It’s Not Picasso — But A Pop Art Simulation


A Clinton Hill artist couple is giving Picasso a do-over. Here, Picasso’s “The Dream” (left, in case you didn’t know) gets the Pop Art treatment.
Married artists Phillip Martin and Theresa O’Neill are “remixing” Picasso.
The original Modern artist is getting the Pop Art treatment by Brand US, which is what Mr. Martin and Ms. O’Neill call their Clinton Hill apartment and gallery space, which will host a 12- to 16-painting show of their reimagined Picassos starting on May 5.
So the great painter’s “The Yellow Pullover” has become “The Yellow Do-Over”; his “Portrait of Madame H.P.” is now “Portrait of M.E.,” named after the couple’s friend, Marianna Eyzerovich.
And in Brand US’s hands, Picasso’s “The Dream,” his famed portrait of mistress Marie-Thérèse Walterérèse_Walter, becomes “The Dream — After Picasso,” which looks like the original — if it had been silkscreened by Andy Warhol and then redrawn by Keith Haring.
For Brand US, giving Picasso a do-over isn’t just about copying or paying homage to the greatest artist of the 20th century. It’s about being an artist today.
“As an artist, Picasso is the door that you have to walk through, and it’s the work that you have to process,” Ms. O’Neill said.
Processing Picasso, however, is not an easy process, added Mr. Martin.
“It’s a really crazy, surreal door to walk through,” he said. “There was that initial, ‘What if we mess up?’ and then we let go of that and said, ‘Let’s attack, and try to make something beautiful.’”
Brand US is expecting to show between 12 and 16 paintings for “Heads Up,” priced from $200 to $15,000. A few smaller, panel-sized pieces will be priced at around $20.
“We try to make it so there’s a place for everyone,” Ms. O’Neill said. “Not everyone can have everything, but we try to make work available.”
Opening reception for “Heads Up,” Brand US, 503 Clinton Avenue between Fulton Street and Atlantic Avenue, May 5, 7 p.m.–10 p.m. Free. For info, visit

Conrad exhibit captures artists on the cusp of the American Pop Art movement

On a chilly afternoon in 1964, Andy Warhol, along with one of his muses, Taylor Mead, photographer William John Kennedy and his wife, Marie, packed into Kennedy's old VW bug. The destination: Queens, N.Y., where Kennedy wanted Warhol to see a lush field of flowers in an industrial part of town.

As soon as the iconic pop artist spotted the blanket of black-eyed Susans, he raced out of the car.

"It electrified him," Kennedy recalled. "He became gleeful. Jumping around."

It was here that Kennedy captured iconic images of Warhol with his large flower works on canvas, standing among the wild, tall bright-yellow Rudbeckias.

"Instant history!" Kennedy proclaimed.

Those photographs will be among 60 exhibited at "Before They Were Famous: Behind the Lens of William John Kennedy," opening this weekend at the Conrad Indianapolis. "Before They Were Famous," featuring photographs of Warhol and Mooresville native Robert Indiana, runs concurrently at the Site/109 gallery in New York.

Many of the negatives were put into sealed boxes, stored and forgotten, only to be rediscovered by Kennedy and his wife during their 1984 move from New York to Miami. A set will become part of the permanent collection of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, said director Eric Shiner, who described the photos as "incredible."

"They show a side of Warhol that is often not portrayed," he said. "One as the workaholic and then the playful nature of Warhol."

As a photographer capturing the nascent Pop Art movement in New York City, Kennedy met Warhol and Indiana, now best-known as the creator of the iconic "LOVE" sculptures.

Before Pop Art had a name, it was being stretched on canvas, sculpted, molded, and yes, even photographed, in different parts of New York, but mostly in a small corner of Manhattan known as Coenties Slip by the East River.

It was during this time that Kennedy met Indiana, head of the Coenties Slip group, as they were known, a group of artists who inspired the aesthetic cool of the time. Indiana was having a small exhibit in a modest New York gallery.

"We hit it off," Kennedy, now 82, recalled. "I decided I wanted to start photographing leading young artists in the city."

Indiana invited Kennedy up to his studio, where the young photographer couldn't help notice there were no windows -- strange for an artist's studio.

