In 17th-century France the still life was considered the lowliest of genres, art historian John Wilmerding writes in the lushly illustrated catalog for this illuminating exhibition. Artists like Cézanne and Matisse brought the still life into the fold of Modernism, but one might say it had its apotheosis in Pop, a movement that excelled at exalting the banal.
The treasure-rich show, which its curator, Mr. Wilmerding, has packed with loans from numerous major museums and collections (including a funky vacuum-and-fluorescent-light piece from 1980 by Jeff Koons, courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles director Jeffrey Deitch), is divided into four themes—food, flowers, housewares and, intriguingly, body parts.
The show reveals the widely divergent tones of Pop’s practitioners through some clever and occasionally cute curating. Wayne Thiebaud’s painting Hot Dog with Mustard (1964), its subject set on an off-white ground, has all the grace and stillness of a devotional image. An alternative condiment can be found alongside it in the form of one of Warhol’s cool, confounding silk-screened boxes labeled Heinz ketchup. More hot dogs—a white plaster sculpture of two on a plate—are offered up by George Segal. Dessert is here the province of Claes Oldenburg and his sculpture Pie à la Mode (1962), a wild splatter of paint atop plaster, its juicy blueberries and melting white ice cream radiating gustatory pleasures.
A few depictions of people have been thrown in on the premise, fleshed out in the catalog essay, that plastic surgery has rendered body parts akin to objects. Tom Wesselmann exemplifies the point in two of his unmistakable 1960s shaped paintings of red lips, one with a puffing cigarette and one with a cartoonishly large penis superimposed on a seascape. The latter is nicely complemented by a gritty 1977 Warhol silk-screen of a naked man shown from the waist down, on loan from art historian and Picasso biographer John Richardson.
It is refreshing to see, alongside big-ticket pieces like a Warhol flowers painting and a Jasper Johns lightbulb sculpture, work that is typically sidelined in Pop narratives. In Marjorie Strider’s paintings, green beans and flowers jut voluptuously from boards. Marisol Escobar’s boxy 1962-63 assemblage sculpture of Warhol features Warhol’s own shoes. Vija Celmins’s haunting 1964 paintings depict a glowing hot plate and a two-headed lamp. Dimly lit and delicately rendered, these objects, in Ms. Celmins’s hands, seem uncanny and vaguely anthropomorphized. They embody one of Pop’s key projects: showing the absolute strangeness, the unreality, of everyday objects and of everyday life. (Through May 24, 2013)

