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January 29, 2015 | Posted by | No Comments

Art in Portlandia

Portlandia Season 5 Key Art Photo Credit: Catherine Opie/IFC

According to Artnetnews.com: Shepard Fairey may be trying out a new career. The artist, known for his OBEY Giant street art project, among other things, makes an appearance in a skit on an upcoming episode of the wildly popular IFC sketch-comedy show Portlandia. And we’ve got a preview for you.

by Shepard Fairey

Created by dynamic comic duo Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, Portlandia kicked off its fifth season a few weeks ago. In this episode (which airs Thursday, January 29 at 10 PM EST) shock art comes in for satirical treatment, as Armisen and Brownstein, outfitted in horribly unfashionable business attire, peddle “shock art supplies” to art students at a warehouse-type art supply store called—you guessed it—”Shocking Art Supplies.”

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Portlandia still shot

Fairey makes a cameo as a store clerk identified only as “Shepard F.” In a faux television commercial, with a cheap, public-access aesthetic, Fairey dutifully demonstrates the store’s products—”pre-smashed” television sets, “upside down flags,” stencils, and doll parts—as Armisen and Brownstein hawk these seemingly vital components of artworks that are intended to outrage.

Portlandia still shot.

Holding a doll with its head on backwards and keeping a straight face, Fairey deems it a “radical juxtaposition,” then asks: “What does that say about our society?” It’s about “rebellion,” “authenticity,” and “subversion,” shout Armisen and Brownstein.

We caught up with Armisen and Brownstein to ask about the inspiration for the sketch. Armisen, who attended the School of Visual Arts, told us via telephone: “I just kind of noticed over the years there are certain things art students always use, like baby doll parts and broken TVs. They’ve stood the test of time as materials to use for art. It’s not a criticism. I just thought, well, what about an art supply store that does it for you, where it’s all ready-made.”

Big Proof by Shepard Fairey

Asked why the store salespeople wear such tacky outfits, Brownstein said: “Fred and I like the juxtaposition between how people perceive fine art and creativity with, I guess, what is just the exact opposite, just more corporate, benign, middle-of-the-road kind of characters who seem like they are coming at it from a purely monetary, business standpoint.”

Armisen adds that the decision to put Shepard Fairey in the sketch is “just sort of an inside joke,” adding that he is a “huge fan.” His all time favorite artist is Joe Coleman, he says, and also counts Mike Davis, Bill Viola, and Mike Kelley among his top picks. Among her favorites, Brownstein listed video artist Ryan Trecartin, painter Mike Brophy, and Zachary Drucker.

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 9.31.05 PM

Mike Kelley at MoMA PS.1

This is not the first time Portlandia has explored the foibles of the art world. In past seasons characters run a business based on supplying local coffee shops with “bad art for good walls” (they are the same characters running the Shock Art store) and offered lessons in “shock” art to students at Portlandia Community College by encouraging them to incorporate Ronald McDonald into their work (see Portlandia Takes Aim at the Contemporary Art World).

Another recurring theme among art students, Armisen says, is incorporating what he calls “the trifecta of corporate logos: Ronald McDonald, Coca-Cola, and Mickey Mouse. I pictured a sketch where the CEO of McDonald’s is like ‘why do they keep attacking us? I’m sorry that we’re a restaurant!'” He emphasizes again “it’s not a criticism, just the way that everyone begins as soon as they emerge, like a rock band that has to play Louie Louie.”

Michael Brophy Drift: Driftwood 6 2014

Further deepening the duo’s art-world cred, they enlisted famous contemporary photographer Catherine Opie to shoot their promo pictures. Opie, a self-professed fan since the show’s first season, talked about shooting the promo pics in an online video: “My portraits are so quiet and so still and they’re also really serious. So I was a little bit surprised at first that they wanted to go for my style. But they wanted my style because as a comedian, you don’t need to make comic-looking images.” Last season’s promotional photos were shot by Alex Prager in the signature “face in a crowd” style that she has honed.

