Friday, June 11, 2010

Heat, mud and rock 'n roll

Music, art and a new appreciation for showers has brought me into day two of the ‘roo. As the somewhat pre-weekend day to prepare for what’s to come, Thursday allows campers to get settled while getting to know the scene and friendly neighbors.

It all began with a line of traffic as far as the eye can see through cow fields and farmland. Through the long line, roo-goers celebrated day one with smiles and cheers, excited for the weekend ahead.

At Bonnaroo there is something for everyone, whether you want to meditate at 6 a.m. or stay up until the dawn hours jamming to LCD Soundsystem (scheduled to rock out until 4 a.m. Saturday morning). So many aspects of the festival can lead the avid wanderer dizzy with options. Get a hair wash with a runway show at the Garnier Fruitis tent? Join a lively drum circle? Cool down on a slip-n-slide or in the giant mushroom fountain? (Which, by the way, is rumored to turn red while GWAR plays Saturday night.)

Music, of course, is the main objective. An incense of pot smoke floats through the venue while hoola-hooping hippies move to the tunes, which on Thursday included Local Natives, Miike Snow, Neon Indian, The Dodos, The Temper Trap and The XX, among many other excellent acts.

Here We Go Magic worked “This Tent”, while Diane Birch brought her smooth melodies to the stage of “That Tent”. Hundreds of people packed underneath both, with Magic’s dancy psychedelic tunes, at times comparable to Explosions in the Sky, and Diane’s silky voice lulling fans to enjoy the finesse of her sound in the dusty grass.

The sweltering heat died off as the dusk settled in the hills of a muddy yet community-loving Bonnaroo. The XX finished my day as they packed in thousands under “That Tent”. All dressed in black, the British band brought with them a somewhat sullen presence with a good beat, and a great head-bopping following.
Just before The XX took the stage, fans sang along to the smooth yet upbeat tunes of The Temper Trap, saving the crowd-pleasing favorite, “Sweet Disposition”, for one of the final songs.

While some decided to dance to the music in their head (more like headphones) in the Silent Disco, others hit the comedy tent or the cinema to check out the classic Jaws 3 in the final hours.

Today will be long, but enjoyable, starting with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Tenacious D, She & Him, Les Claypool, among so many others, ending with The Flaming Lips performing Dark Side of the Moon and LCD Soundsystem.

Gen X author revamps Roots

Roots is launching a collaboration with Douglas Coupland on a limited-edition collection. (CNW Group/Douglas Coupland)
Roots is launching a collaboration with Douglas Coupland on a limited-edition collection. (CNW Group/Douglas Coupland)
Roots has teamed up with best-selling Canadian author Douglas Coupland to design a limited-edition clothing line that pays tribute to Canada's telecommunications systems.
Coupland, best known for his novels Generation X and Microserfs, said the partnership is an extension of his life-long exploration of what it means to be Canadian.
"This partnership with Roots is an amazing opportunity to keep that dialogue going with an even wider, more diverse audience," he said in a release.
The "Canada Goes Electric" collection will feature clothes, accessories, leather good, furniture and art.
In a video posted on the line's website, Coupland said his inspiration was Canada's enthusiasm for the electric and communication innovations of the 1950s and 1960s.
"It was just this period where everyone said 'Wow, look what this TV set can do, look what that thing can do, let's name it.' So instead of birch bark and moose and Mounties and all that stuff, I thought 'Let's take that vision of the future forward.'
"What really links Canadians together is that we're all far apart," he said.
Coupland was born on a Canadian Air Force base in Germany and his family later settled in Vancouver.
Though he is internationally known for his 13 novels, he is also a trained visual artist and sculptor who has studied at B.C.'s Emily Carr College of Art and Design as well as design institutes in Italy and Japan.
It is the first time Roots has used an outside designer.
Roots co-founder Don Green said Coupland's designs show "his trademark humour and brilliance."
The pop culture collection includes shirts with TV test patterns bars, circuit boards and pixelated maple leaves and beavers. A patch shows hydro towers and a re-imagined Canadian shield features a moose and bear alongside satellites and communication dishes.
The products will be available on July 8 and carry price tags ranging from
$3.99 to $1,973.

Why Videogames Matter

They’re big business, but they’re also a big time suck. A gamer makes a grown-up case for the medium.

Blowing a zombie’s head off with a sniper rifle is one of life’s simple pleasures. But is it art? Though videogames have become a massive industry, bringing in tens of billions annually and occupying more than an hour of 8- to 18-year-olds’ time each day, the medium still struggles for recognition from cultural critics. In Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter, author and game critic Tom Bissell plumbs his years of button-mashing to make the case that games are, in fact, a legitimate creative medium—but one that needs to be evaluated by its own standards, not those of fiction or cinema.
This is not the writing of a fanboy. Bissell is harshly critical of bad games, and even the bad parts of games he largely admires. Of BioShock, one of the games most commonly regarded as approaching the level of masterpiece, Bissell says he still “would hesitate to call [it]…a legitimate work of art.” For a theory-heavy book that tosses off references to blog posts with titles like “Ludonarrative Dissonance in ‘BioShock,’ ” Extra Lives is surprisingly accessible to nongamers, raising basic questions about what it means to experience art in different media. Bissell recently spoke to NEWSWEEK’s Nick Summers about the way videogames have changed the art of storytelling, as well as new business models for the industry. Excerpts:

BISSELL: I meant that it showed how evocative, how immersive a videogame could be. It showed the really interesting ways that videogame storytelling could work; it could suck you in; and at same time, the dialogue, storytelling, and characterization were just so hideously clumsy. It was evocative of everything a game could do—if someone had taken the time to learn any of the finer points of dramatization.
So it sort of gave game designers permission to be bad?
People say about game stories and characterization and narrative: “It’s just a game. That’s not why we play games.” And in one sense it’s true. It’s very clear that games can’t handle narrative the way a movie does. So my view is, I don’t want game stories to be good the way movie stories are good; I want game stories to be good in the way games tell stories. Game designers for a long time just copied these Hollywood storytelling processes and went nowhere. Now I think we’re starting to see a lot of designers say, “OK, none of that stuff worked. Let’s start again and figure out the ways of storytelling that are native to this medium.”
You write that a lot of progress in game development has been in reaching new heights of realism, but that it might be a dead end—like, if you realistically blow someone’s arm off, no one wants that. Does that mean that a lot of the history of videogame progress has been a waste?
I don’t know. I think that’s a completely open question. I wouldn’t presume to know where the path is going to go. But I do think that as much as I like games like Uncharted 2 that give you this really interactive, cinema-like experience—as much as I like that school of game design, I do think that’s a dead end creatively. As one of the guys in my book, Clint Hocking, says, the best that that kind of game can be is as good as, or slightly better than, a movie. He’s more interested in a game experience that doesn’t feel like a movie. Can there be an experience that surpasses movies? And I think there are a zillion ways to do that game. Realistically, nonrealistically, it’s completely open territory.
In part of your book, you write about public-relations reps who are bigger control freaks than their military counterparts and coders who drive Ferraris. What other crazy aspects about the world of game-making did you want readers to know about?
The secrecy is a big one. I really have no clue what purpose that serves at this point, but everyone in the industry seems to accept it. Also: how smart a lot of these people are, how thoughtful they are about design decisions, and how seriously they take the aesthetics of the medium. The medium does have rules and principles, and they are really interesting.
The subtitle of the book is Why Video Games Matter. Do you think you make your point?
I think games will take their place beside fiction and filmmaking as a standing member of the storytelling alliance—as long as enough people like Clint Hocking stick to their guns and decide to do stuff that satisfies them creatively, more than satisfying their company’s bottom line. If enough people maintain their fierce individuality as artists, the games will be like film [economically]—they’ll have a popular commercial side, and a more interesting artistic side. Although, yeah, it could just become a big toy factory.
Is one problem that games make too much money? That it’s so easy to make millions with crap that no one takes time to make quality stuff?
That doesn’t feel quite right to me. But it is right in the sense that it’d be hard to go before the board of some game company, which publishes, say, Modern Warfare 2—which I think is a creative failure but is the single most profitable entertainment property of all time—and say to the board, “Yeeeah, we want it to be different, because we aren’t feeling fulfilled creatively.”
Should the major studios be funding more artistic, indie-game shops?
That’s probably where a lot of the creative fire and the really formally ambitious stuff will be—in smaller games. I do think there’ll always be a few big triple-A game designers who just aren’t interested in doing Modern Warfare 2. I take it upon myself as a game consumer, and as someone who thinks and writes about games, to support those [more artistic] games at every possible opportunity. We as thoughtful videogame consumers can try to create the world we want to live in, by courting the designers that don’t want to do, you know, Modern Warfare 12.

