Metabolic City

October 10, 2009

In my final year in graduate school I learned about a group called the Situationist International and I became fascinated with their imaginative imagery that drew from architecture and art. I was interested in their concepts of urbanism, the city and Marxism as a creative apparatus. Like the artists in the Chance Aesthetics exhibition, the work and their concepts are rather playful and I think are a reaction to the horrors of the destruction of cities and deaths of millions during World War II. This was their vision of post-war utopia.

Metabolic City focuses on mainly three different groups working at relatively the same time; 1950s-1970. The British architectural group, Archigram, the Japanese Metabolists, and the Situationist International (SI) (mainly Constant Nieuwenhuy).  The exhibition consists of montages, diagrams, architectural rendering, videos that are projected on glass while you sit in a cockpit type module, and models.

All three groups think of the city as a living organism that is flexible, mobile and expandable. They all had their views on economic systems that seemed to permeate their work. They all seemed to embrace technology as a way to make life better. For example, Archiagram and the Metabolists embraced consumerism and mass pop culture. Whereas the SI was very critical of capitalistic society. Their goal was to revolutionise space and mass culture through Marxist revolution. They wanted to liberate man from the confines of capitalism and mass culture. They envisioned urban space as an experimental arena for human interaction and self-realization. In simple terms, let’s think of the SI as socialists and Archigram and Metabolists as capitalists.

The Metabolists

After WW2, Japan was going through social, political and cultural changes. They drafted a new constitution and made dramatic changes in regard to land use. Looking for a positive identity and individual rights led to visions of he city based on metaphor of life cycles. They proposed new territories of inhabitation such as the ocean and social spaces gained prominence. There work defiantly has a biological and natural element to it. Some of it looks like part of living creature or is just closely tied to the natural environment.

Those included are Kisho Kurokawa, Fumihiko Maki and Arata Isozaki

Kisho Kurokawa diagram

Kisho Kurokawa diagram

Fumihiko Maki model

Fumihiko Maki model

Arata Isozaki photomontage

Arata Isozaki photomontage

Archigram

This was a British group in which the members were fresh out of school. They were not too interested in politics and were more enthusiastic about the social aspects of built space and broader issues of urban livability. They were brough up in a time when destroyed cities were being rebuilt in short spans of time and lacked a sense of the vitality found in a living city. Seeing this and the desire for a better life spurred them to push the limits of architecture. Their proposals embraced emerging technologies and commerce to advance individual freedoms and enhance the lives of individuals. Their cities had a patterned look with a lot of alien-like spaceship-like pods that look like they are from some thing of Sci-Fi movie.

Those included are Peter Cook,Dennis Crompton, Michael Webb, Ron Herron.

Peter Cook's Plug-in City

Peter Cook's Plug-in City

Dennis Crompton's Walking City (not in show)

Dennis Crompton's Walking City (not in show)

SI (Constant)

This group was mainly based in the Netherlands and in France. Constant was from the Netherlands and like the Japanese and the British they were hit hard by the horrors of WW2. Constant’s most famous project was New Babylon. It was a sample of what maybe a Situationist city could look like. It focused on the city as an emphasis on the individual, social interactions and the presence of art as part of the environment. The city was an urban framework in which the occupants would be able to create, reconfigure and control their sensory environments.

Others associated with the SI are the activist, Guy Debord and artist, Asger Jorn

Constant's  New Babylon project drawing

Constant's New Babylon project drawing

Constant's New Babylon drawing/diagram

Constant's New Babylon drawing/diagram

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Chance Aesthetics

October 9, 2009

Since my mother was diagnosed with cancer I have not have much time or energy to go out and see many art exhibitions. In addition to that, there hasn’t been much time for even working in the studio. Other than the small drawings I have done I have been sort of out of the art loop.

In saying that, Monday I was able to make it over to the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum on the campus of Washington University. I also what to state that I like going there to see contemporary art than I like going to the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. I think the exhibitions at the Kemper are more varied and I like that the museum is free and being in the situation I am in, free is great. I honestly have not been too interested in the recent exhibitions at CAMSTL.

The exhibitions I saw were Chance Aesthetics and Metabolic City. I will separate the two into separate posts. I was interested in Chance Aesthetics because in my own art I have used elements of chance to develop my work. I tend to use it as a starting point such as dumping ink or paint, using drip patterns and allowing “mistakes” to happen and worked with the unexpected things that come up when making art.

Historically, art has been a skill in which an artist demands exceptional control to achieve a great work. This means works were planned endeavors obsessive perfection. In the 20th century some artists decided to work in opposition to this. The exhibition starts with the Surrealists and Dada, which makes sense to me. What I think is so great about using chance as a basis for a work is that it becomes playful and fun instead of being an intellectual and dry assignment that a lot of art has become.

