Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Shepard Fairey or "The Man Who Started It All"


I just finished my post on Banksy when I realized I hadn't done anything on the history of stencil art. So instrad of copying and pasting off of wikipedia, I can introduce you to another really good artist, by the name of Frank Shepard Fairey, known to most as Shepard Fairey. He is, in some sense, partially responsible for the rise of stencil culture in the American Sub-conscious. "How is that possible?" Well, with the help of man named Andre the Giant.

Shepard Fairey was once a young boy just like you, just like me, unless you're a girl, and then it's my apologies. Anyway, Shepard fairey was already steeped in making stencils, having attended the Rhode Island School of Design. Then one fateful day, a friend asked him for a lesson in stencil production. As an example, Fairey began making a scrap stencil out of the face of Andre the Giant, a wrestler of that time. When he began putting up stickers and stencils of the face, with the word "OBEY" tattooed in large black letters across New York City, the idea took off like wildefire. Dubbed, the "Andre the Giant has a Posse" campaign, the image spread to the far corners of the globe and propelled Fairey to heights of fame, unknow by most mortal men.

Now, Shepard Fairey is the head of a clothing company, a magazine publisher, and a msuic label, all from posting a small face on walls with spray paint. The "OBEY" image has become a symbol for social unrest and the questioning of one's society, as well as a strong undercurrent of pro socialist, marxist, and communist sympathies. Now, Fairey runs three companies and DJ's in his spare time, which I find ridiculous...ridiculously awsome. He doesn' have time to be running away form the police for vandalism. Fortunately, he has a group of dedicated followers who have carried on the image of Andre the Giant, and the "OBEY" face. It does my heart good every time I see it.



Banksy or "The Art of Rebellion"

I'm young and being young means you get to do many things, not so much 'get' as 'have' to do many things. You have to go to school and learn and grow stronger mentally and physically, and continue to improve yourself ona daily basis. Why? Is it for your own gain? No. Is it for your happiness? Nope. You break your back so you can clean up after the last generation. In doing this however, you will create new problems while trying to fix the old ones. Such is the way of life for the young and so it has been for centuries.

Sometimes, however, sometimes, some kid out there, somebody smarter than the rest, realizes what hey're true destiny is. That's when they begin to kick and scream and tear at their bodies, trying to rid themselves of unwanted responsibilities. Becauese, honestly, who really wants to spend eternity trying to clean a mess that you didn't make. Thus we have youthful rebellion.

I myself am a quiet person. I'm not rallying in the streets or setting fire to cars, not so much because I don't want to. The whoel illegal thing is a fine deterrent and I can't find the materials as cheaply as I used to. So I make stencils, nothing fancy, just something to mget the message out there. But no matter how hard I try, no matter how professional my work looks, it will always pale in comparison to the king of Stencil Graffiti. Banksy.

Banksy too is a quiet figure. He's wanted across England for acts of vandalism and hsi subversive work has permeated all the way over to the U.S. as well. All of his work has an ironic twist to it however. They challenge the reader not only as stand alone art, but also by involving the surroundings upon whch the piece is placed. He made massive stencils on the Palestinian side of the Israeli West Bank barrier, revealing "lush landscapes and serene settings on the Isreali side," all to protest the fighting between the two nations. He secretly hung two of his own renditions of famous paintings on display at the Metropolitan Museum, where they were not found for many days. He is constantly creaitng massive stencils that cause the reader to stop and smile, to take a step back and say "Damn. Now How'd he do that?"

Despite his obvious intellect and skill for art, he must remain somewhat in the shadows. His art does mark him as a wanted man, but I feel as if he wouldn't have it any other way. If his art was sanctioned, it would lose the luster and "rebellious" nature. It's being illegal is half the fun. Suffice to say, the man is a genius. Hands down, no questions asked. If you don't agree, there's the door. You can just see youself out. And if Banksy is somewhere out there reading this, well, I am beyond honored.


Saturday, January 13, 2007

Doug Aitken or "More Real Than Reality"

At the time I finish this post, I will have been conscious for 42 hours straight. Enough said.