When pop wore its art on its sleeve

With the gradual disappearance of album art, we are losing far more than a few memorable images.
 Even if you didn’t know who the artist Storm Thorgerson was, you’ll probably recognise his most iconic creation: a prism refracting white light on to a black background. The sleeve to Pink Floyd’s 1973 album The Dark Side of The Moon is one of rock music’s most celebrated images, and its creator Thorgerson, who died last week, was also responsible for placing that flying pig above Battersea Power Station for Animals (1977) and naked children climbing over rocks for Led Zeppelin’s Houses of The Holy (1973).
 What did Thorgerson’s images mean? What was he trying to tell you about the music contained within? These questions were persistently asked of a man inspired by Dalí and Magritte, by photographers such as Man Ray and the filmmaker Luis Buñuel. His simple answer was: ‘I listen to the music, read the lyrics, speak to the musicians as much as possible. I see myself as a kind of translator, translating an audio event – the music – into a visual event – the front cover.’
Thorgerson was a remarkable man, but it’s also notable how album artwork has become a thing of the past. The relationship between visual and aural art enjoyed a wonderful 20-year symbiosis until cassettes and then CDs began to diminish its importance in the 1980s. More recently, the download has made the relationship, sadly, all but redundant.
Rock and art had an association even before Peter Blake assembled the front cover for The Beatles’ 1967 album Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. As Stephen Bayley noted in The Times, there were precedents, for example in the 1950s, when the jazz label Blue Note produced a series of albums with ‘a distinctive graphic language of bold colours, sans-serif fonts and bold geometrical devices in solid contours [that] made an indelible popular connection between “cool jazz” and “modern jazz”’.
An album sleeve told you something about what you were about to listen to. The reason people didn’t understand Pink Floyd’s front covers is because many, including those who bought the LPs, didn’t even understand their music. Upon the release of Sergeant Pepper, Queen Elizabeth is said to have remarked how ‘The Beatles are getting a little strange these days’. But fans had realised this two years earlier, with the stretched, stupefied photoshot and psychedelic typeface that adorned Rubber Soul. Richard Hamilton’s artwork for The Beatles (the so-called ‘White Album’) released in 1968, reflected a band that had become mired in crisis and narcissism. (Many of the tracks on The Beatles refer to previous Beatles songs.)
While artsy bands either employed famed artists (the Velvet Underground used Andy Warhol), imitated them (The Stone Roses paid homage to Jackson Pollock), or knowingly played with Pop Art’s relationship with consumerism (The Who Sell Out, 1967), groups that sought to convey the ‘dangerous’ nature of their product festooned their sleeves with ghouls, monsters and corpses, employing ersatz-gothic typefaces, littered with nonsensical umlauts – the most famous purveyors of which were Iron Maiden, Mötorhead, Mötley Crüe and Spinal Tap. It was the latter’s Nigel Tufnel, parrotting the pretentions of art-school philosophy, who thus admired the black front sleeve of Smell The Glove: ‘It’s like, “How much more black could this be?” and the answer is “None. None more black”.’
Whatever you think of art-school rock, we have lost something significant with Thorgerson, who dissolved his business in 1983 when CDs first started appearing. This was in a decade when you knew London Calling (1980) by the Clash was music for ‘rebels’, because the sleeve had someone smashing a guitar, and that Pornography by the Cure (1980), with its distorted, blood-red sleeve, wasn’t going to be a barrel of laughs. The polished nonchalance of Awfully (1987) told you much about the yuppie-pop of the Pet Shop Boys without having to listen to it.
One of my current guilty pleasures is a song called ‘Pompeii’ by Bastile. My attention was drawn to it because it always seemed to be playing in shops - it was incidental music on BBC1’s Football Focus only this weekend. I have never seen Bastile’s CDs because I live in a town without a record shop, and I don’t watch music television – I had no idea who they were and what their music might be (electro-indie, since you ask). After tracking down the provenance of ‘Pompeii’, I went to YouTube to find it. Everyone does this type of thing, indicating that the music industry is imperiled for the same reason is journalism: sharing.
The decline of the album sleeve is symptomatic of a deeper crisis. Things aren’t consumed as they were. Rather, they are increasingly given away or stolen. And when something’s value is diminished, so is its worth. As James Heartfield has observed in Mute magazine: ‘The declining value of music also means that it is of declining value to the consumer, so that they will tend to fail as goods that enhance the self-esteem of their purchasers.’ When you don’t pay for something, you don’t take the time to enjoy it. That’s why you come away from a free newspaper website feeling unsatisfied. If you pay for a newspaper, you are much more like to read it properly.
Objects have character, memories, idiosyncracies, flaws. My long-dead grandmother’s pencilled ‘arguments’ with Freud in his books remain my connection with her. A certain skip in ‘Here Comes the Sun’ on my taped copy of Abbey Road will remind me always of a caravan holiday in 1992. And ‘Eddie’, the skeletal icon that featured on Iron Maiden album sleeves and t-shirts, will forever bring me back to a family holiday to Yugoslavia in 1984, where I first saw it. In the digital age, all these moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.
Patrick West is a freelance writer based in the UK and Ireland and author of Conspicuous Compassion (Civitas, 2004). Read his blog here.

Currier Museum acquires works by pop artist Robert Indiana, abstract artists Frank Stella, Sam Gilliam

MANCHESTER - The Currier Museum of Art has acquired major works by Pop artist Robert Indiana and abstract artists Frank Stella and Sam Gilliam.
"These paintings build the Currier's collection of post-World War II American art and provide our community with major examples by artists who were instrumental in the development of American painting in the second half of the 20th century," said Andrew Spahr, director of collections and exhibitions.
The title of "Singerli, Variation I, 1968," which belongs to Stella's "Protractor series," refers to an ancient city in the Near East whose exterior wall formed an almost perfect circle. The monumental paintings in this series are composed of carefully delineated bands of overlapping color created using protractors and rulers, which help define very specific geometric areas.
Stella first emerged on the national scene in the late 1950s as an artist affiliated with Minimalism. He responded to the painterly qualities of the Abstract Expressionists with works composed of bold, geometric shapes that reinforce the flatness of the canvas and reveal almost no brushwork.
"Decade Autoportrait 1963," is one of 10 paintings that Indiana created in 1971 that reflect on his life in New York City in the 1960s. The painting typifies how Indiana created bold, graphic images using words, numbers and the names of people and places that held special meaning for him during his years living in lower Manhattan.
This painting will be featured in a focus exhibition opening Nov. 27. Also on view will be the recently acquired "Decade Portfolio." This collection is comprised of 10 prints Indiana made in 1971 representing flagship works he previously developed. The range of subjects documents influences and national events that shaped Indiana's art of the 1960s; from art history and literature to the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. In the 1960s, Indiana achieved worldwide acclaim for his iconic image of the word "LOVE," which he incorporated in many of his paintings, sculptures and silk screen prints, and which later became a best-selling U.S. postage stamp. His name remains indelible tied to the Pop Art movement of the 1960s and 1970s.
In Gilliam's "Rotunda Unwound (2005)," muslin decorated in the bold "color field" style of painting hangs in folds from the gallery wall. One of Gilliam's "Drape" paintings, its title refers to its original installation, suspended from the ceiling of the Corcoran Gallery of Art's rotunda in Washington, D.C, where Gilliam, known for had a major retrospective in 2005.
It has a flexible, rather than fixed, form, and will sometimes hang from two fixed points on the gallery wall as it is now, or from one wall anchor, or the ceiling. Gilliam began his series of Drape paintings in the late 1960s, creating works that are equal parts painting and sculpture.

