul has a studio in the Piano Factory, which is a live-work studio space and gallery in the South End.

Artistically, his work is inspiring because lately I've been thinking about cultural identity and cultural displacement. Since I'm half-Korean, I strongly identify with Korean culture even though I have never visited the country. It's strange feeling so connected to a place you've never been to or to people you have never met. Paul's work is about re-connecting with and celebrating African culture. It makes me wonder how I can create work about my feelings toward my cultural identity and what the purpose would be.


Charts in Art

Pop Chart Lab is a design studio based in Brooklyn.
Grand Taxonomy of Rap Names

The Very Many Varieties of Beer
I am drawn to these posters because the process of making such a highly detailed charts is so systematic and analytical. In many ways, it requires a different way of thinking than say painting. While these posters are cool, there are other artists who are working in a similar fashion in order to come to a deeper understanding of themselves and the world around them.

For example, the contemporary graphic designer Nicholas Felton collects data from his life such the number of books read, number of plants killed, number of birthday parties attended... The beauty of Felton's work is that he goes into minute detail with the data he collects and compiles the information into a masterfully designed annual report titled "The Felton Annual Report".
Page from the "Felton 2010 Annual Report".
Felton has been making his annual reports since 2005 and has received much recognition for his project. Most recently (as in like a week ago), there was an article in the NYT's Technology section about his work. Felton uses technology to track and record what he is doing. He started the website Daytum as a tool to help people similarly record data in their lives. The website even has an iPhone application for the truly obsessed.
Felton with his 2010 annual report.
Felton specializes in information graphics (making charts) and has designed for numerous corporations and publications, including the Wall Street Journal and Wired. He also has worked as an adjunct professor of graphic design at SVA and Parsons.

A short video in which Felton explains his process.


WASTE LAND gets Oscar Nod

WASTE LAND, a documentary about a community art project in Brazil, is nominated in the Best Documentary category. The film follows contemporary artist Vik Muniz as he travels to the world's largest dump, which is outside of Rio de Janeiro. At the dump there is an eclectic gang of garbage pickers, "catadores", who make a living by finding and selling recyclable trash. Muniz works with the catadores to create large-scale collage portraits in which trash is dignified as a material and compared to the venerable tradition of oil painting.
Sebatiao as Marat-Pictures of Garbage 
This painting is based on the painting The Death of Marat (1793) by Jacques-Louis David, which depicts French revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat dying in a bathtub after being stabbed by a Royalist. 
Muniz's work is a social and political commentary of several issues. One, it is a reaction against consumption and waste. The film portrays the ridiculous size of the dump and the at-times despair of the catadores' daily life. Two, it responds to social class differences since the catadores are poor and disenfranchised. Three, it comments on the traditional art canon in which Western oil painting are valued. Muniz bases some of the portraits on renowned paintings that have a social political context, like David's The Death of Marat.

Vik Muniz is most known for treating non-art materials as paint in his 2D collages, like does with trash in this project . In the past, he has also worked with sugar, wire, cotton, chocolate syrup, and peanut butter and jelly. For more info on his creative process, check out his TED talk.

The pseudo-documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop by British street artist Banksy is also nominated for Best Documentary. Wonder who will win?


Some Pretty Things for Valentine's Day

"love" in morse code

Row Boat Press

Tracy Jenkins

Mary & Matt
70% dark chocolate, 20% milk chocolate, 10% white chocolate.

Susan Kare

For other ideas: http://nerdvalentine.tumblr.com/


"I am who I am:The Portrait Reconsidered." Steven Zevitas Gallery. January 20-February 26.

Friday was a day of firsts. It was my first time going to First Friday in the South End. There was so much to see and I ran into many familiar faces. My favorite work that I saw was at a group show that was bounded by the theme of portrait. MassArt faculty Steve Locke had a small painting up.

I like the absurdity and raw emotion in the following paintings.
Michael Hilsman, If I had known that my robe had come loose, I’d have tied it tighter (Fruitman), 2010, oil and acrylic on canvas, 80 x 64 inches.
Peter Opheim, Untitled, 2010, oil on canvas, 40 x 40 inches.
John Copeland, The Fruit of Promise, acrylic on canvas.
Steven Zevitas Gallery is a exhibition space attached to the offices of the art periodical, New American Paintings. It is located at 450 Harrison Ave. in the South End.


Jen Bekman's 20x200

Eirik Johnson. Behind the Bay City Log Sorting Yard, Cosmopolis, Washington.
Jen Bekman is a gallery for emerging artists and collectors in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. In 2007, the gallery started the website 20x200 which offers limited edition prints at various levels with the mission to make art affordable for everyone. The prints start around the size of legal paper at $20 with an edition of 200 copies. The largest prints (24"x30") run for $1,000 with an edition of ten.

Shout out to MassArt faculty member Eirik Johnson, who teaches in the photo department.


Google Art Project

Google just launched Google Art Project. It is a website that allows viewers to browse the galleries of 17 international art museums including the MoMA, Tate, MET, and several smaller more specialized museums. Eighteen months in the making, it allows you to navigate through the museums as if you are walking through them and includes 1,061 high resolution images of artwork. The resolution of these images are so high you are able to see each individual brushstroke and crack in a painting.

The project was started as one of Google's "20% Project", which allows employees to take a fifth of their time away from their regular job to come up with innovations.

While this is a great innovation, the project places emphasis on the power of big museums and makes visual art seem like something that is only 2D on a wall, like a painting. It is unfortunate because a lot of major museums are hosting some very interesting and forward-thinking performance art.