"Don't you have any windows in here?" he asked. His host walked him over to an unfinished brick wall.

"I thought he was nuts." Very carefully, Indiana pulled a single brick from the wall, and bid Kennedy to peek through the opening. "Looking through you could see this marvelous panoramic of the New York City skyline."

And so the magic began.

Just by luck, Kennedy attended an art exhibit in New York where Indiana was sharing space with Warhol. There, Kennedy took the only photographs of the two young pop artists together. Soon after, Warhol called Kennedy and invited him to start photographing him.

"I came so close to dismissing the phone call because of this very slight voice," he said. "I thought at first it was one of my friends playing a trick on me. But then I could feel the seriousness in his voice. I sensed it was the real deal, so I took him up on his invitation."

Warhol summoned him to his Midtown studio, The Factory. "You had to take this creaking old elevator, go up five flights . . . It comes to an abrupt stop on the fifth floor," Kennedy recalled. "Andy is there to meet me at the elevator door. The first thing I noticed was all the art. Everywhere. Every inch of this huge studio is covered in art."

Kennedy and his wife occasionally went to parties at the Factory, though that really wasn't their scene. "It was loaded with many 'hangers-on,' " Marie Kennedy recalled. Besides, Kennedy was busy making his own mark in fine art and commercial photography, eventually shooting for Life magazine, Sports Illustrated, American Express and IBM.

But in 1963, the year before he married Marie, he was just starting out. He paid $70 a month for his rented studio space at 161 W. 23rd St., between 7th and 8th avenues. It was a photographer's dream, with its north light streaming through the 10-foot-by-11-foot window.

"Always from the beginning, my aim was to always be a photojournalist and to have that freedom in my work," he said. Kennedy credits his progressive-thinking aunt, who raised him from the age of 7 in Long Island, N.Y., as cultivating his appreciation of art and photography.

"It was she who exposed me to the terrible world I am involved in. Though I believe I was born with art in my heart."

Kennedy and his wife, who live in Miami, will attend the exhibit's opening at the Conrad. They will be joined in Indianapolis by old friend and Factory superstar Ultra Violet. She will also be showing works and unveiling a fine-art prototype of a 9/11 memorial piece.

Jim Dine

Primary concerns of a pop-art star

RED was one of Roy Lichtenstein's favourite colours. There it is, voluptuously, in his pastiche Nudes series from 1994, especially in the lips and nails of his comic-strip-style women. And yet, master printer Kenneth Tyler says, Lichtenstein never really got the red he wanted. ''We never nailed it,'' he says with disappointment.

Red, of course, is crucial to bright, bold pop art but notoriously difficult in the world of printing - scarlets, crimsons, burgundies, vermilions are tricky to get just right. Tyler should know: he collaborated with Lichtenstein on lithographs, screen prints, linecuts and even reliefs and difficult embossed artworks in the Tyler printing workshops for more than 30 years until the artist's death in 1997.

''Roy started out in painting having paint manufacturers make the red he wanted,'' Tyler says. ''But it was a hard red to come by in printmaking, especially in lithography, to get the right hue and the exact density. We never got as good a red as Roy really wanted - but it wasn't because we didn't try!''

Some of the results of their attempts will go on show at Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery next week. There are more than 100 works, all drawn from the National Gallery of Australia's Kenneth Tyler Collection, which comprises more than 7000 editioned prints, proofs, drawings, paper works, screens and illustrated books as well as a collection of rare candid photography, film and audio. The collection, sold or donated to the NGA, encompasses Tyler's work with big-name artists such as Lichtenstein, David Hockney, Robert Motherwell, Helen Frankenthaler, Frank Stella, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.

Tyler says all these artists, and the challenges offered with their work, were difficult in one way or another. ''They were all wonderful, too. If you're not difficult, you're not worth it.''

Lichtenstein, though, was consistently wonderful to work with - in a printmaking studio, the printer's expertise combined with the artist's creative vision mean that works of art become a collaboration. Lichtenstein, Tyler says, was professional, disciplined and incredibly hard-working but able to make compromises and hard decisions when something wasn't panning out as he hoped.