Mystery of missing art of Pauline Boty

 Pauline Boty was a central figure in Swinging London in the 1960s. As a new show aims to restore her forgotten reputation, the hunt for her lost paintings goes on
Half a century after a sex scandal rocked the British political establishment and kickstarted the 1960s social revolution, academics are searching for a long-vanished but highly important painting created at the height of the 1963 Profumo affair by one of modern art's most extraordinary "lost" figures.
If found, the work – Scandal '63 by the British pop artist Pauline Boty – would not only solve the 50-year mystery over the fate of a painting held to be of exceptional importance: it would also, a growing body of art historians hope, help return its creator to her rightful place at the heart of the era's explosion of sexual and creative liberation, and bring to an end decades of "wilful and conscious" exclusion by the male-dominated art establishment.
Boty, who died in 1966 aged 28, was a key player in the frenetic Swinging London social scene that drew together painters, writers, artists, film-makers, musicians, leftwing political activists and poets. Scandal '63 portrays Christine Keeler in the iconic Lewis Morley photograph of that year, astride a chair, while at the top of the canvas, the male protagonists in the affair are shown. It was last seen in the year it was painted.
Highly accomplished as an artist and, later, as an actor and broadcaster, Boty was also exceptionally good looking – a rare beauty that would later be used by detractors to rubbish her creative talents – as well as sexually liberated.
Her work was, in the pop art manner, uncompromising, gaudy, sensational, chaotic and frequently explicitly sexual. On one of her paintings – 54321, which takes its name from Manfred Mann's theme tune to TV pop show Ready Steady Go! and features its presenter Cathy McGowan – Boty has written, in large letters, "Oh, for a fu …" trailing off the canvas edge.
Dubbed the "Wimbledon Bardot" – she initially trained at the art school there – Boty went on to study at the Royal College of Art. In 1962 Ken Russell's profile of four of the college's students, Pop Goes the Easel, featured Boty prominently in scenes she devised herself.
Boty was the 60s incarnate. She was a dancer on Ready Steady Go! and escorted Bob Dylan around London on his first visit to Britain in the winter of 1962-63, when the then unknown folk singer had a part in a BBC television drama, Madhouse on Castle Street, directed by Boty's then lover, Philip Saville. She played one of Michael Caine's girlfriends in Alfie, and began to work extensively in TV drama, and on stage at the Royal Court. At the same time, she became a presenter on an early BBC radio weekly arts review, interviewing, among others, the Beatles.
Fellow RCA student Peter Blake was one of a long line of men who fell in love with her. In June 1963 she married literary agent and leftwing political activist Clive Goodwin. Their flat, on west London's Cromwell Road, became a key meeting place and party venue for the avant garde, with visitors including Tariq Ali, poets Christopher Logue and Adrian Mitchell, artist David Hockney, actor Tom Courtney, Observer critic Ken Tynan, and fashion designer Celia Birtwell.
In 1965, Boty became pregnant, and during a prenatal examination, cancer was diagnosed. She declined chemotherapy, fearing that it could damage her baby, and in July 1966, four months after her daughter, Katy, was born, she died. Boty's disappearance from art history was swift, with her paintings gathered up and stored in a barn at a farm in Kent owned by one of her brothers. A posthumous show of her work was discussed, but never took place.
Most works by Boty are in private hands. The Tate Gallery owns just one Boty, The Only Blonde in the World, while Wolverhampton Gallery has recently acquired Colour Her Gone, one of several Boty paintings of Marilyn Monroe, created after the star's death.
In the early 1990s, thanks to the work of David Alan Mellor, professor of art at Sussex University, and curator and art historian Dr Sue Tate, Boty's slow return to public visibility began. Mellor tracked down and recovered her art from the barn in Kent – "an extraordinarily moving experience … I cried", and, with Tate, started the critical rehabilitation of Boty's work.
Now, 47 years after her death, Boty is set for a comeback. A major exhibition – the first open to the public devoted to Boty's work – opens in June at Wolverhampton Art Gallery, with two smaller, related shows in London. Justice at last, believe her followers.
"For important men to reduce her to the fact that they were in love with Pauline did immense damage to Pauline," says the artist and writer Caroline Coon. "After she died, it gave her art no space. Pauline Boty was as vibrant and decorative as the men around her, an exceptionally charismatic person.
"Pauline was a complete and dedicated political artist, doing opinion pieces, acting, theatre design, painting, being the modern woman. When men artists die young they are turned into romantic icons. When Pauline Boty died, her art was buried. Then history gets written by a group of men who are excluding her. That exclusion was wilful and conscious … It was misogyny and sexism. But now, reality is returning. These women artists were working, living, loving, doing politics on a daily basis with men colleagues, as equals," says Coon.
"I remember her vividly," recalls Saville, now in his 80s and one of Britain's most respected film and television directors. "She was impossible to forget. Apart from being extremely beautiful she had a wonderful personality, which could only have existed in the 1960s. She was 'can-do'. A remarkable person."
Yet despite more than 20 years of intensive searching, at least three major works by Boty remain untraced. "We don't know where they are, like Scandal '63, of which we only have photographs," says Tate, senior curator for the Wolverhampton exhibition. "We just don't know. There's a painting of Marilyn Monroe, of her chewing beads, which we have seen in a photograph, and another key work, July 26, which is about the Cuban revolution. Again, it's known from photographs, and also you get a glimpse of it in a film about radicals made in 1968.
"Of the missing works, Scandal '63 is the most interesting and relevant today. It went to the person who commissioned it – but we don't know who that was."
For Celia Birtwell, who lived with Boty in grandly decayed student digs in a west London mansion, the artist was "way ahead of her time".
"We were a bit beatniky," recalls Birtwell. "I was often spending time in her room, which had a huge brass bed, and a collage wall. We were all poor. We cooked on her little paraffin stove in her room. She was beautiful, and tall, and funny, and clever. It was as though she was on a mission. She was driven. An amazing creature."

