‘Nothing is secret’: The Art of Niki de Saint Phalle
08:38 am


Niki de Saint Phalle

Most days, I walk past the Gallery of Modern Art, on Royal Exchange Square, in the heart of Glasgow. The GOMA building was originally a library, but since 1996, it has been a gallery. Each time I pass the building, I always notice the beautiful glass mosaic made by Niki de Saint Phalle that glitters on the exterior, triangular pediment of the building, which changes with the movement and color of the (admittedly mostly gray) sky, the light of buildings opposite, and the shadow of the traffic below. It sparkles like a jewel, always makes me happy and reminds me of the beautiful, passionate art of Niki de Saint Phalle.

The daughter of an aristocratic French banker and an American mother, De Saint Phalle was educated in America, where she first showed an interest in art by painting the fig leaves red on the statues at her school—it was an early sign of her desire to rebel against bourgeois conventions. In her late teens she began a modeling career and was featured on the cover of several fashion magazines. Having eloped with her childhood sweetheart, the writer Harry Matthews, de Saint Phalle gave birth to a daughter in 1951. However, she soon found marital bliss to be stifling, and perhaps also suffering from post-natal depression, the young mother had a nervous breakdown.

As part of her recuperation, de Saint Phalle was encouraged to take up painting. She was taught and influenced by the painter Hugh Weiss. After the birth of her second child in Spain in 1955, de Saint Phalle continued to work at her painting, leading to her first exhibition in 1956.

Niki de Saint Phalle believed she was condemned to reveal “every emotion, thought and experience” in her work.

“Everything is used. My time, great joys, tragedies and pains—it’s all my life, nothing is secret.

The documentary Niki de Saint Phalle: Introspections and Reflections examines the life and art of the artist, from her earliest paintings, through her performance and film work, to her iconic sculptures, which all made Niki de Saint Phalle one of the best known artists of the twentieth century.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Polish prison tattoos preserved in formaldehyde
06:14 am



Fresh off the heels of my post on Frederik Ruysch’s creepy embalming art comes this disgusting/fascinating collection of preserved tattoos from Polish prisoners. Even before you get to the whole “stolen chunks of flesh” part of this collection, I’m always disturbed by the “poke-and-stick” kind of tattooing that most of these appear to be. I’ve seen poke-and-stick done with everything from glass shards to nails, and the “ink” could be anything from ash to a ball-point pen—there’s obviously a high risk of infection. (Not to be a snob, but I had my tattoos done like a respectable person—in a sterile environment by an old biker.)

It’s a crude, primitive art-form, but it’s hard for me to see these pieces, which were a part of some one’s actual body, completely removed from their former humanity. Still, the images are kind of fascinating. There’s basic old school flash, of course, but the juvenile, coarse pornographic images are even more interesting. Not all tattoos, even ones done in prison, represent some deeper meaning or cultural affiliation, but with some of these you have to wonder what possessed some one to risk infection for a dirty little doodle.



More tattoos after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
Down the rabbit-hole with Salvador Dali’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’
09:35 am


Salvador Dali
Lewis Carroll

It seems like a perfect match, the master of Surrealist painting, Salvador Dali illustrating a classic of nonsense literature, Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In 1969, Dali produced thirteen illustrations for a special edition of Carroll’s book published by Maecenas Press-Random House, New York. Dali made twelve heliogravures of original gouaches for each of the book’s twelve chapters, and one engraving for the frontispiece. Dali’s work is startling and beautiful, but at times seems slightly unrelated to the original source material. Even so, they are quite delightful.

Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, `and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice `without pictures or conversation?’


The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down a very deep well.


`Curiouser and curiouser!’ cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English); `now I’m opening out like the largest telescope that ever was! Good-bye, feet!’ (for when she looked down at her feet, they seemed to be almost out of sight, they were getting so far off).

