Category Archives: Arts

Andre the Giant Walks the Line

In my last post I mentioend the popular street artist turned fashion designer, Shepard Fairey, in a sell-out sort of context (I’ve always hated calling creative people sell-outs, regardless of their actions. I’ll have to return to this thought in another post). Well, checking out the trailer for the upcoming film, Walk the Line about the life of Johnny Cash, I noticed the art credit on the promotional graphics was none other than Mr. Shepard Fairey. Alex may have said it best with, “Huh, he can actually do something other than Andre the Giant.” Indeed, the promotional graphics include a poster, desktop image, stencils, stickers, and the essential AIM buddy icon, all based on the same stylized image of Cash and his guitar. I like the design and style, and the movie itself looks quite good (Joaquin Phoenix learned to play guitar, and sings all his own songs, and sounds dead-on in the trailer).

But… and there’s always a “but,” stencils as part of movie promotion? I doubt even the king of viral stencil design himself can pull that off. I do think it’s a good sign that movie studios are getting more experimental, at least with their marketing, but they’re still a few years behind. I see it as similar to the “virals” that advertisers have attempted. The very nature of a meme or viral in this sense is almost that it’s accidental. Trying to create one from scratch is oxymoronic. I don’t think we’ll be seeing too many of these Johnny Cash stencils around, Shepard Fairey designed or not.

Banksy Strikes the Holy Land

Banksy BalloonThe UK’s artist, Banksy just finished a trip to Palestine, where he tackled the blank canvas that is the West Bank barrier between Israel and Palestine. Wooster Collective has a gallery of photos of some of his work. Truly striking. The Guardian has a brief article about his trip, and a gallery with a few additional photos. Wired magazine also just recently came out with an article on Banksy, highlighting some of his work.

I think he’s truly a brilliant artist, and every new piece he comes up with is as thought-provoking as the last. Unfortunately I’m a bit disappointed that he is never referred to as an artist without adding numerous qualifying adjectives to the word. “Guerilla graffiti artist,” “Spray can prankster,” “hacking the art world,” and the worst yet, “a self-described ‘art terrorist.'” Why would you descsribe yourself as an “art terrorist”? Does he think this helps his cause? No, I certainly doubt it. Does it make him more provocative? Sure. How will we see Banksy in 5, 10, 20 years? Will he be seen as an artist ahead of his times, such as a Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, or (the obvious parallel) a Jean-Michel Basquiat? Can he achieve this coveted status of famous (and famously misunderstood) artist without some sort of tragedy such as an untimely death, or repeated arrests for his illegal work? What if he just grows old, and his art and ideas go downhill until he dies of natural causes? My guess is he’d just be forgotten as yet another “spray-can prankster” who could never move beyond the shock-value tactics of youth. I’m really curious what direction he’ll go. He claims to be anti-corporate and has refused offers from Nike, but Banksy is already heading in the direction of other street-art icons, such as Shepard Fairey, selling books of his work (may be sold by an un-related third party, I’m not sure). Maybe a Banksy clothing line is next, without compromising his precious status as an “art-terrorist,” “hacking the art world,” of course.

Sculpture as Design or Design as Sculpture

Noguchi Table A week or so ago, I had the priviledge of going to a work-related seminar that took place at the Seattle Art Museum, and as an added bonus during our lunch break we were able to check out the Isamu Noguchi exhibit that had just opened. I remembered some of his work from art classes in college, and from various public sculpture parks (my parents are pretty big on sculpture). The exhibit was quite good, including some of the stage and dance props he worked on, his stone sculptures (my personal favorites), and his furniture design. I highly recommend it to anyone interested.

Calder Stegosaurus Last weekend I took a walk up through Volunteer Park, where there also happens to be a Noguchi sculpture. In addition, there’s another large sculpture from one of my favorite artists, Alexander Calder. Probably most known for his mobiles, and his half-automaton, half-puppet wire circus (link to video on the page too), he’s also the one who does those giant orange steel pointy things. My first exposure to his stuff was in Hartford, CT where his three-story Stegosaurus (pictured at left) made a big impression on me. I was at the perfect age to be excited by dinosaur-related things and also exciting new climbing challenges; in this case awe-inspiring, pieces of orange steel.

Although both of their styles are quite different, I would say that Noguchi’s and Calder’s work are both quite similar in their ideas and execution, not to mention years ahead their time in terms of design aesthetic. But I think I’ll need to save up a couple million dollars more before I can think about buying.

On the opposite side of the topic of art, I might as well throw in a link to this great McSweeney list: Things Not Overheard at a Conceptual-Art Gallery Opening.

Christo’s Orange Laundry as Art?

There are articles and commentaries and complaints and photos galore of The Gates in Central Park, so I couldn’t resist chiming in on some of the more interesting bits I’ve seen.