''He was also wonderful with his [printer] collaborators; he would know their names and what role they played and he would make sure to comment on it and let them know he was pleased,'' Tyler says.

Lichtenstein worked with this highly regarded printer - famous in his own right - at Tyler's Los Angeles and two New York State studios, during which time the pair developed a strong friendship. Of the 5000-plus artworks Lichtenstein produced during his life, several hundred were done with Tyler and his team - so enduring bonds developed as they nutted out the best way to turn the artist's formative drawings into prints.

''Roy was taught printmaking very early in school and those early prints are remarkable, dating back to the 1950s,'' Tyler says. ''He was the only pop artist that had a printmaking background - so when he came to work with us, he … therefore was interested in furthering his knowledge of technique.''

Tyler says the works in the travelling exhibition reveal how, in every project Lichtenstein and he embarked on, the artist would use his growing technical knowledge in a unique way. ''He was able to bridge the idea of different techniques with the talent to actually exploit them,'' he says.

NGA curator Jaklyn Babington, in the catalogue for Roy Lichtenstein: Pop Remix, describes Lichtenstein's work as ''slick, intelligent and humorous'', appropriating as it does from an astonishingly broad array of subject matter: romance and war comics, Ben-Day dot imagery, nudes, Monet's impressionist works, Max Ernst's surrealist art - even a $US10 bill.

His ability to ''identify cultural cliches and to repackage them as monumental remixes'' made his work iconic of 1960s-70s America, Babington says, in effect ''branding'' his work with a distinct ''look'' that many thought was vulgar: a 1964 article in Life magazine was headlined ''Is He the Worst Artist in the US?''.

In the piece, the artist was quoted as saying that the closer his work was to its original source the more threatening it was to the art world: ''I take a cliche and try to organise its forms to make it monumental … the difference is often not great, but it is crucial.''

Babington says the printmaking process helped Lichtenstein explore thoroughly his desire for his art to ''look like it has been programmed''. ''What was threatening about Lichtenstein's work was that on face value it appeared to be commercial design posing as high art,'' she writes. ''His work seemed to announce the erasure of the artist as author, replacing the human creator with the industrial machine.'' Retrospectively, however, she says Lichtenstein's subtle program crystallised as a creative strategy to ''expose the real America to itself''.

Tyler confirms that while Lichtenstein always referred to his work as an ''industrial'' process, he was adamant about doing as much as he could with his own hand. For him, making his preparatory drawings and collages by hand was a way of rendering a comic strip, historical painting or other image source into a parody or cliche, stripping it down so ''it would wind up being a Roy and no one else's''.

His tight control over drawing, Tyler says, was such that even though a drawing would be nourished or tickled as it went through the often long printing process, its power was evident from the outset. ''Roy's hand was in everything he did,'' Tyler says.

Tyler says that although Lichtenstein was fond of saying that the meaning of his work had little to do with fine-art painting, this wasn't quite true: ''There are a lot of metaphors in his work … but Roy was primarily a subject painter. He worked with what he saw, it wasn't abstract in that way. If you look back at his Ten Dollar Bill, which was drawn way back in the 1950s, and then look at his drawings and etchings later on, you can see … the DNA for the later work. It's all there, it unfolds itself - and that's what we would talk about a lot together.''

Indeed, Tyler says, having worked with Lichtenstein for so long, he misses those discussions.

''We looked forward to those yearly or two-yearly projects,'' he says, describing the artist as shy and guarded, but also as a wonderful diplomat and friend. ''He used to tell me the only thing he really wanted to do was to go in his studio and work - and the next week he'd be in your workshop! He did it in that discipline of his, working all the time, every day, producing an approach to printmaking that was not only intellectual but generous.''

Pop randomly

Pop art icon or con artist?

Damien Hirst exhibit opens at Tate Modern

Well-known contemporary artist Damien Hirst has been ruffling the feathers of art critics since he received public attention back in the 80s. Some have called him a genius and even a modern-day Andy Warhol. Others, like critic Julian Spalding whose book“Con Art – Why You Ought To Sell Your Damien Hirsts While You Can,” remain unimpressed, and even adamant in their disdain for the artist.