Braid is a game that you lavish praise on when you write, “Its puzzles are not just difficult but meaningfully difficult”; it “feels like art,” “like a poem.” Yet Braid was created by one guy with a vision. Should the big studios be more like Braid? Can they?
So many studios these days are in such economic trouble that it’s hard to imagine the people in charge wanting more Braids in the world. I just don’t know how that happens. I know [Braid creator] Jon Blow is making another game right now, and I hope it’s hugely successful.
Some big developers that have been renowned for their experimentalism and their interest in innovation now seem to be more interested in making more profitable games. And I think that’s kind of a disaster. For instance, Deadspace 2 is coming out. I loved the first Deadspace. It’s a beautiful game. And I’ve heard that in the second one, they’re trying to correct all of the things “wrong” with the first one—by, for instance, having cut scenes. I hope to God that’s not true. If someone looks at a game as beautiful and heart-poundingly intense as Deadspace and figures out ways to “fix” it because it wasn’t commercially successful, I don’t think there’s any hope at all for any of us.

Reception opens Galins’ show today

Mirror Lake .
Works by local artists Chris and Arnold Galin go on display today opening with a reception from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Siena Arts Gallery, 405 W. Dominick St.
Galin has developed a photographic technique, which he calls "Nature in Motion," through the use of panning, zooming, tilting and other camera techniques. All of the "special effects" are performed during the shooting. He has won awards at the Utica Art Association Tri County Show, Vineyard Art Gallery in Syracuse, Munson Williams Proctor in Utica, and Cooperstown Art Association.
Chris Galin is experimenting with photographing glass objects and colored bottles, creating a photograph that renders the original "object" abstract. She wants the viewer of her work to question exactly what they are seeing and to ponder how the resulting image was created.  She began to photograph flowers behind glass pieces allowing the prisms and designs of the glass to deconstruct the flowers into abstract colors and patterns.  She has also incorporated slide montages into her photography.  Her work is exhibited in venues around central New York and has received many awards including Outstanding Artistic Achievement from CNYAC Annual Art Exhibition.
The Galins’ images are marketed under the business Creative Images, and are available in many forms ­ including prints, images on tile and on glass. Their photographs have been exhibited in art galleries in Delmar, Skaneateles and Syracuse. This is their first showing in Rome.
Gallery owners Michael Brown and Kenneth Pace will host today’s reception. Refreshments will be served.
The exhibit will continue through July 18.Gallery hours are 4-8 p.m. Wednesdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and 1-6 p.m. Sundays.
The gallery specializes in the promotion of Central NY artists. Artists are encouraged to attend openings and submit their work for consideration. The owners will take appointments at 888-485-6270.

SFist Tonight

ART I: Muni Diaries presents Outbound, featuring a group mixed media exhibition portraying SF's beloved public transit in the form of paintings, graffiti, and more. There will also be a storytelling tent set up outside, so bring a story to tell! 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. // Secession Art and Design (3361 Mission St) // free
ART II: SF Arts Commission launches the Chinatown Art in Storefronts series, featuring an art walk, live music by Diskarte Namin and the San Francisco Pacific Chinese Folk Music Group, with light refreshments provided by local restaurants Z&Y, Four Seas, and Charles Phan of the Slanted Door (who grew up in Chinatown), as well as tea tasting provided by Vital Tealeaf and drinks donated by Metromint and Hansen's.
5 to 7 p.m. // Wentworth Alley (Wasington St and Grant Ave) (free)
FILM: The 6th annual Queer Women of Color Film Festival opens tonight with their "Romantic Resonance" series screening, featuring "yearning hands, ardent minds and hearts aching with diatonic frequency rocksteady to the beat of new beginnings." The screening will be followed by a Q&A panel with the filmmakers, and there's also an opening night party at Medjool at 10:30.

Buenaventura Press closes its doors

Kramers Ergot #7 Kramers Ergot #7Some sad news today out of Oakland ... Alvin Buenaventura announced today that he shut down his company, Buenaventura Press, in January.
"I was forced to let go of the dedicated employees who had worked so tirelessly for so little money in order to create art that we all believed in," Buenaventura posted on Blog Flume earlier today. "This meant that I had to abandon all current and future projects and discontinue sales and distribution. I deeply regret having to take these actions, but the press experienced a devastating financial blow that made it impossible to continue. (I will release more details about this problem in the future.)"
Robot 6's Sean T. Collins reached out to Buenaventura today, and he added that the situation comes down to a single problem that is legal in nature.
Buenaventura Press published many independent comics, high-end anthologies, graphic novelsand prints by creators like Ron Rege Jr, Ted May, Kevin Huizenga, Eric Haven, Lisa Hanawalt and Matt Furie. Back in 2008 they received a lot of attention when they published the massive Kramers Ergot 7, an "olympic-sized" anthology that included contributions from Matt Groening, Daniel Clowes, Seth, Gabrielle Bell and many more. They also published Comic Art Magazine.

Robert Crumb's 'Genesis' Exhibit Comes to Portland [Pics]

"The Bible Illuminated: R. Crumb's Book of Genesis," a touring exhibit of original art from Robert Crumb's 224-page graphic retelling of the first book of the Bible, has finally arrived in the Northwest comics mecca of Portland, Oregon at the Portland Art Museum where it will be on display until September 19th, and local comics artists like Steve Lieber, Erika Moen, Jesse Reklaw, and Craig Thompson will be on hand every Sunday from 2-4 pm to either discuss his work with patrons or demonstrate their own.

"The Book of Genesis Illustrated" stirred up some controversy after it was first published in 2009, with some complaining that the visualization of the religious text (and the incest, rape, and murder within in its pages) sensationalized its R-rated elements. Despite Crumb's well-deserved reputation as a counterculture satirist, however, "Genesis" is unblinkingly faithful to the original text. It was, as he explains in a hand-lettered introduction blown up to something like 8 feet tall on a museum wall, "a straight illustration job, with no intention to ridicule or make visual jokes."

It's easy to see how the exhibit of 207 identically-sized black and white pages could have been a sterile, monotonous affair, but instead it is a visual delight, alternating plain white walls with vivid, dramatic shades of red, green and blue, and oval portraits of Biblical characters hung like cameo pins over the art. "I broke it up into chunks and put some color behind it, and gave it a chance to flow," said Bruce Guenther, the chief curator of the Portland Art Museum and Crumb.

Check out more pictures from the exhibit after the jump.

A life-sized cut-out of Crumb greets museum-goers at the entrance to the exhibit.

Cain and Abel as cameos.

Crumbs hangs with museum patrons.

Crumb's source materials and photo references.

A sketch of God, as he appeared to Crumb in a dream.

More source materials and photoreference, particularly of camels.

Skinny cows.

The evening festivities to celebrate opening night, complete with oversized Crumb characters.

'Wikipedia says fashion designer is not an artist'

Mumbai: The income-tax (I-T) department insists that fashion designer Tarun Tahiliani is not an artist and to support its claim it relies on Wikipedia -- a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit.
Submitting definitions of the words design, art and artist, the I-T department's advocate Anamika Malhotra told the court that "design" was applicable to applied arts and not fine arts or performing arts. "An artist under section 80RR of the Finance Act, 1969, refers to fine arts and not applied arts," Malhotra told the Bombay high court on Friday.
Justice DY Chandrachud, however, asked, "How reliable is Wikipedia? Isn't it subject to user modification?" Tahiliani was seeking a tax exemption under section 80RR on his declared taxable income of Rs83.90 lakh in his returns submitted to the IT department on October 31, 2000.
Arguing further, Malhotra said, "Design itself is more about technicality than art. A fashion designer designs, he does not perform an art."
The court asked whether a person like Bhanu Athaiya, the first Indian to win an Academy award for costume designing for the film Gandhi, would still be entitled to an exemption even though it was for a Hollywood film?
Tahiliani's counsel argued that the person who stitches a dress is not an artist, but the one who conceptualises it certainly is.
He cited the definition of an artist from Webster's dictionary and a Sanskrit text where vastra-gopan (dress designing) was enlisted among 64 types of kala (art) and not vidya (science).
The court will pass an order in the case on June 14.

Indian artist's work gets $3.5M Cdn at auction

A Christie's employee stands next to Indian artist Syed Haider Raza's canvas Saurashtra in London in June. The large-scale painting sold for nearly $3.5 million Cdn Thursday, setting a sales record for a contemporary Indian artwork. 

