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Pyramids have magical qualities. My grandfather (the bon vivant/entrepreneur/eccentric one, not hard-driving Russian immigrant one) used to have a pyramid sculpture over his fruit bowl and my uncle would swear — *swear* — that the bananas stayed ripe for months without rotting because of it.read more ›
When I was thirteen years old, I attended Interlochen Center for the Arts summer camp. It was presented to me at the candle lighting ceremony of my Bat Mitzvah. I didn’t really know what it was. But my parents grew up in Detroit and heard about it all their lives– this magical place up in the woods of Northern Michigan. I was accepted. I was studied sculpture and painting.
And while I was there, I took up piano.read more ›
Imagine Degas, spending all that time in the ballet studios with his sketch book, dreaming of a series of paintings that captured their movement.read more ›
Now that we’re all huddling indoors and meeting online, a new kind of conversation is happening on Zoom where artists gather and ogle other artists’ work. Join us for our next conversation. Generally we meet monthly. Sign up below to get invitations:read more ›
When we look backwards in history, we see only the best.
The artworks we are taught to think that “count” are just a few from an endless amount of experiments, failures, and successes.
Picasso was forty years old when he became “Picasso” after he painted the scenery for Diaghilev’s Russian Ballet in London.read more ›
I never buy the Financial Times. But it was pink, it was in the olden days when I was at an airport traveling and I wanted to read the feature on David Hockney and that is when I saw this haunting quote:
Unfortunately they gave up teaching painting and drawing. What’s going to happen? If you stopped teaching mathematics, bridges would fall down.
-David Hockney, Financial Times June 26, 2016
It is March 12, 2020, the Corona virus crisis is dawning on everyone here in America and we’re told were 10 days behind Italy where it’s unfathomably bad. My college aged kids are told no spring quarter. Everyone is stressed and worried.
There’s a scene in Roman Polanski’s The Pianist where the main character runs around trying to figure how to hide something valuable before the German’s invade Poland. As their conditions get worsen and they end up in the concentration camps you can’t help but to reflect on how futile that initial worry was.read more ›
Who is this gorgeous woman?
And then perhaps you thought this was painted by Francesco Clemente.
Nope, the painting above was actually what was in a sarcophagus on a mummy to create a portrait of the person who had died. These same kinds of mummies were later sold in a black market trade and burnt so that their ashes could be used to make so-called “Mummy Brown”.read more ›
The best artists I know are secretly hilarious. They giggle and laugh and are more often mischievious or odd or out of sync, often absurd often visual thoughts bouncing from out of nowhere in the conversation like a stray soccer ball from a neighbor. But when you take our picture, we have to look really fucking serious. Deadly serious, like Picasso.read more ›
First Person Artist video series features exhibitions and studio visits of contemporary artists with artist/writer Kimberly Brooks
The amazing thing about skin is that there are so many different ways to depict it. Like a religion, there are many different sects and belief systems.
You can either attempt to replicate skin tone exactly, as if you’re sculpting flesh from scratch.
You can capture the ways it reflects light, against a pool and sun.
Made especially for my painting students about the architecture of paint.
I remember the first time I ever painted in oil as if it were yesterday. I was initially hesitant to use the medium for 2 reasons: Firstly, I put it on a pedestal, as if one needed a right or permission. Secondly, I knew it involved materials that were somehow dangerous.
I did it anyway. I knew then that I would be using this medium for the rest of my life. And I was right.read more ›
“Stay away from Bonnard.”
Says the post it on the interior door of my studio.
A reminder not to look, not to be seduced so easily by the shimmering palettes.
So I make like Odysseus tie myself to the mast.
I made a great big canvas. For three weeks it sat in the center of the studio like Jack’s massive desk in The Shining. No matter how many “painting miles” I’ve earned, there’s really nothing more terrifying. Of course, I have some ideas, a subject, a palette in my mind. Several in fact. But I’ve encircled it, ignored it, worked on smaller paintings instead. Finally, today, I took six different shades of pink. Some cadmium red light, rose and violet, and I just attacked it. It’s okay, I wasn’t totally committed because I knew it was just the ground of probably ten layers that will live above it. But it was a start.
I hope your new year is off to a great start. Despite my perpetually lying on Instagram about my location (like posting pictures from my November trip to India weeks after I returned), I have indeed returned to home to California and have been quietly painting, planning and immersed in life.