Armisen says the idea is to create a theme of sorts for each season much the way a musician would with an album. And speaking of music, both he and Brownstein, well-known as accomplished musicians both have full time gigs at the moment. Armisen is the band leader on Late Night With Seth Meyers, while Brownstein has regrouped with her 1990s band Sleater Kinney, has a new album out, and is in the midst of a tour.

Given Armisen’s attendance at SVA, we asked whether he had ever harbored dreams of becoming a fine artist.

“No,” he said with a laugh. “I went to art school because I wanted to pursue music. Everyone knows that’s what you do, just like the Who and the Clash. It’s Rock Band 101.”

Artnet News got a sneak peek at the clip, and you can too before the full episode airs TONIGHT.

January 27, 2015 | Posted by | No Comments

A City Saved By Art

Photo© Bernard Renoux

Via Huffington Post:

Nantes, France – The city was in dire straits. One of the biggest shipyards in the world, where countless ocean liners, including both the SS France and Queen Mary 2 were launched, had shut down. The metal factories lay silent. Prospects were grim of for this tired old town at the head of the estuary that spilled France’s longest and wildest river, the Loire, into the sea. But its new young mayor had a crazy idea: invest in art. And not just pretty things, but edgy, troubling, strange art works. And don’t just put them in museums. Plant them outdoors where everybody would stare at them and have to get used to the idea of Contemporary Art.

Now, Nantes is the hot spot in the European art world, a middling-sized city re-thought, re-imagined, re-built on the notion that public art is a smart investment that promotes itself as France’s most “bizarre” city.

In 2011, some 200,000 visitors passed through Nantes during the high summer tourist season, spending 42 million Euros. 2012’s tourist marketing campaign, entitled simply A Voyage to Nantes inscribed over an image of a family in an old VW van, drew 40,000 more visitors. The campaign was focused mostly on the city and the region’s often startling art installations. One of the most remarkable is an 18th century stone house created by Jean-Luc Courcoult, a local theatre producer, that appears to be swept down into the strong currents of the Loire River.

Photo © Gino Maccarinelli

Another sculpture further down the estuary is a 200-foot skeletal creature created by Chinese artist Huang Yong Ping; anchored to the beach, its head and tail may be all that’s visible depending upon the height of the tide. A complex canal bears a vaguely Dali-esque fishing boat that appears to be bent and sagging over one of the locks.

Possibly most sinister of all is the nearly intact World War II U-Boat and submarine station built by the Germans at Saint-Nazaire in the western edge of the estuary. The building’s massive reinforced concrete walls and floors appear nearly as secure as they were during the war – complete with internal sub docking stations. While Allied air strikes destroyed most of the town, the submarine port was all but indestructible – a sore memory and a painful embarrassment that the Saint-Nazairians tried for decades to ignore. Then came a radical idea from landscape designer Gilles Clémont. He installed a series of “gardens” on the rooftop, transversed by a tropical canal.

Photo © Gino Maccarinelli

The first garden holds nothing but seats scattered on the bare concrete. The second supports two inches of earth and carefully selected dry weather plants. The third has a few humps of dirt and scattered rocks; it has the most vegetation – all from seeds carried on the soles of peoples’ shoes or dropped by the wind or passing birds. Like many of the installations it is intended as a meditation on man’s works and nature’s revenge.

A two-day tour of Nantes and the estuary linking it to Saint-Nazaire was an exhausting adventure aimed at showing off more than sixty sites, outdoor installations and museums including an ancient fountain dedicated to Poseidon but covered by a plywood climbing “mountain” suggesting the headwaters of the Loire in France’s massif central.

Jean Blaise, the “animator” of Nante’s cultural rebirth has been at it for a quarter century, hired by mayor Jean-Marc Ayrault in 1989. He says his and Ayrault’s strategy has always been clear: “Art is an investment, not a luxury.” They were hardly the first to see the value of a public commitment to public arts. But the strategy was not naïve. First came a summer of musical and theatrical performances from groups all over Europe, intended to break the air of sadness and defeat that came from the cities’ industrial decline. The shows played in parks, garages, department stores, even in private houses and apartments. Next, as the town moved toward plastic arts, more and more outsiders came, further boosting local confidence, leading finally to still riskier bids financed jointly by public (local, regional, national) sponsorship and corporate collaborations.