I was writing college essays at some point between Friday Morning and Saturday morning. One of the essays wanted me to describe why I was interested in the particular program I was applying to, which happened to be a Design/Media Arts program. I began writing and putting down my ideas about film, new media forms, and the collision of both in today's modern society. I also talked about the evolution of my interest in the program. I stated that I wanted to study something with an emphasis in film, but I also wanted to expand my knowledge base to other media forms. I felt that true film wasn't exactly what I wanted, that it was too rigid in its form. Then I took a step back, so to speak, and thought, "Man, who's going to believe this?"

The answer: Doug Aitken

It turns out that Doug Aitken and I share much of the same sensibilities about film in the digital age. Mr. Aitken, however, is being applauded by Film and Art circles alike. I am not, and that's fine. Many believe that Aitken is single handedly reinventing the concept of "video art." His works have adapted to our modern age while causing us to focus on the future. Pieces such as "Interiors" challenge our perceptions of inside and out by playing images of "industrial" interiors on silk screens. These images overlap one another forming new images of our contemporary world.

And if you think that's something, Doug Aitken's exhibition "Sleepwalkers" at the Museum of Modern Art in New York promises to blow your mind. No, really. It's going to blow your mind. Like, you'll be walking along and you'll feel a pop in the back of you head and you'll look down and your brain will be at your feet, running around, because it just got blown.

What this exhibition consists of is five films projected on the walls of of the Museum of Modern Art at night. Each film is follows the night time adventures of five city inhabitants as they make their way through the evening. Passers by should be able to see this exhibition as the woalk down the street, and, being the city's denizens of the night, actually complete the piece. Because...you see...it's like they're watching themselves to know what they are doing. But what's on the screen isn't actually what they're doing, because they're watching the screen. It's a paradox. Look it up.

So there you have it. One of the leaders in American video art is making waves in the big city. I highly suggest you check it out. I certainly will. Right after I take this nap.


Friday, January 12, 2007

Katrín Sigurdardóttir or "the World as We Know It"

You ever get that feeling where you're really ill or you get up too fast and the world seems to be shifting beneath you. You twist and turn and then trip and fall and land face down on the floor, and you think to yourself how different the world looks when it's on its side. Of course, your friends and family will never let you forget that time that you passed out at your cousin's Barmitzvah, but that's not the point. The point is that you have experienced an altered landscape

It's the places that we hold dear that make us who we are. Well, at least that's Katrín Sigurdardóttir believes. This is the core theme of this Icelandic artist's vision. She recognizes that we all have places that we carry with us places we feel more comfortable in. These smells and sights and tastes and memories, especailly the memories, combine to form us as people. These places are "home" to us.

This whole concept of "carried places" is beautifully represented through Sigurdardóttir's artwork. Each piece shows a carefully craftedd landscape, but it is ususlly what surrounds the landscape that truly holds the message. "Haul IV" is a lush green landscape contained within a wooden box. "High Plane V" actually allows the viewer to be transported to an arctic ocean, complete with icebergs. On top of the exquisite design, there is, of course, the minimalist style that seems to run true through most Scandinavian art. It's like Ikea. You just can't buy anything.

So imagine all the places you love. The city, the desert, that place under your staircase that smells like your late dog, Wilbur. Now take those places and imagine they are physical realities that have been shrunk and combined with other familiar objects. Now shove your head into those realities.

That's Katrín Sigurdardóttir in a nutshell.


Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Henry Darger or "The Secret Lives of Janitors"

Henry Darger is like a geode. A geode is, or looks like, a rock, nothing more, nothing less. It just seems like an ordinary gray stone, boring, unimportant. However, when you crack a geode open it reveals a beautiful, crystalline structure, none you would have never known existed had you not looked deeper into the stone.

That's who Henry Darger was. Henry Darger looked like an ordinary man to those around him. He was a janitor in a school for most of his life. He collected trash off the street. When he was young he was put into an asylum, what for is still unclear. At one point, a record reported the cause to be "masturbation." What that was still hasn't been elaborated upon by the institution. After he was released, he lived in a tiny one room apartment in Chicago until his death in 1973, at 81 years of age. It was at this time, just prior to his death, that his neigbors, Nathan and Kiyoko Lerner, actually went into his apartment (he was a very solitary person). To their surprise, they found that Henry Darger had been an artist.

And this was no ordinary art. This was the kind of mind blowingly creative art, the kind that makes you sit down and just stare. Colors flowed with crisp images, creating fanciful portraits of young children in surreal landscapes. There were books too, things that Henry Darger had written about foreign worlds and armies of children fighting against alien races. These books related his life experiences as well as telling intriguing stories. It turned out, that Henry Darger was on of the most creative people of the 20th century.