I took the above picture Inside the City Palace Museum which is across the water of the Lake Palace in Udaipur, India. There are rooms of walls just covered with Indian miniatures which chronicle the court life of the Mewar family who still rules after seventy six generations — the oldest dynasty in the world. You can spot how the introduction of perspective and portraiture seeped into the way artists depicted events at pivotal moments after the British came and gave art as gifts. *Sigh*
(The following interview is the aggregation of answers to a series of questions posed by Sophie Chiche)
I used to be fueled by independence and artistic freedom. I came out of the gate wanting to shock and be shocked by the universe. But that has transformed into a love of much smaller moments, usually in the studio or with my family and people I love, like hours two through six in my studio, a gorgeous view, and cooking a great, healthy meal for my children when they come home from school.read more ›
About four years ago, Arianna Huffington asked me to blog about my paintings and process as I made them. At first I demurred, saying that it would be impossible for me to expose myself or my work that way. The real truth was that the proposition terrified me. A few days later, I thought to myself, well, perhaps I could interview other artists about their work and start a conversation.
Since then, I have had the privilege of interviewing and writing about over seventy eight artists for a column I started here called First Person Artist. Featuring my own and other artists’ work, I covered range of topics including politics, photography, fashion, the last election, climate change, war, feminism, facebook to my own creative process. I made writing and having a conversation with other artists an integral part of my art practice. The act alone gave me courage. And unless you subscribe to the Emily Dickinson model of posthumous discovery, a huge part of making art requires courage, oxygen and getting it “out there.” We are encouraging artists, curators and critics alike to write about their work, review others’ work, curate their own online exhibitions, and write about newsworthy items that inspire further thought or a strong opinion.
I’m lucky enough to have caught on video the exact moment when I was running along side my daughter’s bicycle as she was learning how to ride for the first time and I let her free. As soon as she was balancing on her own, I had this huge beaming smile on my face as I watched her circle back towards me in a wide loop and then did it again. I feel no different today as the beloved “Arts” vertical, something that I created from scratch, merges with Culture and to become a “Super Vertical”, “Arts & Culture”, which is exactly how it should be.
The Merging of Arts & Culture. Illustration by Priscilla Frank
“The artist, with little or no awareness of what is going on in the field of physics, manages to conjur up images and metaphors that are strikingly appropriate when superimposed upon the conceptual framework of the physicist’s later revisions of our ideas about physical reality. Repeatedly throughout history, the artist introduces symbols and icons that in retrospect prove to have been an avant garde for the thought patters of a scientific age not yet born. “
– Leonard Shlain, Art & Physics” Chapter One: Illusion/Reality
This was the huge meme that grew inside my late father’s head throughout my childhood. It spilled forth onto our dining room table, on walks along the beach during family outings, on napkins where he diagrammed what it would look like to sit astride a beam of light and how Einstein’s Theory of Relativity corresponded with, say, Cubism and Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Nude Descending a Staircaise’ and it spilled forth within the reams of paper that I edited, chapter by chapter of what would become his first best-selling book, throughout high school in and college.
What would you do if you had 18 minutes to impart a meme on a stage in front of an audience with three cameras and no notes? I created a lecture that combined the ideas of three essays I had written in the past, and then added some personal stuff. They encouraged making it personal in the “TED Commandments” materials that I received when I agreed to strip off my clothes and waltz around in a bikini… I mean talk on stage and be fascinating with no notes… I have done so many things that scare me in one year. I’m actually getting use to it. If it doesn’t scare me than what’s the point? Now I wait while they edit. Honored to be chosen as the guest speaker. Still recovering..
In an interview with artist Ethan Murrow, I depicted a spectrum I call “The Nudist and The Chemist”. On one side, there is “The Chemist”, who works in a pristine lab with a Bunsen Burner and the thinnest of pipette; on the other, there is “The Nudist”, who slathers paint with a spatula in one hand, a glass of wine in the other, all- while naked. While every artist’s approach is different, I’m leaning towards “The Nudist”. I think of the elder Matisse, who worked in bed into his eighties with yards of fabric, a big pair of scissors and sunglasses that the doctor prescribed he wear for fear the colors might get him too excited.
For this recent show I’ve been painting directly on oil primed linen, stapling it to the wall and then stretching it afterwards. All the themes I’ve been working on as a painter — portraiture, narrative, the language of costume– have melted into one another the way meat falls off the bone after it’s been roasting for a long time– no longer recognizable in its former incarnation, but more succulent. Whereas my previous exhibitions revolved around specific subjects, including people wearing specific types of styles (“Mom’s Friends”) or people who wield style altogether (“The Stylist Project”), I now let folds and patterns serve as a vehicle for a kind of abstraction. I’ve created a series of “unportraits” where the figure no longer serves a purpose like telling a story. It’s a shape, a part of the painting.