The New York Times has a collection of reader views on the installation, ranging from the expected “ohmygodIloveit” to the, “What a waste of money.” To those saying this money could have been spent in much better ways… Sure, it could have been spent in better ways, but it wouldn’t be, so it’s a non-argument. It didn’t cost the city anything, and in return they’re getting an enormous (temporary, I might add) art installation, a huge tourism bump, and a chunk of the souvenir proceeds all go to preserving Central Park. How can you really argue that any of that is bad? There is also an attempt at picking apart the accounting of the $20 million cost of the Gates, claiming it is a ridiculously high number. Again, I think the arguments of cost vs. reported cost vs. fancy-car-driving-frenchmen or not, is beside the point entirely. Look at the work and let it speak for itself. If you’re going to try to discount an artwork because the artists are rich or snobs or self-absorbed, we’re going to have to revamp a LOT of art history. Heck, throw in artists that are “crazy” and/or “sexist” and I think we can successfully discredit all art in the world.

A number of bloggers have also linked to this semi-negative review, which can more or less be summed up in three sentences: Another pointless parallel to 9/11. I like Chicago’s bean sculpture better. I don’t like the color orange (sorry, saffron). I wasn’t impressed with the review, and while I’m not a fanatic for Christo and Jeanne-Claude, I think it deserves a little more credit. It isn’t about “meaning” or profundity, or whether art critics think it’s good or bad art. It’s about an experience, for those that get to see it (curse you East coast family!), and an aesthetic experience at that. I’m sure the photos don’t do it nearly enough justice, just like it’s hard to imagine what a wrapped Reichstag might be like in non-photo form, let alone if it “means” anything.

The art of Mark Rotthko might be a good comparison. Seeing a poster-size print of one of his works just isn’t the same as walking into a room where a 7-foot by 7-foot painting, washed in simple colors, engulfs your vision. You can’t help having a visceral gut-reaction, good or bad, when your senses are so overwhelmed. Before modern art got all deconstructionist, for a time it was really about eliciting a raw emotional reaction from the viewer. I see Christo and Jeanne-Claude as following this with their work, on an even larger scale.

Whether I’d like it or not, I know I’d at least like take a stroll through Central Park and experience the Gates.

America’s Next Top Model Parking Lot

Last week The Stranger published this feature by David Schmader and Kelly O, and it was my priveledge to edit their video footage into a 10 minute tribute to the cult classic, Heavy Metal Parking Lot. To check out the video, either head to the article and download the trimmed down, lower-quality version, or make good use of your broadband and get the longer, higher quality version here: America's Next Top Model Parking Lot (40mb, Quicktime)

Waxy gave the story a link on his link blog. I'm sure the Stranger's web host is loving all these links to a 20+ mb video file.

Seen on a screen

Some quick thoughts on recent movies I've seen…

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Incredible. Gondry and Kaufman have created one of the most original storytelling experiences I've seen on film in a long time (or maybe I just watch too much crap).

School of Rock: Non-stop fun and hilarity. Jack Black is a true comic genius.

The Triplets of Belleville: Very French (in a good way). Refreshing to see some creative traditional animation after all this fancy-shmancy stuff Pixar's been doing.

Destino (the Dali/Disney short animated film): Very surreal and pretty to look at. About what I expected. The mix of animation styles didn't quite work on the whole.

Starsky and Hutch: Wait for DVD. It had a few laugh-out-loud moments, and we can't stop using the catch-phrase, “Do it” (in the Ben Stiller voice), but aside from that, the standard funny-men, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrel and Vince Vaughn were decidedly unfunny.

Next up on my list of I-don't-have-a-huge-desire-to-pay-$9-to-see-it-but- I-probably-will-anyway are those two movies about dead people that are all the rage at the box office. Something about a bunch of dead people that come to life, only to be killed again by living people… and the other one about a living guy who is put to death, only to come back to life to die again.

I'm working on drafting up a script for a movie with a mind-blowing new take on dead people and dying. It's called “Death” and involves one continuous 2 1/2 hour shot of dead people. The twist… they stay dead.

Drawing elephants

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The zoo I went to today was pathetic. Basically there was a highway running right alongside the animal enclosures, and the actual space that these animals had to themselves was miniscule. It was a sad scene. But what was more entertaining than the poor caged animals? A group of students drawing the animals, of course!! Passersby seemed much more interested in what we were drawing than anything else. There are huge frickin' elephants, from a different continent, standing right over there, and you're looking at my drawings of them? It didn't really bother me as much as it just amused me. Here are some of the more dumb, obvious or just plain silly things I overheard…

Numerous mothers to kids and vice versa (African Elephants approx 100 ft away): “Look at the artists.”

Mother to 3yr-old daughter: “What does an elephant do?”
Daugher: “Poop.”

Older sister to younger sister: “Look at those poops… Do you want poops like that?”

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Child to mother: “Why are these people drawing?”

'Intelligent' Mother to child : “He's (elephant) eating sticks, that ain't good.”

Young girl to a fellow drawing student: “Elephants are, like, so easy to draw.” When given a pencil, she proceeded to draw a bubbly looking elephant. “There, easy.”

Little girl to elephants: “Here kitty, kitty, kitty…”

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