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NH

Untitled (Portrait) by Nikki Rosato

I recently wrote about the amazing creations made by cutting paper that we saw in an exhibition in the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, NH. It is Untitled (Portrait) 2016, by Nikki Rosato, American born 1986

One I omitted to add, and perhaps one of the most interesting is that of a head. It is interesting on two main counts: first, because of the material from which it is made and what that symbolizes; and secondly because it reminds us very much of another head, much larger, but just as symbolic (see further down). At first glance, they have a similar look, even though the size and the materials are different.

This one in the Deep Cuts exhibit is a three-dimensional bust made from cut road maps. The illustrations on the map look similar to parts of the human body: roads are like arteries and topographical lines form ridges and wrinkles. In this piece the artist tried to evoke the affiliations that people have with place and how places have shaped his or her development. This bust is a portrayal of the artist’s partner made from maps of New England and the surrounding areas that are significant to him.

This piece is part of a section called Altering Atlases. As the board explains, “For centuries cultures have created maps and atlases to define, categorize, and navigate their way through the world. Although many now rely heavily on GPS, the paper map remains an important, sometimes lifesaving tool for any adventurer (especially when we lose signal).

Maps symbolize not just geographies, but also the people who inhabit the landscapes and the geopolitical borders that divide and define them. Some artists alter these representations by cutting and abrading the paper on which they are printed in order to explore the politics of place and the relationship of humans to their natural and built environments…

What a great concept! As world travelers who usually use paper maps, we find this interpretation fascinating, because it’s true that people are also defined by place.

DesM

Nomads by Jaume Plensa

The other head this reminded us of is by Jaume Plensa (Spanish, born 1956), and I wrote about it here:

https://viviennemackie.wordpress.com/2014/04/25/symbolic-head-sculpture-with-multiple-meanings/

This head, called Nomade (2007), is huge and is painted stainless steel. The head and torso are made of letters from the Latin alphabet. His idea is that when letters are combined they produce words, thoughts and language, just as a person alone has limited potential but when people join together in a group or society they become stronger. It is in the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Garden in Des Moines, Iowa.

SeoulInterestingly, we’ve experienced another head that is somewhat similar to these two. It is one of three head sculptures in the concourse of the Bongeunsa subway station in Seoul. I haven’t been able to find out any information about the artist or date etc.

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museum We happened on an amazing exhibit at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire. The museum itself was a wonderful unexpected find, as we didn’t originally plan on spending time in Manchester (except to fly in and out).

We went to the Currier on our recent visit to New Hampshire as we wanted to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s Zimmerman House, and the only way to do that is to take a guided tour from the museum. We had time to look around the museum a little after lunch in their attractive Winter Garden Café (which is actually indoors), and decided on the special exhibit called Deep Cuts, Contemporary Paper Cutting.

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The beautiful doorway into the museum from the Garden Cafe

It was on from February 25-May 21, 2017, so sadly it is no longer there. Hopefully, because it was so interesting and popular, it will move to another museum for more people to see it.

The exhibit is on paper cutting and we entered with all the wrong expectations: We imagined the traditional Chinese paper cuttings, or perhaps cut-paper portrait silhouettes, as we have seen in Paris at Place du Tertre in Montmartre.

But no, this is way more than that. These contemporary artists reconsider, redefine and even subvert the centuries-old art of paper cutting. They slice, shred and abrade paper using blades, scissors, lasers, and even belt sanders. The range of materials is mind-boggling—from handmade artisan paper, to office stationery, books, wallpaper, currency notes, and shopping bags.

Since its invention around two thousand years ago, paper has become a commonplace material, permeating practically every aspect of our lives. In this exhibit we see how paper can be transformed from ordinary to extraordinary, from practical to thought-provoking; for example, some explore political or social topics.

Some of the artists use traditional techniques, but with new subjects. Others have made sculptural objects that challenge the flatness and fragility of paper. Others have cut printed paper to create works that explore the information and power normally linked with text. A bank note is very powerful and artists may cut it to make a statement. This also hints at a recent shift towards digital banking.

Some artists dissect documents, newspapers or books to question the information printed on them. By reforming them into something else, the artists show how intended meanings can change.

This lovely “picture” is an example of that, but I don’t have the artist information about it.

text picture

Another theme is how a growing focus on recyclable paper products is affecting paper’s role in our economies and society.

Of all the pieces we saw, we randomly chose 5 to showcase here. The others were all fascinating, but for some it was difficult to get the detailed information on them.

