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High Anxiety: The surreal & disturbingly dreamlike paintings of George Tooker
10.09.2017
12:44 am
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‘Children and Spastics’ (1946).
 
Looking at George Tooker’s painting “Subway” (1950), with its central figure of a woman (possibly pregnant) walking among the clean, cold, and slightly dehumanizing landscape of an underground station with its suspicious looking men in trench coats and hats, reminded me of the opening lines to Dante’s Inferno:

Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.

Ah me! how hard a thing it is to say
What was this forest savage, rough, and stern,
Which in the very thought renews the fear.

So bitter is it, death is little more;
But of the good to treat, which there I found,
Speak will I of the other things I saw there.

I cannot well repeat how there I entered,
So full was I of slumber at the moment
In which I had abandoned the true way.

The words seemed to fit. Mainly because of the feelings Tooker’s painting engenders. It’s hardly an original thought to say we’ve all felt, at some point, lost, alone, or alienated from our environment—our actions curtailed by extraneous forces or expectations. But it’s one that is still, nevertheless, true.

The idea that Tooker’s work connects in some immediate, non-verbal way with its audience has led critics to align him with Surrealism, Magical Realism, Social Realism, and even Photorealism. Tooker was never happy with any of these descriptions as they limited, pigeon-holed, and gave a glib answer to a far more complex question. Tooker described himself as a figurative painter who considered paintings as “an attempt to come to terms with life.” Where there are “as many solutions as there are human beings.”

Born in 1920, Tooker came from a middle-class Brooklyn family. In the 1930s, his parents relocated the family to Bellport, NY, where Tooker spent part of youth wandering around the exhibits at the local art museums getting hip to the work of Renaissance and Dutch artists. To ensure he had a good qualification, he studied English at Harvard. He then enlisted in the Marine Corps during the Second World War but was discharged on health grounds. With a degree to fall back on and no expectations to fight in the war, Tooker returned to Brooklyn where he chased his primary ambition to become an artist. He enrolled at the Art Students League of New York and mixed and met with the various teachers and contemporaries who were to shape his thinking about art and help develop his style as an artist. Chief among these were Paul Cadmus (who was briefly Tooker’s lover) and Jared French (who was Cadmus’s lover). These artists were figurative painters who had adopted the Renaissance technique of using tempera —a fast-drying painting medium utilizing colored pigment and egg yolk or a similar binder. Tooker similarly painted in tempera. But unlike Cadmus and French, whose work has a homo-erotic subtext, Tooker painted an impression of the world that was as emotionally powerful and as vivid as dreams.

I am after painting reality impressed on the mind so hard that it returns as a dream, but I am not after painting dreams as such, or fantasy.

In his early painting Children and Spastics (1946), a group of children intimidates three gay men in an alien and austere landscape. The men adopt poses as the children assault them with broomsticks and verbal abuse. Their response is defensive, ironic, and one that is expected by society (their tormentors). This painting set a style through which Tooker depicted the world as alienating and oppressive yet sometimes often comforting to the figures who inhabited it (Supermarket, Bathers, Waiting Room).

In the early 1950s, Tooker and all the other figurative artists were eclipsed by the arrival of Abstract Expressionism which critics claimed better reflected the angst of the atomic age. Unfazed by the fickle tastes of critics and art markets, Tooker continued painting his succinct critiques of modern life, producing some of his most powerful work (Highway, Government Bureau, Lunch, Landscape with Figures, and Ward) in the succeeding years.

Tooker’s artwork defies easy categorization. In a way, his paintings tell a history of modern America, its hopes, fears, and moral complexities, from 1950 onwards. This content has a timeless quality and an immediacy that keeps it as relevant today as when first painted.
 
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‘Dance’ (1946).
 
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‘Subway’ (1950).
 
See more of Tooker’s compelling work, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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10.09.2017
12:44 am
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Meat Packing: Bloody, gruesome, hyperrealistic paintings of chopped-up body parts (NSFW)
09.28.2017
09:27 am
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So, dear readers, what’s for dinner tonight? Maybe a little chicken? Maybe a nice juicy steak with all the trimmings? Or how about a tasty leg of lamb? Or what do you say to a good ole slab of bacon? Hmmm, sounds delicious, doesn’t it? But wait, why stop there? What about a well-grilled slice of dog? Or maybe some barbecued cat? Or, what about something a bit closer to home?

If you’re willing to chow down on a juicy beef burger then why not a cat burger? Cows have as much personality as cats or dogs and quite a few humans too. Our bovine pals have their likes and dislikes, their mood swings, their affections, they can even fall in love, get stressed, and like to share a private cow joke or two. So what’s the big problem with eating meat if we’re not going to put felines, canines, chimps, and even humans on the menu too?