Some of the works are sloppy and dirty but some are totally obsessive, clean and systematic. The latter still retain an element of surprise and engagement.

Some notable artists and works. I like Ellsworth Kelly’s gridded, cut-up and reassembled drawings.

Ellsworth Kelly

Ellsworth Kelly

There is Mimmo Rotella’s decollages of advertisements that you might see on the streets where posters are layered and ripped apart. Sort of like a defaced pop art.

Mimmo Rotella

Mimmo Rotella

Similar to Rotella’s is Jacques Villegle’s work. Something is very subversive and punk about these works. I like that.

Jacques Villegle

Jacques Villegle

I did love the simplicity of Duchamp’s readymade, “hatrack”, that was hanging from the ceiling. I think most people would see the spider-like look of this work and I think most would enjoy this one cause of its playfullness and it is non-confrontational.

Marcel Duchamp

Marcel Duchamp

I enjoyed William Anastasi’s subway drawings. I was doing stuff like this when I was in London. I am not saying I did it first but I feel a connection to this cause of my own personal experience with this mindless exercise. Fun and surprising to make.

William Anastasi's Subway Drawings

William Anastasi's Subway Drawings

There is the systematic digital looking Francois Morellet’s telephone directory works. By just looking at it, it looks like a non-objective minimalism. There is the white one that has the layer of varnish on some areas…white on white…so when you look at it at certain angles you see the differences. I think of Ryman’s white paintings. With the black one’s I think of Ad Reinhart’s black paintings. Those ones are definitely more quiet and subtile. Some of them use hot and sometimes competing color schemes that are more challenging. His work can seem like a combination of a Sol LeWit type of work and op-art. The grid seems to be a very important part of the structure of his work.

A telephone directory work by Francois Morellet

A telephone directory work by Francois Morellet

In addition to those works there is Arman’s work in which he collect Claes Oldenburg’s trash. Interesting in an invasion of privacy kind of way. There was a osmotic work by George Maciunas in which spills ink onto a canvas ans lets it spread a soak into the canvas. Marcel Jean and Andre Breton’s drawings were similar. There was Ray Johnson’s mail art and game-like works. There were some exquisite corpse drawings, John Cage compositions and a Nam June Paik’s blank films…well except dust scratches and whatever happened to interfere with the film. Plus there were Deiter Roth’s rotting works.


Computer Chips and Art

July 16, 2009

While at the library I cam across a magazine called, Technology Review. It is published by MIT. Specifically, the one I was looking at was the February 2009 issue. I picked it up and just started flipping through the pages. While at it, I came across these wonderful pictures of computer chips; large and detailed. I was pretty stunned at how beautiful they are.

These pictures brought to mind some artists…specifically the painter Peter Halley and  Hans Hoffman. Halley’s definitely have a circuit or diagram influence. Being that his paintings started showing up in the 1980s, computer circuitry influence doesn’t seem far fetched. In comparison to an actual chip, they are extremely simplified. However, Hans Hoffman started gaining a reputation as an abstract expressionist painter in the early-mid 20th century. So I doubt a connection could be made to computer chips. I just thought of him because of the hard-edged geometric squares and rectangles that lay in contrast to free-form “painterly” brush strokes. With some of the chips there are some ridged areas and some areas that seem more murky. There isn’t the “push” or “pull” that made the Hoffman paintings so famous.

Here are a couple Halley paintings:

panic-room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2140184089_e0737b4022 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are a couple of Hoffman paintings:

hofmann 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

102786 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ok, here are the chips I was looking at in the magazine:

L to R top: Intel 8080, Intel 8086; L to R bottom: Intel 386, AMD 386

L to R top: Intel 8080, Intel 8086; L to R bottom: Intel 386, AMD 386

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

motorola 68000 introduced in 1979. Powered the Macintosh 128K

motorola 68000 introduced in 1979. Powered the Macintosh 128K

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L: Intel Pentium processor introduced in 1993; R: IBM PowerPC 601 also introduced in 93

L: Intel Pentium processor introduced in 1993; R: IBM PowerPC 601 also introduced in 93

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The IBM PowerPC chip was developed jointly with Apple and Motorola. This chip was used in Power Macs.

Intel Pentium 4 chip introduced in 2000

Intel Pentium 4 chip introduced in 2000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2007's Intel Core 2 Duo

2007's Intel Core 2 Duo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I will make note that these chips are in chronological order. The first one was introduced in 1974 and had 5,000 transistors and was the heart of the Altair personal computer. The last one, introduced in 2007, has 410 million transistors and more than one” core” plus a huge data cache. It is amazing how complex these things are and the size of todays chips are tiny in comparison to ones in the past.