 A brilliantly coloured abstract canvas by Indian-born artist Syed Haider Raza has set a new record for the sale of a contemporary Indian artwork after fetching nearly $3.5 million Cdn at auction, Christie's has announced.
Saurashtra, a large-scale square canvas Raza created in 1983, sold for the equivalent of about $3.45 million Cdn, including buyer's premium, at a London auction on Thursday evening.
"The painting is one of [the] most ambitious works he has ever created as an homage to his homeland," Yamini Mehta, Christie's London's director of South Asian modern and contemporary art, said before the auction.
"Its size, scale, and expressive brushstroke radiates the brilliant colours of India and has a deeply spiritual subtext."
An unnamed buyer purchased the acrylic-on-canvas work from a French collector, who had acquired it directly from Raza.
Though based in France since the 1950s, 88-year-old Raza continues to maintain strong ties with his homeland.
Though Raza's Saurashtra was the record breaker, Thursday's auction also saw lofty prices paid for other works by South Asian artists, including Francis Newton Souza and Tyeb Mehta.

Outdoor Art Show Along Schuylkill Ends Saturday

Philadelphia's newest arts festival is fast becoming a hit with artists and visitors.  The "Art in the Open" festival, along the Schuylkill River, wraps up Saturday.
Christopher Pierro from New York (right) does what he calls "street art" -- or what some less charitable might call graffiti.  He says he's been enjoying his time in Philadelphia, working in the open and talking to interested passersby:
"People always assume that this kind of art is done by hoodlums or done by kids.  And here I am, a 40-year-old dad of three, who still does this and does it creatively.  So to be able to explain that to people, that part of it to me is important."
New York artist Joe Mangrum (in top photo) created a fantastical sea creature out of sand at the Waterworks:
"I enjoy the process and the people that I meet in the process, and it's bringing something beautiful to people."
Ed Bronstein is part of the creative team that founded Art in the Open:
"We told them in them in advance that if they didn't like people they shouldn't apply to this.  But these are all really eager to engage, and it's been fascinating."
Art in the Open wraps up Saturday along the Schuylkill, between the Waterworks and Bartram's Garden.

Darien Art Show draws a crowd for large exhibit

(Douglas Cavers photo)
The Darien Arts Center celebrated its 52nd annual Art Show and Sale one of its largest exhibits at its Town Hall space. Lesley Sandison, lead organizer of the Art Show, called it a great success. “It brings all ages together to celebrate the arts,” she said.
The show, which opened Saturday features 317 pieces of artwork, submitted this year, Sandison noted, a significant increase from last year.
Orthodontist David Osherow sponsored the student awards. Nancy McTague-Stock judged student art submissions.
High school first prizes were awarded to Eric Kanigan for photography, Kelsey Harrison for sculpture/ceramics and Joe Maccarone for other media.
Also winning first prizes were students Katherine de Haas, George Thompson and Greta Hoffmeister.
Mackenzie Jones, a high school senior, received the Darien Art Center Ginny Wright Scholarship, a full four-year scholarship to study art. She received the scholarship based on a portfolio of her work. Her brother won the award three years ago, and Mackenzie was “pleasantly surprised” to win it this year.
She said that travel serves as a large inspiration for her art; the gritty portraits that she took while on a trip to Costa Rica demonstrate this interest.
Mackenzie will attend the University of Vermont next year, and is planning to double major in art and environmental science.
Helen Klisser During judged the adults’ pieces. First place prizewinners were Anne Anderson for oils & acrylics, Robert Carley for color photography, Pierre Lahausssois for black and white photography, Pat Atkin for sculpture, Stan Pastore for watercolor, Lori Glavin for mixed media and Lisa Thoren for pastels, graphics & drawing. Mary Morant won best in show with her piece “Chocolate Cake.”
Glavin said that she liked “the mixture between kids and adults” that the Art Show displayed. She explained that much of her art is inspired from being a mom and from finding beauty in the everyday objects of domestic life.
Thoren, who will become president of the Darien Arts Center next year, said she was happy to be represented among the towns best artists and to be part of the “phenomenal growth” that is occurring in the Darien Arts Community.
The art from the show will stay open for public viewing until Saturday, June 12.

Home is where the art is

A writer often needs to get away —  to a sanctuary where the calm allows  ideas to emerge from their depths and assume the form of a story or a poem. To a visual artist, a residency provides this space, says sculptor Andrew Connelly, a professor at the California State University, Sacramento.
The month Connelly spent as resident artist at the Sanskriti Kendra, Delhi, helped him produce an enormous amount of work in a short time. One of his installations will be on display at the Shridharni Gallery from June 15 in a show with Amitesh Verma.
“I spent most of my time at the Sanskriti grounds making installations. Later, I would venture out into the city to view exhibitions, musical performances and art festivals,” he recalls.
For artists of the Khoj Peers Residency 2010, too, the sights, sounds and smells of Delhi — the city they were staying in — worked as a muse.
NIFT graduate Agat Sharma, 26, one of the five artists at the residency, has explored the link between consumerism and big-city superficial sentiments. In his installation, the idea takes the contours of a cosmetic cream. “I feel ‘squeeze’ is a word from the city. How about tubes that squeeze out ready-to-use empathy or squishing ‘jealousy re-dux cream’ on the palm, mixing it with ‘liquid guilt’, and applying it on the face. Only to wash it off later?” he asks.
Neha Thakar, from MS University, Baroda, wants to depict the ephemeral nature of life through air, smell and ice. “Haldi, chilli and mogra at the Khari Baoli spice market inspired me to create a smell-pump installation.”
Bhavin Mistry, 26, has earlier represented the theme of claustrophobia in his drawings. He now creates a cloak — with essentials to survive in a big city. Think food sachets, toothpaste, a clothes hanger and a sleeping bag.
Delhi’s maze of power structures has tripped over Rabindra Patra. The 27-year-old Fine Arts graduate from Dhauli College, Bhubaneswar, repaired electronics goods before his arts foray. His installation draws on his erstwhile vocation. “The power structures which emerge in negotiating a big city are like a sculpture with resistance wires.”
Graphic novelist Sajjad Malik’s animation film on the Kashmir conflict is seen through the eyes of a child playing hopscotch and an undulating line drawn through its margins which turns into barbed wire. “The line is a metaphor for anxiety and the playful quality of hopscotch,” says Latika Gupta, a curator at Khoj.
For the four positions available at the Bengaluru Artist Residency One’ (BAR1) Collective, run by Bangalore’s artist community, the organisers get more than 100 applications every year, says founder-artist Surekha. “Emerging artists perceive it as a non-competitive space to incubate novel ideas.”

Sunil Sethi: Two sides of Tagore's art

An inveterate traveller all his life, the poet Rabindranath Tagore in 1930 visited Dartington Hall, a 1,200-acre estate in Devon established by his long-standing Anglo-American camp followers Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst as a Santiniketan-type institution in England. The hosts and their guest had an old association: in the 1920s Elmhirst, an agricultural economist from Cornell, had been invited by Tagore to run his farm project near Santiniketan as an experiment in rural reconstruction; later, he acted as Tagore’s personal secretary on his travels in China, Japan and Argentina. Tagore was instrumental in persuading Elmhirst (who married the daughter of American railroad millionaire and financier William C Whitney) to buy the Dartington Hall estate in 1925.
Revisiting Dartington in 1930, the 69-year-old poet asked for some bottles of coloured ink and, according to Elmhirst’s diaries, “when these arrived, there began to emerge a series of paintings and sketches”. A rare cache of 11 of these drawings are the highlight of Sotheby’s auction of South Asian art in London next week. They are mostly works in watercolour, pastel and ink on paper (not large, on average about 15 to 25 inches) and typical of Tagore’s art — mostly lugubrious long heads with limpid staring eyes and a couple of blurry, vaguely impressionist landscapes. Put up for sale by the Dartington Hall Trust, their estimated prices range between $27,600 and $61,500 each (approximately Rs 11 to Rs 25 lakh each). It will be interesting to see how the bidding goes on June 15; if the estimates on Tagore’s art are exceeded, it should come as a welcome revaluation of what was, after all, a sideline in the Nobel laureate’s vast output that chiefly centred on verse, song, drama and prose writings.

