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Archive for the ‘artworld’ Category

mural alley

In artworld, san fran, stateside on December 6, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Murals are big in San Francisco, here, they caught the imagination, feasted on it and expanded. Supposedly there are almost 600 murals throughout San Francisco.

I didn’t get the chance to see a fraction of that, but I did see some along the celebrated alleys of Clarion and Balmy,  down in the Mission District, where walls on both sides are festooned with gloriously political designs and thought-provoking story images. These images are more political overt and heavy-handed with their messages/stories than the big pieces that impressed me so much back in Buenos Aires, but the lineage is clear, the sensibilities parallels obvious.  And I enjoy walking behind a tour guide from the Clarion Alley Project (CAMP) as he leads a group of kids through the symbolism and meaning of the artwork which spreads across the walls.

A rich heritage of mural painting in San Francisco, especially in the Mission District can be traced back through Diego Rivera and Los Tres Grandes, with a more openly political stance being taken up by the artists painting in Balmy Alley in the 70’s.

But words generally can’t do this sort of thing justice. So see for yourselves..

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the steps, the steps

In artworld, Braaaazil, Rio de Janeiro, Sud America, travelling on November 10, 2010 at 5:05 pm

I see the steps in Lapa for the first time, the night of the street party that engulfs Lapa every friday and saturday night, though Friday is the night. The streets a roiling mass of people walking up and down, plastic cup of caiparinha in their hands, strong to the point of moonshine, smiling, walking lean. The food stalls set out in the paved island that splits the roads which run under the aqueduct.

After watching a samba band perform in the tight confines of a bar, and the Carioca’s singing and dancing to each and every song, a group of us stumble away from the music and up the tiled steps in Lapa. The steps all 250 which run for 125 metres are the work of a chilean artist Jorge Selaron, who started tiling them in 1990, initially doing the stairs in a combination of green, yellow and blue, his love letter to brazil, his adopted home. When he finally finished tiling the steps and adjoining house fronts, he started all over again using red tiles. It’s a labour of love or insanity, whichever you prefer and Selaron says he’ll never stop until he dies.

The steps are one of those iconic points which people will come and film at whenever they are in Rio. See the Snoop and Pharrell video below for “Beautiful” for evidence.

But the walk up them when drunk is interminable, just when you think you’ve got to the top, there are more, and your wheezing like an asthmatic in crazy cat lady’s house. But it is worth it, the amount of work and time, and effort he has put into it, despite the insanity of the project is jaw dropping. I stumble away into the night, enjoying the quick walk back down, more than the long trudge up, and immediately forget where it is.

Only to find it again days later as I ride back from the center of town trying to avoid hitting the big main thoroughfares, where the speed of traffic is limited to 60km, which is just a bit too fast to ride comfortably with. Ducking down a sloping off ramp, I spy the aqueduct and the old location beacon kicks in and I’m taking a side street here, down a back street there and the next thing I’m at the base of the steps, determined not to walk up them again in the bright glare of day, but camera is poised and I take photos instead.

Run don’t walk

In artworld, Buenos Aires, Sud America on April 21, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Street art is big here in Buenos Aires, literally, pieces take up whole walls, sides of buildings, doorways. Intricate, distinctive pieces that show off each artists style, whether it be painstaking hand cut stencils or aerosols used as paintbrushes or hand painted luchadors, you can pretty much find whatever you want here and it’s amazing when I go on mundografitti’s street art tour to discover that this vibrant scene has only been going for the last decade or so.
Prompted by the political upheavals of 2001 Argentine artists and graphic designers took to the streets and put up ironic, heartfelt, comic and political pieces that reclaimed disused wall space as a canvas for their views on what was happening in Argentina as presidents were swapped like top trumps and porteños took to the streets to riot, protest, and express their dissatisfaction with the greedy, grubby politicians that claimed to hold the moral high ground.
Walking through Buenos Aires is like walking through Berlin, tags everywhere, words scrawled across walls, posters, daubed on statues and sculptures, an articulate howl of I am here! Hear me! But then beyond the words and the names, you begin to see more artistic works which draw you to them, camera held aloft to capture the illustrations and paintings before you.
There is an underlying tension between the street artists and the taggers and bombers, a back and forth over territory and respect in terms of where pieces are thrown up and whether it is right to cover them with your own styles. The intricate words and logos that are manifested in the grafitti style is in my eyes rendered obsolete and archaic by the vitality and creativity of this newer breed of artists, pointing out as they interact with the city and the world around them how much grafitti in the tagging sense has moved on so little.
But the street artists aren’t about beefs or territorial bragging rights they just want their work to be seen and seen it is by the twenty or so of us that follow our English guide Marina around Palermo as she points out different pieces by different artists on the walls of the barrio. A bearded man walks with her, holding one of those cardboard tubes you put prints/artworks in. It transpires that he is fede (sp) one of the artists whose work adorns the walls around us, working under the moniker Run Dont Walk and in the tube is his latest stencil, a collage of a face. I chat to him about Berlin, street art and other things before he steps away having spied a suitable expanse of brickwork.