Inked up

Back by Cai Guangbin Photo: Courtesy of G. Dot Art Space

Three Chinese artists currently based in Beijing want to bring Chinese ink painting back into contemporary Chinese art. By using inks traditionally applied in Chinese landscapes dating back to the Tang dynasty (618-907), they aim to preserve the cultural significance of ink in contemporary Chinese art while forging ahead with pieces inspired more by Pop Art and Surrealism from the West.

The ink-focused trio of Nan Qi, Cai Guangbin and Zhang Quan will present their works in the exhibit In Retrospect, which runs March 30 through April 28 at the G. Dot Art Space on Central Gallery Street in the Songzhuang Art District in Tongzhou district.

Nan, Zhang and Cai treat Chinese ink as their essential medium, but don't use the techniques normally associated with it. Chinese ink paintings traditionally present the essence of an object using brush strokes to capture the object's metaphysical properties. In Retrospect, however, shows work based on modern photographic images rather than interpretive brushwork. The exhibition's title suggests a call back to history, yet Chinese ink appears to form only the surface of what seems more a tribute to Western art of the 20th century.
Featured prints from Nan, 53, from Zhejiang Province, depict the People's Liberation Army in a style reminiscent of Andy Warhol's icon portraits of Marilyn Monroe and other celebrities. Nan's print Bearing Arms in the Square applies Chinese ink to pigment similar to Roy Lichtenstein's comic illustrations.

Nan says his work takes after Western art movements, though he insists it is culturally authentic. He says his prints have their own "personalized artistic language," which he says forms much of the thinking behind contemporary Chinese ink painting.

"Chinese ink lies at the heart of the Chinese artistic spirit," he says. "[It's] perfectly natural to take influence from Western art of the last century." He says he and his peers featured in the exhibit have maintained tradition by working mostly with Chinese ink that's been ground and diluted using ink stick and ink stone.

Nan's use of Chinese ink is limited to variations on the color red. His application of red ink on photographic prints tends to produce faded, watered-down tones. But this shows a strong connection to traditional Chinese ink wash paintings that often revolve around repeated color schemes.

However, Cai, commenting on Nan's Bearing Arms in the Square, says this use of color more resembles Pop Art than Chinese ink painting.
"Nan uses bright and dazzling colors similar to Warhol, whereas Zhang and I tend to use more gray inks in our work. I think Nan's use of color is actually very close to Pop Art," says Cai, 50, originally from Heilongjiang Province. His paintings vividly show the forms of ghoulish figures curled up in dark, dank corners.

In Zhang's Bridge on the Yangtze River, an iron bridge traced in harsh gray ink floats between barely distinguishable sky and water, a landscape similar in eeriness to those of Max Ernst in his Surrealist period.

