Sunday, November 23, 2008

Bee Hive Week 3

Many things have occurred since my last update on Judi's Bee Hive project. Working for her has been a valuable learning experience, lessons on the art world that will come in handy as I try to make it in this city.
Week three of the Bee Hive came and we were ready to apply metal gold leaf in areas of the piece, soon to be followed by beeswax and resin. Many things were happening at the same time in the studio, while Sanae and I worked on the project Judi was on the phone finding art movers and crating companies to move and protect the work.
Countless messages and emails were sent to the gallery in charge of the show in Miami, The Green Project, which was supposed to go up in the Wynwood art district of the city during Art Basel Week.
What's the space like? How much weight can the tent hold? Who's showing with who and where and why? Which painting will be shown along the Bee Hive? Back and forth the questions went on during the week.

Nearing week four of the project, a few days before the art movers were supposed to pick up the hive, Judi made the decision to pull out of the show. Her work was being compromised and many things that were not in the original plans started surfacing as the date approached.
Nothing is in vain though, Judi may have felt a little defeated by the turn of events but work on the hive proceeded as normal. More gold leaf was applied to the inside and a golden light was placed inside the piece. Moving on to week four the hive is pretty much completed, and finishing touches will be put after Judi comes back from Miami after some Bee Hive promotion at Art Basel Miami.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Not So Good of an Update

It has been a very busy month, I've been working two jobs trying to catch up with some bills that have caught up with me. I'm walking around like a zombie with no days off, but it's something that has to be done. To add to my tired, out-of-it new sense of self, my messenger bag was stolen last weekend from a bar/restaurant in Chelsea. With it went my moleskine sketchbook, notebook, and calendar; two yards of Belgian linen, digital camera, credit cards and checkbook among other things. Cash is low so it seems like it might take a while before I get another camera, meaning that I can't update this blog for the next couple of weeks. I still have some images, I took and saved before this happened, from three exhibitions and will make some comments on in the mean time. What was most valuable were the sketchbook and notebook, had some drawings there I never got to scan and are now lost forever. And as if I need any more bad news, I just received a rejection letter from New American Paintings apologizing for my entry not making into the last 40 finalists. Set backs are inevitable, but it's hard to deal with them all at once. But the world doesn't stop there so back to work it is.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Kehinde Wiley: Down

When it came time for Annibale Carracci to decorate the gallery vault of the Palazzo Farnese he looked to the genius of Michelangelo and his Sistine Chapel frescoes. Ignudi, medallions, architecturally framed scenes, muscular figures, drama, movement etc., he took it all and reshaped it to form his own vision. Artists are no strangers to appropriation; this has been a common practice since the early days of western art and to this day they are still looking to the past for guidance and knowledge, a continuation cycle which helps art move forward.
Kehinde Wiley, A Dead Soldier, 2007, oil on canvas, 60 x 144 inches
This approach can also be a double edge sword, putting artists on a very thin line between original continuation and simple imitation. Some artists may fall flat in the pursuit of the “old masters” aesthetic with their pastiche art watering down the truth in painting and art in general. Fortunately this can not be said about Kehinde Wiley, an artist who mastered a career in shaping his work after 16th – 19th century European art. His new body of work Down, at Deitch Projects, is his most ambitious to date; an exhibit of “heroic” scale paintings of African-American males in recumbent or fallen poses taken from Holbein, Mantegna, Houdon, Maderno, Restaout and Clesinger.
Kehinde Wiley, Christian Martyr Tarcisius, 2008, oil on canvas, 83.9 x 108 inches
Mr. Wiley has become one of today's most important artists, with works included in major museum and private collections. His art hit a mark in the art world by presenting hip hop/urban culture with a sophisticated delicate edge. Young black men taken out of the streets of Brooklyn set their hard-core image aside as they pose for portraits modeled after prominent political figures from history and religious/mythological characters.
Kehinde Wiley, Femme Piquee Par Un Serpent, 2008, oil on canvas, 102 x 300 inches
Kehinde Wiley, The Veiled Christ, 2008, oil on canvas, 30 x 144 inches
Kehinde Wiley, Sleep, 2008, oil on canvas, 132 x 300 inches
The juxtaposition of Wiley's strong males and delicate, fragile poses can be very intriguing, almost having a Caravaggesque homoerotic quality to them. The most impressive work out of the new group is Sleep, a larger than life canvas towering high above the other paintings with a semi-nude male. This pose of a sleeping muscular man triggers one to think back to images of the Deposition and Entombment of Christ painted so beautifully by great artists such as Titian and Rubens.
Kehinde Wiley, Morpheus, 2008, oil on canvas, 108 x 180 inches
His repetitive flowers patterns, with their bold rich hues are cultural connections between traditional African textiles and contemporary art. These lively forms move about between foreground and background playfully taking over the sitter's space. Undeniably it is the pattern that sets Wiley's art apart from other modes of contemporary representational painting; the flowers become abstract shapes forcing the viewer to look at the work as an object on itself as opposed to a portrait of a young man.
Kehinde Wiley, The Veiled Christ (Study), 2008, oil on canvas, 56.69 x 145.28 inches
Down will be showing at Deitch Projects until December 20, 2008 and then it will travel to ArtPace in San Antonio in January.
Kehinde Wiley, Femme Piquee Par Un Serpent (Study II), 2008, oil on paper, 44 x 96 inches

