Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Lucas v. City of Long Beach

This is the newest addition to my Law Paintings series. While "citing" a famous painting of the past and its application in today's society, the painting also serves as a personal expression based on my experiences.

This is not to say, however, that the painting should be interpreted. I am not attempting to illustrate a specific point by creating a pictorial metaphor. Although certain words and phrases from this Court opinion are both presented and omitted, the painting (and others in the series) is not a connect-the-dots game intended to lead the viewer to reach a specific answer.

Rather, while certain words, phrases, and images are purposefully presented, certainty is eliminated. Unlike the Court opinion itself, there is no literal, rational narrative. But there is ambiguity and an open range of views.

Stonebreaker, 8" x 6", oil, acrylic, and vintage paper on panel.

Thank you for following the paintings, creations, sculpture, drawings, works in progress, Doodle of the Day, and other art by Los Angeles artist Lucas Aardvark :) To see older blog posts click HERE.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Bergamot Station Experience (Santa Monica, CA)

The practice of an artist requires that he study what others are creating in order to compare his own work and art theory to others. It allows the artist to understand current trends in the art world while also getting a sense of the regional art market.

This is not to say that the stuff currently displayed in galleries is good art or what needs to be followed, since galleries are in it for the business, and the driving force behind capitalism is not directly related to quality product. And those who can afford to collect art - those driving the market - are not always people with good taste in art. Nevertheless, just like any industry, it is important to study the work of others in the field, as it is the essence of how society develops and advances, the stepping stones and building blocks to new ideas, precedents, and ambitions.

I recently visited Bergamot Station in Santa Monica at the "30 open doors" shows, where the community of art galleries participated in art openings showcasing the work of dozens of artists. Certainly with the crowds of people and walls teeming with art, there was a lot to sift through, some worth seeing and some worth ignoring. I documented some of the work that made an impression on me.

Work that caught my attention conceptually was that of Milton Becerra, a Venezuelan born artist, at the Latin American Masters Gallery. I interpreted his work as addressing physics, matter and the universe, a network and connection of space and time. In his installations, he uses gravity, strings and stones, creating geometric planes within a space (the strings) connected to centralized matter (the stone). The work prompted me to question energy and physics, and I pondered this relation to ongoing contemporary scientific studies with the Hadron Collider, studies that will theoretically "take physics into a realm of energy and time where the current reigning theories simply do not apply."

Here is a picture of a portion of Becerra's work:

As I continued into another gallery, I stumbled upon a painting by Dan Quintana, a local artist living in Redondo Beach. While probably all of the work in this particular gallery would be written off as "low brow", Quintana's painting intrigued me by its craftsmanship - I admired his crafting a group of flawless images with vivid colors. So many times artists attempt to take a similar route and so easily fail. Although not a very intellectually thought-provoking work of art (which in the long run will prove its demise in artistic standing), like a centerfold, Quintana's piece stood out:

With respect to other paintings, Richard Heller Gallery exhibited some work by Spanish artist, Paco Pomet. His monochromatic wet into wet techniques, along with thick layers while still showing blank white canvas in certain areas, created dialogue among the viewers. Here are some examples of his work:

I enjoyed Pomet's work for the sake of "how" he painted it (shades, composition, texture, shape, line, etc.). But my biggest criticism is that some paintings seemed too obviously concerned with subject matter or wanting to reference pop culture. This caused them to feel as if they lacked confidence in the "how", thus attempting to compensate in the subject matter by including references to familiar characters. For example, a unique monochromatic representation of a rural laborer was ruined by the inclusion of Yogi Bear peeking from behind a tree in the background, as if Yogi had been included as an afterthought. This implied that the subject matter was more important than the "how", when it should have been the other way around.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Two New Paintings Of The Past

These two new small paintings reference big paintings of the past by Fuseli (1871) and Rubens (1602), in a continuation of my law painting series:

Left: The Nightmare, 8" x 6", oil, acrylic, and vintage paper on panel, 2011.

Right: The Rubens Deposition, 8" x 6", oil, acrylic, and vintage paper on panel, 2011.

My "law paintings" incorporate the text from California Court rulings. As internet research has displaced traditional book research, the books themselves have become obsolete, even though the rulings remain good law. I have thus torn out the pages from the vintage books and incorporated interesting writings into the paintings by sealing in the pages and painting over top them.

In certain areas I put a layer of glaze over the text to add color, or I scrape away paint to reveal certain words. For example, the words "People v.", "Supreme", "Homicide", and many others can be found strategically placed:

Thank you for following the paintings, creations, sculpture, drawings, works in progress, Doodle of the Day, and other art by Los Angeles artist Lucas Aardvark :) To see older blog posts click HERE.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Painting for the City of Santa Clarita

This is the completed painting for the City of Santa Clarita. The City asked me to create a work of art incorporating "found" objects from its Santa Clara River, objects I gathered during its annual River Rally this past September.

It is: Under The Bridge, 24" x 48", acrylic, oil, and found objects on panel, 2011. The painting, to me, radiates mostly positive and optimistic feelings, but at the same time carries a deeper network of emotions - a castaway teddy bear with his rucksack, an empty bottle of vodka, and fluttering butterflies over chaotic movement of paint - hard times under the bridge and old souls - yet piecing together simple things we find a melody, harmony, and rhythm to life.