They include works from his Natural History series such as “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living” which features a suspended shark in formaldehyde and “Mother and Child Divided” which presents a bisected cow and calf also in formaldehyde. Other works include a spin painting, a spot painting, pharmaceuticals, cigarette butts, live butterflies… there’s even a cow’s head being devoured by flies entitled “A Thousand Years.”

New Traveling Show of Lichtenstein Works

The world has changed since the last traveling Roy Lichtenstein retrospective, which opened nearly 20 years ago at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. Pop Art has not only continued to capture the imagination of the public, but it has also flourished, helped in part by social networking, global connectivity and a universal fascination with the media.
Curators at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Tate Modern in London have spent five years organizing their own retrospective, which opens in Chicago on May 16 before going to the National Gallery of Art in Washington in October, the Tate Modern in February 2013 and the Pompidou Center in Paris that July.
Unlike the Guggenheim show, which focused on Lichtenstein’s paintings and sculptures, this exhibition features a significant number of his drawings — nearly 50. James Rondeau, chairman of contemporary art at the Chicago museum, who has put together the show with Sheena Wagstaff, chief curator of the Tate Modern, explained their reasoning: “People don’t understand that many of the images Lichtenstein took from advertisements, comic books, product packaging, you name it, are not exact reproductions. And it is through his drawings that you see the transformative act from original source to the finished painting.”
Lichtenstein, who died in 1997, created images that are now the stuff of legend. He took advertisements for products like dishwashing detergents and foot medications, hot dogs and sneakers; he reinterpreted Monet and Cézanne, Picasso and Brancusi, Chinese landscapes and architectural entablatures. And of course there were his most famous works — those deft yet humorous reinterpretations of comic books.
This show will cover the entire scope of Lichtenstein’s career, from his earliest experimentation with abstraction right through to his late interpretations of the female nude. It will also chronicle the bumps along the way, like his early years, when his work was harshly criticized as vulgar and empty. (The title of a Life magazine article in 1964 asked, “Is He the Worst Artist in the U.S.?”) The exhibition will also chart Lichtenstein’s initial brush with success, after his first show at the Castelli Gallery in New York in 1962, when the art world began to take him seriously. And significant attention will be paid to his 1960s comic book paintings and drawings as well as his art historical images from the 1980s, when he became one of the most revered living painters in the world.
Some things will be new to viewers because they have never been included in a public exhibition. There will be works from the artist’s family and estate and others that had been secreted away in private collections.
One section will be devoted to his examination of the female body — a subject he visited on and off throughout his career. Late in life he took this subject and filtered it through the lens of Matisse and Picasso. “They are reinterpretations of the nude as an art historical genre,” Mr. Rondeau said, “but these late works are also a kind of return to the fundamentals of Pop Art and to his 1960s comic book sources.
“It shows that he was a tried-and-true Pop Artist from beginning to end.”

Pop art

Miami neo pop artist Alex Vera is lending his talents to honor three family members stricken by cancer with two paintings that will be used to support this year's American Cancer Society Relay For Life in downtown Fort Lauderdale.
The paintings have been made into greeting cards, available for a suggested $2 donation at area hospitals, restaurants, select Galleria Mall stores and other locations. The artwork depicts images saluting cancer awareness walks like the Relay For Life, an overnight event where participants camp out around the race route and team members take turns walking for set periods of time.

Pop décor

Serious home decor and interior expressions make your space look dull, a bit too formal or sans an identity. There is nothing wrong in it, if that’s your style; but not all rooms need to look the same. To break the monotony, add some fun pop art elements on walls, furniture and furnishings to liven

up your space. Artist Sumit Mehndiratta, who paints pop art designs on home décor items and other products, says, “Pop art is meant to stand out on its own. So, a piece of pop art can surely brighten up any modern or contemporary living space.”

Pop decor is also a fun way to use your home interiors to represent a distinct character.
Expanding on pop art movement of the ’50s and ’60s, most designers are using bold and figurative graphics, making them suitable for contemporary architectural spaces.
Interior designer Ankush Aggarwal of Ansa Interiors, says, “You can choose to add pop art with a range of products, such as cushions, wall colours, decor accessories, lights, bed covers, rugs, paintings, graphics, printed mirrors or furniture finishes like vinyls.”

