Friday, April 29, 2011

The Imaginative Approach

For this drawing, I took a Pop Art approach, which is a type of Appropriation art. I am inspired by artists like Rauschenberg, Rosenquist, and Lichtenstein who appropriated images from popular culture and recontextualized them.

To appropriate is to take possession of something. Appropriation artists deliberately copy images to take possession of them in their art. They are not stealing or plagiarizing. They are not passing off these images as their very own. Not at all. Appropriation artists want the viewer to recognize the images they copy, and they hope that the viewer will bring all of his/her original associations with the image to the artist's new context, be it a painting, a sculpture, a collage, a combine or an entire installation (Gersh-Nesic, 2011).
There are many different things you can do to an existing images to make them into original statements.
Strategies include "re-vision, re-evaluation, variation, version, interpretation, imitation, proximation, supplement, increment, improvisation, prequel... pastiche, paraphrase, parody, forgery, homage, mimicry, travesty, shan-zhai, echo, allusion, intertextuality and karaoke" (Pichler, 2009).
I see these kinds of images as a type of visual poetry. Like a poem, I take all these images together and say something. What does it mean? Does it take all the fun out of it if I spell it out? I don't know. Sometimes I explain what I was thinking, sometimes I try to give a little hint in the title and let you figure it out. For this time, I guess I'll spell it out for you.

I'm doing a series of drawings that feature unusual eyewear, like the 3-D glasses in Secrets of Success. My idea is that what you get out of what you are facing depends on your outlook. You can choose that to some extent. I often see the goofy side of life, so I used the spectacles you see here to represent that. Look at what you are facing through the lens of imagination. All of these images go with that.

I wanted to superimpose this collection of images that might seem random at first over the text of something really boring. I found an old mimeographed handout from an art class. Let's just say I disagree with the professor, who begins with "Drawing is not fun" -- and goes on from there. To me this picture is about the experience of daydreaming when you are sitting in a boring class and everyone is going over the handout. Random thoughts come from all over the place. The text below each detail image is my unwritten guide to the Imaginative Life.

Are the mundane details of life getting you down? Try an imaginative outlook on life. A new pair of glasses can provide a new way of looking things -- and your new outlook may affect how others look at you.
Everyone's got something to say. Having trouble getting your point across? There may be some simple tools that you have overlooked. The solution you are looking for may have been under your nose the whole time. Using these familiar tools in new ways has a lot of appeal.
A good cup of coffee is a great way to wake up to the possibilities. Gather your faculties and begin!
We all have mundane tasks to perform. You can either do it the boring way, or the imaginative way.
Taking the imaginative approach to life will bring you new joy.
You will find that you will rise above the dreary aspects of life and accomplish great feats.
With the focal point and accessories drawn, I was ready to add the handout. I enlarged page to 18x24 at Staples, traced the objects through it and then cut out the shapes with an X-acto knife and glued it down.
Then I added the finishing touches with pastel.

(2011). Art History Definition: Appropriation.
Michalis Pichler (2009). Statements on Appropriation, published in Fillip #11 (2010), Vancouver

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Painting Below Zero -- James Rosenquist

I just read a fascinating book -- Painting Below Zero: Notes on a Life in Art by James Rosenquist. It is very conversational in tone, as if you were sitting with the artist as he reminisced about his career, his ideas and his friendships with artists like Warhol, Lichtenstein, and Rauschenberg. Rosenquist was one of the major artists of the Pop Art movement and is still working today. I highly recommend this book. Below are a few quotes from the book, along with some of his work.
After being trained as an artist, Rosenquist made his living painting billboards for several years.
He eventually applied what he learned in this trade in his work as a fine artist.

On Collage
"When you look at a collage by Schwitters, with disparate things stuck side by side and laid on top of each other -- a newspaper, a train ticket, paper money, a torn piece of blue paper, a fashion illustration, an envelope with a stamp on it -- you involuntarily make connections. With collage, you are free to create your own narrative. That and an element of mystery is what first attracted me to the process."
Collage used in the creation of President Elect

On Disconnected Images
"By the time I was a teenager I'd found my way out by picking up pieces here and there, like clues to a puzzle. I'd found a way of looking at the world as disconnected images brought together for an unknown purpose. Without realizing it, I deliberately sought out the incongruities that would match my memories."

Collage used in creation of F-111
On Ideas
"Sometimes ideas come through the window, floating in from somewhere. That sounds like a poetic way of describing it, but I mean it quite literally. For all I know it might be electromagnetic signals or extra-terrestrial rays or, as they used to say in the old days, a visit from your muse. All I had to do was snatch them out of the air and begin painting. Once that idea came to me, everything seemed to fall into place -- the idea, the composition, the imagery, the colors, everything began to work."