Of the three featured artists, Zhang comes closest to capturing the main ideas guiding Chinese ink painting. Zhang, 46, a Hubei Province native, uses mostly photographs which are later reproduced on grainy surfaces and colored with ink to achieve abstract images.
In Retrospect's artists share one common artistic goal. However, the exhibition will likely divide viewers over whether they ultimately achieve what they set out to. The attempt to merge two artistic traditions across a gulf of centuries and cultural distinctions is one that visibly represents a struggle in each artwork. But the size of that struggle overall may well be worth its weight in ink.

L.A. Homeboy: Gary Baseman on Creating his Alter Ego, Ditching Art School, and Why He Hates "Pop Surrealism"

The artist’s first retrospective hits the Skirball on April 25
Gary Baseman started his creative life as an illustrator but he soon wandered farther afield, expanding his distinctive style into paintings, giant inflatable toys, an Emmy-winning cartoon, and even a board game (play any Cranium lately?). It all goes on display this month at the Skirball in The Door Is Always Open, a homey installation where Baseman invites visitors to get comfy and get creative. We spoke with him about how his family and his neighborhood influenced his art.

Where did the name of this retrospective come from?
My father with his strong Yiddish accent would repeat things to me over and over. One of them was “The door is always open.” He would always tell me no matter where I was in my life, or where I was traveling, or how I was doing, that his home was always my home. He died almost three years ago. I put that phrase on his headstone. The irony is, with my mom just passing, now is the first time that their actual home is no more. I want the audience coming in to know the creative door is always open, and that the only thing that’s keeping it from opening is their own insecurities, their own fears.

You’re an L.A. native, born and raised in the Fairfax District. What was it like growing up?
My mom and dad lived here for about 50 years. My dad was off working as an electrician and my mom worked at Canter's in the bakery all day. I’m basically an accident. Even though I have two brothers and a sister, there’s part of me that’s like an only child. The first five years, I was part of this big family, and then after [my siblings] graduated high school I found myself alone. I think that was also part of why I spent so much time with art. In my earlier years, I had so much exposure to pop culture and teenagers, and then I found myself lacking that kind of stimulation. I think I found it in a pad of drawing paper.

Did you always want to be an artist?
I never studied art formally. I was actually a communications studies major at UCLA. I went to elementary school at 3rd Street here in LA, right next door to the old Art Center. Even though I’m a champion of the school now, as a child, I never even ventured inside. I would see these guys sitting under trees drawing cars, and all the art looked very airbrushed and slick, which is pretty much the opposite of how I perceived art. So I made the decision that art schools can’t teach you your style. I felt it was somehow important to go to a liberal arts university.

How did you develop your style then?
What I really try to capture is the beauty of the bittersweetness of life. That played a big role. When I tried to be perfect, nothing looked right. When I accepted my own vulnerability and frailty and awkwardness, that was when my style started really developing, probably in my mid 20s. When I went from trying to hard—well, I always try too hard. You end up killing the thing you love.

How did you segue from commercial art into fine art?
I moved to New York when I was 26, and I lived there for 10 years. I worked for every single publication, from the New York Times, to Time magazine, to Rolling Stone, to Entertainment Weekly, to little computer magazines, to The Nation, to you name it. I got 12 to 20 assignments every month for over 10 years. I was an art machine. I loved visual problem solving. But it did feel limited. I wanted to venture into other areas. Art to me is really important as collaboration. That’s when I started going into TV and had my series Teacher’s Pet. Or I do my vinyl toys. I collaborate with sculptors to help bring my vision across.

How did growing up as the child of Holocaust survivors affect you—or did it?
On the surface, I didn’t think so. They kind of took the burden of their past away from their children so they could concentrate on their lives. Both my mother and father’s towns were completely mass murdered in the war. I knew my grandparents were both dead. I knew my father was a freedom fighter, but I didn’t know any real details. But I also lived with this feeling that I needed to accomplish something in life—that somehow what they went through wasn’t necessarily in vain.

Do you see any of these themes playing out in your art?
The Skirball started asking me what my art has to do with my heritage, and my first answer was nothing. But the more I started looking at it, the more it started playing a very big role. My little ChouChous and Venison both take place in the woods. And I started realizing the only reason my mom and dad were able to escape was because of the woods. There’s deep forest wrapped around these little shtetls. If it weren’t for the woods protecting people who were escaping—if it was open field, they would have been caught and killed.

What’s the deal with Toby the cat? This guy shows up in your art all the time. He even travels the world like that gnome in Amelie
Toby has always been my alter ego. When I was drawing characters I would always draw myself as a cat. Growing up with Mickey Mouse and Felix the Cat and Saturday morning cartoons, that was a way to really create my own icon, but then I became an adult and used this icon in a much more adult way. I had a soul patch for many years, so he had a soul patch. The name Toby is actually based on a girl I was in love with as a child. Her parents were also Holocaust survivors and were best friends with my parents. Toby was the keeper of your secrets, and he was your best friend, and he loved you unconditionally.

