Monday, September 19, 2011

Cecilia Lueza’s Dual Nature Brightens The Ormond Museum

Making bright colors, femininity, mysticism and nature appear completely harmonious in a way that still feels fresh can seem difficult, but Dual Nature: The Work of Cecilia Lueza pulls it off beautifully.

Dual Nature debuted at The Ormond Memorial Art Museum in Ormond Beach, FL on August 17 and runs until September 18. The exhibition combines works on paper, painting and sculpture that exude brightness and a concern with nature.

Lueza hails from Argentina. Since her early days of training at La Plata National University in Buenos Aires, Lueza has seen considerable success. Since 1993, she has participated in over 40 collective and solo exhibitions throughout the United States as well as in Argentina, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Spain and Uruguay.
Lueza has a very talented eye when it comes to color harmony. Had she been born decades earlier, her work could have held up well against that of the color field painters. 

Wonder - Cecilia Lueza 

In Lueza’s self-portrait, Wonder, she features a sky blue orb and a golden basket weave pattern beaming down upon her face. Through the positioning of these elements the artist looked as if she had stepped inside James Turrell’s Skyscape installation on a bright summer’s day and snapped a pensive photograph.

Filia Maris - Cecilia Lueza

Several parallels can be seen between Lueza’s work and the work of one of her artistic influences, Gustav Klimt. Lueza’s use of luminous, golden shades allude to Klimt’s famous Golden Phase. Klimt is also renowned for using the female form as subject matter, something that Lueza renders in a soft but evocative way. Filia Maris, a sculpture featuring a female nude with flowing hair standing up against a row of white and blue blocks says “earth mother” but doesn’t scream of essentialism. The dynamics between this feminine body and the macho, minimalist blocks (a la Donald Judd) provide a fantastic contrast and highlight Lueza’s oeuvre. 

She describes her work as “the result of reality and fiction colliding in my mind to become a series of visions that sometimes are full of mystery, energy and surreal beauty.” To experience this energy and beauty for yourself, visit the Ormond Memorial Art Museum located at  78 E. Granada Blvd, or visit Lueza’s website at

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Poleteismo - Piss Christ All Over Again?

ARTINFO reports that Filipino artist Mideo Cruz has met with some controversy over his installation, "Poleteismo," a large wooden crucifix adorned with an assortment of colorful fabrics and other items - including a red dildo.

I really like that Cruz called out the obvious hypocrisy in receiving death threats from "people who call themselves Christians." Apart from that, his installation (from what I gather in pictures) is very well constructed and aesthetically harmonious - despite the hodgepodge of colors and shapes. Like most art works, I'll bet you'd have to see it in person to really "get it."

Cruz explains his vision:

"My installation serves as a mirror for a life full of opposing realities. It is meant to reflect on how we construct our imagined realities. These kinds of displays of images are commonly posted on the worn-out walls of every house, and can be found in impoverished areas. Things are posted like certificates, medals, photographs, calendars, posters, pictures of celebrities, politicians, and others, as a way to decorate the space or to affect how others perceive us. The details of the images in my installation are full of metaphorical ironies based on my personal doubts about my society."

Will this become another Piss Christ episode? It seems like it already has, though because it is an overseas controversy I'm not sure Bill Donohue will be pouncing all over this one just yet. But I could be wrong. Also, a big shout out to ARTINFO for bringing this artist to my attention. He's got some great stuff and I'm excited to learn more about him.

More to come, I'm sure.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Burnaway Cross Promotin'

Here is a link to my two Burnaway articles. My first article for these fine folks was on Cy Twombly's passing. My second was on the ethics of selling and displaying John Wayne Gacy's art.

I do hope you enjoy both. Please feel free to comment on here, or on the articles.

Happy readin'!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Crucifixation: Censoring Religiously-Themed Contemporary Art

Ethics in art can sometimes bring up more questions than it does answers. How fine is the line between art and obscenity? Is it ever ethical for a museum to censor an art exhibit – due to public pressure, funding cuts or for another reason?

While the modern art movement began with avant-gardist Impressionism, which is widely accepted, many people still classify the modern art spirit like a rancid stew of crudeness, irreligion and bodily fluids. Three oft-mentioned works that exemplify this misguided assumption are David Wojnarowicz’s ‘Fire in My Belly’, Andres Serrano’s ‘Piss Christ’, and Chris Ofili’s ‘The Holy Virgin Mary’.