As coincidence will have it, the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) in New Delhi has a special display of several dozen of Tagore’s artworks on at Jaipur House at the moment. The exhibition occupies a couple of large rooms and commodious corridors but what a poor and inadequately curated show it is! In 12 pages of its small catalogue, Sotheby’s gives us more information about a small slice of Tagore’s life, philosophy and art, together with excellent colour reproductions than India’s premier art gallery run on public funds. The NGMA show is accompanied by the thinnest information — there is no reappraisal of Tagore’s work or worth as an artist 70 years after his death; no scrutiny, in light of the wealth of new Tagorean research, of when and how these were created, or how they came to be acquired; nor any effort to place them in the context of a polymath’s life. On the contrary, it is Sotheby’s sale catalogue that attempts to succinctly answer many questions using multiple sources — Tagore’s own history of Santiniketan, accounts by his biographers, the Dartington Hall archives and critical studies of his art. From these we learn that Tagore began by doodling on his working manuscripts and his career as an artist became an obsession after 1930. “It is thought that in the last 10 years of his life he produced over 2,000 pictures. His work was publicly displayed for the first time in Paris in 1930 followed by an exhibition in Calcutta in 1931.” The present lot of drawings on sale were first exhibited in London’s Calmann gallery in 1938 before being gifted to his friends the Elmhirsts.
Each of the London Tagores carries a detailed description, including an ink portrait that is said to resemble his friend Lady Ranu Mukherjee, wife of the industrialist Biren Mukherjee. Most eloquently, here is Tagore himself on his art: “People often ask me about the meaning of my pictures. I remain silent even as my pictures are. It is for them to express and not to explain.” Unfortunately, the NGMA show has taken Tagore’s word to heart for it tells us almost nothing.

Art for the Cash Poor? Hey, That's Us!

So, we're going to have a table at this weekend's eleventh annual Art for the Cash Poor event! Come say hi at Crane Arts and find out more about this year's Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe.

From what well does this sea of affordable work (all under $200) from about 120 artists spring, you ask? Eleven years ago, it was the first-ever public event from InLiquid.

"25 artists had 10 pieces each, all under $50," says Rachel Zimmerman, InLiquid's executive director. "It was free for artists, free for attendees. It was a great way of making a statement."

A NYU/Tisch-trained photographer, Rachel started InLiquid to help promote Philadelphia's visual artists.

"There's this idea that people don't really buy art in Philadelphia," Rachel says. "We need to change that. A lot of people see New York as a place to go in general when they shop. [Philadelphia's] most high-end boutiques are in King of Prussia, not downtown.

"There are major collectors in the city. A big part is educating people that it's OK to buy locally. It's OK that it's not in New York."

As an arts community, Rachel says, "we talk about visitorship and ticket sales, but we never talk about art sales. How do you reimagine it and get more buy-in? There's not a lot of arts press in Philadelphia. When something gets acknowledged [elsewhere] people take it more seriously."

Art for the Cash Poor has emerged as a social event as well, with visual artists, art buyers, musicians (six bands are performing this year), neighborhood residents, and arts fans from throughout the region catching up over the weekend. Rachel says that the social aspect also lowers perceived barriers to buying art.

"It's not so hard to buy art. It's not that scary." And with prices under $200, Rachel says, "It's not a frightening amount of money."

Part of the motivation for Art for the Cash Poor was Rachel's own experience with the challenge of selling work.

"I was so tired of throwing away photos. I do a lot of palladium and platinum prints. Instead of these things sitting in a box, maybe somebody would want them."

But this isn't an inventory of cast-offs. The likes of fiber artist Amy Orr, Space 1026 member Justin Myer Staller, and glass artist Marina Borker will peddle original works. Rachel wants you to come (and we want you to hang out with us), and also take your involvement in the arts to a new level.

"We want people to buy artwork, put it in their homes, and give it a good place to live."

Work of Art' on Bravo: What did the critics think?

Workofart The new reality show "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist" arrived on Bravo this week on a cloud of publicity and advance buzz. It no doubt helped that the show comes with a bona fide celebrity in the form of executive producer Sarah Jessica Parker, who put in a brief appearance in the first installment on Wednesday.
Bravo is the cable station that originally aired "Project Runway," which has since moved to Lifetime. "Work of Art" hews closely to the "Runway" formula -- it features a benevolent but firm-handed mentor figure in the form of auction-house big-wig Simon de Pury, and a svelte model-host in the form of socialite China Chow.
"Work of Art" brings together 14 contestants whose artistic abilities range from amateur to professional. Throughout the season, they will be tasked with creating original works in a variety of media, including painting, sculpture and photography.  
In each episode, one contestant is sent packing to the sound of the show's signature catch phrase: "Your work of art didn't work for us."
The judges for the show include critic Jerry Saltz and gallerists Bill Powers and Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn. The winner will get his or her own solo show at the Brooklyn Museum of Art plus a $100,000 cash prize.
While it's still too early to say if "Work of Art" will gain a cult-like following on a par with "Project Runway," critics are already chiming in with their assessments of the cable series. (Tweeters have also been busy posting their reactions.) A sampling of some of the major reviewers shows a diversity of opinions, ranging from admiration to dismissal.

Christopher Knight of the L.A. Times was less than impressed with "Work of Art," writing that the show "isn't as much bad as merely dull. Bad we could love; dull just sends us wandering off to the fridge, where inner essence consists of leftover meat loaf... Rather than making art, the cast is charged with dramatizing the act of making art."
The New York Times' Ginia Bellafante took a kindlier view of the show, praising the critic Jerry Saltz, who serves as a judge on the show, and complimenting gallerist Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn on her looks. "You could more generously analogize the project to traditions of the ancien régime," wrote the reviewer. "Beginning during the reign of Louis XIV, the Prix de Rome awarded money and prestige to artists who proved themselves through similar contests of elimination."
David Hinckley of the New York Daily News called the show "modest fun," adding that "Bravo has been doing reality long enough to understand the importance of a snappy pace, and 'Work of Art' delivers... Now it will be interesting to see if one not-particularly-good artist sticks around because she is a loud character who can be relied on to trash everyone else's creations."
Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker gave the show a "B+" and wrote that it "attempts to make contemporary art palatable to a broad TV audience... That's where the fun of 'Work of Art' resides, in convincing viewers that egomaniacal kooks can make good and bad art, and yes, there are standards besides split-second opinions."

Works by Picasso and Monet drive art sales

Art lovers are bracing themselves for what could be the most valuable auctions yet held in London, which are estimated to fetch more than £500m.
Masterpieces by Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet and Edouard Manet are among the highlights of impressionist, modern and contemporary art sales this month that will attract the attention of the world’s collectors.

The record for a series of sales was set before the global recession in June 2008, when auctions at Christie’s and Sotheby’s sold £528m worth of art.
The market slumped after that, only to bounce back strongly. In February, a bronze sculpture by Alberto Giacometti fetched £65m at Sotheby’s in London, unexpectedly becoming the most expensive work of art sold at auction.
That record was broken last month when a painting by Picasso sold for £70m at Christie’s New York, and could be threatened again at Christie’s impressionist sale on June 23.
Two paintings – a Blue Period Picasso, “Portrait of Angel Fernandez de Soto” and a water-lily work by Monet, “Nymphéas” – are estimated at £30m-£40m, but may fetch much more, owing to the new-found depth and breadth of the market, which has the effect of driving prices up on the night.
The sale of the Giacometti in February, for example, saw 10 initial bidders, six of whom continued to bid after the £20m mark, and two of whom fought a fierce battle over the telephone after the £30m mark, taking the bidding past the world record figure.
The same could happen in the forthcoming auctions.
Jussi Pylkkänen, president of Christie’s Europe, Russia and the Middle East, described the Picasso portrait as “one of the most important works of art to be offered at auction in decades”. The painting is being offered by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, a charity established by the composer to promote the arts, culture and heritage in Britain.
The Monet work is another rarity to come on the market. The artist’s water-lily paintings were exhibited in 1909 to great acclaim, and the one on offer remained in the collection of the Durand-Ruel art-dealing family for many decades.
Other works in the Christie’s sale include paintings by Vincent van Gogh and Gustav Klimt, both of which are estimated at £8m-£12m.
The highlight of the Sotheby’s sale on June 22 is a self-portrait by Manet, which is estimated at £20m-£30m, and is the only self-portrait by the artist in private hands.
Melanie Clore, who co-chairs Sotheby’s impressionist department worldwide, said the high quality of the works consigned for the auctions reflected renewed confidence in the art market.
She said the sale of the Giacometti in February proved a watershed: “People realised that there were still a lot of collectors around willing to step up to the plate.”
Global competition was another factor in pushing prices up.
“There are Russian, Chinese, south-east Asian and Middle Eastern buyers who are competing strongly with the established buyers. There have always been new faces in the art market, but there are more of them than ever right now.”
The entry of new buyers may have proved an unwelcome shock to traditional participants in the art market “but ironically it is the depth in the market which has instilled confidence in sellers, and has seen all these great pictures come on the market”, said Ms Clore. The quality of the works also made them sound investments in times of financial uncertainty.
“They are masterpieces, not something that has just come into fashion. Anyone buying one of these works is not being speculative – they are buying into something with a highly esteemed history.”