So Toby is just this sweet childish icon?
A lot of the paintings had to do with gifting Toby. I used little girls as a sense of innocence. Toby had many girlfriends, but I gave them all the name Marilyn. Marilyn is actually the name of my very first girlfriend who I dated for four years at UCLA. Her parents were survivors also. If you look at the notion of Toby being gifted, you’re giving someone your… secrets. You’re passing a sense of your intimate self to another. A little kid can look at it and say it’s a funny cartoon. If you’re an adult, you can interpret that in a different way. But a child doesn’t need to -- and they shouldn’t -- until they grow up.

Do you consider yourself a Pop Surrealist?
I’ve always hated that term. A lot of my friends, like Mark Ryden, the Clayton Brothers, and Eric White, all came from commercial art and they may have tried to coin the term Pop Surrealism or Lowbrow. I love Surrealism. But real Surrealism had a different notion of what the human condition was all about. And Pop art came about in a different era of celebrating Pop culture and deconstructing it. So just taking those two and putting them together didn’t describe it. It made it trivial. For me, the strength of the art was our ability to maneuver different mediums. That’s why I wanted the term “pervasive”—or just “everywhere” art.

What is pervasive art, exactly?
It’s a term that works well within all this new media that’s being opened up. Everything has just expanded exponentially. For artists not to want to use every means to be able to express themselves would be silly. For me, trying to create boundaries of what is fine art and what is commercial art—by medium—is ridiculous. The value of this work is by the actual content itself, and the artist.

Do you ever get frustrated by how the internet has increased the accessibility of art?
Everyone can be an artist. If someone said to me, I wish I could be a fine artist, I could sit there and go, well, you don’t have the guts to be a fine artist. I’m talking more about the pedestrian or conventional view of a fine artist. No, being a fine artist—you’re creating a statement, you’re creating a point of view, you’re creating a body of work. And you’ve got to put it together and bring it out to the world. It’s not like, oh, should I cut my nails today, or do I want to paint? It doesn’t work that way. It’s not easy to create a point of view and have a message.

A lot of your exhibits have a common theme or set of characters. What is your starting point? How do you begin that process?
It’s what I do every day. It’s breathing, drawing in a sketchbook. From that I’ll start letting my intuition flow and just draw and not know what I’m putting down; then I discover meaning through that. From that, I start developing a theme or an understanding of what I want to talk about. Putting that theme together is when I start producing a body of work. I don’t necessarily think I’m creating some character or icon, but usually this one creature comes out that represents the exhibition. But it’s never done on purpose.

Warhol’s Mao Works Censored in China

Mao Zedong’s face has long graced trinkets and kitsch sold at tourist markets across China. But in the country’s top art museums, his most famous portrayal by a Westerner isn’t welcome.
Sorry, Andy Warhol.

Although the scion of Pop Art passed away in 1987, Warhol is still generating controversy. A vast traveling retrospective of his work, “Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal,” has already made stops in Singapore and Hong Kong as part of a two-year Asia tour, but when it moves to mainland China next month, the artist’s Mao paintings won’t be coming along.
Organized by the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, the full exhibition consists of hundreds of Warhol’s best-known artworks, including eight silkscreen paintings of Mao. The museum declined to state where the Mao paintings would be kept while the show is on display in Shanghai and Beijing, its two China stops.
“We had hoped to include our Mao paintings in the exhibition to show Warhol’s keen interest in Chinese culture,” said Andy Warhol Museum director Eric Shiner in a statement. He added, “We understand that certain imagery is still not able to be shown in China and we respect our host institutions’ decisions.”
The museum’s staff declined to confirm the exhibition’s dates and venues for Shanghai and Beijing. Its website currently says “check back for details” on the show for both cities.
Nonetheless, over the weekend Shanghai’s Power Station of Art, China’s first state-owned gallery dedicated to contemporary art, posted on its website that it would host “15 Minutes Eternal” from April 29 to July 28 with free entry. The Shanghai institution did not reply to requests for comment.
In an op-ed last month, the English-language edition of the state-owned Global Times tabloid said that Warhol’s Mao paintings pushed the boundaries of cultural acceptability. According to the author, color painted or splotched on Mao’s face could appear like cosmetics — a disrespectful treatment of the Chairman’s face.
Art and controversy are common bedfellows in China. Pop Art was a major influence for China’s contemporary artists in the 1980s and ’90s, among them Ai Weiwei, whose persistent documentation of everyday life once earned him the nickname “the Chinese Andy Warhol.” The artist’s detention by Chinese authorities in April 2011 prevented him from visiting the Warhol Museum one month later.
In the Hong Kong edition of “15 Minutes Eternal,” on view through April 1, the public appeared to respond well to the Mao paintings, which were displayed with a Mao print from the museum’s permanent collection.