Last year’s Smithsonian controversy over the film ‘Fire in My Belly’ sparked a flurry of attacks, including debate on whether the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) should be defunded.  The questionable portion of the film involves a scene where ants can be seen crawling over a crucifix. Wojnarowicz’s body was being ravaged by the effects of AIDS when he made the film. The image of ants on a crucifix is phantasmagorical illustration of the suffering of Christ and the suffering of AIDS victims. Angered by the shocking lack of comfort and respect given to homosexual victims of the AIDS epidemic, Wojnarowicz did criticize the church – particularly the Catholic Church, who, to this day still preaches a no condom use doctrine, which is unhelpful in stopping the spread of AIDS.1

Film still from the contested portion of David Wojnarowicz's 1986-87 'Fire in My Belly'

‘Fire in My Belly’ was being shown as part of the ‘Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture’ exhibition in the National Portrait Gallery. Critics, including the Catholic League, argued that the film was anti-Christian and was a way to mock faith during the Christmas season. The Smithsonian Museum issued an apology for the offense and pulled the video in late November 2010. The Association of Art Museum Directors charged that the Smithsonian caved to conservative interests by censoring the exhibit, a charge the institution denies.2

‘Piss Christ’, features a plastic crucifix submerged in a container of amber-colored liquid, known to be the artist’s urine. In 1989, The American Family Association, a Christian non-profit organization which attempts to promote the “biblical ethic of decency”, rallied against the NEA after it was revealed that some funds were used to by the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art to award Serrano $15,000 after winning one of the Awards in Visual Arts.3
As a result of the uproar Serrano did lose grant money, but many came to his defense, including famed art critic Lucy Lippard, who lauded the formal aesthetic appeal of the Cibachrome print, and Sister Wendy, a Catholic nun and notable art critic.4 Sister Wendy was not offended by the work and instead saw it as a reflection on “what we have done to Christ” – a comment on modern society’s perversion of the values Christ espoused.5

Andres Serrano's 'Piss Christ'  (1987)

‘Piss Christ’ has been vandalized numerous times, including this past April by two French Catholic Fundamentalists while on view at the Museum of Contemporary art in Avignon. The men attacked the work, as well as another Serrano print, with hammers.6

Ten years later after the controversy over ‘Piss Christ, in late 1999, the Brooklyn Museum mounted Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection. The exhibition was first shown at London’s Royal Academy of Art in 1997 and featured the following disclaimer at the entrance:

There will be works of art on display in the Sensation exhibition which some people may find distasteful. Parents should exercise their judgment in bringing their children to the exhibition. One gallery will not be open to those under the age of 18.7

Chris Ofili's 'The Holy Virgin Mary' (1996), Courtesy of Victoria Miro Gallery, London

The show did produce a stir in London, but interestingly, not for the same works as it later did in New York. Although several works inspired the ire of conservative critics, then Mayor Rudy Giuliani objected quite specifically to the inclusion of Ofili’s ‘The Holy Virgin Mary’. Ofili, a British native of African descent included elephant dung in a number of works as a nod to his heritage. Ironically, Ofili identifies as a churchgoing Catholic.8 The press did not help the cause, as it described the work as “smeared” with dung, when in actuality, the pieces of dung were painted with resin and artfully arranged on the painting in a visibly calculated fashion.

Giuliani threatened to pull funding for the museum unless it removed the offending pieces and indeed did withhold the museum’s operating subsidy, and began working toward removing the board of trustees from their posts and evicting the museum from its location. In response, the museum sued Giuliani for violations of the First Amendment, which prompted a countersuit. Both parties came to an agreement and the city was ordered to fund a $5.8 million renovation project at the museum and warned to never again threaten to deny the museum funding.9

Religious iconography has been used in art for ages - but when the traditions of that iconography are injected with visceral confessionalism or a postmodern multiculturalism, as we have seen with the works of Serrano, Ofili and Wojnarowicz, it can be a different story. It is important to remember to preserve the status of art as a bastion of free expression, whether that expression involves abjection and transgression, or faith and waterlilies.