Pop art is bright and colourful, and activates a space, hence it’s best to use it in high activity areas, such as living room, lounge or entertainment areas. You can also get the walls painted in a pop art expression, or add a pop art installation in an empty corner to spice up any home area.

Giving your home the much-needed pop art punch can be a bit tricky, if you are a novice decorator. The bold colours and figures must blend well, or else they can have a devastating effect. The room can look like a messed up colour palette, if the contrasting colours do not harmonise. Start with adding a painting or a few accessories or take professional help. But if you’re well-versed with the effects of colours, then let your home be your canvas.

Sotheby’s New York holds exhibition and private sale of works by pop artist Keith Haring

NEW YORK — Sotheby’s is holding an exhibition in New York of 32 artworks by the late pop artist Keith Haring. Most of the art is available for private sale.
The show opened Friday at the auction house’s headquarters. It runs through April 23.
The works come from various collections, and include sculptures, canvases, tarps and works on paper.
Prices range from $25,000 to $1.5 million.
Only three of the works are not for sale. They include a crib covered in his iconic imagery that he dedicated to his first love.
The Brooklyn Museum currently has an exhibition that focuses on Haring’s early career.
Haring died of AIDS in 1990 at the age of 31.

What a great idea..well, maybe not great....but...

More random(ness) and if there isn't such a word, there is there.


After escape from North Korea

After escape from North Korea, artist turns from propaganda to pop art
By Paul Ferguson, CNN

Atlanta (CNN) -- Song Byeok had every reason to be pleased with his success. A gift for drawing led to a prestigious career as a propaganda artist and full membership in North Korea's communist party.
Then the food shortages started.
Like tens of thousands of other North Koreans in the mid-1990s, Song made forays across the Tumen River to find food in China. Despite witnessing a better material life across the border, he says, he never doubted that North Korea was culturally superior. He never considered leaving his homeland for anything more than food.
"I was a believer. I saw North Koreans as pure," Song said. "And we needed the Great Leader to protect us from outsiders."
Today, Song paints in Seoul, South Korea, his art haunted by his former whole-hearted belief in the North Korean regime. Song's paintings chronicle a personal, often agonizing journey from child-like allegiance to the country's founder and "Great Leader," Kim Il Sung, and his son, "Dear Leader" Kim Jong Il, to Song's life today as a contemporary artist.
 Defector paints Kim Jong il in drag

Ever desperate for hard currency, the official website of North Korea offers propaganda art for sale, including some of Song Byeok's designs. Artwork promoting the North Korean regime is available on beer steins, clocks and even iPad and iPhone covers. The items are made in places as diverse and as far from North Korea as El Salvador and Pakistan. They are for sale in U.S. dollars and ship from California. This calendar sells for $5.99 and says "We must be determined to fight and win against imperialism." You can also order this motif on an insulated bottle or can holder.

