Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary

René Magritte
"The False Mirror"
Oil on canvas

RenĂ© Magritte, a 20th century artist known for his surrealist paintings, manages so surreptitiously to mask issues of psychology and the human subconscious beneath his deadpan style and fantastical depictions. The False Mirror (1928) is one such work, composed entirely of a lashless eye with a cloudscape in the place of an iris and a pitch black pupil in its center; the piece embodies the true nature of any surrealist work which attempts to defy our perception of the natural world. A body part we are all accustomed to seeing when directing our attention towards someone, the eye in The False Mirror almost seems to be looking right back at you, as if staring into some reflecting abyss. The eye, or mirror, or window that Magritte wishes us to delve into seems to conjure up notions of reality and perception. For our eyes provide the only interpretation of the visual world and yet possess so many limitations as opposed to other species of animals. Yet this concept of “sight” may not even be limited in terms of its physicality but can also refer to mental or philosophical sight; begging questions of possible multiple realities or worlds. Magritte’s enigmatic and cryptic piece seduces the viewer; luring them into a world of alternate perceptions and metaphysical distortion; reaching beyond the boundaries of what is “real”-a truly surrealist work.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Design in Our Lives

          On our second class trip to the MOMA, we were to consider artworks in the Architecture and Design galleries in terms of high and low functionality. Ergonomics is the applied science of equipment design, as for the workplace, intended to maximize productivity by reducing operator fatigue and discomfort. But this field of science is not only applicable to the workplace, its principles are also appropriate in terms of household items, architecture-even environmental health sciences.
At MOMA, I came across two works of art that I found to have high functionality, one being IN-EL Mendori Lamp by Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake (IN-EL meaning “shadow,” “shade,” or “nuance” in Japanese),. Miyake’s lamp, aside from being aesthetically beautiful, with its coiling geometric pattern and relaxing glow, is an environmentally conscious piece constructed from recycled-PET fabric. This work is one in a collection of nine collapsible lampshades for LED bulbs and each lamp is folded from a single sheet of material thanks to a mathematical program created by Jun Mitani (a professor of computer science at the University of Tsukuba and a master origami artist). The object can be considered high functioning due to the fibers that are strong enough to support the lamp’s entire structure, making an inner frame unnecessary, not to mention its collapsible property which makes storage very convenient.
Just a few feet away I discovered, what I consider to be, one of the most impressive design works in the gallery. Mine Kafon wind-powered deminer is a large spherical tumbleweed-like apparatus made from bamboo and biodegradable plastics by Massoud Hassani. This wind-powered object is both easy to transport and assemble onsite. Hassani, who grew up in Afghanistan knows all too well the dangers of living in an area littered with landmines and has seen many friends get severely injured or die because of them. This design is not only ergonomically sound but it saves lives of innocent people who would fall victim to the hidden landmines in the ground. This artwork also requires little cost to construct as opposed to some current demining methods which can cost as much as a thousand dollars.
While at the Architecture and design galleries of MOMA, I noticed some artworks did not seem as ergonomically sensible or high functioning. One of them was Honey-Pop Armchair by Tokujin Yoshioka. This chair is made from the type of paper honeycomb that is used in Chinese lanterns and folds out just like a lantern, accepting the impression of the body of whoever first sits on it. What first strikes me about Yoshioka’s armchair in terms of low functionality is its medium, the delicate paper used to create the chair is beautiful and functional in terms of lanterns but not for a chair which is meant to hold a human body’s weight. This artwork may serve well as an aesthetic piece but its sheer delicateness is not practical for its seemingly intended purpose.
 Henry Dreyfuss’s Josephine Anthropometric Chart, is another piece that I found to lack significant functionality. Designed for the purposes of household ergonomics, such as physically easing women’s work in the home, Dreyfuss’s artwork is based on the dimensions of the average woman which is the standard kitchen work surface height (36 inches). This work would not only be of low functionality today but it also excludes an entire gender from the ergonomic advantages of such a work surface. In Dreyfuss’s lifetime a design as this would serve a great deal but would be considered quite exclusive in today’s day and age.

It is not my opinion that an object needs to be highly functional in order to be a good design, depending on the type of design that is intended. If something is proposed to be ergonomically smart than it should deliver its service in those terms but a design can also be intended to install a purely aesthetic response from the viewer that exists more essentially as a work of art.

 Issey Miyake
"IN-EL Mendori"
PET fabric and LEDs

Massoud Hassani
"Mine Kafon wind-powered deminer"
Bamboo and biodegradable plastics

Tokujin Yoshioka
"Honey-Pop Armchair"

Hnery Dreyfuss
"Josephine Anthropometric Chart"
Offset Lithograph

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Illustrate a Story

“My diagnosis was psychotic depression. You can hallucinate sounds and smells and tastes. And my mistake was doing drugs, because sometimes the line got blurred of what is real and what isn't. Other people seemed like they had so much--social relationships and girlfriends, and I was just trying to function.”
This is the story of Josh Lampert, who started having psychotic episodes during his sophomore year of college. Prompted by recreational drug use, his hallucinations and severe depression soon began to overwhelm him. Now 32, Josh and his father, Chuck, reminisce on the turmoil they both experienced due to Josh’s illness.
My drawing represents the disorder that was happening in Josh’s mind at that time. The person’s cracking skin signaling the salience of his psychosis. The creatures threatening to overcome him are his thoughts turned real by his hallucinations-the surrealism shadowing the blurred lines of his reality.