1.      Philip Kennicott, “'Fire' man: Wojnarowicz, censored by Smithsonian, sounded an alarm in dire times,” Washington Post, December 10, 2010, accessed June 28,2011,

2.      (No Author Specified),”Smithsonian Q&A Regarding the "Hide/Seek" Exhibition,” National Portrait Gallery website,  December 7, 2010, accessed June 28, 2011,

3.      Martin Gould, “ Protesters Destroy Notorious 'Artwork' That Defiled Christ” April 19, 2011, accessed June 28, 2011,

4.      Grant H Kester Art, activism, and oppositionality: essays from Afterimag, Duke University Press. p. 126. 1998.

5.       Eleanor  Heartney,  "A consecrated critic — profile of popular television art critic Sister Wendy Beckett", Art in America, July 1998, accessed June 28, 2011,

6.      (No Author Specified) “Two works, including “Piss Christ” destroyed in a museum in Avignon, France-info, April 17, 2011, accessed June 28, 2011,

7.      Theodore Dalrymple,  "Trash, Violence, and Versace: But Is It Art?", City Journal, Winter 1998, accessed June 28, 2011,

8.      Carol Vogel, “Chris Ofili: British Artist Holds Fast to His Inspiration” The New York Times, September 28, 1999, accessed June 28, 2011,

9.      (No Author Specified) “The Giuliani-Brooklyn Museum of Art Feud,”  Global, April 3, 2000, accessed June 28, 2011,

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Video Games as Art?

This post is mostly my reaction to a May blog article on the FSView website. I’ve written for the FSView since November 2009.

Osbourne writes, “This story has, however, reopened an Internet can of Internet worms that I thought had closed way back in 2010 (Internet years work like dog years) when Roger Ebert kinda-sorta-not-really went back on his silly, pretentious "Video games can never be art" statement.”

As is often the case with these kinds of arguments, what I will call the “fallacy of pretension” is used. Calling something “pretentious” is typically a euphemistic way of saying “it offends my sensibilities” or “this sucks because I don’t agree, or I don’t understand.”

He later speaks against generalizing video games as a whole:
“To even generalize video games as one unified thing--which would never be applied to a medium like film--and then to deem that as somehow "lesser than," is quite plainly the same thing as saying, "Those damn kids and that damn rock 'n' roll music, what's the world coming to?"”

Yes, films are generalized- as films. Paintings are generalized as paintings, and despite the strong efforts of people like Donald Judd, “specific objects” are still seen by many as just sculptures. There are many genres of the film, but the work has the qualities of being a “film”, as do video games, no matter how many genres there are in that medium.

Later on, Osbourne appeals to the ignorance of video game novices – a little “pretentious”, if you ask me.
He writes, “I really can't believe we're still having this conversation; are these sites just trolling for web traffic, which people like me give them? It's plain and simple--anyone who still can't or won't see video games as anything but mindless distractions just haven't played them, or even seen them be played.”

This kind of argument is never satisfactory. It is not a matter of simply playing or observing video games to make a person enjoy them. Not everyone will like video games, or any other x, y, z, and no amount of social experimentation will change that.

Osbourne also states that the argument is “pure, freebased ageism.” This is said, at least in part, because the argument is coming from older individuals like Roger Ebert, so Osbourne’s own argument is also rather ageist.

I don’t consider video games art in the way the notion of art is generally understood. While I won’t argue that video games take time, creativity and a crew of folks to work on, that does not make them “art.” Smart mobs and flash mobs also require creativity and cooperation from a group of people, so does working in an office where ideas are bounced around - these are not considered examples of art. A video game is meant to be played – there is an objective and rules to be followed. This is different from what could be considered the closest example of a game as art – participatory art.

The Brazilian neo-concrete artists modeled participatory art pieces after Barthesian analysis, later performance artists relied on volunteers, and mixed-media artists like Lee Bull have created works that require viewer engagement.

The difference between this art and video games is that there is no finish line in participatory art, no way to win or lose, and no challenges to crack in order to retain the meaning of the art.

I really don’t understand the spin campaign to consider Bioshock in the same category as Bill Viola.
The question must be asked, why is there such an insistence to consider video games “art”? Is this label supposed to legitimize the practice of being a video game developer? If the work is as difficult as it is made to seem, why does it need a pat on the back with a label like "art"? Plenty of people already play and love video games, more so than a lot of contemporary gallery art, unfortunately. I don’t happen to be one of the people who plays video games, I have also never visited a seminary - this doesn't mean I'm forced to remain opinionless on monks. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Look at the Turner Prize 2011 Shortlist

My, my, how time flies! It feels like only yesterday that I was glued to my computer screen anxiously awaiting the announcement of the 2010 Turner Prize winner. My money (figuratively speaking, anyway) was on Angela De La Cruz, who I found a refreshing yet challenging artist – thoughtful, but still retaining the spunky, performative elements of the Gutai group, along with solemn introspection due to her unfortunate stroke-induced disability.
Alas, she didn't win; Susan Phillipsz won for her well-made, haunting sound sculpture.
The nominees for this year have already been announced, and I already found my favorite.
And the nominees are:
Karla Black