Detail of F-111

"Often you start out with an idea or a notion and you don't know whether it's going to come off. You hope that by the time you actually get it down, there is something to it, but when things come out of thin air you don't know what they are. Ideas come unbidden, and you don't understand their meaning or know what they're going to become and that's the best thing about them. You just do it -- and then try to figure it out."
On the Juxtaposition of Disparate Images
"That was how I learned to interpret the world: as loose, unstable images whose meaning was enigmatic, and that became the template for my juxtaposition of disparate images. They are at the core of my interest in collage -- an unconscious attempt to make aesthetic sense out of the nonsense I saw around me. Collage is a very odd thing. Incongruous images pushed up against one another for some reason shock the psyche. A juxtaposition of opposites disturbs you: if the elements don't connect, it sets your mind off. It remains such a relevant art form because it interprets the fragmentary nature of urban life."

I Love you with my Ford

"Popular culture isn't a freeze-frame; it is images zapping by in rapid-fire succession, which is why collage is such an effective way of representing contemporary life. The blurr between images creatres a kind of motion in the mind. With collage there is a glint, a reflection of modern life. If, for example, you take a walk through midtown you might in quick succession see a street vendor, the back of a girl's legs, and then out of the corner ofyour eye catch a glimpse of a see parts of things...and yourationalize them into a scenario. It all happens very quickly; the experience is almost subliminal."

Recent photograph of Rosenquist

Monday, April 18, 2011

Roy Lichtenstein: A Modern Master

At first glance, the artwork of Roy Lichtenstein may seem easy to explain. Many texts dismiss his work with a couple of lines.

Not much is known about the personal life of this private man. What impressed his contemporaries most was his work ethic. One biographer remarks that his art was "not art for art's sake but art as evidence of a work ethic, validated by intensity of production and the pace of coherent change" (Mattison, 1995). His studio was characterized by absolute precision. Materials were layed out in meticulous order. He would "begin work at his studio each morning by nine, eat lunch at the same hour every day, and then continue working until seven in the evening, or even later" (Walker, 1994).

Roy Lichtenstein along wwith Andy Warhol and some others changed the art world in 1961 when they began including straightforward images from ads and comics and other sources from popular culture. At the time, their work was considered banal and vulgar to the art establishment. Lichtenstein's first Pop art painting was of a comic found in a bubble gum wrapper.He made a drawing of it, and then a painting. He enjoyed making images that were several times removed from their original source. He tried to make his own paintings look mechanical, with no artistic pretensions. Though his works are hand-painted, there are no visible brushstrokes. He wanted them to appear to be mechanically made.

After making this painting, he said, "I couldn't do any other kind of painting -- everything else I attempted to do looked like mush." His friend and gallery owner Alan Kaprow encouraged him, telling him not to worry about it not looking like art -- "if it's part of you, it will be there." Within weeks, there appeared within the same gallery works in a similar spirit by Warhol and Rosenquist. People began to recognize that this was the beginning of a movement.

Lichtenstin was fascinated by images used in advertising. He purposely sought out images that appeared to be crudely drawn. "Advertising is a tremendous force and it is also a very new force," said the artist. "It's a very big part of our culture -- the new part." Beginning in the early sixties he used an iconography of household objects, drawn particularly from the kitchen. In paintings like Electric Range, Roto Broil and Electric Cord he presented images from a product catalog. The objects were "presented in their completeness, with no modifying objects around it and no plane for it to stand on. It occupies the picture plane emblematically, centralized and head-on" (Alloway, 1983).

Comic Books.
"This work can be looked at as cliches or it can be looked at as classicism," explained the artist. "The ideal head is a classical idea. The idea of drawing this girl the same way or 'Brad' -- an's standard, but it's not looked up to when it's isolated." Forcing viewers to examine something they wouldn't have given a second thought if they had seen it in a different context is an idea that intrigued him. When we read a comic, we are looking at pictures that were drawn for the purpose of telling a story. While reading, we accept these images as real, but when the artist enlarges them, we see how artificial and abstract they really are.

"I try to look for something that says something mysterious or absurd or extremely simple or extremely complicated--" explained Lichtenstein, " something that when it's a part of a painting will strike you as funny." One writer explained,

Lichtenstein intends to raise images from popular culture to the level of high art by transforming it in his work. He takes devalued forms of viusal communication, redeems them, and possesses them through recreating them in his paintings. Because he has considered and minutely adjusted every line, form and color area, his art breathes finesse and refinement.