Oh, don’t tell me you’re suddenly squeamish about a lickle-bitty kitty? Hell, when most of you go into that supermarket you positively drool over all those tasty meaty morsels bagged, sealed, and wrapped like kinky Christmas presents on display. Let’s be honest, we rarely ever think about what the fuck we’re actually looking at before popping it in our basket. I know I don’t. I just laden up the old trolley and head back home to an artery-clogging meat-filled breakfast, lunch, dinner time, and tea. That’s right, just wipe that cow’s ass and pass me mah knife and fork.

Of course, if that’s your take on eating meat products, then you won’t be at all put off by Brazilian artist Fábio Magalhães‘s hyperrealistic paintings of human body parts diced, chopped, and gutted like some poor cow or pig or sheep and neatly bagged up for our consumption. Magalhães’s paintings are simultaneously extraordinary works of painterly beauty and gruesome depictions of bloody horror. His intention is in part to make the viewer think about the meat industry, about eating meat, and what it is we’re actually consuming.

Magalhães started his “intimate” meat portraits with the series O Grande Corpo (The Great Body) in 2008, in which he worked from photographs of his face and body tightly wrapped in polythene. The paintings present a complex visceral image of gruesome horror together with, in some images, an association of auto-eroticism. Magalhães next produced a more bloody series of Retratos Íntimos (Intimate Portraits) which show in incredible detail images of innards, body parts, and blood products all wrapped in polythene. The high quality of his painting technique together with the subject matter make it almost “impossible [for the viewer] not to react with the heart.”

By exposing the viewer to images of brutalized body parts, Magalhães is also asking the viewer to question what it means to be human. He has divested the human body from its imposed religious, psychological, historical, and personal significance to question what makes our existence different from any other animal if all we are is the same flesh and bone?

Magalhães grew up in Bahia in north-eastern Brazil. He took an ealy interest in painting and drawing and spent hours looking at and copying paintings by artists as diverse as Picasso, Caravaggio, and Jackson Pollock from the pages of his father’s encyclopedia. He went on to study at the Fine Arts School of the Federal University of Bahia. Since then, he has been exhibiting his work since 2003, with his paintings shown in group and solo shows across most of South America. You can see more of Fábio Magalhães’s work here.
 
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See more of Fábio Magalhães’s bloody brilliant paintings, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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09.28.2017
09:27 am
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‘Monumental Nobodies’: Artist paints civic sculptures with a subversive twist
09.01.2016
12:34 pm
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‘Rockstar.’
 
In Glasgow, the city where I live, there’s an equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington. This category-A monument situated on Queen Street, outside the Gallery of Modern Art, is famous not for its subject but rather for the regularity that traffic cones are placed on the grand Duke’s bonce. No one knows who puts them there. No sooner is one removed than another has replaced it. The Duke and his orange and white headgear are a symbol of the gallus nature of the city.

According to the city council, it costs $15,000 a year to have these pesky cones removed. A few years ago, the council considered raising the statue higher onto a second plinth—thus preventing any cheeky wee monkeys from hoisting yet another one on its head. In response, a Facebook campaign was started to save the cone. It received 75,000 “likes” in the first 24-hours. Since then the council installed CCTV cameras in a bid to capture the culprit(s) cone-handed.

This morning as I walked past the statue a fresh cone sat a jaunty angle on the Duke’s head. It’s not a mark of disrespect but rather a questioning of our inherited values, identity and history. History, after all, is written by the victors.

Matthew Quick asks similar questions about history, identity and inherited values with his series of paintings Monumental Nobodies. His starting point was “the monuments of empire and what happens to the things left behind, how they might be represented, or reutilised or reinterpreted.” He was also inspired by the sonnet “Ozymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley that tells of:

Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

The broken visage is all that remains of the once great king. Though there is a slight irony in the sonnet’s conceit that Ozymandias’ memory lives on in the lines of Shelley’s immortal posey.

Quick was reminded of this poem after watching television footage of American soldiers pull down a statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad during the Iraq War in 2003.

Removing the contemporary politics of the moment, I thought: ‘This is an invading army going in there and basically destroying art’.

The soldiers actions made Quick think of the ancient sack of Rome—“Except that the Visigoths were barbarians and the Americans did it for the cameras. It was a deliberate and stage-managed act,” as he explained in an interview

This led Australian Quick to produce Monumental Nobodies—a series of paintings re-examining our relationship with civic and classical sculptures.