The introduction and subsequent rescinding of The Gap Logo unleashed a series memories of my younger self and the visionary designer Walter Landor.
I was a freshman at UC Berkeley. Being the always drawing-painting-coloring-designing “creative-type” kid, my father thought I might enjoy a lecture at SFMOMA by the legendary designer Milton Glaser who was introduced by his West Coast Counterpart, Walter Landor of Landor Associates. I was raised in Mill Valley so my university, my hometown and the glittering lights of San Francisco were all only a bridge away.
I have always wanted an excuse to write about how curiously New Yorkers seem when they first arrive in Los Angeles.
A transplant myself, I especially love recent New York immigrants to Los Angeles. Their pallor is still a bit pasty and a bright sharpened halo hovers about them like static electricity. Eventually the golden light, the horizon lines and all those “superficial vapid people” start to wear them down and seep into the first layer. See them a couple months later, and they’re not only a different color, well, they’re different people.
And then there’s Jeffrey Deitch. An energy field all by himself, he belongs to that rare breed of individuals who treats cities like their very own living room – casually rearranging furniture, redecorating, inviting people and entertaining as he pleases. Lest we forget, this is the man whose Deitch Projects produced over 250 projects in 15 years featuring contemporary artists and performers, the likes of which included everyone from Yoko Ono, Oleg Kulik, Shepard Fairey, Julian Schnabel, Francesco Clemente to Fischerspooner, Scissor Sisters and The Voluptous Horror of Karen Black. He created the first reality TV Show about art called Art Star. His annual one day Art Parade in on West Broadway in SoHo regularly attracted 1000+ participants. Only last year with Goldman Properties he organized The Wynwood Walls, where 15 artists created 11 permanent murals throughout Miami’s Wynwood district. As the new director of MOCA, I am more curious to see how the landscape of Los Angeles and its art scene will be changed/altered/rearranged/electrified by him.
Kimberly Brooks: You have been in New York for the last thirty years. This was a dramatic move for you. Why Los Angeles? Why now?
Jeffrey Deitch: From 1940 to the present, the art world and particularly Los Angeles, has undergone a transformation not unlike the Italian Renaissance. First, there are the eight art schools and the artistic heritage of the city. There is a convergence of really great artists who continue to do great work, such as Ed Moses, Ed Ruscha, Paul McCarthy, Mike Kelley, Mark Bradford and Amanda Ross Ho. It is all happening so fast — there’s a lot to sort out. Right now there’s a new group of abstract artists looking at abstract expressionism in a new way. There is a lot to mine and understand. A lot of artists born from 1960 onward haven’t yet gotten their due yet.
Installation: Hopper Exhibit at MOCA’s Geffen Contemporary
KB: What inspired you to make Dennis Hopper’s work your inaugural exhibition?
JD: Dennis was still alive when we worked on his show. I knew him very well and it was obvious to me that this was his time to see the body of his work in this setting. I knew I had to seize the opportunity for him to be a part of it. Selecting Julian Schnabel to curate, a long-time friend of Dennis’ and mine, was also obvious.
KB: You were one of the first to imagine a reality television show about the art world called “Art Star”. A lot has been written about of Bravo’s recent show “Work of Art”. Did you watch the show what did you think of it?
JD: I did watch episodes of the show and liked it. Although we did it differently in that it was less like the typical reality show and the artists didn’t have to live together. When we made Art Star, hundreds of artists lined up around the block to audition. I saw the population as brimming with creative people and artists who had something to share. This led to the creation of the Art Parade which we had from 2004 until 2007, when it got rained out.
KB: When you arrived, you made a splash not only with the Hopper Exhibit, but also an appearance on General Hospital with James Franco and his art project. I watched them before our interview. How did that project come about?
JD: I actually was talking with James Franco about doing an exhibit about his appearances on General Hospital well before MOCA made me the offer to be its director. In fact, we were going to relocate the entire set of General Hospital to Deitch Projects in New York as an installation. I spoke with ABC about it, but the transfer of the set and all the actors was going to be several hundred thousand of dollars, more than the cost of the production of the show. Then MOCA called, and everything fell into place to stage it in Los Angeles at the [Pacific Design Center] within that context.
Jeffrey Deitch, James Franco on set at General Hospital
KB: What is it about television as a medium, combined with art, that intrigues you most.
JD: Overall, I think any opportunity to expose people to art on a mass level — to have some kid in Oklahoma say to his mother, “I want to be an artist”— is a good thing. Somewhere out there, there is the next major American artist who might not have even thought of it as an option before.