More of Dali’s illustrations for ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Woman decorates dog shit with strawberries, cream and Nutella to shame lazy pet owners
07:36 am


Dog Poop

Theresa Ritchie of Peterhead, Aberdeenshire is decorating random dogs’ poo with strawberries, whipped cream, icing and sometimes Nutella in a bid to get lazy dog owners to clean up after their pets. Theresa hopes that her arts and crafts dogshit food styling skills will make dog owners aware “that someone is watching them.”

People in Peterhead are regularly stepping on dog mess on the pavements. I wanted to highlight the problem in an amusing way.

This shows people are watching dog owners who can’t be bothered to clean up after their pets. The food idea has showed that dog poo wasn’t being cleaned up by the council. It sometimes lies on the streets for around eight weeks.

I’m not entirely sure Theresa thought this one through. A) wouldn’t this be rather confusing to a toddler or young child? Would they eat it thinking it was a tasty dessert they found on the sidewalk? B) I’m thinking dogs would it eat, too. C) Ants. Lots of ants. Ants would love this… shit.

Via Arbroath and Evening Express.UK

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
N.W.A. alumnus Ice Cube waxes philosophical on modern architecture
06:56 am


Ice Cube

Ice Cube reenacting this famous photo of Charles Eames
A few days ago, a friend and I were discussing the bourgeois assumption that the “lower classes” do not enjoy “high art.” Part and parcel to this snobbery, there’s the idea that the wealthy are automatically “cultured,” a myth easily dispelled by a quick glance at the nouveau riche so often paraded on reality TV. Anyone can be tacky, but rich people have the means to really take tacky to its highest heights—and I say this as a long-standing fan of “tacky!”

Still, it’s always nice to learn that a former hardscrabble member of the hoi polloi has staked their claim to the artistic traditions of the monied, so I was pleased as punch to learn that Ice Cube has a penchant for modern architecture, specifically for modernist husband and wife duo, Charles and Ray Eames. Apparently Ice left El Lay to study architectural drafting at the Phoenix Institute of Technology before his career with N.W.A took off. The video below is a promotion for “Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980,” an exhibit that ran from 2011 to 2012 at the Getty Institute. As Ice opines the beauty and dynamism of Los Angeles, the parallels between the prefab design of the Eames and rap are made obvious, when he declares, “They was doing mash-ups before mash-ups even existed.”

Nowadays the name “Ice Cube” can illicit a little bit of disdain in a certain crowd—his acting in family-friendly movies apparently cost him some kind of mythical “credibility.” But from the looks of the man in this video, he’s clearly still just a guy who likes what he likes, and he doesn’t really give a fuck what anyone else thinks.

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
Morbid menagerie: The opulent death displays of Frederik Ruysch
06:34 am


Frederik Ruysch

The drawings you see are here are from Frederik Ruysch’s Thesaurus Animalium Primus, a ten-volume collection published between 1701 and 1716. Ruysch was a Dutch botanist and anatomist who was appointed chief instructor to all the midwives in Amsterdam in 1668. His position had never existed before, but if a woman wanted to continue her work as a midwife, she now had to be evaluated by Ruysch. Having formerly suffered a dearth of cadavers to study and preserve, he suddenly found himself with access to a profusion of dead babies.

Part scientist, part artist, and part absolute eccentric, Ruysch became famous for his beautiful and morbid displays of embalming and remains, arranging human and animal parts together in the sorts of elaborate scenes you see here. Though he was a respected scientist, these presentations were barely medical, and hardly scientific. The sculptures often positioned the bones of babies in impossible stagings—you’ll notice one weeps genteelly, with a handkerchief. And with the help of his daughter Rachel, a famous still-life painter in her own right, he adorned his works with hair, flowers, fish, plants, seashells, and lace.