Black's medium of baby pink sugar paper, hair gel and vaseline recall the ephemeral materials used by Eva Hesse and the haphazard construction of Lynda Benglis. The name of the work, “Wish List” brings up questions of gender and social norms – are these girlish vanity items de rigueur for anyone who wishes to dress up like/become a woman?
Hilary Lloyd

“Crane” takes a page out of media artist Nam June Paik’s book, and places it in an otherwise prim and austere white-on-white hallway.“Column”, with its numbing repetition is reminiscient of Andy Warhol’s “Empire” film, but is also sharp enough to see a comparison to Pier-Paolo Calzolari’s “Untitled (Zerorose)”, which was released six years later.

Martin Boyce

“No Reflections” hearkens back to the earth works of Robert Smithson and capitalize on cubist geometric abstractions. The part of the installation which hangs down from the ceiling reminds me of Maurizio Cattelan’s “Novecento”, though without the visceral life/death connotations it undoubtedly brought to the fore.

George Shaw

Finally, there’s George Shaw, my favorite this year. Shaw paints eerie, photorealistic renderings of the detached urban settings we've all found ourselves in while slouching pensively. His “Poet’s Day” (pictured above) was so beautiful, yet so psychologically wrenching, that I could barely bring myself to look at any of the other work in the ArtInfo slide show the first time I read up on the shortlist nominees.
The 2009 Turner Prize went to an abstract site-specific painting by Richard Wright, before that German artist Tomma Abts was honored for her part Frank Stella, part Bridget Riley abstract paintings in 2006.
I think realism is a bit overdue for representation by the Turner Prize powers that be. So, until December 5th, I’ll keep my fingers crossed for Shaw!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Irony, Cash and Parody: Analyzing Exit Through the Gift Shop

"When you go to an art gallery you are simply a tourist looking at the trophy cabinet of a few millionaires." - Banksy

Exit Through the Gift Shop, a film directed by anonymous street artist Banksy, tells the story of Thierry Guetta, a transplanted Frenchman in Los Angeles and his fascination with street art, meeting other street artists and eventually becoming an art star himself.

A number of issues come up throughout the film – problems of the art market, problems of appropriation and distinguishing “art” and “graffiti”. Bansky has been making bank with his art, although it may have been unintentional. This is not the first time this has happened in the art world and it will not be the last. In this paper, I will discuss a number of examples relating to these issues and give art historical context where appropriate.

There is question as to whether or not the film is authentic. Makers and stars of the film including artist Shepard Fairey swear it is, a reviewer for the New York Times dubbed it a potential “prankumentary”, and famed critic Roger Ebert felt the possibility of it being a hoax made it even more interesting.

The film opens up with a parody logo of the Paramount Pictures snow covered mountain top, sprayed with bullets and “Paranoid” put in place of “Paramount”. This kind of appropriation/subvertising activist combination sets the tone for the themes in the entire documentary.

Putting us on?

Most of the statements attributed to Banksy are highly critical of modern art. In the film, he talks about “most normal art” being oil on canvas and sculpture, and street art goes against that tradition. While it does of course go beyond that tradition and particularly the tradition of formally taught artists, Banksy seems oblivious to or unwilling to acknowledge huge strides in the art world with artists who changed the face of what art was and ought to be- artists like Marcel Duchamp, who said anything could be art and Gilbert and George who proclaimed themselves living sculptures. So, it is difficult to know if Banksy knows about these art historical traditions, or if he is parroting the line that so many people believe – modern art is bogus and market prices obscure it, making it even more so.

Similarities Between Other Artists

Because the Exit Through the Gift Shop deals with street art, it is interesting to note that art collector Wendy Asher, while showing off her collection, admitted on camera to not liking Keith Haring. This is ironic, because Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat were street artists before becoming art world darlings. Asher appreciates Banksy’s work, but doesn’t seem to acknowledge that his fame might not have been as likely if it weren’t for artists like Haring coming before him and warming up the art crowd.

Shepard Fairey, in talking about his ubiquitous Andre the Giant wheatpaste posters and stickers explained that the more people see the stickers, the more people ask each other, and the more it “gains real power from perceived power.” This is slightly the opposite concept of what Andy Warhol tried to do with his repetitive imagery, and ironically close to what advertising posits to do, which was repeat images until they lost their meaning. Since Fairey does own the Obey fashion line (which I must admit I’m a big fan of), it seems fitting that there is irony in this department.