Consistently Nantes puts 15 to 20 percent of its budget into public art. Now, says Blaise with a twinkle, “We have created a truly ville bizarre.”

Photo by Frank Browning

Right along side the “edgy” art have come popular gambits: one former cookie factory, now called Le Lieu Unique (or The One and Only), has become a bar/café/gallery where artists created an “art playground.” There are putting “greens” (colored red) where the clubs take the form of ladies’ spiked heels, a virtual, electronic basketball hoop that requires 3-D glasses and a badminton court laid out with nets of variable heights. Walk along the streets, following a discreet rose trail guide painted on the sidewalks and artwork leaps out. One of the most striking, created by architecture students at the University of Nantes, is a bouquet of translucent plastic sheets that seem to be erupting horizontally from a small alleyway right next to a café.

© Le Voyage à Nantes

Nothing, however, trumps the four-story mechanical elephant or the five story carrousel where children of all ages fit themselves inside body cages of fish and deep-sea monsters – all designed and built by a city-launched company called La Machine that took over Nante’s abandoned central docks.

From the beginning France’s conservative UMP party was a consistent doubter that such public investment in “culture” could generate any real returns. So far, however, the mixture of serious art created by world-class artists, many from China and Japan, seems to have been proved a solid formula for rebirth. It’s university is the nation’s second largest, and it steadily outpaces all other French towns as the place young people want to move into. Or as the former mayor and Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said, “France cannot change without culture, without its artists. Culture is not a luxury. It is essential.”

All photos © Voyage A Nantes 2012

January 22, 2015 | Posted by | No Comments

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Time Heals Too by Sharis Roe DeJaynes $115 on Zatista.com

“New Year, New You”; each January, this phrase is embedded in our brains, only to stealthily slip away in the upcoming weeks and months, when our old habit once again rears its ugly head. Advertisements claim to have the secret ingredient to self-improvement, and that with an updated wardrobe, fit body or patient demeanor, your life will change for the better. However, maybe it’s not all your fault. Maybe you need to start your spring cleaning early this year.

New York Traffic by Debbie Pacheco $1,550 on Zatista.com

Think of who you surround yourself with. Is there someone specific who consistently has a negative attitude or disposition? Does that negativity affect you?

Two Dreams by Kruti Shah $650 on Zatista.com

Even more importantly: Is there someone close to you who is hindering you from reaching your goals?

Bear Rabbit Sniffs Frankie by Elizabeth Snelling $435 on Zatista.com

If you answer “yes” to either of these questions, then perhaps it’s time to weed out the ones worth keeping from the ones worth forgetting about. People can change, when given the proper incentive; it’s rare, but possible. But don’t waste more precious time on someone you’re wishy-washy about.

ice queen by jeffrey hummel $518 on Zatista.com

Though the “New Year” calls for a clean slate, it still seems like an inopportune time to let go of a loved one: the days are cold, gray and depressing, and Valentine’s Day is looming ahead of us. However, it’s important to stay focused on your own happiness, even if that means ridding yourself of anyone in your life who is a danger to it. It’s difficult; everyone has good qualities, which makes it both hard to leave someone (you’ll miss their adorable smile!), and easy to find someone – you’ll soon be able to find someone else with qualities you enjoy just as much, if not more. So don’t be discouraged by the thought of being lonely; sometimes, a little alone time can yield clarity.

Jake and Catdog Eating Spaghetti by Sandra Boskamp $365 on Zatista.com

A few days (weeks, months) of loneliness beats a lifetime of regret, every time. Don’t let the sickly-sweet smell of drugstore chocolate or the shininess of over-glittery cards sway you from your negativity detox. Let this year be the year about pursuing your own interests and goals; if you’re seriously considering voting someone off the island, then that person is probably only thinking of themselves anyway. Before you completely surrender to a committed relationship, it’s important you first achieve the professional or personal goals you set for yourself – or at least, are with someone who supports your path.

