First Person Artist video series features exhibitions and studio visits of contemporary artists with artist/writer Kimberly Brooks
Artist Interviews & Studio Visits
“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
Every woman makes a decision, even by not making one, on what lengths she’ll go to uphold her youth and beauty, whether for herself or someone else. In Rachel Havnonian’s current “Power and Burden of Beauty” at the Jason McCoy Gallery, her installation includes drawings, sculptures and film stills that challenge viewers to consider and reconsider the price of beauty.
Her work covers topics we have heard much about since the feminist and post-feminist art of the 80s and 90s. She explores the subject from the point of view of the way in which females are raised in the US by interrogating the world surrounding beauty queens and pageantry.
Rebecca Campbell, Said the Lady to the Man, 2007, oil on canvas, 100″ x 84″, image courtesy of LA Louver Gallery
There is a passage in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables that makes me think of Rebecca Campbell’s installations and paintings — both are at once familiar and menacing. Hugo speaks of the ways in which physical places from our pasts become holders and place cards for psychological memories and experiences. “But when we are distant from them we find that those things have become dear to us, a street, trees and roofs, blank walls, doors and windows; we have entered those houses without knowing it, we have left something of our heart in the very stonework. Those places we no longer see, perhaps will never see again but still remember, have acquired an aching charm; they return to us with the melancholy of ghosts…”
Marilyn Minter, Installation shot of Green Pink Caviar, 2009, Times Square, New York
Luscious. Naughty. Saturated. Decadent.
Such is the moment we are immersed in when we stand in front of the art of Marilyn Minter. Los Angelenos can be in that moment when her show opens at the Regen Projects Gallery this Saturday night. Just like the oozing green je ne sais quoi that spills out of a mouth and gets tongued against a pane of glass in “Green Pink Caviar,” this art show also leaks out of the gallery onto Sunset Blvd., just like it did in New York’s Time Square, and as the video backdrop for Madonna’s latest tour.Marilyn’s images capture singular micro gestures in great detail — a tongue swirling teasingly on pink and green colored caviar, Pamela Anderson soaked and rapturous. Detail often defines the entire character and story itself. And that story is usually a party and that party is well underway when the viewer arrives, suddenly undressed and feeling kinky. But don’t be satisfied with just seeing the billboards. The paintings are awesomely large, glittering enamel extravaganzas. They envelope and probe the viewer just as the tongue probes that caviar. It’s shocking to be naked at a party, isn’t it? Welcome to the Marilyn Minter Show — which runs from Oct 24th to Dec 5th at Regen Projects in Los Angeles.
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.
I walk into Paul Kopeikin’s new gallery in West Hollywood and what do I see? I see the fantasies (realities?) of Iran and North Korea. I see Alan Greenspan’s testimony that he found a “a flaw in the model … that defines how the world works.” I see the value of my pension plan. I see the image everywhere I go, reflected in everyone’s shiny pupils. It’s as if it’s coming from inside them. I see the paintings of Rebecca Bird.
Rebecca Bird, Untitled, watercolor on paper: 12″ x 12″, Courtesy Kopeikin Gallery, Los Angeles
My parents divorced when I was fourteen and I used to play evil tricks on my father for the years he was dating and I still lived at home. When a woman called and said “Is Lenny there?” I would say in the sexiest voice “No, I’m sorry, he’s busy right now” then whisper, ‘Stop it!'” then giggle and hang up. During high school, I often accompanied him to the symphony or an art show, and on more than one occasion he would have to explain that no, I was his daughter and not his date. My parents divorce was probably one of the most significant and difficult experiences of my life. Any one who has also been through a divorce would probably agree. It was even the topic of one of my first art shows. Until both my parents remarried, I always felt a bit uneasy until they settled down, as if I were the parents of wayward high school grads who hadn’t applied to college.
“When I have something to say that is too difficult for adults, I write for children. They have not closed the shutters. They like it when you rock the boat.” – Madeline L’Engle
During a time when we are passing bills the size of mountains that our children and children’s children will have to pay, the haunting work of photographer Vee Speers seems doubly fresh as well as beautiful. Celebratory children in costumed dresses, beehive hairdos, and wings along with images of children in gas masks and silent pleading looks on their are starkly celebrated on a plain backrop. The washed out photos appear aged and recall a sense of timelessness, that makes them feel removed, but haunting nonetheless.
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
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.
Last week, Polaroid announced that it would be discontinuing the beloved Polaroid film. Even if it was expected, I became instantly saddened by the news. With today’s digital “take 50 keep 2” picture-taking mentality, I know fewer and fewer people who even keep photo albums because the sheer editing task is so daunting.
I will never forget when my parents brought home their Poloroid SX-70 Camera. After “say cheese” we would grab the photo from its mouth and flap it around like angry chickens with the misguided belief that this would help it develop. Then, we watched the image appear like a magic trick before our very eyes. Little did we know then that the real magic would occur decades later, when the colors would fade in a yellow green haze and offer an aesthetic aftertaste even richer than the instant gratification of seeing it develop.