Of Picasso and Provenance

NEW YORK — There is much to be said in favor of art shows without a theme.
If the Metropolitan Museum of Art had not decided to display together the 34 paintings, 58 works on paper, two sculptures and sundry items including prints that make up its Picasso collection, some truths and questions that many would prefer to remain unspoken about the most important figure of 20th century Western art might not have been aired.
“Picasso in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, ” running through Aug. 27, is both the title of the exhibition and the highly important catalog, which provides a detailed history of each work in the show. In the introduction to that volume, the eminent museum curator Gary Tinterow writes that “the Metropolitan’s collection developed by happenstance rather than by design. The result is that it is strongly skewed toward Pablo Picasso’s early work.”
Happenstance? From the institution’s perspective, perhaps, but hardly on the part of the great collectors who donated or bequeathed to the Met the Picassos they treasured.
Take the famous portrait of Gertrude Stein, painted in 1905-06, which she left to the museum in her will in 1947. It was the Metropolitan’s first Picasso.
Mr. Tinterow observes that while Gertrude Stein only gave this one painting to the Met, “She can be held responsible for many more.” With her brother Leo, the American writer played an important role in the financial backing that Picasso received in Paris. Nudged by them, the art dealer Ambroise Vollard bought 27 paintings from the artist in 1906 and went on to buy batches of pictures twice a year until 1911.
So great was Leo and Gertrude Stein’s admiration for the painter that they amassed the largest group of Picassos anywhere until they split up their joint collection in the winter of 1913-14. But Gertrude Stein, a connoisseur of Picasso’s art if ever there was one, never owned any of the one-day cartoon-style pictures in which the artist later indulged.
Neither did another of the most perceptive collectors of Picasso’s work, Florene Schoenborn, whose donations and 1995 bequest brought to the Met several of the most powerful masterpieces by the Paris school painter. Yet, the diversity of the pictures that she acquired with her first husband, Samuel Marx, rules out any suggestion of conformism.
In 1953, Florene Marx, as she was then known, settled for one of Picasso’s most uncharacteristic works. The 1906 portrait of an innkeeper called Josep Fondevila stands apart from all others. According to Picasso’s companion Fernande Olivier, it was “lifelike.” However, it conjures memories of Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Breugel the Elder’s admirable panels in the Prado, where the Spanish-born artist was a frequent visitor.
On Jan. 24, the couple bought an even more unusual Picasso. “Bust of a Man” of 1908 had belonged to Gertrude and Leo Stein. The powerful likeness conveys a feeling of intense distress. The big nose, the mouth open as if to scream and the almond-shaped eyes that are empty holes send back a rare echo to the art of pre-Columbian Mexico — Aztec sculpture to be precise, particularly the earthenware figures.
The Chicago couple was equally attracted to Picasso’s Cubist period, in which figuration is stylized beyond recognition. Their very earliest recorded choice was “Guitar and Clarinet on a Mantelpiece,” dated 1915, which they bought on Jan. 17, 1944, for what was at the time a very high price — $8,500.
In 1952, the couple acquired an example of Picasso’s version of Surrealism. “Nude Standing by the Sea” is indebted to Giorgio de Chirico for the clear-cut form and the light, and to Yves Tanguy for the idea of a nondescript shape making a human gesture.
The closest the Marx couple came to buying the art of distortion cultivated by Picasso from the 1930s on is “Reading at a Table,” done in March 1934. Memories of the painter’s early Analytic Cubism period may be recognized in the juxtaposition of the woman’s profile and the other side of her face seen three-quarters.
But Florene and Samuel Marx do not appear to have bothered about the strange compositions in big black curving lines that characterized the year 1932, such as “The Dreamer.” Bought in 1973 by Klaus Perls, this nightmarish vision never sold. In 1997, the famous New York dealer donated it to the Met.
Neither did the Marxes buy any of the artist’s cartoonlike pictures in pseudo-childlike style that he executed in one day, in apparent fits of rage and derision, such as “Dora Maar in an Armchair,” dated Oct. 26, 1939. Had she wanted to, Florene Marx, who lost her first husband, Samuel, in 1964, could have acquired it any time from 1965, the year Mr. Perls bought it, until her death in 1995. But “Dora Maar in an Armchair,” which entered the stock of the Perls Galleries as No.6581, never found a taker. In 1998, the dealer and his wife donated it to the Met.
Some of the other great collectors among the museum’s donors likewise shunned Picasso’s outrageous cartoons. Walter Annenberg had none, but it was he who part-donated in 1992 “At the Lapin Agile” (1905), the Met’s second most famous Picasso, and bequeathed in 2002 the financial stake that he had retained in it.
Long before Mr. Annenberg acquired “At the Lapin Agile” at Sotheby’s New York on Nov. 15, 1989, for $40.7 million, the picture belonged to another eminent American connoisseur of modern painting. Joan Whitney Payson reportedly bought it in 1952 for the then staggering price of $60,000. She kept it until her death in 1975 and it only tumbled into the market at her daughter’s 1989 sale. In a telling thumbs-down vote, both Mrs. Whitney Payson and Mr. Annenberg ignored the one-day cartoon pictures. Those in the Met collection were given later by other donors.
A generational taste shift? Or a judgement made by great connoisseurs likely to stand in history? The latter, I suspect.
Their disregard may partly be explained by the genesis of the cartoon style. The show unintentionally provides striking visual evidence that Picasso’s creative process was triggered by his response to the art of others, past and present. His aptitude at absorbing every possible influence and at metamorphosing it through his own vision was phenomenal.
While he reacted to the Old Masters he saw in the Prado, young Picasso also closely studied the avant-garde painters of his time.
In the 1901 pastel “Woman in Green,” Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec have their share in equal measure. In “Woman in Profile,” one of his earliest masterpieces, the brushwork betrays awareness of Cézanne’s technique while the colors are those of nascent Fauvism. And without Georges Braque, with whom he shared a studio at the time of Analytic Cubism’s inception, Picasso’s version of the style might have looked very different.
The ease with which Picasso switched from one aesthetic vision to another reflects this versatility, unparalleled in art history. Only Picasso could have executed within weeks the strictly figural portrait of Antoine Vollard sketched in pencil in impeccably classical manner that calls to mind Jean-August-Dominique Ingres and the virtually abstract “Guitar and Clarinet on a Mantelpiece.”
Was this artist with unrivalled mastery bereft of deep-rooted aesthetic convictions? One may well ask. A cynic at heart, who saw no contradiction in courting throughout his life the wealthy establishment while denouncing oppressive capitalists during his stint with the French Communist Party, Picasso was capable of picking up with equal zest (and equal lack of constancy) whatever crossed his path in art as in his relationships with women. Once artistic novelties no longer kindled the flame of his creative genius, the painter reacted in sheer fury. It was aimed as much at art that had nothing left for him as at the bourgeoisie who made the money-conscious painter a millionaire, but whom he despised.
Picasso’s cartoons, when successfully sold by him, were like so many slaps in the face of the establishment. Ironically, like everything in his oeuvre, even these take their source in someone else’s ideas. They go straight back to Marcel Duchamp’s “Dada,” the art of the absurd that left an indelible impression on the young Spanish artist newly arrived in Paris.

Royal College of Art fashion show

Craft and technology combine in Royal College of Art fashion graduates show.

Designs by Morten Underbjerg Olesen, Nabil El-Nayal and Frances Conteh at the Royal College of Art fashion show

Colour, embellishment, craftsmanship and a high-tech approach to fabric manipulation characterised the Royal College of Art's MA graduate collections shown in London today (June 10). Thirty-three students from the RCA’s prestigious School of Fashion - the world’s only wholly postgraduate fashion department - presented their collections to press and industry heads; ten students from menswear, and eighteen from womenswear.
The menswear collections took inspiration from J.G.Ballard’s novel, ‘Crash’, chavs, Spanish matadors fused with hip-hop culture, soldiers and skinheads. Designs included copper and silver metal yarn woven into tailored suits, smocking techniques to creative unusual shapes and volume, and a bling-bling hybrid of Pop-Art and bubblegum colours, fur and golden embroidery.
The womenswear collections included tunics and robes embellished with thousands of porcupine quills, hand-crocheted dresses with pom-pom hems, silken gowns decorated with handmade silk roses, and mini-dresses made from bands of fabric joined by metal rods. Zara Gorman’s hats made a dramatic accessory statement, being fashioned from leather, wood and plastic, cut in the manner of windshields, Venetian blinds and shells.
Other accessory designs were featured in the RCA’s static display, including footwear made with Perspex, PVC, latex, silicone and digitally-printed satin; together with artisan-influenced bags employing techniques such as basketry, and weaving and knotting, using bamboo and leather.
The RCA’s Fashion department was founded in 1948, by the former Vogue editor, Madge Garland. Among its most famous graduates are Ossie Clark, Bill Gibb, Philip Treacy, Antony Price, Julien Macdonald, Christopher Bailey and Erdem. More recent graduates who are creating a buzz are Holly Fulton, Heikki Salonen, David Longshaw, Rachael Barrett, the shoe designer Camilla Skovgaard, and the milliner, Jusatin Smith. The head of the School of Fashion is Professor Wendy Dagworthy.