Lichtenstein believed that he paid more attention to form than the commercial artists whose work he appropriated. "What I do is form, whereas the comic strip is not formed in the sense that I'm using the word. The comics have shapes, but there has been no effort to make them intesnely unified. The purpose is dfifferent -- one intends to depct and I intend to unify. And my work is actually different from the comic strips in that every mark is in a different place, however slight the differences seem to some. The difference is often not great, but it is crucial."

The subject of his art is the artificiality of communication. "Because you're starting with somebody else's art, it says something about communication. You're not looking at a nature garden or something. You're taking known symbols and styles of things and recreating them." - Roy Lichtenstein

When viewers first saw his work, many were so outraged by the source of subject matter that they could not begin to appreciate the formal qualities of the work. "

I always think that its' the formal part that gets neglected and that usually people talk about what the subject means, and when they do that, it sounds fairly obvious. I think it's the formal part that nobody understands. It is the kinesthetic and visual sense of position and wholeness that puts the thing in the realm of art. For most people, the formal part is not what they see. One may be influeced by the sense of formand think it's really all right without understnading why. But the understanding of form is limited because I think people don't tend to see it unless they are artists. -Lichtenstein

His critics were confused as to what his attitude toward the comics was. "I think of it as an ironic look at and use of what is usually called vulgar art," he explained. "It's using those symbols to make something else. It's really the art we have around us; we're not living in the word of Impressionist painting. For me, it has a 'you're a bad boy copying comics' thing because our art teacher told us not to copy, and if you did copy, it certainly wouldn't be commercial art."

What he saw in mechanical production of artwork was a lack of nuance. There is a red and there's 50% red. They don't care what kind of pink is used. He aimed to take the least elegant thing he could find and tried to make something elegant out of it.

Okay Hot Shot is a painting that is based on comics, but this particular images exists nowhere in any one comic. He put four different comics panels together. The reference to 'pouring" is an art world in-joke. It refers to Morris Louis' brand of modern painting, using poured paint. Lichtenstein delighted in the double take. Possibly this was his tongue in cheek reaction to critics who claimed that pouring (as opposed to his comics paintings) would have been "real art".

Conversation (1962) is one of Lichtenstein's rare drawings that were not done as a study for a painting. He was fond of visual puns. Though it is called conversation, there is no speech balloon. It was about this time that he stopped using them for a while. He emphasizes the harsh angular lines in the man's face and emphasizes the soft curves in the woman's. The man's expression is obscured from view, but seems calm, while the woman appears to be in shock. This is more than a man copying comic books. He is presenting our stereotypes and forcing us to think about them.

He emphasizees the dots between the faces in such a way that the shape refuses to recede into the background as it should. It becomes a focal point. The picture plane is all-important, as he felt that was what made paintings modern. We can tell by his sketches that he labored over each line. He would create several different versions and studies preparing for the major canvasses. The contour line itself was drawn in outlines and then filled in, giving it a distinctly object-like character. He insisted that the line both described the object and existed in its own right. "I think Matisse is like that; the mark is just the mark and it may be part of the same arm, but you can see how he does think about it as separate (Rose, 1987)."

Art History

When he paid tribute to an art history icon from the past, he didn't refer directly to a Picasso, for instance, but looked at a poor reproduction of one. As he sought to find ideas to rework in his own image, he investigated the age-old question of what constitutes art. While doing so in his homages to other artists, he was conscious of his own place in art history. He saw himself as part of a continuous line of descent beginning with Medieval art. Art began as only religious but began to include common people, beggars, still lifes, and landscapes. Cubists then began to use bits of newspaper and wallpaper. He saw this "vulgarizing" as part of recent art history and as crucial -- of things becoming more vernacular.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Astonishing Prints: An Art Show

Tonight was the first night of an Art show at Heroes Your Mom Threw Out Comic Shop in Elmira, NY. It was a great time to meet many artists, and I sold copies of my comic book and copies of "Shocked" -- a linoleum block print I made recently.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Shocked - in complimentary colors

I did a series of these in the opposite, corresponding colors. Green instead of red, etc. I like how the basic image is there, but different things can be said through the abstract treatment of the elements.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

New Arrival

New Arrival
Colored Pencil

This drawing is a gift for a friend who recently welcomed his first grandson. I tried to capture that magical moment when a precious meets those who have waited so long to meet him.