Bullet holes stud Viktor Mitic’s pop art

Toronto-based artist Viktor Mitic thinks we need to have a serious conversation about gun violence in our culture. And he’s trying to provoke it by creating art — with a gun.
At his solo exhibition scheduled to open April 4 in Toronto, he’ll show a series of pop art pictures he's created — of figures such as John Kennedy, John Lennon, Benazir Bhutto and Marilyn Monroe — each of them outlined with bullet holes.
Mitic learned to shoot during compulsory military service in the former Yugoslavia in the 1970s.
He studied at the University of Toronto and now leads a tranquil life with his Japanese-Canadian wife and young son, until it comes time to finish off his art.
Each image gets a fresh coat of paint — in vibrant colours — before Mitic sets it up in a shooting range and fills it with bullet holes.
"It just worked out well because the effect that I was getting on canvas was not only the bullet points, the black powder being embedded into the surface of the canvas, it was also something that would make me think a bit more about ..you know...the issues," he said.
He’s been criticized for glamorizing gun culture, but his aim is actually to draw attention to it. Mitic says he’s horrified by incidents such as the recent school shooting in Newtown, Conn., and the shootings at a Danzig Street barbecue in Toronto last summer.
His upcoming show, titled Bullet Proof, places the issue of guns in front of viewers who often have visceral reactions to the bullet holes in the canvas.
Mitic’s images are often of famous people, but also of scenes – one from the War of 1812, another a likeness to Guernica, Picasso’s seminal painting about the bombing of that Spanish city.
He has done paintings of both Stephen Harper and former prime minister Jean Chrétien — though not with the bullet-hole theme —and his work has been collected by the National Gallery of Canada and Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton. He also has had attention from around the world for his bullet-ridden art.
Bullet Proof by Viktor Mitic will show at The Peach Gallery in Toronto from April 4 to May 2, 2013.

Art review: Crocker's 'Approaching Infinity' comes full circle

Abstraction was a staple of art in the 20th century until it was rudely displaced by Pop Art in the 1960s. While abstraction took a secondary role for a time, it is once again popular with artists in the 21st century.

"Approaching Infinity: The Richard Green Collection of Meticulous Abstraction" at the Crocker Art Museum explores works of intricate complexity that deal with both microcosmic and macrocosmic abstract imagery.
Beginning with forerunners such as Mark Tobey, Yayoi Kusama, John Cage and Bruce Conner, the show traces the development of abstraction based on repetition and, in the case of Cage, chance operations.
One of the first works on view is a small, ethereal, atmospheric tempera on Japanese paper by Tobey, done in 1969, that exemplifies his "white writing," a kind of spiritual automatic writing that adds up to a transcendent abstraction. At the terminus of the exhibition is an intricately worked 2007 gouache drawing by Susanne Schossig, who is an inheritor of Tobey's style. Thus the exhibition seems to come full circle from its progenitors to those who have been influenced by them.
Along the way are works that exhibition curator Diana Daniels points out are seldom seen in Sacramento except in the pages of Art in America magazine. She was stunned to find such a collection in the hands of Green, who lives in Gold River.
Green writes in the exhibition catalog that at the turn of the millennium, he went from being a casual collector to one focused on "the boundless patterns and complexities of the physical world." His interests became metaphysical as well, focusing on the spiritual as well as the physical.
"What unites Richard Green's collection," said Daniels, "is his desire for dialogue between knowing and feeling the enormity of all existence. He has pointedly turned to artists who imagine and demonstrate for us the beauty of line, form and shape in their art as a means to expand and validate developments in a half-century of thought on our place in nature."
The exhibition Daniels has put together is quiet and cool in tone, with many works consisting of minute, repetitive markings that have subtle shifts in color. If you are one of those who think abstraction is easy, you should look at these works.
Some, like James Siena's "Non-Slice Variation" relate to recent scientific discoveries. His ethereal blue markings resemble fractals that create an image reminiscent of decoratively marbled paper.
The race to the moon informs Josaku Maeda's watercolor "Human, space" which turns the moon into an eyeball covered with spacewalk boots. Kusama, who has recently had exhibitions at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Tate Modern in London and the Whitney in New York, offers a witty work titled "Fishes Listening to the Sound of Polka Dots," which, Daniels writes, questions "the meaning of self in relation to a vast and complex universe."
Ross Bleckner gets down to the cellular level in "Study for In Replication," an oil painting that looks inside the body at what might be intestines.
Stephen Antonakos covers vellum with dense, incised marks of graphite to make an intense field of black broken by red circles that suggest planets. Barbara Takenaga's "Blue Wheel (M-1)," an acrylic on panel, is a mandalalike representation of outer space, delicately linear and richly colored.
While most of the works in the show are unrelentingly abstract, Ed Loftus gives us an untitled graphite drawing on paper that looks like a photograph. In it a skeleton walks in a landscape with mountains and a lake, reminding one of the 18th century anatomist Albinus' illustrations of skeletons wandering in pastoral landscapes. It's so refined that you need a magnifying glass to see the abstract markings that make up the illusion.
Magnifying glasses, which the museum provides, are helpful in examining many of the works in the show. Green has also lent a decommissioned camera lens from a U2 spy plane through which one can see a fish-eye view of the show.