Louis Comfort Tiffany's business sense and glass art on display in Richmond

Inventive: This blown-glass vase in the form of a Persian water sprinkler was created by Tiffany around 1898.
Inventive: This blown-glass vase in the form of a Persian water sprinkler was created by Tiffany around 1898.
Leaded glass: Tiffany created "Bella Apartment Window" around 1880.
Leaded glass: Tiffany created "Bella Apartment Window" around 1880.

Blown glass: A jack-in-the-pulpit vase made in 1915 by Tiffany.  
Blown glass: A jack-in-the-pulpit vase made in 1915 by Tiffany.
Louis Comfort Tiffany was one of this country's greatest artists and just about the first to make a big splash abroad. After his smash success at the 1893 Chicago world's fair, museums across Europe rushed to acquire his glass. Americans were just as eager: In 1896, the New York sugar baron H.O. Havemeyer presented 56 Tiffany pieces to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
"Tiffany: Color and Light," a major new survey of the master's work, is now at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, its only American venue. It gives a fine overview of Tiffany's glorious vases, leaded-glass lamps and work in stained glass.
It also lets us in on something strange: Tiffany was not an artist in the traditional sense. The man responsible for some of the most innovative handicrafts ever created barely set his hands on the objects he signed. The man who gave new life to blown glass never blew glass; he didn't even come up with the iridescent surfaces that were his trademark. The man whose lamps went on to inspire the lighting in restaurant chains across America entrusted their design to a team of uncredited women.
None of this makes Tiffany a less important figure. On the contrary, it makes him a true radical. Instead of working in any of the traditional materials of art or craft, he worked in material that was more original, and more exquisitely American, than that. His art supplies were other people; the masterpiece he built with them was a corporate entity called Tiffany Studios. Each of the tens of thousands of objects that entity turned out was just a small part of the total work.
Tiffany learned his corporate craft at his father's knee. In 1837, Charles Lewis Tiffany founded a little stationery and fancy-goods shop that grew into the great silver and jewelry emporium of Tiffany & Co. The father's money helped fund many of the son's ventures. Tiffany Sr.'s moneyed customers were natural clients for Tiffany Jr.'s wilder offerings. When Tiffany & Co. started to have a lavish presence at world's fairs, the son's Tiffany Studios could mount a display nearby and share in the attention.
Making a mark

Louis made a stab at rebellion. In the late 1860s, he trained in Paris as a painter but never made a mark. He only came into his own back in New York a decade later, with a shift into interior decor. Tiffany crafted eclectic, over-the-top interiors that mixed Victorian exoticism (rafters hung with Middle Eastern lamps and pots, Persian carpets on top of elaborately tiled floors) with arts and crafts nostalgia (pseudo-medieval stained glass and hobbit-ish carved wood).
One of the most impressive objects in this survey is from that period and comes from the 30-something Tiffany working more like a fine artist than he ever would again. For the lavish vestibule of his own home Tiffany made a stained-glass window that could count as an ancestor of modern abstraction. Using pieces of sheet glass, he built a composition that was nothing more than a bizarre swirl of shapes and hues. Lacking any kind of ornamental structure, it has an avant-garde edge.
The next time Tiffany came up with something that original, it was under his more corporate umbrella. After a tour through Europe in 1889, and exposure to the innovative glassware of Emile Gallé, Tiffany came home and founded a glassmaking factory. To run it, he hired a pioneering British glass technician named Arthur Nash. Nash's experiments in iridescence captured the look of antique glass dug up after centuries. His colors were denser and more varied than almost anyone's. His amalgamations of hot glass gave stunningly varied effects.
Under the guidance of Nash, and the corporate supervision of Tiffany, hired glassblowers came up with designs that were bold yet stunningly graceful. They jettisoned the fussy hand-cutting and curlicues of so much earlier glass. They replaced it with asymmetrical, nature-inspired forms that foreshadow the biomorphs and streamlined shapes of the 20th century.
And they weren't afraid to go ugly. A tiny, pearlescent bud vase looks like melting glop. It's one of this show's gems. The vessels from the company's "Lava" line are gloriously wacky: They take fields of a foamy black glass that looks like molten stone, melt on smooth ripples that could almost be a dark mother-of-pearl, then throw in glass blobs and a few swipes of gold.
These masterpieces weren't the work of Tiffany. They were definitely the work of "Tiffany," a collective of designers and makers given various amounts of leeway by the corporate master who oversaw them. He also worked out a business model to support their experiments.
Nash and his underlings deserve a lot more credit than they originally got. But "Tiffany" wouldn't have existed, as a powerful force in the history of art, without Tiffany.
Of course, any businessman knows that to survive long term, you need a range of product lines.
At Tiffany Studios, there was Nash's fantastic glass, trademarked Favrile. But there were also lines so different from Favrile that, in any normal case, they couldn't be from the hands of the same artist -- and of course, in the case of "Tiffany," they weren't.
I find Favrile irresistible. I'm not sure I've seen a piece of Tiffany stained glass I could stand, except for that early abstract panel. Where the best of Favrile seems to float above its era, its stained-glass cousins look dated and Victorian, fussy and genteel. The designer of the best of them, a Tiffany employee named Frederick Wilson, was a minor disciple of some of Britain's stodgier pre-Raphaelite painters. The Richmond show includes a series of his windows from a recently deconsecrated church in Montreal. Looked at from very close, their innovations amaze: They use folded glass to represent rippling fabrics and layers of dappled "confetti" glass for foliage. But once you're far enough away to see the pictures as a whole, you want to turn away.
(Disclosure: I may have a bias. Every Sunday morning through my teenage years, I took care of the toddlers at the church next door to my parents. That's where this exhibition's windows come from. It was not a pleasant feeling to enter a gallery in Richmond, 30 years and 700 miles from my adolescent self, only to find Jesus and his disciples staring me down once again. They made me want to deny, for the umpteenth time, that I was the one glimpsed necking with a girl in the chapel.)
I feel just as cool toward Tiffany's leaded-glass lamps. After Tiffany introduced the line in 1897, the American public went mad for it, and the lamps became crucial to his bottom line. Even the most absurdly luxurious models of these hand-made lamps, which could go for $600 -- more than a Tiffany worker might earn in a year -- were produced by the hundreds, thanks to the Women's Glass Cutting Department that designed and made them. The cheaper versions ended up in homes across the country, and for about 40 years, thanks to knockoffs, in every T.G.I. Friday's.
I'm more impressed by Tiffany's ability to sell his lamps than by the products themselves. I like to think of them as part of Tiffany's great work as a corporate performance artist. In an age of industrial production, Louis Comfort Tiffany took the public's nostalgia for one-off objects coming from a single maker's hand and eye, and satisfied it with a range of products by a man he advertised as "Tiffany."