So the neighbors began to publicize his work. Slowly, he began to gain notariety. More and more people began to recognize his talents. He became known as one of the most influential artists of the "Outsider Art" movement, which primarily consisted of self-taught artists, or artists who had not been given a formal education. His work continues to be highly sought after to this day.

Most of his paintings are actually illustrations of a massive tome, which he authored. The title of the piece is The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion and boasts a total of 15,143 pages. The story, while sitting somewhere in the fantasy genre, is based around 7 Princess sisters who start a rebellion against a race which employs child slavery. The novel as well as the paintings all reveal an extremely creative talent that no knew Henry had.

The art is truly amazing. The colors really do blend so nicely together. It's a literal rainbow in each piece. What I find interesting is that many of the figures portrayed in the paintings are white, often devoid of color. And all the figures are little girls, hundreds of them. And they all look so innocent and quiet. Their eyes are very light too, density wise, not color wise. The overall feel is very...pure.

So remember Henry Darger, when you take all that acid on the way back from that ski trip in Kennebunkport, and all your friends have seven heads and you hansd are trying to get you to buy "this really nice new car." Because that's what it was like in the head of Mr. Darger, and you should respect that.


Sunday, January 7, 2007

Roy Lichtenstein, the Stan Lee of Pop Art?

Hey Boys and Girls,

I bet you're wondering why I'm up at five in the AM. It's because i haven't slept in two days. I've been swamped with a Psychology research paper, and let me just say, I don't think the topic of sex has ever been less enjoyable for a human being. If I so much as hear the word "arousal," I am pretty sure a third stroke will finish me off. I can barely see what I'm writing. I feel like I'm in a bad comic book. Wait...

Comic Books?

What about good comic books? Roy Lichtenstein knew a little something about good comic art. In fact, he was one of the great "pop artists" of all time. Utilizing a comic book style of design, he created massive paintings which resemble photographs of comic book panels. This design, in itslef, became a comment on mass media as a whole, on the cookie cutter art of the 1960's, 70's, and 80's. His famous pieces include "Drowning Girl" (on display at the lovely Museum of Modern Art, New York and "Whaam" (currently on display at the Tate Modern London). Wikipedia would like you to notice the "the use of the onomatopoetic lettering" in the title "Whaam" A common feature of comic design (think the original Batman television series.)

I've got to say, I really think that his art is genius. It's just the way in that his art looks so plastic and fake. it really adds heft to the meaning of the piece. It almost nullifies anything that subject of the piece is saying. It just comes out seeming cliche and "plastic." and not like "IV Drip save your life" plastic, like "Paris Hilton and Pamela Anderson locked inthe Matel toy works plastic." And the faces. In "Drowning Girl," it has those tears on that perfectly crafted 1950's face. It's...almost...comedic in the tragedy of it all.

Hmm...I'm not really making sense. I guess I'm off to bed. I should really put my eyes in some water, get them hydrated...or something.

So here's looking at you Roy. Oh and Prof.? This one's for you.


Thursday, January 4, 2007

The First of Many

My name is really not important. For the time being however, my name is duchamp. What you see before you is not just a blog. Actually, it is an important part, an extremely intricate piece, of a much larger plan, laid out for me and my peers by a professor. In an effort to educate my class about the wonders of modern media, he felt it necessary to teach about blogs and the act of blogging through the creation of our own. This is mine.
What is the subject of this blog? Art. Art is indeed an extremely important part of our lives. It is not considered by all to be necessary, but it is. It is a living, breathing record of time and it's effects on humanity. Art shows what people think, what they do, what's acceptable, what's taboo. Everything about the human condition is represented through art. What we don't realize, however, is that art is a major part of our everyday lives. It affects all of our decisions, from the products we buy to the clothes we wear to the music we like. We create art too. Each task we complete is stamped with our own specific style, unique to only ourselves. In the same frame of mind as Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain," a urinal signed with his name, it can be said that everything we touch becomes, to some extent art. So, with the study of certain pieces I have selected, I hope to spark thought not only about the work, but about the message it conveys. Through this endeavor, I hope to learn not only about the art, but about the study and analysis of art in new media forms.