Quick was late to his career as an artist. He had been a graphic designer, author, lecturer and art director before he started painting in earnest. When he was thirty-six, he was diagnosed with melanoma. The doctor’s prognosis was not good. It was suggested he may only have five years left to live. This caused Quick to reevaluate his life.

If you have only got a certain amount of time, what would you really like to be doing? It was the wake-up call I needed. Now I’m in a big rush. I am making up for lost time – what I’m doing now is what I’ve always wanted to do.

Thirteen years on, Quick is thankfully still alive and continues with his chosen career. It’s been over a decade since he turned “pro.” Since then he has won over sixty awards for his artwork and has exhibited in Australia and Europe. Technically brilliant, his work is powerful iconic and wonderfully cerebral. 

Quick started Monumental Nobodies before ISIS began thuggishly destroying historic buildings and artwork.

When you think about what ISIS is doing now, destroying artwork, we condemn that justifiably … but when the Americans did it, it was celebrated. These sorts of things intrigue me.

A statue of Saddam Hussein can be replaced but ancient monuments and temples cannot.

The irony is that when I started working on this series, the stuff with ISIS hadn’t happened. It has given it an extra layer of gravitas.

More of Matthew Quick’s work can be seen here.
 
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‘The Great Cover Up.’
 
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‘The Eternal Struggle.’
 
More ‘Monumental Nobodies,’ after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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09.01.2016
12:34 pm
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Russian artist paints Putin portraits with her boob
09.29.2015
09:27 am
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St. Petersburg-based artist, Irina Romanovskaya, has been causing a stir in her Mother Russia by painting portraits of political leaders, including Vladimir Putin, with her boob.

Romanovskaya has noted that “paintings painted with breasts sell well and for a lot.”

Has late capitalism come to Russia?
 

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, founder and the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, as painted by Romanovskaya’s left boob.
 
The artist, quoted in a Russian article posted to her LiveJournal, translated [in amusing broken-English] via Google Translate:

In this unusual technique I decided to draw a well-known politician. Zhirinovsky bright politician, how could I not draw him ... for a portrait Vladimir Zhirinovsky, I chose the color purple, my favorite. I heartily Vladimir Zhirinovsky! Artist Irina Romanov painted a portrait of Vladimir Zhirinovsky [with her] breast. Especially since breast painting difficult to draw, the process is very time consuming and not fast any inaccuracy can lead to what is necessary to re-start all over. For the portrait used only breast. In this technique, I have in front of strangers do not draw. Irina Romanov technique will update continuously , working hard and getting the hang of drawing [with] breasts and body. Foreign collectors often buy my works, paintings painted [with] breasts [sell] well and expensively sold. [Her] works are in private collections in Russia and abroad.

 

Vladimir Putin, as painted by Irina Romanovskaya’s left boob.
 
In the video below, she demonstrates the process… which is remarkably totally safe for work.

There’s a “Left boobs painted by left boob” joke someone could make here, but I think serious breast art aficionados such as ourselves are above all that, aren’t we?
 

 
Via: Weird Universe

Posted by Christopher Bickel
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09.29.2015
09:27 am
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Monsters, death and the Mona Lisa stripping: Lorenzo Alessandri, father of Italian surrealism
07.15.2015
11:06 am
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At the end of World War II, Italian artist Lorenzo Alessandri opened up his first studio, naming it “Attic Macabre,” a clear indication of his artistic direction. It wasn’t until 1964 though, that he coined the term “Surfanta” (a portmanteau of surrealism and fantasy) to describe the movement he spearheaded—a wide-ranging genre of other-worldly creatures, horror, sex, mystery, occultism, and a healthy dose of religious and historical farce. He titled a magazine Surfanta, and you can even catch the word in the signage of his paintings, like morbid little Hidden Mickeys. The sheer diversity of his work makes it impossible to do a comprehensive retrospective, but I’ll cover a few of the weirdest highlights—pictures below are relatively safe for work, embedded links are… less so.

Throughout his career, Alessandri had a fascination with grotesque sexuality. He utilized a variety of subjects for the theme, including sentient genitals, anthropomorphic animals and horrifyingly lewd monsters. Not all of his prurient material was disgusting though—there was also his campy “groovy chick” phase, which often featured regular pin-up style ladies in surreal settings. Sometimes the babes themselves were psychedelic—often a shade of electric blue, and sometimes they hung out with his occult characters or his sex-monsters (though they stop short of doing anything hardcore).

In my opinion, Alessandri’s most fascinating and sophisticated work is his series of contemporary fantasy scenarios, which deal most readily with the politics and history of the modern world. The KKK lord over a naked woman before an atom bomb and a gorilla. Mona Lisa does a striptease before an animalian bourgeoisie (he also did a version where she had a penis). There’s also a ton of occult imagery. Airplanes piloted by skeletons (he loves those) roll by estates, landmarks and villages. Shadowy figures—perhaps demonic creatures or paranormal monks—are busy, perhaps frantic. The worlds he created are complex and mysterious—an inscrutable delight.
 