Elvis Painting

March 22, 2009

 

What makes people produce art that depicts a celebrity one does not know? 

 

I can see a person making a portrait to honor someone important to one’s life. I can see someone making a portrait for some money (a commissioned work). I can see someone doing it for an exercise. I am not exactly sure what drives a person to spend so much time on a painting or drawing of a person they don’t know. I think it it has to be a product of obsession. Of course, this is something I can expect out of adolescence because, from my experience, when a teenager really likes something a lot they can be rather obsessive and evangelistic about whatever that thing is. It could be a love, some celebrity, a musician, comics, sports. You name it. What about adults?

I was in Memphis, TN last week. My boyfriend and I went to Graceland to see Elvis’s home and the whole spectacle. While doing the tour, we ran into a wall of art sent to either Elvis himself and to the estate. It is said that they have too much to show, so they rotate the works. They are mostly paintings of Elvis himself at different points in his career. There was one of his mother. There was this giant 6 foot full body oil paintings of Elvis looking rather heroic. (I was also thinking he looks like a Chippendale…with the bow tie around his nude neck).  I was starting to think of the works of Van Dyck and the fully portraits he did of the most noble people from that time period. Can we really compare Elvis to some king or leader of the state? Well, his nickname is “The King”. Actually, can I compare this anonymous artist to one of the most hailed painters of all time? I don’t think so. 

Here is a pic I took. They quality is not that good. It was rather dim in the room and could not use a flash (which would be bad for the painting and as you can see, there is already a hefty glare from the lighting). 

 

Elvis oil painting

Elvis oil painting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a Van Dyck painting….

 

 

King Charles I

King Charles I

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, when I think of Elvis related art, I think of something on black velvet. Something really cheesy. As for the Graceland stuff, I guess they figured there is so much of art made in his honor, they should display some of it. They could probably just have a museum of the work.


Eero Saarinen

February 27, 2009

 

I was feeling a bit unsure about how I wanted to write about the Eero Saarinen exhibition at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum in St. Louis. The exhibition is called Shaping the Future and it runs until April 27, 2009. 

Should it just be written as an objective entry about an exhibition or should I write about it as it being part of the influence or the inspiration of an artist work? Well, I will address it this way, going to museums, galleries or any other venue to see art is great for any artist or designer. It is a good idea to go seek work that you like and maybe work that you don’t. Just go see art in person. So in that sense, going to the exhibition is an inspiration and can be an influence.

Ok, I live in the St. Louis metro area and everybody does know of this guy and of his work…even if they can’t name the man off hand. One of his structures is so unbiquitious to the area that it seem rather ordinary and nothing to exciting. Eeros Saarinen’s Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (AKA The Arch) is a defining structure in St. Louis. As a kid, I don’t know how many times I have taken the white, “futuristic” egg trams to the top. I can’t count the times I have sat at the foot to watch fireworks or airshows around the 4th of July as I was growing up. It is an awe inspiring stucture but also a structure that has turned into a cliche as part of logos, company names, as a cartoon or mascot for anything that is remotely tied to St. Louis. Just go to www.askarchy.com and you will see what I mean. I am not looking at is as a criticism. It is just how it is. 

 

Final section being installed to complete the arch

Final section being installed to complete the arch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So the exhibition is a survey of his work since he began his career at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, worked along side of his father, Eilel Saarinen. Eventually, he struck out on his own in 1950 after his father died. Saarinen became the architect that represented American modernism most famously. He work with Charles Eames to create modern furniture that introduced new materials and technology that would decorate the modern home. He designed the headquarters of many cooporations….basically making the “corporate campus” model popular and did some innovative designs for college campuses, airports and well…the Arch.

 

One of his many chair designs

One of his many chair designs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Deere headquarters in Moline, IL

John Deere headquarters in Moline, IL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is my favorite. Ingalls Hockey Rink at Yale 1953

This is my favorite. Ingalls Hockey Rink at Yale 1953

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If a person were to pick his defining works, it would be the Arch and the TWA Terminal at JFK Airport

 

TWA Terminal at JFK Airport from the inside

TWA Terminal at JFK Airport from the inside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The show was more or less a survey of the highlights that displayed photographs, some furnature, videos and models of his work. 

At the time, his works seemed very futuristic  and exemplified the values of modernism. Now it my seem quaint  because frankly, much of modern architecture has not aged well. However, it does represent a post-war period of hope and the idea that life will get better with technology. 