Currency collage, called The World is Yours, 2006, by C. K. Wilde, American (born 1972). As the board tells us, “This world map is composed of pieces of currency from many countries. Paper money affords a wide palette of color and design while also carrying the political weight of the various world democracies, monarchies, dictatorships, and other government. This map further suggests that global wealth is controlled by a handful of people, often including those whose faces appear on the currency. In Wilde’s work, cutting up money can be seen as a disruption of power and wealth.”

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World map made of cut bank notes

Male Pelvis, 2012, by Lisa Nilsson, American (born 1963). This is a mulberry paper collage, and is a true-to-life anatomical cross section using intricate paper filigree. It uses Japanese mulberry paper and the gilded edges of old books.

malepelvis

Rainbow, 2017, by Li Hongbo, Chinese (born 1974). Li Hongbo uses the honeycomb technique used in traditional Chinese paper gourd making to produce striking, large-scale installations with deep symbolic meanings. As the board tells us, “The artist has cut hundreds of colorful pieces in the shape of firearms and bullets. Unfurled, the threatening silhouettes transform into beautiful flower-like sculptures. The installation evokes the fine line between war and peace, and between violence and understanding, showing that one simple act can have a transformative effect. His chosen material and subject matter are related through their shared history: the Chinese invented paper but they also invented gunpowder. For an American audience, his sculptures are inevitable and poignant evocation of the epidemic of gun violence.”

rainbow

 

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Untitled (NY Yellow), 2009, by Jane South, British (born 1965) .Made of hand-cut paper, ink, acrylic and bass wood. As the board tells us, “Jane South fabricates bewildering cut-paper constructions that seem both real and imaginary; mechanical and artistic. Complex cut elements, as well as drawings on the paper’s surface, create a web of actual and illusionistic shadows, mixing fiction and reality.”

NYYellow

Biophony of Spring, 2017, by Fred H C Liang, Chinese (born 1964). This is made from cut Arjowiggin paper. Liang makes “drawings in space” by cutting out multiple shapes that he weaves together and balances to make one large rhythmic mass. He combines traditional Chinese paper cutting with contemporary art, creating non-representational work. The name of this one “refers to the collective sound made by all living organisms in a given environment, a natural symphony.”

Biophony

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men2More Public Art in Chicago

As I was walking recently  to the Chicago Cultural Center from our hotel I happened on this outdoor sculpture, one I have not seen before. It was apparently officially installed about two years ago.

Living World Series, Gentlemen, bronze on cast bronze plinth, by Ju Ming (1938-) from Taiwan. He trained as a woodcarver, but went on to an international career creating works in many materials. These figures are in bronze, but do have a look of wood carvings, I think.

On the plinth are a group of square, pedantic-looking men in suits and ties, some with menhats, or with bags and briefcases, and umbrellas.

This is on the AMA Plaza, next to the IBM Building housing the Langham Hotel on the north side of the river.

It’s an unusual  sculpture, and many people who walk by stop to take pictures.

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Exhibits at Chicago’s Cultural Center

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Poster about the Wall of Respect

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Old photo of the Wall of Respect

As mentioned earlier, this year is Chicago’s Year of Public Art and the 50×50 Initiative, sparked by Chicago’s 50 wards and the 50th anniversary of 2 famous public art works in the city: Picasso’s “Untitled” (see previous post), and The Wall of Respect.

The Wall of Respect is no longer in its original position but a special exhibition on it is in the Chicago Cultural Center until July 30th. The exhibition, called Vestiges, Shards and the Legacy of Black Power, is in the Chicago Rooms, 2nd Floor North in the Cultural Center (corner of Michigan, Randolph and Washington).

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How the wall looked

Blues

The Blues panel

Jazz

The Jazz panel

Curated by Romi Crawford, Abdul Alkalimat and Rebecca Zorach, and students in the Department of Art History, this exhibition chronicles how the Organization for Black American Culture designed and produced this first mural for, and within, Chicago’s Black South Side communities. It features 7 sections with the images of leading black icons (called heroes), ranging from Sarah Vaughan and John Coltrane to Marcus Garvey and Ossie Davis. Two of the panels are devoted to musicians—one for Blues, one for Jazz—not surprising, as Chicago has always been a hub for music, notably Blues and Jazz with many famous black artists.

roofpillar

Using photographs and documents relating to the Wall of Respect and other murals, this exhibition explores the mural movement in Chicago in its historical context, investigating how race and class have intersected with the spatial politics of the city.

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Story of the Wall of Respect

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Who is your hero today?

In 1967, the Organization of Black American Culture painted this huge mural “guerrilla-style” on the wall of a decaying building on the South Side of Chicago at 43rd Street and Langley Avenue. They called it the Wall of Respect. This mural, which grew out of the Black Liberation Movement of the 1960s, was controversial from the start and only survived a few years—but in that time it inspired a community movement that went on to paint vivid colors on walls across the city and beyond. The Wall of Respect received national acclaim when it was unveiled in 1967.