 

 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Amber Frost
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07.15.2015
11:06 am
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Palettes of Picasso, Matisse, Degas and Van Gogh are works of art unto themselves


Vincent Van Gogh
 
Some years ago the inventive German photographer Matthias Schaller who specializes in what he calls the “indirect portrait” was in the studio of Cy Twombly and happened to glance at the painter’s palette, smeared with pigments of various hues, but mainly a shade of red fairly close to the color of blood. It occurred to Schaller that the palette is arguably as identifiable to an artist as the artist’s work itself, even if created purely by accident. As he puts it, “The palette is an abstract landscape of the painter’s artistic production.”

Schaller has created a series of marvelous photographs of the palettes of famous artists, each of which measures at roughly 190 x 150 cm. The collection, called “Das Meisterstück” (The Masterpiece), has appeared as an exhibition and is available in book form as well—for more information write an email to thepalettebook@gmail.com.

These are all utterly fascinating to gaze at; my favorites are those of Bacon and Kokoschka. They’re all pretty wonderful.
 

Pablo Picasso
 

Claude Monet
 

Salvador Dalí
 
See the palettes of Matisse, Manet, Kandinsky, Kahlo, Bacon and many more after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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05.22.2015
09:46 am
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What, no ‘atomic tangerine’? The Pantone Color Guide of the year 1692
05.06.2014
11:02 am
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Boogert
 
A doff of the feathered hat to medieval book historian Erik Kwakkel working at Leiden University in the Netherlands. Last week he posted images on his blog pertaining to a most unusual book he had recently stumbled upon. It dates from 1692 and is credited to one “A. Boogert,” and it has to count among one of the most exhaustive explorations of color ever produced by the human mind. The book’s title is Klaer lightende Spiegel der Verfkonst…Tot Delft, gedaen en beschreeven dour A. Boogert or Traité des couleurs servant à la peinture à l’eau [Treatise of colors used in watercolor painting].

In the book, which has more than 700 pages, Boogert executed a staggeringly impressive series of color samples; there must be several thousand different colors elucidated here. In the bulk of the book, Boogert used the left-hand side of each spread to explain the ratios of pigment and “one, two or three portions of water” to achieve the colors depicted on the right-hand page, usually five colors that are closely related (see picture at bottom for a typical example). The entire book was written entirely by hand, and only one copy of the book is known to be in existence. It’s likely that Klaer lightende Spiegel der Verfkonst, even if relatively few painters ever saw it, represented the most comprehensive account of colors ever achieved up to that juncture.

The natural reference point here, for contemporary graphic designers, is the Pantone Color Guide, which first saw print in 1963. I find myself wondering to what hell Glidden would have consigned this author, had they only had the chance.

You can see the entire book here.
 
Boogert
 
Boogert
 
Boogert
 
via Colossal

Posted by Martin Schneider
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05.06.2014
11:02 am
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Is it just me, or is Tony Bennett’s art kind of cool?
11.11.2013
07:06 pm
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painting
“New York Rainy Night”
 
Full disclosure: I’m not a seasoned art person, at all. I get the bulk of my education by wandering around museums with my smart phone and Googling everything that looks cool to me. (I Google a lot of large installations and almost anything contemporary with nudity.) Despite my lack of expertise, I have a prejudicial skepticism of musicians’ visual art. I never got Joni Mitchell’s paintings, and I’m sure I’m just not cosmopolitan enough to wrap my brain around Kim Gordon’s. However, I kind of dig… Tony Bennett’s?

Honestly, when I heard Tony Bennett painted, I was anticipating something a lot more… hotel? Huge fan of his singing; the man is a Sinatra-level chanteur, but that doesn’t mean his art is going to be anything interesting. It turns out Anthony Benedetto (his given name, and the one he signs his canvasses with) studied music and painting at New York’s High School of Industrial Art, before dropping out at 16 to support his working class Italian immigrant family in Queens.

Benedetto’s work covers a lot of subjects, but I think New York City is his strongest suit. There’s a lot of Ashcan School in the brushwork and colors, and some of it has a bit of a Ben Shahn feel, with the compression of the foreground and elastic geometry. Or… something.
 
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“New York Waterfront”
 
painting
“New York Cityscape 2”
 
painting
“New York Yellow Cab Study”
 
More after the jump…
 

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Posted by Amber Frost
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11.11.2013
07:06 pm
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