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Frankenthaler At Eighty

Frankenthaler At Eighty: Six Decades opened this week at Knoedler & Company on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, celebrating the artist's eightieth birthday and her long career as one of America's most important painters.
A Green Thought in a Green Shade, 1981, acrylic on canvas, 119 x 156 1/2 inches
The show, curated by Karen Wilkin, may not be a full retrospective of the artist's rich catalog but the short number of paintings that have been included in the exhibit attest Frankenthaler's full career as a visual innovator and risk taker.
Sphinx, 1976, acrylic on canvas, 105 x 114 inches
Large stained canvases fill the space, some bare and some richly covered by her brilliant pools of color. But no matter which technique she may have used to execute the work, the paintings always remain fresh, an impressive feat for a career as long as hers.
Provincetown I, 1961, oil on canvas, 92 3/4 x 101 3/4
Very early on Frankenthaler expressed a commitment to painting and never wavered, even at times when the art world turned its back on the idea of beauty in art, Frankenthaler kept creating beautiful pictures that surpass the decorative category some may have put them in.
Warming Trend, 2002, acrylic on canvas, 74 3/4 x 84 1/4 inches
Warming Trend, with its chroma subtlety, is captivating and commands the viewer to come into the painting and explore the complexity of its soft layers of blue and violet hues. Perhaps the most delicate aspects of the piece are the bottom and right edges, where the different layers are revealed as they come close to the end of the painting and a small amount of raw canvas peeks through.
The Rake's Progress, 1991, acrylic on canvas, 94 1/2 x 68 1/2 inches

Pink Lady, 1963, oil on canvas, 84 1/2 x 58 inches
Frankenthaler's influence in art could be felt on opening night, there was excitement in the air, as if most of the people there were experiencing her art for the first time. The span of her career has inspired a legion of painters, thus contradicting remarks that painting is dead.
Frankenthaler At Eighty: Six Decades will run until January 10,2009 at Knoedler and Company.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Beehive Week Two

We are coming to the middle of week two of Judi's Beehive project for Art Miami, one of fifteen major art fairs taking place during the first week of December 2008.
On Monday morning about half of the wire structure was covered with the air dry porcelain, the clay like material being molded onto the wire to form the cells of the hive.
As we work Judi and I always stand back and admire the delicacy of the material, and we question if we should let it stay white and pure. "It's almost like lace" she says as she looks up at her new creation. "Just like little worker bees we are building this hive one cell at a time" she comments as we keep molding the porcelain.
The biggest concern this week, aside from meeting the deadline, was to figure out the weight and the measurements for the sculpture. The tent where this hive will be hanging can only withstand 150 lbs., and without a scale in the studio is hard to keep track of the weight of this piece. After doing some calculating we realized that we are way under the weight limit, something that eases our concern.
But what about the crate? Shipping a mobile sculpture of such mass and delicacy needs some serious professional packing. On Tuesday Judi made phone calls to people she knew in the art world asking for references for a crate and moving company that would be able to handle her piece. The final quote from a company was about $2000, a price too high for her to swallow. But the show must go on, so we keep working on the cells as Judi thinks of who can build her a crate.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Clean Up

It was time to clean up my palette, not quite the best experience in the life of an artist but it's one of those things that has to get done. I try to be good about wiping down the glass after each painting session but since I paint at night my energy level goes down, and the last thing I want to do is clean. In time the palette becomes a mess of dry oil paint, which for me results in bad color mixing.
Scraping paint after days, weeks, months of it being dry can be a daunting task, but at the same time the little pile of colorful paint shavings can be so interesting to look at.
Scrape scrape, and rub down with turpentine and you have a clean glossy just like new palette.
After finishing Steve's portrait I decided to work on two more portraits, and for this I needed to have a clean working surface. How would I be able to mix the correct flesh tones if I have the whole rainbow represented underneath. Reason two is that I wanted to see how much I could do with a limited color palette, a common practice in old master painting. I should clarify that I'm not one of those who wants to imitate the aesthetic of the "old masters," but I am an artists who is very interested in their working techniques and always willing to learn from their success. So who better than Velazquez? According to Jonathon Brown and Carmen Garrido, Velazquez had a small selection of colors which he used throughout most of his career:
Lead White, Calcite (chalk), Yellow Iron Oxide, Lead Tin Yellow, Naples Yellow (sparingly), Orange Iron Oxide, Vermilion, Madder Lake, Azurite, Lapiz Lazuli, Smalt, Brown Iron Oxide, Manganese Oxide (Umber), and organic blacks such as Bone or Vine Black. I had to substitute some colors which are not available in tubes but most of this list I had in my paint drawers. I've started mixing some flesh tones with this palette and so far I'm getting some excellent results. I will have to wait until I finish one painting before really committing to this range of colors.