Just outside the exhibit rooms, the center has strips of colored paper. They invite people today to write down the names of their heroes and make a long paper chain—a Heroes Chain. Would be a fun project for school kids, I think.

Muddymural

Muddy2Not far away on the side of a building opposite Macy’s is a huge colored mural of Muddy Waters. I couldn’t find any information on that. Any ideas, anyone?

Somewhat linked to this topic is another exhibition at the Cultural Center: that of Eugene Eda’s Doors for Malcolm X College (see future post)

 

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bannerIt’s Chicago’s Year of Public Art, so let’s get out and experience some of this creative art.

I was always aware that Chicago has a great tradition of making public art available to all, and its collection of public art is one of the defining characteristics of the city, but this special year gives another dimension to this.

2017 has been designated Year of Public Art Chicago, with a new 50×50 Neighborhood Arts Project. Managed by DCASE (Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events), the 50×50 initiative will provide up to $1 million for new public arts projects.

Chicago has a long and rich history of public art, so why now? This initiative was

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The Picasso in Daley Plaza

inspired by Chicago’s 50 wards and the 50th anniversary of 2 of Chicago’s most famous seminal public art works: The Picasso in Daley Plaza, and The Wall of Respect, which once stood at 43rd Street and Langley Avenue on Chicago’s South Side.

DCASE manages the Chicago Public Art Collection, which includes 500+ works exhibited in over 150 municipal facilities around the city, such as police stations, libraries and CTA station. DCASE also administers the City’s Percent-for-Art Ordinance, which was established in 1978 and stipulates that 1.33% of the cost of constructing or renovating public buildings will be used for public art.

What an amazing concept. Go Chicago!

perilsThere will be many special exhibits and tours, but I was only in Chicago for 3 days this April, so could only track down a few of these special art works at this time.

Turns out that many of these famous public art works have an interesting story and history, starting with the Picasso. To co-incide with this Year of Public Art, the Chicago Cultural Center has a small exhibit called The Fame and Perils of Chicago’s Public Art. The introductory board tells us that, “Planning and creating public art can be a risky venture. Depending on how or what you count, the placement of art in Chicago’s public spaces has a 200-year long history. Sometimes the art is loved. Sometimes it is hated. To further complicate matters, times change—and so do the tastes of people.”

So…to start with Picasso’s “Untitled”.

frontcloserUntitled” by Pablo Picasso, on the Richard J Daley Civic Center Plaza, 50 W. Washington Street. In 1967 Pablo Picasso’s monumental sculpture was unveiled in Chicago’s Civic Center (now called the Richard J. Daley CivicCenter).

In 1963, imagining a work for the new Chicago Civic Plaza, architect William Hartmann of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill turned to Pablo Picasso. Using an introduction from English artist Roland Penrose, Hartmann contacted Picasso describing a “site for the most important piece of sculpture in the United States.” Picasso accepted and worked on plans for the largest work of his career, mostly with his vision of an abstract female figure, which he gave as a gift to the city.

This abstract design was not originally popular when the monument was erected in

Banks

Newspaper picture with Banks superimposed

1967. In fact, as I learned from the small exhibit in the Chicago Cultural Center, many Chicagoans thought it was a giant portrait of the artist’s Afghan hound. An alderman from the City Council proposed replacing the Picasso with a giant statue of Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks, and a local paper ran a story with a photo of Banks superimposed on that of the Picasso.

At the time of the opening of the Picasso, Mayor Richard J. Daley insightfully dedicated it with these words, “what is strange to us today will be familiar tomorrow.” That has proved true, and 50 years later it’s an iconic part of the city’s landscape, and much loved by locals and visitors. So much so, that Northwestern grad and vocal art advocate, Patricia Stratton, has written a book dedicated to the sculpture called “The Chicago Picasso: A Point of Departure”.

sideI find this work of Picasso’s very interesting: I can definitely see the Afghan hound in there, but also a female figure. What do you think?

Picasso’s work was Chicago’s first major pubic art work in the modern style, rather than historical effigies and memorials that had been traditional before. It inspired much private and public investment in art for the city center, including Marc Chagall’s mosaic “The Four Seasons” in 1974, which then inspired his “America Windows”. Other commissions included monuments by Joan Miro (1963), Jean Dubuffet (1969) and Alexander Calder (1974), among many others. And so a tradition was born.

 

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flamingo

snow

In December

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In fall

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From our hotel room

Timeless and graceful…A beautiful piece of art that stands out from its surroundings

In Chicago we usually stay at the Club Quarters Hotel on Adams Street, which we did again last weekend. The view from our hotel room was across to the Federal Plaza, with its intriguing red outdoor sculpture. We’ve taken photos of this many times before, at different times of the year, but this time, with the lighting and the snow, we saw it from a new angle and I decided to research it a bit more.