The Banksy show “Barely Legal” brought up other art world references. Banksy said the piece de resistance, the painted elephant in the room, turned the show into an event. I immediately thought of so-called “New York slacker artist” Sean Landers and some early videos he did using a chimpanzee to make portraits. The imposition of the elephant in the room is also like a less intellectual version of Martin Creed’s Work No 850, a conceptual installation which featured runners sprinting through Tate Britain. Creed said, “I thought, ‘Why do you have to look at paintings for a long time? Why not look for a second?’…Sometimes when you go around museums you feel it is quite a laborious task…It is not for me to say what it is about. This is something to look at, just like a painting.” 1

Mr. Brainwash’s art work appears to have borrowed from a number of sources aside from the initial aspirations of being like Banksy and Fairey. His large spray Campbell’s soup can borrows from Andy Warhol, of course, but also from Claes Oldenberg and his tendency to blow up everyday items like cakes and cherry spoons. Mr. Brainwash’s monster made of TV’s takes a page from Korean media artist Nam June Paik, and his “PUNK” work was appropriated from Robert Indiana’s famous “LOVE” sculpture and painting, which was also appropriated by the Canadian collective General Idea as “AIDS”.

Even some of the statements Banksy made recall statements made by other artists. Reacting to Mr. Brainwash’s show, Banksy said, “I always used to encourage anyone I knew to make art – I don’t really do that so much anymore.” This speaks directly to Joseph Beuys’s feeling that everyone was an artist.

Unintentional Sellers

Harlem artist David Hammons tried to move away from the art market with unconventional methods like attempting to sell snowballs on a New York City sidewalk. Hammons said, “The art audience is the worst audience in the world. It’s overly educated, it’s conservative, it’s out to criticize, not to understand, and it never has any fun. Why should I spend my time playing to that audience?...I’ll play with the street audience. That audience is much more human, and their opinion is from the heart. They don’t have any reason to play games.” 2 Earth work artists like Walter De Maria and Michael Heizer traveled to the great yonder producing works in hard-to-find locations far away from urban gallery settings, often in desolate southwestern U.S deserts. The art market will find a way to work around these things and sell photos of the work, which fetch high prices. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s the way things are, and a good way of cataloging impressive work of the past century. Besides, when critiquing art from any lens it is important to separate the “worth” of the art (measured in psychological, emotional, pragmatic or social terms) from the worth of the art at auction. Prices are irrelevant when considering the aesthetics of work, they have to be, just as they have to be when considering the merit of a novel because – best selling or not, some novels have changed the landscape of literature, and some haven’t, and the latter may be more likely to get put on Oprah’s reading list.

Film Elements

One scene in the film that I found particularly telling was a shot of a Banksy work being sold at auction in a lot that also contained work by Takashi Murakami (called the Japanese Andy Warhol by some) and a large Damien Hirst spot painting, one in a series famously done by assistants of his. Warhol had a factory, Hirst, Jeff Koons and a plethora of other artists have assistants, and Banksy has a collective. They’re not as different as you may think.

When Banksy realized the title of his film was also the name of a West London cover band, he decided to make an unusual amends – after several email conversations with the band’s drummer Simon Duncan, who agreed to change the band’s name to “Brace Yourself,” Banksy sent him an original piece featuring the grim reaper in a bumper car. The car had “Brace Yourself” scrawled on the front and the work was insured for at least 200,000 British Pounds. 3 Since Banksy did not know beforehand about the group, there is the question of why he chose the name in the first place. A number of museums have gift shop exits, or at least gift shops adjacent to the exit. Most amusement parks have gift shop exits and patrons are told to brace themselves before a powerful ride. Some museum patrons have been told the same, as when disclaimers go up warning visitors of potentially objectionable material in the gallery. And while visitors have a choice whether to enter a gallery or a specific wing of a museum, street art creates an imposition that is hard to move away from, it’s saving grace from being deemed aesthetically dictatorial is that it is illegal, and thus, ephemeral For this reason, I question Banksy’s feeling about his art never having been about hype and money. Maybe the money part isn’t all that important to him, but the hype is predictable considering how ubiquitous and socio-politically charged his art is.