As I think about it, Eeros Saarinen was like the Frank Gehry of his time. I think the connection is rather obvious when comparing the organic, curvilinear structures of Gehry and Saarinen. Of course, there are many difference in material and theory. Plus, Gehry’s structures are just rather excessive and exaggerated. Saarinen’s structures do have a simplicity and minimalism to them, essentially following modernism’s reductivism. 

 

TWA Terminal from outside circa 1962

TWA Terminal from outside circa 1962

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gehry's Disney hall

Gehry's Disney hall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I also want to point out is that the Arch design was a competition and really, if you look at the other ideas for the memorial how could Saarinen’s lose. This is the runner up to Saarinen’s Arch:

runnerup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was done by Harris Armstrong, a native St. Louisan. To find out more go to: New Light on the Gateway


Obama and Art

January 20, 2009

Is this the year for Obama art? It seems to be. I am only going to give two examples of what I have seen but I have seen many. It seems to be something that is giving artists attention and sales because of Obama’s popularity and people wanting something to commemorate the history that is being made today. 

First is Shepard Fairey’s poster that circulated the streets and then was adopted by Obama supporters and eventually Obama’s campaign. In a sense, it has made him maybe the most recognized street artist since Banksy. However, Fairey is a graphic designer and does artwork too. The work does take from propaganda and posters from the early 20th century Europe and even more specifically Chinese propaganda posters. He sort of mixes the high contrast images used by the Constructivists, John Heartfield’s anti-nazi posters, and even Ludwig Holwein’s Nazi-German propaganda posters, and the social realism of the Chinese Posters.

 

Chinese Poster

Chinese Poster

Soviet Propaganda Poster

Soviet Propaganda Poster

Heartfield's Poster Attacking Press, 1930

Heartfield's Poster Attacking Press, 1930

 

Ludwig Holwein's "Und Du?" german army recruiting poster, early 1940s

Ludwig Holwein's "Und Du?" german army recruiting poster, early 1940s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

shepard1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

shepard-fairey-say-yes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

shepard-fairey_barack-hopethumbnail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

shepard fairey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is an article about a SIUE graduate student who made an Obama portrait out of coins. He had his work featured in Time and then sold the work on Ebay for nearly 1400 dollars.


The Differences Between Fine and Commercial Art

December 31, 2008

What is the difference between fine and commercial art?

It has to do with motivation and function. It also has to do with objectivity and subjectivity. 

First of all, fine art works originate from the artist. That is the artist has an idea and tries to bring an idea to fruition. The artist is communicating something internal. This doesn’t have to be emotion but it could be views and ideas. The viewer is important but really fine art can be made without the input and gaze of the viewer. Of course, the artist does want to have their works viewed but the function is to communicate something the fine artist wants to communicate. 

Unless, the viewer does a lot of research and has knowledge about the art being viewed, fine art is viewed in a subjective way. Each person will have a different reaction and idea of what a work is about. The communication doesn’t have to be clear and conscise. The artist may choose to obfuscate. The artist doesn’t want to be too clear because the artist doesn’t want to give away meaning too readily. Art too clear could be seen as boring. Art can be a puzzle of sorts and that can engage the viewer. However, if it is too difficult it is possible to lose the viewer due to frustration.

Commercial art (and I am going to focus on graphic design really) is a bit different. The motive is to clearly communicate something and that something is dictated by the client, not the artist. Anytime something needs to be communicated, be it a product or identity, graphics need to be used. This can be in the form of text and images. The graphics don’t have to be in print but over the internet or video. Graphic design has a function that is integral to society and commerce. Commercial art is everywhere. 

Because of the need for clarity in commercial art, objectivity is needed. A designer doesn’t want its work interpreted in many ways. Some designs need to be read immediately (signs). There is no time for admiring and trying to figure out meaning. If one needs to do that when looking at a sign, then it is not functioning properly.

This is not to say that one type of art is more creative or less significant. There are serious differences and parameters that need to be taken into account. Creativity comes out of limitations. In fine art, the artist sets those limits and in commercial art, someone other than the artist sets the limits. 

I don’t want to say that a commercial artist can not crossover to the ranks of fine art. There are some designers who do get shown along the likes of fine artists. There are designers that use fine art techniques. Also, many designers do get plenty of ideas from the world of fine art. That being said some artist use tools and techniques that are related to graphic design. Printmakers tend to use techniques that were used by designers and printers from the past and present (lithography, engraving, screen printing, computers/printers). So the two camps can and do overlap.

Another difference I can see between commercial and fine art are exclusivity. Graphic design is everywhere and is ubiquitous in our culture. It is viewed on the streets, on our cloths, signs, cars, products we buy, etc. Fine art is not be viewed by everyone. It is usually in an exclusive place (a home, office, museum, gallery). Again, there are always exceptions though. I am sure you can think of some.