Dead famous

Celebrities stripped back to the bone as pop artist recreates stars including Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe and Amy Winehouse as ghoulish skulls
  • George Ioannou became famous in the 1990s when he launched a collection depicting iconic movie scenes
  • His work now sells for up to £30,000 and clients include Adele and Roman Abramovich
  • This new series of 13 paintings depict the skulls of internationally known celebrities from the past and present
  • 'I am fascinated by how the legacy of the true icons continues to grow long after the real person has gone,' he says

George Ioannou, the British pop-artist famous for his iconic ‘Gangster Art’ is back with a new series of paintings which strip iconic celebrity culture to the bone – literally.
Ioannou first came to fame in the late 1990s when he launched a collection of ground breaking paintings depicting iconic scenes from cult movies.

His interpretations of the Al Pacino character, Tony Montana in the 1983 film Scarface created a style which made Ioannou one of the UK’s most collectable modern artists.
The Croydon-born artist's work now sells for around £30,000 for an original and his clients include singer Adele, oligarch Roman Abramovich and Dragon’s Den star Theo Paphitis.
George Ioannou, the British pop-artist famous for his iconic 'Gangster Art' exhibition is back with a new series of paintings, including Michael Jackson and Marilyn Monroe, which strip iconic celebrity culture to the bone
Ioannou first came to fame in the late 1990s when he launched a collection of ground breaking paintings depicting iconic scenes from cult movies. His latest work recreates famous people like Amy Winehouse and Freddie Mercury as ghoulish skulls
Other striking images of popular icons through the ages such as Marilyn Monroe, Steve McQueen and Jimi Hendrix were followed by more movie images – Michael Caine in Get Carter and The Italian Job, John Travolta and Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction and Jack Nicholson in The Shining.
Now, Ioannou has unveiled a new celebrity inspired collection entitled ‘Dead Famous’.
The series of thirteen paintings depict the skulls of internationally known celebrities from the past and present.
Audrey Hepburn. David Bowie, Marilyn Monroe and Bob Marley are among the stars given the spooky pop art treatment.
Their bones are laid bare with only small details added which make their true identities unmistakable.
His interpretations of the Al Pacino character, Tony Montana in the 1983 film Scarface created a style which made Ioannou one of the UK's most collectable modern artists, actress Audrey Hepburn and musician Bob Marley have been given the Ioannou treatment for this new collection
Ioannou's work has become sought after by investors and original prints can sell for up to £30,000. Images of Jimi Hendrix and Elvis as skulls are expected to be among the most popular in his Dead Famous work
‘I think the power of these paintings is how they give so little away yet the small details that remain tell a full story – hopefully part of the story behind the mask of celebrity,’says the 38-year-old artist.
‘What makes a person recognisable when they are stripped to the bone? Who made dreadlocks famous? Who made bleach blonde hair or drop earrings iconic? And who made a bow in their hair notorious?’ says Ioannou.
’I am fascinated by the influence celebrities have on our lives and how the legacy of the true icons continues to grow long after the real person has gone,' he says.
’The flesh grows old but style lasts for ever.
His client list includes Oscar winner Adele, oligarch Roman Abramovich and Dragon's Den star Theo Paphitis, but who will snap up the latest canvas's featuring late Nirvana star Kurt Cobain and singer David Bowie
The series of thirteen paintings depicts celebrities, including Sid Vicious and Madonna, with their bones laid bare and only small details added which make their true identities unmistakable
Ioannou adds: 'People are visual by nature and iconic status is often defined by how celebrities stand out from the pack in order to make a difference.
'But, which is most important – a manufactured look or natural talent?
Ioannou also runs an art collective from his coffee shop in Coulsdon, Surrey.
‘I think the power of these paintings is how they give so little away yet the small details that remain tell a full story – hopefully part of the story behind the mask of celebrity,’ says the 38-year-old artist, who included singer Jim Morrison in the collection