Theorist Pierre Levy discusses that the “art in an age of collective intelligence functions as a cultural attractor, drawing together like-minded individuals to form new knowledge communities.”4 All of the borrowing from past artists serves as a form of collective artistic intelligence. Banksy has been a huge cultural attractor, particularly in attracting people who would ordinarily want nothing to do with the art world. While outsider art existed before Banksy, Banksy is a cult phenomenon who somehow manages to live in the art market world as well as the street activist world.

There is a lot of the bad faith in the story, most of which revolves around Mr. Brainwash. Is Thierry Guetta actually Mr. Brainwash? Did he create this persona because he had a legitimate interest in making art or did he do it because he thought he could make a quick buck? Further, given all the similarities between Guetta’s work and the work of other artists, including Banksy and Fairey, did Guetta model his work directly in the spirit of these artists or is it a coincidence? These questions might never be answered, and that’s probably for the better, it wouldn't be as fun a documentary and story if we had the cheat codes right in front of us.

Works Cited

1. Alberge, Dalya. Martin Creed installation in Tate Britain's Duveen Galleries will run and run. 1 July 2008. The Sunday Times UK. <>

2. Fineberg, Jonathan. Art Since 1940. London: Lawrence King Publishing Ltd., 2011. Print.

3. Thorpe, Vanessa. What's in a name? For Simon Duncan's band, a £200,000 Banksy... 25. April. 2010. The Observer <>

4. Jenkins, Henry. Transmedia Storytelling 101. 22. March. 2007. The Official Weblog of Henry Jenkins. <>

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Four Works on the Topic of AIDS

Inspired by the last and now incredibly notorious item on a list I read today, I decide to post photos of four artworks dealing with the subject of AIDS. I wish this idea had come to me during a relevant time, like World AIDS Day, but anytime is a good time to discuss the subject. When I was about three, my uncle Jimmy, an artist, died of AIDS. I didn't know about this until high school. While I didn't really know him well since I was so young, I own some of his old art books and sketch pencils, so I hope that if I one day get more noticed in the art world, I can dedicate some of that success to a possible artistic gene in the family. :)

Here are the works:
1. "Fire in my Belly" - David Wojnarowicz (1987) [Va-nah-row-vitch (took me a while to get that correctly.)]

This photo is a still from a video that, once relatively unknown to the public at large, was suddenly launched into the spotlight by angsty, parochial politicians striving to put their foot down on "extravagant" arts funding, while still playing Santa Claus with other industries. The piece was banned by the Smithsonian, which caused an uproar and was later purchased by MoMA. Read more about the controversy and the work here.

The video can be seen on YouTube. (Seriously, what did we do before it?) It's a very moving and well put together film. It's a shame some people get stuck on one image and can't let go of their narrow mindedness. The film is far less exploitative of Christ imagery than Mel Gibson's Passion. But, of course, Wojnarowicz was gay and Gibson is a Catholic, so you know who the politicians will side with.

2. "AIDS" - General Idea (the sculpture version was done in 1987, not certain about the paintings.)

The Canadian artist collective General Idea made up of artists Felix Partz, Jorge Zontal, and AA Bronson worked together from 1969-1994. In the 1980s during the rise of the AIDS crisis, they appropriated Robert Indiana's famous LOVE work and used it to raise awareness on the issue of AIDS. More of these great conceptual works can be seen here. Sadly, both Partz and Zontal died of AIDS in 1994. Bronson continues to exhibit work. Check out his website.

3. "Ignorance = Fear" Keith Haring (1989)

Keith Haring began his career as a graffiti artist in NYC. His images like Radiant Baby and the figures featuring action lines are instantly recognizable and custom-made for activist intepretations. The pink triangle image comes from the badge gay men were forced to wear during the Holocaust. Haring is certainly the most well-known artist on this list and well-worth looking into as his work is such a predominant force in the art world and the world of media studies.

4. "Untitled" (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1991)

I first learned about this work in the book "The $12 Million Stuffed Shark" by art economist Don Thompson. While Thompson did a lot of great research and I have learned a lot so far (I'm a bit over halfway done with reading it) he doesn't really get it when it comes to the value of contemporary art. He's too preoccupied with the art market when really he should understand that prices are irrelevant to the value (cultural, artistic, historical, individual, etc) of the work.