The work will be exhibited throughout the month of January, 2012, at the Big Stories Gallery at Westfield Valencia Town Center, 24201 West Valencia Blvd., Santa Clarita, California 91350. The opening reception is on January 11th at 7:00 p.m.

Thank you for following the paintings, creations, sculpture, drawings, works in progress, Doodle of the Day, and other art by Los Angeles artist Lucas Aardvark :) To see older blog posts click HERE.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Doodle of the Day - R.I.P. Dimebag Darrell

On today's date, 7 years ago, legendary guitarist Dimebag Darrell was shot and killed on stage during a concert. Best known for his role in the band Pantera, his aggressive riffs, electrifying solos, stunning originality, unpredictability, and overall badassness, made his music famous around the world and earned him an awesome name. named Dimebag one of the top ten metal guitarists of all time, but Dimebag could play anything and everything, from jazz to classical. I wonder where he should rank on a list of all guitarists.

A good article about Dimebag Darrell's huge influence in music can be found HERE.

Thank you for following the Doodle of the Day and the paintings, sculpture, drawings, works in progress, and other art by Los Angeles artist Lucas Aardvark :) To see older blog posts and other doodles, click HERE.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Critiquing the Work of Chuck Close

Dare I criticize the paintings of Chuck Close? He is probably one of the most famous American painters alive today. But in my lifelong quest to reach artistic greatness, I must study the work of established artists, and in doing so, sometimes I feel the need to write an independent review of their art, in an effort to better understand it.

The above painting is an example of Close's recent work currently exhibited at Blum & Poe Gallery in Culver City, one of the most reputable galleries in Los Angeles.

Now in his 70s, Chuck Close earned his MFA from Yale University, was awarded the National Medal of Arts from President Clinton in 2000, and has his work in the permanent collections of museums worldwide, including the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

In 1988, he suffered a spinal artery collapse, suffering a seizure which left him paralyzed from the neck down. Over time and through rehabilitation, he regained movement in his arms, but not his fingers. He developed the ability to continue painting with a brush strapped to his wrist, but he has been confined to a wheelchair ever since.

His ability to overcome "the event" is certainly an accomplishment in itself, but his ability to continue creating art demonstrates his enormous passion for it and exemplifies the necessity of art in human life. A good PBS interview with him can be found HERE.

As the life story of Chuck Close will likely remain in art history books of American artists for centuries to come, and while purchasing his work may prove to be a solid investment, his 2011 work currently on display at Blum & Poe deserves an independent review:

The following is an image of his painting entitled Lucas, created in 1987, on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. I am particularly intrigued by this painting, not because of its title!, but because it was one of the first of its style, a monumental scale portrait using a Seurat-like pointillist technique, and marking Close’s departure from hyper-realistic painting. It was created in a style similar to the above self portrait, but because it stands over 12 feet tall, this is what it looks like from far away:

To create these portraits, Close takes photographs of his subject, then draws a grid over the photo. Next, he formulaically reproduces the contents of each tiny square on a magnified scale, by applying dots, dashes or short strokes of pigment. Viewed close-up, the painting looks like a series of abstract markings within separate squares, but from a distance, the markings form the illusionistic portrait.

A similar effect was demonstrated in the work of Georges Seurat in the 1880s, when the term pointillism was coined, represented in this detail from La Parade:

These ideas are related to the pixel element in digital imaging. Pixels are combined to create images the we see on computer screens, and derived from this process are creations of digital images like the following, which I call “digital pointillism”:

With the recent advent of new media, digital imaging has flooded our lives, including thousands of variations of images created from “digital pointillism”.

So, when viewing Chuck Close’s recent work at Blum & Poe, although the paintings initially resonate a professional quality and visual intrigue, after spending enough time with them, I am ultimately dissatisfied by their predictability. I am disappointed at Close’s unwillingness to venture into unexplored territory.

With a name like Chuck Close, he has earned the right to go anywhere and do anything in art. But he has stuck to the same formula he developed about 30 years ago, creating slight variations of the same idea, churning out paintings using the same ingredients to represent persons' faces. The easy defense is to point to his physical condition and conclude it is amazing enough that he can paint at all! But I'll bet Close is not looking for sympathy when it comes to artistic creation; he can handle unadulterated criticism.

An analogy can be made to the invention of the camera: Prior to its invention, western artists became famous by painting in a realistic style. When the camera and film were invented in the 1880s, many people jumped to the conclusion that painting had become obsolete. But the true artists met the challenge and proved that painting need not be photo-like, thus resulting in impressionism and post-impressionism (e.g., Monet, Seurat, and Van Gogh), paving the way to subsequent movements of the 20th century.

In the contemporary world of Chuck Close, the ease and availability of digital imaging has disturbed and challenged the originality of his painting style. To Close's defense, a painting is not an image - it is an object, and Close's paintings are painted by hand and imperfect, as a painting should be - grander in scale, dwarfing most digital images. Nevertheless, Close has done little to respond to the challenge, to discover new terrain, appearing happy to follow an accepted formula and be pinned as the guy who does those big gridded portraits.