October 24, 2013

Art Toronto 2013

Jill Greenberg, O'Born Contemporary

Art Toronto, which started today, is Canada's only international art fair. The fair features about 110 galleries, 30% of which attend from outside Canada.

This year the fair hosted Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) from Beijing. The center is founded by Baron and Baroness Guy and Myriam Ullens de Schooten, prominent Swiss collectors. The UCCA offered limited edition prints by renowned Chinese artists, such as Yue Minjun, shown below.

Portraits by Alex Katz seemed to be popular, with pieces shown at multiple galleries. The one shown below is from Miriam Shiell Fine Art.

Takashi Murakami's alter ego DOB made an appearance in a limited edition print at Tokyo's Tezukayama Gallery.

I thought the painting below was a Roy Lichtenstein from his Mirror series, but it turned out to be a piece by the writer/artist Douglas Coupland, shown at Daniel Faria Gallery.

There was a Roy Lichtenstein however, in yet another limited edition print, at Galerie Raphael from Frankfurt.

The most interesting artwork seemed to be presented by galleries in the NEXT section of the fair, dedicated to emerging artists. Mitsuo Kimura's painting shown below, by LE Gallery, represented the exciting work of new artists at the fair. Mitsuo is a Japanese artist who recenlty moved to Canada. His art is influenced by Japanese anime, layered with his challenging experience of adapting to a new culture and language, expressed in bold color and painstaking detail. The name of the painting sums up his experience: Emotional Ocean.

October 07, 2013

The Extraordinary Talents of David Bowie

Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto is the 2nd stop for the touring exhibition, David Bowie Is, after it's debut at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London earlier this year. David Bowie is an unusual subject for this blog, as he is primarily a musician and performer, but his style and creative output influenced many contemporary artists.

David Bowie himself was influenced by traditional and contemporary artforms and expressed these influences through his costumes, designs for sets and album covers, music, films and theater. The costume that opens the show, above, is inspired by Japanese kabuki theater whose performers wear elaborate costumes and make up.

The video installation below shows David Bowie's first TV performance on UK's Top of the Pops with a costume inspired by the movie A Clockwork Orange.

Another installation brings together all his influences from books hanging from the ceiling, to images and videos of artists, actors, films projected on 3D screens, with costumes displayed across the space. 
He collaborated with other artists and avant garde designers, such as Alexander McQueen while Mcueen was still a student.

Thierry Mugler, known for his futuristic designs, created the outfit in the middle, below.

Other extravagant costumes on display are below.
David Bowie sought to shock and provoke on stage and through all media where he appeared. Below is artwork for an album cover that he commissioned from illustrator Guy Peellaert, depicting him as half man, half dog.
Among other artists with whom Bowie collaborated was Tony Oursler, who created music videos. Below are puppets Oursler created for a concert with David Bowie's face projected on them.
Bowie painted too. Below is a self-portrait that he painted for an album cover.
His other paintings shown below demonstrate his influence by German Expressionism.

One of the most interesting things that I learned in this exhibition is that, before he started his career in music David Bowie worked in advertising. It explains why he was so successful in synthesizing art, design and contemporary culture, and melding influences wide ranging from Marlene Dietrich to Sigmund Freud, to construct a unique image and promote it so spectacularly. 

July 25, 2013

Multiverse by Leo Villareal

The National Gallery of Art in Washington DC has a light installation by Leo Villareal in the underground walkway that connects the gallery's East and West wings. LED lights along the ceiling and one wall of the walkway are programmed to create abstract configurations of light. It creates an immersive experience in an otherwise dark space.

February 05, 2013

Ai Weiwei: According to What?

Hirshhorn Museum's survey of Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei exhibits his broad artistic practice. Ai Weiwei recently became more recognized around the world because of his provocative work that challenges the political establishment in China. He was arrested and detained by the Chinese government which fueled the artist to use the internet and social media as an active platform for commentary and art. His art focuses on the relationship between Eastern and Western culture and society.

His early work employs traditional furniture, ancient pottery, and daily objects in ways that question cultural values.

Below, an antique pot from the Ming dynasty is emblazoned with a corporate logo which comments on the commercialization of traditional culture.

The two photographs below, with the ironic titles "Study of Perspective: Tiannamen", and "White House", respectively, question and criticize political authority.  

He has been under surveillance by Chinese authorities and not allowed to leave the country. Below, a surveillance camera in marble is presented as an art piece, as evidence of his plight and as a comment on the broader impact of the government on personal freedoms.

A line of backpacks snakes around the gallery's ceiling as part of his ongoing investigation into the aftermath of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. In the earthquake, a school collapsed killing hundreds of children. The Chinese government tried to cover up the impact of the earthquake to detract attention from the shoddy construction of the public school.

Cube Light, a chandelier suspended from the ceiling, is Ai Weiwei's interpretation of Sergei Eisenstein’s 1928 film October, in which a chandelier was shaking during the storming of the Winter Palace, representing the instability of a government on the brink of collapse, continuing his criticism of political authority.
An immersive photographic installation documents the construction of the Bird Nest, the main stadium of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Ai Weiwei collaborated on the design of the stadium with architects Herzog & de Meuron.

November 03, 2012

Chinese Zodiac

The Hirshhorn installed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads around the fountain in the Museum’s outdoor courtyard. The bronze animal heads represent the signs of the Chinese zodiac. They are enlarged versions of original eighteenth-century heads of a fountain clock designed for a Qing dynasty retreat outside Beijing. They were later destroyed by invading Europeans.

November 02, 2012


The Hirshhorn museum commissioned a long term installation by Barbara Kruger, which wraps around the museum walls, floors and escalators on the entire lower ground space.

Visitors are immersed in words that address conflicting perceptions of democracy, power, and belief. Kruger questions power structures and ideological beliefs, asking: “Who is beyond the law? Who is free to choose? Who speaks? Who is silent?”. She also explores themes of desire and consumption through a different set of phrases.

October 29, 2012

Comics to Pop Art: Roy Lichtenstein

National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC is showing a retrospective of Roy Lichtenstein. The exhibition was first mounted in the Art Institute of Chicago earlier this year and will travel to Tate Modern and the Centre Pompidou next year.

Below is the entrance to the exhibition in a beautiful building designed by I.M. Pei. Above, on the foreground, hangs an Alexander Calder mobile.

Roy Lichtenstein was inspired by comics and tried to represent comic strips in painting. But whereas comics tell a story in multiple frames, Lichtenstein tried to tell the same story in more-or-less a single frame, by playing with composition. He repositioned figures at different angles to achieve maximum impact and to reorient the viewer to focus on the most compelling part of a scene.

Early in his career, he did not paint by large brush strokes, preferring to draw lines and dots instead. He practiced the brushstroke until he mastered it in his unique style, influenced by a Western comic strips.

At a later stage in his career, he painted his own versions of the work of other  influential painters, including a Picasso and a Matisse below in the background.

He did a series of mirror paintings, trying to emulate mirrors. From a distance some achieve that illusion, but up-close they still seemed flat.

His landscape paintings are an evolution in style and technique, composed of dots and resulting in quietly beautiful pieces.

A sculpture in the outdoor Sculpture Garden, which appears flat...

...reveals its three-dimensional form when a viewer walks around it, as seen in the video below. 

Another sculpture in front of the Hirshhorn Museum.