"Coming Undone"

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Chelsea Galleries Reaction

On our recent trip to the Chelsea galleries, we were asked to play the role of art curator and choose two works from two separate exhibitions that we would either choose to have in our collection or not. In choosing said artworks, I decided to go by what moved me aesthetically and what I felt would be most enduring in terms of public interest.
          While at the Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, I got to see video artist-Phil Collin’s exhibition. What first struck me about this particular exhibition was that, aside from a few large photographs, the work was mainly installation and video; requiring significant involvement of the viewer. This Unfortunate Thing between Us is the first piece, consisting of two channel video installations presented in caravans. I notice that my classmates and I are immediately delighted by the unorthodoxy of the piece. All of a sudden we become children in a sort of playhouse and we’re excited to be experiencing art through such an interesting medium. On the next level of the gallery is my heart's in my hand, and my hand is pierced, and my hand's in the bag, and the bag is shut, and my heart is caught, wherein you enter one of six listening booths that contain seven inch vinyl records, listening booths, turntables, amplifiers and speakers. One may enter and choose to play any of the seven records, sit down and fully engage themselves in either a recorded conversation or an original song. To me, Collins work would be a valuable purchase as a curator because of its immersive quality and its way of including the viewer. I would like to display this work and most of all see the reactions of the audience when they are asked to enter a work of art and explore it.

          At the Elizabeth Dee Gallery, I found the Post Culture exhibition with works such as that of Torben Ribe and Julia Wachtel. Ribe’s Untitled with Pizza Menus left me more than a little underwhelmed. Consisting only of scarce drips of granite paint on canvas with pizza menus tucked behind, there was not much to grab ahold of aesthetically. This type of abstract work relies mostly on concept rather than aesthetic, leaving myself or any potential viewer a bit confused as to what they are meant to feel. I found Ribe’s piece to be just a bit too “left field” for my taste. In Watchel’s piece titled Acv2.4, I also found there little to be desired. Composed of a few blocks of color and an upside down photograph of a woman drinking from a water bottle, I just found it a bit difficult to find an aesthetic quality in the work that would inspire me to share it with others. Like Ribe’s piece, I assumed that Watchel’s work probably relies on concept to convey its message; a concept that I, unfortunately, did not receive.

Phil Collins

"This Unfortunate Things Between Us"
Two channel video installation presented in caravans, color, sound.
60 min. per channel.

Phil Collins

"my heart's in my hand, and my hand is pierced, and my hand's in the bag, and the bag is shut, and my heart is caught"
Sound installation. Ten 7 inch vinyl records, listening booths, turntables, amplifiers and speakers.

Torben Ribe
"Untitled with Pizza Menus" 
Granite paint on canvas, pizza menus
39 × 33 in

Julia Wachtel
Flashe and digital print on canvas
46 × 42 3/4 in

Art and Identity: The Museum of Modern Art

Identity in art is one the most prominent qualities one will find when cross-examining a work of art. Whether it is an artist’s individual, cultural or historical identity, the environment in which an artist produces work greatly affects the final outcome which we as viewers get to enjoy and dissect. On our trip to the Museum of Modern art, our objective was to find three works of art that pertain to those three qualities respectively. 
As you enter the Contemporary Galleries (1980-Now) on the second floor of the MOMA, the first painting you will see is one by Henry Taylor, a Los Angeles painter who makes portraits of an assortment of different people in his life. In “Untitled”, he chose to depict his friend Will Gillespie (nephew of the great American jazz trumpeter, Dizzy Gillespie). In the painting, Taylor alludes to Gillespie’s Buddhist belief by depicting him with a Tibetan necklace and his hands in a prayer-like position, giving us an empathetic window into the relationship between artist and subject. Taylor’s quick way of painting gives the work an intimate yet immediate feel, almost as if you could picture being in the room as he quickly painted his friend while they conversed. The honest and simple portrayal of this work lends a keen individual quality to the viewer and allows them to be a part of this intimate moment between two friends.
In the photography exhibit, you will find such works by Hank Willis Thomas, a contemporary African-American visual artist and photographer. Thomas tackles cultural issues such as race, advertising, and popular culture, which is evident in his series titled Unbranded, where he removes logos and slogans from advertisements that feature black bodies, leaving them to “speak for themselves.” In works such as “Jungle Fever” the issue of racial equality is evident. Two hands, gently interlocked; one is of a white woman wearing red nail polish, the other: an African American male. With such depictions as this Thomas posits the still controversial concept of interracial relationships and the discomfort that it may still cause to some in our society. What is also interesting is that by nature of the series we know that this photograph was meant to advertise some sort of product which makes the image all the more intriguing. 
One work of art that may not be of any novelty but still contain a certain level of innovation to most is “Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gogh. “Starry Night” is a painting that has proven its emotional and historical timelessness to those who can appreciate its genius. Although smaller in size than one would guess, Van Gogh’s masterpiece continues to enthrall viewers, with its swirls of sky and expressive brushstrokes, it seems to swim before your eyes (this particular style, being one of its most prominent features.) Van Gogh was infamously ahead of his time, painting in what would be known in the early twentieth century as Expressionism. He paved the way, as many genius artists do, and took the brunt of a stubborn and fixed society in order for the next generations of artist to more easily continue to stretch the limits of what is possible in the designated art form. 
Whatever identity possesses an artist, it will always give their work a sense personality and context. Allowing the audience to connect to the piece no matter how much time has passed or how much the zeitgeist has shifted.  The distinctiveness of a work of art will forever be the main attractive quality that keeps the attention of a viewer no matter the time or place.

Henry Taylor
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas
78 x 62"

Hank Willis Thomas
"Jungle Fever"
Chromogenic color print
29 3/4 x 23 15/16"

Vincent Van Gogh
"Starry Night"
Oil on canvas
29 x 36 1/4"