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Zoom from hotel room

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Reflection in Post Office windows

Chicago is a city famous for public art and for us this is one of the classics. Others (among many) are the Picasso (1967) in the Daley Plaza, with jungle-gym-like characteristics; Monument with Standing Beast, which is open to multiple interpretations, by Jean Dubuffet (1964) in front of the Thompson Center; and Cloud Gate, aka as The Bean, in Millennium Park.

This red sculpture is called Flamingo, and it does evoke a flamingo-like bird if you look closely. The artist is American Alexander Calder, and the sculpture was unveiled in October 1974 in the Federal Plaza in front of the kluczynski Federal Building, one of three Bauhaus-style federal buildings designed by Mies van der Rohe. A model of Flamingo was unveiled at the Art Institute in April 1973, where it still resides.

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Model in Art Institute

thrupo

Looking through Post Office

It’s a painted-steel stabile (as opposed to a mobile), 53 feet tall, painted vermilion (now called “Calder red”), the bright color contrasting very nicely with the steel and glass office buildings around it. These modern rectangular buildings surround the square, so this abstract arching form is also a nice counter point, form-wise.

However, Flamingo is constructed from similar materials and shares certain design principles with the architecture, so it’s successfully integrated within the plaza. It’s an example of the constructivist movement, popular in Russia in the early 20th century. This refers to large sculptures that are made of smaller pieces joined together.

The sculpture is monumental but the open design allows viewers to walk underneath and around it, so we can experience it on a human scale too.

market

Market day

mrket2On Tuesdays, in the season, there’s a farmers market on the square, which makes the Flamingo seem even more interesting.

A small-scale replica (one-tenth the original size) was installed in 1975 in the Loop post office right on the plaza. Calder created it specifically for the visually-impaired, as it is meant to be touched, and it is the same bright color.

Alexander Calder (1898-1976) has created many sculptures for open spaces throughout the world. He is probably most famous as the originator of mobile sculptures or kinetic art, a type of moving sculpture made with delicately balanced or suspended shapes that move in response to touch or air currents. In contrast, Calder’s monumental stationary sculptures are called stabiles. He also produced wire figures, which are like drawings made in space. He was a prolific artist who worked with many art forms, large and small.

 

 

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alleyreading

In Bicycle Alley

alleycrying

In Bicycle Alley

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Bicycle Alley

Urbana Murals: Transforming Urban Spaces

Walking around Urbana recently, I stopped to take pictures of some interesting murals that we’ve seen but never photographed before. They brighten up walls and bring a smile to one’s face.

A little research turned up some snippets of information on many of them. I find this fascinating, as it’s part of the history and culture of our town.

alleypapercranes

Part of Bicycle Alley murals

The first series is in Bicycle Alley, a graffiti hallway between the Courier Café and Pizza M and Siam Terrace. It’s a series of large-scale murals by local artists, spearheaded by Langston Allston. Allston is a local artist and an alumnus of the University of Illinois. This was part of the 2013 Downtown Mural Project and much of the funding came from pledges on Kickstarter. It started as a homage to local history and bike culture, but it looks to me as though others have painted and glued various graffiti on top of the originals. The alley is now an outdoor bar/meeting place during the warmer weather. We’ve never tried it, but it looks like a fun place.

 

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Bicycle Alley

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Courier Cafe mural

Nearby is a large mural on the outside wall of the Courier Café (one of our favorite casual eating places in town). The Courier used to be the space of a former local newspaper and the owner of the Café, Allen Strong, has kept many of the old features. The artist is Glen C. Davies, who is illustrating a bit of history of this very location. The Courier is close to the site of the first settlement cabin in Urbana. It was William Tompkin’s cabin, built in 1822 along the Boneyard Creek, right behind the Courier building.

Davies has been in town since 1974 and at one time he delivered newspapers for the old courier2Courier newspaper, which went out of business on March 31, 1979.

The left hand side of the mural starts with the Big Grove (settlement area), moving across to the influence of agriculture and the railroads. We see Lincoln and his influence, and the portraits of four journalists whose careers started here — George Will, Gene Shalit, Bob Novak and Roger Ebert. Then it moves into current times with downtown Main Street, the university, and a bicyclist through town. It ends with an antique car, which symbolizes Allen Strong.

Glen C. Davies is also the artist of a smaller, but striking, mural near the Urbana Free Library.

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urbana Free Library mural

I couldn’t find any information on the dog mural, on a house on the corner of Race and Illinois Streets in Urbana—it’s eye-catching and cute, though.

dog

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