Monday, January 23, 2012

A Thing of the Past

Raising the question about whether herds are a thing of the past, this painting is a hybrid between abstract and realistic elements, exploring the vague line between the two, blurring the three dimensional stage with the flat plane of the canvas. The subject matter may also be interpreted as a reference to social interactions and tensions among people, referencing the group mentality, confrontation, and isolation.

The Herd, 40" x 38", oil on canvas, 2012.

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.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Hirst Heard 'Round The World

Damien Hirst is currently exhibiting his “Dot” paintings at the Gagosian galleries around the world, prestigious galleries known for exhibiting some of the big names in visual art. I recently visited Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills for a firsthand experience of the internationally-hyped paintings. Mostly on loan from private collections, they are "Dot" paintings – spots of paint aligned on different sized grids:

In recent weeks, Hirst has also been in the news for admitting that he, like many other big artists, has teams of assistants actually physically create the paintings, and this resulted in indirect criticism from world-renowned artist, David Hockney.

Hirst states that he gets bored easily, so after he thinks up the idea, he has his assistants create the work. But Hirst's idea to create color grid paintings was not his own - color chart/grid paintings were explored by abstract artists such as Ellsworth Kelly over 50 years ago, and Gerhard Richter started doing them in the mid 1960s. Here is an example of Richter's work from c.1974:

So what is the profound difference in Hirst's paintings? Well, instead of rectangles, his color grid is comprised of...CIRCLES! Or, instead of hanging a picture conventionally, sometimes he will hang it like a DIAMOND!:

The circles are painstakingly drawn with a compass and filled in with color, the paintings being advertised that no color is ever repeated, thus amounting to a collection of many different colors. (Here's one way to never "repeat" any color: pay a visit to a Lowe's Home Improvement store, go to the painting section, and grab any one of the thousands of color samples available along the wall to be mixed and made by a machine. I'm not saying that this is how Hirst's assistants made each color, but the details of each painting do provide that they were made with household paint.)

Hirst has also gone big – GIGANTIC. Some paintings are more than two stories high containing dots each with five foot diameters. (He is also currently having his assistants work on another huge painting containing 1 million dots.) The enormity of the formulaic work reminded me of the endless string of blockbuster superhero films in theaters over the last decade, engaging the desire to be superhuman, entitled, or larger than life, and perhaps an example of Hirst's pharaoh-like power and pursuit to make metaphorical pyramids.

I need not describe in detail my satisfaction or dissatisfaction of Hirst’s work currently exhibited at Gagosian Gallery, but I'll throw in the phrases: “remarkable phenomenon” and “mysterious art world”.

Interestingly, as I was driving away from the Hirst exhibition, I happened to pass by a liquor store with a forsaken window decoration not so different from the million dollar paintings less than a mile away...

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Contemporary Antiquity

The Charge, 24" x 36", oil on canvas, 2011-2012.

Part of the inspiration for this painting was derived from my recent experiences revisiting ancient Greek and Roman sculptures. There is a certain inexplicable quality about the ancient art that every artist strives to replicate. I don't mean that every artist is attempting regurgitate what has already been created, but there is a quality to the ancient art that moves people. It moved the ancients, it moved people five hundred years ago, and it continues to move people today.

The ambiguity as to why these ancient works "move people" may be precisely what makes them so magical. Some have lost limbs and crumbled, only leaving us to imagine what they looked like when first created. Their mysteriousness seems to build as time goes on - a deeper connection to the human soul as society advances.

In a sense, part of the inspiration for this painting was to try to understand the mysterious, timeless quality of the ancient art. I do believe I have failed in coming anywhere near that quality. But that won't deter me from trying again, whether it be in a realistic portrait, landscape, or abstraction.

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.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Triumph of Painting: The Failure of Burgin's Concept

Conceptual artist and Yale MFA graduate, Victor Burgin, gave up painting in 1965, declaring it an outdated technology, ecologically unsound, a form of pollution. About fifty years before him, Marcel Duchamp had given up painting as a stupid, despicable activity. Yet, not long after Duchamp gave up, in 1937 Pablo Picasso painted Guernica, and on his deathbed in 1973, declared: "Painting remains to be invented."

If painting was an outdated technology in the 1960s, certainly it would be today. But over forty years since Burgin's analogizing painting to garbage, millions of people continue to visit museums to see paintings, including contemporary paintings. Either humans have an innate attraction to filth, or Burgin's judgment was contaminated by the structures of academia, including the political movements of the time.

People have been painting and viewing paintings since cave times. Maybe even before then. But Burgin, like many others, made a voluntary effort to prove that painting was dead. It could be interpreted that Burgin was announcing that his place in the history of human existence was so special, that he might as well have given himself the title: Painting's Angel of Death. But by now it is probably safe to assume he does not hold such a rank - perhaps because his academic philosophy was directly contrary to intuition and the involuntary reactions garnered by viewing a painting.

Burgin failed to realize that painting is not based on reason, and the viewers' reactions are not derived by logic. Rather, humans have a natural need to create. With that comes the ability to intuit when experiencing a form of art such as painting, having an immediate perception and reaction, be it positive or negative. Painting is a physical activity of the mind, eye, hand, and heart, and it is one of the ways an individual can attempt to comprehend the incomprehensible.

Painting has primitive roots, just like hunting, dancing, and music. And because humans will always be attempting to bring an organic sense of completeness and natural order to an otherwise complex society of new media, information and technology, painting will live on forever.