Ruysch showed his creations in a private museum (entry free to doctors, paid to layman), and they quickly became world-famous. The museum wasn’t quite a sober affair either—Ruysch would arrange tongue-in-cheek exhibits, like the bones of a three-year-old-boy next to that of a parrot, with the insinuated joke of “time flies.” In 1697, Czar Peter the Great took a tour of Ruysch’s work and became so enamored with one of the specimens that kissed it. He eventually purchased the entirety of the museum. I’m unsure of Dutch cultural norms regarding death around the turn of the 18th century, but the fact that midwives had to answer to a man with a side business in death sculptures suggests, at the very least, a conflict on interest. Still the strange beauty of Ruysch’s work cannot be denied, nor can his scientific brilliance.

His pioneering embalming techniques are what made his work possible, and Peter the Great also paid quite handsomely for the secret recipe to his preservation fluid, an alcohol of clotted pig’s blood, Berlin blue and mercury oxide. A (false) rumor circulated that the sailors transporting Ruysch’s collection to Russia drank all his embalming fluid, but it actually arrived in whole, and some of Ruysch’s specimens are still in perfect condition today—a testament to his brilliance in preservation.

Jan van Neck’s “Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Frederick Ruysch,” where he appears to perform an autopsy for posterity. (1683)







Via The Public Domain Review

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
How Matisse colored our world: ‘With color one obtains an energy that seems to stem from witchcraft’
07:28 am


Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse didn’t need the revolutionary gesture, he believed in art for art’s sake.

Matisse lived through a century of tumultuous change, but none of it had any effect on his work. Unlike Picasso, who compared himself to matadors and minotaurs, and sought public and political endorsement, Matisse believed in the bourgeois values he had inherited from his childhood in his hometown of Le Cateau-Cambrésis and believed art was best appreciated by the middle class.

Matisse was right. His once shocking painting “La Danse”, or his series of gouaches “Blue Nude”, or his collage “Jazz”, now decorate the walls, place mats, and drink coasters of many a middle class home. His art is valued and loved, while “revolutionary” works by Picasso, like “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” or “Guernica” are sold at museums as postcards, rather than prints for the dining room wall.

Matisse believed art should be “soothing”

“What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter—a soothing, calming influence on the mind, rather like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.”

This is not to say Matisse was safe. His paintings were and are still revolutionary in their design, approach and use of color. Moreover, in his final years Matisse produced some of his greatest work - dazzling collages made from cut-out colored paper.

“With color one obtains an energy that seems to stem from witchcraft.”

It was illness rather than witchcraft that played a key role in Matisse’s development as an artist. He first started painting at the age of twenty, whilst recovering from appendicitis.

“From the moment I held the box of colors in my hand, I knew this was my life.”

In 1941, the greatest creative period in Matisse’s career began when he was told that he was dying. He had stomach cancer and was not expected to live. After an operation to remove tumors from his intestines, Matisse struggled through long months of agonizing pain, and surprised the doctors, and nuns who attended him, by surviving against all the odds.

“In those little moments of calm, between two pangs, I imagined the inside of a tomb: a little space, completely enclosed, with no doors. And I told myself, ‘No, I prefer still being around even if it does mean suffering!’”

Matisse believed he did not have long to live (in fact he lived longer than either he or his medics thought), so he worked with a passion and intensity to make the most of this “second life.”

“It’s like being given a second life, which unfortunately can’t be a long one.”

He began to experiment by cutting up painted paper into collages to make startlingly original pictures. He was creating a new language of art that placed him above his rival Picasso.

The most comprehensive exhibition of Henri Matisse’s “cut-outs” opens at the Tate Modern, London, from April 14th until September 7th, 2014.

Art critic Alastair Sooke examines Matisse’s life, art and influence on our world, explaining how Matisse’s work has shaped much of our aesthetics—from color schemes, to fabrics, furniture and design.