With this piece, Gonzalez-Torres, a Cuban artist like my uncle, sought to create an abstracted portrait of his friend who was suffering from AIDS. At first glance, the piece recalls "Fat Corner" by Joseph Beuys and gnawed chocolate and lard pieces of Janine Antoni, but the "portrait" nature of the work recalls Dan Flavin's neon tubing portraits and Frank Stella's minimalist portrait of Carl Andre. There is a rich history evoked in this work, and while fat and chocolate have deeply ingrained connotations, the colorful candies create a beautiful mosaic for such a troubling subject. It treats a heavy topic with an aesthetically pleasing hand. The candy, which weighed in total 175 lbs, the weight of Gonzalez-Torres' partner Ross Laycock (d. 1991) was meant to be consumed by visitors, illustrating a continuous participatory art event that metaphorically expressed the wasting away of the body due to AIDS. Once fully consumed, the pile is replaced, symbolic of continuous life and the struggle to carry on in the face of adversity. It's rare to see a moving work constructed of things we typically overlook, like junk food, which is one reason this piece is so fantastic. Gonzalez-Torres himself died of AIDS in 1996. See some of his other works here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


I love a good exploited taboo, and I also love Bret Easton Ellis novels, so today's post will feature two works that use cocaine as a medium.

To the left I have included a terribly small photo of the first work, Exhaled Cocaine by Cornelia Parker. Her piece is on the pedestal toward the back of the room. I couldn't find a better photo than this, but I will soon upload a close-up of it taken from one of my Matthew Collings books, where I first saw the piece.

"For ‘Exhaled Cocaine’ Parker persuaded Customs & Excise to give her the ashes of seized, incinerated cocaine, presented by the artist as an end product ‘breathed out’ by a crucial process in its history."

Of course, you can't really "exhale" the substance, but you can burn it, which destroys and purifies, but also recalls the process in which it was made- using flammable materials like kerosene on coca leaves. So, the work acts as a cyclical tableau.

The second work (shown above) is Cocaine Buffet by Rob Pruitt, which consists of a pile and long line of cocaine offered up on mirrors lining the floor of an artist studio like a two-dimensional Rube Goldberg device. Participants were invited to "engage" with the work, which they eagerly did. Lygia Clark, eat your heart out.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Where art thou, Sean Landers?

I found a nice series of Sean Landers work on this site:

There were several on the Andrea Rosen Gallery website, but now only three remain, which makes me sad. I'm not sure who is representing Landers right now, there isn't a ton of info on him and he no longer has a page on Saatchi Online. He has a website with a ton of images on it, but be advised, it does take several minutes to load. I almost thought he was pulling one over on curious fans. ;-)

If you like humorous art, it's worth checking him out. I've written about his work briefly on this blog before. I think he's among the most clever American artists I've encountered as of yet, I love his irreverence.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Richard Prince Joke

Richard Prince, sue him a millions times.. his jokes and style is still killer.

I'll write on the copyright issue soon. Spoiler alert: The judge is a fool.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sol LeWitt Numbers His Process

"What you see is what you get."

This is from UbuWeb, a great resource on the avant-garde, I really can't recommend it enough.

In the above link, the father of conceptual art lays out the guidelines for his oeuvre.

Here's a great snippet, #8:

"When words such as painting and sculpture are used, they connote a whole tradition and imply a consequent acceptance of this tradition, thus placing limitations on the artist who would be reluctant to make art that goes beyond the limitations."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bruce Nauman Takes it Back

Of all the wordplay art I've seen, this one (Bruce Nauman, "Eating My Words" (1967)) is by far the sweetest. Check out the attempts at a post-painterlyesque color harmony with the white shortbread cookies beside a tall glass of white milk, matching plaid tablecloth and shirt, plus red jam (a nod to "Household" from 1964 by Allan Kaprow, perhaps?) Delish.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Is this plagiarism or does LeKay just have it in for Hirst?

I was checking out John LeKay's wikipage and I found this 1990-1991 work
Ring a Ring of Roses

Which made me think of this Jake and Dinos Chapman work from 2003,

What do you guys think? Is it plagiarism? I don't recall LeKay launching complaints against the Chapman brothers, though he did launch them against Damien Hirst (see here for more background on this.) Why would he do that? Surely he would know about the Chapman brothers piece if he knew about Hirst, they're both Saatchi favorites, and Death exhibited at the 2003 Turner Prize show.

For the record, I don't think this is plagiarism. In fact, I think I would be incredibly hard pressed to call plagiarism in any work of art (here I mean sculpture, performance, painting, installation, video, not indie films or mainstream films, but art films.)

What do you call it when a Mondrian pattern makes it on a designer dress, appropriation or plagiarism? If it's the former, then the plagiarism accusation has very little weight.