In his former life, he would paint boyish-looking soldiers with heroic features across an entire side of a factory to inspire workers with the same patriotism he believed in.
His current paintings explore themes of freedom while skewering his former devotion to North Korea's leaders. He paints children in military uniforms, their heads bowed and eyes closed. His trademark work shows Kim Jong Il's face atop Marilyn Monroe's famous film pose on a sidewalk grate, holding down her skirt as it billows around her hips.
The painting created a stir in South Korea, where American Greg Pence saw it and raised funds on Kickstarter to exhibit Song's work this winter in Washington and Atlanta.
Song is passionate and sometimes brooding when discussing North Korea but gracious and open about his deeply personal passage from propaganda artist to painter who anguishes over oppression in North Korea.
Obama: North Korea will achieve nothing with provocation
Song's journey to disbelief began the moment he watched, helpless, as his father was caught in a current during a river crossing to China and drowned. Song was halfway across when his father was swept away; he swam back but was unable to rescue him. Despondent, Song searched for his father's body along the riverbank but was captured by North Korean border guards.
Despite his rank as a party member, getting caught meant questioning and torture by North Korean guards to confirm that he was not working for the South Koreans or the foreign missionaries based in China who proselytize among defectors.
"There were no exceptions," he said. "All who are caught are investigated."
In North Korea, a brutal choice
The torment of not recovering his father's remains was much greater than the broken teeth and beatings, Song said. The beatings were so harsh, he said, he was close to death, and he believes that he was released so he would not die in custody.
More than bones, the guards' treatment broke Song's belief in the regime. He describes the moment he left jail as if a veil had been lifted: He saw the world with a new clarity. As he hobbled through the streets, wondering how he'd get home, he decided he wanted a different life. He decided to defect.
In a country of 25 million, only about 20,000 have defected and settled in South Korea, according to the South Korean government. There are no precise figures for how many defectors live in hiding in China; estimates from governments, researchers and non-governmental organizations vary from 25,000 to more than 400,000.
"When people are picked up in China and repatriated, they face prosecution back in North Korea if they are believed to have met with South Koreans or missionaries," said Marcus Noland, a North Korea specialist at the Peterson Institute.
China labels North Korean escapees "economic migrants" and forcibly returns them despite accounts of torture and execution. So those hoping to defect must make their way across China to a third country.
Of those North Koreans interviewed in China, only about one in 10 say they left because of a longing for freedom, according to W. Courtland Robinson, a public health expert at Johns Hopkins University who has studied the issue for more than a decade.
The vast majority who leave give the same explanation Song did for his pre-defector forays into China during the famine: the search for work or food.
"The (North Korean) system is so integral to who you are," Robinson said. "People generally don't say 'I am frustrated, and I want out.' "
Song's paintings explore that theme: a devotion to serving North Korea's leaders so strong that citizens view it as part of their identity.
"Flower Children" shows a gaggle of smiling, uniformed schoolgirls waving and holding North Korea's standard reading primers, "The Story of Kim Jong Il's Childhood" and "History of Kim Il Sung."
The girls exude childish charm, but some faces show a weariness that only comes with age, and their eyes are all closed. Their shoes have holes.
"They believe they are happy," Song said. "They believe they are so much better off than the rest of the world because of their two leaders, who are like two suns."
Song can still recite some of the pages from those reading primers, and he remembers walking to school in similar shoes.
Such memories inspire him to paint, he says, and he hopes people find his interpretations of those memories compelling.
"Tumen River" is done in classical Chinese style. At first glance, with its brushed mountain landscape, the painting looks like it could be from the Tang Dynasty. On closer inspection, its subtleties portray North Korea's crippling poverty. Peasants work fields with oxen while nearby, a broken-down tractor rusts. Soldiers fish for their dinner downstream from women doing laundry by hand.
In the hills above the river are billboards common throughout North Korea, with phrases such as "All Glory To Our Nation's Agricultural Independence" and "All Glory to Our Nation's Great Strength." Near the billboards, peasants dig for edible roots, which are commonly steamed in a kettle before being eaten.
"The past and the present of North Korea are the same," Song said. "There is no progress."
Despite the large and absolute devotion of most North Koreans to their government, Song is optimistic about their future under Kim Jong Un, who recently inherited the country's reins after his father, the Dear Leader, died.
In a nation where every decision flows from the top, a change of leadership can transform everything.
"Kim Jong Un will want to try something new," Song said. "You can not change the nature of youth."
If Kim Jong Un allowed the population access to television, websites and radio from Seoul, with its opulent lifestyle, change would be inevitable, and the emotional connection to the government would gradually wither, Song believes.
Meanwhile, being caught with foreign media can mean public execution or three generations of your family being sent to prison camp. So few people outside the party elite dare to smuggle radios or DVDs from China.
But if those punishments were ever removed, Song says, North Koreans would probably lose their devotion to the regime as quickly as their Japanese neighbors stopped worshiping their emperor after World War II.
It would take only a clear view of the poverty and oppression in their life to spark cataclysmic demands for change, Song says. The spectacular failure of its command economy has made North Korea one of the poorest nations on Earth. By one plausible account, teenage defectors of the past decade are 5 inches shorter and 25 pounds lighter than their South Korean counterparts.
"I feel a great deal of anger now that I understand the problems" in North Korean society, he says. "I never felt it when I was there."