KB: What was your first reaction upon hearing that Eli Broad would be housing his Museum of works right across from MOCA?
JD: I think it’s a great idea.
KB: Overall, how are you adjusting to life on the West Coast? Let me guess, you live in Hollywood and you’re driving a convertible.
JD: I live in Los Feliz, right down the street from a handful of celebrities. I like driving. The transition has been easy. Much easier than it would be than the other way around
Today I played 7 Rings, the game created by Rebecca Campbell and Nicole Walker on the Huffington Post. Each participant has 24 hours to respond to the previous artist’s work. I was responding to the poem below by Alison Deming called The Mirror.read more ›
“Falling Into Ends” New Paintings by Liat Yossifor. June 11- August 30 Galerie Anita Beckers, Frankfurt Germany | Frankenallee 74 | D-60327 Frankfurt a. M.
Powerful art and extreme nature have a lot in common. This spring when the Icelandic volcano grounded all European planes and the most arresting images cascaded through my internet browsers – so much so that I had to catch my breath – my mind immediately went toward the work of painter Liat Yossifor.
Smoke erupting from Eyjafjallajokull volcano. Getty Images 2010
A never ending tidal wave of sugar and plastic; that’s what it’s like to raise children today.
There’s nothing quite like the bits and pieces of toys that only seem to be enjoyed during the “opening” portion of a birthday present or that they received far more enjoyment with a cardboard box. Once they get over the rush of tearing open the clam shell plastic packaging, they literally never play with it again. I’d end up filling large plastic Glad bags (the really large one for leaves) with bits and pieces of toys that, once torn asunder, were never decipherable again.
And then, there are the straws.
Typical way restaurants serve kids drinks.
I didn’t expect to laugh as hard as I did when I watched Will Farrell’s “Your Welcome, America” this Saturday night featuring himself as George Bush. It felt great.
It is almost the sixth anniversary of the start of shock and awe campaign of the Iraq war this Friday. I’ll always remember that because it happened on my birthday. And that day in my studio I just sat in front of a huge canvas and painted the word “war” with a blog sloppy dripping paint brush and left early. For pretty much all the artists I know, with their antennaes out there blowing in the wind, it was impossible to not let the war— everything—all seep into our thoughts and work. It was also almost impossible for me not to write about the election and view art in terms of of politics and what was going on in the world.
If every cell in my body had a face, it would resemble that of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”, with each of the mouths getting wider and wider until November 4th is over with.
As an artist, I have, like the rest of my species, huge antennas and right now I find it simply impossible to make or write or think about art and not think about the election.
Watching history being made in every regard is to see reality afresh; when a few elements are tweaked, whether the first African American or the first woman vice president. Although let’s be real about the latter—McCain’s injection of Sarah Palin into his campaign was less history and more like an over-dosing Uma Thurman getting a shot directly in the heart a la “Pulp Fiction”. I attribute the genuine history making moments to Obama and Clinton. And thanks to them I do not think as a country that we will ever see four white guys lined up on those debate stages again.read more ›
This week is the 40th Anniversary of Tom Wolfe’s famous “Electric Kook-Aid Acid Test” and I thought it would be high time we take a small moment to reflect upon the influence of drug use on art and culture. In an interview with Time Magazine, when asked if Wolfe thought that the drug culture had been stripped of its intellect, he replied:
“Ha! That’s assuming that it had an intellect—particularly in the case of LSD, which everyone assumed opened the doors of perception. We’ve since discovered that it does the opposite.”
I have to say I heartily disagree. For better or worse, there are ample byproducts of drug culture’s intellect, including, according to Israeli researchers, the Old Testament, where the drug in a popular drink of the time called ayahuasca induced “the seeing of light and profound religious and spiritual feelings.” And anyone who thinks that the Disney illustrators who created Mickey Mouse’s frantic repetitive broom exploits in Fantasia weren’t on anything are frankly, as we say affectionately to someone who is clueless, “smoking crack”.
Charlton Heston as Moses and Timothy Leary In Photocollage
Writing a weekly column about artists that turn me on omits a gigantic portion of what turns me on as an artist. The truth is that more artists don’t turn me on than do— there are a hundred for every one I feature. But there are certain things, not by fine artists, per se, that really turn me on and I affectionately refer to them as “Artist Porn”.