He quickly sticks up a sheet of plastic which has uneven rectangular stripes cut out of it and sprays alternate lines of green and orange, to create a background, he then exhanges that sheet for another more ornately cut stencil, which he sprays over with black paint. Carefully he unpeels the stencil and reveals the final image, a face contorted in a scream, mouth gaping wide. He explains it’s better if you look at it from a distance.
In Buenos Aires you don’t have to be a quick ghost, appearing and disappearing after a work is quickly tossed up, the authorities have bigger fish to fry and don’t view the artworks as anything to get worked up over, and the artists themselves are respectful of peoples property, placing their work on derelict buildings, or if a wall is part of an occupied building asking permission from the occupants before painting whatever their imaginations can conceive.
And their imaginations are ever fertile, over the last decade artists have changed and grown their visual styles changing over time, the issues they want to confront growing larger or more personal. As they grow as artists so they outgrow the styles that once defined them, instinctively striving for something newer and more challenging resisting the urge to repeat themselves over and over.
We end up in Post bar aka hollywood in cambodia in Palermo, which is adorned inside and out with work from fede and others. It is a dazzling collage of styles and images. Through the back of the bar is a gallery space across two floors from which fede sells the work of himself and his contemporaries. We stand and look at the canvases and limited edition prints and wonder how much such work would cost, and I’m amazed when I flick through the work at how cheap it is. So obviously I buy some, two prints by fede, whose work intrigues me, having taken a photo of one of his pieces as I walked around Palermo previous to going on the tour and another by a brazilian artist, which i’m instantly attracted to.

And I look forward to hanging them on my walls, a graphic reminder of my time here in this most intriguing of cities.

Artworld/Ron Mueck

In artworld, japan, ozstraylia on March 28, 2010 at 3:26 am

I sit in front of a red rectangular canvas, slightly uneven orange line bisects the red horizontally and at the left edge, the red paint doesn’t quite reach and uneven blocks of white black and blue are painted on. I like this painting, it makes me smile and I sit in front of it for at least five – ten mins. I’m still looking at it as I write this..

And looking at a painting/image/Installation for longer than a brief moment is a big thing for me, usually in and out of any exhibition, gallery within mins the painting is On The Way (1973) by john firth-smith

I’ve been to a few art galleries on my trip so far and I’ll be going to a load more as I go along especially when I hit New York, and probably if I can hack the hills some in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

It’s kind of awe inspiring to see art works which you’ve only seen in books or as posters or prints in the flesh to get up close and look at them, breathe on them, peruse the brush strokes. And also in Japan as well as Melbourne take photos of them. Having a record of the artworks that you like, that move you, that get the brain moving and the heart pumping is quite special. I made the mistake of not asking at the gallery that I was in in Tokyo, where they had a mass of Rodin sculptures outside, whether I could take photo’s and it was only after taking copious notes for writing up later of what I felt about each painting, that I realized I could have taken photo’s of them.

So finally got to go to the Ron Mueck exhibition, which had been showing at the NVG in Melbourne and it was quite thrilling. The scale of things, and the realism with which they were finished, was truly incredible, the urge to touch his sculptures was almost overwhelming, the hairs on the backs of bearded mans legs, the bunch of branches that a woman struggles with, the clothes of the two old women. All of them seem to dare you to touch them with through their lifelike nature, but of course you can’t, even thought the sample piece of skin that you are asked to touch at the entrance to the exhibition feels weird and plasticky, it doesn’t stop the realistic nature of the sculptures fooling you into thinking that if you touch them they will be soft, and warm and fleshily human. What I found amazing was the range in scale, small made big, big made small, and how I as the audience reacted to it, trying to get as close as possible to see some minute detail or having to step back to put the size into context. A really fascinating exhibition, and even more fascinating that Mueck, worked for Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, and was a model maker/puppeteer on Labyrinth. I do wonder how he works, I’m of the opinion that he works alone, by himself, laboriously punching each hole for every single hair, rather than having an army of acolytes doing it for him. I could be wrong.