Bonus: Hear Matisse speak, plus promo for the Tate show, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
‘Not sure if you’re a boy or a girl’: The androgynous self-portraits of Claude Cahun
06:59 am


Claude Cahun

Self-portrait, 1927. Her shirt says, “I am in training, don’t kiss me.”
While David Bowie will always be my very first cultural touchstone of avant-garde androgyny, it’s Claude Cahun that’s my absolute favorite. And I’m sure Bowie would approve. He once said of Cahun, “You could call her transgressive or you could call her a cross dressing Man Ray with surrealist tendencies. I find this work really quite mad, in the nicest way.” You don’t really get much of a better recommendation than that, and looking as alien and draggy as anything Mr. Rebel Rebel ever dreamed of, her many photographic incarnations are just mesmerizing.

Born in 1894 as Lucy Renee Mathilde Schwob in Nantes, France, she was from a family of artistic Jewish intellectuals. Cahun chose her pseudonym for its unisex ambiguity—the surname was her paternal grandmother’s who raised her, as Cahun’s mother struggled with mental illness. Her life-long artistic collaborator, romantic partner, and step-sister, Suzanne Malherbe, went by Marcel Moore, and together they fostered a true avant-garde community, hosting salons in their Paris home. André Breton, author of Surrealist Manifesto, was a regular attendant. Though photography is her most famous medium, she was also a painter, collage artist, sculptor, novelist, playwright and essayist—many of her published essays pertained to the avant-garde artistic community.

Cahun and Moore eventually moved to Jersey, in the Channel Islands, which was occupied by Germany during World War Two. Cahun and Moore were active in the resistance, feverishly creating protest materials of collage and poetry fliers denouncing the Nazis. The two actually attended German military events to discreetly hide their propaganda fliers on cars, in windows, in the seats of the crowd, and even in the pockets of Nazi soldiers. They were eventually arrested and sentenced to death. They spent some time in prison before the liberation, and though their sentencing was never carried out, Cahun’s death in 1954 is largely believed to have been the premature direct result of health problems she developed in prison. She is buried next to Moore in a church in Jersey.

Le Mystère d’Adam (The Mystery of Adam) 1929

Self-portrait, 1939

Self-portrait, 1929
More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
We Make You Us: Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel’s strange and absurd guerrilla art of the 1970s
05:33 am


Mike Mandel
Larry Sultan

We Make You Us (1985)
Due to some sort of cultural amnesia, Banksy is often credited as the innovator of politically conscious “guerrilla art,” but there have always been weirdos reclaiming public space for social critique. It’s tragic that Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel don’t even get a fraction of Banksy’s name recognition. Sultan and Mandel began collaborating as grad students in 1972, and in ‘73 they began pasting their prints on billboards in the Bay area—sometimes directly over actual advertising. The pair never became very well known outside of the art world, but in 2012 (three years after Sultan’s death) their work was collected for an art book, and now the Stephen Wirtz Gallery in San Francisco is running a retrospective on their Billboards.

The series is irreverent and kind of Dada, the images ranging from strange to absurd to banal, mocking consumerism and wealth with a snide humor. In a world of such high media density, you can imagine walking right past one and not noticing the billboard’s content. It reminds me a little bit of Sean Tejaratchi’s work from Liar Town USA, where he manages to imitate the design cliches with a hilarious accuracy. Of course, Sultan and Mandel’s work isn’t direct design parody, but the subversive farce of hiding in plain sight makes for a biting denunciation. 

A collection of Larry Sultan’s work is also slated to show later this year, at The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Mike Mandel continues to create beautiful works of public art.

Oranges On Fire (1975)

Electric Energy Consumption (1976)
More billboards after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
‘Real-life’ Marge Simpson is jaw-dropping (and kinda terrifying)

This is truly something else. And before you all yell “photoshop” and “fake”—I monitor the comments here on Dangerous Minds sometimes so I’m accustomed to all the usual comment tropes—it’s very real. Moscow-based photographer Alexander Khokhlov captures these extraordinary images with super-talented make-up artists, designers and expert lighting.

While this “real life” Marge Simpson is simply fascinating to look at, she’s still somewhat unsettling and terrifying, right?!?

There’s a video below showing you how Khokhlov and his team created Marge. I highly recommend muting the music. It’s godawful and distracting.

Via Geekologie

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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