Note, the dictionary definition of porn is: “obscene writings, drawings, photographs, or the like, esp. those having little or no artistic merit.” I certainly don’t use the word by this definition. One of my friends insisted that I was describing a “guilty pleasure.” But, no, that is just not the case. Dark chocolate is a guilty pleasure. Making love before breakfast is a guilty pleasure. Doing it during a conference call, well that’s just plain kinky, but I digress. No, this is clearly “artist porn.” These are things that light up my brain like a hormone-addled teenager gazing upon some moaning glistening assemblage of limbs. Behold this partial list that I encounter in daily life that visually rock my world:
Angela Dufresne, The Bruno S Island Acting School and the S House, Paris, France, 2006, oil on canvas, 66 by 108 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Monya Rowe Gallery, New York.
Committing oneself to being an artist is fraught with uncertainty on so many levels —the subjectivity of success, the schizophrenia of the solitude needed to create and then the exhibitionism needed to reveal— but within the act of creating, the artist exerts total control. She plays God. And if that means rewriting history too, all the more powerful. Given the last seven years of this administration, where we’re more likely to spot bumper stickers that say “He’s Not My President” than flag pins, it is refreshing to encounter artists who also take history— any history— into her own hands.
Take for a moment the spectrum of Realism and the raucous jazz of Abstraction in painting and slide somewhere in the middle. Over to the left is realism flexing its technical prowess, and it is impressive— posing in the sun like a young Arnold Schwarzennegger. But once the painter leaves it, when reality is tweaked or cracked open and abstraction seeps in, the mind wanders inside the crevasses and when done right, it sets the viewer free, free to interpret or imagine something greater than even what the painter had in store. The longer I paint, the more I leave realism and revere painters who ride that certain edge in between. Arnold looks so silly in that bathing suit anyway.
Over the last ten years, the art of photography has undergone a sex change. The rather masculine act of capturing or “shooting” a moment (“the hunt”) with a sound subject and composition has evolved into one where the real art comes in the editing, not the capturing. The initial “kill” gets skinned, dressed and prepared for a meal by the wonderful witchy post production tool known as Photoshop. The photographer, like a woman putting on make up at her vanity before going out for the evening, edits reality: the best features and colors are enhanced and sharpened, and a new, hyper-realistic art form, with a nod to surrealism of last century, is born.
As an artist, I consider art on a sort of spectrum in my mind by the manner in which it is rendered. I picture two opposing ends: one a chemist, who has a pristine lab and measures everything in the most precise manner, conducting experiments in a white coat with the thinnest of pipette, a Bunsen burner, and a notepad to meticulously record results. On the other end is the nudist, someone completely of the body who paints without a trace of inhibition, who never decides what to put on the canvas in advance but just instinctually slathers it on with a huge brush or spatula, perhaps even while sipping a glass of wine with the other hand, all while naked. In my mind I call the two types of artists “The Nudist and The Chemist.” With every painting, I fall somewhere in between—with “The Nudist” being my ultimate goal as an artist, like Howard Hodgkin or perhaps the elder Matisse, working in bed into his eighties with yards of fabric, sunglasses and a big pair of scissors.
As I write this, I’m sitting on a stool in the middle of my studio. My solo show is less than five weeks away. I have over fifteen canvases of all sizes strewn about, the finished ones hanging on the walls, the rest facing the walls. I’ve divided the paintings into three categories: Rock Stars, Rescue Missions and Orphans. There’s nothing like a deadline to align all the atoms of the universe so I can see with crystal clarity.
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I’ve often sought a literalness when depicting the color of flesh. Overtime and many techniques, I eventually landed on a restricted palette which uses burnt sienna as a base along with french ult. blue, cadmium orange, sap green and crimson.
When I was a young girl, I remember my mother and her friends, their clothes, their dinner parties and their laughter, as a distinctly as a perfume.
These women were not fifties housewives who stayed home and marvelled at the new technology of the dishwasher.
This was Marin County in the 1970s, when love songs oozed from the radio, a geodesic dome spung from the lawn in our backyard and my mother put rhinestones on everything.
Now that I am a mother with a daughter of my own, I see the way she studies me and my friends, how she imitates the way I walk and talk or wants to traipse in my heels. While the imagery of women I paint in this series is unique to this time and place, the group itself is universal. In this series, investigate young mothers as a powerful subtribe around which everything evolves.
I was at a dinner party tonite and a man was telling me how his ninety four year old mother was dying. She woke up in the middle of the night last night and said,
“Oh Henry, I thought it was seventy years ago and you were six years old and I was getting you a glass of milk!”
“No, mom, it’s not. It’s just me and I’m an old man and you’re an even older woman.”
“My god.” she clutched his arm. “It went by so fast.”