A Grand Tour of European art festivals

  There’s always a Picasso blockbuster going on somewhere. This year it’s at New York’s Met.
There’s always a Picasso blockbuster going on somewhere. This year it’s at New York’s Met.
This summer, a strong loonie and even stronger roster of art exhibits in Europe makes a Grand Tour as tempting as it is within grasp. Indeed there are so many great art shows this summer that, après le deluge (OK, apres le ash clouds), Gauguin, Basquiat and Monet might define Europe’s summer of 2010.
Herewith, the best of the fests, ranked by cultural significance and an entirely idiosyncratic assessment of the art I HEART.
Who doesn’t like the soothing paintings of Impressionism? It’s kind of saying you don’t like puppies. The unusual light of Normandy was a catalyst for the school, and this summer Normandy returns the love with the Normandy Impressionist festival. Every harbour town from Rouen to Honfleur is on board, with an Opera about Monet, and an outdoor cinema series featuring the grainy movies of the time. Noteworthy is “Impressionism Along the Seine” at Giverny, the former home of Monet, whose lovely gardens and waterlily-filled ponds figure in many of his paintings. This show explores the river that inspired such artists as Rousseau, Monet, Caillbotte and Renoir to leave their ateliers and breathe in the plein air. Curator Marina Ferretti calls the Seine “the birthplace of new painting in the second half of the 19th century.” To sept. 26;
The Grand Palais is presenting Claude Monet’s first major retrospective in 30 years, tracing the 19th-century painter’s long career, from his first landscapes in Normandy to Giverny. From Sept. 22;
A compare-and-contrast opportunity comes later in the summer with “Gauguin: Maker of Myth” at London’s Tate Modern. This blockbuster aims to show Gauguin through a modern prism, not least as a canny self-promoter.
Years before John Lennon, Gauguin compared himself to Christ, in his 1889 Self-Portrait as Christ in the Garden of Olives; a social agitator and master bohemian, he exploited the artist-muse relationship. From Sept. 30;
Fashion junkies are penciling two exhibits into their Hermes agendas: “Yves Saint Laurent: Retrospective” is an expanded version of the YSL show at the Fine Arts Museum in Montreal two years ago with YSL’s seductive feminized “smoking” tuxedos and revolutionary street-inspired ready-to-wear line-up against a Belle Epoque backdrop. No probing questions about whether fashion is art trouble the minds of Parisians, who have been lining up for hours to get in. To Aug. 29;
The second, “3 Grands Createurs: Cristobal Balanciaga, Givenchy et Philippe Venet,” at the 18th-century Château de Haroué, in France’s Alsace region is curated by Givenchy himself. The designer, who retired from his fashion house in 1995, spent years chasing down the seminal Givenchys on show — including the black dress to end all black dresses: the one Audrey Hepburn wore in the opening scene of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Among the superlative Balenciagas is the wedding gown for the Queen of Belgium. The pieces by Venet show his talent as a master tailor. In many ways the three couturiers created today’s red carpet culture. To Aug. 13;
“Basquiat” at the Fondation Beyeler in nearby Riehen is a retrospective of Jean-Michel Basquiat, the American painter and graffiti artist, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of his birth. Basquiat started making graffiti in Brooklyn and quickly found himself at the centre of the frenetic ‘80s New York art scene before dying of an overdose 27. His art incorporated Bible stories, voodoo, cartoons, advertising posters and the iconography of jazz and rap into a genius or garbage synthesis, depending on your view. To Sept. 5;
Some might call Damien Hirst this decade’s answer to Basquiat. The British artist has been called a trailblazer and has also been accused of crass commercialism. Indeed, he has made a fortune faster then you can preserve a cow corpse in formaldehyde. So it’s possibly fitting that he has a retrospective in the billionaire’s paradise, Monaco. “Cornucopia,” at the Oceanographic Museum, features Hirst’s spin paintings, skulls and controversial formaldehyde pieces as well as recent works that include a pickled shark, made for this exhibit — terror frozen in an aquarium. To Sept. 30;
If you prefer Hirst in smaller doses, the Musee Maillol offers “That’s Life: Vanities from Caravaggio to Damien Hirst.” In Etruscan times, skulls (aka Vanitas), were painted into portraits as a reminder that our days are numbered. They’ve since inspired four centuries of artists. A woman cradles a skull in a painting by de la Tour, a saint kneels contemplating another in a Zurbaran. As the show’s name promises, there’s even a rare Caravaggio, Saint Francis in Prayer, (though not the master’s most forceful work), a Cezanne, Picasso, Braque and offerings by today’s It Brit artists, such as Jake and Dinos Chapman’s Migraine, a skull with vampire teeth and lolling tongue. Strangely, Hirst’s diamond-encrusted skull famously offered at auction for millions in 2007 is not there but other Hirsts skulls are. An oddly life-affirming show. To June 28;
There’s always a Picasso blockbuster going on somewhere. This year it’s at New York’s Met, but a show in Zurich might hold its own. “Picasso” is a recreation of the Spaniard’s first ever retrospective, at the Kunsthaus in 1932, which was curated by the artist himself. Some of the 60 major works that were part of the original exhibition will be back. From Oct. 15;
A satellite Pompidou Centre is opening in industrial Metz, in Northern France, this summer. The inaugural exhibit, “Chef d’Oeuvre?” sounds, judging by the description, like a grab bag of art-world names, albeit many rarely loaned, such as Alexander Calder’s Josephine Baker IV, meant to lure us to the new building whose design is as out there as the original Pompidou was when it opened in 1977 in Paris. Architects Shigeru Ban and Jean de Gastines are already garnering comments for its undulating roof, which looks like a Chinese hat. To Oct. 25;
In this World Cup year, are sports stadiums works of art? Pinotek der Moderne, Munich’s modern art gallery, thinks so. The museum is presenting “From Cape Town to Brasilia: New Sports Stadiums” by von Gerkan, Marg und Partner, the prolific and well-regarded stadium architects. Too bad it doesn’t include drawings and prototypes of recent stadium wonders by such architects as Herzog and de Meuron’s Beijing bird’s nest and Munich’s own colour-changing Allianz Arena. To June 20;
Urban Africa is a contemporary view of Africa at the Design Museum via the photographs of hip Ghanian-English architect David Adjaye. To Sept. 8; Must stop, Venice for the architecture biennale.
The city’s modern art scene has exploded in recent years, thanks in part to the opening of the beautiful Istanbul Modern Museum, where Turkish photographer Murat Germen and German snapper Thomas Radbruch are having side-by-side exhibitions. Thomas Radbruch: Rusty End; Murat Germen Way. To Sept 19;
With all that new money, it’s no wonder Moscow’s art scene is also growing. The Third Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art is a sprawling event with sites all over the city. Worth a stop amid the creative mayhem — including nude models posing in the city’s streets and a conceptual piece involving the cross-breeding of live chickens — is the Garage Centre Gallery, opened recently by Dasha Zhukova, the gallerina girlfriend of billionaire Roman Abramovich. The Garage is offering “Mark Rothko: Into an Unknown World,” the first ever Rothko exhibit in Moscow.

Speed Painting tests artists' ability

"I was really concerned I was going to get paint on someone," said Ridenour, who herself was covered in paint from head to toe.

She had spent the past minutes throwing, blowing and squirting paint onto a 4-by-8-foot piece of plywood at Thursday's Speed Painting event at the Decatur-Macon County Fair.

Ridenour was one of three artists commissioned at this year's fair for what the Marketing Manager Ayn Owens calls "agriculture meets art."

Starting at 5:30 p.m., Ridenour and Andrew Blesse, both of Mount Zion, rushed to complete their paintings before 6 p.m., while people passing through the Midway stopped and watched in amazement.

In the corner, another piece of art that already was finished lay on a table, too heavy to hang on the wall. With reactions like "cool" and "that's neat," people filing by stopped to take a second glance at the 3-by-4-foot mosaic portrait of Abraham Lincoln made entirely out of soybeans.

"In some ways, the beans made it easy, in some ways it made it more difficult," said the artist, Ted Keylon.

Keylon works as an actor at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum complex in Springfield, where he portrays Francis Carpenter an artist who frequently painted Lincoln.

Despite the unusual surface, Keylon was more comfortable working on the large-scale piece than he expected.

"That's what I liked about doing this, the soybeans did a lot of the work for me," Keylon said.

While working on it over the past several months, Keylon was reminded of when he first started learning about and practicing pointillism, a style of art that uses spots of narrow colors to make an image.

"The beauty of a mosaic is how all the parts come together to create a large image," Keylon said.

While the portrait of Lincoln lay complete, on the other side of the room, Ridenour and Blesse were having some difficulties. Since they were inside, they could only use the spray paint for the first few minutes, which extended their deadline.

Already nervous to be painting in front of people, Blesse had to change his plans when the spray paint was off limits. Still, after an hour, he was pleased with the outcome of colorful layers and abstract neon flowers.

"Sometimes a painting paints itself," Blesse said about his piece spontaneously titled "Big Loud Mess."

Ridenour's piece titled "Oil Spill" followed her normal construction technique of no technique.

"There's no method to the madness," said Ridenour whose piece blended bright oceanic colors with darker textured paint.

All of the art will be auctioned off 4:30 p.m. Sunday at the Grandstand. The proceeds from the auction will go to the fair.

