Sunday, May 27, 2007

Lose virginity - the right way the Lost Virginity World, by Dominic Wilcox.

Friday, May 25, 2007


Most pin-ups don't need to be good art, and therefore they are not. This is what economists call the efficiency of the marketplace. If customers don't buy pin-ups for artistic merit, it would be inefficient to waste time creating it.

For example, the famed pin-up artist Alberto Vargas is (in my opinion) an uninspired technician with no visible artistic ability. The same might be said for many of the other popular pin-up artists, such as Earl MacPherson, Zoe Mozert, Al Buell or Art Frahn (despite the fact that their "art" is now published in fancy art books and sells for astronomical sums).

Of course, there are non-artistic reasons to enjoy pin-up art. It is a wonderful celebration of the huge clanging dumbnicity of men:

Gene Weingarten once wrote,
Many, many years ago, when God was still an adolescent, he decided that for the survival of the species, it was necessary that men be loathesome, prurient pigs.
Yup. And darned proud of it.

But there is at least one real talent in the field of pin-up art, the great George Petty. His well designed pictures and beautifully idealized forms stood out from all his competitors.

Unlike many of his peers, Petty was a genuine artist. You can see his special gift in this assortment of graceful hands from his pin-ups. They look like a flock of birds taking flight.

I like Petty's work, especially his early years for Esquire Magazine. You can flip through pin-ups by a hundred different artists, but Petty's quality stands out.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Ursula Sokolowska - the self as projection

Indeed, it looked suspicious.
You see, the combination of a mouth and a flower is usually considered sensual.
But in Ursula Sokolowska's art? This may be erotic. Actually, it may be considered sexual. But there is something too disturbing about it to make us think of a feminine, sensual image. The way the mouth is open, somewhat like at a medical exam - and then there's the projected image, which highlights some of the traces while completely eliminating, flattening out others. Thus, the mouth is both deep and shallow. The image spreads, but is strangely attached to the body that supports it.
See another example, my favorite:
Here, the limits are out-of-focus, only the lips remain crystal clear. And the void inside. This is one of the most purely baroque images I know, combining an apparent decorativeness with a powerful tension between the still and the life. As if beneath the surface of artistic illusion we received a sudden gust of reality.

And now, the proportions change. Sokolowska seems to focus more. Focus more on herself, and just focus more. The images can be seen as absolutely terrifying. Like some nightmare, some horrific vision.
And this is a vision, a vision of the artist's past, images of her childhood as the child of Polish immigrants. What we see are all the scary things one might associate with emigration: poverty, tough family relations, a feeling of loss and despair. A small child in hostile surroundings, be they a forest or a kitchen. And from time to time, the mother figure.

The child's face is taken from old pictures. And projected on faceless dolls. It actually looks like this face does not belong here. Which is possibly the most frightening.

But then, we should not forget the distance that is played out when using projection. Once again, the depth and the shallowness/surface play a subtle game. What we see is not a memory. It is a highly formalized game with memory. What captivates in these images is the uncertainty as to whether the form has made the ground safe enough for us to look. After all, a girl is staring at us from the picture. Funny thing, to use the technique of projection. As in a Freudian projection. Or in an image that is sent away from us, just to appear again. Paradoxically closer than the original.

Friday, May 18, 2007


Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural drawings are beautiful abstract designs that compare well with any fine art. At the same time, Wright's work had to comply with the laws of engineering and plumbing. The result is a marvelous blend of art and science.

One reason I often prefer illustration to today's "fine" art is that illustration is more engaged in the world. It is robust and vulgar and dynamic in an era when so much of gallery art is self-indulgent, narcissistic and pallid.

Architecture may be the ultimate example of art that is "engaged in the world." Wright's art required him to wrestle with gravity and structural engineering the way Jacob wrestled with the angel. That struggle grounded his work in the world, giving his drawings an inherent strength, relevance, and ultimately-- legitimacy.

Some of Wright's fine art counterparts who created "art for art's sake" did not need permission to take liberties with form-- they simply took it. They were left with nothing to wrestle with but their press agents and gallery owners, and it shows.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Pina Bausch Remix

And here is the original.


Szpilman Award: carpe diem, one ephemeral step at a time

An absolutely delightful organization called the Szpilman Foundation (whose motto is "Organizing Moments for People") (and who unfortunately has a lot of their site in German) is for the 5th time organizing an absolutely delightful event:

The SZPILMAN AWARD is awarded to works
that exist only for a moment or a short period of time.

The purpose of the award is to promote such works whose

forms consist of ephemeral situations.
The project is brilliant. I still haven't been able to figure out why one of the elements of the prize (besides a 'dynamic amount of money') is a residency in the Polish village of Cimochowizna. But hey, they pay for transport and all!
As for the winners. Well, so far I am not convinced... Which might mean there is room for one of us! The projects I seem to like the most are the ones made by the very people from the Szpilman Foundation (outside of the contest context), such as creating a performance with a lot of strangers and extremely little time.

Of all the finalists and winners of the Szpilman Award from previous years, my favorite one, I think, is this one:

Shannon Bool, Partially Renovated Floor

Shannon Bool purges the floor in her studio at the academy of arts
of the paints and muck of the last 15 years in order to bring back the
original oak parquet.

I am ready to admit that it's very simple, and that similar works have been around for a couple of years. And I like it.
What I like about Bool's work is the sense of transparency. In her later works she insists even more on the relation between what is found (and so, present, previous, old) and what is introduced (see her portfolio on the link on this page). There is an element of vandalism that is always intriguing. Still, I find that this earlier work is so special precisely because it plays the vandalism card like a double-edged sword. For once, we can say that the original, wooden floor is the vandal! This is something to think about, in many contexts. Art history, architecture, urbanism, but also more general: the offense of going back.