Hot Salsa by Valerie Vescovi $160 on Zatista.com

So take a few risks, and start with getting rid of the toxic people in your life – even if you thought they were there for good, it’s never too late for a positive change. Aspire for the things you’ve been wanting to do, but couldn’t, while they were in your life. You deserve everything you want, and more, regardless of what anyone else tells you!
January 20, 2015 | Posted by | No Comments

What Are We Doing For Others?

Martin Luther King, Jr., flanked by some of his principal lieutenants: from left to right, Andrew Young, who later became a congressman, ambassador to the United Nations, and mayor of Atlanta; Ralph Abernathy, King’s closest adviser; and John Lewis, who is now a congressman. Photograph by Steve Schapiro.

According to NationalService.gov: Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?” This question was posed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The organization also states, “On MLK Day, Americans across the country come together for a day of service, picking up the baton handed to us by past generations and carrying forward their efforts. As one people, we show that when ordinary citizens come together to participate in the democracy we love, justice will not be denied. So make the commitment to serve your community throughout the year – and make MLK Day a day on, not a day off.”

People assemble to watch the march pass through Montgomery. This photograph is one of several unpublished images that Schapiro, who covered the third Selma march for Life, recently rediscovered. Photograph by Steve Schapiro.

Years ago, some great photographers captured Americans coming together during difficult times – fighting for the rights of generations to come. Photographers like Steve Schapiro and Gordon Parks whose work is shown here, documented our nation progressing towards a greater equality.

Participants in the march take a break. Photography by Steven Schapiro.

Depicting the march from Selma-to-Montgomery, AL in March 1965, the nonviolent discipline of the marchers became such a resonant chapter in the black freedom struggle that Barack Obama, in 2007, went to Selma to speak in the early years of his Presidency. The march is also the focal point of the Oscar nominated film, Selma.

Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thornton, Mobile, Alabama, 1956. Photography by Gordon Parks.

Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama, 1956. Photograph by Gordon Parks.

Works by Gordon Parks are currently on display at Atlanta’s High Museum in an exhibit called Gordon Parks: Segregation Story. The exhibit runs through June 7, 2015.

January 15, 2015 | Posted by | No Comments

Homage To Paris

In light of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, France, many people across the globe are coming together in support of the French people affected by this tragedy. Paris is an historic cultural center of the world, particularly in the Arts. Many great artists have come from Paris, and the city continues to inspire artists today. Below find a selection of works that pay homage to the City of Light and of Love.

The Pont des Arts is a pedestrian bridge in Paris that crosses the River Seine. Pont des Arts is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Paris.

Pont des Arts by Fikry Botros $420 on Zatista.com

Rue Chappe is a street located in the 18th arrondissement of Paris. It is named after the French engineer who invented the first telegraph: Claude Chappe.

Rue Chappe, Paris by Keith Gerling $700 on Zatista.com

The Eiffel Tower is one of the most recognizable structures in France. It was built in 1889 as the entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair and named after its designer, the engineer Gustave Eiffel.

Eiffel Tower by Jacquelyn Sloane Siklos $97 on Zatista.com

Notre Dame is a Catholic cathedral that stands on the Cite Island in the Seine River. The many famous gargoyles on the roof serve as drainpipes. Each grotesque figure has a passageway inside that carries rainwater from the roof and out through the gargoyle’s mouth.

Gargoyle Atop Notre Dame by James Conley $370 on Zatista.com

Lilies are the flower of France and the inspiration for the ‘fleur-de-lis’ symbol.

Purple Lilies by Frank DeSantis $530 on Zatista.com

Woman Following Newspaper Blowing In Paris Wind by Warren Keating $550 on Zatista.com

That’s The Way It Is by Kevin Brewerton $2,255 on Zatista.com

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