I'll be writing some more about plagiarism and intellectual property in art. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

621 Gallery Group Art Show review

(Originally published in the FSView on Jan. 17)

The 621 Gallery at Railroad Square recently hosted a Florida State University Adjunct Faculty Group Art Show, featuring 23 artists. The opening reception was held on Friday, Jan. 7, from 6 to 9 p.m.

I had met Kelly previously while she was working on a piece. [The sculpture] is amazing; I really loved it.

— Cassandra Whitehead Art Education grad student at FSU

The exhibit showcased a variety of styles and media including painting, knitted crafts, soft sculpture and photography from artists including: Charles Badland, Ananda Balingit-Lefils, Kelly Boehmer, Jacquelin Boulanger, Dave Breault, Chuck Carbia, Po-Chi Chu, Michelle McKnight Davis, Ljiljana Obradovic-Edmiston, Amy Fleming, Phil Gleason, Laurie Godfrey, Matt Gordan, Linda Hall, Christian Harkness, DeDe Harter, Cynthia Hollis, Delaina LeBlanc, Leo McMillan, Jason Orman, Pamela Theis, Ed Toner and Jeff Whipple.

Po-Chi Chu's "White and Flawless Fortune Cookies" featured an intricately sculpted female face, similar to a porcelain geisha.

The sculpture literally spewed fortune-a long tape of attached Chinese cookie fortunes came out of the mouth of the figure, down the length of the canvas and wall beneath it, creating a flower shape on top of a black square covered with water on the ground.

The makeshift reflective pool and the flower, along with a scattering of long, pointed wooden sticks all created the appearance of a sand mandala, sans sand.

The sticks played along with the Chinese subject matter.

DeDe Harter's "Rec Room Diary" featured two drawn aerial blueprints of the inside of a house. Each portion of the home contained an annotation, designed as a biographical grid. A dog, kids playing with dolls and a mom donning an apron skirt, suggest a stereotypical nuclear family. The TV is drawn showcasing numerous commercial jingles along with the lyrics to show theme songs.

Ed Toner presented a more solemn subject matter with his "Blue Babies." A "blue baby" is the term given to a child born with cyanosis, a condition that makes skin appear bluish, due to the presence of deoxygenated hemoglobin near the skin surface. In Toner's piece, the blue babies, drawn alongside Manhattan cocktails, seem to suggest babies born with fetal alcohol syndrome. The contrast between the harshness and softness of the babies echo Marlene Duma's 'Die Baba' from 1985.

Linda Hall's "The Great Water Between Us" consists of two soft sculpture dolls with umbilical cords made of colorful cloth and yarn, hung facing each other on the walls.

"It's always interesting; I like the fabrication," Tallahassee resident Tom Jones said. "It forges ahead with our mythologies-the umbilical cords are left hanging, like baggage."

Located at the front and center of the gallery was a large sculpture featuring colored fabrics, small screens with videos of eyes, a wooden bridge leading up toward the large, dinosaur-like figures, and featuring a softly sung song, wind and ocean sounds, which could be heard by picking up headphones that were placed on a stand next to the figure.

"[The work] is a collaboration with Chuck Carbia," co-creator of "Crying Time," Kelly Boehmer said.

Carbia shared the story behind their piece.

"It's a self-portrait of us fighting each other," he said. "We're both artists, we've been in a relationship for a long time."

Boehmer and Carbia, who had previously engaged in country music performances, said the sculpture was definitely country-inspired. "Crying Time" is also the title of a 1964 Buck Owens song.

"We're trying to keep it hopeful, so we'll call it 'We're Gonna Hold On,'" Carbia said, referring to another country song by the same name, written by the country duet George Jones and Tammy Wynette, who were married at the time of the single's 1973 release.

The audio included along with "Crying Time" seemed to recall "Lowlands," the 2010 Turner Prize winning "sound sculpture" produced by Scottish artist Susan Phillipsz. The 16th century lament, "Lowlands Away," tells of a woman who dreamed of her dead lover, previously drowned at sea. It is the first sound installation to win the coveted [and notorious] Turner prize.

"I had met Kelly previously while she was working on a piece," art education grad student at FSU Cassandra Whitehead said. "[The sculpture] is amazing; I really loved it."

621 Gallery is not-for-profit contemporary art space featuring local and regional artists located at 621 Industrial Drive, at the Railroad Square Art Park.

For more information on this exhibition, call 224-6163.

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I love to read about linguistics, behavioral economics, theory and philosophy. I listen to music some might call outdated, write satirical and high testosterone plays, consume too much caffeine and ruthlessly defend modern and contemporary art.