Proud, Painful Art on Baghdad’s Blast Walls

blast walls in IraqHolly Pickett

BAGHDAD — Baghdad’s blast walls are a blank canvas. They reflect Iraqis’ shared history — both proud and painful facts of life here in the capital.
blast walls in IraqHolly Pickett for The New York Times

Last August, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki ordered the walls removed from Baghdad’s main streets. Days later, a double truck bombing at the Finance and Foreign Ministries killed at least 95 people, and the plan to remove the walls was scrapped.
blast walls in IraqHolly Pickett for The New York Times

It is impossible not to notice the walls, and the paintings and markings on them become like landmarks.
blast walls in IraqHolly Pickett for The New York Times

Artists have painted some of the walls with reminders of things Iraqis have in common — ancient Mesopotamian history, religious symbols, portraits and patriotic slogans.
blast walls in IraqHolly Pickett for The New York Times

Spray-painted graffiti occasionally adorns the walls. Faded and peeling campaign posters from Iraq’s 2009 election are still glued in place.
blast walls in IraqHolly Pickett for The New York Times

The walls also record bomb blasts. Pocked with shrapnel holes or blackened with soot, these sections remind Baghdad residents why the walls are necessary.
blast walls in IraqHolly Pickett for The New York Times

blast walls in Iraq
Holly Pickett for The New York Times

Rude Britannia: Tate Britain's ribald revival of satiric art

A new Tate exhibition, opening today, celebrates 300 years of British comic art, from William Hogarth's 17th-century prints to contemporary cartoons by Gerald Scarfe and the Guardian's Steve Bell. Will Self dubs the show a 'confirmation of not just how deeply the satiric taproot is sunk into British soil, but how crucial its vigorous propagation has always been to our constitution'. Sample some of the fun here ...

Rude Britannia: British Comic Art is at Tate Britain until 5 September 2010
Rude Britannia: Rude Britannia
Rude Britannia: Rude Britannia
Rude Britannia: Rude Britannia
Rude Britannia: Rude Britannia
Rude Britannia: Rude Britannia
Rude Britannia: Rude Britannia
Rude Britannia: Rude Britannia
Rude Britannia: Rude Britannia Rude Britannia: Rude Britannia
Rude Britannia: Rude Britannia Rude Britannia: Rude Britannia
Rude Britannia: Rude Britannia
Rude Britannia: Rude Britannia

After Process, a Return to the Tropics

An installation view of “Retro/Active: The Work of Rafael Ferrer” at El Museo del Barrio
Thanks to El Museo del Barrio the artist Rafael Ferrer, at 77, is finally having his moment. “Retro/Active: The Work of Rafael Ferrer,” his first large museum survey, spans more than five decades, with nearly 200 works in just about every late-20th-century medium except film and video.
 The show has an immediate allure thanks to Mr. Ferrer’s instinctive facility for color and materials of all kinds. The general impression is of someone who would figure out how to make art if confined to a nearly empty room. Calabash gourds appear in several sculptures. Paper bags — a preferred drawing surface for decades — have occasioned an exploration of the human face as mask that is almost encyclopedic in its cultural and emotional allusions. Small, wood-framed slate tablets provide an ideal surface for a series of appropriately grisaille paintings from 2005 and 2006. At El Museo enormous groupings of these works face each other across a gallery, to electrifying effect.
So it is odd that Mr. Ferrer has so far been best known for the markedly ephemeral and temporary Process Art installations he made in the late 1960s and into the ’70s and exhibited alongside the efforts of artists like Alan Saret, Richard Serra and Robert Morris. Documented here in a small gallery lined with photographs, these pieces were sometimes made of materials as slight and transitory as grease, straw, dried leaves and blocks of ice. They did their bit for the dematerialization of the art object, and then Mr. Ferrer moved on.
Mr. Ferrer treated Process Art — the next big thing of the time — as a building block, a way back to his first love in art. That was painting, not to be confused with his first creative love and first profession, jazz drums.
After the early ’70s Mr. Ferrer proceeded to rematerialize his art, working through a succession of mediums, among them assemblages that hang from the ceiling. Especially good is the puppetlike “Marvelous Woman,” whose face is painted on a flattened garbage-can lid and whose feet are a pair of improbably riveting, paint-splattered pumps. It is straight out of Dada, yet somehow fresh. Appropriate to his music background, one of his earliest post-Process oil-on-canvas efforts is the jubilantly toxic “Quartet” from 1980, which depicts Latin musicians, midsong, on a field of hot pinks, oranges and yellows.
By the late 1980s Mr. Ferrer was making what could be his strongest works: visually and emotionally fraught paintings depicting radiant, shadow-pocked scenes of makeshift tropical dwellings and their inhabitants. These update modernism’s calculated faux-primitivism with a vaguely photographic angularity. Image and paint collude uncannily, and the play of light and dark can be almost hallucinatory. Every form has a double life and nature intrudes from all sides.
“Conquering Solitude,” for example, shows four figures — a man on one side and three boys in a clump on the other — almost immobilized by their environment. The ground roils with an aggressive network of ridges that suggest a trap but may only be shadows. On the wall of the cream-colored cabin behind the figures another shadow looms, more solid but wildly irregular, a spectral pelt or Rorschach screech. It is a calm, sunny, disturbing image.
“Retro/Active” has been meticulously assembled by Deborah Cullen, El Museo’s director of curatorial programs. The title telegraphs Mr. Ferrer’s flair for nonconformity with a soupçon of tendentiousness, not to mention his unceasing restlessness. The subtext? He has been and still is working continuously, even if our attention has been focused elsewhere. Also, the past is always up for grabs. Just look back actively, with curiosity.
This show is almost criminally overdue. What was Mr. Ferrer’s sin? Maybe his sometimes bristly personality or his background as a privileged outsider. He was born in Puerto Rico in 1933 to a family that could afford to educate its children on the American mainland. He spent his first summer in college living in Hollywood with his much older half-brother, the actor José Ferrer, and sister-in-law Rosemary Clooney; during his second, he met André Breton and Wifredo Lam in Paris. For years Rafael Ferrer divided his time between Philadelphia, where he taught, and his vacation home-studios in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. And as he drew closer to his Caribbean roots, it was without joining the “identity art” bandwagon.
In any case, Mr. Ferrer’s art lends credence to Barnett Newman’s often-quoted declaration, “We are making it out of ourselves.” As seen here, Mr. Ferrer’s work bespeaks an artist working from a complex, imperfect, driven self — a self that is a cultural sponge, an opportunistic sieve and a tightly wound synthesizer all in one. Grist for this creative mill has included the modernisms of Europe and both Americas; the vocabularies of various forms of folk and so-called primitive art; and an impressive range of art history, music and the literature of two tongues, English and Spanish.
Mr. Ferrer’s career is one of peripatetic consistency in which ideas, motifs and even materials continually circulate among different mediums or phases. He stumbled on art almost by chance in the early 1950s, while studying at Syracuse University and heading, he thought, for a life in music. A friend showed him a book on modern art and he decided to try his hand, covering pieces of cardboard with shards of waxy color. Tucked away in a vitrine along with some early sketchbooks and drawings, these little works exude promise. Hanging nearby are several of his map drawings from the late 1970s, in which the same colors expand into wandering concentric lines whose fuzziness brings to mind the feathered textiles of pre-conquest Peru.
In a similar way the Process Art works haunt some of the paintings, a point Ms. Cullen makes by pairing images in the catalog. Even in the show the photograph of “Niche,” an especially appealing, relatively substantial Process piece, can remind you of the shanties and sheds and campsite-like arrangements in the paintings. It consists of a large sheet of corrugated galvanized steel, functioning as flooring for assorted strands of neon tubing, sheets of glass, buckets and logs. Behind these a vertical sheet of the steel implies a wall; a canvas tarp is stretched overhead, like a roof. Other paintings feature piles of leaves, scattered logs and tarps.
The show’s main weakness is that it is installed thematically rather than chronologically, which obscures the fact that Mr. Ferrer’s evolution has a fascinating logic. It has centered on a rebuilding of form and narrative that has gained speed and complexity as it has gone along. Seeing its progress would be more illuminating than having to piece it together. The piecing is helped by reading Mr. Ferrer’s brisk, opinionated if sometimes self-serving account of his life and artistic development that is a marvelous self-portrait of a young artist finding himself. It takes the form of an e-mail interview with the poet and writer Vincent Katz. Mr. Ferrer began thinking about taking up painting again while watching Vincent’s father, Alex Katz, paint on the beach, when the Katzes visited the Ferrer family in Puerto Rico in the mid-1970s.
Mr. Ferrer is not a paragon of originality who has changed the history of art, but something almost as good, and maybe in the end more inspirational: an artist driven by curiosity, passion and instinct who has worked flat-out for more than half a century. The parting impression of this show is that Mr. Ferrer has used everything within him and also around him to the fullest. His art is a picture of efficiency that could not have been made by anyone else. That is no small achievement.