Another question is if this should qualify for the Szpilman Award. Generally speaking, many of the selected works do not seem to be as ephemeral as one might want them to be. They are too well documented, too gallery-conscious, too stable, and that, to me, makes them problematic. Not that I insist on total formal rigor, only the time factor seems to me like the very essence of the Award. Beyond the fact that it makes the works often difficult to "sell", or at least to consider on par with other types of art, it simply is about something slightly different. Lighter, maybe.

Artist's Development Toolkit: introduction to a review

This is extremely difficult. Trying to analyze yourself as an artist is a hell of a job. There seems to be never enough distance, and especially in contemporary art the frontiers are blurred, not only between genres, but also between types of activity. Some ideas are half-realized, some become realized too quickly, or in a direction I don't necessarily find ideal. The core I am left with is a very unstable one. Of course, this is probably saying more about myself than about the general state (!) of being a "contemporary artist".
The Artist's Development Toolkit is perfect for someone who already knows fairly well what he is doing and where he is heading. It helps in organizing ideas, in realizing the roads that still remain under-explored, and above all, in looking at the (mainly production-based, not artistic) obstacles in your career in a cool, distant way. All this through a self-help methodology. You answer questions, than you read your questions and get some suggestions on how to analyze them. (Don't forget to click on the little "+" signs, they give you extra info that is often much better than all the rest).
To someone really confused, it might bring only despair. It doesn't give answers, doesn't guide you. And we're not talking artistic guidance, but production, career guidance.
It is also an extremely long process. For the patient ones.

So if you're patient, not too lost, not too desperate, if you have a specialized field you're working in, a public, if you pretty well know where you are heading, this may help you. If you really, really need help, then maybe it's better you go and get some - and maybe use this as additional support.
Let me know how it worked out for you!

Oh, and if you want more artist resources, see here.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The match made of wood: David Lefkowitz

Some of the most brilliant work being done these days is tautological. (And when that is not bad, it is good). It brings about the best of what is absolutely unspectacular - while managing to keep it at an incredibly low-profile level. It brings about thrilling experiences of the nearly-left-over or nearly-forgotten. At the same time it gets eerily close to both the esoteric and the trivial. And that is a fascinating tension.
If the depth of art cannot be imposed, doesn't that signify there is room for fetching the trivial and bringing it all the way to the esoteric? Isn't this a road we make constantly, constantly redefining what we mean by trivial, and what is too far out?

See more of Lefkowitz here and here. Buy his work here.

PS: Have you noticed how this trunk (named Stump 2 by it's author) is elephant-like?


ARTISTS IN LOVE, part nine

Cowboy illustrator Charlie Russell (1864-1926) apparently melted down a gold nugget to make this ring for his 18 year old bride-to-be, the lovely Nancy Cooper of Cascade, Montana.

History does not record whether Nancy had qualms about putting on a saddle as a symbol of their marriage. Coming from a cowboy in the old west, perhaps such a ring even qualified as romantic.

Wedding picture of Charlie and Nancy, 1896

Before Charlie got married, his art studio was a back room in Jim Shelton's Saloon in Utica. After they were married, Nancy moved Charlie's studio into a respectable log cabin where she cleaned him up and sold his work. By most accounts she made him a success. It's not clear who really wore the saddle in their marriage. I suspect that, as with most long term relationships, the difference between who rides and who is ridden depends only on the time of day.

I kinda like this ring, both as a sculpture and as a symbol. Some might view it as a symbol of oppression, and maybe it is, but there is a lot to be said for Robert Frost's insight into the real nature of freedom: "You have freedom when you're easy in your harness."

Charlie and Nancy seem to have been happy together. They lived through 30 interesting years of great change, until Charlie died of a heart attack. Then Nancy and their son packed up and left Montana forever. Years later, the US government established the
Charles M Russell National Wildlife Refuge near the beautiful place where for 30 years Charlie and Nancy spent their nights under the big Montana stars.

When I look at Nancy's ring, I can't help hearing the faint strains of an old calypso song that Harry Belafonte sang in the 1950s:

My girl's name is Senora.
I tell you friends, I adore her...
Senora's dance has no title.
Just jump in the saddle, hold on to the bridle.


Thursday, May 10, 2007


Cathryn Jiggens, Ducky

What is this flight that doesn't take off, what are those hands that do not belong to the body, what are those wings that need rescuing, and this all too closed eye, and this all too open beak? What are the fingers whose tips have drowned?

Friday, May 4, 2007


I love this apocalyptic drawing by John Hendrix, one of the more distinctive voices in the field of illustration today.

In the tradition of Brueghel and Heironymous Bosch, this drawing is dense with symbols and weird iconography. Hendrix implies a larger universe of prophecy and mysticism but he knows enough to stop with mere implication. As Carl Sandburg said, poetry is "the opening and closing of a door, leaving those who look through to guess about what is seen during that moment."

This is a smart, literate drawing, but Hendrix's graphic images are as strong as his content. He conjures up great symbols such as the train careening downhill and exploding on the bridge as the "pride of man" ( Isaiah 2:17: "The pride of man will be humbled And the loftiness of men will be abased.")

Equally striking is Hendrix's vision of the "axe of God" (from Matthew 3:10)

This drawing has a hundred little clevernesses but like all good art it is more than the sum of its parts. Look at how the components come together for a vertiginous effect: the perspective is all askew, as the earth opens up and the tidal wave with a face rushes over the horizon and the train speeds at an odd angle into the pit. Nice job-- a drawing that makes you think. And laugh.