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.
First Person Artist is a weekly column by artist Kimberly Brooks in which she provides commentary on the creative process and showcases artists’ work from around the world. This week’s artist in the first person is New York’s Kirsten Hassenfeld.
It’s “Christmas Time” here in America and there is such an intoxicating burst of creative energy from so many people at the same time you’d think the earth might flip on its axis. We get out our scissors and paper, make decorations, spontaneously burst into song, string colorful lights all over our trees and houses, strange sculptures sprout on our lawns, drink too much and stay up too late trying to get it all done– gosh, it’s like finals at art school!
Photograph by Nash Baker, nashbaker.com, Courtesy of the artist and Bellwether, New York
One step forward. Two steps back.
It has been six years since the U.S. congratulated itself for “liberating the women of the Taliban”, and one week since a nineteen-year-old girl and gang-rape victim was ordered the penalty of 200 lashes in Saudi Arabia for the act she allegedly caused because she was caught sitting in a car with a man who was not her relative.
As an artist and woman growing up in the West, one of the towers that fell on 9-11 was my view of what it meant to view and create art. After the cascade of news stories that brought front and center how my sisters throughout the world live in what I consider to be oppressive misogynistic cultures, I thought deeply about what it must be like where there is no visual representational art, where women are covered from head to toe and not allowed to be seen let alone depicted in any form, where billboards also have the female entirely blackened in silhouette and western art history text books are considered “pornographic”. The closest I’ve come to the Middle East is relatively progressive Dubai–the UAE has just made a deal with the Louvre Museum in Paris to build a branch in the tourist-driven area. And even though you can find a forty foot high image of Paris Hilton in the Guess Jeans store at the United Arab Emirate’s Mall (this is progress!), outside the mall there’s not a painting or photograph of any woman in sight except for the framed photographs of the men who rule the country and some abstract designs in all the hotel lobbies. It’s really really strange.
My friends Liz and Paul have a Wayne White landscape above their bed with block letters spelling “Good Looking People Having Fun Without You” off into the distance like a petrified fear hanging above their pillows. It’s so wonderfully absurd it makes me laugh every time I see it.
Good Looking People Having Fun Without You by Wayne White
I know another couple who has a large diptych of a man biting a woman’s nose above their headboard. Since there’s an obvious chance that bedroom-hung art might seep into the subconscious or reflect something more personal than normal about the collector, I thought I’d take this opportunity to interview the artist and ask him, among other things, that very question:
When the sight of plastic bags twirling in the wake of our cars is commonplace, when thick orange sunsets become ever more fantastical and people in Georgia are fined for watering their lawns, man’s impact on nature becomes less and less deniable, even by the crazies. Yet, we forge ahead, not wanting to be inconvenienced by the truth (thanks, Al), nor denied access to all the amenities of the American Dream. And the ever growing sheaths of concrete and box stores continue to expand to afford us just this. According to the NY Times, urban sprawl consumes 9000 acres a day in this country.
In Joel Tauber’s latest series, “My Lonely Tree,” he falls in love with and cares for, a tree. Yet unlike the sad polar bear sitting on a diminishing icecap, his images are right in our backyard, something we might drive around and miss otherwise. She may be losing the war, god we hope not, but to see this series is to instantly share Tauber’s rapture for Nature’s triumph in one tiny battle at the Rose Bowl parking lot.
Courtesy Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects
For everyone living in Southern California right now, the heavy black smoke spewed by the wildfires has thrown the entire region into an altered state. The palette, which is often so bright, has descended into a muted orange grey. Visual anchors that we count on — the sun, the moon, the horizon — look surreal and abnormal. A silent dread building up over years of drought preceded this. But now that it’s here, we are in it. And it’s all-enveloping.
“Tender Among us I”, 62 x 72 in. Oil on Panel. Liat Yossifor
I just got back from New Orleans where I saw but a glimpse of the heartache and devastation that Katrina wrought. And yet, to be an artist is to have a silent fascination with the sight of such decay; with the moldy walls of an abandoned building, the rust on a faded green car or the way a drop of oil slicks over a polluted puddle of water.
When I recently interviewed this week’s First Person Artist, Katherine Gullien, her answers gave that fascination, and my trip to New Orleans, a certain oxygen, and it made me view it, through the prism of her work, in a new way.
Ever since technology essentially air-lifted artists’ work out of their studios and galleries and put them online, on any given evening (for those of us who prefer to work in natural light) you can find mobs of artists, usually very solo creatures, roaming around the Internet looking at other artists’ work. A few years ago, during one of my nightly expeditions, I stumbled upon a freak phenomenon called the “Painting A Day Movement” (affectionately referred to as “PAD”). It started when a single painter named Duane Keiser decided to challenge himself to make a single painting a day and sell them online. He was smart about it, the paintings are small, he set up a simple group on Google, collected email addresses, threw the paintings up on Ebay, and the next thing he knows he’s not only selling work, people are bidding up the price, he has legions of fans, is making a great living and has been credited with starting the movement by USA Today and the New York Times.